By Dr A Q Khan
August 31, 2015
Observing the grand entourage of our rulers makes me contrast the personality and reign of Hazrat Umar (ra), the second caliph. He ruled the largest dynasty of the time – almost ten times the size of Pakistan – stretching from Arabia to Azerbaijan and Armenia to Central Asia and Punjab.
Despite their regal lifestyle, our rulers continue to carry a begging bowl. Contrast that to how Hazrat Umar (ra) lived and ruled, his administration and governance. Our leaders could learn much from his way of governance. Should you wish to know more about Hazrat Umar (ra), please read Al-Farooq by Shibli Naumani. Here I would like to write about the visit of the Roman ambassador to Hazrat Umar (ra). I am reproducing this event as described by the indomitable Maulana Rumi, translated by Squadron Leader Waliuddin as Sel-e-Masnavi and published by the Kifayat Academy, Karachi and Lahore.
“Listen to a story so that you also learn something. A messenger from the Roman king came to Madina and asked the people for the address of the palace of the Caliph Umar (RA) so he could present the gifts he had brought. The people told him that Hazrat Umar (RA) had no palace and though he was renowned as a ruler, he lived like an ordinary poor person. How could you appreciate his grandeur when you are already prejudiced? You must remember that the Almighty is present everywhere, just like the moon.
“Had not the people asked the Prophet Noah where the blessings were that he had promised them. Some people with eyes are blind and cannot see the truth. On hearing this, the ambassador became even more curious to meet Umar (RA). He left his horse and presents unattended and went in search the Caliph. After looking around an Arab lady told him that Umar (RA) was sleeping on a mat under a date tree.
“The ambassador went there and stood at a distance and stared at the sleeping caliph. He thought that, while he had seen emperors and kings, he was never overawed; he had seen tigers and leopards and had never felt fear; he had fought many wars, his body had been covered with wounds and he had wounded many strong and powerful opponents, but he had never been afraid; I have always been a brave person, he thought, but this person, Hazrat Umar (RA), is sleeping unarmed and my whole body is trembling with awe. It is definitely due to a divine presence, not of a human being. One who is afraid of the Almighty and follows the right path can infuse fear into the hearts of others. Standing in deep thought, he just stared at the sleeping caliph.
“After about an hour Hazrat Umar (RA) woke up. The ambassador greeted him with the utmost respect. Umar (RA) greeted him back (our Holy Prophet [pbuh] advised to always greet first and then talk) and asked him to come closer and sit by him. Through his polite and kind behaviour, Umar (RA) put the ambassador totally at ease and made him happy. Then Umar (RA) explained the finer points of Islam, the one-ness of God, about His prophets and about His blessings on His prophets and pious people. Then Umar (RA) explained about the soul, the soul’s journey and its destination. Umar (RA) found this stranger to be quite receptive and put in his heart the gist of Islam.
“The ambassador asked many questions about the creation of the soul (human beings) and was informed that it was in the power of the Almighty to say ‘Be’ and it was done. The Almighty said something to the earth and it pushed out water. The same is true for human beings. When they are in trouble and facing a complex situation, then it is Allah, and only Allah Almighty, Who guides them what to do and how to do it. Umar (RA) advised the ambassador to turn towards Allah to understand the secrets of the Almighty. The revelation is nothing but to talk to the inner truth. Therefore, remembering that there is no God but Allah has made me more of a believer in Allah.
“My friend, this love for Allah and belief in His presence is no compulsion. This is a light – the light of the moon. My son, this compulsion, force, is felt only by those whose eyes and hearts have been unsealed by the Almighty. They can see the secrets of the future. It is child’s play to them to know about the past. Their power is just like the drops of water in a shell which are turned into beautiful pearls by the Almighty, or like the drops of blood in the intestine of a deer which is turned into musk. How copper is turned into gold is a manifestation of the Almighty’s work.
“This power and compulsion is just in your imagination. When you look deep down into it, you will realise that all this is the work of the Almighty. See, the bread on the plate is a dead thing, but when it enters the body of a human being, it becomes life, the soul of the body. It is not possible to distribute the bread when on the plate, but when it goes into the body, the body distributes it according to requirements.
“When life has so much power and strength, imagine what power the Creator of that life must have. Think about the strength of a mine. On the face of it, man is nothing but a bundle of flesh and bones, but this creature can dig into mountains, bringing out the precious metals and stones. Look how the stone-breaker (Farhad) cut into stone but how our Prophet (pbuh) was able to cut the moon into two. If you understand these secrets and miracles, then you can reach the sky. If the Almighty chooses to open all these secrets, love for Him can burn the whole world.”
After this discourse, the ambassador embraced Islam and did not return to his emperor.
Tailpiece: Due to lack of space I have severely shortened the text, which has somewhat lessened its impact, for which I apologise.
In my previous column, the name of a competent officer, Col Amjad, was erroneously left out. He made valuable contributions to our programme and could issue orders just with the movement of a finger.