Monday 28 April 2014

Quote of the day-

    "We are not a 'benign tumor.' Muslims are a vital organ."
    -Dalia Mogahed on the Muslim community in the West

Monday 21 April 2014

Happy Muslims, angry Puritanical Muslims.

Excellent Commentary by Adam Deen. I have to say I loved the video and it was great to see him in it.
The viral video Happy Muslims by The Honestly Policy seemingly caused some controversy and apparently not solely due to my poor dance moves. Many have questioned why I, and others, chose to participate in the video and what our ‘objectives’ were. So, despite some reservations, I’ve decided to weigh in….
My decision to take part was motivated by a desire to show mainstream Muslims as ordinary people, who can have fun and who have a sense of humor, away from the usual headlines sadly so typically associated with our community.  At a time of heightened islamophobia and suspicion, I hoped the video could contribute to rehumanising Muslims.   Far too often, Muslims are represented in the media for all the wrong reasons. An extensive body of literature and research indicates that on the whole, the images and discourse relating to Islam and Muslims in mainstream Western media tends to be overwhelmingly negative. These negative Muslim stories consequently affect wider society’s perception of the Muslim faith and its beliefs. Some would argue that the effects of such demonization have been the Muslim community being seen as a foreign body within wider society, or as the ‘other’. This phenomenon of reducing minorities to the ‘other’ is nothing new of course. History has its fair share of stories of one group dehumanising another group.   One cannot help but think that the constant negative portrayal of Muslims and charges of Muslim exceptionalism, have reduced Muslims to a less human alien minority within the West. The Happy Muslims video was in a way, an attempt to dispel the negative perception by presenting Muslims in a manner far removed from usual depictions, specifically, happy, smiling and having fun.
The reaction to the video by the majority of Muslims has been positive. But to no one’s surprise, Puritanical Muslim preachers have been outraged by the video (although to be fair, it really doesn’t take much), expressing hard line verdicts to excite the Islamic sentiments of the ignorant.  According to such individuals, the video was a clear violation of Islamic law, specifically such actions as dancing are deemed to be ‘Haram’ ie: a prohibited act. Of course, no matter the noble intentions behind the video, the means do not justify the ends. But can one make such a claim and condemn the video and those who took part?  When engaging with Puritanical Muslims, one discovers there really is little substance to their claims. Often Puritanicals ask for evidence to deem a given action ‘Halal’, or permissible.  Although this gives the impression that one is being true to the faith, the question is based on a false premise, namely that‘every action is Haram until sharia permits’.  E.g of a question, I had someone ask me “where is the evidence during the Prophet’s time, of the women of Medina dancing publicly?”
This is a completely topsy turvy way in which do deduce ‘Hukm’ , Islamic rulings, not to mention the fact it leads to absurdities. It’s analogous to the notion that one is guilty until proven innocent!   While it should be noted that this principle is true for Ibadat, i.e. acts of worship, it is not the case for anything else.
The correct view regarding fiqh (jurisprudence) of actions is ‘Every action is halal (permissible) until texts restrict’. Thus, the onus is on the Puritanical Muslims to find the evidence to deem dancing ‘Haram’ or impermissible. What constitutes evidence?
Scholars of jurisprudence were very wary of labeling something as Haram. The Quranic verse warms against those who forbid what God has made lawful [66:1]. Thus, anyone who takes it upon him or herself to deem something forbidden must have evidence, which must be ‘Qati’, definitive, to justify such a claim.
Essentially there are two undisputed sources of evidence in determining Islamic law, the Quran and Sunnah (sayings, actions and consent of the Prophet peace be upon him). The ‘Qati’ nature of evidence is also determined by two factors, sound epistemological status and unambiguous meaning. With regards to the former, the Quran is always considered sound whereas the hadith can vary depending on the grade of narration, or the ‘Isnad’. With regards to unambiguity of meaning, both verses and hadith can be ambiguous in meaning. Hence, why traditional Islam has a diversity of opinions on the topic of music and entertainment. So my challenge to the detractors is this, where is the clear-cut or definitive evidence to deem the video ‘Haram’ or impermissible?
There simply isn’t clear-cut evidence to dismiss it as such. Puritanical Muslims have been at pains to find a verse or hadith to vindicate their outcry. Some have made desperate attempts to even use ‘Qiyas’, analogical deduction, which itself is indicative that there is no direct evidence to prohibit the video. One example I’ve heard cited refers to the Quran suggesting that the prophet’s wives shouldn’t over-soften their voices as to avoid desire within the diseased heart of strange men. (Qur’an 33:32) The ‘argument’ goes: women dancing (like in the video) invokes desire in men, thus for the same reason, it should be prohibited. Putting aside that this verse is referring to the Prophet’s wives and even states, “ you are not like any other women”, it is simply a false analogy. Had the dance moves in the video involved Muslim women pole dancing seductively then perhaps one could entertain the analogy, but what is clear in the video, is that the dancing was innocuous – with some simply walking with a rhythm or bopping their heads to the tune.
Are these Puritanical Muslim men seriously claiming that the video was too seductive? The attempt to make the Happy Muslims video some sordid affair says more about them than about its actual content to be fair.
More importantly, this quasi-Islamic reasoning can lead to reductio ad absurdum, whereby any innocuous act can be deemed Haram. And, it’s precisely this type of obscure ‘Islamic reasoning’ that results in women becoming invisible in society.  What about women walking in public, hosting a TV programme or even driving? It’s simply an abuse of Islamic teaching to universally prohibit acts which some have a fetish problem with. Once you strip away the layers of obfuscation, all you discover is a naked obsession with sex, women and control masquerading as religious devotion. Traditional Islam describes women, as well as men with an ‘awrah’ (intimate parts) that must be guarded by the virtue of modesty. Puritanical Islam reduces women to nothing more than an ‘awrah’. Why should we even entertain the views of those who hold the opinion that women should be neither seen nor heard?
That said, given that the discussion is within the remit of fiqh exploration, if one wants to be charitable, one might allow the claim that some may deem the video ‘haram’. And yet, even this merely suggests a difference of opinion. What’s the consequence of this in terms of fiqh, responsibility and judgment? It means it can only be ‘haram’ for those who deem it ‘haram’, and not for those who differ with that interpretation! To see it any other way would be a form of authoritarian fiqh tyranny, a problem Puritanical Muslims suffer from quite regularly, wanting to impose puritanical ‘Islamic opinions’ on everyone else!
Of course, there have also been emotional appeals. Terms have been bandied around like “liberal” and “secular” and the appeasement of these ‘ideologies’ allegedly by those who appear in the video. The problem here again, is that the argument is based on a false assumption. What is acceptable in Islam is not defined as the opposite of how non-Muslims live or by somehow being ‘anti-Western’ (an odd term given that we are talking about British Muslims, ie ‘westerners’!). Also, despite the prevalence of such a belief, a view is no more Islamic simply because it is more restrictive. The more ‘liberal’ opinion could well be the more Islamic; any restriction on something without warrant is fundamentally unIslamic.   No to mention it crudely reduces every action to an ideological assertion. Dancing is not by definition an expression of an ideological creed.
The Happy Muslims video was an attempt to present a genuine picture of mainstream Muslims, but it has now become part of a broader move to push back against imported Puritanical Islam, the WalMart of Islam, that has dominated Muslim and Non- Muslim discourse for too long, masquerading as traditional Islam. Puritanical Islam is dead, long live Islam.

