This is the tomb of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, the eighth Umayyad Caliph who ruled from 99 to 101 A.H. Muslims historians agree that he was a just and devout ruler, compassionate, caring and beloved by his people. He was also a Tabiee (companion of the companions of the Holy Prophet).
- Aslam (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he was once accompanying Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) on his patrol of Madinah at night, it so happened that he leaned against a wall to rest when he felt tired. It was midnight, and we heard a woman say to her daughter, “O my daughter, get up and mix that milk with some water.”
The girl said, “O mother, did you not hear the decree of Amir Al-Mu’minin (chief of the believers) today?”
The mother said, “What was that?”
The girl said, “He ordered someone to announce in a loud voice that milk should not be mixed with water.”
The mother said, “Get up and mix the milk with water; you are in a place where Umar cannot see you.”
The girl told her mother, “I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey Him in private.”
Umar heard this, and told me: “O Aslam, go to that place and see who that girl is, and to whom she was speaking, and whether she has a husband.” So I went to that place, and I saw that she was unmarried, the other woman was her mother, and neither of them had a husband.
- I came to Umar and told him what I had found out. He called his sons together, and said to them:“Do any of you need a wife, so I can arrange the marriage for you? If I had the desire to get married, I would have been the first one to marry this young woman.”
Abdullah said: “I have a wife.” Abdur-Rahman said: “I have a wife.” ‘Asim said: “I do not have a wife, so let me marry her.” So Umar arranged for her to be married to ‘Asim. The woman gave birth to a daughter (named Fatima), who grew up to be the mother of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.
- Umar bin Abdul Aziz was extremely pious and disdainful of worldly luxuries. He preferred simplicity to the extravagance that had become a hallmark of the Umayyad lifestyle, depositing all assets and finery meant for the caliph into the public treasury. He abandoned the Khalifal palace and instead preferred to live in modest dwellings. He wore rough linens instead of royal robes, and often went unrecognized.
- Though he had the people’s overwhelming support, he publicly encouraged them to elect someone else if they were not satisfied with him (an offer no one ever took him up on). Umar confiscated the estates seized by Umayyad officials and redistributed them to the people, while making it a personal goal to attend to the needs of every person in his empire. Fearful of being tempted into bribery, he rarely accepted gifts, and when he did he promptly deposited them in the public treasury. He even pressured his own wife – who had been daughter, sister and wife to three separate caliphs – to donate her jewelry to the public treasury.
- While Umar’s reign was very short, he is very highly regarded in both Shi’a and Sunni Muslim memory. Indeed, he is considered one of the finest rulers in Muslim History, second only to the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, and is affectionately referred to by some as the Fifth and last Rightly Guided Caliph.
- According to most historians, Caliph Umar died in Aleppo, Syria, on the 5th or 6th of Rajab, 101 A.H. (some have mentioned the 20th) when he 39 or 40 years old. He was buried in Dair Siman in a plot purchased from a Christian.
- The cause of his death is attributed to the reforms he initiated, which greatly angered the Umayyad nobility. It is reported that they bribed a slave of his to administer a deadly poison. The Caliph having felt the effect of the poison sent for the slave and asked him why he had poisoned him. The slave replied that he was given one thousand dinars for the purpose. The Caliph deposited the amount in the public Treasury and freeing the slave asked him to leave the place immediately, lest anyone should kill him.
- He reportedly left behind only 17 dinars with a will that out of this amount the rent of the house in which he died and the price of the land in which he was buried would be paid.
Revivalist of the First Century
Umar ibn Abdul Aziz was the revivalist of the first century after Hijrah. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was the first person to declare him as such, and there was no disagreement among the Muslim scholars on this matter.
During the rule of Banu Umayyah, the succession of power was hereditary, and was thus confined in the Banu Umayyah family, until Sulayman took power. Upon appointing his successor, Sulayman sought the advice of the sons of the Prophet’s companions. They advised him to choose Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz. When Umar was chosen, the people carried him over their shoulders to the pulpit. He thanked Allah and said: “O people! This matter has befallen on me without my knowledge, nor have I asked for it, nor have I been consulted about it, and I am now resigning, so choose a Khalifah among yourselves.” The people shouted with one voice: “We have chosen you O Umar, and have accepted you as our Khalifah!”
