Caliph ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz was an Umayyad caliph, whose exemplary character, piety and taqwa is well-known even to this day. He was of the tabi’een (those who came after the Companions of the Messenger of Allah and accompanied them), and was also the great grandson of Sayyidina ‘Umar ibn al Khattab. ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz was born in the blessed City of Madinah in 682 and passed away in Aleppo, Syria in 720. He ruled for only 3 years, but his principles and character left an impression like no other in Islamic history.
Noble Ways and Character
- Abu Isra’il mentioned ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz and said that ‘Ali ibn Badhima said, “When I saw him at Madinah, he was the best dressed of people and had the best scent and was one of the proudest of people in his gait. Then I later saw him walking like a monk. Whoever tells you that gait is innate is not believed after ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz.”
- Abu’z-Zinad said “When ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz came to Madinah as its governor, his attendant invited its people. So they came and greeted him. After he had prayed dhuhr, he summoned ten of the fuqaha’ of the city: ‘Urwa ibn az-Zubayr, ‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdullah, Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, Abu Bakr ibn Sulayman, Sulayman ibn Yasar, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim ibn ‘Abdullah, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir and Kharija ibn Thabit. He praised Allah as befits Him and then he said, ‘I have invited you for something for which you will be rewarded, and in which you will help the Truth prevail. I do not want to decide any matter except after hearing your opinion or the opinion of those of you who are present. If you see anyone transgressing or hear that an agent of mine is being unjust, then by Allah I forbid anyone to inform anyone other than me of it.’ Then they asked Allah to bless him and dispersed.”
- Ta’ma ibn Ghaylan and Ibn Mohammad ibn Khalid said, “‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz used to be one of the most fragrant and best dressed people. When he became caliph, he was one of those who dressed in the coarsest clothes and ate the most frugal meals. He preferred leftovers.”
- Musa ibn ‘Ubadya said, “I heard the letter of ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz to Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad: ‘Beware of staying in your house. Go out to the people. Involve them in your meetings and when your appear. Do not let any of the people be favoured by you more than others and do not say, ‘Those are part of the people of the house of the Amir al-Mu’minin.’ The people of the house of the Amir al-Mu’minin and others are equal with me today. I am responsible for taking the people of the house of the Amir al-Mu’minin into account, because they are in a position to overpower the one who contends with them. When anything is unclear to you, write to me about it.’”
- ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz said, “If there is any innovation which Allah ends at my hands, or any sunnah which Allah revives at my hands, even in return for a piece of my flesh, then that will be easier for me for the sake of Allah.”
- Muhajir ibn Yazid said, “‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz sent us out to distribute the zakat among those entitled to it. We collected it from those to whom we have given the previous year. I saw that when he was writing to his family, or for a need he had concerning himself, he would request a candle from his own property and then go inside and use a different candle. I saw that he washed his own clothes and did not come out to us or speak to us because he did not have any others to wear. I saw that a lintel of his house was ruined and he spoke about repairing it. Then he said, ‘Muzaham, will you let us leave it alone and leave this world without having introduced anything new?’ He forbade wine in every land.”
- Al-Mughira ibn Hakim said, “Fatima bint ‘Abdu’l-Malik, ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz’s wife, said to me, ‘Mughira, I think that there is no one among the people who prays and fasts more than ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz. If there is a man with stronger fear of his Lord than ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz, I have not seen him. After he has prayed ‘Isha, he puts himself in his masjid, and supplicates and weeps until he falls asleep. Then he awakens and makes supplication and weeps until he falls asleep. He is like that until morning.’”
- Maymun ibn Mihran said, “I was conversing with ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz one night and he was admonishing. He became aware of a man wiping away his tears and fell silent. I said, ‘Amir al-Mu’minin, repeat what you said. Perhaps Allah will benefit through you the one who conveys it and the one who hears it.’ He replied, ‘Maymun, words are a test, and action is better for a man than speech.’”
- Sufyan ibn Sa’id reported from a man of Makkah that ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz said, “Anyone who acts without knowledge corrupts things more than he puts them right. Anyone who does not consider his words a part of his actions makes a lot of mistakes. One is rarely content. The believer relies on being steadfast.”
