The Conversion of 'Umar Ibn-al-Khattaab

By Zainol A. Khan


It is six years since Muhammad (upon whom be peace) has received the call to priesthood.


The majority of the Muslims have migrated from Makkah to Abyssinia in order to avoid the persecution of the Quraish. There they are accorded freedom of worship by the Negus.


Hamza, a warrior of note, who has earned for himself the sobriquet “The Lion”, has just declared his belief in the religion, Islam, preached by Muhammad (p.b.o.h.). His conversion has raised the morale of the less antagonistic towards the Muslims, for they fear the possible consequences to themselves if he is angered.


The Quraish leaders meet in conclave and decide it is time to rid the country of Muhammad, once and for all. They consider how best to do so and finally agree to use ‘Umar Ibn-Al-Khattaab for this purpose. ‘Umar is noted for his fiery temper, great strength and hatred of the Muslims. The Quraish persuade ‘Umar that he would be doing a national service if he rids his country of Muhammad.


‘Umar sets out with drawn sword in search of Muhammad (p.b.o.h.), intent on killing him. As he walks through the streets children scamper out of his way and men and women move aside in order to allow him to pass unobstructed, for they see the fury, hatred and determination in his eyes.


But there is one brave enough to stop ‘Umar. That is his friend Nuaim Ibn Abdullah who accosts him thus:


“Where are you going, O ‘Umar, in such haste?”


“To kill Muhammad the Sabian, who has blasphemed our gods and caused our people to be divided,”


is the reply.


“Should you kill Muhammad,” says Nuaim “you know fully well the people of his tribe will not rest until they seek you out wherever you are and kill you. In any event before you kill Muhammad, why don’t you kill those members of your family who have accepted the faith preached by him?”


“Members of my family have become followers of Muhammad’s religion?” says Umar, very surprised. “And who are they, pray?”


“Why, don’t you know? Your sister Fatimah and her husband Said Ibn Zeid” is the answer.


‘Umar is shocked at this news. He turns and now walks towards his sister Fatimah’s house. As he enters the courtyard he hears a voice reading. From the few words he is able to distinguish he concludes that a revelation received by the Prophet of Islam is being recited. He becomes more enraged.


The occupants of the house hear ‘Umar’s approaching footsteps and become quiet. ‘Umar enters the house, still with drawn sword. Seeing his sister and brother-in-law he shouts at them:


“What was that you were reading just now?”


“Nothing” is the reply.


“Nothing indeed!” retorts ‘Umar. “But I have already been informed that you have become Muslims.”


So saying he lunges at his brother-in-law with his sword. His sister tries to intervene. He strikes her accidentally on her head, causing a wound which starts to bleed.


‘Umar’s sister and brother-in-law become enraged.


 “Yes! We are Muslims. Do what you will”


 they shout at him.


The sight of the blood from his sister’s wound causes ‘Umar the fighter to become ‘Umar the brother. His heart melts as he says:


“Please let me see what you were reading so that I may know what it is that this Muhammad is preaching.”


“No!” is the reply “You will destroy it.”


“Upon my word, I promise you I will not” says ‘Umar.


“None but those who are clean may read it,” says Fatimah.


“Then I will cleanse myself so that I may be able to read it,” replies ‘Umar.


Umar cleanses himself. His sister hands him a leaf from which he reads thus:




We have not sent down

The Qur’aan to thee to be

(An occasion) for thy distress.”


“But only as an admonition

To those who fear (God),”


“A revelation from Him

Who created the earth

And the heavens on high.


“(God) Most Gracious

Is firmly established

On the throne (of authority).


“To Him belongs what is

In the heavens and on earth,

And all between them,

And all beneath the soil.


“If thou pronounce the word

Aloud, (it is no matter).

For verily We knoweth

What is secret and what

Is yet more hidden.


“God! There is no god

But He! To Him belong

The Most Beautiful Names…”


‘Umar re-reads the contents of the leaf. He is deeply moved and immediately sets out for the house where the Prophet (p.b.o.h.) is staying. As he approaches the house one of the Prophet’s companions sees him and says:


“There is ‘Umar, with his sword in his hand, coming in this direction.”


The other companions of the Prophet, among whom are Hamza, Abdul Ka’ba and Ali, say:


“Let him come. We will deal with him if he is looking for trouble.”


‘Umar enters the house. As he does so the Prophet of Islam goes to receive him saying:


Praise be to Allaah. It was only yesterday that I prayed to Him to strengthen us with either yourself or ‘Umar Ibn Hisham. And here you are today.”


The Prophet then places his hand on ‘Umar and says:


“O ‘Umar, you can stay with us as long as you like.”


“O Messenger of Allaah,” says Umar, “I have come to declare my faith in Allaah and in your Message.”


Cries of “Allaahu Akbar” rent the air at this declaration. The Prophet and his followers rejoice.


Thus ends a miraculous event in the life of ‘Umar, and in the history of Islam.






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