Nawab: This morning my son,
Abdu'l-Aziz, who is a student at the Islamiyya College, reported
to us that his teacher told the class that Caliph Umar Bin Khattab
was the greatest jurist of his time in Medina. He had complete
knowledge of the Qur'anic verses and their meanings. He was superior
to all other prominent jurists, like Ali Bin Abi Talib, Abdullah
Bin Mas'ud, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Akrama, and Zaid Bin Thabit. Even
Ali Bin Abi Talib, whose understanding of fiqh (jurisprudence)
was extensive, when he was faced with a difficult problem, consulted
Umar concerning the rights of Muslims. The caliph always solved
the difficult problems of Ali. All of us acknowledged this fact
because our ulema say that Caliph Umar held a unique position
in learning and knowledge. I ask you to explain this point so
that all of us, including my son, may understand the facts.
Well-Wisher: It is strange that
the teacher said those things. Even your ulema have never claimed
that. If some fanatical people, like Ibn Hazm Zahiri, said that,
they were bitterly opposed by your ulema. Moreover, this attribute
was not claimed by Caliph Umar himself. None of your ulema has
recorded this fact in any of their books.
The traditionists or historians who have written anything of the
life of Caliph Umar Bin Khattab have remarked upon his cunning
nature, his hard-heartedness, and political contrivances, but
they have not dwelt upon his learning.
In fact, the books of both sects are replete with instances which
clearly show that Umar was not well versed in problems of learning
and jurisprudence. Whenever he was faced with such issues he used
to consult with Amiru'l-Mu'minin Ali, Abdullah Bin Mas'ud, and
other jurists of Medina.
Ibn Abi'l-Hadid mentions the name of Abdullah Bin Mas'ud in particular,
among the jurists of Medina, and says that Umar insisted that
Abdullah should always remain with him so that whenever an occasion
arose, he could be consulted on matters of jurisprudence.
Sheikh: (In anger) Where is
it written that Umar was ignorant of religious problems and the
knowledge of jurisprudence?
Well-Wisher: I did not say that
Caliph Umar was completely ignorant. I said that he was not well
versed in problems of jurisprudence and learning. I can prove
what I say.
Sheikh: How would you prove
that Caliph Umar had weak knowledge in matters relating to jurisprudence
and religious ordinances?
Well-Wisher: There are many
hadith in your authentic books. Apart from this, there is Umar's
own admission, which he made on several occasions.
Jalalu'd-din Suyuti in his Tafsir-e-Durru'l-Mansur, vol. II, p.133;
Ibn Kathir in his Commentary, vol.I, p.468; Jarullah Zamakhshari
in his Tafsir-e-Kashshaf, vol.I, p.357; Fazil Nishapuri in his
Tafsir-Gharibu'l Qur'an, vol.I, in connection with the sura Nisa
(The Women) of the Holy Qur'an; Qartabi in his Tafsir, vol.V,
p.99; Ibn Maja' Qazwini in his Sunan, vol.I; Asadi in Hashiyya-e-Sunan,
vol.I, p.583; Baihaqi in his Sunan, vol.VII, p.233; Qastalani
in his Irshadu's-Sari-Sharh-e-Sahih Bukhari, vol.VIII, p.57; Muttaqi
Hindi in his Kanzu'l-'Ummal, vol.VIII, p. 298; Hakim Nishapuri
in his Mustadrak, vol.II, p.177; Abu Bakr Baglani in his Tamhid,
p.199; Ajluni in his Kashfu'l-Khufa', vol.I, p.270; Qazi Shukani
in Futuhu'l-Qadir, vol.I,P.407; Dhahabi in his Takhlis-e-Mustadrak;
Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in his Sharh-e-Nahju'l-Balagha, vol.I, p.61 and
vol.VII, p.96; Hamidi in his Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain; Faqih Wasiti
Ibn Maghazili Shafi'i in his Manaqib; Ibn Athir in his Nihaya,
and others have authentically narrated with slight difference
in wording that one day Caliph Umar during the course of his sermon
to the people, said: "If any one marries and fixes a mehr
(dowry) for more than 400 dirhams for his wife, I will inflict
the prescribed punishment on him and will deposit the excess amount
in the Baitu'l-Mal (Public Treasury)."
A woman from the audience called out: "Umar! Is what you
say more acceptable or Allah's ordinance? Does not Allah Almighty
say: 'And if you wish to have (one) wife in place of another and
you have given one of them a heap of gold, then take not from
it anything.'" (4:20)
Having heard this verse and the retort of the woman, Umar said:
"You have better knowledge of fiqh and problems than Umar,
all of you, including even the women observing purdah sitting
in their homes."
