9605-MODEL LEADERS IN THE HISTORY OF ISLAM: OMAR al FAROOQ
Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. MB ChB, MPH, DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Medicine & Director, Training Center, International Islamic
University PO Box 70 Jln Sultan PJ 46700 Telephone 60 3 755 3433 fax 60 3 757 7970 Seminar on ‘Building Leaders of the
Community,’ Madrasah Wak Tanjomg al islamiah, Singapore31 May-1 June 1996
1.0 PERSONALITY OF OMAR
Omar was known for being tough.He however
had a soft spot in him.This was demonstrated on many occasions.Before accepting Islam, he confronted his Muslim sister in Makka and beat her.When he saw blood he was very sorry and was profoundly affected.Her bravery and steadfastness softened him.
Omar was a practical man of action.
Omar was brave and very daring.When he became
a Muslim he declared his conversion in public in Makka.He and Hamza led the
first public demonstration in Islam when they led Muslims from their hiding places to pray in from of the Kaaba.Omar unlike all other companions migrated in public from Makka and dared any who wanted to challenge him.
Omar was physically and mentally very strong.This
enabled him to exercise a very dynamic leadership.He was able to work hard.He could personally attend to many details and follow up projects.He exercised more control over state affairs that did Abu Bakr.
Omar slept very little. He was always working. Omar was able to follow-up affairs of far-
away provinces by use of the postal system, hajj, spies, and tours of inspection.
Omar gave trouble to those who came after him because he set very high unattainable standards
for those after him.
Abu Bakr’s short reign was a period of transition.It
was during Omar’s reign that the state stabilized.It was also during the
10 years of Omar’s reign that the Islamic empire expanded from Persia to Africa
2.0 OMAR’S LEADERSHIP: SOME OF HIS MEMORABLE DEEDS
According to Abu al-Sa’ib [Salm b. Juadah]-Ibn Fudayl-Dirar-Husayn al-Murri ‘Umar
said, “The Arabs are like a tractable camel that follows its leader.So
its leaders should watch were he is leading it. By the Lord of the Ka’bah, I shall certainly carry them along the [straight
According to Ya’qub b. Ibrahim-Isma’ilb. Ibrahim-Yunus-al-Hassan [al-Basri]:
‘Umar said, “When I find my self in a position when I feel comfortable, but that means my people have no access
[to me], then this [can not] [continue] to be my position; I [must once again] be on the samelevel as my people.
According to Khallad b. Aslam-al-Nadr b. Shumayl-Qatan-Abu Yazid al-Madini-a client of
‘Uthman b. ‘Affan: I was riding behind ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan one hot day when there was an extremely hot
wind blowing and he came to the alms-animal pen.There was a man wearing a waist
wrapper and an upper garment with another wrapped around his head.He was driving
camels into the pen; the is, the alms-camel pen. ‘Uthman said, “Who do you think this is?” We finally reached
him and he was ‘Umar b. al-Khattab. (‘Uthman) said, “He is indeed ‘the strong, the trustworthy one!”.
According to Ya’qub b. Ibrahim-Isma’il-Yunus-al-Hassan : ‘Umar said, If I live,
I shall certainly travel for a whole year among my subjects, God willing.I know
that people have needs that do not reach me.Their governors will not refer them
to me, nor will they themselves come to me.I shall travel to Syria and stay there two months.Then I shall travel to the Jazirah and stay there two months.Then I shall travel to Egypt and stay there two months.Then I shall travel to Bahrain and stay there two months.Then I shall travel to al-Kufah and stay there for two months.The I shall travel to al-Basrah and stay there for two months.Indeed,
what a fine year this will be!
According to Muhammad b. ‘Awf-Abu al-Mughirah ‘Abd al-Quddus b. al-Hajjaj-Safwan
b. ‘Amr-Abu al-Mukhariq Zuhayr b. Salim-Ka’b al-Ahbar.I stayed with
a man called Malik who was under the protection of Umar b. al-Khattab.I asked
him how one could get access to the Commander of the Faithful.He replied that
there was no door barring the (way to Umar) or any obstacle, that he would say his prayers, would then sit down, and anyone
who wished could talk to him.
Accordingto ‘Umar b. Ismail b. Muhalid
al-Hamdani-Abu Mu’awiyah-Abu Hayyan-Abual-Zinba’-Abu al-Dihqanah
‘Umar b. al-Khattab was told that there was someone from al-Anbar who had some knowledge of the state register [and
was asked] if he would take him on as a secretary.‘Umar replied, “In
this case, I would be taking on as a [confidant] someone from outside the [community of the Believers!”.
According to Yunus b. ‘Abd al-’A’la-Ibn Wahb-’Abd al-Rahman b.
Zayd-his father-his grandfather; Umar b. al-Khattab addressed the people and said, “By Him who sent Muhammad with the
Truth, if one camel were to perish untended on the bank of the Euphrates, I would fear that God would hold the Khattab family
responsible for it”.Abu Zayd added that the Khattab family meant himself,
no one else.
