A glimpse at the life of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab – III
His checking on the situation of his people:
Aslam, may Allah be pleased with him, who was the freed slave of 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: “I accompanied `Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab, may Allah be pleased with him, to the marketplace. A woman came after him saying, ‘O Commander of the Believers! I am a widow and a mother of small children with no means. I am afraid that they might perish from hunger. I am the daughter of Khuffaaf Ibn Imaa' Al-Ghifaari (a Companion), and my father witnessed the Pledge of Allegiance of Al-Hudaybiyyah with the Prophet .' `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, stood where he was for a while and then said: “Welcome, O woman of a close relation!” He then went to a camel which was tied nearby, loaded two sacks of foodstuffs on its back, and put between these two some money and clothes; then, he handed the camel’s noseband to the woman and said: 'Take it, and this provision will not finish before Allah gives you a better supply.' A man said: 'O Commander of the Believers! You have given her too much.' `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, replied, disapprovingly: “May your mother be bereaved of you! I swear by Allah that I witnessed her father and brother besieging a fort for a very long period of time before conquering it. Now we are enjoying the spoils of that conquest.'” He, may Allah be pleased with him, never forgot the merits of the virtuous.
‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, had a meticulous interest in the affairs of his subjects.
Aslam, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: "One night, he went to Al-Harrah (a hard grounded area in eastern Madeenah) along with me, and caught sight of a fire that had been kindled there. He said to me: 'I think those people (who kindled the fire) are a caravan that is suffering from the cold of the night.' When he, may Allah be pleased with him, reached that area, he found a woman and her children who were suffering from the pangs of hunger.
"The woman had placed a pot of water on the fire to distract the hunger of the children so that they would sleep. ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, approached them and said: 'As-Salaamu 'Alaykum, O people of the light,' thereby avoiding saying 'people of the fire.' Then he said: 'What is the matter? What is wrong with these children who are making so much noise?' 'They are bitten by hunger,' said the woman. 'What is in this pot?' asked ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him. 'Water, I divert their attention with it by pretending that I am making food for them, so that they may sleep,' said the woman. 'Allah will judge between us and ‘Umar,' the woman said. 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said to the woman: 'May Allah have mercy on you! How can ‘Umar be informed about you?' She replied: 'How can he shoulder our responsibility and then be distracted from us?' Upon hearing this, ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, wept and fled.
"Later, he bought a quantity of flour and fats and said to me: 'Lift this flour onto my back.' I said: 'O Commander of the Believers! Let me carry it for you.' ‘Umar replied: 'Will you carry my sins for me on the Day of Resurrection?' ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, carried the flour on his back until he reached the woman, then he began to cook food for her. He kept on puffing into the fire beneath the pot, with the smoke enveloping his beard, until the food was fully cooked. He then put down the pot, took out the food, and served it out on plates. The children ate their fill and began to play and cry with joy. The woman cried: 'May Allah reward you with a fine reward! You are more worthy of being caliph than ‘Umar.' ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said to her: 'Say something better than that!' They then left her tent and walked away.
"After a short while he, may Allah be pleased with him, stopped, turned around and fixed his gaze on her tent. I said to him: 'We have matters to attend to', but he, may Allah be pleased with him, said nothing. The children were playing outside the tent and shortly after that, they went inside, then things became silent, which indicated that they had gone to sleep. Then, `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said to me: 'O Aslam! Hunger made them cry and kept them awake, so I did not want to leave until I saw what we just saw.'”
This was how `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was with his people and how he would always check on the poor and be merciful with the needy, despite his dignity and religious zeal, and regardless of the fact that many people, including his relatives, would fear him due to his very strong personality.
The death of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, came as a great shock to the people and represented a huge affliction. `Umar's death marked the start of major trials and tribulations for the Muslims. Once, a man came to him and informed him that he saw a dream which was interpreted to mean that he would one day become caliph and then be martyred. `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, later said about this dream: “As for the first part, indeed it happened and I ask Allah to help me fulfil its rights, but I do not know how the second part can materialise when I am staying behind in Madeenah while the Muslims are fighting Jihaad everywhere (else), but perhaps Allah will facilitate a means for me to attain it…”
`Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was keen not to allow any disbelievers into the Arabian Peninsula, but he granted few exceptions to some skilled people in order to benefit the Muslims. One such person was a Persian slave named Fayrooz. He was purchased by Mugheerah Ibn Shu'bah, may Allah be pleased with him, who was the Governor of Basra. This Fayrooz was a craftsman, carpenter, ironsmith and painter.
One day, Fayrooz called upon 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, and complained that the tax that his master Mugheerah was exacting from him was too high. He wanted the Caliph to reduce this levy. ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, enquired about this and found out that the levy was not excessive, so no reduction was called for, to the anger of Fayrooz. In order to cheer up Fayrooz, ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “I understand you make windmills; make one for me too.” In a sullen mood, Fayrooz said: "Indeed I will make such a mill for you that the whole world will talk about it." As Fayrooz went away, the Caliph told the people around him that the Persian slave had threatened him.
At a later date, and at the time of the Fajr prayer, Fayrooz set off, under the cover of darkness, with his dagger, to the Mosque of the Prophet and hid himself in a corner in one of the recesses of the mosque. When the believers stood for prayer, and after straightening their rows, ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, took up his position as Imaam to lead the prayer. Fayrooz emerged from his place of hiding and rushed at ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him. He struck ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, with six consecutive stabs of his dagger, and ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, fell to the floor, pouring with blood.
Others rushed at Fayrooz, but he had the fury and frenzy of a desperate man about him. He struck right and left, and thirteen Muslims were wounded, some of them fatally, before he could be overpowered. Finally, realising that there was no escape, Fayrooz stabbed himself to death with his own dagger.
The death of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, stunned the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, as they loved him dearly. Ibn Mas’ood, may Allah be pleased with him, said of him: “I loved him so much that if I were to come to know of a dog that he used to love, I would love that dog. I wished that I could be his servant until I died.”
Undoubtedly, `Umar becoming a Muslim brought might to the Muslims, his leadership was an example of mercy, his virtues were plentiful, and what we mentioned here was but a glimpse at his life, in an attempt to fulfil part of his right over us.