Hazrat Umar Al Mukhtar (رحمتہ اللہ علیہ)

On this day 87 years ago (16th September 1931) Omar Mukhtar (rahimahullāh) at the age of 73, was executed and hanged to martyrdom by Italian colonial forces.

Omar Mukhtar was born in the year 1858 in an impoverished household in the region of Cyrenaica which was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. As a young individual Omar lost his father and spent much of his youth in poverty. He was taken under the care and guidance of one of the Mashayakh in his home town.

Omar was known to have developed a lifestyle of not sleeping more than three hours every night in order to worship Allah (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) at the last third of the night and to then recite Qur’an until Fajr. He had memorised the Qur’ān in its entirety and was known as a humble and deeply religious man. He was reported to have completed the recitation of the Qur’ān in its entirety every seven days, irrespective of the trials and tribulations he faced in his life. His wisdom and courage was one that was evident in his life, and as such an example for people to learn and follow.

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The Lion’s historical summary

Omar Mukhtar etched his name in the annals of history when he valiantly defended his people, their property and honour by engaging the noble concept of Jihād against the brute of European colonialism. Arguably, the act of resisting an armed occupation through an armed means, was later protected under international law.

It is reported that our hero Omar earned his nickname as Asad al-Sahara’ – ‘Lion of the Desert’ – during his caravan trails to Sudan as a young man. Such a journey was fraught with dangers not least of it being on the route of a fearsome lion. On one such journey, Omar decided to face the danger head on when with a shotgun in hand and on horseback, he pursued the lion and killed it.[1]Omar lived a simple life as a teacher having been educated in the schools of the powerful Sanusi Sufi order.[2]

The despotic occupation

In 1911 however, the Italians made a grab for Libya from the disintegrating Ottoman Caliphate when Omar was approximately 53 years of age. The Italian fascists, led by Benito Mussolini referred to invasion of Libya as the ‘Roman Reconquista’ ­– “reclaiming” lands which once fell under Roman rule. The usage of the word “Reconquista” was of course interesting given that it is widely associated with the period in history where as part of wider Crusades, Christians set out to conquer Muslim Spain, which they eventually succeeded in.

Omar was deeply concerned about the occupation of their land which had been forcibly and inhumanly taken away from them. He proclaimed that it was their God-given right to resist such injustice as he refused to be conquered. The event marked the beginning of a series of battles between the Italian occupiers and the Muslim forces led by Omar.

The Lion’s resistance

His skills of guerrilla warfare, his strength, spirit and zeal would put one of the world’s most powerful armies at the time, with its superior and modern weaponry and men half his age, to shame. Against Italian tanks and aeroplanes, Omar’s active fighters numbered between 1,000 and 3,000, on horseback and for the most part lightly armed, who trounced Mussolini’s armed forces almost on a daily basis, fighting more than 250 skirmishes and engagements a year. To counter this, the Italian fascists set up concentration camps to target civilians. In 1930, up to 100,000 Bedouin men, women and children – about half the tribal population of Cyrenaica at the time – were herded into desert camps where many died. Much like today with the approach of Israel in their war with Palestinians, the more defeats they would suffer, the more severe the punishments they would afflict on civilians.[3]

After 20 years of resisting and inflicting severe defeats and setbacks to their unwanted European invaders, Allāh sought to elevate Omar’s rank in the hereafter (inshā’Allāh) and immortalise his heroic status in this earthly life when He, in His wisdom permitted that Omar be captured and wounded by Italian colonial forces in 1931. In captivity, Omar was made lucrative offers by the Italians to end the resistance to which he responded that he would not cease to resist:

“until I achieve one of the two highest levels; martyrdom or victory. And I swear by Him who knows what is in men’s hearts that if my hands were not bound this very moment, I would fight you with my bare hands, old and broken as I am.”[4]

At the time of his hanging when asked if he wished to say any last words, he replied with the Qur’anic response: “Innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhī rāji’ūn” Certainly from Allāh we have come, and to Allāh we will return. Twenty thousand concentration camp inmates and Cyrenaican notables were forced to watch Omar Mukhtar’s death.

