Trials, Elevation, and Hopes


The Conversion of Umar ibn al-Khattab

Umar was exasperated by the turn of events. He decided the only thing that could be done was to kill the Prophet. This was the surest means of putting an end to the disorder and sedition that were welling up and endangering Meccan society as a whole.

He went out of his house, his sword in his hand, to look for Muhammad. On the way, he met Nuaym ibn Abdullah, who had secretly converted to Islam. Nuaym asked him why he looked so angry, and Umar told him about his intention to kill the Prophet. Nuaym quickly thought of a means to divert him from his plan: he advised Umar to restore order in his own family before setting upon Muhammad. He informed him that his sister Fatimah and his brother-in-law Said had already converted to Islam. Astonished and infuriated, Umar changed his plans and made straight for his sister's home.

She and her husband were reading and studying the Quran with a young companion, Khabbab, when they heard someone approaching their house. Khabbab stopped reading and hid. Umar had heard the sound of the recitation inside, and he accosted them coldly, bluntly asking what they had been reciting. They both denied the fact, but Umar insisted that he definitely had heard them reciting a text. They refined to discuss the matter, which caused Umar's anger to flare. He sprang to his brother in law to strike him, and when his sister tried to intervene, he struck her, causing blood to gush out.

The sight of blood on his sister's face produced an immediate effect of a soft heart and Umar stopped short at that very moment, his sister exclaimed with spirit. "Yes, indeed, we are Muslims and we believe in God and His Messenger. As for you, you can now do as you please!" Umar was taken aback; he was torn between remorse at having hurt his sister and bewilderment at the news he had just received. He asked his sister to give him the text they had been reading when he arrived. His sister demanded that he should first perform ablutions to purify himself. Sobered but still upset, Umar accepted, performed ablutions, then started reading:

"Ta, ha. We have not sent down the Quran to you to [cause] your distress, but only as an admonition for those who fear [God]. A Revelation from Him who created the earth and the heavens on high. The Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne. To Him belongs what is in the heavens and on earth, and all between them, and all beneath the soil. Whether [or not] you speak aloud, verily He knows what is secret and what is yet more hidden. He is God! There is no God but Him! To Him belong the most beautiful names." Quran; 20:1-14

Those were the first verses, and Umar went on reading the rest of the text, which was an account of God's call to Moses on Mount Sinai, until he reached this verse;

Verily, I am God: there is no God but I: so serve Me, and establish regular prayer for My remembrance. Quran 20:14

Umar then stopped reading and expressed his enthusiasm about the beauty and nobleness of those words. Khabbab, encouraged by Umar's apparent good disposition, then came out of his hiding place and informed him that he had heard the Prophet praying to God to grant his community support through the conversion of Abu al-Hakam or of Umar ibn al-Khattab. Umar asked him where Muhammad was, and when told he was at al-Arqam's dwelling place, Umar went there. When he reached the door, the occupants were afraid because Umar was still carrying his sword in his belt. But the Prophet told them to let him in, and Umar immediately announced his intention of becoming a Muslim. The Prophet exclaimed, Allahu akbar!" (God is the Most Great) and received this conversion as an answer to his prayer.

The Prophet knew he had no power over hearts. In the face of persecution, in great difficulty; he had turned to God, hoping that He would guide one or the other of those two men who he knew possessed the human qualities as well as the power necessary to reverse the order of things. The Prophet of course knew that God alone has the power to guide hearts. For some individuals, conversion was a long process that required years of questioning, doubt, and steps forward and backward, while for others conversion was instantaneous, immediately following the reading of a text or responding to a particular gesture or behavior. This cannot be explained. The conversions that took longest were not necessarily the most solid, and the reverse was not true either: when it comes to conversion, the heart's dispositions, faith, and love, there is no logic, and all that remains is the extraordinary power of the divine. Umar had gone out of his home determined to kill the Prophet, blinded by his absolute negation of the One God; there he was, a few hours later, changed, transformed, as the result of a conversion induced by a text and the meaning of God. He was to become one of the most faithful Companions of the man he had wished dead. Nobody among the Muslims could have imagined that Umar would recognize the message of Islam, so forcefully had he expressed his hatred for it. This heart's revolution was a sign, and it carried a twofold teaching: that nothing is impossible for God, and that one should not pronounce final judgments on anything or anybody. This was a new reminder of the need for humility in all circumstances: for a human being, remembering God's infinite power should mean healthy self-doubt as to oneself and suspending one's judgment as to others. Thus, the more he moved forward with God, every day becoming more of a model for his Companions and for eternity; the more the Prophet was attaining humility and modesty as expressed in being, knowledge, and judgment.

Umar, with his spirit and courage, had decided to make his conversion public. He immediately went to Abu Jahl to tell him the news, and he suggested to the Prophet that they should pray publicly at the Kaba. This certainly involved risks, but it was also a matter of showing the Quraysh clan chiefs that Muslims were present among them and were determined. Umar and Hamzah, both known for their strong personalities, entered the Kaba enclosure ahead of the group, and the Muslims prayed in a group without anyone daring to interfere.


