Siyar al-Nabi Lessons-26: Hz. Umar

Written in Turkish by Mutlu BİNİCİ

Translated into English by Hayat Yakup ARICIOĞLU

The Great Leader Whose Conversion to Islam Is a Conquest, Emigration Is a Victory and Caliphate Is a Mercy.

The Prayer of Our Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)

  He was tall, sturdy and vigorous. Those who saw him at a distance would immediately notice him with his large body and imposing walk. “Umar, son of Khattab, is coming” they would say. He was a shepherd during his childhood, had herded the animals of his father and maternal uncles. As he got older, he became interested in wrestling and riding. He would participate in the wrestling matches held at the fair of Ukaz, impress with his wrestling and riding skills. He loved horse riding so much.

  He was one of the rare people who were literate. He was interested in literary subjects, would value poets and try to memorize the poems he liked. He could speak well, had a powerful oratory. He was the representative of Mecca. He knew the science of genealogy very well, and successfully fulfilled his duty of embassy.

  Just like every Qureshi, Umar ibn al-Khattab earned his living from trade. He would go on business trips summer and winter, and travel all over the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. These trips had increased both his knowledge and culture.[1] 

  He was as bad tempered as his father, Khattab. Umar, who was very fond of drinking and women, would worship idols and embrace them. When The Almighty Allah showed compassion and sent Muhammad (alayhissalam) as a mercy, he became a relentless enemy of Allah’s religion and His beloved Prophet. He would get tough with the Muslims, ruthlessly torture the believers who were weak and lonely.

  He would beat Zunairah (radiallahu anha) fiercely and when he stopped, he would mock her by saying, “I am leaving you alone not because I pity you but because I am tired.” The great woman, who was full of imaan, would bear the tortures and scream her faith fearlessly. Her response would be, “May Allah do the same to you.”

  He would beat Lubaynah (radiallahu anha) too. And Lubaynah would stand up to him with all her courage, threaten him saying, “If you don’t become a Muslim, Allah will do the same to you.”[2]

  How could such an intelligent man worship idols made of wood and stone, be so hostile to Islam, torment poor people just because they said, “Our Rabb is Allah.” The believers were overwhelmed with his oppression and violence; they were leaving their homes and going to a foreign land. In fact, he didn’t know who he was waging war against and why. Perhaps, he was just being provoked by his uncle Abu Jahl [3] and therefore was blindly hostile to Allah and His Messenger.

  It had been six years since Islam was born. The believers were striving for their belief in the harshest of conditions. The ever-increasing oppression and tortures were making life unbearable. The city was full of stony-hearted people but Abu Jahl and his nephew Umar were different. These two were simply the protectors of kufr (denial) and the symbol of persecution. One morning, however, the believers witnessed the prayer of Rasulullah:

  “O Allah, strengthen Islam with either Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or Umar ibn al-Khattab.”[4]

Surah al-Haqqah

  The Lord of the worlds accepted the prayer of His righteous and beloved servant (alayhissalam). Umar’s conversion was a great triumph for Islam. Even though the sources narrate differently about him becoming a Muslim, it was the Quran that shook his heart, took him out of the darkness of kufr and enlightened him with the light of imaan.

  One night he had gone out to maltreat our Rasul (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). He came to Masjid al-Haram. Rasulullah was performing his salah. He wanted to watch him and listen to the words he recited. Muhammad (alayhissalam) was reading the Surah al-Haqqah. The surah had impressed Umar. He said, “This man is a complete poet just like the Qureshis say.” He had just finished his words that he heard the verse Rasulullah recited: “Most surely, it is the Word brought by an honored Messenger, and it is not the word of a poet; little is it that you believe.[5] Umar was shocked. It was not possible for Muhammad (alayhissalam) to hear him. Then how could he answer him? Then he said, “He must be a soothsayer.” By the verses our Prophet recited, Umar was more shocked: “Nor the word of a soothsayer; little is it that you mind. It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.”[6]

  As Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) read the surah al-Haqqah to the end, the love of Islam entered in Umar’s heart.[7]

  A great war began in the heart of Umar ibn al-Khattab. On the one hand, there was his tribe, his bad habits that his soul could not abandon, his ancestors whose traces he could not leave, and on the other hand, there were verses that shook his heart, and the religion of Allah which he thought was true. It was very difficult for him to control over his soul, abandon Abu Jahl and his other relatives, and confront his tribe.

