7.11 Umar ibn al-Khattab Enters into Islam
Umar ibn Al-Khattab was in the prime of manhood, powerfully built, of large frame, and with a quick, violent temper. He loved drink, wrestling, and sports. He enjoyed company and reading poetry in late night revels. He was good to his family and relations, but he was one of the men the Muslims feared and many suffered at his hands. He molested them, spoke ill of them, and took every opportunity to harass them.
But behind Umar's rough exterior and harsh manner was a soft and sensitive heart. When he found the Muslims had fled to Abyssinia, he felt a pang of remorse and he began to miss them. Then he thought of Mohamed, this man who had divided Quraysh, and decided that the only thing to do was to kill him. After Mohamed's death, he believed, these people would return to their homes and land, to the religion of their forefathers, and all would be happy and united again.
He heard that Mohamed and the Muslims met at the house of Al-Arqam, so he took his sword and headed towards it. On the way he met Nuaym ibn Abdul-Uzza. When the latter learned his intention, he said,
"Really, Umar, you are deceiving yourself. Do you think you can kill Mohamed and that then Banu Abdu Manaf and Banu Hashim would leave you unharmed on the face of the earth? Besides, shouldn't you put your own house in order first?"
Umar learning from Nuaym that his own sister and her husband had entered into Islam, marched off to their house in fury. He heard someone reading the Koran. As soon as he approached, it stopped. He entered in a rage and said,
"What is this noise I hear?"
When his sister and her husband denied there had been any noise, he began to beat Said, his brother-in-law. His sister rose to stand between him and her husband, but he pushed her aside. She fell and wounded her forehead so that blood streamed over her face. Umar looked at what he had done and felt remorseful. He had not meant to hurt her.
His sister and her husband were furious with him. They admitted that they had entered into Islam and, defying him, bid him do what he would. He asked to see the text, but Fatima, his sister, would not let him see it until he promised to return it safely.
It was the opening verses of Surat Taha. Umar was thrilled and taken aback by the power and majesty of what he read, by the truth that would reveal itself, whether deniers liked it or not. He sat shaken for a moment, then rose and headed towards where Mohamed taught in the house of AI-Arqam.
As he approached, people whispered,
"It is Umar." But Mohamed who feared no man told them to let him in. He entered, professed himself a Muslim, and swore allegiance to Allah and His Messenger. Mohamed was overjoyed, for he had often prayed that Allah would strengthen the new religion by either Umar ibn AI-Khattab or AI-Walid ibn AI-Mughira, two men of great power and influence among Quraysh.
Umar was not a man to do anything by halves. Just as he was terrible to the Muslims before, now he stood terrible and magnificent in defense of Islam. He dared any man to prevent him or any Muslim from prayer. He prayed openly at the Kaaba for all to hear and see and led the Muslims in prayer there, bringing them out of their hiding place in the house of AI-Arqam.
He was a man of iron will and a clear, just perception. Now that he was convinced of the truth of Islam he resented that Muslims should be deprived of freedom of worship when they were in the right. He made no compromises about his beliefs. The Muslims found in him, as they found in Hamza, a shield against the ever-growing spite of Quraysh.