Thursday 17 April 2014

I love the Righteous Khalifah (rta)

Abu Bakr is in Paradise, Umar is in Paradise, Uthman is in Paradise, Ali is in Paradise, Talhah is in Paradise, Az-Zubair is in Paradise, Abdur-Rahman bin Awf is in Paradise, Saad bin Abi Waqqas is in Paradise, and Abu Ubaidah bin Al -Jarrah is in Paradise.
Prophet Muhammad, as narrated by Abdur-Rahman bin Awf.
[Sahih Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Governance of Islamic State during Caliph Hazrat Ali

 Only Allah can change things. That is why Islam takes its stand immovably upon the nature of things, upon the obvious realities of this world and of human experiences. Islam remains and will always remain what it is because of the timelessness of its message. All other religions have been changed, revised, and altered by the passage of time to meet the fancies and whims of their adherents. Islam, in order to preserve dignity and integrity of the human creatures, both man and woman, has persuaded them to move away from the chaos of the world and submit to the will of Almighty God. 

Human beings possess intellect and a relative free will, yet they do not have the capacity to make laws for the conduct of the society. The rulers, who had power and wealth, did not use them to improve the conditions of mankind but used them from time immemorial to oppress, exploit and control it. 

Our strong belief is that Allah is the sole legislator and law giver. That is why the message embodied in the Quran and the laws derived from it, and from the Suuah of the Prophet must be utilized to bind the community and keep it together. The main object of the Islamic laws is to bring human beings closer to Almighty God and to enforce and implement those laws through reformatory agenda for the betterment of mankind.

