Umar bin Abdul Aziz: A great Muslim ruler

Umar bin Abdul Aziz: A great Muslim ruler
Updated 14 September 2012

Umar bin Abdul Aziz: A great Muslim ruler

Umar bin Abdul Aziz: A great Muslim ruler

JEDDAH: THERE are a few rulers in the world who have left indelible impressions in history. Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz tops that list. He is considered one of the finest rulers in Muslim history, second only to the four rightly guided caliphs — Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (RA). In fact, in some circles, he is affectionately referred to as the fifth and the last caliph of Islam.
The Roman emperor, when heard about his death, said: "A virtuous person has passed away... I am hardly surprised to see an ascetic who renounced the world and give himself to the prayers of Allah. But I am certainly surprised at a person who had all the pleasures of the world at his feet and yet he shut his eyes against them and lived a life of piety and renunciation."
Umar bin Abdul Aziz ruled as a caliph for only 30 months but during this short period he changed the world. His tenure was the brightest period in the 92-year history of the Umayyad Caliphate.
He was the son of Abdul Aziz bin Marwan, the governor of Egypt while his mother, Umm-i-Aasim was the granddaughter of Caliph Umar Ibn Al Khattab.
Umar bin Abdul Aziz was born in 63 A.H. (682 A.D.) in Halwan, Egypt, but he received his education in Madinah from his mother’s uncle, the celebrated scholar Abdullah Ibn Umar. He stayed in Madinah till his father’s death in 704 A.D., when he was called by his uncle Caliph Abdul Malik and was married to his daughter Fatima. He was appointed governor of Madinah in 706 A.D. succeeding Caliph Waleed bin Abdul Malik.
Umar remained governor of Madinah throughout the reigns of Caliph Walid and Caliph Suleiman. But when Suleiman fell seriously ill, he wanted to appoint heir, as his sons were still minors. Reja ibn Haiwah, the adviser, proposed to him to appoint his cousin Umar bin Abdul Aziz as his successor. Suleiman accepted the suggestion.
After being nominated caliph, Umar addressed the people from the pulpit saying: “O people, I have been nominated your caliph despite my unwillingness and without your consent. So here I am, I relieve you of your pledge (baiyat) that you have taken for my allegiance. Elect whomsoever you find suitable as your caliph." People shouted: "O Umar, we have full faith in you and we want you as our caliph." Umar continued, “O people, obey me as long as I obey Allah; and if I disobey Allah, you are not duty-bound to obey me."
Umar was extremely pious and averse to worldly luxuries. He preferred simplicity to extravagance. He deposited all assets and wealth meant for the ruling caliph into the Bait Al Maal. He even abandoned the royal palace and preferred to live in a modest house. He wore rough clothes instead of royal robes and often went unrecognized in public like his great grandfather Caliph Umar ibn Al Khattab.
After his appointment as caliph he discarded all the pompous appendages of princely life-servants, slaves, maids, horses, palaces, golden robes and real estates and returned them to Bait Al Maal. He also asked his wife Fatima to return the jewelry she had received from her father Caliph Abdul Malik. The faithful wife complied with his bidding and deposited all of it in the Bait Al Maal. Later, he got his articles of luxury auctioned for 23,000 dinars and spent the amount for charitable purposes."
He never built a house of his own. Allama Suyuti in his historical work "Taarikh Al Khulafaa" records that Umar spent only two dirhams a day when he was caliph. He received lesser salary than his subordinates. His private properties yielded an income of 50,000 dinars annually before his nomination, but when he returned all his properties to the Bait Al Maal, his private income was reduced to 200 dinars per annum. This was his wealth when he was commanding the vast Caliphate from the borders of France in the West to the borders of China in the East.
Once his wife found him weeping after prayers. She asked what had happened. He replied: "I have been made the ruler over the Muslims and I was thinking of the poor who are starving, and the sick who are destitute, and the naked who are in distress, and the oppressed that are stricken, and the stranger that is in prison, and the venerable elder, and him that hath a large family and small means, and the like of them in countries of the earth and the distant provinces, and I felt that my Lord would ask me about them on the Day of Resurrection, and I feared that no defense would avail me (at that time), and I wept."
He was very considerate to his subjects.
His generous reforms and leniency led the people to deposit their taxes willingly. Ibn Kathir writes that thanks to the reforms undertaken by Umar, the annual revenue from Persia alone increased from 28 million dirham to 124 million dirham.
He undertook extensive public works in Persia, Khorasan and North Africa, including the construction of canals, roads, rest houses for travelers and medical dispensaries.
The result was that during his short reign of two and half years, people had become so prosperous and contented that one could hardly find a person who would accept alms.
Umar is credited with having ordered the first collection of Hadith, in an official manner, fearing that some of it might be lost. Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Hazm and Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri, were among those who compiled Hadith at Umar’s behest.
Following the example of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), Umar sent out emissaries to China and Tibet, inviting their rulers to embrace Islam. It was during the time of Umar that Islam took roots and was accepted by a large segment of the population of Persia and Egypt. When the officials complained that because of conversions, the jizya revenues of the state had experienced a steep decline, Umar wrote back saying that “Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a prophet (to invite the people to Islam) and not as a tax collector." He abolished home tax, marriage tax, stamp tax and many other taxes as well. When many of his agents wrote that his fiscal reforms in favor of new converts would deplete the Treasury, he replied, "Glad would I be, by Allah, to see everybody become Muslim so that you and I would have to till the soil with our own hands to earn a living."
Once a Muslim murdered a non-Muslim of Hira. Caliph Umar, when informed of the event, ordered the governor to do justice in the case. The Muslim was surrendered to the relations of the murdered person who killed him.
The general princely class of that time could not digest these policies of justice, simplicity and equality. A slave of the caliph was bribed to administer the deadly poison to him. The caliph having felt the effect of the poison sent for the slave and asked him why he had poisoned him. The slave replied that he was given 1,000 dinars for the job. The caliph took the amount from him and deposited it in Bait Al Maal. Freeing the slave he asked him to leave the place immediately, lest anyone might kill him. This was his last deposit in the Bait Al-Maal for the welfare of Muslims.
Umar died in Rajab 101 AH at the age of 38 in a rented house at the place called Dair Sim’aan near Homs. He was buried in Dair Sim’aan on a piece of land he had purchased from a Christian. He reportedly left behind only 17 dinars with a will that out of this amount the rent of the house in which he died and the price of the land in which he was buried would be paid. And thus departed the great soul from the world.
May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace and award him the best place in Paradise.


