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Omar

OMAR OMAR I. (Abii Hafssah Ibn-al-Khattab), successor of Abu Bekr, and second khalif of the Mussulmans, was the third cousin of Abdullah, the father of the prophet. The worn enemy at first of Mohammed, whose life he attempted, and whose doctrines he opposed, he was converted to Islam in a manner apparently miraculous, and became one of Mohammed's most zealous and ardent followers ; he accompanied him in all his military expeditions, and contributed by his experience and abilities to the success of his cause. Mohammed.] After the death of Abu Bekr (a.d. C34), whose hajeb, or '"humberlain, he was, Omar was sworn khalif according to ilie express wish of his predecessor. The first act of his nlmitiistration was to remove from the command of the Syrian armies the celebrated Khaled Ibn Walid, surnamed The sword of God,' who by his rapacity and cruelty' towards the vanquished had made himself obnoxious. Omar ■-placed him by Abu Obeydah Ibn-al-Jerrah, another brave .eneral who had distinguished himself in the wars against he Greeks; but Khaled had virtue enough to accept the ocond post in the army, and he continued to serve under the tew general. These two commanders prosecuted the con; uest of Syria, and took Damascus, its capital, in the month t Rejeb, A.h. 14 (August-September, A.d. 63a). After the capture of Damascus, the Moslems proceeded the reduction of Emesa, Hamuli, and Kennesrin. The inperorHeraclius sent a considerable force to stop the pro-' ress of the Arabs, but the Greeks were completely defeated t i he bloody battle of Yermuk (63C). The following year f7) Omar sent Amru Ibn-al-Ass and Sarjil to besiege Jerusalem. The city was stoutly defended by the garrison, it after a siege of several months the patriarch Sophrous, who commanded in it, agreed to surrender to the Mosms, but refused to treat with any other except the khalif niself. A messenger having been despatched to Omar, to was then residing at Medina, he hastened to Jerusalem lowed by a scanty suite. Omars journey from Arabia to destine has thus been described by the historian Tabari. i u rode a sorrel-coloured camel, and was dressed in an old tered habit of hair-cloth; he carried with him, in two ^s, his provisions, consisting of dry fruits, bailey, rice, and iled corn, besides a skin for the water. Whenever he I ted to make a repast, he permitted those who aecom nied him to partake of it, eating from the same wooden h: if he took any rest, the earth was his couch. During march he administered justice to all applicants; in urol instances he corrected the laxity of morals, and i •lined several abuses, especially among the new con ; abolishing also many luxurious indulgences which I spread among the Moslems, such as the drinking of ic, the using of silken garments, etc. . . . Arrived at the ip, he caused several Moslems to be seized and dragged .ugh the mud for having, in disobedience to his orders. ;ived themselves in the silken tunics of the conquered uek*.' After a short conference with Sophronius, the as of a capitulation were agreed upon, and the keys of holy city were delivered up to Omar. The articles of capitulation of Jerusalem have already been translated inet de VOrient, vol. ii.), but as they were the model n which the Moslems dictated many others to the sub 1 cities of Africa and Spain, we shall transcribe them e. 'The inhabitants shall retain their lives and property; v shall preserve the use of their churches, but they shall i'l no new ones; they shall neither place crosses upon -.• which they already have, nor hinder the Moslems from .•ring them night or day; they shall not ring their bells, they shall be allowed to loll them; if a Moslem travels ii.gh the city, the inhabitants shall give him hospitality three days. They shall not be enforced to teach their • lren the Koran, but they shall not try to convert any -,lMn to their religion; they shall in every instance show ioet for the Moslems, and give them the precedence; . shall wear turbans and shoes, and use names different n I heirs. They shall be allowed to ride on horseback, without either saddle or arms; they shall never go out ,uut their girdles ;* they shall not sell wine to the Moslems, .- girdle ii distinctive of all Christian* Uwn trting under Uie Mo.icd«n sway. P. C No. 1031 and shall remain faithful to the khalif, and pay regularly the taxes imposed upon them.' Omar made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem towards the middle of the year 16 of the Hejira (a.d. 637). After conversing for awhile with Sophronius, and addressing to him several questions on the antiquities of the place, visiting the Church of the Resurrection, and saying his prayers under its portico, he desired to be conveyed to Bethlehem, where he also performed his devotions. Returning again to the city, he caused a magnificent mosque to be erected on the site of Solomon's temple, the same which still remains an object of great veneration to the Mussulmans. The taking of Jerusalem was followed by the reduction of all the principal cities of Palestine, while Khaled and Abu Obeyduh made themselves masters of Laodicea, Antiochia, Aleppo, and