The Caliph and the New Clothes – An Eid Story

The Caliph and the New Clothes – An Eid Story

Posted by Muhammad Wajid Akhter •  Source : MuslimMatters

Two little boys came running to their mother with a request. “Jarir and Mughiz have both got new clothes for Eid. Can we have some new clothes as well?”

Their mother, Fatima bint Abdul Malik, was no ordinary woman. Her father, grandfather and each of her four brothers were at one time or another Caliph and leader of the believers. In fact, her own husband was the present Caliph, Umar ibn Abdul Aziz – who ruled the world’s largest empire that stretched from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans. She promised them that she would check with their father to see if the two princes could have new clothes for Eid.

When Umar ibn Abdul Aziz returned home, his wife related the children’s request to him. The Caliph had a pained look in his eyes. “Fatima, you know how much I value my children, but all the money I have is in front of you”, he said motioning towards the sparsely furnished hut.

Though a Caliph, Umar took care to live honestly and did much to ensure justice. Fatima agreed with her husband, but she said that maybe it would be possible to buy very cheap clothes for the children and they’d just be happy with something new to wear. Finally, the Caliph agreed and wrote a letter to his treasurer requesting that his pay be advanced a month early so that he could buy his children something to wear on Eid.

But the honest and pious Caliph had an equally honest treasurer. The reply he got was this: “Amir Ul-Mumineen, I have great respect for you and I trust and obey you completely. However, if you could guarantee to me that you will live through the next month and do your service to the people (which will entitle you to your pay) then the money can be advanced to you. If you cannot give the assurance of your life, then how can the treasury pay you?”

Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz realised his mistake. Fatima bint Abdul Malik, washed her children’s old tattered clothes for Eid day and sent them out to play. One has to wonder if they were made from the same dust as us.

Once we (Muslims) were kings on this Earth, but it wasn’t because we were large in number that we were respected. It wasn’t because we were powerful that we were victorious. It wasn’t because we were successful that we were admired. It wasn’t because our women were beautiful that they were treated with honour and dignity. It wasn’t because we were intelligent that our example was emulated. It was all due to the faith of Islam. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile reflecting on how far we’ve fallen so we know how high we need to climb.

Eid Mubarak everyone.

The Democratic Republic of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)

By Amani Aboul Fadl Farag


The United States boasts about democracy as being an invention which it has spread all over the free world, but according to facts of history, democracy is not an American invention.

It is thought that democracy was first practiced in Rome BC where the Caesar was elected by the members of the Senate. But this Roman experience could easily be detected as an incomplete democracy, as the senators themselves were representatives of aristocracy and social elites who did not voice the common Romans as much as they voiced their own caste.

No matter how short lasting and incomplete the Roman experience might have been, it was highly priced for being a privilege to all humanity and a step forward towards more mature ones.

The First Democracy

The first true democracy which addressed the public at large, specially in sensitive issues like electing the ruler, was recorded immediately after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

When the Prophet Muhammad felt he was dying, he wanted to settle the issue of his successor to prevent people from having splits among themselves; specially that the newborn state he established in the Peninsula was full of not only various but also historically rivaling ethnic, tribal and political factions.

Deep inside him, Prophet Muhammad wanted his best friend and companion during the Hijrah (emigration from Makkah at the time of the Prophet), Abu Bakr, to succeed him, but he could not have had his wish outspoken because this would have gone against people’s human right to choose their ruler.

He only asked Abu Bakr to lead the people, during his last illness, in the congregational prayer in a symbolic gesture of his wish. He did not do any more to let people understand his will, which if he had declared frankly, people would have obeyed blindly.

But for the Prophet, more important than having Abu Bakr as a successor was to educate his citizens the principle of democracy as the only cornerstone for building a modern state which guarantees social justice and national security.

Although most people understood the gesture, yet others insisted on practicing their right to choose.

Two Main Political Parties

At the time of the Prophet’s death, the main political parties in Madinah were the Muhajirun, or the emigrants — mainly those who emigrated with him from Makkah to Madinah to escape tyranny — and the Ansar, or the supporters. These were the inhabitants of Madinah who received him and his people, hosted them and divided their own wealth among them.

After the Ansar had collected themselves together, on hearing the news of the Prophet’s death, their leaders held a meeting in the colonnade or “thaqifat Bani Saad” which is a special place for public congregations, and they prepared their nominee, Saad ibn Ubadah, for the position of a successor.

Their good reason for claiming the position in their campaign was that the Prophet made Madinah the capital of the huge Islamic state; therefore it became logical that the ruler should be one of its inhabitants.

