The Caliphate of Umar
By: Dr. Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i
Abu Bakr died in such conditions. ‘Umar was selected as caliph following Abu Bakr’s will. Caliphate was established for him for the same reason as it had been for his predecessor. The people expected him to undertake their worldly affairs and just that. ‘Umar accepted to fulfill such a role and was thus accepted. There were many reasons why he was accepted peacefully and without any objection. It was partly because of the conditions in those days and the experience of Abu Bakr’s succession while also partly due to his personal characteristics.22 There was yet no religious stature although much was said in this respect later. He neither considered himself to have any religious stature nor provided any proof to this end.
The people of his time also did not consider such stature for him and did not consider his rise to power to be due to such reasons although, as a ruler, ‘Umar enjoyed the most religious and worldly advantages that a ruler could enjoy due to his position. However, this did not yet have anything to do with his religious stature. These advantages were due to ruling in a government rather than to the religious capacities of the ruler. Doubtless, ‘Umar’s personal characteristics had a much more important and effective role in his ascension to and continuation of his powerful ruling than his religious position.23
His acceptance was in fact the continued acceptance of Abu Bakr and the product of recognizing the same method although Abu Bakr had been selected and ‘Umar’s caliphate was a result of the former one’s will. Yet, what is important is that, while selecting Abu Bakr, the issue of the Prophet’s (S) succession was set forth in a way as to leave the way open for ‘Umar’s caliphate. Apart from this, Abu Bakr’s caliphate was in fact the caliphate of three persons at the top of whom was Abu Bakr. The other two persons were ‘Umar and Abu ‘Ubaydah Jarrah. Interestingly, in the last moments of his life, ‘Umar was sorry why Abu ‘Ubaydah was not alive and said that, had he been alive, he would have selected him to the position.24
His personal characteristics indeed had a critical role. He was a man that knew the Arabs very well and knew how to lead them. After being appointed to caliphate, he said to the people, “An Arab is like a tamed camel that follows his guide. Wherever the guide takes him, he will follow. However, I swear by the God of Ka‘bah that I will take you to the way I want.”25
A more important fact to consider is that he entered the scene exactly at a time when the society needed an individual with his characteristics. No doubt, had he ascended to power at a sooner or a later time, he would have either been defeated or at least would have not have been in such a position. He was lucky because he stepped on to power at the right time, at a time when the conditions were proportionate to and harmonious with his mental and ethical characteristics. He was not one who could rule other than the way he did. His rule was the natural outcome of the realization of his characteristics. It was his nature that was in harmony with his zeitgeist and, since his politics were a creation of his nature, it was in harmony with the needs of his time. His strict spirit left no place for political maneuver and the latter was actually not much needed. Neither the Muslim society nor the Arabs at that time had any interest in such a method. The caliph was mentally and ethically a man like the mass of the people of his time and this was the key to his success.26
The extraterritorial threats were still in place at this time, and perhaps more strongly so. If there was no opponent within Arabia, Iran and Rome had become sensitive to the increasing power of the new religion and system. Iran showed more sensitivity in the meanwhile and the Muslims were seriously threatened.
In such conditions, public opinion was naturally focused on nothing but how to eliminate such threats. Again, the eyes were focused on the outside rather than the inside and there was no room for internal conflicts. The threats were so serious that ‘Umar decided several times to go to war with Iran to promote morale of the soldiers, but each time Imam ‘Ali stopped him. Apart from this, the wars of Muslims with Iranians or Romans in these days were mainly for eliminating the threats from the side of the latter rather than for any conquest and the prevailing feeling was based on reality rather than delusion. Such threats really existed and they considered themselves to be too weak to resist such great powers let alone defeat them, especially because the stories of punishments by the two powers, especially the Sassanid kings and their vassals in the region, were still vividly remembered and their dazzling splendor meant infinite power. A precise study of the historical documents relating to this period and the doubts as to take such action proves the latter statement.27
The first military clashes between them and their neighbors were limited. However, they made them aware of the vulnerability, fragility and internal weakness of their opponent’s system. What accelerated this current was the adventurousness of some of the local commanders who were willing to wage and continue wars. In fact, it was they who encouraged and even forced them to wage an open all-out war with Iran and Rome. However, to the last moment of victory, he and many Muslims were concerned about a crushing defeat.28
This was the fact of the first half of ‘Umar’s life. What was later written about the background of his decision and that of the other Muslims to wage a war and jihad with Iran and Rome was mainly intended to depict their heroes as great and as powerful as possible. The fact is that the situation was different although things were different after conquering Mada’in (Tisfun) and Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem) and doubts and worries faded away and, from then on, they went on without fearing the two powers. Nevertheless, things changed in the second half of ‘Umar’s caliphate because both Mada’in and Bayt al-Muqaddas had been conquered, Iran and the Byzantine Empire had collapsed and the religious heroism and the social zeal had settled.