Balbek. Being master of Syria, Omar prepared to invade Persia, a kingdom then ruled by a king named Yezdejerd, against which he had at the beginning of his reign unsuccessfully contended (034). Saad lbn Abi Wakkiss, who was now entrusted with the command of the army, penetrated far into Persia, defeated at Kdesiyyah a powerful array commanded by Rustam, whu fell in the battle, took possession of Bahr-Shir, in the western quarter of the city of Madayin, the anlient Ctesiphou, founded the city of Kufah near the Euphrates (638), crossed the Tigris, and at last took Madayin, the capital of Yezdejerd's kingdom. In the meanwhile Amru Ibn-al-Ass, who commanded the armies of Egypt, completed the conquest of that country by the reduction of Alexandria (64U). It was then that the famous library founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus is said to have been destroyed by the conquerors. Upon an application from Amru to the khalif to know his pleasure concerning its contents, an answer was returned, commanding its destruction, ' for,' said Omar, ' if the books of the Greeks agree with the book of God (Koran), they are supcrlluous, and need not be preserved ; and if they disagree, they are pernicious, and ought to be destroyed.' In consequence of this decision, we are told, and (notwithstanding all Gibbon's ingenuity to discredit the account) we are inclined to believe, that the manuscripts were delivered up to the four (others say five) thousand public baths in the city, to which they served as precious fuel for six months. [alexandrian Library.] The conquest of Egypt was followed by that of part of Africa. Amru pushed his victorious arms as far as the deserts of Tripoli and Barca. Armenia was in the meanwhile subdued by Mugheyrah (641), and Khorassan (64'2) by Ahnuf Ibn Kays, another of Omar's lieutenants. In the same year was fought the famous battle of Neuavend, which decided the fate of Persia. Einiz, who now commanded the armies of Yezdejerd, was killed, and the monarch himself obliged to seek an asylum at Furghanali among the Turks, where he died soon after in poverty. The success which attended the arms of Omar, his unflinching severity towards the vanquished who would not embrace the religion of the prophet, and, more than all, the inexorable justice which he dealt among his own people, excited against him numerous enemies at home and abroad, and several attempts were made upon his life. Iabalah lbn Ahyam, chief of the Arabian tribe of Ghosan, became one of his most implacable enemies. Although a tributary to the Greek emperor, in whose states he lived with his tribe, and though professing the Christian religion, Iabalah went to see Omar at Medina, swore obedience to him, and embraced Islam with all his followers. Omar then took him with him on a pilgrimage to Mecca. While the neophyte was making as usual seven times the circuit of the Kaabah, an Arab of low extraction happened to run against him, and was the cause of the prince's cloak falling oflflns shoulders. Iabalah resented the incivility by immediately striking the man a blow on the face. The man made his complaint to Omar, who, having summoned Iabalah to his presence, sentenced him to receive a similar blow from the complainant. Against this sentence, just as it was, Iabalah most warmly remonstrated, saying that he was a king among his own people, and that the offender deserved to be punished with death. 'My friend,' said Omar to him, 'the religion that thou and 1 follow makes no distinction between the king and the subject.' Rather than submit to the sentence, Iabalah secretly left Mecca with all his suite, abjured Islam, and sought the protection of the Greek emperor. He hod moreover sworn to revenge the outrage. Vol. XVI.-3 K Having communicated his plans to a resolute young slave of his, Wathek Ibn Musufer by name, he promised him his liberty, if he should succeed in killing Omar. Having arrived at Medina (638), where the khalif was then residing, Wathek was informed that Omar was in the habit of sitting down every day under a tree on his way to the mosque. Wathek, having climbed up the tree, awaited the arrival of Omar, who took his seat beneath it and fell asleep. Wathek was upon the point of coming down for the purpose of stabbing Omar with his dagger, when, lifting up his eyes, he saw a lion walking round him and licking his feet. Nor did the lion cease to guard the khalif until he awoke, when the lion instantly went away. Wathek was so much struck by this circumstance, that he came down, kissed the khalif's hand, confessed his intended crime, and embraced the Mohammedan religion. The life of Omar however was at length ended by assassination. A Persian slave of the Magian sect, whose name was Abu Lulu Finiz, had been obliged by his master Almugheyrah Ibn As-shaabah to pay him two dirhems daily, in conformity with the Mohammedan custom, for the free exercise of his religion. Firuz, resenting this treatment, brought a complaint before the khalif, and requested that some part at least of the tribute exacted of him might be remitted; but this favour being refused by Omar, the Persian swore his destruction, and some days