Omar Mukhtar is well-known for his various statements that only further exemplifies his fearless, brave and courageous character. One of his most recalled and inspirational statements is when he remarked,

“We’ll never surrender, we’ll win or die you’ve to fight the next generation and the next…and I’ll live more than my hanger”

Omar Mukhtar was also known for applying justice and holding to the principles of Islam. During one incident Omar Mukhtar, protected two surviving Italian prisoners, stating that “We do not kill prisoners”. His fellow warrior said “They do it to us.” To which he responded with these majestic words: “They are not our teachers.”

The struggle of Omar Mukhtar which should continue to inspire Muslims in an age where the colonialist and imperialists which started their ceding of Muslim lands at the time of Omar Mukhtar, has continued unabated today through the use of their agents, dictators, ‘terrorist’ groups and despots whom they had played a hand in installing to continue their dominance over the Muslim world.

The symbol of resistance

Indeed, right to this very day, Omar Mukhtar is recognised as a symbol of resistance in the Muslim world. This was not on account of him sitting quietly whilst injustice, tyranny and oppression descended and spread in the land, but rather because he courageously stood up having full certainty of the promise of Allāh and exemplified the verse in the glorious Qur’ān:

“How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allāh’s permission, and Allāh is with the patient.”[5]

Commenting on this verse, Prominent Islamic thinker Syed Qutb says,

“Certainly, they had the advantage of faith in their cause and trust in their leader, but the harsh reality of the situation told them they were the weaker side, and that their faith would be put to the test. Would that invisible force of faith triumph? How strong was their faith in God, and would they be able to harness that force in their favour and prevail?

At that decisive moment, a small group of true believers stood up to express their faith: “But those of them who were certain that they would meet their Lord said, ‘How often has a small host triumphed over a large host by God’s grace. God is with those who remain patient in adversity.” (Qur’ān 2:49)

To the believer’s mind, that is the way it should be: believers are always numerically less than their enemies, because they need to sacrifice more and work harder to earn God’s grace and pleasure. But they triumph because they draw their strength from God Almighty and their faith in Him. The believers are aware that their victory comes from God as a reward for their patience and perseverance.” [6]

It is important that young Muslims revisit the life and thoughts of these great exemplars to gain confidence and to unite to free themselves and the ummah from the grip of the enduring imperialism and coloniality by being upholders of justice and speaking truth to power. It is also worth reminding those who seek to pigeonhole Muslims to divide them by portraying some as ‘violent’ and others as ‘peaceful’, that Omar Mukhtar was in fact a Sufi, part of a group who are today often thought of as being pacifist or otherwise compatible with western hegemony.

We should not let those in contemporary times who claim to wear the garb of Sufism and “peace”, whilst being complicit and providing cover for the crimes of dictators such as Sisi in Egypt or Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya as well as others, to misrepresent to us the great tradition of Sufis who have always fought (with their words and deeds) to defend themselves and their communities from aggression and oppression.

A man who was firm in his faith at a time when others fled or surrendered to the occupiers – Omar had reliance in the almighty deeply rooted in his heart. He was a man whom not only regularly read but acted upon and held his Qur’ān high vowing to Allah (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) that he would not discontinue his fight against the occupiers of his land. He strongly believed in this to such an extent that it didn’t bother him if he was alone in this fight until victory had been achieved or that he had attained the righteous status of a martyr. He had directed, guided and personally participated in 1000 battles in the last twenty years of his worldly life.

We ask that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) grants Omar Mukhtar (rahimahullāh) and all those who were killed unjustly Jannat al-Firdaus and that He brings about much greater good for their people in this world and the next.

