The above-mentioned Quranic injunctions were so deeply instilled in the personality of Hazrat Umar(ra) that others might find it astounding. He was the second Khalifah of Islam, who made tremendous sacrifices for the progress of Islam and Muslims. Even those European writers who routinely criticise the Holy Prophet(sa) — accusing him (God forbid) of dishonesty in his dealings — cannot but admit that the way Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) and Hazrat Umar(ra) worked tirelessly and selflessly in the service of mankind is unparalleled in history. These authors are especially complimentary to Hazrat Umar(ra). According to them, he was a man who worked with total dedication day and night to spread the message of Islam and to advance the Muslim cause. However, despite his tireless effort, countless sacrifices, and the pain and suffering he endured for the sake of Muslims, what was his assessment about himself? He remained mindful of the following verse that: 1
That is, when you are appointed to an office of trust by the decree of God, and your countrymen and brethren appoint you to the responsibility of governance, it is incumbent upon you to rule with justice.
How painful is the following episode of his life! When a person — out of foolishness and misperception that Hazrat Umar(ra) had been unjust — fatally stabbed him, Hazrat Umar(ra) lay in anguish on his deathbed with the following words on his lips:
O my Lord: I ask for no reward: only be pleased to call me not to account for my shortcomings. (Usdul-Ghabah, vol. 4, p. 75)
His only thought was: ‘O Lord! You gave me this authority and trust. I do not know if I truly fulfilled my duty. Now the time of my death is near and I am about to leave this world and return to You. O my Lord! I do not ask for any compensation for my services and I do not seek any reward. Instead, I only seek your mercy. If I have done any wrong in discharging the responsibilities that were assigned to me, I seek your forgiveness.’
Hazrat Umar(ra) was a man of such high calibre that it is hard to find other examples in history that come close to his sense of equity and justice, yet he died under the weight of the Quranic injunction:2
Even at his death he was restless and troubled. He was not satisfied with all the services that he had rendered for the betterment of his people and for advancing the cause of Islam. He had given such tremendous service for his people that not only his own people, but others also recognized them. His services were appreciated during his own time but also thirteen hundred years later and by people who were otherwise inclined to attacking his master. Yet, all of these services were nothing in Umar’s(ra) own eyes and he restlessly pleaded to God: ‘I was given a trust but I do not know if I fulfilled that trust as it was meant to be fulfilled. Therefore, I beseech You to forgive my faults and save me from the punishment.’
I have deemed it necessary to describe at length the general environment needed for establishing the Islamic economic system, because no matter how good a seed is, it would not mature into a tree unless the soil was appropriate for its growth and nourishment. On the other hand, even an ordinary seed, in a nourishing environment, could grow and mature into a plant. Thus, the general environment described above is the precondition for the Islamic economic system intended to serve public interest.
1 Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them. Surah an-Nisa’, 4:59, (publishers)
2 Surah an-Nisa’, 4:59, (publishers)