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Umar bin Abd al-Aziz

Ima`m Abu Ja'far (al-Baqir), peace be on him said: "'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz was the most glorious one of the Umayyad house. He was the master of their kings. He was the high-born one of the Umayyads.( Al-Siyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa', p. 230)
He became caliph according to the pledge of allegiance of Sulayma`n b. 'Abd al-Malik to him. That was one Friday, the tenth of the month of Safar, in the year 99 A. H.( Nihayat al-Irab, vol. 21, p. 355)
During his short caliphate, the people felt security and welfare. For he removed from them the oppression and tyranny of the Marwa`nis. He was skillful, for experiences educated him. He had balanced reason. He followed a wise policy with Moslems. The Moslems had never seen such a policy before. He did the Alwids many favors. People mention his favors throughout history. The following is some of his favors:
He prevented the People from Cursing Ima`m 'Ali.
From its early days, the Umayyad government ordered the people to curse Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him. The Umayyads thought that cursing Ima`m 'Ali would help their government to continue. For the principles of Ima`m 'Ali and his laudable deeds, such as political and social justice, would urge the people to mutiny against their oppressive tyrannical policy.
With his awareness and his genus thinking, 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz realized that the policy his fathers followed against Ima`m 'Ali, peace be on him, was not wise. For such a policy caused the Umayyads many difficulties and through them into great evil. Thus, 'Umar decided to remove this error. He ordered his governors all over the Islamic countries to prevent people from cursing Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him. Then he ordered them to replace the cursing of the Ima`m with: "Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the relatives.
'Umar himself justified the reason for abandoning the practices of his fathers who defamed Ima`m 'Ali, peace be on him. In this connection, he said: "When my father made a speech and defamed 'Ali, he stammered. So, I said to him: Father, why do you stammer in your speech when you come to the name of 'Ali? 'Have you known that?' he asked. 'Yes,' I replied. Thus, he explained:
'My little son, if the people around us knew 'Ali as we know him, they would scattered from us and followed his ('Ali's) sons.( Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 44, p. 154)
Accordingly, 'Umar abolished the cursing of Ima`m 'Ali, peace be on him. All the people admired this laudable deed. They always praised him. They mentioned his unique bravery in opposing his predecessors. The great poet, Kuthayr 'Azzah, came to him and recited the following lines of poetry:
You have become caliph, but you have not cursed 'Ali.
You are not afraid of any creature.
You have not followed the words of a criminal.
You have spoken with the plain truth.
Rather, you have explained the verses of guidance with your speech.
You are truthful in doing your favors.
So, every Moslem is satisfied (with you).(Al-Aghani, vol. 8, p. 148)
Kuthayr had not praised an Umayyad king with such a wonderful poem. For this poem raised 'Umar to the level of the unique Immortal persons. Kuthayr started his poem with the laudable deed of 'Umar, who prevented the people from cursing Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him. Then, he mentioned his policy based on kindness to the subjects. Moreover, the Moslems loved the policy of 'Umar. So, they were ready to sacrifice their souls for him to prolong his lifetime.
Umar commented these lines of poetry, saying: "Therefore, we have become successful(Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 654)
He was successful, for he pleased his conscience. He did not betrayed the community through cursing the leader of its message and its matchless hero, Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him.
Al-Sharif al-Radi praised and lauded 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz:
O Son of 'Abd al-'Aziz, if the eye wept for an Umayyad young man, it would weep
for you.
However, I want to say: You are good
though your house was not good.
You have freed us from cursing.
So, if reward was possible, I would
reward you.(Ibn Abi al-Haddid, Sharkh Nahjj al-Balagha, vol. 1, p. 357)
In these lines of poetry, al-Sharif al-Radi thanked 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz for preventing the people from cursing Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, peace be on him.
He gave the Alids their Rights.
From its early days, the Umayyad government spared no effort to deprive the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them, of their right. It spread poverty among their houses. Thus, the Alids suffered from poverty. However, when 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz became caliph, he gave them their full rights.
He wrote to his governor of Medina (Yathrib) to divide ten thousand dinars among them. His governor asked him: "'Ali has many children from Quraysh, among which of his children shall I divide the money?" Then 'Umar wrote to him: "When this letter of mine comes to you, divide ten thousand dinars among the children of 'Ali from Fa`tima, may Allah be pleased with her. For they had been deprived of their own rights.(Al-Manaqib, vol. 4, pp. 207-208)
This was the first gift to be given to the Alids during the days of the Umayyads.