Then Umar again mounted the pulpit and said: "Although I
have forbidden you to give more than 400 dirhams as dowry to your
wives, I now permit you to give as much as you like beyond the
appointed limit. There is no harm in it."
This hadith shows that Caliph Umar was not well versed in the
Qur'an and jurisprudence. Otherwise, he would not have said something
so obviously incorrect that he could be silenced by an informed
Sheikh: No, it is not so. The
fact is that the Caliph wanted to force people to decrease the
amount of dowry in compliance with the sunna. Although Islam allows
us to give a large amount, it is better if we refrain from it
so that the poor may not have to suffer. It is for this reason
that he said that the amount of mehr should not exceed the amount
fixed for the wives of the Holy Prophet.
Well-Wisher: This is such a
lame excuse that even Umar had no idea of it. Otherwise he would
not have admitted his own fault and would not have said: "You
are better jurists than Umar, all of you, including the housewives."
Otherwise he also would have said what you are saying.
Besides this, everybody knows that an unlawful act cannot be condoned
as a means to accomplish a desirable and lawful result. Obviously
the property of the woman, which she has owned, according to the
Qur'anic injunction, could not lawfully be snatched away from
her and deposited in the Baitu'l-Mal!
Apart from all these considerations, it is unlawful to inflict
corporal punishment on a person who has not committed a sin. At
least I have not seen any such decision made according to any
penal code. Let me know if you can cite such an example. If there
is no such ordinance in the penal laws, you will have to admit
that the claim of the teacher was false.
Unfortunately, Umar had developed the habit of losing his temper,
and in order to frighten others he said: "I will punish you!"
Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in his Musnad; Hamidi in his Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain;
Tabari in his Ta'rikh, and other ulema have reported that when
the Holy Prophet died, Umar went to Abu Bakr and told him that
he feared that it was possible Muhammad had not died. Perhaps
he had only pretended to be dead so that he might recognize his
friends and foes, or perhaps he had disappeared, like Moses and
would come again and punish those, who were disloyal and disobedient
Umar continued to say: "So if anyone says that the Holy Prophet
is dead, I will punish him." When Abu Bakr heard this, he
was also uncertain about it, and the people also were confused
and differences arose among them. When Ali learned of it, he appeared
before the crowd of people and said: "People! Why are you
making such a foolish commotion? Have you forgotten the holy verse,
in which Allah said to the Holy Prophet: 'Verily you shall die
and so also the people of your community'? (39:30) So according
to this verse the Holy Prophet has left this world." This
argument of Ali convinced the people and they believed that the
Holy Prophet had really died. Then Umar said: "It was as
if I had never heard this verse."
Ibn Athir in his Kamil and Nihaya; Zamakhshari in Asasu'l-Balagha;
Shahrastani in Milal wa'n-Nihal, (Muqaddama IV), and many others
of your ulema have written that Umar was shouting: "The Holy
Prophet has not died," when Abu Bakr reached him and said:
"Does Allah Almighty not say: 'Verily you shall die and so
also the people of your community." Also He says: "If
then he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels?'"
(3:144) Umar then became silent and said: "It was as though
I had never heard this verse. Now I believe that the Holy Prophet
Hamidi reports in his Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain that during the
caliphate of Umar, five people were arrested on the charge of
fornication and brought before Umar. It was proved that the five
men had committed fornication with a certain woman. Umar at once
ordered them to be stoned to death. At that time Ali entered the
mosque and having heard what Umar had ordered said to him: "Here
your order is contrary to Allah's ordinance."
Umar said: "Ali! Fornication has been proved. Death by stoning
is the prescribed punishment for this sin."
Ali said: "In the matter of fornication, there are different
orders in different cases. Accordingly, in the present cases different
orders should be passed."
Umar asked him to detail what the orders of Allah and His Holy
Prophet were in those cases, for Umar had heard the Holy Prophet
say on a number of occasions: "Ali is the most learned man
and the best judge."
Ali ordered the five men to be brought to him. He ordered the
first man to be beheaded. He ordered the second man to be stoned
to death. He ordered the third man be given 100 lashes. The fourth
man was given 50 lashes. The fifth man was given 25 lashes.
Umar, surprised and puzzled, said: "Abu'l-Hasan, how did
you decide these cases in five different ways?"
The Holy Imam said: "The first man was an infidel under the
protection of Islam. He committed fornication with a Muslim woman.
Since he lost the protection of Islam he was liable to be killed.
The second man had a wife, so he was stoned to death. The third
man was unmarried; hence, he was ordered to be given 100 lashes.
