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Some of the main events of second caliph of Islam – Umar bin Khattab


Some of the main events of second caliph of Islam – Umar bin Khattab

Umar's Caliphate era

Umar succeeded Abu Bakr as the second Caliph in 634/13 AH, and continued the mission of the first Caliph till his martyrdom in 644/23 A.H. Hazrat Abu Bakr himself nominated him as the Caliph. His Caliphate is noted by internal consolidation of the Muslim empire, accompanied by the expansion of Islamic rule by conquering the lands under the Persian and Byzantine empires, and they included Iraq, Persia, Jerusalem and Egypt. It is surely the golden period in Muslim history after the death of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad 

The conquest of Iraq had been started during Abu Bakr's Caliphate when the Muslim forces had reached Chaldaea and Hira by April 633 under Hazrat Khalid bin Walid and Al-Muthanna. Khalid then had moved to Syria leaving Muthanna in Iraq. Seeing this, the Persian prince sent a 10,000 strong army under the command of Hormuz against the Arab forces. Umar also sent reinforcement under Abu Ubayd al-Thaqifi. The combined Muslim forces defeated the Persians at Namaraq in October 634.

After a few days Abu Ubayd defeated another Persian force at Kaksar after crossing the Euphrates. The Persian supreme command then sent a huge force under Bahman. The two armies fought a fierce battle, the Battle of Bridge, in which the Persians used several war elephants. Abu Ubayd crossed over the Euphrates, and in the subsequent battle the Muslim army suffered great losses against the mighty Persian army.

The bridge that had been destroyed by the Persians was rebuilt as al-Muthanna took the command after Abu Ubayd had been killed. Hardly 3,000 out of 10,000 Muslims were able to cross the bridge. Al-Muthanna, who was seriously injured, reorganized the army, and in November 634 defeated a Persian army under Mahran in the battle of Buwayb.

By December 634, the last Sassanid King Yazdigard III had been brought to power, who infused a new spirit among the Persians, and they rose against the Arabs to recapture most of the territories including Hira and Chaldaea.

At this, Al-Muthanna just before his death in April 635, wrote to Sa'd bin Abi Waqas to take action against the Persians, and follow the vital strategy of remaining on the Arab or desert side of the river so that in case of retreat the Arabs could fall back on the desert. Accordingly, Sa'd reached a place, Qadsiya near the Great Canal of Sapore. He had a 20,000 strong army under him. He remained within the confines of the desert as advised by Muthanna and the Caliph The Persian army of 120,000 troops also reached the other side of the Euphrates under Rustam. Both the armies waited for several weeks and Sa'd sent about 20 envoys to the King with the usual 3 options: accept Islam, or pay the Jiziya or get ready for the war. The king opted for the 3rd, war. The battle of Qadriya, thus began in 635. Rustam crossed the river and began the fierce battle that continued for more than 3 days. On the second day, the Arabs received reinforcement from Syria under Al-Qaqa. Al-Qaqa killed Bahman, the victor of the Battle of Bridge on the second day. On the 4th day the Arabs reached the royal pavilion and exposed the throne of the Persian commander-in-chief, Rustam. A stormy wind also blew and Rustam tried to flee but was killed by Habib bin Alqamah. This became the turning point, and the Arabs got victory. The Muslim losses were 8500 dead against a four-time loss of Persians. A huge and handsome booty was captured by the Muslims in this decisive battle.

Sa'd advanced to the Persian capital Al-Madam with an army of 50,000. He laid a siege for several days and the King Yazdigard began to shift his wealth and family to Hulwan, a fortress about 100 miles north of Al-Medain. On this, Sa'd took a vital decision, and asked his army to cross the river Tigris. They faced mild resistance and finally captured Al-Madain with a huge booty of around 9 billion dirhams. The King after fleeing to Hulwan, gathered his army at Jalula that was defeated by a Muslim army under al-Qaqa and Hashim bin Utba. Ualula and Hulwan were captured, and the King fled to the northern city of ar-Ray.

