Monday, March 5, 2012

Umar Bin Abdul Abdul Aziz - The Righteous Caliph

Umar Bin Abdul Aziz

The Umayyads, who gained control of the Islamic Caliphate, after the four Righteous Caliphs, chose Damascus for the capital of the Islamic Empire.  Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was not a man of war and military battles but rather a simple man who strived to live a very humble life in the midst of that type of life of luxury and affluence. What makes this all the more remarkable is that 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz did all this after he became the Caliph or the ruler of a great Empire. 'Umar the Caliph who was accustomed to the life of ease and comfort shunned all the amenities and luxuries of royal life and led a humble life like any of the ordinary citizens of the Empire he ruled. 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz was born in Madinah around 59 A.H. (680 G.). He was a descendent of 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab on his mother's side. So his life of material luxury and richness did not spoil the moral and religious aspects of his life. In his youth he memorized the Holy Ouran and kept the company of many religious scholars in Madinah and elsewhere. At the age of twenty-six, 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz was appointed Governor of Madinah. This was the first test of his character. 'Umar successfully passed the test. For as soon as he was appointed, he chose ten 'Ulama' (religious scholars) to help him carry out his duties, by giving him sincere advice and warning him of any injustices incurred by the citizens. In the year 99 A.H. (ca. 720 G.) 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz ascended to the throne in Damascus after the death of Sulaiman ibn 'Abdul-Malik who chose him for a successor.
And according to the conventions of the time, people swore the oath of allegiance to 'Umar who told them to make their pledge conditional on his obedience to Allah; in other words, he did not want allegiance of his subjects to be a blind one. People had to obey him and be loyal to him only as long as he did not break any of the Divine laws; otherwise, they did not have to obey him. In this great attitude 'Umar ibn' Abdul-Aziz was certainly following the path of the four Righteous Caliphs, who always insisted that subjects should show obedience to the ruler only so long as he broke no law of Allah.
To him worldly comfort and wealth had no meaning but rather were considered hindrances in the path of piety. He had never transgressed the laws of the faith; neither had he caused any harm to anyone intentionally. When he became the Caliph, however, in contrast to many or most rulers, he rejected the soft way of life and started a new way of austerity and hard work for the Pleasure of Allah. He refused to be accompanied by the official parade, and he sent off his royal guards saying: "I have no need for this; for I am only a member of the Muslim community."
Another practice discontinued by 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz was the practice of giving rewards and incentives to the poets who praised the Caliphs. To him this was an unfair way of wasting the money of the public treasury. For that money should only go to the people who really needed it.
What makes 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Aziz a heroic model is the fact that to him piety and justice were not matters of preaching only, but they were matters of practice, and that practice began at home. He divested himself of all the unnecessary amenities of life and asked his wife Fatimah to return her dearest and valuable jewelry to the Muslim treasury. To him, members of the royal family were no better than the common people, and they deserved no special favors.
It was In fact this sense and practice of justice and sincerity in carrying out the duties of the caliphate that made the whole empire free of the poor and needy people, which made it difficult to find people who deserved the poor dues (Zakat).
Another important aspect of his personality was his extreme modesty and humility. He, the ruler of one of the greatest empires in history, wore the simplest of inexpensive garments, lived the simplest way of life and served himself whenever possible. His order to his servant was: "Rulers usually appoint people to watch over their subjects. I appoint you a watcher over me and my behavior. If you find me at fault in word or action guide me and stop me from doing it."

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