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Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Inter-Personal Relations and Interactions

When Umar Was Put To Explanation

It was noon of a Friday. The faithful at Madina had gathered in the Prophet's mosque to offer the Friday prayers.

Umar, the Caliph arrived to lead the prayers. He said his preliminary prayer and then proceeded to deliver his address to the congregation. He began by reciting some verses from the Holy Quran. Then addressing the congregation he said "Now listen".

A young man from the congregation stood up to say, "We will not listen to you, until you give us the explanation that you owe to us."

The people were startled at this audacious interference. Umar paused for a moment, and then turning to the young man said, "Explanation for what?"

The young man said "The other day each one of us obtained a piece of cloth from the Baitul Mal. Today I find two pieces of cloth on the person of the Caliph. I want to know what right had the Caliph to get a share twice the share of an ordinary Muslim?"

Before Umar could explain Abdullah the son of Umar rose up and said, "Friends, the truth of the matter is that like every other person my father and myself obtained a piece of cloth each from the Baitul Mal. My father is so tall that the piece of cloth that he got from the Baitul Mal did not suffice him. So I gave him my piece of the cloth".

This explanation satisfied every one. The young man who had interrupted the Caliph said, "We are satisfied. You can now proceed with your address. We will listen to you and, obey your commands."

Turning to the audience Umar said, "What will you do, my friends, in case I deviate from the truth one day?"

Thereupon a man rose up and said, "When you wilfully deviate from the truth, we will withdraw our allegiance to you and I for one would feel it my duty to kill you with my sword."

The Caliph said with an apparent show of anger "Man, do you know to whom you are speaking?"

The man said, "Yes, I am talking to Umar, the Commander of the Faithful".

"Then how dare you threat him with your sword" said the Caliph.

The man said, "You are our Caliph and Commander as long as you follow the truth. When you deliberately deviate from the path of the truth you no longer command our allegiance. Then we have the right to kill you, because you lead us in the wrong way."

At this the face of Umar lit up, and a smile of satisfaction played on his lips. Raising his hands towards the heaven he said in a voice choked with emotion "Great Allah, I offer you my thanks that there is no dearth of men among the faithful who have the courage to lift the sword even against the head of Umar when he deviates from the Truth."

Turning to the faithful, Umar said: "I enjoin you to follow me as long as I follow Allah and his Prophet. When there is any deviation on my part correct me. If I deliberately deviate from the Truth do not follow me. Play that you and I may steadfastly keep to the path of the Truth enjoined by Islam."

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  Bob Dhillom    
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