In an eloquent oration, their nominee Saad ibn Ubadah listed proofs of his privilege, he said:

You the people of Ansar, you have a privilege in Islam that no other tribe has got. Muhammad lived more than ten years among his people in Makkah calling them to worship God and abandon worshipping idols, but they did not believe him except for very few men who could not protect him or his religion or even protect themselves against oppression. But Allah has favored you with these honors of believing in Him and His Messenger, supporting the Prophet and his companions, elevating His religion and fighting His enemies…

The Muhajirun leaders, who hurried to the colonnade to participate in the meeting, started their campaign by an oration given by Abu Bakr himself to assert the Muhajirun’s right to the position.

When Abu Bakr was leading the campaign, he did not think of himself as a candidate but he was running it in favour of Umar ibn Al-Khattab as the party candidate.

Election Fever Heats up

In modern election campaigns nominees bring about all possible scandals of their rivals even if they have to spy on their private lives, and if they don’t find any they don’t scruple to fake ones. Ends always justify means.

But Abu Bakr ran his campaign in a different way. In his impressive oration, the prelude did not go for elevating his own party or nominee but rather for mentioning the privileges of the rival one of Ansar.

And then he started listing his reasons for claiming the position. He said:

You all know that the Prophet said ‘If all people choose to walk in a certain valley while Ansar choose to walk in another, I’ll take the same valley of Ansar’. You Ansar deserve whatever good I may say about you. But the Arabs will not admit this position except for the tribe of Quraish (to which the Muhajirun belonged) Quraish is the center of the Arab world as for both place and kinship.

Then he took the hand of Umar and asked people to swear allegiance to him.

Such logic succeeded in attracting voters from the other camp to join Al Muhajirun side, one said “Yes, Muhammad is from Quraish and his people have the right to succeed him, so don’t argue with them about it.”

Umar stood and asked the public:

“Don’t you know that the Prophet gave the precedence of leading the prayers to Abu Bakr?”

“Yes,” they replied.

“Does any one feel comfortable to precede the one whom the Prophet gave the precedence?” he asked.

“No, no one does,” they said.

It was apparent that the general public opinion was going towards the Muhajirun party. But who was their candidate?

There was a short argument between Abu Bakr and Umar about who is going to be the Muhajirun’s candidate, as everyone of the two was willing to leave it to the other.

Abu Bakr said to Umar “You are stronger than me”, but Umar answered, “But you are better than me, and my strength will be for your sake”.

At that moment everyone in the colonnade stood to take Abu Bakr’s hand and swear allegiance to him. On the following day while the people were attending the prayer, Umar stood and asked the public for a general allegiance to be added to the selective allegiance that the political elite who attended the colonnade’s meeting gave the day before.

Having guaranteed the first principle of democracy namely free public election, the new ruler, or Caliph, passed to the second which is freedom of expression.

In his first oration after he was elected Abu Bakr said “You people, Although I’m not the best among you, I have been chosen to be your ruler, if I do right help me and if I do wrong correct me …”.

Running Out of Time

After Abu Bakr’s death, the general consent over the character of Umar to succeed him saved time and procedures, but after Umar’s death there was again a need for election. Although he had the desire to have Ali ibn Abi Talib succeeding him, Umar couldn’t impose his wish on the subjects.

Before he died, Umar had felt the absence of consensus around certain candidates and he was afraid of splits that may lead to a civil war, so he listed the names of six candidates and asked people to choose among them.

He gave the candidates the ultimatum of three days to settle the issue among the public to prevent any possible turmoil that might happen. His keenness over the security of the society made him strictly give the authority for the state’s chiefs to kill the six candidates in case they disputed in a way that set the society on the fire of a civil war.

One of the six candidates, Ibn Auf, withdrew — although his chance was excellent — in order to run the election from outside. In a feverish race with time, he went through the city door by door knocking and taking votes.

He took the votes of army members outside the city. He was doing his job even at night time to catch up with the dictated ultimatum.

In the last stage, votes went equally to two nominees; Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib. There was a need for a second round, but votes were equal too while time was running out.

As Umar expected, people began to feel restless and there was a fear of rout due to the delay. One of the chiefs asked Ibn Auf to give his vote and settle the issue.

Feeling that his vote will settle the matter and that it is a veto for one candidate against the other, Ibn Auf tried his best to make his choice based on objective criteria rather than emotional.