In the meanwhile, one has to mention the infinite plunder that no Arab had seen so far. This much wealth and the numerous captives who were of a higher culture and a more advanced civilization all of a sudden entered the plain primitive Arabian life and covered everywhere. Although the effects of such a massive sudden entrance appeared later at the time of ‘Uthman, the second half of ‘Umar’s period was not unaffected by the consequences of this explosion. Despite ‘Umar’s strict attitude, many events are seen at the end of his reign that indicate dissatisfaction caused by the changes and developments, to which he reacted sharply.29
He was killed at the best time of his reign. If his caliphate had gone further, his power and influence would have been reduced because of the rapid developments that were taking place and he would not have achieved such a distinguished heroic position later given to him by Sunnis.
‘Umar left power in conditions that were different from when he took power. At that time, the society was a simple one with no view of the outside world and the foreign threats left no room for competition or opposition. However, in this time, neither was the society the same as the previous one nor were such threats in place. The Muslims had gathered wealth as well as power and had become a great empire while being on the threshold of experiencing a new world.30
This change and these developments had been very effective. Meanwhile, the elite, who were mainly from the Quraysh tribe, had been especially affected. In the last years of his life, ‘Umar complained to them and even asked God for his death. Once, addressing a group of Qurayshis, he said, “I have heard that you have separated yourselves from others and hold private meetings, so much so that once often hears that such and such person is a companion of such and such. I swear by God this is not to your benefit and to the benefit of your religion, prestige and respect. I see that your next generation will say it is the decision of such and such person and Islam will be divided. Gather together and meet each other as this will contribute to friendly relations and will give you a higher position in the eyes of the people. O’ God, they upset me and I upset them. They are tired of me and I am tired of them. I do not know which of us will leave this world sooner but I know that one of them will take charge. O’ God, call me to Thyself!”31
The New Situation
In his last years, ‘Umar had to deal with such problems. His influence had been reduced, which was not only due to him in the new situation, but also because the society had been changed and the changes had entailed certain expectations and dissatisfactions, which he neither could respond to nor could bear. On his way back to Medina from his last hajj pilgrimage, he addressed the people, saying, “I have been told that such and such a person—he meant ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf—has said that if ‘Umar dies, I will pledge allegiance to a certain person… Be careful not to be cheated by being said that ‘allegiance to Abu Bakr took place despite being sudden and not being planned for.’ Yes, that allegiance was like that but God saved the Muslims from its evils. Yet, there is no person among you whom everybody would obey…”32
The best evidence for what was said is the nature of ‘Umar’s will compared to that of his predecessor. Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar and this was accepted but ‘Umar did not and could not do so. Abu Bakr ruled a uniform society and could easily have the final say and others would obey him, not because he had said so, but because there were so many things to worry about. Secondly, taking power in that time did not entail any advantages in their view. The caliph was an individual like the others. Everyone had a job and responsibility and his was the caliphate. In addition, in a limited poor society like that of Abu Bakr’s time, the ruler did not benefit from any material advantages. Therefore, neither was there a war for power nor could there be such a war.
