Hadhrath Umar played an instrumental role at the Saqifa and Hadhrath Abu Bakr recognized and rewarded him for this by appointing him as his successor. If we are to accept the argument that the Prophet (saaws) left no successor then what right did Hadhrath Abu Bakr appoint a successor? He should have likewise left the issue to the Ummah to decide, as the Prophet (saaws) did (according to the Ahlul’ Sunnah belief).
During his reign Hadhrath Umar the post as Governor of Syria was successively given to the 2 sons of Abu Sufyan, Yazid and then Mu’awiya. What was the aim behind these appointments?
These two men were not from among the Muhajireen or the Ansar, they were not from amongst those who had pledged allegiance at Hudaibiya, and on the contrary they embraced Islam following the conquest of Makka.
Al Alwani writes that during his reign Hadhrath Abu Bakr decided:
“That everyone should receive an equal share from the public treasury. ‘Umar asked him: “How can you consider one who entered Islam with misgivings to be equal to one who left his home and wealth behind, and migrated and migrated to be with the Prophet? Abu Bakr however insisted that: “They all entered Islam for the sake of Allah, and their reward is with Him; this world is nothing”. When however ‘Umar became khalifa, he differentiated between people and paid the “stipend” according to how early each person had entered Islam, whether they had migrated, and how much they had suffered for the sake of Allah”.
Usul al Fiqh al Islami – Source methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence, by Taha Jabir Al Alwani, page 19, translated by Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo publisher Zain International, UK, second edition.
If Hadhrath ‘Umar had taken such a staunch line when distributing money amongst the faithful, salaries being rewarded on account of when an adherent embraced Islam and their subsequent service to the faith, why did he adopt a completely different approach when it came to granting positions of power? If those who had embraced Islam later and had no service to Islam, received less money than the early converts, why were these same individuals more entitled to receive administrative control / ‘physical power’ over an entire region? Why was preference given to them over prominent Sahaba who had accompanied the Prophet (saaws) very early on in his mission? Why appoint them when they had provided no service to Islam in the past?
The position of Governor of Syria passed from Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan to Mu’awiya ibn Abu Sufyan, following his death, this was direct lineal succession – the sons of Abu Sufyan were able to inherit the land of Syria. Is it not unusual that the Banu Ummaya could inherit land, but the family of the Prophet (saaws) was not allowed to inherit anything?
This was a carefully thought out strategy. Hadhrath Umar had once told Hadhrath Abdullah Ibne Abbas that the Muslims felt that Imamate and Prophethood should not exist in one household(1). This is in fact one of the most consistently proposed arguments given by the scholars of Ahl’ul Sunna to account for the attitude of Hadhrath Umar with regard to Imam Ali. He sought to ensure that this would not happen by providing positions to those who would never tolerate the Ahlul’bayt taking the reigns of government. Hadhrath Umar knew that in the past the Ummaya clan had been banished to Syria by the tribal elders and hence the tribe had considerable influence in that region. By capitalizing on that historical fact and giving the powerful governorship of Syria to the Banu Ummaya clan he gave this ambitious clan, noted for its resentment of its displacement as the kingpins of Makka, a new power base that would very rapidly translate into a springboard to take the khilafat itself, Syria had the most powerful Arab army in the region than as it does today, and the Banu Ummaya would shortly incorporate Egypt into its dominion also.
1. The History of Al-Tabari,Volume 14 page 137 -138, English translation, by G. Rex Smith
This scheme paved the way for Hadhrath Uthman to become the next khalifa, once in power his position was strengthened by the presence of Mu’awiya in Syria. This would probably result in checkmate for Imam Ali, who was hated vehemently by the Banu Ummaya since he and his clan, the Holy Prophet’s clan of Banu Hashim, had slaughtered so many of their closest kin. A perfect example of this is the reaction of ‘Abu Sufyan when Hadhrath Uthman was made the khalifa, Ibn al-Hadid records:
“He went to Uhud and kicked at the grave of Hamzah (the uncle of the Prophet) and said: “O Abu Ya’la! See that the kingdom which you fought against has at last come to us”.
