(c. 582 - 644)
Omar was the second Caliph of the four patriarchal Caliphs of Islam. A caliph was a successor to the Prophet and the head of the Muslim community. He was the most notable figure of Islam. Omars strong will, direct attitude, and unambiguous style helped him to expand the Islamic Empire with great speed. He was especially known for his energy of will, piety, wisdom and great ability of organization that helped to make him the second only to the Prophet Muhammad in authority and prestige. Muhammad himself even said If God had willed that there be another prophet after me, Umar would have been he (Bowker, 1002). As a note, Umar and Omar are the same person, but different authors use different forms of his name. While Omar was administrator of the Empire he was able to organize great conquests and was able to convert his empire to Islam four years before Hijrah.
During Omars Caliphate, he was the ideal model for attempting the restoration of a pure Islamic state." This era was known as the Golden age of Islamic religion. Many Muslim religious and political institutions arose to be models for future generations. An example of an institution that arose is the Diwan. The Diwan was a form of Welfare state by which annual stipends were paid to all Muslims from the public treasury. The office of judge was formed, also known as the qadi. In addition to the aforementioned advances, military gausions were formed which later transformed into great cities of Islam, for example Kufa and Fustat. Some of the religious advances that took place during Omars reign is the standardization of the text of the Quran, a religious ordinance of nightly prayers in the month of Ramadan, and the Hijra calendar.
A lot of organization was introduced into the Arabian society. Some ordinances such as the prohibition of Arabs to own land were also introduced. Arabs were primarily prohibited to own land in order to be a permanent fighting force, carrying Islam to the ends of the earth (Glasse 408). Tribal classification was implemented for several reasons such as individual pay, military organization, tax regulation, and home settlements. Loyalty of Tribal leaders was deeply encouraged for persuasion on religious grounds as well as the restoration to a policy of Conciliation of Hearts, services in return for promises of extra booty (Bowker 1002).
Omar was assassinated in 23/644 in the city of Medina by Abu Lula’ah Firoz, a Persian slave of the governor of Basra, Mughirah ibn Shubah. When the slave complained to Omar about his duties, Omar did not pay much attention to him. As revenge, the slave stabbed Omar in the Mosque before the day breaking prayer. While on his deathbed he appointed a council, Abd ar-Rahman ibnAwf, the Shura, Zubayr, and elected a new Caliph, Sad ibn Abi Waqqas. On his deathbed he also said, It would have gone badly with me if I had not been a Muslim (Glasse 407).
Bowker, John. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.
Glasse, Cyril. Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1989.
Waines, David. An Introduction to Islam. Cambridge University Press, Great Britain, 1995.
Edited by: Danielle Nemeth
Source: WebChronology Project