afterwards, while Omar was performing his morning devotions in the mosque at Medina, he stabbed him thrice in the belly with a sharp dagger. The people fell upon the assassin, but he made so desperate a defence, that although he was armed with no other weapon than his dagger, he wounded thirteen of the assailants, and seven of them mortally. At last one of the khalif's attendants threw his cloak over his head and seized him; upon which he stabbed himself, and soon after expired. Omar languished five days. He died on a Friday, in the month of Dhu-1-hajjah, A.h. 23, answering to the month of November, A.d. 644. He was buried on the following Saturday, close to the prophet and Abu Bekr, in a mosque which he had founded at Medina, where his tomb is still visited with great respect by the Mussulmans. Having been asked, some time before his death, to name his successor, he refused; and upon the suggestion of one of his courtiers that he should leave the khalifate to his son Abdullah, he remarked, 'It is enough that one out of my family has been forced to bear this burden, and account afterwards to his God for the command and government of the faithful.' Omar was sixty-three years old when he died. Authors a.e at variance as to the duration of his khalifate: the bestinformed historians however say that he reigned between ten and eleven years. Abu-\-fci\!i(An. Mosl., torn, i., p. 251) says ten years, six months, and eight days. Omar was tall; he had a clear complexion; his head was bald. Mohammedanism cannot boast of a more virtuous sovereign or a more zealous apostle. It has been said of him that he contributed more efficaciously to the advancement of the Mohammedan religion than the prophet himself. Khondemir, the celebrated Persian historian, thus recapitulates the praiseworthy acts of this khalif:—' He took from the infidels 3G,000 cities or castles, destroyed 4000 temples or churches, and founded or endowed 1400 mosques.' The prophet had the greatest esteem for Omar, whose daughter Hafssah ho married. On a certain occasion he was heard to say, ' If God had wished to send a second messenger to this world, his choice would undoubtedly have fallen on Omar.' The devotion, humility, and abstinence of this khalif have become proverbial among the Mussulmans. He never tasted any other food than barley-bread and dates; water was his only drink; and he was often found asleep under the porch of a mosque or beneath a tree. He complied most strictly with all the precepts of the Koran. Eutychius tells us that during his khalifate he performed nine times the pilgrimage to Mecca. In order better to conform to the regulations of the Koran, he lived by the work of his hands, supporting himself entirely by the sale of leather belts which he manufactured. But the quality for which Omar was most conspicuous was justice, which he is said to have administered with an even hand to infidels as well as believers. The historian Waked! says that the staff of Omar was more dreaded than the sword of his successors. In the lifetime of Mohammed, a Moslem, condemned for his iniquitous treatment of a Jew, happening to appeal to Tiar from the sentence of the prophet, ho immediately him down with his scymitar for not acquiescing in the sentence of so upright a judge. From this cinvmstance Mohammed gave Omar the surname of Al-faruk, which he retained ever afterwards, a word meuuux the divider, or the discriminator, thus doubly alluding i his action and the discernment which prompted it. Seven! of the best Mohammedan institutions date from ll reign of Omar. It was in his time that the era of tbt Hejira, or flight of Mohammed, by which all Muhamme U nations compute their years, was established, and its beg-.; ning fixed on the 16th day of July, Ad. 622. He wot tl« first who kept armies under pay, and assigned pensions u officers out of the public revenue: he instituted a sort police force to watch at night for the security of the citizens; and he promulgated some excellent regulation* respecting the duties of masters towards their slaves. He vu also the first who assumed the title of Amir al-mummi? (commander of the faithful) instead of that of Khahfaorasuli-llahi (vicar of the messenger of God), wince U» predecessor Abu Bekr had used. Omar's memory t u object of the greatest veneration among Mussulmans of (ik Sunni, or orthodox sect; not so among the Shiites. or partisans of Ali, who look upon the three first khalife, Abu Bear. Omar, and Othman, as usurpers of the khalifate, to the prrjudicc of Ali, to whom, they pretend, it belonged a* lie nearest relative of the prophet. (Abu-1-feda, Annates Moslemici, translated by Re»w Hafnno, 1790, torn. )., fol. 250, etseq.; Al-makiu, Hntana Saracenica, apud Erpenium, Ludg. Batav., 1625, p. Scu seq.; Baudhatu-lmanddhir, by Ibn Shihnah, MS.; Ttm History of the Saracens, by Simon Ockley, p. 300; Ibn ii Khatlib, Historia Calipharum, apud Casiri; Bib. At. Bu Esc, vol.ii.,p. 177, etseq.;D'Hcrbelot, Bib Or., in voc.CA Ben al-Khailab, Khaled, Damashh, hkandriaA, et Gibbon, Decline and Fail, vol. ix., p. 222; etc)

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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