He summoned Ali in front of the public and asked him, “Do you swear by God to rule according to what is dictated in His Book and according to the Sunnah of His Prophet and the model examples of the two previous Caliphs?” Ali answered “I hope I can, I’ll try my best to do so.”

Then Ibn Auf summoned Uthman and asked him the same question and the latter answered “Yes, I will”. Therefore, Ibn Auf swore allegiance to Uthman and so did everybody.

This is the history of true and mature experiences of democracy which took place 1400 years ago. And still there are other lessons to inspire of how modern states could be built in the model of the Democratic Republic of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Religious Bravery

Amongst the lectures of the second Caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) is a lecture in which he stated, “O mankind! If anyone amongst you finds any deviation in me, then he should correct it.”

A Bedouin in the mosque stood up and said, “I swear by Allah, if we saw any deviation in you, we would correct it with our swords.”

At this moment ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “All praise is for Allah, the One who made in this nation people who would correct the deviance of ‘Umar with their swords.”

The narrator states, “May Allah have mercy on you O ‘Umar. Indeed you gave due consideration to the reply of this Bedouin even though he is just one of your citizens, a single individual from your nation. You considered him a blessing and praised Allah for it.”

An advice coinciding with this humble action is the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and grant him peace) statement to one of his companions, Abu Dharr al-Ghifary (may Allah be pleased with him) in which he states, “My friend (referring to the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) appointed me with distinguishing characteristics; He advised me that I not fear the blame of a critic in proportion to Allah; and he advised to speak the truth though it may be bitter.”

Taken from Nafhat al-‘Arab by Shaykh al-Adab Mawlana Muhammad I’zaz ‘Ali

Companion of the Prophet : Sa`id ibn `Amir al-Jumahy

There are big-name companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) like Salman al-Farisi, Bilal, Abu Bakr and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) whom we’ve heard so much about. Their journeys to Islam, and how they sacrificed for the sake of the truth brings smiles to our faces, or sometimes brings us to tears – and always make us feel connected to our Islamic heritage. There are other companions whom we don’t hear about as often, but their lives are also filled with struggles and exemplary behavior that deserves our attention.

One of these lesser-known companions is Sa`id ibn `Amir al-Jumahy. His story is translated below, with some modification, from the book Suwar Min Hayat Al-Sahabah (Glimpses from the Lives of the Companions) by Dr. `Abd al-Rahman Ra’fat Al-Basha. I hope you find his story as moving and inspiring as I have, and may it resonate deeply in your heart, mind and soul.

Sa`id’s story begins when he was a young boy living in Makkah. It was his fate to witness something that would haunt him forever, yet transform his life completely.

He was among thousands of people invited to watch the killing of Khubayb ibn `Adiy, a companion of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), whom the Quraysh had captured. Sa`id had a tall stature and strong build, so he managed to push through to the frontlines and get a close-up view of the Quraysh’s captive. He saw Khubayb weighed down in chains as women and children pushed him into the arena of death. They all wanted to avenge Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) through killing Khubayb, and also get revenge for their dead in the Battle of Badr.

Sa`id watched as they brought Khubayb up to the cross to be crucified. He heard his calm, firm voice, amidst the screaming women and children, make the request: “If you could let me pray two rak`as (units of prayer) before my death, please do so.” He saw him face the qiblah (direction of prayer), and pray with complete composure and contentment. After his prayer, Khubayb turned to the leaders of Quraysh and said fearlessly: “By Allah, if you hadn’t assumed that I’m elongating my prayer out of fear of death, I would have lengthened my prayer.”

Then, with his own two eyes, Sa`id saw his people mutilate Khubayb alive. They cut up his body, piece by piece, while having the nerve to challenge Khubayb: “Would you like Muhammad to be in your place and you be saved?” He responded without hesitation: “By Allah, I wouldn’t like that I be secure with my family and children while Muhammad is even pricked with one thorn…”

The spectators were infuriated. They threw their hands up in the air and yelled even louder than before: “Kill him! Kill him!” Sa`id could see Khubayb looking towards the sky from atop the cross, saying: “Allahumma-ahsihim `adada, waqtulhum badada, wa la tughadir minhum ahada (O Allah, count them all, wipe them out, and don’t leave any of them out).” Then he breathed his final breaths, being left with countless cuts and gashes from all the swords and spears that struck him.

