The Legacy of Omar Bin Al-Khattab and The Fitna of Muslim Celebrities

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Shaking the image of a Public figure and a role model, regardless of the who and the how, and whether the alleged claims are authentic or not, is like an earthquake that destroyed many of the paradigms that we have built around online daawa and the “celebrity shuyukh” culture.

DISCLAIMER: I myself am a student and close friend to many of those respected scholars, activists, and community leaders. I completely value the huge benefit and the immense gap and responsibilities that this culture has brought to Muslims in the western hemisphere. So I am in no way shape or form in the business of accusation, defamation, or generalization.

​At the same time, I am trying my best to zoom out and look at the big picture: are we missing anything? What went wrong? Did we miss something major in our understanding and implementation of our Deen?
Again forget about a particular incident that really ruined my weekend and made me lose sleep for about two days; I am trying to assess the whole environment; I am trying to come up with lessons learned first and foremost to myself, to my immediate community members and activists, to the students and “fans” of the scholars, and last but not least to my teachers and role models, in the most humble way a student can approach a teacher with an advice.

Why Omar?

There is no word in any language that can describe my admiration to the life and leadership of Omar Bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), and the applicability of which to the challenges of our time. Without going into details, two reasons come to mind:

  •  ​The prophet PBUH says:  لو كان نبي بعدي لكان عمر  – If there is any prophet who would come after me, it would be Omar. [narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Al-Hakim and authenticated by Al-Albani]
  • Omar is the only companion who – for a lack of a better word – “predicted” the revelation of 14 verses from the Quran. These incidents, known as “موافقات عمر” or the situations that the Quran rulings agreed with Omar’s reasoning, highlight the “algorithm” that his fantastic brain used to decode the rulings of Allah SWT and the “untold guidelines” in our religion.

So if we want to “reverse-engineer” Omar’s method and reasoning in issues where there is no clear revelation, we will be following the footsteps of the man who has the closest reasoning to the revelation of Allah SWT; of course [here’s another disclaimer] this is not meant to raise him or praise him above his humanly status and shortcomings.

The Mysterious Door

​An interesting conversation happened between Omar Bin Al-Khattab and Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman.
Hudhaifa was trusted by prophet Muhammad PBUH to hold many secrets, such as the names of the hypocrites, in addition to many narrations related to the tribulations preceding the day of judgment (الفتن و الملاحم). I will leave you with the exact narration from Sahib Al-Bukhari:

​​عن شقيق قال : سمعت حذيفة يقول : بينا نحن جلوس عند عمر إذ قال : أيكم يحفظ قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في الفتنة ؟ قال : فتنة الرجل في أهله وماله وولده وجاره تكفرها الصلاة والصدقة والأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر . قال: ليس عن هذا أسألك , ولكن التي تموج كموج البحر. قال: ليس عليك منها بأس يا أمير المؤمنين إن بينك وبينها بابا مغلقا قال عمر: أيكسر الباب أم يفتح ؟ قال : لا بل يكسر قال عمر: إذا لا يغلق أبدا قلت:أجل . قلنا لحذيفة : أكان عمر يعلم الباب ؟ قال: نعم كما يعلم أن دون غد ليلة , وذلك أني حدثته حديثا ليس بالأغاليط . فهبنا أن نسأله من الباب ؟ فأمرنا مسروقا فسأله فقال من الباب ؟ قال عمر .

Hudhaifa narrates: “Once I was sitting with `Umar and he said, ‘Who amongst you remembers the statement of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) about the afflictions?’ I said, ‘I know it as the Prophet (ﷺ) had said it.’ `Umar said, ‘No doubt you are bold.’ I said, ‘The afflictions caused for a man by his wife, money, children and neighbor are expiated by his prayers, fasting, charity and by enjoining (what is good) and forbidding (what is evil).’ `Umar said, ‘I did not mean that but I asked about that affliction which will spread like the waves of the sea.’ I (Hudhaifa) said, ‘O leader of the faithful believers! You need not be afraid of it as there is a closed door between you and it.’ `Umar asked, Will the door be broken or opened?‘ I replied, ‘It will be broken.‘ `Umar said, ‘Then it will never be closed again.‘ I was asked whether `Umar knew that door. I replied that he knew it as one knows that there will be night before the tomorrow morning. I narrated a Hadith that was free from any misstatement” The narrator added that they deputized Masruq to ask Hudhaifa about the mysterious door.

