The Jews of Jerusalem, after a prolonged siege agreed to
submit to the Muslim army, but with one condition: they would hand over
the keys only to the leader of the Muslims, to the Caliph. When the
message was sent to Hazrat Umar, he immediately set out for Jerusalem;
accompanied by his one slave, and with one horse between them.
The Caliph did not think it fit that he should ride and his
servant should walk, so he decided they could both take turns on the
horse. The Caliph’s garments were threadbare, and he had to stop just
outside Jerusalem, at the house of a Jewish priest to have them mended.
Seeing their condition, the priest offered to give him a new garment.
But Umar would have none of it, he wanted his old garment patched up.
This hurdle cleared, they finally neared the gates of
Jerusalem. It so happened that it was the turn of the slave to ride. To
the poor chap’s considerable embarrassment and against his vociferous
protestations, the Caliph insisted he take his turn.
So it was thus that the Caliph of the Muslim empire entered
the gates of Jerusalem, wearing a patched up garment and leading a
horse with his slave sitting on it.
Umar was known to be a tough man. He was hard and
unrelenting when it came to anything to do with Islam. He had once had
the son of the governor of Egypt whipped in public because he had
whipped another man saying “take that, I am the son of a nobleman.”
He had the young man called and gave the whip to the man
who had been whipped, and asked him to whip this “son of a nobleman.”
When he had done this, he asked him to whip the governor because it was
his position that had inspired the man to this cruelty. But the man
desisted, saying he was satisfied that justice had been done.
A man who had quarreled with his wife, went to the Caliph
to complain. When he neared his house, he heard sounds of a women
berating someone. He was much surprised. At the gate, he was even more
surprised to see, through the gaps in the curtain, that the man being
berated was none other than the Caliph himself who was sitting with his
head bowed while his wife stood over him and loudly complained about
The man went back, convinced this was not the right place to take his complaint to
Caliph Umar had a slave who was not a Muslim. He used to
impress upon him the benefits of converting to Islam. “But I did not”
says the slave, “Because I was not convinced.” finally Umar released him
from slavery and let him go, telling him that there was no compulsion
in religion. It was much later, after the death of the Caliph that the
slave converted to Islam.
There is another well known story related to Umar’s stay in
Jerusalem. The water he was given to perform ablutions for prayers, was
very clear and cool. He asked from where the water has come from. He
was told it was from the well of an old woman. He went to meet her and
asked her to convert to Islam. She showed him her hair which had turned
white, and said something to the effect that it was rather late in the
day to do that. Umar recited a verse from the Quran which means, “To you
your religion and to me mine” and came away.
During the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, an aunt of his
wife came to visit him. At first she was not able to find the house as
he was not residing in a palace. She asked around, and was directed to
his house. When she went in she found her niece, a princess, grinding
spices. A servant was standing at the other end of the house
whitewashing a portion of the wall. But every now and then he would turn
back to look at the princess.
The aunt was quite enraged at the sight. Approaching the
princess, she started by berating Umar bin Abdul Aziz for keeping her in
such a condition. Then she said, “first of all send this man away, he
keeps turning back to look at you. His intentions are not good.”
The princess soothed her aunt and started asking her about
the well being of her family members in Baghdad. But the aunt was
impatient, “first, send that man away.”
“I can’t,” she said, “he is my husband, Umar bin Abdul Aziz.”
A man from the nobility was passing by an orchard. He saw
that the slave appointed to guard it was having his meal – sharing it
with his dog. The man would put one morsel into his mouth and then put
the other in the dog’s mouth.
The nobleman was very surprised. He approached the slave
and asked him about himself. What was his name, to whom did the orchard
belong, etc. then he asked ‘Why was he sharing his meal with the dog?’
‘It is not bearable for me to eat while a pair of live eyes watches me, and not share my food with it.”
Couldn’t the dog be fed something simpler? Asked the nobleman.
“The dog has been my companion through winter and summer,
through night and day, I therefore prefer to give him the same food that
I eat myself,” the slave replied.
The nobleman left the place praying for blessings on the slave
A neighbour has many rights on his neighbour. The Prophet
once said that Hazrat Jibreel the archangel used to so impress upon him
the rights of neighbours that he though the next command would ask them
to be made inheritors in a person’s wealth.
Islam enjoins upon a Muslim that he should not raise his
walls over those of his neighbours so that his is deprived of air. He
should be careful that smoke from his cooking fire do not trouble his
neighbour. He should be careful that he either shares what he eats with
his neighbour or if he does not, he should ensure that the eyes of his
neighbour’s children do not fall on them.
If his neighbour starts suffering from starvation, it is
his duty to help him get food or else he would be held responsible for
it on the day on judgement.
Islam suffered from a great deal of persecution during the
days Muslims were in Mecca. One of the chief opponents was the Prophet’s
own uncle Abu Lahab. Abu Lahab was also the Prophet’s neighbour. His
wife used to put offal, refuse, garbage and thorny plants near the
Prophets house. The Prophet in retaliation would only ask them
sometimes, “Haza hakkul jawar?” Is this the right of a neighbour?
During the time of the Prophet the Muslims were very poor.
Going without food for days was quite common and those who did have
something shared it with as many people as it was possible.
A sahaba (a companion of the Prophet)received the head of a
goat as gift. (it was customary to give raw food as gift then). Even
though he himself had nothing to eat, he thought of someone, whose need,
he felt was still more urgent. So he had the head sent to him. Sometime
had passed when a man came to his house bearing a goat’s head as a
gift. He was of course surprised to see another head being given to him
on the same day.
But he was even more surprised to find, on closer
inspection, that the head was the same one which he had sent out
He went back to the person who had sent it to him this time
and asked him from here he had got it? The second man referred him to
another person, and this that man too to another person until, after
going through 5 men he came to the person to whom he had initially sent
the head. They each had passed on the head in the belief that the other
person was more needy.
One day Hazrat Shibli, a renowned Islamic scholar of the middle ages, told himself “You are mean.”
“No, no,” his other side quickly countered. “But, you are,” said the first self. “Of course not,” said the other.
“Of course, of course, you are mean,” said the first self.
“Alright! Let’s do a test.” said the second self. “The first amount of
money that I get I will give it to a beggar, however large it maybe..”
He was not even done forming the resolution that a man came
and gifted him a bag of hundred gold coins. Quite a large amount of
money in those days. Shibli took the money and went out in search of a
beggar. He found one getting his hair cut. Shibli went up to the beggar
and told him he wanted to give him 100 gold coins as a gift. “Ok” said
the beggar, “give it to the barber for cutting my hair.”
Hazrat Shibli was startled. “One does not pay so much for
getting a hair cut.” The beggar immediately looked up, and said, “You
are a mean man.”
Hazrat Shibli realizing his mistake quickly tried to hand
over the money to the barber. But the barber declined, saying that he
had resolved not to take any money from the beggar, as he was poor and
Thoroughly disgusted, Hazrat Shibli went and dumped the coins into the sea.
One day the Prophet and his wife Hazrat Aisha were passing
thorough a desert. The Prophet proposed a race to a sand dune. Hazrat
Aisha agreed. They both ran and Aisha being lighter and younger won the
Some years passed, and Prophet and his wife were again
passing through the desert and the Prophet again proposed a race. Hazrat
Aisha had put on weight in the meantime and this time the Prophet won