He returned Fadak
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz achieved a generous initiative when he returned Fadak (country estate) to the Alids. Noteworthy, the family of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, was deprived of Fadak, for it had been confiscated for many generations. His returning Fadak has been reported in many ways. The following is some of them:
1. 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz visited Medina, the city of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family. He ordered his caller to call: "Whoever has a complaint should attend!" So, Ima`m Abu Ja'far (al-Ba`qir), peace be on him, came to 'Umar, who stood for him and received him warmly. Thus, the Ima`m, peace be on him, said to him:
"The world is a market. The people buy from it what benefits and harms them. How many a people bought what harmed them. However, death came to them before they had entered upon morning.
So, they left the world blamed. For they did not take what would avail them in the hereafter. Then, what they had gathered has been divided among those who will not thank them, and they have come to the One Who will not excuse them. By Allah, we had better consider carefully their bad deeds to refrain from (doing) them. Therefore, fear Allah. Put two (things) in yourself:
Look at what you love to be with you when will you meet your Lord, for He will put it before you. Look at what you hate to be with you when you meet your Lord, so throw it behind you. Do not wish for the unsalable commodity of those who had been before you.
Then, you hope that He will forgive you. Open the doors. Make easy the veil. Treat the oppressed with justice. Punish the oppressive. Whoever has three (qualities), his belief in Allah is perfect: When he is satisfied, his satisfaction does not enter him into falsehood. When he becomes angry, his anger does not take out of the truth. When he is powerful, he does not take what does not belong to him."
Ima`m al-Ba`qir, peace be on him, preached to 'Umar with these valuable words. He advised him to follow high standard morals and good deeds. However, the Ima`m, peace be on him, did not mention the complaint of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them, concerning Fadak and the like.
When 'Umar heard these words of the Ima`m, peace be on him, he ordered a pen and a piece of paper to be brought to him. Then, he wrote the following: "In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. This is what 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz has answered to the complaint of Mohammed b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. 'Ali b. Abi Ta`lib concerning Fadak.
2. When 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz became caliph, he summoned Quraysh and the prominent figures of the people. Then, he said to them: "In deed Fadak was in the hand of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. He put it where Allah had taught him. Then Abu` Bakr controlled it. Then 'Umar (b. al-Khatta`b) controlled it. Then Marwa`n controlled it. Then it has come to me. However, it does not belong to my property. I call you to witness that (it is not my property), and that I have returned it as it was at the time of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family.(Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 164)
This narration shows that 'Umar did not return Fadak to the Alids. Rather, he put it where Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, had put it. It is well-known that Allah's Apostle allotted it to his daughter Fa`tima, the mistress of the women of the world, peace be on her. Thus, Fa`tima owned Fadak during the lifetime of her father, Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. However, the people confiscated it to support their political interests.
3. When 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz returned Fadak to the Alids, the Umayyads harbored malice against him. Thus, they said to him: "You have harbored malice against the deed of the two Shaykhs (i. e., Abu` Bakr and 'Umar). You have slandered them. You have ascribed them to oppression and usurpation."
Then 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz said: "It has be come correct to me and to you that Fa`tima, daughter of Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, demanded of Fadak, for it was in her hand. She did not tell lies to Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. 'Ali, Umm Ayman, and Umm Salama testified that. Fa`tima is truthful with me in what she said, the she did not supply proof of that. She is the mistress of the women of Heaven.
Today I will return Fadak to its inheritors. With that I want to approach to Allah's Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family. I hope that Fa`tima, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn will intercede (with Allah) for me on the Day of Judgment. If I had been in the place of Abu` Bakr and Fa`tima claimed that, I would have believed her complaint." Then, 'Umar handed over Fadak to Ima`m al-Ba`qir, peace be on him.(Safinat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 272)
These are some of the narrations which have been mentioned concerning how 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz returned Fadak to the Alids. He opposed his predecessor, who harbored malice towards the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them.
'Umar bin 'Abd al-'Aziz and Ima`m al-Ba`qir
There were several meetings between Ima`m al-Ba`qir, peace be on him, and 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz. The following is some of them:
Ima`m al-Ba`qir predicted of 'Umar's Caliphate.
Ima`m al-Ba`qir, peace be on him, foretold of the caliphate of 'Umar bin 'Abd al-'Aziz. That was before 'Umar became caliph. Abu` Basir said: "I was with Ima`m Abu` Ja'far (al-Ba`qir), peace be on him, in the mosque. Then, 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz entered. Thus, the Ima`m said: 'That young man will be a caliph He will show justice.' However, the Ima`m slandered 'Umar's caliphate, for there was a person more appropriate for the caliphate than 'Umar.(Safinat al-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 272)
2. 'Umar honored Ima`m al-Ba`qir
When 'Umar became caliph, he honored Ima`m Abu` Ja'far (al-Ba`qir), peace be on him. He sent Funu`n b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Uttba b. Mas'u`d- he was one of the Ku`fan worshipers- to Ima`m al-Ba`qir to ask him to go to Damascus. The Ima`m, peace be on him, responded to him and went to Damascus. When the Ima`m arrived in Damascus, 'Umar received him warmly. Conversations took place between them.
