Exaggeration About Caliph Umar in Sunni Hadith
Ayatullah Muhammad Jawad Chirri
Late Director of the Islamic Center of America
Certainly the Shi'ites are not extremist, and there is no hadith reported by the Shi'ites that may justify such an accusation. However, it would not be improper to ask the following question: Are the Sunnites and their scholars free of exaggeration and extremism concerning the position of some prominent companions of the Prophet? It would not be out of place to say that the Sunnites are closer to extremism than the Shi'ites.
We find in the books of the Sunni scholars and hadith recorders indications that they put 'Umar in a position higher than that of the Messenger of God. The following are some of the hadiths:
"Al-Hakim Al-Nisaburi (in his book AI-Mustadrak, part 3, page 84), reported that Ubayy Ibn Ka'b said the following:
"I heard the Messenger of God saying: The first one the Almighty will embrace on the Day of Judgement is 'Umar. The first one the Lord will shake hands with will be 'Umar, and the first one the Almighty takes by His hand and admits to paradise is 'Umar."
Al-Hafiz Muhammad Ibn Majah in his authentic Sunan reported that Ubayy Ibn Ka'b said:
"The Messenger of God said: The first one God will shake hands with (on the Day of Judgement) will be 'Umar. The first one God will greet is 'Umar, and he is the first one Allah takes by His hand and admits to paradise." These hadiths clearly indicate that 'Umar will be above all the Prophets including the head of the Prophets, Muhammad. When 'Umar is to be the first embraced and his hand shaken by the Almighty, all the prophets will be after him. This is a strange and astonishing hadith.
It portrays the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth as a human who embraces people and shakes hands with them. Al-Hakim also reported that Jabir Ibn Abdullah said that Abu Bakr said that he heard the Messenger say: "The sun never rose on a man better than 'Umar." Al-Hakim said "This hadith is authentic." (AI-Mustadrak, part 3, page 90).
If the sun never rose on a man better than 'Umar, it means that 'Umar was not less than any of the Prophets of God including their highest, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah. It is reported among the virtues of 'Umar that the Messenger of God said:
"Whenever Gabriel delayed in his visits to me, I guessed that he was sent
to 'Umar." (Ibn Abi Al-Hadid, Vol.6, part 12, page 178).
It is also reported that 'Umar is the lamp of the people of paradise. (Ibn Hajar, Al Sawa'iq AI-Muhriqah, page 97).
If the Prophet had been concerned whether Gabriel could have visited 'Umar, 'Umar would have been equal to the Prophet in position and would have been a competitor. Furthermore, how could 'Umar be the light of the people of paradise while the Prophets, including the Messenger of God, are among the people of paradise?
This means that the light of 'Umar is higher than the light of all the prophets. Furthermore, if 'Umar is the light of the people of paradise, and the width of paradise is the Heaven and the Earth, it means that 'Umar's light is the light of the universe. Should that be the case, all the prophets would be in need of his light, and that would mean that 'Umar is above the messengers of God. In conclusion, I would like to say that I do not mean, through these hadiths, to accuse our Sunnite brothers of placing 'Umar above the Final Messenger of God and the rest of the prophets.
This is certainly not my intention; but I wanted to say that what the Sunnites attributed to the Shi'ites, that Ali is above Muhammad, is an unjustifiable and vicious lie because there is nothing in the Shi'ite books that indicates this allegation. The Shi'ites considers the spread of such a lie a flagrant aggression against the glory of Islam and the honor of the Shi'ites. I wanted to bring to the attention of the readers that the Imamite Shi'ites are too righteous to accuse their Sunnite brothers of placing a man above the Prophet in spite of the fact that there are many hadiths, which are considered by the Sunni scholars to be authentic, indicating that 'Umar is higher than the great Messenger and the messengers who were before him.