Islam developed a complete code of life. Prophet Muhammad became the greatest reformist of all times when guided by the Quranic laws and its principles. His own personal life, presented to the whole of mankind the forgotten message of the earlier Prophets. Revival of the forgotten message could only be achieved through faith and governance by upholding the dignity of man; by practicing the ideals of truth, equality and justice; by promoting education; by denouncing the differences of colour and race; by displaying boundless magnanimity and spirit of tolerance ; and by making peace with enemies.

One of the greatest Caliphs of Islam after Prophet Muhammad was Ali Ibn abi Talib, who as a young man lived under the guardianship of Prophet since childhood in the same house. He was the first youngest person to enter the folds of Islam, acquiring immense Islamic knowledge from the Prophet because of his constant companionship, and even as a young boy Hazrat Ali was his best helper. This developed in him the traits of piety, trust, clarity of thought and Islamic values that distinguished him from other companions of the Prophet. 

The migration of Prophet Muhammad has been described as one of the greatest adventures the history has known in the cause of truth and to propagate the Islamic convictions. At that time Prophet had many items and things in his custody belonging to people of Makkah. He needed to return these things in his charge and custody to their rightful owners. On the night he was leaving Makkah, he told Hazrat Ali Ibn abi Talib to sleep in his bed, and to later return things to the rightful owners before coming to Madina - Yathrib. The young boy Ali dutifully discharged his responsibility before he joined the Prophet and Hazrat Abu Bakr a few days later.

Hazrat Ali learned early in life the skill and ability to handle situations and issues and acquired knowledge. Being a genius, Hazrat Ali absorbed knowledge, lived a humble and simple life, always displayed the courageous and bold side of his personality and Islamic upbringing - rearing and training under the ideal guardianship of Prophet Muhammad.

Before Hazrat Ali assumed the office of the Caliph, he was the principal advisor of the first three Caliphs after the Prophet, Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Usman. He was proclaimed as the Caliph after the assassination of Caliph Hazrat Usman. At that time, unfortunate tensions and uncertainty was reigning supreme.

Hazrat Ali encountered more than his share of issues and problems when he become the Caliph. He had keenly watched the governors of various provinces during the Caliphate period of Hazrat Usman, and was now ready to streamline his administration and governance methods by replacing some of the governors. The prevailing conditions after the assassination of Hazrat Usman necessitated him to speed up the process of change. Hazrat Ali was advised to retain governors appointed by Hazrat Usman and to take the oath of allegiance instead of replacing them immediately with new governors. He, however, felt that the change would help in eradicating evils that had moved stealthily into the administration. Chaos of change contributed to disruption in Hazrat Ali's administration. The disruptions were many including the breakdown of law and order in Madina due to the uprising against Hazrat Usman and later his assassination. The calling for revenge by the Ummayyads, the tribe of Hazrat Usman, for his assassination; refusal to resign and relinquish the governorship position by governors of Syria and Kufah and their actions in stopping the newly appointed governors from assuming the office.

Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, did not allow Suhail bin Hanif, the appointed governor to enter Syria, and Amr bin Shiba, the new governor of Kufah was turned away from Kufah by show of force by forces loyal to the governor of Kufah. This turned out to be an open revolt against Hazrat Ali. In Madina , Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair, two prominent companions of Prophet Muhammad , had taken an oath of allegiance to Hazrat Ali, and were insisting that he take an immediate action to punish the assassins of Hazrat Usman. Hazrat Ali more disposed to enhancing the security of the Islamic state was not eager to take any drastic action against the insurgents that would make the situation more critical and explosive. It seems this infuriated Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. They sought the help of Hazrat Ayesha- Mother of Faithfuls. Ibn Aamer, the former governor of Basra, joined them and invited them to march to Basra where he had influence and support. In Basra, Uthman bin Hanif, the governor appointed by Hazrat Ali, was defeated by the forces led by Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair.

In the meantime, Hazrat Ali was planning to install the governor of Syria appointed by him and remove Muawiyah from the office who had refused to relinquish the office. This was the first time that Hazrat Ali was ready to show up in the battle field after a long period of absence. During the caliphate period of the first three caliphs - Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Usman, he had devoted his energies to the development of the moral and intellectual life of Muslims besides being an advisor; he seldom took part in battles. He learned that Basra was in the hands of Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. Hazrat Ali sent emissary to Kufah to negotiate and convince the people to support his caliphate. The mission succeeded and Hazrat Ali was invited to come to Kufah. He left Madina and went to Kufah where the people provided him complete support. From there, he went to Basra. Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair died in the battle that took place between the forces of Hazrat Ali and those supporting Hazrat Talha and Hazrat Zubair. It has been reported by historians that "Hazrat Ayesha was treated with due respect and consideration. After a few days stay in Basra she was escorted to Madina with due courtesy." 

