Shia view of Umar
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Umar ibn al-Khattab was one of the earliest figures in the history of Islam. While Sunnis regard Umar ibn al-Khattab in high esteem and respect his place as one of the "Four Righteously Guided Caliphs", Shia do not view him as a legitimate leader of the Ummah and believe that Umar and Abu Bakr conspired to usurp power from Ali. Shia believe that the Sunni view of Umar was created by the later Umayyad dynasty to honour the man that gave power to the first Umayyad ruler and third Sunni Caliph, Uthman. In this way, it gives legitimacy to Umar's consultation that started their own dynasty. Shia believe that the Umayyad view was propagated with lethal force and heavy duress and as time went on, that view became predominant and eventually taken as truth, cemented by the works of Bukhari. However, Shi'a believe that despite the perceived white washing of Umar, bits of his true qualities can be found in all sources, including Sunni ones. They also believe that invented positive traits attributed to him do not hold up to closer scrutiny.
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A Sh'ia scholar states:
|“||Some historians claim that Umar was a most awe-inspiring man, and when he accepted Islam, the idolaters were gripped with fear for their lives. But this is only a case of a dominant myth being in conflict with ugly facts. When Umar accepted Islam, the idolaters remained where they were, and nothing changed for them; but it was Muhammad who was compelled to leave his home, and had to find sanctuary in a desolate ravine. He spent three years in that ravine, and during those years of exile, his life was exposed to deadly perils every day and every night. During this entire period of more than 1000 days, Umar, like many other Muslims in Makkah, was the silent spectator of the ordeals of his master. He made no attempt to bring those ordeals to an end.||”|
Hafsa, the daughter of Umar, was originally married to Khunais ibn Hudhaifa. When he died, Umar sought to find a husband for her. He approached his friend Uthman who said "I am of the opinion that I shall not marry at present", after thinking about the proposal for a few days. Umar became angry with Uthman and asked Abu Bakr the same thing. Abu Bakr did not give him a reply, causing Umar to become even more angry with him than he was with Uthman. Umar then preceded to Muhammad to discuss the previous two incidents. Muhammad reassured Umar by saying that "Hafsa will marry one better than Uthman will marry one better than Abu Bakr." Umar was obviously alluding to the fact that Hafsa was to marry Muhammad and that Uthman was to marry a daughter of Muhammad.
Hafsa was married to Muhammad in 625. Muhammad's household was not always peaceful as his wives were in two groups. Umar said on one occasion:
- "Hafsa, the news has reached me that you cause Allah's Messenger trouble. You know that Allah's Messenger does not love you, and had I not been (your father) he would have divorced you." (On hearing this) she wept bitterly.
Pen and paper
|“||If Umar was right in his attempts to inhibit the freedom of action Muhammad, the Messenger of God, then it means that the latter was "wrong." And if he (Muhammad) was "wrong", then it means that Al-Qur’an al-Majid was also "wrong" because it claimed that:
Nor does he (Muhammad) say (anything) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. (Chapter 53; verses 3 and 4)
If Umar was right, then Muhammad and Qur’an were "wrong." This is the only conclusion to which such a line of argument can lead. It is now for the Muslims to decide if this is the "logic" which appeals to them, and therefore, is acceptable to them.
Shia claim that the despair felt by Umar at the time of Muhammad's death was not genuine, they insist that there was no despair, only threats aimed to delay matters so that his friend and confederate Abu Bakr could return before Ali was confirmed as the successor. As for Ali's allegiance to Abu Bakr's rule, this too was made up to support Abu Bakr's claim to power.
|“||When Muhammad Mustafa died in A.D. 632, his successors - Abu Bakr and Umar - lost no time in seizing the estate of Fadak from his daughter. Umar was a conscientious man, and he was presumably prompted by his moral courage to "rectify" the "error" which Muhammad had made in giving the estate of Fadak to his daughter in A.D. 628
Umar had, to all intents and purposes, appointed himself a "censor" of the words and deeds of Muhammad while the latter was still alive. If he countermanded his (Muhammad's) orders after his death vis-à-vis his succession or the estate of Fadak, there is nothing odd about it. If he had any inhibitions in this matter, he threw them overboard as soon as Muhammad died.
Abu Bakr's era
Shi'a view Umar as the "khalifa-maker" of Abu Bakr and that during Abu Bakr's khilafat, Umar was his principal adviser. Ali is quoted saying:
- "I watched the plundering of my inheritance till the first one [Abu Bakr] went his way but handed over the Caliphate to Ibn al-Khattab after himself."
(Then he quoted al-A'sha's verse):
- "My days are now passed on the camel's back (in difficulty) while there were days [of ease] when I enjoyed the company of Jabir's brother Hayyan."
(Implying the contrast between the present and the time of Muhammad)
- "It is strange that during his [Abu Bakr] lifetime he wished to be released from the caliphate but he confirmed it for the other one [Umar] after his death. No doubt these two shared its udders strictly among themselves".
|“||The Banu Umayya were the traditional champions of idolatry and the arch-enemies of Muhammad and his clan, the Banu Hashim. Muhammad had broken their power but Umar revived them. The central component of his policy, as head of the government of Saqifa, was the restoration of the Umayyads. He turned over Syria to them as their "fief", and he made them the first family in the empire.||”|
Marriage to Umm Kulthum bint Ali
Shi'as tend to view this as Sahih and have included it in Furu al-Kafi.