Can Umar Become a Muslim?

  When he was nonplussed, he saw his neighbor Layla bint Abi Asmah. Layla was making preparations for a journey. She was going to go to Abbysinia with her husband. “Well, you are leaving,” Umar said. “Yes,” Layla said. “I swear to Allah, we are going to leave the land of Allah. You tormented us, you oppressed us and you did not leave us in peace. I hope that Allah will make a way out for us.” Umar felt so sad. There was a deep grief in his voice when he said, “May Allah help you.”

  Layla bint Abi Asmah had never seen Umar that soft and merciful before. Shortly after that talk, her husband Amir ibn Rabia came home. She told him about the change of Umar and how sad he seemed. She even said that Umar could become Muslim. Amir had no hope though. He expressed his despair by saying, “You should know that even Khattab’s donkey can become a Muslim, but his son cannot.”[8] These words show how hostile Umar was to Islam till that time and how much Muslims suffered at his hands.

I Shall Kill Muhammad

  In those days when Umar was having a big dilemma, he joined a meeting held at Dar al-Nadwa. The notables of the city were talking about our Prophet (alayhissalam) with words full of hate. They were complaining about Islam setting people against each other, dividing families, and how there was neither safety nor peace left in Mecca. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was accusing their ancestors of foolishness, and their idols of weakness. He was gathering the pure youngsters of the city around himself and threatening the system built upon oppression.

  The years passed, but the insults, ill-treatments, and unbearable tortures could not proselytize the believers. They had gone through so much in the cause of their faith; some of them were martyred, and finally, some of them migrated to Abyssinia. When Najashi did not give the emigrant Muslims to Qureshis, this had driven them crazy. Mecca’s reputation was seriously damaged. Especially Hamza’s (radiallahu anh) conversion to Islam, his exclaiming his faith in the centre of Mecca, and making Abu Jahl’s head bleed had upset the notables of the Quraysh.

  There was only one thing left to do: They had to put a stop to all this by killing Muhammad (alayhissalam). But who was going to do this? Banu Hashim and the Muslims would not spare the killer of the Prophet. Then it had to be a devoted man who was not afraid of death, who would sacrifice himself for the Quraysh. There was only one man in Mecca who could do this: Umar ibn al-Khattab.

  Umar was an irascible man. He could not stand what the notables talked over and the nightmare scenarios they envisaged. Maybe he had resented how Hamza injured his uncle Abu Lahab a few days back. He was full of vengeance. He stood up and talked confidently: “I am going to kill Muhammad!” Amid cheers and applause, he went home at once. He did not care about the possibility of dying nor the price of a hundred camels put on the Prophet's head. He was going to kill Muhammad (alayhissalam) and put and end to what had been happening for the last six years. He had heard that Muhammad (alayhissalam) and his friends were near the Safa Hill. He armed himself with his sword and set off for Dar Al-Arqam.

Your Sister Became Muslim

  When people saw Umar with his sword in his hand and the terrible anger in his face, they ran away from him. Umar came across Nuaym ibn Abdullah who was from his own tribe. Nuaym had become Muslim before but he was hiding his faith. When he saw a sword in Umar's hand, he asked:
"Umar, where are you going?"
"I am going to kill Muhammad who disrupted the unity of Quraysh, accused them of foolishness, spoke ill of their religion, insulted their gods, abandoned the religion of their ancestors and invented a new religion.

  Nuaym, who would love Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) more than himself, wanted to protect him. With the aim of diverting Umar's attention and gaining time, he said, "Don't deceive yourself Umar. When you kill him, do you think the sons of Abdimenaf will let you live?"

  Umar was furious. There was no point in advising him nor warning. Nuaym had to protect our Prophet (alayhissalam) at all costs. He said, "You'd better go and check your family first." Umar collared him at once. "Who do you mean?" he said. Nuaym said: "Your sister Fatimah and her husband Said became Muslim too. Don't you know?"

  Umar could not believe what he heard. Without his knowledge, his sister and brother-in-law had secretly become Muslim. They had abandoned the religion of his ancestors and the idols of his tribe. This could not happen. He wended his way to the house of his brother-in-law immediately.