Hazrat Ali moved to Kufah after bringing matters under control and settling affairs in Basra. In Kufah, the support, allegiance and enthusiasm provided a reason and a rational for Hazrat Ali to shift the capital of the Muslims state from Madina to Kufah. This further added to the disruption of administration because it indicated a break with the past and a cut off with the administrative process that was already in place and functioning effectively in Madina.

In the best interest of the unity and integrity of the Islamic state, Hazrat Ali made an attempt to convince Hazrat Muawiyah and advised him to take the oath of allegiance. In reply Hazrat Muawiyah led his forces from Syria to Iraq. The civil war between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah resulted in considerable loss of life. In the beginning Hazrat Ali offered to fight a personal dual with Hazrat Muawiyah to settle the issue which the later declined. In the battle field when the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah were on the verge of defeat, the men from his force tied leaves from the Quran on the lances and appealed for the decision by the 'Book of Allah'. Seeing this, Hazrat Ali's forces laid down their arms and decided to end hostilities, finally a truce was declared. Negotiations commenced after the truce to settle the matters through arbitration that proved to be a challenge to the legitimacy of the caliphate of Hazrat Ali. The arbitration proceedings became more politicized and the end of conflict was not in sight. The question of caliphate between Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah remained unresolved that produced another layer of disruption in Hazrat Ali's administration.

Then a group of fanatical men who came to be known as Kawarijis - the seceders, who had originally supported Hazrat Ali, began a cessation movement. The Kawarijis agreed to join Hazrat Ali and later refused to join him when he decided to go to war against Syrians and Hazrat Muawiyah. Hazrat Ali's frantic efforts failed to convince the Kawarijis, instead they turned on other Muslims and let loose a reign of terror at a site near Baghdad and accused both Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Muawiyah for betraying the Cause of Allah and declared their intention to start a new state. Hazrat Ali directed a campaign against the Kawarijis and defeated them in a battle.

After defeating the Kawarijis the forces of Hazrat Ali, instead of marching to Syria, returned to Kufah to take rest before moving on and facing the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah. Later Hazrat Ali's forces refused to proceed to Syria even after many attempts by Hazrat Ali who urged them to participate in the battle against the Syrians. Finally, he had to abandon the idea of leading the expedition to Syria. From the standpoint of one scholar, "Hazrat Ali came to be overwhelmed with troubles from all quarters, and the painful aspect of the tragedy was that such troubles came from friends."

The people of Basra revolted against the caliph but it was successfully suppressed, however, the campaign against the authority of Hazrat Ali by the forces of Hazrat Muawiyah in Madina, Makkah and Yamen resulted in people of these regions taking the oath of allegiance to Hazrat Muawiyah for a temporary period of time. The forces of Caliph Hazrat Ali took military action and recovered Hijaz and Yamen.

In Egypt, Amr bin Aas, one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, who had conquered Egypt, was made the governor. Later he was deposed by the Caliph Hazrat Usman. From Syria Hazrat Muawiyah approached Amr bin Aas and sought his help, trying to hold on to power in Syria. After getting assistance and support and help from Hazrat Amr bin Aas, Hazrat Muawiyah conquered Egypt and installed Hazrat Amr bin Aas as the governor.

The extremism and fanatical approach by the Kawarijis, to the state of affairs in the Islamic state, took a new twist ending in a conspiracy to kill Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Muawiyah and Hazrat Amr bin Aas. To achieve their aim the Kawarijis sent three assassins to kill them at an appointed time. In the attack Hazrat Muawiyah was wounded; Hazrat Amr bin Aas escaped injury and his deputy was killed; and Hazrat Ali was fatally wounded and passed away.

Hazrat Ali began his governance strategy during the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr. His knowledge that provided him insight, and acquired under the guardianship and training of Prophet Muhammad, helped him handle situation in a very simplistic manner to dispense justice. He would assist the weak in time of distress in the spirit of charity and humanitarian by upholding the Islamic values, by using his endowed daring and sound judgement and by using his insight. Hazrat Ali has been called as the greatest jurist of early Islamic period who was always on the side of simplicity, piety and tender heartiness, distributing the public money from the Baitul Maal among the needy and poor at all times.