Once the Prophet (ﷺ) was speaking to us when, a Bedouin came and asked him: “When will the Last Day be?” The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) continued his talk. Some of those present thought that he had heard him but disliked the interruption and the other said that he had not hear him. When the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) concluded his speech he asked, “Where is the one who inquired about the Last Day?” The man replied: “Here I am.” The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) replied, “When the practice of honouring a trust is lost, expect the Last Day.” He asked: “How could it be lost?” He replied, “When the government is entrusted to the undeserving people, then wait for the Last Day.” [Al- Bukhari].

When times are such that undeserving men are taken to the heights of governance, must we conclude that it’s time already?

The oppressors are growing –growing with a speed like that of insects of swamp. From Kashmir to Syria to Libya to Myanmar, look around and it’s oppression everywhere, like it’s the new air we breathe.

For such times in tyranny, it’s important for the Muslims –the Ummah of our Prophet ﷺ. to tune back to some chapters from history that take us to the solutions –direct, clear-cut solutions if not.

Omar al-Mukhtar and the lesson

Omar al-Mukhtar –the face of resistance and struggle (as known round the globe) comes as the first and one prominent figure when themes of oppression and resistance are taken up.

In a town looked over by the Uthmany Khalifa, took birth a boy (who later concluded the definition of Haqq—just/truth in times of oppression by Italian powers) in 1862 named Omar al-Mukhtar. At a mature age of 16 he was taken under the care and guardianship of one of the Shuyookh.

With the mercy of Allah, Omar Mukhtar got well embedded into the religion and had a commendable understanding of Islam. For about eight years of his life, he studied in the Qur’an school of Giarabub –Senusy’s holy city.

Omar, a man well versed with the Qur’an (memorised the Qur’an at an early age) was known for his completion of revising Qur’an every seven days. And that he would try to be in a constant connection with Allah.

It is apparent today –how even when the Muslims are standing up against oppression (not just for their own Muslim brothers and sisters but anywhere against inhuman acts), the base is weak and inclined towards defeat. The chapter of Omar Mukhtar is thought of to take up because it displays the exact need the Ummah is in terms of political and social decisiveness.

Omar not for once thought of reducing the strictness in ibaadah. He had tawaqqul (belief in Allah) and was certain (as any believer must be) that ONLY Allah can help him and ONLY he could take him out of any mishap and that if he dies in a state of defeat from the opponent group (the Italian army) –that is the plan of Allah and he is the best of planners. And he acknowledged it well that if it is a test –he needs to be patient, all but standing for Haq (in the cause of Allah) was a goal he had.

Atrocious, but a fact it is –the Ummah of Prophet ﷺ has come too far from the work it was given with and is readily participating in acts of futility.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me ” ( 2:152)

The post script here is self explanatory (considering what Allah says in the Qur’an and what steps is the Ummah following).

Lion of the Desert and his example

Omar Mukhtar was the leader of Muslim resistance in North Africa in 1920s-30s. The thing by which he united his people –was Taqwa (Fear of Allah) and faith in Allah. He along with his army (people of the town) fought against the imperialism of Mussolini and the entire Italian army (the oppressors).

The history of the entire chapter of Omar al-Mukhtar is a take up for another day, but the oppression, crushing oppression of today has to be thought of from the perspective of solutions and ways. These men including their leader Omar –did not at the end win the war, so few questions arise here –what were they fighting for? Who were they ready to sacrifice their own lives for?

Let’s try to answer such questions further.

Mukhtar came to be known by a title –Lion of the desert. The incident preceding it is interesting and awe striking.

So on a day of one of his caravan trails (during his young days) to Sudan, a Lion had daunted the people from entering a passageway. To distract away the lion, some would offer their camels (their prized possessions) and some would leave. On his way, Omar learned of this lion. Without any second thought, he took the responsibility of the issue himself. With his gun-shot, he rode his horse behind the lion –head on. To the relief but much astonishment of the people, he returned with the head of that lion, and so was given the title –Lion of the Desert, rightly so.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

The Ummah today seems to be slightly cut through the commandment of Allah to fear ‘Only Him’. The example of Omar al-Mukhtar needs not to be dusted off the shelves for a mere ‘Awe’. Rather, a lesson of courage and unity and standing up together against oppression in the cause of Allah must be juiced from it to the core.