Sharh Nahjul-balaghah, by Ibn al Hadid,Volume 16, page 136 second edition, Egypt
Syria was an agriculturally rich land; it generated a high amount of income. Hadhrath Umar knew that there was a long standing hatred by the Banu Ummaya towards the Banu Hashim, they would never tolerate a member of the Ahlul’bayt becoming khalifa in the long run and that this would cause inevitable rivalry….this happened on the plains of Sifeen. Mu’awiya in fact justified his hostility pointing to the fact that he was merely adhering to a policy of opposition that had been created by the earlier khalifa’s. This is what he wrote in reply to a critical letter by Muhammad bin Abu Bakr:
“We and your father during the lifetime of the Prophet, used to consider the right of Ibn Abi Talib binding upon us, and his excellence was well above ours. Despite this when Allah chose for the Prophet what he had in store for him.He took him to Himself. Then your father and his Faruq were the first to snatch it and oppose him, they both worked together on this.If it was injustice, then your father founded it and we are his partners. We followed his guidance and imitated his action”.
Waq’at Sifeen by Minqari p118-120 (Cairo edition 1962); Ansab al Ashraf by Baladhuri Volume 2 page 393-397 (Beirut edition 1974); Masudi Muruj ud Dhuhab Vol 3 page 197 – 201 (Beirut 1969 edition)
Hadhrath Uthman became Khalifa at the age of 74, again the question arises why was he preferred to younger more able Sahaba? This was part of Hadhrath Umar’s thinking to vest absolute power to the Banu Ummayya clan. This was secured via the coming to power of Hadhrath Uthman. Hadhrath Uthman appointed the enemy of the Prophet (saaws) his cousin Abdullah bin Sarh to quote Ameer Ali:
“the satrapy of Egypt. This Abdullah was at one time a Secretary to the Prophet, and when the Master dictated his revelation he used to change the words and ‘deneutralise’ their meanings”.
The Spirit of Islam, by Syed Ameer Ali, p 294
The Ahl’ul Sunnah scholars have also recorded:
When Makka was conquered the Holy Prophet ordered he be killed but Uthman interceded on his behalf, he asked for his protection and the Prophet (SAWS) granted it. Sad bin Abi Waqqas narrates that when Makka was taken, Uthman begged three times for Sharh’s allegiance to be accepted, the Prophet did not accept it until the third time. The Holy Prophet then turned to his companions and said “Was there not among you a good person who when he saw that I kept back my hand for allegiance should have killed him?”.
Murtad ki Saza, by Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi, p 15-16 Karachi 1954 edition. You can also find this incident in Sirah, by Ibn Hisham, Volume 2 page 409
He appointed Waleed as Governor of Kufa. Walid was a transgressor according to the word of Allah (swt). Once when ordered by the Prophet (saaws) to collate Zakat from a tribe, he lied alleging they had refused to hand over their due, this lead to the descent of this verse:
“Oh you who believe, if a transgressor comes to you with news try to verify it..” (49:6-7).
See Tafseer of Surah Hujuraat by Bilal Philips, commentary of the above verse
Most significantly Hadhrath Uthman appointed Marwan, who to quote Baladhuri:
“embraced Islam following the conquest of Makka, but continued to insult the Prophet, as a result Hakim and his sons were banished from Madina, this ruling was upheld by Umar and Abu Bakr. When Hadhrath Uthman came to power he chose to ignore the Prophet (saaws)’s order, he called back Marwan and Hakim, and made Marwan his Assistant and Chief Officer of the Court”.
Ansab al ashraf, by al Baladhuri, Vol 5 p 17
It was this same Marwan who then shaped the long-term policy for the Banu Ummaya.
So in these three key posts Hadhrath Uthman appointed three men, one who the Prophet (saaws) wanted executed, a transgressor and a man who was banished by the Prophet (saaws). Even the revered Sunni scholar Sayyid Qutb Shaheed was unable to mask his discontent over these facts, he writes:
“the khalifa – in his old age, and his state brought about by advanced age – did not possess control of his affair to the expense of Marwan. It is difficult to accuse the spirit of Islam in the person of Islam, but it is likewise difficult to pardon him for the error of the unfortunate occurrence of his taking the khilafa whilst he was a weakened old man, who was surrounded by evil courtiers from Banu Umayyah”.
