Umar bin Al-Khattab in Jerusalem
Umar bin Al-Khattab, of the Bani Adi clan, was a famous leader. His father, Khattab Bin Nufail, well-known for his violent temper, was not rich, yet Umar was one of a very few people in his clan who could read and write. So he was frequently chosen to represent them whenever there was any internal dispute or a disagreement between them and other clans.
He was an extraordinarily tall, strong man, well-built with broad- shoulders and large hands and feet; a man who always walked quickly and whose presence was so strong that it forced people to listen whenever he spoke.
Abu Bakr, during his Caliphate, depended heavily on Umar for advice not least because Mohammed (PBUH) himself, during his life-time, gave great credence to Umar. When Abu Bakr fell ill and realized that his end was close, he chose Umar to succeed him.
The new Caliph chose a title of “Amir Al Mu’mineen” (Commander of the Faithful). But he became widely known as Al Farooq, which means “…the one who knows the difference between right and wrong”. During Umar’s time, the Muslims’ power and presence spread to many places, including Persia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and other parts of North Africa.
And today I will tell you an incident occurred when Palestine was conquered. Umar came in person to Jerusalem, where he signed the famous Peace Treaty. It ran as follows:
The Caliph left Ali ibn Talib in Medina as his deputy and himself left for Jerusalem. He had only one attendant with him and only one camel to ride. Umar and the attendant rode the camel by turns. It happened to be the servant's turn to ride on the day when they were to reach Jerusalem. "Commander of the Faithful," said the attendant, "I give up my turn. It will look awkward, in the eyes of the people, if I ride and you lead the camel." "Oh no," replied Umar, "I am not going to be unjust. The honor of Islam is enough for us all."
The Patriarch had prepared himself to meet with the most powerful ruler of his time, Caliph Umar. From where he was standing, he saw a tall man walking, dressed in ordinary clothes, while holding the rope of a camel, and surrounded by Muslim generals; another person was riding on the camel. For a moment, the high priest, used to the pompous way Heraclius had carried his affairs, was confused as to who the Caliph was. Was the Caliph the man riding on the camel or the one pulling the camel? Eventually, recognizing the Caliph, he surrendered the key of the city.
Next the Caliph signed the treaty of peace. As follows:
"From the servant of Allah and the Commander of the Faithful, Umar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be quite free to follow their religion. They shall not be put to any trouble..."
The gates of the city were now opened. Umar went straight to the place of the Al Aqsa Mosque, where he said his prayers. Next he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the city. He was in the church when the time for the afternoon prayer came.
"You may say your prayers in the church," said the Bishop.
"No," replied Umar, "if I do so, the Muslims may one day make this an excuse for taking over the church from you."
So he said his prayers on the steps of the church. Even then, he gave the Bishop a writing that said the steps were never to be used for congregational prayers nor was the Adhan [call to prayer] to be said there.
By Nouran Radwan