Did principles remain as a charter, like a modern Charter of Human Rights, the anniversary of whose declaration is celebrated by various countries each year, whilst it is violated by the major states every hour of every day of every month of the year? Did these principles remain confined to the land in which they were first proclaimed, as the principles of the French Revolution remained confined to France and were withheld from its colonies and the countries which fell under its rule or mandate? Were new statues set up, like the Statue of Liberty in New York, which is the first thing seen by those who come to that city, whilst the actions of America overseas speak for themselves, cursing and making a mockery of freedom, and persecuting those who love freedom? Let us listen to history, for it is the most truthful of witnesses.
Let us listen to the wonders of the humane tendency of our civilization and how it is manifested in the behavior of individuals and rulers. Abu Dharr, who was an Arab from Ghifaar, had an argument with Bilaal (may Allah be pleased with them), who was a black man from Ethiopia, the freed slave of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him). Abu Dharr and Bilaal were Companions of the Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him), people who believed in Islam and its Messenger. “The argument escalated until Abu Dharr was beside himself with anger, and he said to Bilaal, ‘O’ son of a black woman!’ Bilal complained to the Prophet, who said to Abu Dharr: ‘Are you insulting his mother? You are a man in whom there is ignorance (jahiliyyah)!’ Abu Dharr said that he thought that jahiliyyah meant sexual and moral deviance which only young men commit, and wondered how he could have done such a thing now, at his age … The Prophet said: ‘Yes, they (black people) are your brothers.'” Abu Dharr repented and regretted what he had done so much that he told Bilaal to step on his face, expressing the great extent of his repentance and regret. A woman from the tribe of Makhzoom committed theft at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and she was brought to him to be punished. This upset Quraysh and they said, “Who will intercede for us with the Messenger of Allah so that she may be spared the punishment?” Then they remembered that Usaamah ibn Zayd was dearly beloved by the Messenger, so they spoke to him and asked him to intercede for that woman. So Usaamah spoke to him and the Prophet became very angry and said to him “Are you interceding concerning one of the hadd punishments decreed by Allah?” Then he stood up and addressed the people, saying: “Those who came before you were only destroyed because if a nobleman among them stole, they would let him off, but if one of the weak stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By Allah, if Faatimah the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.,
Qays ibn Mutaatiyah (who was a hypocrite) came to a circle in which Salmaan al-Faarisi (the Persian), Suhayb ar-Roomi (the Roman), and Bilaal al-Habashi (the Ethiopian) were sitting, and said: “Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj (two Arab tribes of Madeenah) have undertaken to support this man [meaning Muhammad (peace be upon him)], so what are these people doing here? (meaning Salmaan, Suhayb and Bilaal).” Mu’aadh ibn Jabal stood up and grabbed him by the collar, then he went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told him what he had said. There he gave orders that the call should be given (a call for all the people to gather; also the call given to signal that ‘Eid prayers are about to begin). He addressed the people, saying, “O’ people, the Lord is one, the father (Adam) is one and the religion is one.”
‘Adiyy ibn Haatim at-Taa’i came to Madina one day when he had not yet become Muslim, and he attended a gathering in which the Messenger (peace be upon him) was sitting with his Companions around him; they had just come back from a military campaign and were still wearing their armor. He was astonished by the respect which the Sahabah (Companions) were showing to their Prophet, and whilst they were like that a poor woman, one of the slave-women of Madeenah, came to the Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him) and said to him, “O’ Messenger of Allah, I need to speak with you privately about something.” He said to her, “Wait for me anywhere in the streets of Madeenah and I will speak privately with you.” Then he got up and went and stood for a long time, listening to her. Then he came back, and when ‘Adiyy saw that, he was very moved by this humane attitude on the part of the Messenger of Allah, so he became Muslim.
When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) conquered Makkah, after a struggle that had lasted for twenty-one years, and he gained victory over those who had fought against him, expelled him and rejected him, he did not remember anything that day except his call and its principles, which he had been proclaiming when he was keeping a low profile in the alleyways of Makkah, and when he was ruling in Madeenah and laying the foundations of the Islamic civilization. On that day he announced the implementation of those principles which he had been proclaiming for so long before he achieved his final victory. Standing at the door of the Kaaba, with Quraysh, who had been so proud and had been ruled by an oppressive class system, listening to him, he said: “O’ Quraysh, Allah has taken away the pride of the jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boasting of forefathers. The people come from Adam, and Adam was created from dust.” Then he recited the words of Allah which affirm the principle which he had proclaimed even before his victory over Quraysh: ‘O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that [believer] who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqoon (the pious)] … (Qur’an 49: 13)
When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was the Caliph, he was the model of a modest leader whose heart and soul was filled with humane tendencies. When he was the Caliph he would come to the girls of the city who had lost their fathers in war and would milk their sheep for them. He used to say, “I hope that being caliph will not change me and stop me from doing the things I used to do before.” Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was the model of a Caliph who feels protective jealousy for his people, who is kind to the weak and strong in defending the truth. All the people were equal before him, and he even used to deny himself in order to give to the people and go hungry so that they could eat their fill. He used to check on the people in their homes, and there are many well-known stories of this.
