Umar (c. 581-83 CE – 7 November, 644), also known as Umar the Great or Omar the Great was a Muslim convert from the Banu Adi clan of the Quraysh tribe, and a righteous companion of Muhammad. He became the second Caliph (634 – 644) following the death of Abu Bakr, and is thus regarded by Sunni Muslims as one of the Rashidun (four righteously guided Caliphs).
When Muhammad began preaching Islam, `Umar ibn al-Khattāb resolved to defend the traditional, polytheistic religion of Arabia. He was most adamant in opposing Muhammad and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims. In those days, the early Muslims lived in fear of their life and often did not openly pray in the kaaba. To overcome this oppression, Muhammad explicitly prayed, 'to strengthen the religion with Umar' According to an early story, recounted in Ibn Ishaq's Sīrah, `Umar resolved to assassinate Muhammad. On the way to assassinate Muhammad, Umar met a Muslim who told him to set his own house in order first, as his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Upon arriving at her house, `Umar found her reciting verses of the Qur'an. When he listened carefully to the Surah's verses,he was so struck by the sūrah's verses, that he accepted Islam that very day. When `Umar later went to inform the chief of Quraish, Abu Jahl, about his acceptance of Islam. According to one account, Umar, thereafter prayed openly in Ka'abah as the Quraish chiefs, Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan were said to have watched in anger. According to the same account, this further helped the Muslims to gain their confidence in practicing Islam openly, since no one dared to interfere with Umar when he was openly praying.
In the following years, he participated at the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khaybar, and the raid on Syria, as well as many other engagements. He was one of Muhammad's companions. In 625, `Umar's daughter Hafsah was married to Muhammad.
Abu Bakr was Caliph for only a short time. Most of his caliphate was occupied with the Ridda Wars, in which tribes who tried to desert the Muslim alliance were brought to heel. Umar was one of his chief advisors. Just before his death in 634, Abū Bakr appointed Umar as his successor.
During Umar's reign, the Islamic empire grew at an unprecedented rate, taking Mesopotamia and parts of Persia from the Sassanids (effectively ending that empire), and taking Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa and Armenia from the Byzantines. Many of these conquests followed major battles on both the western and eastern fronts. The Battle of Yarmūk, fought near Damascus in 636, saw a small Muslim army defeat a much larger Byzantine force, permanently ending Byzantine rule south of Asia Minor. A Muslim army achieved victory over a larger force in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah (c. 636), near the banks of the Euphrates River. During the course of the battle, Muslim general Sa'ad bin Abu Waqqas routed the Sassanid army and killed the Persian general Rostam Farrokhzād.
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Beneficent. This is what the slave of Allah, Umar b.Al-Khattab, the Amir of the believers, has offered the people of Illyaa’ of security granting them Amaan (protection) for their selves, their money, their churches, their children, their lowly and their innocent, and the remainder of their people.
Their churches are not to be taken, nor are they to be destroyed, nor are they to be degraded or belittled, neither are their crosses or their money, and they are not to be forced to change their religion, nor is any one of them to be harmed.
No Jews are to live with them in Illyaa’ and it is required of the people of Illyaa’ to pay the Jizya, like the people of the cities. It is also required of them to remove the Romans from the land; and whoever amongst the people of Illyaa’ that wishes to depart with their money together with the Romans, leaving their trading goods and children behind, then they selves, their trading goods and their children are secure until they reach their destination.
Upon what is in this book is the word of Allah, the covenant of His Messenger, of the Khulafaa’ and of the believers if they (the people of Illyaa’) gave what was required of them of Jizya.
Then Umar asked the Patriach to lead him to the place of the old Jewish Temple. Umar was shocked to find the site covered in rubbish, as the Romans had initiated the custom of using it as a dung heap. `Umar knelt down immediately, and began to clear the area with his hands. When the Muslims saw what he was doing, they followed his example, and soon the entire area of al-Aqsa, approximately 35 acres, was cleaned up. Thereafter, commissioned the construction of a wooden mosque on the southern end of the site, exactly where the present-day mosque of Al-Aqsa stands.
`Umar was then led to the sites of the Foundation Stone by a rabbi, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, who had converted to Islam. The rock was surrounded it by a fence, and several years later an Umayyad Khalif built the Dome of the Rock over the site.
Upon taking Jerusalem, `Umar demonstrated the utmost respect for members of the other faiths living in the city. For the first time in 500 years since their expulsion from the Holy Land, Jews were allowed to practice their religion freely and live in the vicinity of Jerusalem. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, seventy Jewish families took up residence in the city. `Umar also agreed to several pacts, called the Umariyya Covenant, with the local Christian population, determining their rights and obligations under Muslim rule.
As a conqueror, `Umar undertook many administrative reforms and closely oversaw public policy. He established an advanced administration for the newly conquered lands, including several new ministries and bureaucracies, and ordered a census of all the Muslim territories. During his rule, the garrison cities (amsar) of Basra and Kufa were founded or expanded. In 638, he extended and renovated the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina. He also began the process of codifying Islamic law. At the same time, `Umar also ordered the expulsion of the Christian and Jewish communities of Najran and Khaibar and forbade non-Muslims to reside in the Hijaz for longer than three days. (G. Levi DellaVida and M. Bonner, Encyclopedia of Islam, and Madelung, The Succession to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), p. 74)
As a leader, `Umar was known for his simple, austere lifestyle. Rather than adopt the pomp and display affected by the rulers of the time, he continued to live much as he had when Muslims were poor and persecuted. In 639, his fourth year as caliph and the seventeenth year 17 since the Hijra, he decreed that the years of the Islamic era should be counted from the year of the Hijra.
In the account by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Eutichius, it is said that `Umar paid a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and sat in its courtyard. When the time for prayer arrived, however, he left the church and prayed outside the compound, in order to avoid having future generations of Muslims use his prayer there as a pretext for converting the church into a mosque. Eutichius adds that `Umar also wrote a decree which he handed to the Patriarch, in which he prohibited that Muslims gather in prayer at the site.
Another story tells of the meeting between `Umar and Hurmuzan, a Persian leader who fought against the Muslims, but later converted to Islam. He found `Umar sleeping on the ground after he had sought him out for battle, and was amazed at his humility and austere lifestyle. The story continues that Hurmuzan declared: "You ruled by justice, therefore you became safe; only because of that, you are now able to sleep peacefully anywhere.
Umar died in 644, the victim of an assassin's dagger. His killer, Pirouz Nahavandi (also known as Abu Lulua) was a Persian Soldier who was in both wars of Jaloola and Nahavand and taken as a captive in the second. Most probably Firuzan was a Zoroastrian as the majority of Iranian were at the time of Arab occupation of Iran in 7th century. One day when the caliph was leading prayers in the mosque, Pirouz Nahavandi walked over to him and stabbed him. There are varying accounts about the actual events that took place. Some believe that when Pirooz got to Umar he used his dagger to rip his stomach open from below belly all the way to his neck. and then stabbed him in his back as well and some say that he stabbed Umar six times. `Umar died two days later, and was buried alongside Muhammad and Abū Bakr. Uthman ibn Affan was chosen as his successor, by a group of people appointed by Umar before his death.
Omar's submission to Islam was a conquest, his migration was a victory, his Imamate (period of rule) was a blessing, I have seen when we were unable to pray at the Kaabah until Umar submitted, when he submitted to Islam, he fought them (the pagans) until they left us alone and we prayed.
Umar was a very pious individual who applied the laws of Islam sternly both to himself and others, and no Muslim would stand against him.