‘Umar was a skinny, white, handsome with an awe and a nice beard. He was among the great and intelligent people, he was the most handsome person at that time in the way he walks, dresses, and in his physical appearance.
His ring was engraved with: “‘Umar believes sincerely in Allah”.
An animal hit him once leaving a scar in his face, his father said while wiping the blood off his face: “If you were to be the one with a scar, then you would be the happiest among the Umaiyyads.” ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab used to say: “There will be among my off-springs a man with a scar in his face who will fill the earth with justice same as it was filled with injustice and oppression.”
He was born in Madinah in 61 AH, some said it was the year 63 AH. When he was a young boy, he used to go to ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar , who was his mother’s uncle, and he would say to his mother : “O mom, I would like to be like my uncle”. She would say to him: “Stop it, you want to be like your uncle?”
When was grown, his father ‘Abdul-‘Aziz Ibn Marwan set forth to Egypt after he became the Amir of Egypt, he wrote to his wife Ummu ‘Asim to come to him with her son. She went to her uncle ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar and told him about her husband’s message, he said to her: “O my niece he is your husband, so follow him.” When she wanted to leave he said to her: “Leave this boy with us – he means ‘Umar- for he is the only one among you who looks like us.” She left him with him and came to ‘Abdul-‘Aziz and told him where did she leave ‘Umar, he was pleased to hear that. ‘Abdul-‘Aziz wrote to his brother ‘Abdul-Malik Ibn Marwan about the matter of ‘Umar. ‘Abdul-Malik then ordered his workers to pay ‘Umar one thousand dinar every month. Later ‘Umar came to his father and stayed with him for as long as Allah willed for him to stay.
His father took good care of raising him since he was growing up. He wrote to Salih Ibn Kaysan to take care of him and to look after him.
He narrated the hadith and acquired the science jurisprudence (fiqh) from a group of the Companions among them: Anas Ibn Malik, who died in the 90 AH when he was over 100 years old. ‘Umar met him and narrated hadith from his route, Anas also prayed behind ‘Umar while ‘Umar was the imam leading the prayer. Also he took that knowledge from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, who died in 74 AH, he was his mother’s uncle too as stated earlier; and from ‘Abdullah Ibn Ja‘far Ibn Abi Talib who died in 80 AH.
He also learned from a group of At-Tabi‘in like: Sa‘id Ibn al-Musayyib who died in 94 AH, he was the top scholar among at-Tabi‘in, ‘Arwah Ibn az-Zubayr who died in 94 AH, Salim Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar who died in 106 AH, ‘Ubayd Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Utbah Ibn Mas‘ud who died in 99 AH . ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz used to say: “Being in a session for ‘Ubaydullah is more loved to me than this world and what is in it.” He also took the knowledge from Muhammad Ibn Muslim Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri who died in 125 AH.
‘Umar wrote to different areas: “Take the Knowledge from Ibn Shihab, for you will not find any one who knows about the previous year more than him.”
‘Umar graduated from the school of those great knowledgeable scholars with a solid knowledge in the Religion, thus he became a dignified imam in it.
Maymun Ibn Mahran, who died in 107 AH, said about him: “The scholars were just students comparable to ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz.” He also said: “‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz is the teacher of the scholars.”
‘Umar said about himself: “I was just a boy like other boys in Madinah, then I wished to learn Arabic Language and poetry, then I got what I wanted of that.”
In 87 AH Al-Walid Ibn ‘Abdul-Malik appointed him as a ruler of Madinah. He went to it and stayed at the residence of his grandfather Marwan Ibn al-Hakam. People came to him and said salam to him; when he finished praying Dhuhr (Noon) Prayer; he called ten of the top fuqaha’ of Madinah:
‘Arwah Ibn az-Zubayr, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Ubaydullah Ibn ‘Utbah, Abu Bakr Ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman, Abu Bakr Ibn Sulayman, Sulayman Ibn Yasar, Al-Qasim Ibn Muhammad, Salim Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amir Ibn Rabi‘ah, and Kharijah Ibn Zayd.
They came to him ,entered his place, and sat down. He praised Allah all the due praise and said: “I have called you for a matter which will earn you reward, and also to be supporters of the truth. I shall not decide on a matter unless I take your opinion into consideration, if you see someone violating the boundaries, or if you hear of any in justice of any of my worker; I ask you by the Greatness Allah to inform me about that”.
