A brief Biography
Hasan Ibrahim Hasan explains that Umar bin Abd al-Aziz was born in
Hulwan when his father, Abd al-Aziz, was governor of Egypt.3 He spent his youth in
his hometown. In spite of aristocratic by origin, he lived his simple life. He was
typically pious, well-knowledge, clever. After their death of his father in 704 A.D, he
married Fatimah binti Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.
Umar II seemed to try to remedy the negative image of his predecessors for
their unjustly having dealt with mawali (non-Arabs), especially of Berbers. They
thought that Umar’s predecessors set up inhuman and unjust rules as illustrated by al-
Mas‘udi, al-Ya‘qubi, and al-Fida as follows: “when Berbers gave to birth a baby,
Umayyad regulated jizyah (poll tax by non-Muslims) for especially that baby. [In
fact] in the times of the Prophet and al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidun the jizyah was ruled out
only for a non-Muslim adult man.”
Umar was frequently asked a political asylum by
Iraqis oppressed by Hajaj ibn Yusuf. Since Umar II defended them, Hajjaj asked
those given asylum by Umar II to be returned home. Failed to do so, al-Walid I fired
Hajjaj. Besides that, Umar did not continue Hajjaj’s proposal to invalidate the will of
Abd al-Malik saying: “After al-Walid I, Sulayman ibn al-Malik should be crowned”.
Perhaps this was the fruit of the support Umar II had ever given to Sulaiman.
As a matter of fact, at first Umar II refused the appointment by Caliphate
Sulayman to the position of caliphate. After convinced, he finally accepted it. Instead
of saying al-hamd li-Allah for receiving the position, he said “innâ lillâhi wa innâ
ilaihi râji’ûn” as if calamity would have happen.
After the appointment, Umar II handed in all of his property to the state’s
administration. He also submitted the property of his wife, Fatimah bint ‘Abd al-
Malik, inherited from her father which included gold rings valued 10.000 dinar. He
regarded that as long as women in the country had not managed to have gold rings as
valued as those of the Lady of the country, they did not deserve to use them.
In making his decisions, Umar II always consulted the Prophet’s companions
who were still alive and other ulama so as not to deviate from the Islamic sources of
teaching (the Quran and the hadith). He was aware that his family had to administer
the state based on Islamic ways.8 He returned the Fadak (or Fidak) farm, which
belonged to the Prophet given on behalf of peoples, to the Prophet’s family (ahl albayt)
which was privately possessed by the Caliphate Marwan ibn Hakam during his
reign. He abolished the imprecation toward ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and his family as ever
ruled out by the Caliphate Mu‘awiyyah in every Friday prayer sermon.
During Umar II’s reign, the Khawarij group had never rebelled as they had
ever done before. He invited the Khawarij leaders to discuss instead. They once asked
about his Caliphate position: “Who had given you the Caliphate position?” He replied
that he only had the position for provisional times until people chose his more
appropriate and capable successor. When the time came, he would step down
wholeheartedly from the position and give it to his successor. Listening to his reply,
they said: “you are true and we fully support you.”
Unfortunately, his brilliant policies were not continued by his successors.
Firstly, none of his successors continued his popular policies in developing people’s
prosperity. Instead, they corrupted their position and failed to realise people’s
welfare. Secondly, his leadership was too tolerant even toward the political rivals of
the Umayyad dynasty, including Khawarijis and Shi‘is. As a result, the underground
movements of these groups could easily consolidate their power which peaked in the
fall of the dynasty. Concerning this, P.K. Hitti said: “although with the modest
intention, Umar’s policy did not (work well)”.
After his death, his successor, Yazid ibn Abdul Malik, ordered Umar II’s wife
to take back her husband’s property from the state’s administration. She refused,
since it would break the order of her husband. Yazid II was weak and could not
manage administration well. Soon after his appointment to the Caliphate, rebellions
and conflicts between tribes and races happened throughout the country until his
death in 724 A.D.
(A Political Biography of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz)*
By: M. Abdul Karim**