According to Ibn al-Muthanna-Ibn Abi Adi-Shu’bah-Abu ‘Imran al-Jawni: Umar
wrote to Abu Musa, “There are stillprominent men who refer the needs of
the people [tome] on their behalf.So
honor those prominent men who are in your jurisdiction.It is justice enough
for an uninfluential Muslim that he be treated fairly in juridical decisions and in the division [of spoils after being referred
According to Abu Kurayb-Ibn Idris-Mutarrif-al-Sha’bi : A Bedouin came to Umar and
said, “My stallion camel has both mange and saddle sores; give me a mount”. ‘Umar replied to him, ‘Your
camel does not have mange and saddle sores!” (The bedouin) turned away, reciting the following: Abu Hafs Umar has sworn
by God’s name That no mange or saddle sores have afflicted [my mount].Forgive
him, God, that he has given a false oath! (‘Umar exclaimed, “O God, forgive me!” He called the Bedouin back
and gave him a [fresh] mount.
According to Ya’qub b. Ibrahim-Isma’il-Ayyub-Muhammad: I was informed that
a man who was related to ‘Umar asked him [for money].But he chided him
and sent him away.People spoke to(‘Umar) about him, and he was asked why
he chided him and sent him away when he begged from him.He replied “He
asked me for some of God’s money.What will be my excuse if I meet Him
when I am a treacherous ruler?Why did he not ask for some of my money?”
(The source) added that (Umar) sent him 10,000 [dirhams].
According to Muhammad b. al-Muthanna-Abd. al-Rahman b. Mahdi-Shu’bah-Yahya b. Hudayn-Tariq
b. Shihab: Whenever Umar sent governors in charge of provinces, he would say about them, “O God, I have not sent them
to take the property (of the people) nor to abuse them physically.Anyone oppressed
by his commander has no commander except me”.
According to Ibn Bashshar-Ibn Abi Adi-Shu’bah-Qatadah-Salim b. Abi al-Ja’ad-Ma’dan
b. Abi Talhah: ‘Umar b. al-Khattab gave an address to this people and said, ‘O God, I call You to bear witness
to the commanders of the garrison towns that I have sent them only to teach the people their religion and the practice of
their Prophet, to distribute among them their spoils and to act with justice.If
they have any doubt about any matter, they will refer it to me”.
According to Abu Kurayb-Abu Bakr b. Ayyash-Abu Hasin: Whenever Umar appointed his governors,
he would go out with them to bid them farewell, saying, “I have not appointed you governor over Muhammad’s community
with limitless authority.I have made you governor over them only to lead them
in prayer, to make decisions among them based on what is right, and to distribute [the spoils] among them justly.I have not given you limitless authority over them.Do not
flog Arab [troops] and humiliate them; do not keep them long from their families and bring temptation upon them; do not neglect
them and cause them deprivation.Confine yourselves to the factual text of The
Qur’an, and do not frequently cite prophetic traditions.I am your partner”.He would also allow vengeance to be taken on his governors.If there was a complaint against a governor, he would bring together the governor and the complainant.If there was a genuine case against (the governor) for which punishment was obligatory,
he would punish him.
According to Yaqub b. Ibrahim-Ismail b. Ibrahim-Said al-Jurayri-Abu Nadrah-Abu Firas: ‘Umar
b. al-Khattab made the Friday address and said, “O people, I do not send governors to you to flog you or to take your
possessions.I send them to you to teach you your religion and the way you should
follow.If anything other than these is done to anyone, he should refer I the
matter) to me.By Him in whose hand is my soul, I shall certainly permit the
law of retaliation to be used against (any governor).“Up jumped Amr b.
al-’As and said, “Do you rally think you will allow the law of retaliation to be used against any commander appointed
over your subjects who disciplines one of them?” (Umar) replied, “Yes indeed, I shall certainly allow that.Why not, as I have seen the Messenger of God allow the law of retaliation against
himself?Do not beat Muslims and humiliate them; do not keep them log from their
families and bring temptation upon them; do not deny them their rights and turn them into infidels; do not settle them among
thickets so that you lose them”.
‘Umar reportedly would himself patrol at night, seeking out the Muslim’s dwellings
and personally finding out how they were faring.
