Caliph Umar bin Abd al-Aziz dies
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On this day, 4 February 720 CE (20 or 25 Rajab, 101 AH)*, Umayyad Caliph Umar bin Abd al-Aziz died because of illness. A keen sense of justice, piety, toleration of other religions, moderation, and simplicity of life formed the chief features of his character. Therefore, he is also called as one of the Rashidun Caliphs.
Umar was buried in Dair Sim’aan near Hims, Syria. Umar bin Abdul Aziz followed Abu Bakr, who did not spend a single farthing from the Bayt al-Mal to cover his personal expenses. He died because of the illness after he had been poisoned by his servant.
Here is the last sermon delivered by Umar II to the people in Khunasirah (Southeast of Aleppo) in which he said:
“O people, you were not created in vain, nor will you be left to yourselves. Rather, you will return to a place in which God will descend in order to judge among you and distinguish between you. Destitute and lost are those who forsake the all-encompassing mercy of God, and they will be excluded from Paradise, the borders of which are as wide as the heavens and the earth.
Don’t you know that protection, tomorrow, will be limited to those who feared God (today), and to those who sold something ephemeral for something permanent, something small for something great, and fear for protection? Don’t you realize that you are the descendants of those who have perished, that those who remain will take their place after you, and that this will continue until you are all returned to God?
Every day you dispatch to God, at all times of the day, someone who has died, his term having come to an end. You bury him in a crack in the earth and then leave him without a pillow or a bed. He has parted from his loved ones, severed his connections with the living, and taken up residence in the earth, whereupon he comes face to face with the accounting. He is mortgaged to his deeds: He needs his accomplishments, but not the material things he left on earth.
Therefore, fear God before death descends and its appointed times expire. I swear by God that I say these words to you knowing that I myself have committed more sins than any of you; I, therefore, ask God for forgiveness and I repent. Whenever we learn that one of you needs something, I try to satisfy his need to the extent that I am able. Whenever I can provide satisfaction to one of you out of my possessions, I seek to treat him as my equal and my relative, so that my life and his life are of equal value.
I swear by God that had I wanted something else, namely, affluence, then it would have been easy for me to utter the word, aware as I am of the means for obtaining this. But God has issued an eloquent Book and a just example (sunnah) by means of which He guides us to obedience and proscribes disobedience.”
He lifted up the edge of his robe and began to cry and sob, causing the people around him to break into tears. Then he stepped down. That was the last sermon he gave before he died, may God have mercy on him.
Note: There is a disagreement among the historians on his date of death. Some sources also claim it was 25th of Rajab, 101 Hijri.
Al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir. The History of al-Tabari, Vol. 24: The Empire in Transition: The Caliphates of Sulayman, ‘Umar, and Yazid A.D. 715-724/A.H. 97-105. Translated and Edited by David Stephan Powers. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.
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