In the meantime, the Persian, Roman and Christian Arab tribes combined forces in upper Iraq near Tekrit. Sa'ad dispatched an army that defeated the joint forces and even captured Mosul, thus bringing the whole of Mesopotamia under the Muslim control. Umar finally sent troops under Utba bin Ghazwan to capture Ubalha at the head of the Persian Gulf to consolidate the Muslim control over Persia. Umar then abandoned any further conquests. Sa'd, on Umar's advice, founded the new cities of Kufa and Basra near Madain for the Muslim armies and the families.

As for conquests in Syria, the Muslim forces were advancing rapidly in Syria when Umar became Caliph. The Byzantine Emperor Heracleus had fled from Emessa to Antioch. From there, he organized his army against the Muslim forces. Khalid bin Walid sprang his forces accordingly in three directions. He dispatched Shurahbil to Jordan and Amr bin al-A's to Palestine, while he himself advanced towards Damascus with Abu Ubaida and Yezid. Khalid began his victorious march from Ajnadain in March 635 and after capturing Bosra and Fihl, reached Damascus in two weeks. He laid siege to Damascus till September 635, and finally entered the city as victor and signed on a peace treaty. The Emperor, however, had fled from the city and collected a huge army, and put it under his brother Theodorus at Antioch. These forces were defeated in August 636/15 AH, in the Battle of Yarmouk.

After this, Abu Ubayda replaced Khalid as the Chief Commander of the Muslim Abu Ubayda recaptured Damascus decisively in September 636. Other important towns in Syria on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea were also captured. Only Jerusalem, Ramallah and Caesarea continued to resist, and Jerusalem was also taken in a peaceful manner on the request of the Patriarch Sophronius. Umar himself met Sophronius and signed a peace treaty under which full religious liberty was given to the citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition of paying Jiziya. Sanctity of the Church, of Resurrection and other churches was also guaranteed. After this Umar left for Medina, and Amr bin al-A's reduced the other towns in Palestine. army.

Finally, Egypt was conquered in 640/19-20 by Amr bin Al-A's, who had to persuade Umar with great difficulty for this. Egypt could be used by the Byzantines as the naval base to launch operations against the Arabs. Then the agricultural produce of Egypt could well feed the growing Arab population. So, Egypt was conquered by the strategic policy of Amr bin Al-A's by the end of 639, and start of 640 AD. By April 641 Babylon was also captured, and the new city of Fustat was founded in 624 on the eastern bank of the Nile.

During the same period (637-643 AD) Umar completed the final capture and subjugation of Persia. Starting from south Persia, Khuzistan was conquered in 638, and the Battle of Nehawand that was fought in 642, the important towns of the Persia proper fell to the Muslims and they included ar-Ray, Faris, Sistan, Kirman, Makran and Azerbaijan. This also marked the end of the Sassanid Dynasty in Persia. The last important province, Khurasan, was captured during early years of the 3rdCaliph Uthman.

Umar appointed able and efficient governors in all these conquered territories under his wonderful administrative system. Umar was finally killed by Firoz, a Persian slave on 3rd November 644 while offering the morning prayer.

He was buried alongside the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad  and Hazrat Abu Bakr in Medina. Umar left behind him an effective system of administration throughout his empire by appointing extremely efficient governors and Qadis and other state officials. His caliphate brought a great deal of prosperity and strength for the Muslims.


Umar bin Khattab was among the early converts to Islam and his conversion was quite morale boosting for the Muslims. He devoted his life and energy to the cause of Islam, and fully and openly supported the Holy Prophet throughout the noble prophetic mission in Makka and Medina. He migrated to Medina for Islam and played important role in the early settlements at Medina. He performed valuable services in the major battles fought against the enemies of Islam.

He placed about half of all his wealth at the disposal of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad  on the occasion of the Tabuk expedition. He played a vital role in the election of Abu Bakr, as the first caliph amidst a great deal of disorder and uncertainty after the Holy Prophet death. His own caliphate was the most successful, and glorious period of early Islamic history. He not only consolidated the new Muslim empire by establishing an effective system of governance, but also expanded its borders by capturing Persia, Syria, Palestine, Jerusalem and the fertile land of Egypt. He himself led a simple and pious life and conducted patrolling at night to ensure the peace and comfort of his people. He laid down the foundation of a lasting administrative system by dividing the empire into provinces and by placing then under able administrators, governors and Qadis (judges)

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