 Al-Qiyamah

Omar Mukhtar when asked for any last words, replied –“Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (From Allah we have come and to Allah we will return).

In his entire life, Omar stood up for his people and never for once did he accept the offers by Italian forces. When Italians offered him high ranks (to pacify his rebellion) in return of him surrendering and stopping this movement, he replied (and it became a famous quote) –“I’m not a sweet bite of a meal anyone can swallow. No matter how long they try to change my belief and opinion, Allah is going to let them down.”

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Allah guarantees (the person who carries out Jihad in His Cause and nothing compelled him to go out but Jihad in His Cause and the belief in His Word) that He will either admit him into Paradise (Martyrdom) or return him with reward or booty he has earned to his residence from where he went out. (Al-Bukhari)

So did he actually win the fight? –No, not in the eyes of the people, but unlike the ‘sold out men’ of his time that surrendered and became the loyalties of Italians and allies to Kuffaragainst their own Muslim brothers and sisters, died a luxuries and normal death (maybe). But Omar was arrested, hung in front of many tribes (his people), and died as a Martyr. So who won and who was under actual defeat?

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not” (2:154)

May Allah place him in high ranks in Jannah and help us be amongst the Muhsineen.

Imaan (belief) in Al-Qiyamah (Akhirah/ Day of Judgment and life after death) is one amongst the 6 pillars of imaan (compulsory for every Muslim to have belief in). But a mere claim in belief in Akhirah does not suffice the cause. A Muslim needs to have a ‘live belief’ in Akhirah, live belief –being certain in belief not just through claim but through actions. And when (in sha Allahu ta’ala) we have that, we would realize that Omar al-Mukhtar and his people were not just fighting for freedom, but they were fighting for a bigger cause –Haq in the cause of Allah. And true success would be attaining ranks in Jannah (May Allah make us amongust the people of Jannah) and not the mundane success.

Al-Qiyamah is an inevitable truth and the oppression being faced by our Muslim brothers and sisters today hint towards the hour.

May Allah protect us, give us strength, help us be constant on his deen and make us die in imaan.

 

उमर मुख़्तार साम्राज्यवाद के ख़िलाफ़ लड़ने वाला विश्व इतिहास का एक महान क्रांतिकारी योद्धा

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विश्व इतिहास को जब हम किसी भी किताब में पढने की कोशिश करते है तो हमारे सामने कई ऐसे चेहरे,कई ऐसे व्यक्ति आते है जिन्होंने अपने देश के लिए,अपने लोगों के लिए या फिर अपने समाज के लिए आवाज़ उठाई और ज़ुल्म के खिलाफ खड़े होने का काम किया,और इसकी गूँज विश्व भर में होती है। लेकिन व्यक्ति ऐसे होते है जिनका नाम विश्व भर में काफी बड़ा हो जाता है और दुनिया भर के लोग उनको जानते भी है,लेकिन कुछ नाम ऐसे भी होते है जो कभी सामने तो नहीं आ पाते है लेकिन वो ऐसा कुछ करके ज़रूर जाते है जिसे हमेशा याद किया जाना ज़रूरी है।

इन्ही में से एक नाम है “उमर मुख़्तार” ये नाम किसी शख्स का नहीं बल्कि उस शख्सियत का नाम है जिसने कलम से बंदूक तक का सफर तय किया, जिसने साम्राज्यवाद के ज़ुल्म के खिलाफ उनकी तानाशाही के खिलाफ तकरीबन 20 साल जंग की मशाल जलायी ,लीबिया के इतिहास में आज भी यह नाम “रेगिस्तान के शेर” के नाम से याद किया जाता है।

