Tuesday, April 06, 2004

'Umar's Exemplary Austerity
[Source: Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs: Prepared From the Works of Ibn Katheer, at-Tabari, as-Suyooti, and Other Historians (pp. 189-192)]

'Umar ibn al-Khattaab was an example to be followed in humbleness. Similarly, he led a harsh life of austerity and lived on coarse food. The one single goal he aspired to was Paradise. 'Umar used to patch his clothes with the skin of camels. Notwithstanding his lofty, awe-striking status, 'Umar never hesitated to carry a water bottle on his shoulders. He would ride a donkey with no saddle and a riding camel bridled with fiber. He rarely laughed or joked with anyone. He wore a ring on which was engraved: "Death Teaches the Best Lesson, O 'Umar."

Qataadah reports: "When 'Umar arrived in Syria, he was brought food, the like of which he had never tasted before. He therefore said: 'This is for us? What about poor Muslims who live on barley bread, which never satisfies their hunger?' Khaalid ibn al-Waleed (radiyallahu 'anhu) answered: 'They will be rewarded with Paradise.' 'Umar's eyes thereupon were filled with tears, and he said: 'If this is our share, while they end up winning Paradise, they are away ahead of us.'" (Reported by Ibn al-Jawzi)

When 'Umar first became the Caliph, he declared: "I am entitled to only two garments to be paid for from the Treasury, one in winter and another in summer, as well as provisions for my household similar to the provisions of an average man from Quraysh who is not one of their wealthiest. I am only an ordinary Muslim."

It is also related that 'Umar (radiyallahu 'anhu) was once late for the Friday congregational Salaat. When he arrived at the mosque, he went up to the pulpit and apologized to the people saying: "I was held back because of this garment of mine. It is the only one I have got and it was being sewn." The garment was white with the sleeves hardly reaching his wrists. (Reported by Ibn Sa'ad)

Jaabir ibn 'Abdullaah mentions: "'Umar ibn al-Khattaab (radiyallahu 'anhu) saw me carrying some meat. He asked me: 'What is this, Jaabir?' I answered: 'I hungered for meat so I bought some.' 'Umar returned: 'Do you go out and buy whatever you hunger for?! Do you not worry about what this verse tells you: You received your good things in the life of this world (46:20)?

It is recounted that Hafs ibn Abul-'Aas used to be present when 'Umar ate, yet never touched the food. 'Umar asked him: "Why is it that you never join us?" He replied: "The food you eat is rough and coarse. Back home, I will find good food prepared for me." 'Umar returned: "Do you think I am incapable of ordering an ewe to be skinned, flour to be sifted and place in a piece of cloth then baked into tender bread, and amounts of raisins to be soaked in water?" Hafs wondered: "I can see you are well-aware of what a luxurious life is all about!" 'Umar answered: "I am. I swear by Him in Whose Hands my soul is, had I not been worried that the reward of my good deeds might diminish, I would have joined you in this life of yours." (Reported by Ibn Sa'ad)

'Umar was once admonished and told: "If you eat good food, you will be more capable of discharging your duties." 'Umar returned: "My two companions followed a certain course in life. Should I digress from it, I will not enjoin a status equal to theirs."

During the Year of Famine, 'Umar lived on bread and oil till his skin darkened. He used to say: "Damned would I be as a ruler, if I ate to my heart's content while people went hungry."

True are indeed the words of Talhah ibn 'Ubayd when he said: "'Umar was not the first among us to embrace Islam, nor the first to migrate. Yet, he outdid us all in renouncing worldly pleasures and was certainly the keenest on winning Allah's reward in the Hereafter." (Reported by Ibn 'Asaakir)
Shumayl ibn 'Ajlaan said: "Whoever considers death before his eyes, does not bother whether he lives in luxury or in hardship."

One of the pious people of the past said: "Beware of the life of this world, because its magic is more effective than that of Haroot and Maroot. They seperate a man from his wife, whereas the life of this world seperates a man from his Lord."


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