Al-Adaalat ul-Ijtimaa’iyyah by Sayyid Qutb Shaheed p.189, 5th edition
When prominent pious Sahaba were still living why was priority given to such men? The answer is that the objective was to have a Caliphate that would permanently belong to the Banu Ummaya. A clan whose supremacy had been effectively extinguished with the coming to power of Islam, now had the reigns of power, nothing no one, especially their sworn enemies the Banu Hashim were going to stand in their way or humiliate them again.
Absolute favouritism was given to the Banu Ummayya they were rewarded with power and financial clout a means to eliminate any likelihood of Banu Hashim attaining the Khilafath. Hadhrath Uthman gave a fifth of the spoils of the first expedition of Africa to his foster brother Abdullah Ibn Abu Sarh. Marwan purchased a fifth of the second expedition of Africa; then the Caliph gave him the whole amount(1). Fadak land belonging to the Prophet (saaws) that Hadhrath Abu Bakr had confiscated and made a part of the State was awarded to Marwan(2). He gave his cousin Harith a gift of camels that had been collected as part of alms tax and brought to Madina(3). Is it not curious that land that Hadhrath Abu Bakr stated belonged to the State which Ahlul’bayt could not claim was ‘given’ to Marwan? Hadhrath Uthman gave Harith the Zakat of Qud-ah that amounted to 300,000 dirhams(4) and Abdul Rahman bin Auf had 3 million dirhams(5).
1. Tarikh, Ibn al Athir, Volume 3 page 49 publishers, Dar ul Kitan al Lubnani, 1973
2. al Ma’arif by Ibn Qutayba, page 190 edited by Tharwat ‘Ukasha, Cairo edition 1960
3. Ansab al ashraf, by Baladhuri, Vol 5 p 28, edited by S.D.F. Goitein, Jerusalem 1936
4. At Fitnah thul Kubra, by Taha Hussain, Volume 1 page 193 published by dar al Ma’arif, Egypt 1953
5. At Fitnah thul Kubra, by Taha Hussain, Volume 3 page 126 published by dar al Ma’arif, Egypt 1953
It may alternatively be viewed that Hadhrath Umar, realizing the greed of the Banu Ummaya, stalled a civil war by handing it over to them in all but name and thus preserved the integrity of the Muslim state for a while longer before the Banu Ummaya would tear it apart. This also excluded Imam Ali.
It can be argued why did Hadhrath Umar not give the khilafat to his son Abdullah bin Umar? Hadhrath Umar had too much vision for this. Realizing the powerful threat of the Bani Umaayya should his son have become khalifa his end would have been at the hands of the powerful Banu Umaayya, who were power hungry. In fact he made his own son Abdullah bin Umar have the deciding ballot should the council set up after his death end in deadlock, thus favouring the Banu Umaayya represented by Hadhrath Uthman.
Abdullah bin Umar became a close ally of the Banu Umaayya and a bitter enemy of Imam Ali’s sons, in particular Imam Hussain (as) whose genocide with the majority of the remaining members of the family of the holy Prophet he would sanction.
Either rational upshot of this plan makes it self-evident that for historical purposes the khilafat of Hadhrath Umar can be viewed as an interim period to effect a transition of power back to the old overlords of pagan Makka – the Banu Umaayya, the tribe of Abu Sufyan.
The unfolding events of history testify that this scheme materialized as harsh reality. It explains the bitter irony, noted by Sunni and Shi’i Muslims alike, of how it came to be that the most bitter enemies of the Holy Prophet came to the rule the Muslim Ummah within 30 years of his death.
It explains how the terrible wars of Jamal and Sifeen, the first Muslim civil wars after the earliest period came to be. It also explains the later genocide of the family of the Holy Prophet (saaws) and persecution of the Shi’i Imams. In here lie further origins of Muslim disunity.