The fourth man was a slave who deserves a sentence half that of
a free man, that is, 50 lashes. And the fifth man was an imbecile,
so he was given a mild punishment, that is, 25 lashes."
Then Umar said: "If Ali had not been there, Umar would have
been ruined O Abu'l-Hasan,! I hope I am not alive when you are
not among us."
Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i in his Kifayatu't-Talib Fi Manaqib-e-Amiru'l-Mu'minin
Ali Bin Abi Talib; Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal in his Musnad; Bukhari
in his Sahih; Hamidi in Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain; Sheikh Sulayman
Balkhi in Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, chapter IV, p.75, from Khawarizmi's
Manaqib; Imam Fakhru'd-din Razi in Arba'in, p.466; Muhibu'd-din
Tabari in Riyazu'n-Nazara, vol.II, p.196; Khatib Khawarizmi in
Manaqib, p.48; Muhammad Bin Talha Shafi'i in Matalibu's-Su'ul,
p.113; and Imamu'l-Haram in Dhakha'iru'l-Uqba, p.80, quote the
A pregnant woman was brought before Umar Bin Khattab. On being
questioned, she admitted that she was guilty of illicit sexual
intercourse, and so the Caliph ordered her to be stoned. Then
Ali said: "Your order is applicable to this woman, but you
have no authority over her child."
Umar acquitted the woman and said: "Women are incapable of
giving birth to a man like Ali: If Ali had not been there, Umar
would have been ruined." He continued, saying: "May
Allah not let me live so long as to face a difficult problem which
Ali is not present to solve."
Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in his Musnad; Imamu'l-Haram Ahmad Bin Abdullah
Shafi'i in Dhakha'iru'l-Mawadda, chapter II, p.75, from Hasan
Basri; Ibn Hajar in Fathu'l-Bari, vol.XII, P.101; Abu Dawud in
Sunan, vol. II, p.227; Munadi in Faizu'l-Qadir, vol. IV, p. 257;
Hakim Nishapuri in Mustadrak, vol.II, p.59; Qastalani in Irshadu's-Sari,
vol.X, p. 9; Baihaqi in Sunan, vol.VIII, p. 164; Muhibu'd-din
Tabari in Riyazu'n-Nazara, v.II, p.196; Khatib Khawarizmi in his
Munaqab, p.48; Muhammad Ibn Talha Shafi'i in Matalibu's-Su'ul;
Imamu'l-Haram in Dhakha'iru'l-'Uqba, p.80; Ibn Maja in his Sunan,
v.II, p.227; Bukhari in his Sahih, chapter la yarjumu'l-majnun
wa'l-majnuna and most of your other ulema have reported the following
One day an insane woman was brought before Caliph Umar Bin Khattab.
She had committed fornication and admitted her fault. Umar ordered
her to be stoned. Amiru'l-Mu'minin was there. He said to Umar:
"What are you doing? I have heard the Holy Prophet saying
that three kinds of people are free from the hold of law: a sleeping
man until he wakes; a lunatic until he recovers himself and regains
consciousness; and the child until he comes of age." Hearing
this, Umar acquitted the woman.
Ibnu's-Saman in his Kitabu'l-Muwafiqa has recorded many such cases.
There are some accounts which record about 100 erroneous and fallacious
findings of Umar.
Nuru'd-din Bin Sabbagh Malaki in his Fusulu'l-Muhimma, chapter
3, p. 17, writing about Ali said: " This chapter contains
matter relating to the knowledge of Ali. One of those aspects
is the knowledge of fiqh (jurisprudence) on which is based the
lawful and unlawful acts of man. Ali understood the intricacies
of law. Its complex problems were easy for him, and he fully understood
their interpretations. It was for this reason that the Holy Prophet
said that Ali was the most worthy man of the community to interpret
questions of law."
Imam Abu Muhammad Husain Bin Mas'ud Baghawi in his Masabih reports
from Anas that when the Holy Prophet appointed each one of the
Companions to a particular position, he appointed Ali to the rank
of judge and said: "Ali is the best judge among all of you
(companions and community)."
