Abdullah Ibn Umar

Because of this attitude he was reluctant to be a qadi even though he was well qualified to be one. The position of qadi was one of the most important and esteemed offices in the Muslim society and state bringing with it honor, glory and even riches but h e declined this position when it was offered him by the Khalifah Uthman. His reason for so doing was not that he underestimated the importance of the position of qadi but because of his fear of committing errors of judgment in matters pertaining to Islam. Uthman made him agree not to disclose his decision lest it might influence the many other companions of the Prophet who actually performed the duties of judges and juris consults.

Abdullah ibn Umar was once described as the “brother of the night.” He would stay up at night performing Salat, weeping and seeking God’s forgiveness and reading Quran. To his sister, Hafsah, the Prophet once said: “What a blessed man is Abdullah. Should he perform Salat at night he would be blessed even more.”

From that day, Abdullah did not abandon aiyam alLayl whether at home or on journeys. In the stillness of the nights, he would remember God much, perform Salat and read the Quran and weep. Like his father, tears came readily to his eyes especially when he heard the warning verses of the Quran. Ubayd ibn Umayr has related that one day he read these verses to Abdullah ibn Umar:

“How then (will the sinners fare on Judgment Day) when We shall bring forward witnesses from within every community and bring you (O Prophet) as witness against them? Those who were bent on denying the truth and paid no heed to the Apostle will on that Da y wish that the earth would swallow them but they shall not (be able to) conceal from God anything that has happened.” (Surah an-Nisa, 4:41-42).

Abdullah cried on listening to these verses until his beard was moist with tears. One day, he was sitting among some close friends and he read: “Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from people, demand that it be given in full but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead (and called to account) on an awesome Day, the Day when all men shall stan d before the Sustainer of all the worlds?” (The Quran, Surah al Mutaffifin, 83: 1-6). At this point he kept on repeating “the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds” over and over again and weeping until he was faint.

Piety, simplicity and generosity combined in Abdullah to make him a person who was highly esteemed by the companions and those who came after them. He gave generously and did not mind parting with wealth even if he himself would fall in want as a result. He was a successful and trustworthy trader throughout his life. In addition to this he had a generous stipend from the Bayt al-Mal which he would often spend on the poor and those in need. Ayyub ibn Wail ar-Rasi recounted one incident of his generosity: One day Umar received four thousand dirhams and a velvet blanket. The following day Ayyub saw him in the suq buying fodder for his camel on credit. Ayyub then went to Abdullah’s family and asked:

“Didn’t Abu Abdur-Rahman (meaning Abdullah ibn Umar) get four thousand dirhams and a blanket yesterday?” “Yes, indeed,” they replied.

“But I saw him today in the suq buying fodder for his camel and he had no money to pay for it.” “Before nightfall yesterday. he had parted with it all. Then he took the blanket and threw it over his shoulder and went out. When he returned it was not with him. We asked him about it and he said that he had given it to a poor person,” they explained.

Abdullah ibn Umar encouraged the feeding and the helping of the poor and the needy. Often when he ate, there were orphans and poor people eating with him. He rebuked his children for treating the rich and ignoring the poor. He once said to them: “You invi te the rich and forsake the poor.”

For Abdullah, wealth was a servant not a master. It was a means towards attaining the necessities of life, not for acquiring luxuries. He was helped in this attitude by his asceticism and simple life-style. One of his friends who came from Khurasan once brought him a fine elegant piece of clothing:

“I have brought this thawb for you from Khurasan,” he said. “It would certainly bring coolness to your eyes. I suggest that you take off these coarse clothes you have and put on this beautiful thawb.”

“Show it to me then,” said Abdullah and on touching it he asked: “Is it silk?” “No, it is cotton,” replied his friend.

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