Hazrat Umar in Jerusalem, Son of a nobleman, Wifely dutiesr, Conversion
Anecdotes: Beyond the Written Word
The primary text of any religion is the one that it writes across the pages of history; in actual lived experience of its followers and the in the experience of those who came in contact with it. Without this all the books and philosophies would be mere words.
A glimpse of what was said, and what was practiced by the early Muslims is given below to give an idea of what Islam really means by its numerous injunctions.
Hazrat Umar in Jerusalem Son of a nobleman Wifely dutiesr Conversion
The worker The dog and the slave Neighbourly duties Sharing
Being Mean Playfulness    

Hazrat Umar in Jerusalem

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.

Son of a nobleman

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.

Wifely duties

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 something.

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.

The worker

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.”


The dog and the slave

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

Neighbourly duties

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 earlier.

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.

Being Mean

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 penniless.

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 race.

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 the race.

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