A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan
El Mesaharty Hussien wakes up residents for their pre-dawn meals during the first day of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Updated 06 June 2016

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

Millions of Muslims around the world on Monday marked the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Others will begin fasting a day later, Tuesday, due to a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.
Here are some questions and answers about Islam's holiest month:


WHY DO MUSLIMS FAST?

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one's inner self.
 It's seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify, refraining from habits such as smoking and caffeine. Muslims often donate to charities during the month and feed the hungry. Many spend more time at mosques during Ramadan and use their downtime to recite the Quran.
 London's new Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote in the Guardian that he plans to use Ramadan to "build bridges" and break bread with Muslims and non-Muslims around the city at synagogues, churches and mosques, though he acknowledged that 19-hour-long fasts during the longer summer days in Europe and forgoing coffee will be challenging.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing Haj.


HOW DO MUSLIMS FAST?

Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan. A single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette is enough to invalidate the fast.
However, Muslim scholars say it's not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day. Ramadan is also an exercise in self-restraint. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip and arguments. Sexual intercourse between spouses is also forbidden during the daytime fast.
Just before the fast, Muslims have a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day, the "suhoor." Egyptians eat mashed fava beans called "ful," spiced with cumin and olive oil, while in Lebanon and Syria, popular suhoor food is flatbread with thyme, cheese or yogurt. In Afghanistan, people eat dates and dumplings stuffed with potato and leeks, first steamed, then fried.


HOW DO MUSLIMS BREAK THEIR FAST?

Muslims traditionally break their fast like Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day.
After sunset prayers, a large feast known as "iftar" is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, apricot juices are an iftar staple. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular. 
Every night of Ramadan, mosques and aid organizations set up tents and tables for the public to have free iftar meals.

CAN MUSLIMS BE EXEMPTED FROM FASTING?

Yes. There are exceptions for children, the elderly, those who are ill, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people traveling, which can include athletes during tournaments.
 Many Muslims, particularly those living in the United States and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who aren't observing Ramadan. 
However, non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed in some Mideast countries.
In many predominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia, karaoke bars and nightclubs are closed across much of the country for the month. Restaurants there use curtains to conceal customers who eat during the day.
 And in Egypt, the Dar Al-Ifta, which is the main authority in charge of issuing religious edits, on Monday warned against eating in public, saying this is not an act of "personal freedom, but chaos — an assault on Islam."
 In China, minority Uighur Muslims complain of heavy restrictions by the Communist Party, such as bans on fasting by party members, civil servants, teachers and students during Ramadan, as well as generally enforced bans on children attending mosques, women wearing veils and young men growing beards.