Hazrat Ali's administration did not indulge in partisanship, partiality or nepotism and kept a constant watch on the administration of the governors appointed by him. He replaced many of the governors appointed by his predecessors. Some of the deposed governors refused to relinquish the office and forced him to take extreme measures to resolve the issue by going to war.

Some of the actions taken by Hazrat Ali gradually slowed down the activities of his administration; impeded swift effective actions; entangled him in revolt at many fronts including Basra, Syria, Egypt and other places; addede to disruptions to his administration when decided to make Kufah as the capital; and decided to go to war to fight against those who had revolted. On top of this Hazrat Ali agreed to the terms of the truce and arbitration concerning the governorship of Syria. This implied a challenge to the legitimacy of has caliphate. Then, there was this new threat and danger coming in from the Kawarijis, even betrayal on the part of his supporters including a section of his forces.

Hazrat Ali's bravery earned him the title of Asadullah - the lion of God. He was a great orator and had possessed the ability to persuade with stirring dialogue and speech. These traits and attributes, it seems, compelled him to launch wars against the deposed governors in various regions, contributing to the process of conquest coming to a halt, involved him in many battles that turned out to be a civil war among Muslims. Hazrat Ali's eloquence, bravery and honesty was brought face to face against the grave and severe realities of political maneuvering. These unscrupulous tactics and activities were used, and the game of deceit was played by some of those who opposed him.

In spite of all this Hazrat Ali established a state archive for the safe custody and preservation of the records of the Caliphate, created the office of Hajib- chamberlain, reorganized the police and streamlined their duties, established army headquarters on the Syrian border, strengthened the frontiers of the Muslim state and constructed unconquerable fortifications on the Persian border.

The glorious Caliphate period of the Righteous Caliphs - Khulafah e Rashideen - came to an end with the passing of Hazrat Ali, the brave, pious and eloquent orator.
Mohammad Yacoob a retired Industrial Engineer and Engineering Proposals Analyst, lives in Los Angeles, California.,USA

Monday 14 April 2014

‘Jinn’ – Shadows in the Night May Bring Islam, Muslims to Light

 Figures in the corners of your eyes, strange noises in the middle of the night, the feeling of being watched - have you experienced any of these? Yes?

Your heart races, adrenalin pumps through your veins and fear creeps into your mind - is it just your imagination? No? We know what the answer is. It's a jinn.

Since we were children, Muslims have told stories from generation after generation about the third being living on earth. With certainty and resolve, we know that it is exists, and we know that it's the answer to the fearful question of "What goes bump in the night?"

Now, the rest of the world will learn about what we've known about for years - the jinn. God creation made from smokeless fire, jinns live in the unseen world, in dimensions beyond our visible universe. 

On April 4, 2014 "Jinn," a true labor of love written and directed by Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad and much-anticipated by Muslim audiences, will open in theaters across the country. "Jinn" is the thrilling tale of Shawn, an automotive designer with a high-powered job, who appears to have the perfect life until one day when he receives a message that he will soon incur the wrath of a generational curse. When a series of nightmarish events reveal the ominous warning to be true, Shawn seeks the help from the mysterious Gabriel (Ray Park of "X-Men" and "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace") and tortured mental patient Ali (Faran Tahir of "Star Trek" and "Iron Man"), who knows about otherworldly force that is reaching out to him.

"Jinn" is a fun, family film that explores ideology never seen before on the big screen. Last weekend, the movie was screened to well-known and respected imams, who clapped at the end of the film and congratulated the producers on doing a good job at authentically telling audiences about jinns. 

"We made this film with the intention of creating a project that would make Muslims feel proud and not compromised," Ahmad said. "Though we did fill in the gaps with our imagination, we did a lot of research and were very careful not to make any missteps. This is no ordinary tale. We wanted created a film about good fighting evil and about people coming together to fight a common foe. This movie transcends the horror genre; it is a cool, action film."

A native of Michigan, Ahmad said the idea came to him at age 9 and said the concept for the whole idea may have come from jinn. Yes, you heard that right. There may be more to the film and the education of this inter-dimensional being than we know. 

"The reality is that the story of jinn also is a fresh and old concept," Ahmad said. "It's the best of both worlds. It's fresh to new audiences and appeals to an audience that has been waiting for a story about this for a while." 

However, beyond just being a fun movie, "Jinn" producers, who have poured millions into the project, said their ultimate goal is to create change.