Soon afterward, everyone dispersed. The people of Quraysh got caught up in other events and forgot about Khubayb and his death. But this young boy, Sai`d ibn `Amir, never forgot Khubayb for a moment. He would see him in his dreams when he slept, and he would see his image while awake – being mutilated in front of him, and praying those two calm rak`as before he was crucified. He would hear the echo of Khubayb’s voice as he supplicated against the Quraysh, fearing that he would be counted in the supplication and be struck with a thunderbolt, or that a boulder would fall on him from the sky.

Sa`id learned from Khubayb what he didn’t know before. He learned that the true life is a life of belief and conviction in God, and struggling for the sake of this belief until death. He also learned that deep-rooted iman (faith in God) can give you unimaginable strength. And there’s one more thing he learned: that a man whose companions loved him that much, must be a Messenger receiving Divine help from the heavens.

It was through these realizations that Allah guided Sa`id to Islam. He wasted no time and stood up in front of a group of people and announced his Islam, and his disassociation from the sins and evil acts of Quraysh, and from their idols and false gods.

Sa`id migrated to Madinah and accompanied the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam); he witnessed the Battle of Khaybar with him and other battles after that. When the beloved Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) passed away, Sa`id was at the disposal of Abu Bakr and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) during their caliphates, and he lived a life that was uniquely exemplary to the believers. Both successors of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) knew of Sa`id’s honesty and God-consciousness, and they would take his advice, and listen intently to his words.

On one occasion, during the beginning of `Umar’s caliphate, Sa`id came to `Umar and said,

“O `Umar, I advise you to fear Allah in dealing with people, and not to fear the people over Allah. Don’t let your words contradict your actions, for the best of speech is that which the actions attest to…

O `Umar, never lose sight of those whom Allah has given you responsibility over, from the Muslims near and far. Love for them what you love for yourself and your family, and hate for them what you would hate for yourself and your family. Tread through the challenges to reach the truth, and by Allah, don’t fear the blame of the blamers.”

“Who can handle all this Sa`id?!” `Umar asked passionately.

“Someone like you whom Allah has given leadership over the Ummah of Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), and whom no one stands between him and Allah.”

At that point, `Umar sought Sa`id’s assistance. He said, “Sa`id, I am making you a governor of Hims (Hims is a city in present-day Syria).” Sa`id replied, “O `Umar, I beg you by Allah, don’t put me through this trial.”

`Umar got angry and said, “Woe to you… you put this matter (i.e. the caliphate) around my neck and then you abandon me! By Allah, I won’t let you go.” So `Umar appointed Sa`id as the governor of Hims, and asked, “Shall we pay you?” Sa`id quickly refused: “And what would I do with it O Amir al-Mu’minin?! (leader of the believers). My right from the Treasury already surpasses my needs.” Then `Umar left Sa`id to govern Hims.

After a short time, a group of people from Hims, whom `Umar trusted, passed through town. He asked them to write down the names of their poor people so he can get their needs met. They gave him a list, and lo and behold, one of the names was Sa`id ibn `Amir.

Shocked, `Umar said: “Who is Sa`id ibn `Amir?!”

They said, “He is our Amir.”

“Your Amir is poor?!” `Umar asked with astonishment.

They affirmed, “Yes, and by Allah, days would pass by and no light (i.e. fire for cooking) would be lit in his home.”

On hearing this, `Umar wept until his beard became wet with tears. He took 1,000 dinars and put them in a sack, instructing the people of Hims: “Send him my salaam and tell him that Amir al-Mu’minin sent you this money to assist you in fulfilling your needs.”

The delegation brought the money to Sa`id. He opened the sack and found money in it, but immediately pushed it away, saying, “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`ūn (to Allah we belong and to Him is our return)” as if a catastrophe had befallen him.

Startled, his wife asked: “What is wrong Sa`id…? Did Amir al-Mu’minin pass away?!”

“No, worse than that,” said Sa`id.

“Have the Muslims been struck by a calamity?!”

“No, worse than that.”

“And what can be worse than that?!”

“The dunya (material world) has come to destroy my (outcome for the) hereafter, and the fitnah (trial) has entered my home.”

Not knowing anything about the money, she said easily: “Get rid of it.”

“Will you help me in doing so?”

“Yes,” she replied.

So they both rationed the dinars into sacks, and distributed them to the poor Muslims in Hims.

It wasn’t long before `Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) came to al-Sham to check up on its affairs. Hims at the time was known as Al-Kuwayfa (the smaller Kufa) because it was similar to Kufa in that its people used to complain from their leaders like the people of Kufa. When `Umar went to Hims, the people greeted him, and he asked them, “How do you find your Amir?”

