Umayr ibn Sad Al-Ansari

During the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the people of Hims in Syria complained much and bitterly of the governors appointed to the city even though Umar in particular used to pay special attention to the type of men he chose as his provincial governors. In selecting a governor, Umar would say: “I want a man who when he is among the people and is not their amir, should not behave as their amir, and when he is among them as an amir, he should behave as one of them.

“I want a governor who will not distinguish himself from the people by the clothes he wears, or the food he eats or the house he lives in.”

“I want a governor who would establish Salat among the people, treat them equitably and with justice and does not close his door when they come to him in need.”

In the light of the complaints of the people of Hims and going by his own criteria for a good governor, Umar ibn al-Khattab decided to appoint Umayr ibn Sad as governor of the region. This was despite the fact that Umayr at that time was at the head of a Muslim army traversing the Arabian peninsula and the region of great Syria, liberating towns, destroying enemy fortifications, pacifying the tribes and establishing masjids wherever he went. Umayr accepted the appointment as governor of Hims reluctantly because he preferred nothing better than Jihad in the path of God. He was still quite young, in his early twenties.

When Umayr reached Hims he called the inhabitants to a vast congregational prayer. When the prayer was over he addressed them. He began by praising and giving thanks to God and sending peace and blessings on His Prophet Muhammad. Then he said:

“O people! Islam is a mighty fortress and a sturdy gate. The fortress of Islam is justice and its gate is truth. If you destroy the fortress and demolish the gate you would undermine the defences of this religion.

“Islam will remain strong so long as the Sultan or central authority is strong. The strength of the Sultan neither comes from flogging with the whip, nor killing with the sword but from ruling with justice and holding fast to truth.”

Umayr spent a full year in Hims during which, it is said, he did not write a single letter to the Amir al-Muminin. Nor did he send any taxes to the central treasury in Madinah, neither a dirham nor a dinar.

Umar was always concerned about the performance of his governors and was afraid that positions of authority would corrupt them. As far as he was concerned, there was no one who was free from sin and corrupting influences apart from the noble Prophet, peace be upon him. He summoned his secretary and said:

“Write to Umayr ibn Sad and say to him: “When the letter of the Amir al-Muminin reaches you, leave Hims and come to him and bring with you whatever taxes you have collected from the Muslims.”

Umayr received the letter. He took his food pouch and hung his eating, drinking and washing utensils over his shoulder. He took his spear and left Hims and the governorship behind him. He set off for Madinah on foot.

As Umayr approached Madinah, he was badly sunburnt, his body was gaunt and his hair had grown long. His appearance showed all the signs of the long and arduous journey. Umar, on seeing him, was astonished. What’s wrong with you, Umayr?” he asked with deep concern.

“Nothing is wrong with me, O Amir al-Muminin,” replied Umayr. “I am fine and healthy, praise be to God, and I carry with me all (my) worldly possessions.”

“And what worldly possessions have you got?” asked Umar thinking that he was carrying money for the Bayt al-mal or treasury of the Muslims.”

“I have my pouch in which I put my food provisions. I have this vessel from which I eat and which I use for washing my hair and clothes. And I have this cup for making wudu and drinking…” “Did you come on foot?” asked Umar. “Yes, O Amir al-Muminin.” “Weren’t you given from your amirship an animal to ride on?” “They did not give me one and I did not ask them.”

“And where is the amount you brought for the Baytalmal?”

“I didn’t bring anything.”

“And why not?”

“When I arrived at Hims,” said Umayr, “I called the righteous persons of the town to a meeting and gave them the responsibility of collecting the taxes. Whenever they collected any amounts of money I would seek their advice and spent it (all) on those who were deserving among them.”

At this point, Umar turned to his secretary and said:

“Renew the appointment of Umayr to the governorship of Hims.” “Oh, come now,” protested Umayr. “That is something which I do not desire. I shall not be a governor for you nor for anyone after you, O Amir al-Muminin.”

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