This was not the story, however, when ‘Umar died. Neither the dangers nor the poverty or limitations were in place. It was natural that the influential individuals and groups would rise for taking power exclusively for themselves. If the caliph did not have any special advantages on grounds of being caliph, yet he would be in a position that could benefit from many things, therefore, everybody looked at the position.33
The reason that ‘Umar, unlike his predecessor, did not mention anyone in his will is most probably because of this. Otherwise, he was neither weaker than Abu Bakr nor could speak less effectively. The problem was that the situation did not have such a requirement and he had cleverly found this out. Therefore, he was forced to make the exceptional will, an action in which no one imitated him nor could anyone have done so,34 in spite of the fact that he had such a powerful character in the eyes of his supporters that they tried to imitate him in many cases.
‘Umar’s son, Abdullah, thus recounts the story of his father’s will, “Just before the death of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali and ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, Zubayr and Sa‘d ibn Waqqas entered his room. Talhah was in Iraq at that time. He looked at them for a while and then said, ‘I thought about you ruling the people and found no difference other than the one among you have among yourselves. So, if any division takes place, it will be from you. The ruler can be any of the six, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, Zubayr ibn ‘Awwam, Talhah and Sa‘d. Your people have to choose from among you. Then you ‘Uthman, if the power will be yours, do not give Bani Abi Ma‘it domination over the people. If you, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, are given power, do not give your relatives domination over the people. If you are in power, ‘Ali, do not make Bani Hashim dominant over the people.’ Then he told them, ‘Rise to consult to select one from among yourselves.’ Then they rose and consulted…”35
All of these indicated that the conditions had dramatically changed. There were more people who claimed caliphate and they claimed it more strongly while their supporters saw the benefits in defending them. Although such problems existed at the time when ‘Umar took power, they were not so acute, dangerous and critical.
It has been quoted that Imam ‘Ali rejected ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf’s request to follow the way of the two former caliphs if selected, saying, “Time has changed.”36 Even if this is not a true story and has been made up, it at least shows the turbulent conditions at that time because every story that has been made up bears an element of truth. Otherwise, it would not be mistaken for truth.
‘Uthman to Take Power
Finally, ‘Uthman took power. His victory was not that of a person, it was, rather, that of a faction who had introduced him because he was the weakest and the least worthy for the position from among the six-man group that ‘Umar had appointed. To prove this, it would suffice to say that, from among the virtues that were later forged to attribute to the caliphs and for him for reasons that we will talk about later, none relate to his personal capabilities. They were entirely based on his relation to the Prophet (S) or his psychological experiences.37
Although ‘Uthman was an unworthy and weak person, the problem is that the situation had changed even where it did not relate to his power and merits. Lack of a foreign threat, easily obtained massive wealth and the consequences thereof in a retarded tribal society that suffered chronic intertribal disputes, increasing factional influence which the caliph represented or was a puppet of and which only considered but their own personal interests. Lack of a powerful centrality that was accepted and respected by all, self-interest and recklessness of the state governors had created a complex situation.
The weakness of the caliph was an addition to this because the other claimers of caliphate were looking at the position greedily while considering themselves worthier and more rightful to the position. The situation had become so difficult that even the mass of the people felt themselves in difficult conditions and, after several times objecting, came to Medina to object to the caliphate openly, which did not work until all this ended with the caliph’s murder.
It would be appropriate here to quote Ibn Khaldun on the same changes and developments. Knowing his views contributes to the understanding of the early Islamic developments, especially from the middle of ‘Umar’s period onwards and especially ‘Uthman’s caliphate and that of Imam ‘Ali. Although this would be lengthy, we have to quote a major part of it.
Deep and Rapid Developments
“… thus they were away from material comfort and pleasures whether because of their religion, which called them to avoid worldly pleasures or because of their Bedouin life and the violence and difficulty with which they lived and to which they were used to, as in the case of the Mudir tribe, which was in shortage of food and in living conditions worse than any other people in the entire world because they lived in Hijaz, which was void of any farm or means of animal husbandry and were away from the cultivated areas and the crops that were obtained in the lands because they lived in remote areas. Apart from these, the crops of these areas were exclusive to tribes that had control of the areas, such as Rabi‘ah and the tribes in Yemen. Therefore, they never reached for those prosperous areas and often ate scorpions and khabzduk—a stinking dirty animal—and were proud of eating ‘ilhiz, which is the camel wool mixed on stone with blood and then cooked. In terms of food and housing, Quraysh lived in conditions similar to those of Mudir until the Arabs united under the flag of religion because God respected them because of Muhammad’s (S) prophethood.”
