Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the Second Rightly-Guided Caliph of Islam

Background:

Umar was born into a high-ranking clan of the ruling Quraish tribe in Makkah. He became known as a strong and wealthy merchant. When the Prophet Muhammad began preaching his message, Umar was one of his most stern opponents. He participated in harassment of torture of the early Muslims, trying to make them give up their faith. Umar finally embraced Islam after reading verses of the Quran at his own sister's house.

Umar's drastic conversion to Islam helped the small Muslim community gain power and respect. Thereafter, Umar was a firm believer who fiercely defended the Muslim community from attack.

Selection As Caliph:

As Abu Bakr fell ill and was nearing death, he consulted with a group of senior Companions of the Prophet. They all agreed that Umar was the most appropriate choice to be the next caliph, or leader of the Muslim community.

Strengths As Caliph:

As Caliph, Umar was known for acting justly yet firmly with all people. The Islamic state was extended to Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. One of his first acts was to establish regulations by which regional rulers should interact with their citizens. Umar also established the public treasury, organized the armies to fight the Persian and Roman Empires, appointed judges, and supervised the construction of public facilities. Cities were built with irrigation canals and paved roads, and education in the Quran became more widespread.

Umar also ensured that non-Muslim citizens were given government subsidies.

End of Rule:

During the caliphate of Umar, the Muslim armies fiercely fought the Persian and Roman Empires. After ten years as caliph, Umar was stabbed during pre-dawn prayers by a Persian enemy. On his deathbed, Umar named six senior Companions of the Prophet, and ordered that they select a new caliph from amongst themselves.

Dates:

634 - 644 A.D.