"If you believe that there needs to be a change in the world about how minorities are depicted on the screen, then [seeing this movie] is the first step you can take to make that change," Ahmad said. "We are not doing this for money. We are doing this for the community."

These words may unfortunately ring true for a movie that is opening the same weekend as projected-blockbuster "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." However, if history is any kind of indicator, "Jinn" could be the perfect counterprogramming and sneak away with good numbers and a positive message for Muslims.

"It is important for us to create this type of content and to make these kinds of projects," Ahmad said. "We've seen the ramification the depiction it has on young people. We want them to be inspired to create this content, get involved in the media and find careers in the industry. This is the first time, we are seeing a hero on the screen that looks like us and shares our background." 

Filmed and produced in Michigan by Exxodus Pictures, the producers said they have a deep love for the state and the city of Detroit. Their intention was to shine a light on their home state in addition to telling an authentic tale.

"We filmed in Michigan because we want to help with the state's revival and the city's resurgence," said Shahid Syed, Partner & Executive Producer of Exxodus Pictures. "We received amazing support from Michigan, and the film has been welcomed with open arms"

The film crew said they were able to shoot in amazing places that others have not had access to before such as the Highland Park Ford Plant, the birthplace of the Model T; Turnip Rock in Port Austin, Michigan; and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Michigan.

"We are looking forward to celebrating the release of 'Jinn' with the people of Michigan," Ahmad said. "This weekend, we will be attending many screenings and enjoying the experience with the audience. This is an incredible opportunity for our community to say that our narrative is important, and we hope Muslims nationwide will mobilize. If you cannot support a movie that is made about us with the first line in the film being 'Bismillah,' then you can never complain again about not being counted." 

Exxodus has lofty goals for this weekend's release, saying that if just 10 percent of the American Muslim community made it to the theater, the industry would change overnight.

"It is imperative and our duty to mobilize as a group to watch this movie in the theater," Syed said. "On Monday morning when the box office tabulations come in, we want Hollywood and the Western world to take notice of the power of our community at the box office."

One thing is true: Religion is a hot commodity at the box office. From "Noah" to "God's Not Dead," Hollywood is taking notice of religious-based stores. It is now up to movie-goers to keep the momentum going and show that the box office might also include Muslims. 

Source: Marium F. Mohiuddin

Saturday 12 April 2014

Umar ibn al Khattab among the most influential people in history

Michael H. Hart wrote a book entitled "THE 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History" in 1978. Several other authors have written similar books but this still remains a distinguished book in it's category. The book is thought provoking and encourages the reader to see history from different perspectives.
He chose Prophet Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons which was surprising to many people. He said he chose Muhammad because he was the only person in the history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Michael Hart went on to count the traits and qualities of Prophet Muhammad and his overall impact on human history and arrived at the conclusion that Prophet Muhammad should be the number one person in the filed of 100 influential persons in human history.

Another surprise to many people was Michael Hart's choice of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab among the 100 influential persons, whom he not only included among these 100 persons but also put him as number two on the second half (51 to 100) of his choice. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab is 52nd on the list. He ranked him higher than such famous men as Charlemagne and Julius Caesar. He further says that Umar's brilliant leadership was responsible for the expansion of the Islamic territory and the enormous extent that it did occur under him. He further says that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab ordered the Muslim armies to leave the natives of the conquered land in peace and ordered the military personnel not to force the natives to convert to Islam. 
In the parenthesis Michael put his note, "From the above, it is clear that the Arab conquest was more a nationalist war of conquest rather than a holy war, although the religious aspect was not lacking". Michael Hart further says that Umar ibn Al-Khattab's achievements are impressive and it would be a grave mistake to ignore his contributions to humanity. It should be noted that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab's brilliant leadership was responsible for permanence of the territories that came under the Islamic role at that time and are still part of the Islamic world today.

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab is a pioneering figure in the Islamic world. He was a leader, a statesman, a pious and God conscious Muslim who showed respect for all individuals including non-Muslims and he ordered the Muslims to treat non-Muslims with respect. He showed us how to apply the Quranic injunction "there is no compulsion in religion."