“Therefore, they led military expeditions to Iran and Rome and claimed lands that God had granted them based on His true promises and took the throne by force and dealt with their worldly affairs. Consequently, they achieved welfare and power, so much so that the share of a single cavalryman from the booties in some wars amounted to 30,000 gold coins or something close to that. Therefore, they reached an unlimited wealth. Nevertheless, they were still violent on life, as ‘Umar made his clothes out of patches of animal skins and ‘Ali said, “O’ you gold and silver, go and cheat another person.” Abu Musa avoided eating chicken because it was not a custom among Arabs to eat chicken because of its rarity. Therefore, they would eat wheat flour with bran yet they were considered to be the most powerful people in the world because of the wealth they had acquired”.
“Mas‘udi says, “In ‘Uthman’s times, the Prophet’s Companions acquired a large amount of property and land. When ‘Uthman himself was killed, there were 150,000 dinars and 1,000,000 dirhams in his treasury and the price of his landed property in Wadi al-Qura—an area close to Medina—and Hunayn—an area between Ta’if and Mecca—and other areas was worth 200,000 dinars while he had a large number of camels and horses. 1/8 of one item of the Zubayr’s properties after he left was 50,000 dinars while he left, after his death, 1,000 horses and 1,000 female slaves. Talhah each day acquired 1,000 dinars worth of products from Iraq and more than this amount from the area of Sharat”.
“There were 1,000 horses, 1,000 camels and 10,000 sheep in ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf’s stable. One quarter of his inheritance amounted to 84,000 dinars. Zayd ibn Thabit left so many gold and silver ingots that an ax was used for breaking them. This was in addition to the property whose price amounted to 100,000 dinars. Zubayr built himself a house in Basrah and other houses in Egypt and Kufah and Alexandria.”
“In addition, Talhah built a house in Kufah and another house in Medina, for which he used plaster, bricks and teakwood—which grew only in India and whose wood is black and hard and does not rot in soil. Sa‘d ibn Waqqas built himself a house in ‘Aqiq—an area in Medina, Yamamah, Tahamah, Ta’if, Najd, etc.—which had a high ceiling with large premises with crenellated walls. Miqdad built himself a house in Medina that was plastered on the interior and the exterior. Waya‘li ibn Minbah left some land, water, and the like while the price of his other property was 300,000 dirhams.”
“As we saw, the property and wealth acquired by the Arabs were thus and they cannot be religiously blamed for this because their wealth was property that they obtained as booties and fay’ and they were not extravagant in spending it. Rather, they chose the middle way in their manners and lifestyle. Therefore, having much wealth was not blamed on them. If acquiring a great deal of wealth can be blamed, it is because the owner chooses the extravagant way and deviates from the middle path.”
“Nevertheless, if the powerful go on the middle path and spend their wealth for the good and charitable purposes, increase in their wealth will contribute to doing good things throughout the world. As the simple and Bedouin life of that people was gradually forgotten and, as we said, they were influenced by statesmanship and power and their statesmanship contributed to their wealth, yet their domination over the conquered countries was not put at the service of doing bad things and they did not go beyond the limits prescribed by the principles of the right religion…”38
The Great Crisis
These were the conditions at the time of ‘Uthman—and later inherited by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. As we have already mentioned, these conditions were mainly caused by the rapid consecutive conquests of civilized and wealthy lands of that time. However, ‘Uthman himself had an effective share in making further severe this great crisis. Shahrestani, who is an ardent supporter of ‘Uthman, thus sets forth the story of his becoming the caliph, his numerous mistakes, the people’s withdrawing support from him and finally his murder, “Everybody swore allegiance to ‘Uthman. The affairs of the society were put in order and, the call to Islam continued at his time as well. Many conquests were made and the Public Treasury [bayt al-mal] was filled. He treated the people well and generously until his relatives from the Umayyad put him on the verge of collapsing. They suppressed the people and he was suppressed as well. In his time, there were many disputes, all from the side of the Umayyad.