We Won’t Give Up Islam Even If We Die

  When he got close to the house, he heard the Quran recitation. Habbab ibn Eret, who was the guest of the house at that time, was reading Quran to Fatimah bint al-Khattab and her husband. Umar got angrier when he realized what Nuaym had told him was true. The households noticed Umar's arrival, so they hid Habbab and the pages of Quran. Umar got in the house and shouted: "What were you reading just now?" Fatimah and her husband said that he might have misheard them. Umar said: "I've heard that you submitted to Muhammad and converted to his religion.” Then, he lunged at his brother-in-law. As Fatimah saw Umar throwing her husband to the ground and kicking him, she tried to interfere and protect her husband but it was impossible to stop him. He slapped his sister so hard and she fell down. Then, with all her courage, she revealed her faith: "Yes, we became Muslim. We believed in Allah and His Rasul. You do whatever you want. Even if you kill us, we won't give up Islam!”

How Beautiful These Words Are

  Because he saw the blood coming out of his sister's mouth and nose, Umar was saddened. He was also shocked at her sister's courage. She had not spoken up before him until that day. He was amazed at how she had risked death to say that she was going to stick to her religion. What kind of a religion was Islam that people would sacrifice their lives for it, that would turn his sister into a lion? The courage of his sister and brother-in-law had moderated him. He said, "Bring me the pages you were reading just now!" But, Fatimah didn't listen to him. This time he promised he would not give harm to the pages. Yet, she didn't do what Umar said, "You are a polytheist, and the polytheists are dirty. Only the clean can touch the Quran!" Maybe Fatimah had said this hoping that he could become a Muslim. After listening to his sister, Umar washed himself and started to read from the Quran pages given him.

  Umar was reading the Surah Taha in tears, the surah was reviving him. He was shaken by the Quran, his inner dirt was cleaned. He was reading the verses, "Verily I am Allah. There is no god beside Me. So serve Me and establish prayers to remember Me." He could not help himself and said, "How beautiful these words are, how precious. None can be worshipped but the owner of these words. No words can be better than these."[9]

I’ve Come to Become a Muslim, O Rasulallah

  Habbab ibn Eret who heard these words came out from where he hid and said, "O Umar, I hope that the prayer of Rasulullah is going to come true with you. Yesterday, I heard our Prophet pray, "O Allah, strenghten Islam with either Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or Umar ibn al-Khattab." The light of faith was shining on Umar's face. He said, "O Habbab, tell me where Muhammad is so that I can go to him and become a Muslim. Habbab gave him the directions to Dar al-Arqam, which was near Safa Hill, and Umar set off.

  The Muslims at Dar al-Arqam got very worried when they saw Umar Ibn al-Khattab at the door. Because he was armed with his sword. Hz. Hamza said, "Let him in. If he's come with goodness, then we shall treat him good. If he's come with badness, then we shall kill him with his own sword." With the allowance of our Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) Bilal al-Habash opened the door. When Umar came in, our Prophet welcomed him. After grabbing hold of his cloth and shaking him, our Prophet asked him why he came. Umar's response made Muhammad Mustafa (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) so happy. He said, "I’ve come to become a Muslim o Rasullallah." The righteous and beloved Messenger of Allah recited Takbir. The believers who heard his Takbir understood that Umar had become a Muslim and they recited Takbir so loudly that ‘Allahu Akbar' shouts were heard in the streets of Mecca.[10]


  Umar was the sworn enemy of Islam and a nightmare for the Muslims before. Afterward he became Muslim, he started to live for Allah and His Rasul, his heart began to beat for Islam. Right after his conversion, he came to Rasulullah and said, "If we are right and they are wrong, then why are we hiding our faith?" He wanted the Muslims to go to the Kabah all together and reveal their faith to the persecutors of the city.