Under the leadership of Umar ibn Al-Khattab Islam spread widely not by the sword but by virtue of its beauty, simplicity, transparency, openness and the leadership provided by him. Another reason for the rapid growth of Muslim community was the conversion of some high-placed religious personalities from among the Jewish and the Christian communities. These religious personalities saw Islam as a continuation and affirmation of the Abrahamic faith. Ardkun, the Bishop of Damascus, accepted Islam after the Islamic armies entered the city under Khalid bin Walid. The followers of Ardkun became attracted towards the new faith and became Muslim. The chief administrator of the city of Shata in Egypt, famous for its textiles manufacturing, left his town with two thousand men and went to city of Damietta where the Muslim army was camped and embraced Islam with his followers.

During the time of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the non-Muslims enjoyed freedom of religion. They were free to perform their religious rites, ring bells to start their religious ceremonies, take out the Cross in procession and hold religious fairs. Even treaties were signed during the time of Umar ibn Al-Khattab with non-Muslims that guaranteed freedom of religion. The writ of Hudhaifa bin al-Yaman to people of the region of Mahdinar says, "They shall not be required to change their religion, nor shall any interference be made in their religious practices."

Umar ibn Al-Khattab followed the principle of equality very strictly and would not tolerate any kind of distinction. Once, Umar ibn Al-Khattab had a difference of opinion with Ubayy bin Ka'b. The matter was referred and brought in the court of Qazi Zaid bin Thabit. When Umar ibn Al-Khattab arrived at the court the Qazi, Zaid bin Thabit, vacated his seat out of respect for the Khalifah. Umar ibn Al-Khattab, after observing the situation, said that this was the first injustice Zaid has done to the suit. Then he sat down next to Ubayy, his opponent.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab always favored individual freedom and self-respect. By word of mouth and through his writings he made it very clear that every human being was born free and no one should have to abase himself in front of others. Once, the son of Amr bin As abused and beat up a Copt Christian; on hearing this Umar ibn Al-Khattab had son of Amr punished publicly by the hand of the victim Copt Christian. Then Umar ibn Al-Khattab addressed both father and son and said, "Since when have you turned men into slaves, whereas they are born free of their mothers?"

The people of many cultures who accepted Islam faced new challenges. More complex questions regarding the Islamic way of life cropped up at the same time. Many of the questions could not be answered because clear rulings of the Holy Prophet or the Holy Qur'an were not available. The Qadis and Muftis appointed in towns and cities were Companions of the Prophet, yet they referred complicated questions to the Khalifah. The famous Sahabis who referred the question to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab are Abdullah bin Ma'sud, Ammar bin Yasar, Abu Musa Ash'ari, Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah, Mughira bin Shuba and others. Umar ibn Al-Khattab gave his judgment after discussing these questions in the assembly of the companions. The discussions were conducted with the greatest freedom and acumen. Shah Wali-Ullah writes in Hujjatullah al-Baligha, "It was Umar's practice to consult the companions and hold discussions with them, until the veils were lifted and conviction was attained. For this reason Umar's dicta were accepted throughout the East and the West."

It is said that his writings, his letters and official instructions were as powerful as his speeches. In a letter to Abu Musa Ash'ari he wrote, "People generally hate their ruler, and I seek protection of Allah, if my people should entertain similar feelings about me. Avoid vain suspicions and keep away from malice, and don not encourage people of cherish vain hopes, and be careful of Allah's property, and guard yourself against evil men. If you find any people who are vindictively inclined towards the Muslim state, it is devilish inclination and must be put down by the sword, until they bow to Allah's decision and turn to better ways"

In another letter to Abu Musa Ash'ari he said, "The thing that strengthens one in execution of work and that one should not procrastinate; for if you do so, your affairs will heap up and overwhelm you and you will not then be able to decide what to do and what not to do, and you will fail in your work."

Umr Ibn Al-Khattab appointed Amr bin Al-As as the Governor of Egypt. Amr bin Al-As delayed remitting the revenue to the treasury. Umar ibn Al-Khattab wrote to him and reminded about the delay. Amr bin Al-As procrastinated. Umar ibn Al-Khattab sent him a strong letter, he wrote, "I understand that the thing that has kept you from replying is the fact that your subordinates are not good. They have made you a shield, and it is a disease for which I possess an effective remedy. I am surprised that I have written to you often and at length, but you neglected sending the revenue and have avoided giving straight answers. So Abu, Abdullah, don't worry. Due shall be taken from you and you shall pay them, for as the river yields pearls, so will you have to render the dues."

Umar ibn Al-Khattab used to end his speeches with following statement: "O God, let me not fall into an error, nor let me be called to account on unawares, nor let me fall into neglect."

Umar ibn Al-Khattab's actions speak louder about his character, his integrity and his love for the people in the Muslim state. He made rounds at night to gauge and evaluate the condition of the people. His achievements are reflection of his life.