“Among these were returning ibn Umayyah to Medina, whom the Prophet had rejected and was known as “Tarid Rasul Allah” [rejected by the Prophet]. ‘Uthman interceded on his behalf during Abu Bakr’s caliphate, but it was of no avail. ‘Umar exiled him to 40 farsangs [almost 240 km] away from his residence. Also exiling Abudhar to Rabdhah and marrying his daughter to Marwan ibn Hakam and giving to him 1/5 of the booties from Africa, which amounted to 200,000 dinars.
He also returned and gave shelter to his foster brother ‘Abdullah ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Sarh, whose killing was allowed by the Prophet. ‘Uthman gave Egypt to him and Basrah to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir. Then, there happened what happened and other things took placed by which he was troubled. His army generals were Mu‘awiyah, the governor of Syria, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir, the governor of Basrah, and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Sarh, the governor of Egypt. All of them disrespected and left him until his destiny of being killed in his own house came true.”39
The story of acceptance and killing of ‘Uthman compared to the two previous caliphs clearly indicates that neither the acceptance of the caliphs shows that the people of the time believed in a higher religious position for them nor that such a position had any religious significance at that time. He was accepted because ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, who had been made the arbitrator of the six-man group, chose him for the position and was killed because he did not listen to what the objectors said and he ignored his obligations and promises to them.
Now let’s see who the objectors were and why they objected. They were Muslims from various areas who were fed up with the irreligious and reckless behavior and oppression of their rulers and took their complaints to the caliph while the latter did not pay attention to such facts. They called the caliph to religion and to protect the religious rules and regulations because they believed that the caliph had made his non-pious and reckless relatives and friends the rulers of the Muslims. This was actually the fact in practice.40
The other trend of this objection indicates the perception of the Muslims at that time about the caliph and even the position of caliphate. Their objection, in the first place, meant that the caliph deviated from the right path and he had to be reminded of this. Their subsequent insistence meant that the caliph insisted on his wrong way and, therefore, had to be resisted. This resistance went so far as to result in surrounding and finally murdering him. However, this was not yet the end of the story. ‘Uthman had lost his position as a Muslim to such an extent that he was not buried for three days and, after this, he was buried somewhere inappropriate.41
If the judgment of the next generations about him was to be affected by the way the Muslims treated him, he would be put in a position much lower than a regular Muslim. However, subsequent actions by Mu‘awiyah for exculpating him and giving him sanctity were so that he was given a status equal to that of the two previous caliphs. This point has always been a weak one in Sunni theological and ideological arguments. What practically put ‘Uthman in a status equal to the other of the Senior Caliphs was the propaganda by Mu‘awiyah and his successors. Those who have a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam have blamed him for the basis of the propaganda and the forged information as well as the unallowable actions of ‘Uthman. In the past, the Mu‘tazilite were mainly so and, in the contemporary times, religious intellectuals and those with revolutionary and especially military tendencies are among such critics. We will later talk in greater detail in this respect.42
Nonetheless, the Muslims’ attitude towards ‘Uthman is the best example of their perception of the position of caliphate and the person in such a position. When he was chosen to this position, nobody objected. He practically received general acceptance similar to that of ‘Umar43 Therefore, subsequent objections were not due to lack of primary acceptance. Rather, they were because of his mistakes, which put him in such a low position that everybody, even his friends and former allies, opposed him.