1.0 LEADER MUST EXERCISE LEADERSHIP: FROM OMAR’S FIRST SPEECH
“...The likeness of the Arabs is only to a camel led by the nose following its leader’ therefore, let its
leader look where he leads.As for me, by the Lord of the Kaaba, I will indeed
bring them along on the road”. Tabari 11 : 158 - 159
2.0 LEADER MUST HAVE INITIATIVE :
“The most sagacious man is he who displays his own initiative, when he has no directives from his superior to
fall back on, or who, without holding back, gives expression to his own views”. Tabari 13 : 72 - 75
3.0 OMAR WORRIES ABOUT A CAMEL IN FAR-AWAY IRAQ:
“According to Yunus : Umar b. al-Khattab addressed the people and said, By Him who sent Muhammad with the Truth,
if one camel were to perish untended on the bank of the Euphrates, I would fear that God would hold the Khattab family responsible
for it”. Tabari 14 : 105 - 106
4.0 OMAR, A GENTLE RULER :
“According to Abdul Hamid b. Baya : Umar b. al-Khattab said, “O subjects, you have an obligation to us
to give advice on what is unknown and cooperate in doing good.There is no forbearance
(him) dearer to God and more generally advantageous then that of a gentle leader.O
subjects there is no ignorance more hateful to God and more generally evil than that of a harsh leader.O subject, he who enjoins well-being for someone in his midst, God will bringhim well-being from above”. Tabor 14 : 139
5.0 EVERYBODY COUNTS :
The weak are also Muslims” Tabari 13 : 183
6.0 OMAR’S DESIRE TO BE ON THE PEOPLE’S LEVEL :
“When I find myself in a position when I fell comfortable, but that means my people have no access (to me) then
this (can) not (continue)to be my position; I (must once again) be on the same
level as my people”.
7.0 OMAR’S DESIRE TO VISIT PROVINCES:
“If I live, I shall certainly travel for a whole year among my subjects, God willing.I know that people have needs that do not reach me. Their governors will not refer them to me, nor will
they themselves came to me. I shall travel to Syria and stay there two months. I shall travel to the Jazirah and stay there two months. Then I shall
travel to Bahrain and stay there two month. Then I shall travel to al-Kufah and stay there for two months. Then I shall
travel to al-Basrah and stay there for two month. Indeed, what a fine year this will be”. Tabari 14 : 104
8.0 LEADER RECOGNIZES STRONGER PERSONS :
“Had I come to know that some stronger person is there,I would
have better put myself to be beheaded by him than to be his chief”. Hayat 2: 136
9.0 SOFTNESS AND HARDNESS:
“My heart turned as soft and mild as foams of water and my heart turned harder than stone in matters of Allah”.
Hayat 2: 43
10.0 WISDOM OF LEADER:
“Allah the sublime likes no tolerance more than the tolerance and politeness of an Imam, and not ignorance is
more displeasing to Allah than the ignorance and haughtiness of an Imam.And
one who has the practice of forgiving anything undesirable remains peaceful.One
who takes to fairness in his relations with others, will achieve success in his mission.The humiliation of obedience brings a man closer to good end as against the dignity being earned through disobedience”.
Hayat 2 : 82
11.0 LEADING IS BY INFLUENCE:
“I need such a person while functioning as Amir look as one of them, but when he is not acting as an Amir, people
consider him as their Amir”. Hayat 2:61
12.0 LEADER SHOULD NOT ADOPT A POSITION OF SUPERIORITY OVER PEOPLE :
OMAR’S LETTER TO AMRE BIN AL-AS :
“I have come to Know that you have built up a rostrum for rising above your audience.Is it not enough for you to deliver speeches in standing posture.Now the Muslims will feel as if they are much lower than you.Hence, I
ask you upon an oath to demolish it at once” Hayat 2 : 91
13.0 LEADER SHOULD LIVE AND EAT LIKE THE FOLLOWERS : OMAR’S LETTER TO ATTIBA BIN FARQAD
“This wealth has neither been earned by your hard labor, nor by your father’s and mother’s hard labor.Hence you should provide same food to the Muslim in their homes as you relish in your
homes; and save yourself from luxurious living and copying the styles (of life) and etiquettes of the polytheists and refrain
from wearing silk”. Hayat 2:92
14.0 LEADER ADMITS MISTAKES :
“Hazrat Abdullah bin Musaab stated that Hazrat Umar bin Khattab said : Don’t increase the mihrs (dower-money)
of your women to more that forty oqiyags (one oqiyah is equal to 40 dirhems), though she may be the doughter of a high family,
i.e. may be Yazid bin al-Hasini Harithi’s daughter.Whoever settles a higher
mihr than this, the amount in excess of it will put in the public treasury.Hearing
this a woman from the women’s rows stood up.She was tall in stature and
had a flat nose.She said: Your shouldn’t have said this. hazrat Umar inquired:And why? That woman said: Because Allah Most Honoured and Glorious has said: And you
have given unto one of them a sum of money (whoever great), take nothing from it”.Qur’an . So Hazrat Umar remarked :
The woman said the correct thing and the man committed a mistake”. Hayat 3:241
15.0 LEADER ENCOURAGES FOLLOWERS TO TELL THE TRUTH IN FRONT OF HIM :
“The amir is always a loser before whom one cannot speak the truth and he himself does not speak the truth”.
Hayat 2 : 85
16.0 LEADERS ACCEPTS CORRECTION BY FOLLOWERS”
“All praise be to Allah who has appointed me (Caliph) on such a people who have the capacity to get me straightened
if I go wrong”. Hayat 2:86
17.0 PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP”
“If a governor becomes unprincipled, his subjects adopt the same course, and the person is very unfortunate who
bring about misfortune to his subjects”. Hayat 2:141