Incident between ‘Umar and Abu Hurayrah about public money
Fatwa No: 366526

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Is it true that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, used to steal from the public treasury? Humayd ibn Zanjway said:
Humayd narrated to us from Abu Ubayd, and also Ma'az Ibn Ma'az from Ibn Awn, from Ibn Sirin, that he said, "And when Abu Hurayrah returned from Bahrain (during the caliphate of ‘Umar, ‘Umar appointed him as governor of Bahrain), he reprimanded him and said 'O enemy of Allah, the Exalted, O enemy of the book (the Quran), you have stolen from the treasury of Allah (i.e. public treasury).' To which Abu Hurairah replied, 'By God, I am not an enemy of Allah, the Exalted, or his Book. Rather, I am an enemy of their enemy. And I have not stolen from the public treasury.' So Umar said, 'So how did you accumulate this wealth of 10,000 dirhams?' Abu Hurayrah said, 'I had horses which were breading, and the salary that was from the public treasury by which I accumulated this.'‘ Umar usurped his money. Abu Hurayrah said, 'When I prayed the morning prayer, I sought forgiveness for the Commander of the Faithful.'"
Footnote: Ibn Sa‘d has narrated it through several chains from Ibn Awn from Muhammad also, and the chain of Ibn Zanjawaih is authentic. Source: Kitaab Al-Amwal. H # 996. Pg. # 605


All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

It is the duty of the Muslim to love the Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; take them as his allies; and think highly of them. The basic principle is that a Muslim should have good expectations and think highly of all his fellow Muslims. How then should he regard the honorable Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who were the best of this nation and fought for the cause of Allah, supported His Messenger, preserved the religion of Islam, and delivered it to us?

As for the mentioned narration, let us first cite another, more complete version of it:

Muhammad ibn Sireen narrated that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

"‘Umar said to me, 'O Enemy of Allah and enemy of Islam! You betrayed (the duty of preserving) the money of Allah (i.e. public money)!' I said, 'I am not an enemy of Allah or an enemy of Islam; rather, I am an enemy to whoever is an enemy to them! I did not betray the money of Allah, but it is only the prices of my (breeding) camels and my salaries added together.' ‘Umar repeated what he had said, and I repeated my answer to him. So he fined me 12,000 (dirhams). When I got up to perform the Fajr prayer, I supplicated, 'O Allah, forgive the Commander of the Believers!' Afterwards, he asked me to hold public office, so I refused. He said, 'Why do you refuse while Yusuf (Prophet Joseph) asked to hold public office and he was better than you?' I said, 'Yusuf was a Prophet, the son of a Prophet (Jacob), the son of a Prophet (Isaac), the son of a Prophet (Abraham). I am the son of Umaymah, and I fear three things and two things.' He said, 'Why do you not say five?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'What are they?' I said, 'I fear that I speak without knowledge, and issue fatwa without knowledge, and that my back gets beaten, my reputation gets tainted, and my wealth gets confiscated." [Al-Haakim in Al-Mustadrak and others]

Al-Haakim said, "This hadith has an authentic chain of narrators that meets the conditions of Al-Bukhaari and Muslim, but they did not cite it."

Ath-Thahabi said, "It meets the conditions of Al-Bukhaari and Muslim."

Whoever reads this narration closely will discover that there is nothing in it to make the people of religious innovations, who insult the Companions, rejoice. Abu Hurayrah, as he said about himself, did not betray the money of Allah and did not steal. God forbids that he would have done that.

As for ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, he said to Abu Hurayrah what he said in a state of extreme rage out of his keenness on preserving the public money of the Muslims and the integrity of his governors, acting in his capacity as the Muslim ruler. However, ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was not infallible, nor did he have the knowledge of the Unseen. Moreover, ‘Umar asked Abu Hurayrah to take public office again, and this indicates that he believed that Abu Hurayrah did not steal anything from the public money; otherwise, would ‘Umar ask a dishonest person to hold public office and handle public funds?!

In fact, the great merits of these two honorable Companions that this report reflects makes it a lump in the throats of their critics.

For instance, it reflects Abu Hurayrah's exceptional consciousness of Allah, as he denounced holding a high office.

It also highlights the kindness of Abu Hurayrah and the genuine purity of his heart, as he supplicated Allah to forgive ‘Umar although ‘Umar rebuked him and confiscated his wealth.

Moreover, it underlines the keenness of ‘Umar on preserving public money and holding the governor accountable for his actions without any favoritism.

It also highlights the adherence of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab to the truth by asking Abu Hurayrah to hold public office again after this incident.

Allah knows best.

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