Umar Ibn Al Khattab was described as fair-skinned with some reddishness, tall with a large build, fast-paced, and a skilled fighter and horseman. He embraced Islam after having fought it, in the year 6 of the Prophethood, at age twenty-seven. This was the result of the Prophet Mohammad�s explicit supplication:
“O Allah! Strengthen Islam with `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab.”
In his time Islam reached Egypt, Syria, Sijistan, Persia, and other regions. He died a martyr at the age of sixty-six, stabbed in the back while praying, by a Sabean or Zoroastrian slave.
`Umar al-Faruq was second only to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq in closeness to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “I have two ministers from the inhabitants of the heaven and two ministers from the inhabitants of the earth. The former are Jibreel and Mika�il, and the latter are Abu Bakr and `Umar.” He said of the latter: “These two are [my] hearing and eyesight” and instructed his Companions: “Follow those that come after me: Abu Bakr and `Umar.”
Umar was given the gift of true inspiration. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:
“Allah has engraved truth on the tongue of `Umar and his heart” and “If there were a Prophet after me verily it would be `Umar.”
Moreover, Umar Ibn AL Khattab had the unique distinction of having his views confirmed by the revelation in the Holy Qur�an: He said things which were confirmed by subsequent revelations. Examples for that:
“I said to Prophet Mohammad: “O Messenger of Allah! Why do we not pray behind Ibrahim�s Station?” Whereupon was revealed the verse: “. . . Take as your place of worship the place where Ibrahim stood (to pray). . .” (2:125); I said: “O Messenger of Allah! You should order your wives to cover because both the chaste and the wicked go in to see them,” whereupon was revealed the verse: “… And when you ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. . .” (33:53) Then the Prophet�s wives banded together in their jealousy over him, so I said to them: If he divorced you, God will give him better wives that you� whereupon was revealed this verse “It may happen that his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him instead wives better than you, [submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent, inclined to fasting, widows and maids].”(66:5)
He was distinguished in his power of separating truth from falsehood and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) conferred on him the title of Al Farouk (the separator between what’s true and what’s false), saying:
“In truth, the devil certainly parts ways with Umar.”
Umar memorized Surrha Al-Baqara (1) in twelve years, and when he had learned it completely he slaughtered a camel. Imam Malik stated that on Umar’s suggestion the words “I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” were added to the adh�n (the call for prayer), and likewise the words “Prayer is better than Sleep” to the adh�n for the dawn prayer. However, the more correct report is that it is Belal who first inserted the latter formula in the call to the dawn prayer and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) retained it.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab was the first Muslim ruler to establish a Public Treasury; the first Muslim ruler to levy Al Ushr, the Customs or Import Duty. It was levied on the goods of the traders of other countries who chose to trade in the Muslim dominions, at up to 10% of the goods imported and on a reciprocal basis. `Ushr was levied in a way to avoid hardships, and only on merchandise meant for sale, not goods imported for consumption or for personal use.
Also Umar was the first Muslim ruler to organize a census; the first Muslim ruler to strike coins; the first Muslim ruler to organize a system of canals for irrigation; and the first Muslim ruler to formally organize provinces, cities, and districts.
Moreover, Umar established the system of guest-houses and rest-houses on major routes to and from major cities. He established schools throughout the land and allocated liberal salaries for teachers. He was the first to ban temporary marriage (mut`a marriage), according to Prophet Mohammad�s earlier prohibition. Also Umar was the first Muslim ruler to place the law of inheritance on a firm basis. He was the first to establish trusts, and the first ruler in history to separate the judiciary from the executive.
He took pains to provide effective and speedy justice for the people. He set up an effective system of judicial administration under which justice was administered according to the principles of Islam. Judges were appointed at all administrative levels for the administration of justice and were chosen for their honesty and knowledge of Islamic law. High salaries were paid to them and they were appointed from among the wealthy and those of high social standing, to prevent being influenced by the social position of any litigants. The judges were not allowed to engage in trade.