So was the story of the awakening of Umar the Great, a man known for his physical strength and a compassionate heart for the weak and needy and his dedication to Islamic Monotheism.

The excerpt was taken from In The Footsteps of The Prophet- Lessons from the Life of Muhammad by Tariq Ramadan who is a professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at Oxford and at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.


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  18 Comments   Comment

  1. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    That was Umar if there was to be another Prophet after me it would have been Umar whose name struck terror in the hearts of people even Satan was scared to walk were Umar was walking. To buttress what was said there was a time a praise singer came and started praising the Prophet himself with Abubakar then suddenly Umar came when the praise singer saw Umar he took musical instrument and ran in the other direction and then Prophet (S.A.W) smiled and say look Satan is afraid of Umar. Allahu Akbar that was Umar and his beautiful qualities not scared of anybody except Allah his Creator.

  2. Babandi A Gumel from U.K

    This is the time the Ummah is undergoing all sorts of trials and tribulations May Allah help the Ummah overcome its woes n miseries.

  3. sssekitto suliman from uganda

    ssalam alykum am indeed so grateful about the article because it reflects the teachings of the prophet (SAW), it also encourages patience and hope .

  4. Abdulmalik maiwada from Nigeria

    This article make feel better and happens to be of good and retain what ever is good to me

  5. MUAZDH IBRAHIM from Nigeria

    Alhamdulillahi alah-ni'imatul Islam,infact a significant article which aquiant us to history of the great Khlifat Umar (ASW)of which idont have comprehensive detail, untill a read this article. Allah's guidance, protection and more knowledge to islamicity for this profound effort/jahad to islam, Amin.

  6. Sakinah from US

    Asalam,

    This article gave me clarity on Omar Al khatab. It's beautiful & my spirit was uplifted, I needed this today. AllahuAkbar.

  7. Tunji Oseni from Nigeria

    That is why one need to ask for Allah's Guidiance, becuase He Guide who He will. May Almighty Allah guide us.

  8. Shamsideen from Nigeria

    This is a very tremendous article that needs to be read over and over because of the great thing Allah had done for this Ummah. It is an encourage article, so we expect more of this in future. I pray that May Allah grant more time for the writer and the entire ummah to spread the message of Islam throughtout the world as our Great Prophet(saw) as done.

  9. owolabi lateef from nigeria

    This is exact accounts of what have happened during the days of our prophet (S.A.W.) The unchangeable Allah will change for better the lives of non-believers who had stood out by violently/destroying Islamic structures/nation. No one does that Except Allah. Islam would reign for ever, amen.

  10. Ayyub Abdus-Salaam from Nigeria

    Salam alaykum?It's indeed a great work and a highly hearth vacinating.Keep it up,may Allah almighty reward for job welldone.

  11. muhammad aris from malaysia

    When I read the article on Omar Al khatab I did'nt realise that my tears started to flow. It really touched my heart and I imagine if all the people of the world are muslims (true muslims) there will be no wars.

  12. NM from Trinidad

    Salams, it seems that the reason needed sensiblities were not addressed is due to the audience being of non-Muslims? Islamicity has referenced the article under the category of "Interfaith Education Religious"

  13. Sefiu Adetunji Igboho from NIGERIA

    Really Umar ibn al-khattab is a good hero of islam. Masalam

  14. Qosim Yusuff from Nigeria

    This is an excellent account of the conversion of one of the most righteous muslim to ever walk the face of the earth. This man gave his all to ensure that Islam and the noble traditions of the holy prophet (saw)continue to resonate even to the farthest part of the earth. May Allah continue to be pleased with his soul.

  15. Munir Hussain Shah from Pakistan.

    A very powerful writing and the writer deserves all the appreciations and blessings.

    We have a Muslim nomenclature, therefore, it is incumbent upon us to take care of the following sensitivities:

    1). It is the in the fittest of the things if instead of God,the title Allah should be used. What is Allah, I think Ayatul Kursi defines the over arching meaning and definition of Allah.

    2). Wherever, Rasool Muhamed (peace be upon him) is used in the text, only Muhammad has been used, which is against the norms of respect and decency.

    3). Whereever the companions of Prophet (PBUH) have been mentioned, there is no suffix of "Radhi Allaho Ta'alla unho is not mentioned.

  16. m.m.hussain from india

    how is aflah related to umar bin khattab and also as a warrior how many wars has umar bin khattab won and what was his role in the battle of khyber.These questions are asked very frequently by my friends in faith.pls reply.

  17. Nadira Mohammed from Trinidad, West Indies

    Assalamu'Alikum,

    Such an inspirational read, Alhamdulilah, May Allah (swt) also bless us with such strong personalities. Ameen

    wassalam

  18. MOHAMMED HANEEF from U.A.E.

    Assalamu Allaikum,

    Thank you very much for this interesting article on Umar Bin Khattab(R.A.), the "Amir-Ul-Muimineen" whose conversion changed the whole scenario of believer's strategy for spreading Islam.

    "JAZAKALLAHU KHAIR"