- Ibn Thawban reported that ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz collected the zakat correctly and distributed it correctly and he gave to the agents according to the amount of work they did in it, at the same rate as he paid those who did similar work. He said, “Praise be to Allah who did not make me die until I had established one of the obligations.”
- Al-Awza’i said, “‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz wrote to the generals of his armies, ‘Only ride an animal on your expeditions as far as the weakest animal in the army can go.”
- Maymun said, “A governor went to ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz and he said, ‘How much zakat have you collected?’ He told him how much. He asked, ‘How much was collected before you?’ and he named a larger amount. ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz asked, ‘Where was that from?’ He replied, ‘Amir al-Mu’minin, a dinar used to be taken for horses, a dinar for servants, and five dirhams for oxen. You have discarded all of that.’ He said ‘No, by Allah, I did not cast that aside, but Allah did.’”
- Ma’mar reported that ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz wrote, “Treat those who are in your prisons and in your land well so that they are not constricted, and make sure that they are given proper food and condiments.”
- Ja’far ibn Burqan said, “‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz wrote, ‘I think that if agents are placed on bridges and at fords to take zakat directly, then these agents will transgress badly, beyond what they are commanded. I think that I should appoint a man in every city to collect zakat from its people and let the people travel freely across their bridges and fords.’”
- ‘Abdu’r-Rahman said that while he was khalifa, ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz wrote to his governor over Khorasan, al-Jarrah ibn ‘Abdullah al-Hakami, commanding him to invite the people of the jizya (tax for non-Muslims living under Islamic rule) to Islam. He said, “If they become Muslim, their Islam is to be accepted and they are to be relieved of paying jizya. They have what the Muslims have and owe what the Muslims owe.” One of the nobles of the people of Khorasan said to him, “By Allah, they are quick to accept Islam if it means being relieved of the jizya, so test them by insisting on circumcision.” He replied, “Am I to turn them away from Islam by insisting on circumcision? If they become Muslim and are good Muslims, then they will quickly move to purity.” About 4,000 became Muslims through him.
Above section is an extract from the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa’d
Final Khutba (Sermon) of ‘Umar bin Abdul ‘Aziz
According to Abdullah ibn Bakr ibn Habib al Sahmi: “We were told by a man in the masjid of al Junaabidh that ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz delivered a khutbah to the people in Khunaasirah in which he said:
“O people, you were not created in vain, nor will you be left to yourselves [Qur’an 75:36]. Rather, you will return to a place in which Allah Most High will descend in order to judge among you and distinguish between you. Destitute and lost are those who forsake the all-encompassing Mercy of Allah Most High, and they will be excluded from Jannah, the borders of which are as wide as the heavens and the earth.
Don’t you know that protection tomorrow will be limited to those who feared Allah [today], and to those who sold something ephemeral for something permanent, something small for something great, and fear for protection? Don’t you realize that you are the descendants of those who have perished, that those who remain will take their place after you, and that this will continue until you are all returned to Allah Most High?
Everyday you dispatch to Allah Most High, at all times of the day. Someone who has died when his term has come to an end, you bury him in a crack in the earth and then leave him without a pillow or a bed. He has parted from his loved ones, severed his connections with the living, and taken up residence in the earth, whereupon he comes face-to-face with the accounting. He is mortgaged to his deeds.
He needs his accomplishments, but not the material things he left on earth.
Therefore, fear Allah before death descends and its appointed times expire. I swear by Allah that I say those words to you knowing that I myself have committed more sins than any of you; I therefore ask Allah Most High for forgiveness and I repent.
Whenever we learn that one of you needs something, I try to satisfy his need to the extent that I am able. Whenever I can provide satisfaction to one of you out of my possessions, I seek to treat him as my equal and my relative, so that my life and his life are of equal value. I swear by Allah that, had I wanted something else, namely affluence, then it would have been easy for me to utter the word, aware as I am of the means for obtaining this. But Allah Most High has issued in an eloquent Book and a just Example (the sunnah) by means of which He guides us to obedience, and prohibits disobedience.”
He (‘Umar bin ‘Abdul Aziz) then lifted up the edge of his robe and began to cry and sob, causing the people around him to break into tears. Then he stepped down. That was the last sermon he gave before he died, may Allah have mercy on him.” [Narrated in Tarikh of Imam al Tabari]