The best reason is what Zahri, a first-century scholar, says in this respect, “‘Uthman was the caliph for twelve years. In the first six years, nobody objected to him. The Quraysh loved him more than they had loved ‘Umar because ‘Umar had been strict while ‘Uthman treated them gently. Then, ‘Uthman managed things loosely and assigned the affairs to his relatives and friends and gave away a great deal to them. The people condemned this and opposed him.”44
If the caliph and the caliphate meant to the Muslims of those days what was later said they did, they must have not risen against him in that way, especially since ‘Uthman was one of the Senior Caliphs, i.e. he was among those who were later attached the highest spiritual and religious position. The story of ‘Uthman is the best witness to the fact that it was the Muslims in the later periods that otherwise depicted the position of caliphate and the caliph and especially those of the Senior Caliphs while attributing this to the early Muslims or even to Islamic beliefs and they elaborated on this so much that it would hardly be doubted.45
22. The fact is that the substitution of ‘Umar was not without tension. Ibn Qutaybah says, “When Abu Bakr was ill, the illness with which he died, a group of the Companions went to visit him. ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf addressed him and said, “How are you, the caliph of the Prophet? I hope you will get well and be cured.” “Do you think so?” Abu Bakr replied.
“Yes,” he said. Abu Bakr said, “I swear by God that I feel heavy and have a severe pain, yet what I see from the side of you, the Immigrants, is much more painful to me. I entrusted your affairs with him who is the best of the people with me, but you are arrogant and disobedient and want to take charge. This is because of the worldly prosperities you see…” Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 18; Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid, vol. 20, p. 23; Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, p. 25.
Ibn Abi al-Hadid also tells of Talhah’s explicit opposition, “When Abu Bakr selected ‘Umar, Talhah said, ‘How would you respond to God, if he asks from his people now that you made a strict person govern them?’ Abu Bakr said, ‘Have me sit up. Are you warning me to fear God? If He asks me, I will say, ‘I made the best one of your people to govern them.’ and Abu Bakr then reproved him.” (Ibid., p. 24).
According to the accounts of this as provided in Kanz al-‘Ummal, others apart from Talhah opposed this selection. According to one account by a Companion, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf and ‘Uthman entered Abu Bakr’s meeting and talked to him in private. Then, a number of people entered to object to him for his appointment of ‘Umar because of the latter’s roughness. Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, p. 675. According to another account, when Abu Bakr’s will to appoint ‘Umar as caliph was written, Talhah went to Abu Bakr and said, “I am talking on behalf of those who object to your appointment. Why did you select ‘Umar who is a strict and rough person?” Ibid., p. 678.
After being appointed to caliphate, ‘Umar ascended the rostrum and said, “O’ God, I am a rough person, make me milder, I am weak, make me stronger, I am stingy, make me generous.” Ibid., p. 685. His sermon shows that such objections really existed and were even public.
Apart from these, there were also other factors that were involved. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid says, “In his terminal illness, Abu Bakr said to the Companions, ‘When I selected the best one of you, everyone of you was arrogant and wanted himself to be the one because of the worldly prosperities you saw. I swear by God that you will have curtains of brocade and fabrics of silk.’” Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 20, p. 24.
23. Contrary to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar considered himself competent to make laws. However, as one can find out from his words and deeds, he considered this to be due to his being the ruler of the Muslims not, for example, because of his personal or religious stature. His son, ‘Abdullah, says that one day, in a place near Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem), he said to the Muslims, “O’ people, I am in such a position among you that the Prophet was among us.” Sunan at-Tirmidhi, vol. 4, p. 465.
He later showed that he really considered himself to be in such a position as a ruler. Regarding those of his actions that were based on such an attitude, see An-Nass wa’l-Ijtihad, pp. 148-383. The jurisprudents and theologians of the later periods defined and developed governmental orders based on such a stature that ‘Umar and the other caliphs considered themselves as having, as well as on other grounds. In this respect, see Al-Ahkam fi Tamyiz al-Fatawi ‘an al-Ahkam by Ahmad ibn Idris Qarafi, pp. 390-6, Khasa’is at-Tashri‘ al-Islami fi’s-Siyasah wa’l-Hukm, pp. 310-9 and Al-I‘tisam by Shatibi, vol. 2, pp. 121-2.
24. As an example, when ‘Umar put ‘Ali (‘a) under pressure to make him pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, ‘Ali said, “Do this because you will have a share of it. Consolidate his building today because you will inherit it tomorrow.” Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 11. When selecting his substitute, ‘Umar said, “If Abu-‘Ubaydah was alive, I would select him to this position.” (Ibid., p. 23). It is interesting to note that, from among those who had died, Abu-‘Ubaydah was the first one whom ‘Umar mentioned and sighed that he was not alive.
