DISCLAIMER: I myself am a student and close friend to many of those respected scholars, activists, and community leaders. I completely value the huge benefit and the immense gap and responsibilities that this culture has brought to Muslims in the western hemisphere. So I am in no way shape or form in the business of accusation, defamation, or generalization.
At the same time, I am trying my best to zoom out and look at the big picture: are we missing anything? What went wrong? Did we miss something major in our understanding and implementation of our Deen?
Again forget about a particular incident that really ruined my weekend and made me lose sleep for about two days; I am trying to assess the whole environment; I am trying to come up with lessons learned first and foremost to myself, to my immediate community members and activists, to the students and "fans" of the scholars, and last but not least to my teachers and role models, in the most humble way a student can approach a teacher with an advice.
There is no word in any language that can describe my admiration to the life and leadership of Omar Bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), and the applicability of which to the challenges of our time. Without going into details, two reasons come to mind:
So if we want to "reverse-engineer" Omar's method and reasoning in issues where there is no clear revelation, we will be following the footsteps of the man who has the closest reasoning to the revelation of Allah SWT; of course [here's another disclaimer] this is not meant to raise him or praise him above his humanly status and shortcomings.
The Mysterious Door
Hudhaifa narrates: "Once I was sitting with `Umar and he said, 'Who amongst you remembers the statement of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) about the afflictions?' I said, 'I know it as the Prophet (ﷺ) had said it.' `Umar said, 'No doubt you are bold.' I said, 'The afflictions caused for a man by his wife, money, children and neighbor are expiated by his prayers, fasting, charity and by enjoining (what is good) and forbidding (what is evil).' `Umar said, 'I did not mean that but I asked about that affliction which will spread like the waves of the sea.' I (Hudhaifa) said, 'O leader of the faithful believers! You need not be afraid of it as there is a closed door between you and it.' `Umar asked, Will the door be broken or opened?' I replied, 'It will be broken.' `Umar said, 'Then it will never be closed again.' I was asked whether `Umar knew that door. I replied that he knew it as one knows that there will be night before the tomorrow morning. I narrated a Hadith that was free from any misstatement" The narrator added that they deputized Masruq to ask Hudhaifa about the mysterious door.
Hudhaifa said, "The door was `Umar himself."
The Huge Gap That Remains Unfilled ...
Omar Bin Khattab and his leadership protected our nation from waves of tribulations and internal conflicts. He was a visionary with a unique ability to see the "failure modes" that can happen in a community and "design" against them. During his caliphate, he took some executive orders that one would deem as "controversial". However, the short term and long term benefits of each incidents present a guideline of Omar's leadership and vision.
While no one can discredit the Caliphs who came after him, Othman and Ali, may Allah be pleased with them, one can easily sense the turmoil and the unrest during the second half of Othman's caliphate and the whole period of Ali's. This is not to discredit them by any means, but to highlight the gap that was left when that door was broken by the assassination of the giant Omar.
How does this apply to our time?
After this long but needed introduction, below are five snippets from his life, along with some reflections on how to apply the Omar mindset in the 21st century and on the Daawa scene in the age of social media:
1- Don't Judge By (or care for) The Outer Appearance
So Omar started asking:
فقال : أسافرت معه ؟ قال : لا . قال أخالطته قال : لا . قال : والله الذي لا إله إلا هو ما تعرفه .
Did you travel with him? No!
Did you interact closely with him and on a personal level? No!
So Omar said: I swear by Allah, the one who is no one worthy of worship except Him, that you do not know him!
2- More Good Deeds in Secret
When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was on his death bed, he started consulting many leaders in the Muslim community about their opinion in Omar. One of those asked was Othman bin Affan, who replied:
علمي فيه أن سريرته خير من علانيته
"To the best of my knowledge, his private deeds are much better than his public ones"
We should realize that the whole ecosystem of online daawa and social media is highlighting a very bright picture of ourselves.
If our side view mirror reads: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear", then one can use the same logic on objects and how they appear on social media:
"personalities, wisdom, and righteousness on social media appears bigger than what it is in real life; stay sincere & do more good deeds in private"
3- Connect The Believers to Allah, not to People
Khalid Bin Al Walid was the sword of Allah SWT, never been defeated in any battle, neither when he fought for Quraish before he embraced Islam, nor when he accepted Islam and started leading Muslims in the battlefield.
Abu Bakr had so much confidence in Khaled, and gave him leadership on multiple occasions, and Khalid did not stop amazing both the friends and foes with his bright planning and excellent implementation of the art of war. He led the Muslims through a series of victories that ended up in them meeting the Roman army in the historic battle of Al-Yarmuk.
Few days before the actual battle started, Abu Bakr Al-Siddique passed away, and Omar Bin Khattab took over the caliphate. One of his initial "Executive Orders": Demote Khalid to the ranks of a regular soldier, and order Abu Obaidah Ibn Al Jarrah to lead the Muslims in the battlefield.
The attitude of both Abu Obaidah and Khalid were beyond amazing, it shows their selflessness, the insignificance of worldly titles and status in their hearts, and the authentic tarbiya by their wonderful teacher Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him.
Now why did Omar do all this? why not leave Khalid with his wisdom and strength and expertise in warfare? Omar did not want the Muslims to win a battlefield but lose the war of faith. He did not want them to associate the winning with the persona of Khalid, and was concerned about the big picture: Victory comes from Allah, not from Khalid!
4- Protecting The Grand Scholars From The Celebrity Status
During Omar's time, the sovereignty of Muslims was expanded to include multiple regions and major cities of the time. This was associated with masses of people embracing Islam, and hence increasing the demands for teachers and scholars to teach them the faith. While this by itself may seem to be an un-negotiable cause and request, Omar's executive orders commanded those scholars to remain in Madinah.
And to be honest, I stumbled after reading this narration many times!
Why would he stop that khair from spreading across the Muslim nation?
This is a debatable and probably a controversial discussion, but some narrators mention the following reasons:
When Othman Bin Affan became in charge, he adopted a different policy and allowed the scholars among the companions to travel and teach the people. While this was indeed a beneficial move in terms of spreading the knowledge, some of those companions - unintentionally - became part of the turmoil against Othman's ruling. For example, some political tension erupted due to harsh statements issued by the famous companion Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari about wealth, the glitter of the worldly life, and the virtues of living in poverty. All those factors added up and resulted in people organizing themselves to overthrow Othman and ended up in the very unfortunate events leading to the assassination of the third Caliph of the Muslims.
5- Seeking Pride in Allah Not in Worldly Means
This is not an invitation to neglect our appearances, our marketing strategies, and our professionalism in presenting our message. However, at the core of all that should be our status in the eyes of Allah, not our likes and following in the eyes of men.
Prophet PBUH told us once:
عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: " بادروا بالأعمال فتناً كقطع الليل المظلم يصبح الرجل مؤمنا ويمسي كافراً ويمسي مؤمنا ويصبح كافراً، يبيع دينه بعرض من الدنيا" ((رواه مسلم)).
"ٌTake the initiative, rush and run towards good deeds, before you are overtaken by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. A man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods."
While there are many documented methods and procedures to protect one's self from tribulations, I strongly believe in studying the life and the wisdom of Omar Bin Al-Khattab as a cure for those Fitnas that came and will come...
What are your thoughts? What are other ways or advice for the scholars, students, fans, Muslim organizations, activists, ... ?