Alleged Innovations By Hazrat Umar (ra)

Question

I have heard that after the death of Holy Prophet (sws) especially during the rule of Hazrat Umar (ra), several changes were made in the ordinance of the State and religion.

Hazrat Umar (ra) introduced some new laws in the Islamic Shariah and these laws have become part of Islamic culture and tradition and are still followed by people of this time. How far is this true?

Also I want to know that was it Hazrat Umar (ra) who introduced the utterance of divorce three times and the phrase "prayer is better than sleep" in the adhan of Fajr (morning)?

Please throw some light on this information and let me know that were these innovations made by Hazrat Umar(ra) in the light of Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws)?


Answer

The claim that the caliph Umar (ra) innovated novel practices in the religion results from sheer misunderstanding of the nature of the directives taken by the caliph and misinterpretation of some facts reported in the hadith literature. His attitude to the religious matters as depicted in the hadith literature in general takes one to believe that he was rather strict in even carelessly ascribing anything to the Holy Prophet (sws). He would not accept any individual report ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) himself against the acknowledged practices and clear directives of the Shari`ah. It would not be fair to accuse a personality who takes due care in religious matters of these unjust charges.

The basic mistake in this regard takes place when people mix up the administrative directives and interpretation or implication of the texts by the caliph with religious doctrines. If the posterity took his administrative decisions to be part of the religion it would mean their lack of understanding not a misdemeanor on the part of the caliph.

The most striking example of misunderstanding in this regard is his decision in consequences of pronouncing triple talaaq at a time. The Islamic Shari`ah has given clear directive regarding the permanent separation of a married couple. However, the Holy Qur'an has left the matter of dealing with the matter of breaching the clear directive regarding divorce and the consequences of such boldness. The Holy Prophet (sws) would decide such matters keeping in consideration the intent of the offender after properly investigating the matter. He is reported to have decided either to take the triple talaaq as single divorce or in some other cases, deprive the offender of his right to reunite with his spouse. Absence of any regular legislation leaves the Islamic state with the right to pass a legislation keeping the general cases before it. This is what happened during the rule of the second caliph[1]. This administrative decision he took keeping in view the gross disregard of the expressed Qur'anic directive for base motives by the subjects. Exercising this right on the state level can in no way be considered an addition to the religious directives.

As regards the matter of insertion of the words 'come to the prayer' in Azaan is concerned the claim is also unfounded. The reason being that the words of Azaan is part of the Sunnah of the prayer instituted by the Holy Prophet (sws). The practice has been in currency since the day the Holy Prophet (sws) instituted it as the Sunnah. The authenticity of the practice does not hinge upon individual reports rather it depends on the generation-to-generation transmission of the words uttered in the call in all the five prayers. It is also clear from various reports that any addition that is deemed appropriate with reference to the circumstance can also be made in the words of this call for prayer. Also there is a legion of narratives, which clearly mention that the practice has been in vogue during the Holy Prophet's (sws) time. Let us study the report that is forwarded to prove the notion that Hazrat Umar (ra) inserted the words in the call to prayer.

Malik narrated that it was reported to him that the Mo`azzan approached Umar (ra) to call him to prayer. When he found Umar (ra) asleep he said: 'Prayer is better than sleep'. Umar (ra) commanded him to place the saying in the call for the Morning Prayer.

As is obvious the narrator does not mention the source and the report is not traced back to the caliph Umar (ra). Moreover, the text of the report is in clear contradiction with many authentic reports. As I have already mentioned that a host of narratives recorded in other books of the hadith mention that it was the Holy Prophet (sws) himself who had commanded his companions to add the sentence in the call for Morning Prayer. These reports which are mostly reported by more reliable and uninterrupted chains of reporters include Sahih of Ibn e Khuzaymah 385, 386; Sahih of Ibn e Habbaan 1682; Sunan of Abu Daud 500, 501, 504; Sunan Nisai 633, 647, 707; Sunan Ibn e Majah 716; Sunan Nisai al Kubra 1597, 1611; Sunan Bahaqi Al Kubraa 1617, 1824, 1831, 1832, 1833, 1835, 1731, 1834, 1836, 1837, 1838, 1840, 1845, and many others in Musnad Ahmad and other books.

Even if we study the wording of the narrative disregarding the lack of reliability and obvious lack of correspondence with other reliable sources and the reported practice of the entire Ummah the report does no way exclusively prove that Umar (ra) meant to add this in the call of Faj'r prayer. Many scholars have interpreted it to mean that the Mo`azzn should place the sentence in the call of Morning Prayer and should not say calling someone to prayer personally in other circumstances. This interpretation tends to prove the sagacity and typical extraordinary care the caliph would adopt in these matters. Certainly he intended to avoid introduction of a formal method to call someone individually to prayer.

The foregoing explanation would effectively prove that the narrative does in no way prove that the caliph Umar (ra) introduced the saying in the Azaan for Morning Prayer.

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