Sayyidna Umar’s Administration

Posted: 15 Zul-Hijjah 1423, 17 February 2003

Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, was the second Khalifah of Islam. He was from the Khulafa-e-Rashidun (the Rightly Guided Caliphs). Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, was a great administrator whose examples are unparalleled not only in Islamic history but also in the history of modern civilization.

Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, was born in the year 582 C.E. In his youth, he was a famous wrestler and orator and was an expert in horse riding. He was well educated and also among the first people in Makkah who knew how to read and write. He gained a vast amount of experience by being a judge, a diplomat, and a very good public speaker. As a young man, he earned his livelihood by trade. His keen sense of justice and towering personality gave him an outstanding place in history. Devotion to duty, and fairness were his guiding principles.

As a Khalifah, his empire extended over Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and other places. However, he was not at all arrogant in his behavior towards others.

All citizens were equal before law. On a number of occasions, the Khalifah appeared personally to defend himself in the public court of justice just like any other defendant. In a dispute with an ordinary citizen, Sayyidna Ubayy-Ibn Ka'ab, Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, appeared as a defendant in the court of Sayyidna Zaid-Ibn-Thabit at Madinah. Sayyidna Zaid, Radi-Allahu anhu, wanted to pay respect to him but Sayyidna Umar, Rad-Allahu anhu, told him that this amounted to partiality. Thus under Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, the principles of justice and equality were fully observed. In the same case, Sayyidna Ubayy, Radi-Allahu anhu, wanted Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, to take oath, but the judge wanted to spare him because of the dignity of his office. Seeing this, the Khalifah admonished him, “You cannot be a just judge until a common man is equal to the Khalifah before you.” During that era, no one was above law. Even the Khalifah was questioned by the common man.

Among many other great progress and advancements, Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu,

Public Treasury

The revenue of the state was deposited into the Baitul-Mal (Public Treasury). Abdullah-bin-Arqam was appointed the Chief Officer of this department. He was directed to increase the production, and the welfare of the peasantry and people at large.

The main sources of revenue were:
1. Zakat – 2.5% of wealth for the poor. This was only applicable on Muslims.
2. Jizya - defence tax paid by non-Muslims living on Muslim lands (dhimmis). However, the poor, the sick and crippled, women, children, aged, priests, and monks were exempted from this.
3. Ushr – a special land tax on especially large holdings. (one tenth of produce)
4. Khiraj – a land tax
5. Ghanimah - one-fifth of the war booty
6. A tax on non-Muslim merchants and traders (because they didn’t pay Zakat, while Muslim traders did)

From the Bait-al-Mal, spending was made for the welfare of the people as well as for the poor and needy. The weak and disabled, both Muslims and non-Muslims, were granted allowances. A person who became an invalid or too old to earn his living received maintenance allowance from the Bait-al-Mal.

Children without guardians were brought up at state expense. When there was famine, the Khalifah, himself, worked day and night to provide food to the starving people. He used to go out in the night and visit various places to make sure that everybody was content.

The canals for irrigation purposes were also built from the public revenue. During Sayyidna Umar's, Rad-Allahu anhu, reign a canal was made which joined the Nile to the Red Sea. This canal facilitated transport of grains from Egypt to the Arabian Peninsula.

Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, also gave freedom of religion to the Jews and Christians living in the Muslim Empire. He allowed them to stay there if they so wished and nobody could interfere in their religious affairs. To those who desired to migrate he ensured a safe journey up to the borders. Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, also gave compensation for their properties and other facilities.

Police Force

Another of Sayyidna Umar’s, Radi-Allahu anhu, achievements was the establishing of the Police Department. The police force at that time was known as “Ahdath” and the police officers were known as the “Sahibul Ahdath.” Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, gave the following instructions to the police officers:

“Keep peace in the area. Let not the people contravene the law. They should not measure or weigh incorrectly. Nobody should build any house on roads so as to hinder the passage way. No one should overload an animal. Nobody is allowed to sell or buy liquor.”

As well as establishing the police force, Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, also built jails, forming the first jails in Arabia. He bought five houses in Makkah and used them as prisons. He also set up jails in some districts of various provinces.
The punishment of killing another human being unjustly was death and this law was fully enforced at all times, without regard of the religion of the murderer and the victim.

Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, fully organized the army, which was composed of infantry, cavalry and archers. The army was broadly divided into standing and reserve. The standing army was a regular one, ready for defense of the state and borders; the reserves were called during the time of war. Intelligence and communications were also developed.

Provincial Adminstration

For smooth running of the state the Empire was divided into various provinces:

1. Hijaz with Makkah as the capital
2. Syria with Damascus as the capital
3. Iran with Basrah as the capital
4. Iraq with Kufa as the capital
5. Egypt with Fustat as the capital
6. Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital
7. Jazirah (Mesopotamia) with Hims (Homs) as the capital
8. The central province of Arabia with Madinah as the capital

The title of a Provincial Governor was “Wali”. As well as being the chief administrator of his province, the Wali was also the religious leader being well-versed in religion. In each province there were usually the following officers besides the governor: The treasury officer (Sahib Baitul Maal), the revenue collector (Sahib Kharaj), the chief police officer (Sahib Ahadath), and the judge (Qazi).The provinces were divided into districts. Each district was administrated by an officer called ‘Amil. All the governors and the high officers of the provinces were called to Makkah every year on the occasion of Hajj when Muslims from the entire area gathered there. Complaints against the governors were recorded by the Khalifah and incompetent governors were removed from office.

Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, also laid great stress on knowledge and learning. He made Islamic education compulsory for everyone, both male and female. Thus, he was the first person to introduce compulsory education. Education was also free for everyone and a number of schools were built in cities and towns for public instructions.

It was due to his unconquerable will and keen sense of responsibility that Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, was able to make tremendous contribution towards the consolidation of progress, prosperity, development and welfare of the state.

Further Reading:

Al-Farooq: The Life of Omar the Great by Allama Shibli Nu'man
Heroes of Islam: Omar, the Second Caliph of Islam
The Glorious Caliphate
Comprehensive Islamic Curriculum: Grade 7