One day he saw an old man in the marketplace, asking for charity. He asked him, “What is the matter with you, old man?” The man said, “I am an old man who is asking for help in paying the jizyah (tribute) and in spending on my own livelihood.” He was one of the Jews who lived in Madeenah. The great and humane ‘Umar said to him: “We have not been fair to you, old man. We took the jizyah from you when you were young, then we neglected you when you grew old.” Then he took him by the hand and led him to his house, where he gave him the food that he had. Then he sent word to the keeper of the Bayt al-Maal (treasury of the Islamic state), saying to him: “Give a salary to this man and others like him so that he and his children will be independent.”
One day ‘Umar was walking in the streets of Madina when he saw a young girl stumbling and falling as she tried to walk. ‘Umar said, “What a poor girl! Do any of you know who she is?” His son ‘Abdullah said to him, “Do you not know her, O’ Ameer al-Mu’mineen?” ‘Umar said, “No.” ‘Abdullah said, “She is one of your granddaughters!” ‘Umar said, “Which one?” ‘Abdullah said, “This is So and so the daughter of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (i.e., his own daughter).” ‘Umar said, “Woe to you! What has made her like this?” His son said to him: “What you have withheld of the things that are with you.” ‘Umar said, “You have no rights over me except your share, like other Muslims, whether that is enough or not. Let us refer to the Qur’an to judge between me and you.” A caravan of traders came to Madeenah, among which there were women and children. ‘Umar said to ‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf: “Can you guard them tonight?” So the two of them stood guard and prayed as much (all (voluntary) prayers) as Allah decreed that they should pray. Then ‘Umar heard a child crying, so he went to him and said to his mother, “Fear Allah and take care of your child!”
Then he went back to his place, and he heard the child crying again, so he went back to the mother and said, “Fear Allah and take care of your child!” Then he went back to his place. At the end of the night, he heard the child crying so he went to the mother and said, “Woe to you! I see that you are a bad mother! Why is it that your child did not settle down all night?” Not knowing that he was the Caliph she said to him, “O’ slave of Allah, I got fed up with you this night! I am trying to wean him but he refuses.” He asked, “Why (do you want to wean him)?” She said, “Because ‘Umar does not give a salary to a child until he is weaned (i.e., he does not give the parents a salary for their children until they are weaned).” ‘Umar asked, “How old is he?” She said, “Such and such a number of months.” He said, “Woe to you, do not be in a hurry.” Then he prayed Fa}r (dawn prayer), and the people could hardly hear his recitation because he was weeping so much. When he said the salaam (at the end of the prayer) he said, “Woe to ‘Umar, how many children of the Muslims he has killed!” Then he issued orders that a caller should tell them, “Do not hasten the weaning of your children, for we will give a salary to every child born in Islam.” And he also sent word of that to the regions of the Islamic empire.
Indeed, history has never told of anything more marvelous than this incident. There is no civilization that has equaled the marvel of ‘Umar in his democracy when he undertook himself to stay up at night and guard the caravan whilst its people were sleeping, at the time when he was the Caliph, the one who had defeated Chosroes and Caesar and inherited their kingdoms. He did what no one would do today except a guard who was commanded to guard something like this caravan and who would never do anything like ‘Umar did, taking notice of a crying child and telling his mother to take care of him three times. Who among us would do what ‘Umar did for the children of the caravan? Who among the leaders of history can match ‘Umar in his humane feelings? Let us listen to an even more marvelous story from the history of our civilization. Aslam the servant of ‘Umar narrated: “I went out with ‘Umar one night, and we went far from Madeenah, checking on the people who lived outside the city. We saw a fire from afar, and ‘Umar said, ‘I see over there some travelers who have stopped to rest because night has come and it is cold. Let’s go!’ So we set off running until we reached them, and we saw a woman with two small children and a huge pot on the fire. Her two children were crying and yelling. ‘Umar greeted her with salaam then asked her, ‘What is the matter?’ She said, ‘We have stopped to rest because night has come and it is cold.’ ‘Umar asked, ‘What is the matter with these two children? Why are they crying and yelling?’ She said, ‘Because of hunger.’ He asked, ‘What is in this pot?’ She said, ‘Water, to keep them quiet until they fall asleep … and Allah will judge between us and ‘Umar!’ (i.e., she was complaining about ‘Umar and praying against him). He said, ‘May Allah have mercy on you, how should ‘Umar know about you?’ She said, ‘How come he is in charge of us but he knows nothing about us?’ ‘Umar turned to me and said, ‘Let’s go!’ So we set off running until we came to the place where flour was stored. He took out a sack of flour and some butter, then he said, ‘Lift it up onto me.’ I said, ‘I will carry it for you.’ He said, ‘Will you carry my burden of sin on the Day of Resurrection?!’ So I lifted it up onto him, and we set off running again. He put those things down next to her, then he took out some of the flour and said, ‘Make the dough and I will bake it for you.’ He started blowing the fire beneath the pot. He had a huge beard and I could see the smoke coming out through his beard. He cooked that food for them, then he lifted the pot down and said, ‘Get me something.’ She brought a plate and he put food on the plate and said to her, ‘Feed it to them, and I will spread it out for them (i.e., so that the food will cool down).’ He kept on doing that until they had eaten their fill, and he left the leftovers with her. He stood up, and I stood up with him, and she started saying, ‘May Allah reward you with good, you deserve to be the Caliph rather than Ameer alMu’mineen (i.e., ‘Umar)!’ He said, ‘Say something good; when you come to Ameer al-Mu’mineen you will find me with him, Insha Allah.’ He walked away from her, then he turned back and stood watching her. I said to him, ‘Do you have something else to do?’ But he did not speak to me until he saw the children lie down, then they fell asleep and settled down. Then he stood up, praising Allah, and turned to me and said, ‘O’ Aslam, hunger kept them awake and made them cry, and I did not want to go away until I saw what I have seen.'”
Another story that demonstrates this unique humane pattern in the history of mankind is something else that happened to ‘Umar one night when he was following his usual habit of checking on the people. One night he passed through one of the quarters of Madeenah and he saw a tent from which could be heard the groans of a woman in pain, and there was a man sitting at the door of the tent. ‘Umar greeted him with salaam and asked who he was; he replied that he was a Bedouin who had come in hopes of getting something from the bounty of the Caliph. ‘Umar said, “What is this noise that I hear from inside the tent?” The man said, not knowing that he was speaking to ‘Umar, Ameer al-Mu’mineen, “Go away (may Allah have mercy on you) and mind your own business; do not ask about what doesn’t concern you.” But ‘Umar insisted on asking until the man told him, “It is a woman in labor, and she has no one to help her.” ‘Umar went back to his house and told his wife Umm Kalthoom bint ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with her), “Do you want a reward for which Allah has just given you the opportunity?” She asked, “What is it?” He told her what was happening and told her to bring with her the clothes that a newborn baby would need, and what the woman would need, and bring with her a pot containing grains and ghee. She brought those things; ‘Umar carried the pot and she walked behind him until they came to the tent. He told his wife, “Go into the woman.” He sat down with the man and lit a fire, and cooked the food he had brought, and the man was sitting there, not knowing who he was. The woman gave birth, and the wife of ‘Umar said from inside the tent: “O’ Ameer al-Mu’mineen, tell your companion the good news that he has a son.”
When the Bedouin heard that he knew that he was with the Caliph, and he got nervous and started to move away, but ‘Umar told him, “Stay where you are!” Then he brought the pot and told his wife to take it and feed the woman. When she had done that, he gave the pot to the man and told him, “Eat, woe to you, for you have stayed up all night!” Then his wife came out and he said to the man, “Tomorrow come to us and we will tell you something that is in your best interests.” The next day the man came to him and he gave him a salary for his son. In all that I have read about the great men of history, I do not know of any incident more wonderful, nobler, or more sublime than this.
They say that one day Washington, the liberator of America, was walking through the streets of the city that bears his name, and he saw some soldiers trying to lift a rock but they could not do it. Their sergeant was standing and not even trying to help them, and Washington said to him, “Help them to lift it!” The sergeant refused and said, “I will not stoop to that level.” Washington threw aside his cloak and helped them to lift the rock, then he said to them, “Whenever you need some help, ask for the house of Washington.” This is something rare that is indicative of a great character. But what is this in comparison to what ‘Umar did, when he gave up his sleep and rest at night and went to check on his people? When he heard of a pregnant woman in labor with no one to help her, he went back to his house and brought his wife in the depth of the night, with him carrying food and her carrying clothes, until they came to the tent and his wife – who in modem terms would be regarded as the “First Lady” of the state – played the role of a midwife, while he played the role of a cook.
What an example of sublime humanity that has never been reached by any president on the face of the earth! This is one of the great deeds of ‘Umar, and one of the wonders of our civilization which molded ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), a son of the desert, into a human being who reached the pinnacle of greatness as our civilization reached the pinnacle of human civilization. ‘Umar is not the only one whom our civilization made into a man who represented the perfection of merciful humanity. Abu Bakr, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them all) and other scholars, great men, leaders, devoted worshippers, and philosophers of our civilization, all form enduring examples of the sublime humane characteristics of our enduring civilization.