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Umar Ibn Khattab Embraces Islam

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The acceptance of Islam by everyone of the early Muslims was the effect of one cause or another and at times a very small incident became the means of the conversion of an individual or a group. The stimulant for the adoption of Islam by the second caliph is interesting. Although from the point of view of the chronological order of the events it would have been appropriate to record this incident after describing the migration of Muslims to Ethiopia, but we have considered it expedient to describe it here, as we have here mentioned some of the companions of the Holy Prophet.
Ibn Hisham [1] says, "Out of the family of Khattab (father of Umar) only his daughter Fatimah and her husband Sa'id bin Zayd had embraced Islam. As in the early days of Islam Umar's relations with the Muslims were very inimical and he was considered to be one of the most obstinate enemies of the Prophet, therefore, his sister and her husband always kept their faith concealed from him. In spite of this Khubab bin Art used to come to their house at appointed hours and taught them the Holy Qur'an.
The confused condition of the people of Makkah had made Umar very sentimental, for he saw that dissension and disorder prevailed amongst them and the bright day of Quraysh had been changed into a dark evening.
Umar, therefore, decided to go and cut off the root of dissension by killing the Holy Prophet. To achieve this purpose he was looking for the place where the Prophet could be found. He was informed that he was in a house situated by the side of the bazaar of Safa, and forty persons like Hamzah, Abu Bakr, Ali etc. had undertaken to protect and defend him.
Na'im bin Abdullah who was one of the close friends of Umar says: "I saw Umar carrying his sword. I enquired about the purpose for which he was going. He replied thus: "I am going in search of Muhammad who has created dissension amongst Quraysh. He laughs at their wisdom and intellect, declares their religion to be worthless and belittles their gods. I am going to kill him".
Na'im says: "I said to him: You are deceived. Do you think the descendants of Abd Munaf will spare your life? If you are a peaceable person you should first reform your own house. Your sister Fatimah and her husband have become Muslims and follow the religion of Muhammad".
Na'im's words created a storm of wrath in the mind of Umar. Consequently he abandoned his previous plan and went to the house of his brother-in-law. When he reached near the house he heard the humming of someone who was reciting the Holy Qur'an with an impressive voice. The manner of Umar's arrival in his sister's house was such that she and her husband also became aware that he was about to enter. They, therefore, concealed the teacher of the Holy Qur'an in the back part of the house so that he might remain hidden from Umar's eyes. Fatimah also concealed a leaf on which verses of the Holy Qur'an were written.
Umar said without any salutation or greeting: "What was this humming that I have heard?" They replied 'We have heard nothing". Umar said: "I have been informed that you have become Muslims and follow the religion of Muhammad". He uttered this sentence with great fury and attacked his brother-in-law. His sister then stood up to protect her husband. Umar attacked her also and seriously injured her head with the point of his sword. While blood was flowing from her head, the helpless woman said with great fervour of faith: "Yes. We have become Muslims and believe in Allah and His Holy Prophet. Do whatever you like".
The tragic plight of the sister, who was standing by the side of her brother with her face and eyes besmeared with blood and was speaking to him, made Umar tremble and he was sorry for what he had done. He, therefore, insisted that they should show him the relevant leaf so that he might ponder over the words of Muhammad. His sister fearing lest he should tear it up, put him on oath that he would not do so, and he also made a promise and confirmed it on oath that he would return the leaf after having gone through it. Then he took the sheet in his hand. A few verses were written on it. Their translation is given below: Taha. It was not to distress you that We revealed the Qur'an. It is to admonish those who fear Allah. It is a revelation from Him who has created the earth and the lofty heavens. The Merciful who is firm in power. His is what the heavens and earth contain. He has knowledge of all that is secret and all that is yet more hidden. (Surah Taha, 20:1-6)
These eloquent verses and the clear and firm words impressed Umar very much. The man, who was the most ruthless enemy of the Qur'an and Islam a few minutes earlier, decided to change his mind. He went to the house about which he had already learnt that the Holy Prophet could be found there and knocked at the door. One of the companions of the Prophet peeped through a hole and saw Umar standing with a sword in hand and waiting for the door to be opened. He returned at once and informed the Prophet about the matter. Hamzah, son of Abdul Muttalib said: "Let him come in. If he has come with good intentions we shall welcome him, but if his intentions are not good we shall kill him". Umar's attitude towards the Prophet reassured them and his open countenance and expression of sorrow and shame proved his real intentions. Eventually he embraced Islam at the hands of the Prophet in the presence of his companions and thus joined the ranks of the Muslims.[2]
Notes:
[1] Seerah Ibn Hisham, vol. I, page 365.
[2] Ibn Hisham has given another version of the embracement of Islam by Umar. (vol. I, page 368)

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