From time to time, Umar used to issue edicts laying down the principles for the administration of justice. One of his edicts read:
“Glory to Allah! Verily Justice is an important obligation to Allah and to man. You have been charged with this responsibility. Discharge this responsibility so that you may win the approbation of Allah and the good will of the people. Treat the people equally in your presence, and in your decisions, so that the weak despair not of justice and the high-placed harbor no hope of favoritism. The onus of proof lies on the plaintiff, while the party who denies must do so on oath. Compromise is permissible, provided that it does not turn the unlawful into something lawful, and the lawful into something unlawful. Let nothing prevent you from changing your previous decision if after consideration you feel that the previous decision was incorrect. When you are in doubt about a question and find nothing concerning it in the Qur�an or the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), ponder the question over and over again. Ponder over the precedents and analogous cases, and then decide by analogy. A term should be fixed for the person who wants to produce witnesses. If he proves his case, discharge for him his right. Otherwise the suit should be dismissed. All Muslims are trustworthy, except those who have been punished with flogging, those who have borne false witness, or those of doubtful integrity.”
One day Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari, the governor of Basra at the time, sent a letter to Umar Ibn Al Khattab complaining that the ordinances, instructions, and that letters from the Caliph were undated and therefore gave rise to problems linked to the sequence of their implementation.
Because of this and other similar problems of undatedness, Umar convened an assembly of scholars and advisors to consider the question of calendar reforms. The deliberations of this assembly resulted in the combined opinion that Muslims should have a calendar of their own. The point that was next considered was from when should the new Muslim calendar era begin.
Some suggested that the era should begin from the birth of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), while others suggested that it should begin from the time of his death. `Ali suggested that the era should begin from the date the Muslims migrated from Mekkah to Al Madinah, and this was agreed upon.
The next question considered was the month from which the new era should start. Some suggested that it should start from the month of Rabi` al-Awwal, some from Rajab, others from Ramadan, others from Dhu al-Hijja. `Uthman suggested that the new era should start from the month of Muharram because that was the first month in the Arabic calendar at that time. This was agreed upon. Since the Migration had taken place in the month of Rabi` al-Awwal, two months and eight days after the first of Muharram that year, the date was pushed back by two months and eight days, and the new Hijri calendar began with the first day of Muharram in the year of the Migration rather than from the actual date of the Migration.
`Abd Allah Ibn `Isa Ibn Abi Layla related: “There were two dark lines in `Umar�s face marked by tears.” Al-Hasan al-Basri and Hisham ibn al-Hasan narrated that `Umar sometimes lost consciousness after reciting a verse from the Qur�an, whereupon he would be taken ill and visited for days. Among `Umar�s sayings:
“O Allah! Grant me to die a martyr, and make my death be in your Prophet�s country.”
“Take account of yourselves before your are brought to account.”
Jabir narrated that he heard `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab say on the pulpit when he married Umm Kulthum, the daughter of `Ali and Fatima: “Do not disparage me [for marrying a young girl], for I heard the Prophet say: �On the Judgment Day every means will be cut off and every lineage severed except my lineage.�” He desired to place himself in the Prophet�s lineage through this marriage due to the precedence of Ahl al-Bayt in the Prophet�s intercession. Umm Kulthum bore him two children, Zayd and Ruqayya.
From `Ubayd Allah ibn `Umar ibn Hafs: `Umar was see carrying a slaughtered animal on his back. He was asked why, and he replied: “I was infatuated with myself and wanted to humble myself.”
As `Umar�s head lay in Ibn `Umar�s lap after being stabbed he said to him: “Lay my cheek on the ground.” Then he said: “Woe to me, my mother�s woe to me if my Lord does not grant me mercy!” The next morning Al-Miswar woke him for the dawn prayer. `Umar said: “Yes, and there is no part in Islam for whoever leaves prayer.” He prayed bleeding from his wounds.