25. Min Usul al-Fikr as-Siyasi al-Islami, p. 347.
26. This can be found out by considering the personal and moral characteristics of the second caliph and the psychological, upbringing and moral characteristics of the Arabs at the Prophet’s (S) time and a short while before and after that. For example, see Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 674-87, and also Umar ibn al-Khattab by ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Khatib, pp. 42-52, 371-440. Also see his advice to the caliph after himself, which indicates his spiritual and psychological sensitivities, tendencies and thoughts. Al-Bayan wa’t-Tabyin, vol. 2, pp. 47-8.
27. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar thus depicts the hard and threatening conditions of those days, “When the Prophet passed away, Medina became full of hypocrisy and Arabs became apostates. Non-Arabs were happy and had speculations of plots and said, ‘The man in whose light the Arabs have got power has died.’ Then, Abu Bakr gathered the Immigrants and the Helpers, saying, ‘The Arabs have refused to give camels and sheep and gave up the religion and non-Arabs are considering attacking you because the Prophet passed away. Then, give your opinion because I am a person like you but indeed my responsibility in this respect is heavier.’” Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 660.
28. There are numerous accounts of the Muslims’ fear of fighting Iran even in ‘Umar’s time. It is well-known that ‘Umar feared taking such an action and, therefore, on several occasions decided to go to the front himself until ‘Ali made some brief and clever remarks to clear his fear while preventing him from going to the front. Part of what ‘Ali said is, “… Victory or defeat of the religion from the beginning was not because of the small or great number. This is a religion that God made victorious and whose armies got power from Him until they got there…” Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 164.
29. To have an idea of the loot that was obtained in the wars with Iran or Rome, see Akhbar at-Tawal and also Al-Kamil fi’t-Tarikh, vol. 2, pp. 38-68.
Amin quotes this book as saying, “The Muslims got a great deal of booty in the Jilowla’ war which was more than in any other war. A large number of women were taken as captives. It has been said that ‘Umar always said, ‘O’ God, I turn to you from the children of the captives of the Jilowla’ war.’” Fajr al-Islam, p. 95. In another case, Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, pp. 25-6, thus quotes ‘Umar, “When the news of the Qadisiyyah conquest arrived, ‘Umar said, ‘I turn to God if I am alive and see the presence of your children from them.’ They asked him why. He said, ‘How would it be if the Arabic trick and intelligence of the non-Arabs are gathered in one man?’” Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, p. 702.
30. Goldziher well explains the new experience, which was the result of the piled wealth from the wars, by quoting the Prophet (S) (Saying 36 in Al-Jihad by Sahih Bukhari. Al-‘Aqidah wa’sh-Shari‘ah fi’l-Islam (The Belief and the Shariah in Islam), p. 340. Taha Husayn gives another account of the late years of ‘Umar’s caliphate as it was during the time of the Two Shaykhs. Al-Islamiyyat, p. 662.
31. Min Usul al-Fikr al-Siyasi al-Islami, p. 350.
32. Sirah by ibn Hisham, vol. 4, pp. 337-8, also Masnad by ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, pp. 55-6.
33. Regarding ‘Umar’s will and the conditions therein, see Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, pp. 23-5.
For the numerous problems and limitations that ‘Umar had in appointing his successor, it would be appropriate if I quote ‘Ali al-Wirdi’s opinion. Indeed, because of his Shi‘ite tendencies, he wants to say that, if ‘Umar did not appoint ‘Ali, it was in fear of the Quraysh’s opposition. Here, the problem is not whether this theory is true or false.
The important thing is to show the conditions of those days, “Nowadays, some think that ‘Umar could have appointed his successor caliph and the people would have accepted and obeyed him. This is a superficial view. We do not know what went on behind the curtains on those days. If ‘Umar had selected ‘Ali as his successor, the Qurayshis would have indeed made plots and risen against him, whom they took as an enemy.” He then adds, “It seems that ‘Umar was wondering and wanted to appoint ‘Ali as caliph but he saw that the Qurayshis would stand up against him…” Wu‘‘az as-Salatin, pp. 199-201.