This short statement was the constitution and the straight methodology which he put for his rule. So, it is no wonder that the historians and biographers listed him among the great and just rulers.
He ran the affairs of Madinah with good management and appointed Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn ‘Amr Ibn Hazim to the office of Justice. He knew the merit and the value of the scholars, so he honored them with what they deserve. He remained as a ruler of Madinah until 91 AH, when Makkah was added to his rule too. Al-Walid removed him in 93 AH. The reason behind that was that ‘Umar wrote to al-Walid telling him about the oppression and the aggression of al-Hajjaj to the people of Iraq. Al-Hajjaj knew about that and sent to al-Walid the following message: “Some of the hypocrites from the people of disunity in Iraq where I am right now had left Iraq and took refuge in Makkah and Madinah, and this is would cause feebleness.” Al-Walid then wrote to al-Hajjaj requesting that he tells him about two good men which he suggests to be appointed to Makkah and Madinah, he wrote him back telling him about: ‘Uthman Ibn Hibban and Khalid Ibn ‘Abdullah. Al-Walid then appointed Khalid to Makkah and ‘Uthman to Madinah and removed ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz. ‘Umar then left Madinah and resided in as-Suwayda’ (present time in Syria).
He was entrusted to the Caliphate from 99 AH to 101 AH after the death of the Caliph Sulayman Ibn ‘Abdul-Malik who was his cousin.
They appraised his clothes when he was appointed to the office of Caliphate and found out that they worth twelve dirhams.
One day he said to his wife Fatimah Bintu ‘Abdul Malik, who used to have jewels which were ordered to her by her father: “Choose between returning your jewels to “Bayt-ul-mal” (the state fund) or permit me to leave you, for I hate that me, you and these jewels be in the same house.” She said: “I would rather choose you over it and over its multiples.” He ordered them to be put in the state fund. When ‘Umar died may Allah have mercy upon him, the new Caliph Yazid the son of ‘Abdul-Malik the son of Marwan said to Fatimah: “If you want, I would return your jewels to you.” She said: “No, I swear by Allah that I was happy without them during his lifetime, so I will not have them back after his death.”
It was said that when Sulayman Ibn ‘Abdil-Malik was buried and people moved away from his grave, ‘Umar heard a noise, he said: “What was that.” They said: They are the carts of the Caliphate brought to you to ride them O Amir of the Believers. He said: “I do not want them, take them away from me and bring me my own animal which I normally ride.” They brought it to him and he rode it; he said: “I am just a man of the Muslims.” He proceeded among the people until he reached the mosque, he went up the minbar (platform) and said: “O people there is no (Divine) Book after the Qur’an and there is no prophet after Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. I swear by Allah that I am not a judge; however, I carry out what I was ordered to do. I am no innovator; however, I am a follower. I am no better than any one of you, but I am the one who is carrying the heaviest load amongst you; and I was inflicted with this without my opinion being taken in this matter; and without me asking for it; and without being consulted. I have decided to release you from the allegiance you have given me; so pick for yourself someone other than me.” People then yelled in one voice: We chose you O Amir of the Believers. He then said: “O people, whoever obeys Allah ta‘ala then it is an obligation to obey him, and whoever disobeys him, then he is not to be obeyed; so obey me as long as I obey Allah; and if I would disobey Him then you are not obligated to obey me.”
Among what was said about his humility is that once a person praised him in his presence, he said to him: “O you, had you known about myself what I know about it, you would have not looked at me twice.” He took care of returning the rights to their owners and restored the just laws.
On another occasion he asked a person : “Who is the master of your people?” He said: “It’s me.” ‘Umar said: “If that was true, you would have not said that.”
He made his slogan zuhd (being detached from the worldly interests) and keeping himself away from the vanished pleasures of this world. Malik Ibn Dinar said: When ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was entrusted to the Caliphate the shepherds in the hills of the mountains said: “Who is the righteous caliph that has been appointed to look after the people ?” Some said to them: “Who told you about that?”. They said: “Because, if a righteous caliph was to be appointed to look after the people, then the wolves and lions would leave off our sheep.”
It was also said about his fairness and justice to people that if a person was to give a large sum of money to the poor, his money would be returned to him untouched because nobody would be found to take it. People were satisfied in his days, and it was said: “‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz had fulfilled the needs of the people.”