इतिहास में साम्राज्यवाद जब अपने पैर मज़बूत कर रहा था,उसी समय इटली की साम्राज्यवादी सरकार ने ये घोषणा कर दी थी की लीबिया के सभी संसाधनों पर अब इटली का अधिकार होगा,ये उस दौर की बात है जब इटली बेहद शक्तिशाली देश था,और उसकी बात के विरुद्ध जाने का मतलब मौत थी,यही नहीं इटली की शक्ति को सभी बखूबी जानते भी थे,इसलिए इटली के विरुद्ध जाने की हिम्मत कर पाना मुमकिन नही था।

लेकिन उस वक़्त उस ज़मीन पर साम्राज्यवाद के खिलाफ खड़े होने वाला,एक घुड़सवार “उमर मुख्तार” अपने गुट के साथ इटली की तानाशाही का विरोध करने के लिए तैयार था,और अपने देश,अपनी ज़मीन और अपनी संस्कृति की हिफाज़त करने के लिए इटली की सेना से गोरिल्ला युद्ध लड़ने को तैयार था।

 

जन्म और आरंभिक शिक्षा

उमर मुख़्तार का जन्म लीबिया के ज़वियर जन्ज़ुर शहर में हुआ था,मुख़्तार बिन उमर के घर पैदा हुए थे,जब उमर 11 साल के थे तब उनके पिता जी का निधन हो गया था जब वह धार्मिक यात्रा ( हज )के लिए गये हुए थे,लेकिन अपनी मौत से पहले ही उनकी पिता की ये इच्छा थी की उनके बेटे की जिंदगी इंसानियत की सेवा के लिए होगी। इसलिए पारिवारिक दोस्त हुसैन गरियानी की देख रेख में उन्हें दिया गया था तभी उमर मुख़्तार ने क़ुरान को हिफ्ज़ (क़ुरान को याद करना )करने की शिक्षा वहां पर ली थी। उमर मुख्तार ने अपना जीवन एक शिक्षक के तौर पर शुरू किया था और एक मदरसे में वो बच्चों को क़ुरान और अरबी पढ़ाया करते थे।

शुरुआती दौर और उमर का उदय

इससे पहले सूडान के साथ संघर्ष में भागीदार रहें उमर संघर्ष से वापस लौट कर शिक्षक के तौर पर कार्य करने लगे,और बच्चों को शिक्षा देने लगे,लेकिन शायद स्थिति को ये मंज़ूर नही था और इटली में तानाशाही सरकार का आरम्भ हुआ,1912 में लीबिया को अपना उपनिवेश घोषित कर दिया और उस पर कब्जा करने का ऐलान कर दिया।

उस समय ही एक अध्यापक के तौर पर बच्चों को पढ़ाने वाले उमर मुख़्तार ने अपनी ज़मीन और अधिकारों के लिए लड़ने का फैसला लिया,और उन्होंने 1000 लोगों का संगठन बना कर इटली के विरुद्ध जंग का ऐलान किया और उमर मुख़्तार को इस दस्ते का शैख़ (लीडर )बनाया गया।

ये फैसला किया जाना बहुत बड़ा था,क्योंकि उस समय ये नामुमकिन नजर आने वाला फैसला था,जब इटली के सामने कोई खड़ा होने की हिम्मत नही कर पाता था उस वक़्त ऐसा कह पाना हिम्मत का काम था,लेकिन कलम से बंदूक थामने वाले उमर मुख़्तार को इस बात का पता था।

उमर मुख़्तार न सिर्फ लड़े बल्कि लीबिया के भूगोल की समझ रखने वाले गुरिल्ला युद्ध के माहिर इस व्यक्ति ने इटली की सरकार को हिला कर रख दिया और पूरे 20 सालों तक लीबिया की साम्राज्यवादी सरकार के विरुद्ध संघर्ष किया,और फासीवादी ताकतों को कमज़ोर करने का काम किया। उमर का ये संघर्ष इतना कामयाब रहा की इटली की सेना दिन में ज़मीनो पर कब्जा किया करती थी और रात में यह संघर्षकारी उसे आज़ाद करा लेते थे,इस काम से इस संघर्ष से उमर मुख़्तार लीबिया के ‘हीरो’ बन गये।