34. Despite the outstanding and special position of the Second Caliph and that in the following periods his methods were often followed, nobody followed his way in determining a successor. Despite the fact that Sunni theologians have specified all ways of determining the next caliph according to the First Caliph, they did not mention this method. Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, pp. 6-11.
35. Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, pp. 475, 744.
36. Al-Fikr as-Siyasi ash-Shi‘i, p. 248, quoted from Al-Falsafah as-Siyasiyyah li’l-Islam by ‘Abdu’d-Da’im Abu’l-‘Ata’, pp. 31-2.
37. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Az-Zuhd, vol. 2, pp. 39-43, and also Tarikh al-Khulafa’, pp. 147-53, and especially the footnotese by Muhibb ad-Din Khatib to Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 53-5. You can find a fair and comprehensive critique of the sayings on ‘Uthman’s virtues in Al-Ghadir, vol. 9, pp. 265-361.
38. Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction, translated by Muhammad Parvin Gonabadi, vol. 1, pp. 390-3. You can find in Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 2, pp. 341-2, a detailed account of what Ibn Khaldun quotes from Mas‘udi.
39. Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, vol. 1, p. 26. Concerning the corruption and recklessness of ‘Uthman’s governors, see Fajr al-Islam, pp. 79-81. Compare what Shahrestani says here, which contains part of the most important critiques against ‘Uthman, both during and after his life, with the interpretation, justifications and rejections by ibn ‘Arabi in Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 63-122, and especially the sharper footnotes by Muhibb ad-Din Khatib, ibid.
40. One such example is Walid ibn ‘Aqabah, the governor of Kufah. With his singers and female attendants, he would sit and drink wine through the night. Once he said four units for the Morning Prayer and, while genuflecting, asked for wine. When the Muslims objected to him, he said, “I will read more prayer if you want.” See Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 2, pp. 344-5, for the story of the Kufis’ objection to ‘Uthman and his reaction and his being punished by ‘Ali. Compare this with what Ibn Taymiyyah said when he gives an account of ‘Uthman’s reluctantly rejecting the objectors since he had given power to his corrupt and reckless relatives. Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah, vol. 3, pp. 173-6.
41. The elaborate account of the Muslims’ objection to, surrounding and killing of ‘Uthman and reading the corpse prayer on him can be found in Tarikh al-Khulafa’, pp. 157-64, Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, pp. 32-45, and Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 2, pp. 345-57. It is interesting to know that Ibn Abi’l-Hadid says, “‘A’ishah’s objection to ‘Uthman was so strong, explicit and aggressive that nowadays nobody dares to say that ‘A’ishah said so about ‘Uthman or she accused ‘Uthman of such things.” Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 2, p. 11.
42. Concerning the widespread actions of Mu‘awiyah to forge sayings on the virtues of ‘Uthman, see Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 11, pp. 15, 16. One of the reasons that the Umayyad resorted to prove their legality and truth was that they were the religious and legal inheritors of ‘Uthman. The eulogists and poets of the Umayyad court had talked a great deal about this. This was one side of the issue.
The other side was sanctifying ‘Uthman and using propaganda regarding his right and innocence. The higher his position was defined, the higher would be the position of his inheritors, while the other way round was also true, i.e. if his stature was doubted, the doubt would be extended to include the Umayyad as well. This was the most important factor in sanctifying the face of the man that did not have any special position or charisma in the eyes of the people during his caliphate. For further explanation, see Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 12-17.
Concerning discussions that were later held on ‘Uthman and his comparison with the Senior Caliphs whether among the theologians or the Traditionists, see Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 1, pp. 6-10, and also Al-Mawaqif, pp. 407-13 about the critiques of the religious intellectuals and those who had revolutionary tendencies, see Andisheh-ye Siyasi dar Islam-e Mu‘asir (Political Thought in Contemporary Islam), p. 150.
43. See the footnotes of Muhibb ad-Din Khatib on Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 63-5.
44. Tarikh al-Khulafa’, p. 156.
45. Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, p. 181.