When `Omer sought the hand of Umm Kultham for marriage, Ali (A.S.) said, `But she is only a child,’ `Omer said to al-`Abbas, ‘I sought the hand of the daughter of your nephew, and he turned me down. By Allah, I shall damage the well of Zamzam, and I shall leave nothing precious belonging to you except that I ruin it, and I shall get two witnesses to testify that he stole, and I shall cut off his right hand.’ Al-`Abbas came and informed Ali (A.S.) (of what `Omer had said), asking him to let him take care of that matter, which he did
Ali is further quoted in the same sermon:
- "This one [Umar] put the Caliphate in a tough enclosure where the utterance was haughty and the touch was rough. Mistakes were in plenty and so also the excuses therefore. One in contact with it was like the rider of an unruly camel. If he pulled up its rein the very nostril would be slit, but if he let it loose he would be thrown. Consequently, by Allah people got involved in recklessness, wickedness, unsteadiness and deviation".
It is recorded in some Shi'a texts that Ali said:
|“||Nevertheless, I remained patient despite length of period and stiffness of trial, till when he [Umar] went his way [of death] he put the matter [of Caliphate] in a group and regarded me to be one of them. But good Heavens! what had I to do with this "consultation"? Where was any doubt about me with regard to the first of them [Abu Bakr] that I was now considered akin to these ones [in the consultation]?"||”|
|“||The seeds of civil war in Islam were planted on the day when Umar picked out the members of his electoral committee. Instead of one candidate for caliphate, he made six candidates. If his decision to appoint his successor had been as direct and forthright as that of Abu Bakr had been, Islam might have been spared the traumatic and horrendous experience of civil wars so early in its career. The Muslims who fought against and killed each other in these civil wars, did not belong to the distant future; they belonged to the generation of the Prophet himself.
Civil wars broke out in Islam at a time when its idealism was supposed to be still fresh. But the elective system devised by Umar had built-in confrontation, and it took Islam across a great divide. His policy proved to be counter-productive, and his mode of giving the Muslims a leader through his panel of electors turned out to be one of the greatest misfortunes of the history of Islam.
According to one Shi'a text, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir said,
- "Abu Bakr and Omar did not repent before they parted the world. In fact, they did not even mention what they had done to Ali. So may Allah, His angels and all of mankind curse them".
Views on the Shi'a view
|“||The mischiefs that flow from the contests of ambition are usually confined to the times and countries in which they have been agitated. But the religious discord of the friends and enemies of Ali has been renewed in every age of the Hegira, and is still maintained in the immortal hatred of the Persians and Turks. (171) The former, who are branded with the appellation of Shiites or sectaries, have enriched the Mahometan creed with a new article of faith; and if Mahomet be the apostle, his companion Ali is the vicar, of God. In their private converse, in their public worship, they bitterly execrate the three usurpers who intercepted his indefeasible right to the dignity of Imam and Caliph; and the name of Omar expresses in their tongue the perfect accomplishment of wickedness and impiety.||”|
And he also writes that Ali...
|“||...has never been accused of prompting the assassin of Omar; though Persia indiscreetly celebrates the festival of that holy martyr.||”|
David Samuel Margoliouth offers this assessment of Umar:
|“||We have no record of any occasion on which Umar played remarkable courage, though many examples are at hand of his bravery, instead on every occasion he owed his life to the good nature of an enemy.||”|
- A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims on Al-Islam.org
- Bukhari 005.059.342 Archived December 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Bukhari 003.047.755 Archived July 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- Sahih Muslim 009.3507 Archived October 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Did Imam Ali Give Allegiance to Abu Bakr? | Islamic Insights
- In the words of Imam Ali himself: Nahjul Balagha Letter 28
- al-A`sha's verse
- Nahj al-Balagha Sermon 3
- Shustari, Qazi Nurullah. Majalis ul-Mo’mineen. pp. 85–89.
- al-Murtaza, Sharif. Al-Shaafi. p. 116.
- Al-Hadid, Hibatullah. Sharh Nahj ul-Balagha. 3. p. 124.
- Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir. Bihar al-Anwar. p. 621.
- Ardabili, Muqaddas. Hadiqat al-Shi’a. p. 277.
- Shustari, Qazi Nurullah. Masa'ib un-Nawasib. p. 170.
- Al-Amili, Zayn al-Din al-Juna'i. "Lawahiq-al-'Aqd". Masalik al-Ifham fi Sharh Shara-il-Islam. 1.
- Qumi, Abbas. Muntahi al-Aamal. 1. p. 186.
- Shahidi, Sayyed Ja'far. Life of Fatemeh Zahra(SA). pp. 263–265.
- Baqir, Muhammad. Mir'at ul-Uqool. 21. p. 199.
- Al-Tusi, Nasir Al-Din. Al-Mabsoot. 4. p. 272.
- Furu al-Kafi, Vol. 5, p. 346, as quoted in Tragedy of al-Zahra
- Furu al-Kafi, vol 8, h115
- The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, section Discord of the Turks and Persians.
- Mohammed and the Rise of Islam by David Samuel Margoliouth, pg 164