Few historical Islamic personalities move the hearts of Muslims today like `Umar bin al-Khattab, the intimate Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the second Caliph of Islam. While the story of his conversion is well-known to many Muslims who have read about it even as children, it nevertheless remains a valuable reminder of the power of the Islamic call to change the hearts of even its most bitter opponents. The following account is the first installment of My Journey to Islam’s historical personalities section:

`Umar bin al-Khattab’s Journey to Islam

`Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be well pleased with him), of whom all the Muslims are justly proud, was most adamant in opposing the Prophet (peace be upon him) and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims before he embraced Islam. One day, the Quraysh in a meeting called for somebody to volunteer himself for the assassination of the Prophet (peace be upon him). `Umar offered himself for this job, at which everybody exclaimed, “Surely, you can do it, ‘Umar!”

With sword hanging from his neck, he set out straight away on his sinister errand. On his way, he met Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas of the Zuhrah clan. Sa’ad inquired, “Whither! `Umar?”

`Umar replied, “I am after finishing Muhammad.”

Sa’ad said, “But do not you see that the tribes of Hashim, Zuhrah and Abde Munaf are likely to kill you in retaliation?”

`Umar, upset at the warning, said, “It seems that you also have renounced the religion of your forefathers. Let me settle with you first.”

So saying, `Umar drew out his sword. Sa’ad announcing his Islam, also took out his sword. They were about to start a duel when Sa’ad said, “You had better first set your own house in order. Your sister and brother-in-law both have accepted Islam.”

Hearing this, `Umar flew into a towering rage and turned his steps towards his sister’s house. The door of the house was bolted from inside and both husband and wife were receiving lessons in the Qur’an from the Companion Khabbab (may Allah be well pleased with him). `Umar knocked at the door and shouted for his sister to open it. Khabbab hearing the voice of `Umar, hid himself in an inner room, forgetting to take the manuscript pages of the Holy Qur’an with him. When the sister opened the door, `Umar hit her on the head, saying, “0, enemy of yourself! You too have renounced your religion.”

Her head began to bleed. `Umar went inside and inquired, “What were you doing? And who was the stranger I heard from outside?”

His brother-in-law replied, “We were talking to each other.”

`Umar said to him, “Have you also forsaken the creed of your forefathers and gone over to the new religion?”

The brother-in-law replied, “But what if the new religion be the better and the true one?” `Umar got beside himself with rage and fell on him, pulling his beard and beating him most savagely. When the sister intervened, he smote her so violently on her face that it bled most profusely. She was, after all, `Umar’s sister; she burst out:

“`Umar! We are beaten only because we have become Muslims. Listen! We are determined to die as Muslims. You are free to do whatever you like.” When `Umar had cooled down and felt a bit ashamed over his sister’s bleeding, his eyes fell on the pages of the Qur’an left behind by Khabbab. He said, “Alright show me, what are these?”

“No,” said the sister, “you are unclean and no unclean person can touch the Scripture.” He insisted, but the sister was not prepared to allow him to touch the leaves unless he washed his body. `Umar at last gave in. He washed his body and then began to read the leaves. It was Surah “Taha”. He started from the beginning of the Surah, and he was a changed man altogether when he came to the verse:

“Lo! I, indeed I am Allah. There is none worthy of worship save Me. So serve me and establish the Prayer for My remembrance.”

He said, “Alright, take me to Muhammad.”

On hearing this, Khabbab came out from inside and said, “0, `Umar! Glad tidings to you. Yesterday (on Thursday night) the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed to Allah, ‘0, Allah strengthen Islam with either `Umar or Abu Jahl, whomsoever Thou likest’. It seems that his prayer has been answered in your favor.”

`Umar then went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and embraced Islam on Friday morning. `Umar’s Islam was a terrible blow to the morale of the unbelievers, but still the Muslims were few in number and the whole country was against them. The disbelievers intensified their efforts for the complete annihilation of Muslims and the extinction of Islam. With `Umar on their side, the Muslims now started saying their group prayers in the Haram (Holy Sanctuary).

Abdullah bin Mas’ood (may Allah be well pleased with him) says, “`Umar’s Islam was a big triumph, his emigration to Madinah a tremendous reinforcement, and his accession to the Caliphate a great blessing for the Muslims.”

* The wording of this narrative was taken from Sheikh Muhammad Zakariyya’s Fazail-e-Amaal


Leave a Reply