DEVOUT and pious Omar bin Abdul Aziz was nurtured in the family of the second Caliph of Muslims, Omar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) … he neither departed from the truth nor allowed power and authority to control him.
He was not keen about assuming public positions, but he found himself driven to do so due to pressure from the Umayyad ruling family. He lived an ascetic life.
His governor Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf Al-Thaqafi hated him because of his rigor and adherence to justice, even if it was against himself.
He is Omar bin Abdul Aziz, the fifth of the rightly guided Caliphs … he was killed by the Arabs, and mourned by the Romans.
He played a great role in advising the caliphs and giving them opinions. Because of this, his uncle Abdul Malik bin Marwan (fifth Umayyad caliph) respected him and admired his attentiveness during his youth, which made him prefer Omar bin Abdul Aziz over many of his sons.
Abdul Malik got his daughter Fatima married to Omar bin Abdul Aziz. Her brother Suleiman appointed him as the Crown Prince against his will. Immediately after becoming the eighth Umayyad Caliph and assuming the reins of power, he asked his wife to send her jewels to Bait Maal Treasury. He then made her choose between him and anything that he believed would cause trouble and discord.
Before his accession, the Umayyad state was plunged into corruption and unrest. Because of this, he had issued an order to dismiss all the governors from the states, punished the corrupt, looters of public money, and opportunists, and asked the Umayyad princes to return to the Treasury all the lands and jewelry they obtained unlawfully.
In his first speech following his succession, Omar bin Abdul Aziz said, “O people, I have been nominated as your caliph despite my unwillingness and without your consent. So here I am … I relieve you of your pledge (baiyat) that you have taken for my allegiance. Elect whomsoever you find suitable as your caliph.”
People then shouted in response, “O Omar, we have full faith in you and we want you as our caliph”.
Then he said, “O people, obey me as long as I obey Allah; and if I disobey Allah, you are not duty-bound to obey me.
O people, whoever accompanies us, let him accompany us with five; otherwise, he should not come near us. He should help in meeting the needs of the people who are in need, in doing good with his own efforts, guide us towards what is good, not backbite us, and should mind his own business.”
“This nation did not disagree on the Almighty God, or the Prophet or the holy book, but they had differences because of dinars and dirhams. I, by Allah, neither give wrongfully to anyone, nor do I suppress anyone’s right. I reiterate – if I disobey Allah, you are not duty-bound to obey me.”
This was in the year 99 AH (717 AD). At that time, his rule began with a series of resolute measures that no one could violate, no matter how high his position was or despite his kinship with the caliph. Therefore the state, which was spread over vast areas of the old world, began to rise again, and the economic wheel began to turn productively.
He organized the collection of Zakat and its distribution to the needy to such an extent that poverty was eradicated in his empire.
It was narrated that, when the people in charge of the Treasury did not find poor people in the empire, they informed him about this. He then ordered them to scatter grains on tops of the mountains so that it would not be said that birds or beasts did not find food to eat during the era of Omar.
No debtor remained during his tenure. The prisons were cleared of the debtors because the Treasury paid their creditors. And no travel ban was imposed on anyone.
The nation engaged in a fierce fight against usury, and those operating on the basis of usury were punished for burdening people with their forbidden interests.
During Omar’s reign, human rights were respected and people with special needs were taken care of. He appointed servants to serve the sick servants, and appointed a servant for every five orphans. He appointed a servant for each blind person to help him meet his needs. It is believed that he dropped the tribute from the people of the conquered land, for he was more concerned about their guidance to Islam.
He said, “Almighty Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a guide, and not as a collector”.
The rule of Omar bin Abdulaziz did not last for more than two years, five months, and four days. This is because he was poisoned by one of his servants who had been hired by some of the Umayyads opposed to the caliph.
However, when the poisoned ruler learned about the matter, he summoned the servant, and asked him how much he was paid to assassinate him. He replied, “1,000 dinars”. Omar then commanded the servant, “Return it to the Treasury, because this is haram money for you. I have forgiven you, so go wherever you want.”
When the news of Omar bin Abdulaziz’s death spread, the king of the Roman Byzantines gathered his entourage and said with tears in his eyes, “A virtuous person has passed away. I would hardly be surprised if I saw an ascetic who renounced the world and gave himself to the prayers of Allah. But I am certainly surprised to see a person who had all the pleasures of the world at his feet but still shut his eyes against them and lived a life of piety and renunciation.”
The Umayyad state did not last 30 years after his death, as it returned to being drowned in corruption and injustices, let alone the spread of rebellion in most of its territories … All this was due to the many Umayyads who wanted nothing from ruling except money and personal benefits. They did not pay attention to everything that was achieved during the era of some caliphs who managed to extend their authority on large parts of their territories, especially through justice, which is the basis of the rule.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times