“Fatima, you know how I value our children. But this in front of you is all the money that I have.”
With a pained look in his eyes, the man tried to console his wife, Fatima bint Abd al-Malik. He had just returned home when his wife conveyed their son’s request for new Eid clothing. The son pointed out that his friends, Jarir and Mughiz, will be celebrating Eid with new clothes.
In case you are wondering who was the poor man, he was the ruler of the world’s largest empire, stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. The wife was the sister, daughter and granddaughter of the previous rulers of that empire.
He was Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, the eighth Caliph of the Umayyad Empire. Although he ruled for only a short period of not more than 3 years, he is known until today as “the most pious and devout” of the Umayyad rulers. For such a quality, he is even regarded as “the fifth righteous Caliph of Islam (Khulafa’ al-Rasyidun).”
He held the highest office of such a great and powerful empire. Yet, his #EidStory seemed to portray otherwise.
He tried to do something about it
Despite being a Caliph, Umar did not exploit the people’s money to set a huge paycheck for himself. He purposely decided to live an austere life, limiting himself to only a small amount of it, focussing on upholding genuine justice, and putting the needs of the people first.
That is truly something out of the ordinary if you compare his case with the normal practice of today’s politicians and leaders, Muslims included.
Fatima suggested purchasing a low-priced apparel for their son so he would at least be happy to have something new to wear.
Saddened by the situation, Umar wrote a letter to the treasurer (Baitulmal), requesting for his pay to be advanced a month early so he could buy his family something new for Eid.
A pious leader aided by pious colleagues and family
Umar had appointed someone pious to be trusted with the Baitulmal. For total reform to be executed right, a single pious leader would do well to be aided by a circle of pious colleagues. Many Islamic revolutions had failed due to this particular reason.
So, the treasurer replied to Umar, “O Amir al-Mu’minin, I have great respect for you and I trust and obey you completely.
“However, if you could guarantee to me that you will live through the next month and do your service to the people (which will entitle you to your pay) then the money can be advanced to you.”
“If you cannot give the assurance of your life, then how can the treasury pay you and why are you taking the rights of the poor, orphans and widows onto your shoulders?”
Umar immediately realised what he did was wrong.
The day of Eid came and the family’s clean old clothes did not deny them the opportunity to express their gratitude and joy, as the eldest son calmed Umar:
“Today was one of the happiest days of our life. Never have we been able to hold our heads up higher than today.”
“Today, we let the world know that our father, Amir al-Mu’minin, will never take even a dirham that is not his right. Our father only provides us with halal money.”
An #EidStory about piety-based reform
Celebrating Eid is never a ticket for you, the Daies and Muslim leaders, to be all auspicious and putting your mission aside.
You already know the significant change brought by Umar Abd al-Aziz in implementing a piety-based reform. In this celebratory Eid mood, you can still learn the lesson from his legacy to remind you about the importance of Islamic revival.
Do your #EidStory have something to do with Islamic revival? Care to share with us?