The Ima`m visited 'Umar for several days. When he wanted to return to Medina (Yathrib), he went to 'Umar's palace to see him off. He introduced himself to the chamberlain, who told 'Umar of the Ima`m. The chamberlain came and called out: "Where is Abu` Ja'far? He is permitted to enter."
However, the Ima`m did not enter. For he thought the chamberlain did not mean him. So, the chamberlain returned to 'Umar and told him that the Ima`m was not present. "What did you say?" asked 'Umar. "Where is Abu` Ja'far?" the chamberlain replied. "Go and call: Where is Mohammed b. 'Ali?" 'Umar ordered the chamberlain. The latter did that. Thus, the Ima`m rose and entered. He talked to 'Umar, then he said to him: "I want to see you off." "Preach to me," 'Umar asked the Ima`m.
Thus, the Ima`m, peace be on him, said: "Fear Allah. Regard the old man as father, the young man as brother, and the man as brother.
'Umar admired these commandments of the Ima`m. In this connection, he said: "By Allah, you have gathered (good commandments) for me. If I put them into effect and Allah helps me with that, good will last for me, Allah willing." Then, the Ima`m left 'Umar. When he wanted to travel, 'Umar's messenger came to him and said: "'Umar wants to come to you." The Ima`m waited till 'Umar came. When 'Umar came, he sat before the Ima`m to honor him. Then, the Ima`m saw him off.( Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 51, p. 38)
3. 'Umar exchanged letters with Ima`m al-Ba`qir.
The Umayyad secret agents told 'Umar that Ima`m Abu` Ja'far (al-Baqir), peace be on him, was like the rest of his fathers, who raised the banner of truth and justice in the earth. 'Umar wanted to test the Ima`m. He wrote to him. So, the Ima`m answered him with a letter in which were sermons and pieces of advice. Then, 'Umar said: "Bring me his (al-Ba`qir's) letter to Sulayma`n."
The letter was brought to him. In it was laud and praise. 'Umar sent the letter to his governor of Medina (Yathrib). He ordered him to show the letter to the Ima`m along with his letter to 'Umar. Moreover, he ordered him to record what the Ima`m, peace be on him, would say in this respect. The governor submitted the two letters to the Ima`m. So, the Ima`m said:
"Sulayma`n was tyrannical. I wrote to him what is written to tyrants. Your leader showed an affair. So, I wrote to him what is appropriate for him." The governor wrote these words of the Ima`m to 'Umar. When 'Umar read them, he admired the Ima`m. Thus, he said: "Allah always does favors for the members of this House.( Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 2, 48)
These are some of the Ima`m's meetings with 'Umar. They show that 'Umar had genius thinking when he honored and respected the Ima`m.
Criticisms
Umar faced some criticisms. The following is some of them:
1. He recognized the country estates, which the caliphs and the previous ones from his house, controlled. Without doubt, these country estates were illegally taken.
2. His governors of the Islamic cities spared no effort to oppress the people and to deprive them of their properties. Addressing 'Umar, Ka'ab al-Ash'ari said:
You maintain your followers.
However, the governors of your land
are wolves in the country.
They will not respond to what you summon till you cut off necks with the sword.(Hayat al-Imam Musa b. Ja'far, vol. 1, p. 305)
While 'Umar was addressing the people from the pulpit, a person interrupted him, saying:
Those whom you appointed over the countries have left your Book and regarded as lawful the forbidden.(Hayat al-Imam Musa b. Ja'far, vol. 1, p. 305)
3. He adopted the giving of the chiefs. He did not change that. However, Islamic principles refuse that. For they force the Moslem ruler to treat all Moslems with justice.
4. He increased the giving of the Syrians to ten dinars. However, he did not do the same with the Iraqis.(Al-Ya'qubi, Tarikh, vol. 2, 48)
There is no justification for this discrimination in treatment that opposes Islam.
These are some of the criticism that face the policy of 'Umar. They are regarded as many for him. For he adopted justice in his policy, as the biographers said.
His Death
Illnesses attacked 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz. The historians said: "'Umar refused to take any medicine. It was said to him: 'You must take medicine.' 'If my healing was in rubbing my ear, I would not rub it. The best One to Whom I will go is my Lord,' he replied.(Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh vol. 4, p. 161)
Some references mentioned that the Umayyads gave him poison to drink. For they knew that his day would become long. Thus, they would lose government. They thought that there would be an appropriate person for the caliphate. Accordingly, they killed him quickly.(Al-Inafa fi Ma'athir al-Khilafa', vol. 1, p. 142)
'Umar died at Dir Sam'a`n, in the month of Rajab, in the year 101.( Ibn al-Athir, Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 161)
Umar left behind him good behavior. All people admire such behavior.

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