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Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Umar as Caliph

Umar's Address About His Conduct

After the assumption of office as Caliph, Umar soon realised that he was more feared than loved. Abu Bakr his predecessor was tender and soft hearted. Whenever he appeared in the streets of Madina, the children ran to him saying "Father, Father." He caressed and patted them. When Umar became Caliph, the children would run away at his sight saying "Here comes Umar, let us run away."

On the occasion of the first Friday prayer after his assumption of office as Caliph, Umar addressed the faithful assembled in the mosque in the following terms:

"Brethren, it has come to my notice that the people are afraid of me. They say 'When the Holy Prophet was alive, Umar was harsh to us. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar was hard and stern. Now that he has become the Caliph himself, God knows how hard he will be. Whoever has said this is not wrong in his assessment.

The truth of the matter is that I was the slave and servant of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was most kind hearted, liberal and generous. In contrast I was hard and harsh so that I was like a naked sword. It was for the Holy Prophet to use the sword or sheathe it at his option. On occasions he sheathed the sword, and sometimes he used it. My purpose was to point to the Holy Prophet the other side of the picture. The decision rested with him. Sometimes he ignored my point of view. There were occasions when he agreed with me. Till the death of the Holy Prophet that remained the equation between him and me. Thank God, the Holy Prophet was pleased with me. Though the Holy Prophet sometimes accepted my advice, and sometimes turned it down, yet he approved of my conduct.

During the caliphate of Abu Bakr my role remained the same. Abu Bakr was most soft hearted and tender. It was my business to bring the other side of the picture to his notice. He always took my point of view into consideration, but the ultimate decision lay with him. Some times he agreed with me, and I acted as his agent to enforce a decision which appeared to be harsh. Sometimes he did not agree with me, and I had to remain quiet. I am happy that throughout the period of his office, Abu Bakr approved of my conduct, and ultimately nominated me as his successor, although I did not covet the office.

Now that the entire responsibility has come to vest in me, know ye brethren that you will feel a change in me. I will no longer be hard and stern in all matters. For those who practise tyranny and deprive others of their rights, I will be harsh and stern, but for those who follow the law, and are devoted to religion, I will be most soft and tender. I will not tolerate any person make any excess. He who commits any tyranny, him I will sternly call to book. I will be harsh and stern against the aggressor, but I will be a pillar of strength for the weak and the meek. They will find in me their best friend.

Friends you have some rights on me, and I tell you of these rights, so that you may be in a position to call me to account. These rights are:

firstly, that I should not exact any tax or other levy from you not authorised by law;

secondly, that whatever taxes are lawfully realised from you are spent in your best interests:

thirdly, it is incumbent on me that I should protect the frontiers of your land;

fourthly, it is my duty to promote your prosperity and look after your interests; and

fifthly, it is my obligation to do justice.

O servants of God, continue to fear God. Suppress your selfish motives and work for the solidarity of the Muslims as a whole. In running the State, you are my partners. Help me with your sound advice. If I follow the right path laid down by God and His Prophet follow me. If I deviate, correct me. Strengthen me with your advice and suggestions. Let us pray for the glory of Islam."

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