  The Muslims were walking to the Kabah in two rows. Hz. Umar was the head of one row, and Hz. Hamza was the head of the other. Muhammad (alayhissalam) was in the middle. The Muslims were breaking the resistance of disbelief; they were performing salah around the Kabah. It was one of the best days of the house of Allah. The truth was distinguished from falsehood that day; the truth arose, the falsehood was broken, so the leaders of Mecca. The righteous and beloved Prophet of Allah gave Umar ibn al-Khattab the name of 'Faruq' as he distinguished between right and wrong.[11]

  Hz Hamza's, and three days later, Hz. Umar's conversion to Islam had disturbed Mecca. The leaders of Quraysh were very disappointed-The Muslims, on the other hand, had cheered up. The Quraysh were no longer going to be as insensitive as they were before. They had to take these two braves into account. As Umar joined the Muslims, they were no longer going to be based at Dar al-Arqam, they were going to spread. It was a new era for the Islamic invitation. About those days, Abdullah ibn Masud says:

  "Umar's conversion to Islam was a conquest, his emigration was a victory, and his caliphate was a mercy from Allah. We were not able to perform salah around the Kabah till his conversion. When he bacame Muslim, he fought against the Quraysh and performed his salah beside the Kabah. So, we could perform with him."[12]

Umar Reaches the Best of the Paths Through the Best of the Words

  If asked who, from Mecca, would never become a Muslim, Umar would be one of the first people coming to mind. The Muslims were afraid of him, so much so that they were even disturbed by his name. He would ruthlessly attack the believers, he didn't know what mercy was. He was a crazed man who had even planned to kill the precious Prophet who was sent as a mercy to the worlds. But when he set out for killing the inviter, he himself was transformed by the beloved inviter. He found the eternal felicity on his way to killing the Prophet. This shows that an inviter should never give up on anyone, even his sworn enemy who wants to destroy him. It is because only Allah knows whom He is going to give guidance to and when.

  Surah al-Haqqah had caused a sea change in him. He was not the old Umar. In fact, what had caused him to attempt to kill the Prophet was his tribe’s provocation. But his sister’s bleeding in the face after his hit, how she risked her life for Islam, and how her husband took a tough stance against him, all these had subdued him. Fatimah was intrumental in overcoming a big obstacle: she had called her brother to guidance which meant a great conquest. Her courage strengthened Islam. All this shows that a Muslim woman has a lot to do. She has great responsibilities when inviting to Islam and she cannot escape from doing her part.

  For Umar's conversion to Islam, Rasulullah had raised his hands for dua. So, the believers should call people to the truth, insistently invite them to Islam, wake up at night and beg Allah for their guidance. Because dua is the most powerful weapon of a believer.

  There are different narrations about the surah that helped Umar embrace Islam. Some narrations say that it was Surah Taha, some say Surah al-Hadid, and some others say Surah al-Haqqah. What we think is that Umar read or listened to all these surahs in the course of time and they turned him into Umar al-Faruq who was one of those precious people closest to Rasulullah. Hz. Umar met the Quran, got out of the darkness and reached the light of imaan with it. What is up to us is to remove the obstacles between people and the words of Allah, let them meet the Quran. The best of the words is the word of Allah and the best of the paths is the path of Muhammad (alayhissalam).

  Umar’s conversion to Islam struck fear into the heart of Quraysh. The oppressors were going crazy, witnessing that they were losing authority and power. Muhammad (alayhissalam), on the other hand, was continuing to conquer the hearts. Mecca had to act and take some new measures. So, they started off with a brutal persecution, which history had never witnessed before.

Siyer-i Nebi Magazine-26th Issue / March-April




  [1] Mustafa Fayda, Ömer, Diyanet İslam Ansiklopedisi, XXXIV, 44.

  [2] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, I, 341; Baladhuri, Genealogies of the Nobles, I, 195.

  [3] Hz. Umar’s mother Hantamah was from the tribe of Banu Makhzum and her father was the uncle of Abu Jahl. Ibn Abdil Barr, Al-Isti’ab Fi Ma’rifat Al-Ashab, III, 1144.

  [4] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, I, 372; Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, III, 267.

  [5] Surah al-Haqqah 69/40-41

  [6] Surah al-Haqqah 69/42-43

  [7] Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, II, 17; Ali ibn al-Athir, Usd al-Ghabah fi Ma’rifat al-Sahabah, IV, 147.

  [8] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, I, 367; Bayhaqi, Dalail an-Nubuwwah, II, 221-222.

  [9] It is also narrated that Hz Umar read the first verses of Surah al-Hadid. (Bayhaqi, Dalail an-Nubuwwah, II, 217)

  [10] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, I, 369-373; Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, III, 367-369.

  [11] Diyārbekrī , Ta'rīkh al-Khamis, I,296.

  [12] Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, I, 367; Haythami, Majma al-Zawa’id, IX, 62-63.











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