They immediately complained about him and brought up four issues – each one being worse than the previous one. `Umar said: “I brought them together (Sa`id and his people), and prayed to Allah that He doesn’t disappoint me in (Sa`id) because I had a great deal of trust in him.”

When they were all before him, he asked again, “What are your complaints about your Amir?”

They replied, “He doesn’t come out to us until late morning.”

“What do you have to say about this Sa`id?” `Umar asked.

He remained quiet for a bit, then said: “By Allah, I would hate to say this, but now I have to; my family has no servant, so I wake up every morning and knead the dough for them. Then I rest a little until it rises. Then, I bake it for them. Then I make ablution, and go out to meet the people.”

“And what other complaint do you have about him?” `Umar asked.

“He doesn’t respond to anyone who calls for him at night,” they said.

“What do you have to say about this Sa`id?” `Umar asked again.

He replied, “By Allah, I would hate to mention this too… I have devoted the day to (serving) them and the night to (worshipping) Allah, the Glorious and Almighty.”

“And what other complaint do you have about him?” `Umar said.

They said, “There is one day out of every month where he doesn’t come out at all.”

“And what is this Sa`id?” `Umar asked.

Sa`id said, “I don’t have a servant, O Amir al-Mu’minin, and I don’t have any clothing except what’s on me now. So, I wash it once a month and wait (at home) for it to dry, and then I go out to the people at the end of the day.”

“And what is your last complaint about him?” `Umar asked.

They said, “From time to time he loses consciousness, and becomes unaware of those he is sitting with.”

“And what is this Sa`id?!” `Umar exclaimed.

Sa`id said, “I witnessed the killing of Khubayb ibn `Adiy while I was a mushrik. And I saw the Quraysh mutilate and cut up his body while asking him: ‘Would you like Muhammad to be in your place and you to be saved?’ But, Khubayb responded: ‘By Allah, I would not like that I be secure with my family and children while Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) is even pricked with one thorn…’

And by Allah, there is not one day that I remember this and how I didn’t help him except that I think Allah will not forgive me for it; and that is when I lose consciousness.”

At this point, `Umar exclaimed, “Praise be to Allah Who did not disappoint me in him!”

Then he sent Sa`id another 1,000 dinars to help him with his needs. When Sa`id’s wife saw the money, she said,

Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah) that we no longer have to depend on your service. Go buy us food, and bring us a servant.”

Sa`id told her, “Are you interested in something better?”

“What would that be?” she asked.

“We give it to the One who sent it to us, while we are in great need of it.”

“And how is that?”

“We loan it to Allah as a goodly loan.” (Quran, 64:17)

“Yes,” she agreed, “and may you be rewarded good (for this),” she said.

Sa`id didn’t get up from his place until he took all 1,000 dinars and divided them up in sacks again. He told someone from his family, “Take them to the widow of this person, and to all these orphans, and to the needy of that family, and to the poor of such and such families.”

This was the simple, humble, devout life of Sa`id ibn `Amir, who always preferred others over himself, even though he was in desperate privation.

May Allah be pleased with Sa`id, and Khubayb, and all the companions. And may He purify our hearts, and grant us the strength and courage to follow in the footsteps of the righteous.

Hadhrat ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (RA) : Last Sermon

Hadhrat ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (RA), surnamed “Al-Khalifat-us-Saleh” (The pious Caliph) was the son of ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, the Governor of Egypt, and his mother, Umm-i-Aasim was the grand daughter of the Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA). ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (RA), the pious caliph, in his last sermon said:

“O people! You were not created in jest, neither shall you be abandoned to no purpose. For yours is a place of return, where Allah shall gather you together for decision and judgement between you. That day a servant shall be defeated and dejected only if Allah should expel him from His Mercy, which embraces all things, and from His Heaven, the compass of which is as the heavens and the earth.”

“Tomorrow there shall be security only for the person that was in fear and trembling before Allah, who sold little for much, something which must needs perish for something which shall abide forever, and misery for pleasure.”

“Perceive you not that you are among those that shall pass away, and that you shall be succeeded by others that remain behind? Perceive you not that every day, by morning and eve, you pay your last respects to a traveller to Allah, who has run his course and whose hope is at an end? You lay him in the depths of a crevice in the earth with neither pillow nor preparation. He has cast off the instruments of subsistence, and departed from his loved ones, and now confronts the Reckoning.”

“”By Allah! I pronounce this statement of mine not knowing whether any one of you has more sins than I know I myself bear, but it is a just, Divine usage whereby I enjoin His obedience and discommend transgression against Him. I seek Allah’s forgiveness…”


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