लीबिया का इलाका अधिकतर रेगिस्तान का इलाक़ा था, इसी वजह से अपनी गुरिल्ला युद्ध की तकनीक और पूरे इलाके की समझ का इस्तेमाल कर इटली की नीतियों और रणनीति के विरुद्ध चलने वाला ये सशस्त्र आंदोलन कामयाब हुआ और इटली की तानाशाह सरकार की हर नीति यहाँ विफल रही ।

ये आंदोलन ज़मीनी तौर पर अपनी तकनीकों का इस्तेमाल किया करता था,जहाँ एक तरफ इटली के फौजी गाड़ियों का इस्तेमाल करते थे वही दूसरी तरफ उमर मुख़्तार और उनकी अगुवाई का गुट घोड़ों पर सफर करते हुए उन्हें मात देता था।

ऐसे हुए गिरफ्तार

इतिहास में ये बात गवाह हुई कि रेगिस्तान में मौजूद चंद घुड़सवार लोगों के गुट ने इटली की फौज जो हथियारों और शक्ति से भी भरपूर थी,उसका मुकाबला बेहद बहादुरी से किया,लेकिन स्थिति तब बदल गयी जब इटली के शासक मुसोलिनी ने अपने सबसे क्रूर जनरल ग्रज़ियानी को लीबिया भेजा,और ग्राज़ियानी ने लीबिया में अत्याचारों की हदें पार कर दी।

लेकिन यहाँ भी यह “रेगिस्तान का शेर” जरा भी पीछे नही हटा और अपने देश की हिफाज़त में और वहां के लोगों के अधिकारों के लिए बराबर लड़ता रहा,यही वजह रही की “उमर मुख्तार” पूरे इटली दस्ते को अपना दुश्मन नज़र आता था ।

11 सितम्बर को जब उमर मुख़्तार और उनके गुट के लोग इटली के विरुद्ध लड़ रहे थे तभी अभी उमर मुख़्तार के घोड़े के गोली लग गयी और उमर मुख़्तार का संभल पाना मुमकिन न हुआ और जिस शख्स का इटली की सेना में से किसी ने चेहरा नही देखा था वो आज गिरफ्तार हो चूका था,और उसे फांसी देकर इस आन्दोलन को कुचल देने के लिए सब बेसब्र थे।

जब उमर मुख्तार को गिरफ्तार कर लिया गया उसके बाद ग्राज़ियानी के सामने उसे पेश किया गया,उमर से बातचीत करते हुए ग्राज़ियानी ने उमर से अपने साथियों से हथियार डालने की बात कहने को कहा तब उमर ने जो बात कही उसे आज भी याद किया जाता है।

उमर ने कहा “ हम हार नहीं मानेंगे या तो हम लड़ेंगे या मरेंगे,तुम्हे हमारी अगली पीढ़ी से लड़ना होगा और फिर अगली पीढ़ी से और जहाँ तक मेरा सवाल है मैं अपने फाँसी लगाने वाले से ज्यादा जिंदा रहूँगा” बस इस बात ने यह मोहर लगा दी की इटली साम्राज्यवाद के ज़रिये कभी भी लीबिया को जीत नही सकता था,उमर मुख़्तार को उनके लोगों के सामने फांसी दी गयी।

लेकिन उमर मुख़्तार और उनके साथी साम्राज्यवाद के विरुद्ध वैसे ही लड़ें जेसे कोई भी देशप्रेमी या देश से मोहब्बत करने वाला लड़ेगा।।उमर ने ज़ुल्म के विरुद्ध अपनी आवाज़ को उठाया और ये दिखाया की ज़ुल्म के खिलाफ अपने देश से लड़ना कितना अहम है।

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