Sayings of Umar ibn Al-Khattab:
Umar ibn Al-Khattab always had a sound opinion, which made him a very powerful leader who expected higher degree of integrity from the people working with him during his Khilafate. Some of his wise sayings are quoted here:
  • One who keeps his own counsel keeps his affairs in his own hand. 
  • Fear him whom you hate. 
  • The wisest man is he who can account for his actions. 
  • Do not put off today's work till tomorrow. 
  • What regresses never progresses?
  • He who does not know evil will fall into it. 
  • When a man asks me a question, I know his intelligence.
  • Don't forget your own self while preaching to others. 
  • The less of the world, the freer you live. 
  • Avoidance of sin is lighter than the pain of remorse. 
  • If patience and gratitude had been two she camels, it would have mattered little on which I rode. May God have mercy on him who sends me my faults for a present!
  • During his Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, Umar ibn Al-Khattab heard one of the camel drivers singing. People asked Umar ibn Al-Khattab as to why he did not stop the camel driver from singing. Umar ibn Al-Khattab replied, "Music was the camel driver's provision for a journey.

Some of the Achievements of Umar ibn Al-Khattab:
Umar ibn Al-Khattab established many institutions in the Islamic state's administration. Historians have called his reforms as innovations. The achievements of Umar ibn Al-Khattab are numerous. The most important achievements are listed below:
  • Umar ibn Al-Khattab established the public treasury: Bait-ul-Mal
  • Established courts of justice and appointed judges.
  • Proposed and enforced use of the era of Hijra.
  • Assumed the title of Amir-ul-Mu'minin.
  • To engage the anti-Islamic forces he organized and established the War Department.
  • Placed army reserves on the pay-roll. In addition to this, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab improved the army administration by providing every army corps with an officer of the treasury, an accountant, and number of interpreters, physicians and surgeons. He instructed the army commanders to submit accounts of war expenditures and list of the spoils of war. Historical records show that in 16 Hijri Ziyad bin Abi Sufyan came from city of Jalula Ð after its conquest - and brought with him the records of the accounts to Madinah and submitted them for Umar ibn Al-Khattab's perusal and review.
  • Established Land Revenue Department, ordered survey and assessment of lands and also ordered conducting census. This required maintenance of the land revenue records in Persian, Syriac and Coptic languages. The accounts were kept on long rolled-up sheets.
  • Founded cities: Kufah, Basrah, Jazirah, Fustat and Musal and undertook construction and building of canals.
  • Divided conquered countries into provinces.
  • Ordered collecting customs duties. 
  • Appointed officials for the collection of tax on the produce of sea.
  • Gave permission to traders from foreign countries to conduct business in the Islamic territory.
  • Organized jails and enforced use of the whip.
  • Made rounds at night to gauge and evaluate the condition of the people. For relaxations he enjoyed lighter pursuits including poetry. Once he asked Abdullah bin Abbas to recite him poetry the whole night. At the time when dawn was breaking, he said, "Now recite the Holy Qur'an." During one of his night rounds around the city he heard the sound of music. He stopped and listened to the music and then moved on. 
  • Established military cantonments and had them located at strategic points. 
  • Organized Police Department.
  • Set up a system to classify pedigree and non-pedigree horses.
  • Built houses on the road from Makkah to Madinah for the comfort of the travelers and also established guest-houses in different cities. At that time a system was established for the clearance of land, construction of roads, building of bridges and other operations which are carried out by sappers and miner in present day armies. The local people of the lands were recruited to perform these duties. 
  • Provided stipends for the poor Jewish and Christian people.
  • Established schools and provided salaries for school teachers and public lecturers. 
  • Proposed the principle of Qiyas and its formulation.
  • Proposed exact division of inheritance.
  • Proposed and inserted additional statement "Prayer is better than sleep" in the call for Fajr prayers.
  • Ordained performing taraweeh prayers in congregation.
  • Established law for the punishment of alcohol drinkers with eighty lashes.
  • Proposed a method for preparing trusts.
  • Obtained consensus of opinion for saying four takbirs in funeral prayer.
  • Made arrangements for providing lights in mosques at night. It is stated that until the Khilafate of Umar ibn Al-Khattab there were no arrangements for lights in the mosques. A person by name Tamim Dari made the arrangements and supplied lamps for the mosques with Umar ibn Al-Khattab's permission.
  • Established a procedure to giving salaries from the public treasury to Imams and Muazzins.