WHAT ARE SOME RAMADAN TRADITIONS?

Typically, the start of the month is welcomed with the greeting of "Ramadan kareem!" Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque among Muslims called "taraweeh. "
Egyptians have the tradition of Ramadan lanterns called the "fanoos," often the centerpiece at an iftar table or seen hanging in window shops and from balconies. In the Arabian Gulf countries, wealthy families hold "majlis" where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.
 Increasingly common are Ramadan tents in five-star hotels that offer lavish and pricey meals from sunset to sunrise. While Ramadan is a boon for retailers in the Middle East and South Asia, critics say the holy month is increasingly becoming commercialized. Scholars have also been disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In Pakistan, live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors. In the Arab world, month-long soap operas starring Egypt's top actors, rake in millions of dollars in advertising.



HOW DO MUSLIMS MARK THE END OF RAMADAN?

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during "Laylat al-Qadr" or "the Night of Destiny." It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran. 
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.
 Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day at parks and eating — now during the day.


Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
Updated 23 September 2015

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
CHICAGO: A Muslim teenager who became an overnight sensation after a Texas teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb has been withdrawn from his school, local media reported Tuesday. Ahmed Mohamed, 14, won invitations to the White House, Google and Facebook last week amid a surge of public support for the aspiring inventor who was taken away from school in handcuffs. "Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great," Obama tweeted hours after the story broke. Mohamed's father told the Dallas Morning News that all three of the family's children are being withdrawn from the Irving Independent School District. "These kids aren't going to be happy there," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed told the paper. The sudden attention, while welcome, has been overwhelming for the family and Ahmed hasn't been eating or sleeping well, his father said. "It's torn the family, and makes us very confused," Mohamed said. Plenty of schools have offered to take Ahmed, but his father thinks a bit of a break is in order. The family will be flying to New York on Wednesday after receiving invitations to meet with dignitaries at the United Nations. They are also trying to get visas to take Ahmed on a pilgrimage to Makkah. "I ask Allah to bless this time," Mohamed said. "After that, we'll see." The son of Sudanese immigrants who live in a Dallas suburb, the young robotics fan brought in a home-made clock to impress a new teacher at MacArthur High School. "It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it and I got arrested," he told reporters last week. Local police insisted that Mohammed's ethnicity had nothing to do with the decision to arrest him on suspicion of bringing a hoax bomb to school. No charges were laid after it was determined the teen had no malicious intent. Along with the invitation to astronomy night at the White House next month, Mohamed also got a scholarship to NASA's Space Camp invitations to drive NASA's Opportunity rover, tour MIT and intern at Twitter. He posted a picture of himself visiting "amazing projects and people" at Google's science fair on his Twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, Monday.

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat
Updated 03 October 2014

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

A large number of pilgrims climb Jabal Al-Rahma in Arafat to pray standing on the mount, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is the most famous place in Arafat after the Namira Mosque. Located between the seventh and eighth roads east of Arafat, Jabal Al-Rahma is 300 meters long and seven meters high. Some pilgrims wrongly believe that their Haj would not be complete without standing on this mount. During his farewell sermon, the Prophet said: “I stood here and all other places in Arafat are valid for the stand in prayer ritual” during the peak of the pilgrimage.

Human rights
Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission, has called on Muslims to get inspired from the message of Haj as well as from the last sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) that contained important principles for the protection of human rights. “What was mentioned in the last sermon represents the first comprehensive document for human rights,” Al-Aiban said. “We have to follow the Prophet’s instructions in that speech including protection of women, respect for blood and honor and fulfillment of trust.”

Sacrificial meat
The Kingdom’s Sacrificial Meat Utilization Project, which is managed by the Islamic Development Bank, enables pilgrims to perform their sacrifices easily during Haj and make use of the meat of sacrificial animals. Since its inception in 1983, the project has utilized and distributed meat of more than 17 million livestock among the poor in Saudi Arabia and 27 other countries. IDB is offering Adhahi coupons this year for SR490 ($131 or 98 euros), which could be purchased from Saudi Post offices,  Al-Rajhi Bank branches,  Al-Amoudi Foreign Exchange, the Association of Charity Gift for Pilgrims, and the Way for Retail Techniques Company.