That was Umar’s first act of revival: to change the succession of power from being hereditary to become subject to consultation, where the Muslims choose their ruler. Umar earnestly started the revival movement. He abolished the luxuries that the rulers before him had for their use, and all the privileges enjoyed by the ruler’s family and relatives. He asked his wife to choose between staying with him or keeping the wealth her father gave her. She chose to stay with him, and took her jewelry to the state treasury.
Next, he made sweeping changes in the government. He appointed jurist scholars known for their righteousness and piety, and dismissed the corrupt ones. He abolished taxes and distributed the wealth with justice. He organized the collection and distribution of Zakat so well that there was a time when no one came to ask for it, and the Zakat distributors could not find anybody to take it.
Then he worked toward the purification of the Muslims’ souls and of the social and moral environment. For this reason, he encouraged the scholars to spread the true Islamic knowledge among the Muslims, and to call the disbelievers to Islam. He fought the deviations and innovations inherited from those before him. He gave back to the people of the book the rights that the Qur’an prescribed. He appointed scholars to record by writing the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, and the quotations of his companions, radhiallahu `anhum. It was in fact the first organized movement to record the hadith.
These reforms had a deep impact on the Muslim ummah and that it why Umar ibn Abdul Aziz deserves to be called the revivalist of the first century.
A-lJumuah Rajab 1416
The Memory of Caliph ‘Umar bin Abdul-Aziz by his Wife
When ‘Umar ibn Abd al Aziz died, the learned men came to his wife to express sympathy and say how great a calamity had struck the people of Islam by his death. And they said to her, ‘Tell us about him – for the one who knows best about a man is his wife’.
And she said: “Indeed he never used to pray or fast more than the rest of you, but I never saw a servant of Allah who feared Him more than ‘Umar. He devoted his body and his soul to the people. All day he would sit tending to their affairs, and when night came he would sit up while business remained. One evening when he had finished everything, he called for his lamp – from which he used to buy the oil from his own money – and prayed two prostrations. Then he sat back on his folded legs, with his chin in his hands, and the tears ran down from his cheeks, and this didn’t stop until dawn, when he rose for a day of fasting.
I said to him, ‘Commander of the Believers, was there some matter that troubled you this night?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I saw how I was occupied while governing the affairs of the community, all its black sheep and its white sheep, and I remembered the stranger, beggared and straying, and the poor and the needy, and the prisoners in captivity, and all like them in the far places of the earth, and I realised that Allah most high would ask me about all of them, and Muhammad would testify about them, and I feared that I should find no excuse when I was with Allah, and no defence with Muhammad.’
And even when ‘Umar was with me in bed, where a man usually find some pleasure with his wife, if he remembered some affair of Allah’s (people), he would be upset as a bird that had fallen into the water. Then his weeping would rise until I would throw off the blankets in kindness to him. ‘By Allah’ he would say, ‘How I wish that there was between me and this office the distance of the East from the West!’
Abu Yusuf (d. 182 AH / 798 AD) Taken from the Book of Land Tax
His Last Khutbah
It is reported that the last sermon ‘Umar b. ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz – Allâh have mercy on him – delivered was as follows:
He praised Allâh and said, “You were not created in vain, nor will you be left without purpose. Verily, you have an appointed time in which Allâh – the Most High – will come down to judge you. Wretched and ruined will he be who leaves the mercy of Allâh and is denied a Garden whose width is that of the heavens and Earth. Know you not that no one will be safe tomorrow save one who is wary of today and fears it; and sells the transitory for what will remain, and the little for the plenty, and fear in exchange for security [in the hereafter]? See you not that you are in the loins of the dead, to be taken by those who remain after you, until all matters return to the Best of Inheritors? Every day, [in the funerals] you accompany those returning to Allâh the Mighty and Sublime, having spent their time, until you hide them in a crevice in the ground, in the belly of a bare and unfurnished hole, having parted from their loved ones, stroking the dirt and facing their accounts. Now, they are dependent on their deeds, free of what they left behind, in need of [the deeds] they put before them. So fear Allâh before the time He appointed is up and death descends upon you. This is what I have to say.” He then lifted the edge of his garment over his face and wept profusely, and made everyone around him weep.
Abû Bakr Al-Daynûrî, Al-Mujâlasah wa Jawâhir Al-‘Ilm Vol. 3 p343.