Hudhaifa said, “The door was `Umar himself.”​​

The Huge Gap That Remains Unfilled …

Omar Bin Khattab and his leadership protected our nation from waves of tribulations and internal conflicts. He was a visionary with a unique ability to see the “failure modes” that can happen in a community  and “design” against them. During his caliphate, he took some executive orders that one would deem as “controversial”. However, the short term and long term benefits of each incidents present a guideline of Omar’s leadership and vision.

While no one can discredit the Caliphs who came after him, Othman and Ali, may Allah be pleased with them, one can easily sense the turmoil and the unrest during the second half of Othman’s caliphate and the whole period of Ali’s. This is not to discredit them by any means, but to highlight the gap that was left when that door was broken by the assassination of the giant Omar.

How does this apply to our time?

After this long but needed introduction, below are five snippets from his life, along with some reflections on how to apply the Omar mindset in the 21st century and on the Daawa scene in the age of social media:

1- Don’t Judge By (or care for) The Outer Appearance

روى ​ابن أبي الدنيا : أن عمر رأى رجلا يثني على رجل

Omar once saw a man praising another person in his absence.

[Disclaimer: doing so in one’s presence was not tolerated at all, and was considered a reason to throw dirt in the face of the one who is praising].

So Omar started asking:
​ فقال : أسافرت معه ؟ قال : لا . قال أخالطته قال : لا . قال : والله الذي لا إله إلا هو ما تعرفه .
​Did you travel with him? No!
Did you interact closely with him and on a personal level? No!
​So Omar said: I swear by Allah, the one who is no one worthy of worship except Him, that you do not know him!

Key Takeaways:

  • ​Praising people is something that either should be avoided or used with caution. [Probably a follow up article to this is: when did the prophet praise people and in what situations?]
  • We should assume good of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and at the same time we should not raise them above their humane nature.

​​

2- More Good Deeds in Secret

When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was on his death bed, he started consulting many leaders in the Muslim community about their opinion in Omar. One of those asked was Othman bin Affan, who replied:
علمي فيه أن سريرته خير من علانيته
“To the best of my knowledge, his private deeds are much better than his public ones”

We should realize that the whole ecosystem of online daawa and social media is highlighting a very bright picture of ourselves.
If our side view mirror reads: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”, then one can use the same logic on objects and how they appear on social media:
“personalities, wisdom, and righteousness on social media appears bigger than what it is in real life; stay sincere & do more good deeds in private”

3- Connect The Believers to Allah, not to People

Khalid Bin Al Walid was the sword of Allah SWT, never been defeated in any battle, neither when he fought for Quraish before he embraced Islam, nor when he accepted Islam and started leading Muslims in the battlefield.

Abu Bakr had so much confidence in Khaled, and gave him leadership on multiple occasions, and Khalid did not stop amazing both the friends and foes with his bright planning and excellent implementation of the art of war. He led the Muslims through a series of victories that ended up in them meeting the Roman army in the historic battle of Al-Yarmuk.

Few days before  the actual battle started, Abu Bakr Al-Siddique passed away, and Omar Bin Khattab took over the caliphate. One of his initial “Executive Orders”: Demote Khalid to the ranks of a regular soldier, and order Abu Obaidah Ibn Al Jarrah to lead the Muslims in the battlefield.

The attitude of both Abu Obaidah and Khalid were beyond amazing, it shows their selflessness, the insignificance of worldly titles and status in their hearts, and the authentic tarbiya by their wonderful teacher Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him.

  • Abu Obaidah received the letter before the battle, but hid it until all the fighting stopped. He did not want the morale of the army to be affected and didn’t want any major changes to take place in a tense environment.
  • Khalid Bin Al-Walid received the news after the victory, and in a moment of glory and success, he gave away the leadership to Abu Obaidah, and assumed his ranks amongst other soldiers. He said his famous statement: “I fight for the Lord of Omar, and I don’t fight for his sake at all”

Now why did Omar do all this? why not leave Khalid with his wisdom and strength and expertise in warfare? Omar did not want the Muslims to win a battlefield but lose the war of faith. He did not want them to associate the winning with the persona of Khalid, and was concerned about the big picture: Victory comes from Allah, not from Khalid!