Violators fined
The Passport Department has imposed fines worth SR6.6 million on violators during this Haj season. It also detained them for a total of 900 days and impounded 31 vehicles, an official statement said Thursday. On Wednesday alone it took punitive action against 40 Saudis and four expatriates for not carrying Haj permits. “The administrative panel will continue its meetings to make spot decisions on violators of Haj regulations,” it added.


Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Updated 03 October 2014

Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Allah the Almighty preferred some months to others, some days to others and some nights to others and selected specific times in the year to be seasons of worship and righteous deeds, and in these blessed times the reward for righteous deeds is multiplied and sins are forgiven. One of these blessed times is the Day of Arafat which is the 9th of the month of Dul-Hijjah (the 12th lunar month in the Islamic calendar).
As pilgrims gather in Arafat today for their most important ritual, it is worthwhile to talk about the merits of this blessed day and what we should do on this day to get the great reward from Allah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the days of the month of Dul-Hijjah, which is one of the four sacred months in the Islamic calendar. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Verily, the number of the months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
The four sacred months in the Islamic calendar are Dul Qada, Dul Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab, and they are the 11th, 12th, 1st and 7th months respectively.
The Day of Arafat is a day in one of the months of Haj as Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Haj (pilgrimage) is (in) the well-known (lunar year) months” (2:197). The months of Haj (pilgrimage) are Shawwal, Dul Qada and Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the well-known days that Allah the Almighty praised in the Noble Qur’an: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the Name of Allah on appointed days.” (Qur’an, 22:28)
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that those appointed days are the first 10 days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the ten days that Allah The Almighty swore by in the Noble Qur’an, Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:” By the ten nights” (Al-Fajr: 2). Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the ten nights mean the first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah, and these 10 days are the best days ever in the whole year as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No other days, in which righteous deeds are beloved by Allah, are better than these days. The Prophet’s companions asked: “Are they even better than jihad in the cause of Allah?” The Prophet replied: ‘Yes, they are, except a man who takes his properties and goes out for jihad and sacrifices his soul and properties for the sake of Allah.”
The day of Arafat is one of the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah on which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to observe fasting, and some of the prophet’s wives narrated that he used to observe fasting during the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to observe fasting on the day of Arafat in particular, and when he was asked about fasting on the day of Arafat, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Fasting on the day of Arafat is an expiation for the sins committed in the previous year and the sins will be committed in the next year.” Yet, for those who are performing Haj, they are not recommended to observe fasting on the Day of Arafat.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to supplicate to Allah on the Day of Arafat as he said: “The best supplication is the supplication on the Day of Arafat.” This of course manifests the great status of the Day of Arafat.
The aforementioned are some of the merits of the day of Arafat. We ask Allah The Almighty to assist us all to avail of the great opportunity of the day of Arafat, forgive our sins and guide us all to his right path.

Courtesy: douralquran.com

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Updated 03 October 2014

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Every year, Muslims from all over the world take part in the largest gathering on Earth, the Haj, or pilgrimage to Makkah.
The Haj is a religious obligation that every Muslim must fulfill, if financially and physically able, at least once in his or her lifetime.
During these historic days, white, brown and black people, rich and poor, kings and peasants, men and women, old and young will all stand before God; all brothers and sisters, at the holiest of shrines in the center of the Muslim world, where all will call upon God to accept their good deeds and forgive them. These days represent the zenith of every Muslim’s lifetime.
The Haj resembles the re-enactment of the experiences of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), whose selfless sacrifice has no parallel in the history of humankind.
The Haj symbolizes the lessons taught by the final Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who stood on the plain of Arafat, proclaimed the completion of his mission and announced the proclamation of God: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam, or submission to God, as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)
This great annual convention of faith demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind, the most profound message of Islam, which allows no superiority on the basis of race, gender or social status. The only preference in the eyes of God is piety as stated in the Qur’an: “The best amongst you in the eyes of God is most righteous.”
During the days of the Haj, Muslims dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations and say the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, for the same end. There is no royalty and aristocracy, but humility and devotion. These times confirm the commitment of Muslims, all Muslims, to God. It affirms their readiness to leave the material interest for his sake.
The Haj is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before God waiting for their final destiny, and as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances, but he scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
The Qur’an states these ideals really nicely (Qur’an, 49:13): “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other)). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
While Malcolm X was in Makkah performing his pilgrimage, he wrote to his assistants: “They asked me what about the Haj had impressed me the most... I said, ‘The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of the One God.’ All ate as one, and slept as one. Everything about the pilgrimage atmosphere accented the oneness of man under one God.”
This is what the Haj is all about.

Courtesy: islam.about.com