Also it was related that a poor Arabian came to ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz and said: “O Amir of the Believers I came to you out of poverty, I have nothing left and Allah will question you about me on the Day of Judgment.” ‘Umar was shaken out of fear of Allah and said to him: “Repeat what you have just said.” The man did. ‘Umar, may Allah raise his rank, bent his head down-words and cried until the floor underneath him was soaked. He ordered his workers to give that man three hundred, and to each one of his daughters one hundred – he had eight daughters –. On top of that he gave him one hundred and said: “I gave you this one hundred from my own money, go and spend it on your needs until it is time for the charities (sadaqat), you would then take from them along with Muslims.”
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz, may Allah raise his rank, innovated a good innovation which was agreed upon by the scholars of his time, since it complied with the rules of the Shar‘ (Religion). That innovation was: Making the holed mihrab where the imam stands while leading the prayer. He was the first one to make the mihrab.
He was the first one who stopped people from cussing Imam ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib may Allah raise his rank from the minarets. The Umaiyyads used to order others cuss our Master ‘Ali may Allah raise his rank.
He wrote to his workers not to handcuff any jailed person for it prevents him from performing Prayer. He also wrote to them: “If your power over people were to lead you to treat them unjustly then remember the Power of Allah over you, and that what gives you the power to order them would be gone; and that what would bring you torture due to treating them that way would stay.”
He abolished the taxes too which were placed unjustly by the Umaiyyads, and gave the money back to its owners. In addition to other great deeds he did in serving the Muslim nation.
Initially, during the Call of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, many Muslims were diligent in memorizing the (hadith) sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him. As Islam spread through many countries, battles increased killing many memorizers of hadith. The remaining memorizers were dispersed throughout the countries. Growing concern arose that some of memorizers might keep the hadith to themselves; verification of hadith became little and falsehood and fabrication was being mistaken for the genuine truth. The need to write down and document the hadith became very apparent. The first person who ordered written documentation of hadith was ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz; who did so after he was appointed to the office of Caliphate. He viewed written documentation as the best means of preserving genuine hadith of the Prophet Peace be upon him.
In “Fathul-Bari” for Ibn Hajar it was mentioned that: “The first one to write down the hadith was Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri at the turn of the first century by the order of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz.” Al-Bukhari also mentioned in “al-Fath”: ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz wrote to all the countries: “Search for the hadith of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and assemble them.”
When ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz was dying Muslimah Ibn ‘Abdul Malik visited him and said: “You have forbade your kids from this money and left nothing for them, they must have something, if you were to authorize me or my likes among your relatives we could fulfill their needs and take care of them.” ‘Umar then asked them to help him to sit and said: “What you have just mentioned about forbidding them from having this money and leaving them with nothing, I did not prevent them from what belongs to them, and I was not going to give them what belongs to the others. As for what you have mentioned about fulfilling their needs and taking care of them with my relatives, I say that I would leave them to the care and protection of Allah Who revealed the Qur’an. The off-springs of ‘Umar are of two kinds: One who is God-fearing, and Allah will provide him with the means of sustenance from wherever he does not expect, and the other is the one who disobeyed Allah, so I will not be the first one in helping him to disobey Allah with money. Call my kids for me.”. He looked thoroughly at them until his eyes were filled with tears and said: “I was under a choice between making you rich and that your father would enter Hellfire, or that you will be poor and he would enter Paradise. So I loved that you will be poor and I would enter Paradise rather than being rich and enter Hellfire. I ask Allah that you will never need anybody and to provide you with the means of sustenance.” It was said that ‘Umar’s kids never needed anybody’s support after his death nor they got poor.
We would like to mention a matter here about the permissibility of seeking blessings (tabarruk) by the Prophet and his traces sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz asked that some of the hair of the Prophet which he used to have that it be buried with him. He said: “If I die, put this in my shroud.” They did that for him after he died. This was mentioned by Imam an-Nawawi in his book “al-Asma’ wal-Lughat” in the chapter of the biography of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz.
‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, died in Rajab in 101 AH at the age of 39 and few months in Homs (present time in Syria) in an area called “Dayr Sim‘an”. His Caliphate lasted two years and five months. He was buried therein. Muslims visit his grave seeking blessing by asking Allah for things by the virtue of this just caliph.
May Allah have mercy on him and gives us the benefit by his virtue.