Surely when you compare the words of this ignorant college teacher
with the hadith of your own eminent scholars, you will confirm
that his assertion is baseless. This teacher is claiming more
than his leader did. Umar himself always expressed his inferiority
Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in his Musnad, Imamu'l-Haram Ahmad Makki
Shafi'i in Dhakha'iru'l-Uqba, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in
Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, chapter 56, and Muhibu'd-din Tabari in his
Riyazu'n-Nazara, vol.II, p.195, quote Mu'awiya as saying: "Whenever
Umar Bin Khattab faced a difficult problem, he sought the assistance
of Ali." Abu'l-Hajjaj Balawi in his Alif-Ba, vol.I, p.222,
writes that when Mu'awiya heard the news of Ali's martyrdom, he
said: "With the death of Ali, jurisprudence and knowledge
He also quotes Sa'id Bin Musayyab as saying that Mu'awiya said:
"Umar always sought shelter from difficulties for which Ali
was not there to help him."
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Bin Ali al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in his commentary
on Risalat-e-Fathu'l-Mubin writes: "The companions of the
Holy Prophet consulted Ali in matters relating to ordinances of
the Holy Qur'an and accepted his verdicts. Umar Bin Khattab has
said on various occasions: "If Ali had not been there, Umar
would have been ruined." The Holy Prophet of Allah also said:
"The most highly learned man among my community is Ali Bin
What is recorded in hadith and historical accounts proves that
Umar was so devoid of common knowledge and knowledge of jurisprudence
that he was mistaken even regarding ordinary problems. Companions
who were his contemporaries warned him about this weakness.
Sheikh: You are very unkind
to impute such things to Umar. Is it possible for the caliph to
be mistaken in religious matters?
Well-Wisher: This unkindness
is not from my side. Your own ulema have revealed the truth about
Sheikh: If you can, please let
us know these things with proper sources so that truth may be
Well-Wisher: There are many
such instances. About 100 of them are in your books, but I will
submit one of them by way of example.
Muslim Ibn Hajjaj in his Sahih, chapter Tayammum; Hamidi in Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain,
Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in Musnad, vol.IV, p.265,319; Baihaqi in
Sunan, vol.I, p.209; Abi Dawud in Sunan , vol.I, p.53; Ibn Maja
in Sunan, vol.I, p.200; Imam Nisa'i in his Sunan, vol.I, pp. 59-61,
and others of your eminent ulema have in different ways and words,
reported that during the caliphate of Umar a man came to him and
said: "It is necessary for me to perform ghusl (the bath
of ritual purification) but no water is available. What should
I do in this circumstance?"
Umar said: "Unless you can obtain water and perform ghusl,
you should not offer prayers."
At that time Ammar-e-Yasir, a companion of the Holy Prophet was
present. He said: "Umar! Have you forgotten that on one of
the journeys you and I happened to be in need of performing ghusl.
Since water was not available you did not offer prayers, but I
thought the method of tayammum in place of ghusl was that dust
should be rubbed on my whole body. So I rubbed dust on my body
and offered prayers. When we went to the Holy Prophet, he said,
smiling: 'For tayammum this much is sufficient that the palms
of both hands be tapped on the ground simultaneously and the palms
be rubbed on the forehead; then the back of the right hand be
rubbed with the left palm and then the back of the left hand be
rubbed with the right palm.' Now why are you telling the man not
to offer prayers?"
When Umar could make no reply he said: "Ammar, fear Allah."
Then Ammar said: "Do you permit me to narrate this hadith?"
Umar said: "I leave it to you to do what you like."
In light of this reliable hadith which your own ulema have narrated,
you will surely acknowledge that the teacher's claim was utterly
false. Could a man well versed in jurisprudence and who had frequently
been in the company of the Holy Prophet and had heard from the
Prophet how 'tayammum' should be performed when water was not
available tell a Muslim that if he does not find water he should
abstain from offering his prayers? This is particularly strange
since the Holy Qur'an tells us that in such a case we should perform
The practice of tayammum among the Muslims is so commonly known
that even an illiterate Muslim knows that, under certain conditions
it takes the place of ritual ablution and the ritual bath. Now
what should we say about a companion of the Holy Prophet and caliph?
Shouldn't he be knowledgeable about this matter?
I do not claim in this case that Caliph Umar deliberately changed
Allah's ordinances. But this much is certainly possible: he was
weak in his ability to retain information and it was difficult
for him to remember ordinances. And this was the reason, as your
ulema have written, he used to say to an accomplished jurist Abdullah
Ibn Mas'ud: "You should always remain with me so that whenever
somebody asks me a question, you may answer him."
Now, gentlemen! You should decide what a difference there is between
a man whose knowledge is so meager that he is unable to understand
simple problems and one who immediately understands difficult
Sheikh: Who else can that man
be except the Holy Prophet?
Well-Wisher: Obviously, after
the Holy Prophet no one among the Companions had such knowledge
except the Holy Prophet's "gate of knowledge", Ali,
about whom the Holy Prophet himself said: "Ali is the most
learned of all of you."