Action Items:

  • If you only listen to couple speakers, and do not feel the spirituality and the iman boost except through their voice and their presentation, then you may be attached to their persona more than to the message they are conveying.
  • We should remember that all scholars and speakers are TOOLS and BRIDGES that are supposed to connect us to ALLAH first and foremost. This is obviously commonsense but I am afraid that it is not common practice.

4- Protecting The Grand Scholars From The Celebrity Status

During Omar’s time, the sovereignty of Muslims was expanded to include multiple regions and major cities of the time. This was associated with masses of people embracing Islam, and hence increasing the demands for teachers and scholars to teach them the faith. While this by itself may seem to be an un-negotiable cause and request, Omar’s executive orders commanded those scholars to remain in Madinah.
And to be honest, I stumbled after reading this narration many times!

WHY?
Why would he stop that khair from spreading across the Muslim nation?

This is a debatable and probably a controversial discussion, but some narrators mention the following reasons:

  • He wanted the people to focus on the Quran purely, without being “distracted” with the immense knowledge of hadith that these companions may have. Probably
  • He was concerned that people may be mesmerized by the personalities and the knowledge of those companions, and hence praise them above and beyond their human nature.
When Othman Bin Affan became in charge, he adopted a different policy and allowed the scholars among the companions to travel and teach the people. While this was indeed a beneficial move in terms of spreading the knowledge, some of those companions – unintentionally – became part of the turmoil against Othman’s ruling. For example, some political tension erupted due to harsh statements issued by the famous companion Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari about wealth, the glitter of the worldly life, and the virtues of living in poverty.  All those factors added up and resulted in people organizing themselves to overthrow Othman and ended up in the very unfortunate events leading to the assassination of the third Caliph of the Muslims.

Action Items:

  • Pay attention to the hidden gems in your own community: the local scholars and teachers; those who know you personally and can act as mentors and personal teachers.
  • Attend knowledge circles and events in your community on a consistent basis; this is far more beneficial than
  • While YouTube lectures and Facebook status’s do not build knowledge in the proper way. Read Books, attend real classes, and go back to the source! Do not take shortcuts in knowledge!

5- Seeking Pride in Allah Not in Worldly Means

My favorite scene in Omar’s life is that upon entering Al-Quds;
He traveled alone with one donkey and one servant, from Madinah to Jerusalem. The Patriarch and the leaders in the holy city were amazed to see the most powerful man in the world at the time, dressed in no more than simple robes, to the extent that it was hard to distinguish him from his servant.
At that point, he said his beautiful and timeless statement:

نحن قوم أعزنا الله بالاسلام فإذا ابتغينا العزة بغيره أذلنا الله

“We are a community who was honored by Allah through Islam and Islam only; and once we started seeking pride with any other means, Allah will humiliate us” 

This is not an invitation to neglect our appearances, our marketing strategies, and our professionalism in ​presenting our message. However, at the core of all that should be our status in the eyes of Allah, not our likes and following in the eyes of men.

Prophet PBUH told us once:
‏ عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏ “‏ بادروا بالأعمال فتناً كقطع الليل المظلم يصبح الرجل مؤمنا ويمسي كافراً ويمسي مؤمنا ويصبح كافراً، يبيع دينه بعرض من الدنيا‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“ٌTake the initiative, rush and run towards good deeds, before you are overtaken by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. A man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods.”

While there are many documented methods and procedures to protect one’s self from tribulations, I strongly believe in studying the life and the wisdom of Omar Bin Al-Khattab as a cure for those Fitnas that came and will come…

What are your thoughts? What are other ways or advice for the scholars, students, fans, Muslim organizations, activists, … ?

Blog Comments

JAK Dr. Mohannad. May Allah ( SWT) reward you and spread this knowledge among the shabab. The essence of this Deen can be truly missed if the points you mentioned are not given attention.

Jazakum Allah Khayran Dr. Talaat and thanks for stopping by.
Our real struggle nowadays is to zoom out and keep the big picture in mind.
Allah Al mostaan

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