Hazrat Umar (RA): Peerless reformer

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HAZRAT Umar (RA), a peerless reformer and unparalleled administrator is widely lauded and acknowledged by celebrated
literati for his meritorious services that he rendered for cementing the very foundation of early Islam. During his reign, Islamic empire expanded at an exponential rate and a large swathe of land added to its domain of administration. Apart from brilliant conquests, he also introduced myriads of political, social, economic, judicial and administrative reforms. This piece is aimed at highlighting some of such reforms. Umar (R.A) was a man of great political acumen. He not only expanded Islamic empire but also erected its political edifice on sound and stable footing by ensuring effective administration. Justice Syed Amir Ali in his famous book “history of Saracens” says: “During the thirty years that the republic lasted, the policy derived its character chiefly from Umar both during his lifetime and after his death”.
Umar(R.A) was very cautious in appointment of his provincial governors called Wali or Amir; whenever a governor was appointed, a man was sent with him that would read publicly his powers and jurisdictions. Umar( R.A) felt it necessary that the officers be treated in strict way as to prevent the possible greed of money that may lead them to corruption. During his reign, at the time of appointment, every officer was required to make an oath: That he would not ride a Turkic horse, he would not eat sifted flour, he would not keep gatekeeper at his door and he would always keep his door open for the public. Moreover, the person appointed to high post was also required to submit particulars of his property and assets so that on his superannuation, it may be probed that if he had multiplied his affluence by abusing his office. Hazrat Umar(R.A) was first to establish a special department for the investigation of complaints against the officers of the State. This department acted as Administrative court, where the legal proceedings were personally led by Umar. The Department was under the charge of Muhammad ibn Maslamah, one of Umar’s most trusted men. In important cases Muhammad ibn Maslamah was deputed by Umar to proceed to the spot, investigate the charge and take action. Sometimes an Inquiry Commission was aslo constituted to investigate the charge. On occasions, the officers against whom complaints were received, summoned to Medina, and charged in Umar’s administrative court.
Umar(R.A) was also known for his intelligence service through which he made his officials accountable. This service was also said to have inspired fear in his subjects. On discovery of any scandal on the part of any official, an investigation through a special department of accountability headed by Muhammad ibn Maslamah would be carried out and if the official would prove guilty, he was immediately deposed from his office and his punishment varied from publically humiliating to flogging. In addition, Umar(R.A) stressed the independence of the judiciary and declared it a sovereign state organ that could proceed without any pressure of state. Umar(R.A) resorted to due diligence in appointing Qazis . To all the major provincial cities, Umar(R.A) would personally appoint the judges. Umar (R.A) entrusted the office of justice only to those selected persons who could fulfill his criteria for this office, some of which are as follow: He must be well reputed for his morals, modesty and interpersonal relations, Must be intelligent, and astute in judicial decisions, Must be highly qualified in fiqh, Must be socially a powerful and influential personality so that he might not come under pressure of any powerful perpetrator.
Inter alia, Umar (R.A) appointed judges with very high salaries and for lifelong tenure; it was to make sure that judges could not be drawn towards bribery and a non prejudice and unbiased verdicts could be reached. The justice system introduced by Hazrat Umar was fair and impartial wherein every person was equal before law; there was no concept of rich or poor, noble or not-noble, white or black, Muslim or non-Muslim. Once Abdullah bin Umer had beaten a person, who complained to Hazrat Umar (RA). Abdullah bin Umar was paid in the same coin. The justice system was so transparent and clear that a noble person from Jabla bin Eham from Syria, slapped a poor person in Kaaba, he was forced to face the punishment, he became apostate and returned to his country, but Hazrat Umar (RA) did not spare him. Justice system of Hazrat Umar (RA) was not restricted to only Muslims but non-Muslims were also dispensed with justice. It was the reason that Jerusalem’s people welcomed Hazrat Umar at the time of conquest. Hazrat Umar (RA) also established Bait ul Maal (Public Treasury) so that distribution of money to the needy, the poor, elderly, orphans, widows and the handicapped could be ensured systematically and peoples’ needs could be met timely without any hindrance. Let me conclude by quoting Prof P K Hitti who in his book “History of Arabs” writes: “In fact, Umar, whose name according to Muslim tradition is the greatest in early Islam after that of Mohammad has been idolized by Muslim writers for his piety, justice and patriarchal simplicity and treated as the personification of all the virtues a caliph ought to possess.”
— The writer is a Legal practitioner-cum-columnist based in Quetta Balochistan.

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