After reciting Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) said that he would continue highlighting incidents from the life of Hazrat Umar(ra).
His Holiness(aba) said under the leadership of Amr bin al-Aas, the Muslim army encircled Bait al-Maqdas, i.e. Jerusalem. The Christians eventually agreed to making a treaty, but said that they wanted Hazrat Umar(ra) himself to come and form the treaty. Thus, Hazrat Umar(ra), after consulting with other companions, set out for Bait al-Maqdas. His Holiness(aba) presented the statements of various historians regarding this incident and some of their varying views regarding these occurrences. It is stated that Hazrat Umar(ra) had already set out towards Bait al-Maqdas before any talk of the treaty, as Amr bin al-Aas had sent him a letter requesting assistance. Thus, Hazrat Umar(ra) had already set out and had stopped on the way at a place called Jabiyah, where he wished to consult with his army commanders. It was there that he was told of the Christian’s demand that he be present himself for the brokerage of a treaty.
His Holiness(aba) said that once Hazrat Umar(ra) was in Jabiyah, the Muslim commanders were summoned by Hazrat Umar(ra). When the commanders reached Jabiyah, Hazrat Umar(ra) saw that they had adopted a physical appearance that resembled other Arabs who dressed extravagantly. This displeased Hazrat Umar(ra), however they told him that they were still wearing armour underneath, and that this appearance was merely for fitting in among the other Arabs.
His Holiness(aba) said that it was in Jabiyah that the treaty between the Muslims and Christians was formed. When the Christians were arriving, they were riding horses and their swords were glistening. As such, the Muslims also drew their arms, but Hazrat Umar(ra) told them that these Christians had come to broker a peace treaty, and so, the Muslims should put away their weapons. In the treaty, Hazrat Umar(ra) said that the people of Ilya (where Bait al-Maqdas was located) would not be harmed, nor would their homes and their churches be harmed. Those who wished to go to the Romans were free to do so, and those who wished to stay on their lands were free to do so, as long as they paid the Jizyah.
His Holiness(aba) said that this showed that the Muslims did not impose themselves by way of the sword, they fostered religious freedom, and they never forced the Jizyah upon anyone, instead, everyone was always given a choice to either go somewhere else, or pay the Jizyah.
His Holiness(aba) said that after the treaty was finalised, Hazrat Umar went to Bait al-Maqdas. As Hazrat Umar(ra) arrived, he was dressed very modestly. The Muslims were worried about what the Christians would say, and so they offered him some valuable garment to wear. Hazrat Umar(ra) said that the honour of Islam which has been bestowed upon them is more than enough. The Christian priests handed over the keys to the city to Hazrat Umar(ra). He took a tour of the Bait al-Maqdas and when it came time for prayers, the Christians offered for him to offer prayers there. However, Hazrat Umar(ra) said he feared that if he did so, the Muslims would take this to be a sacred place for them, and then try to take it over. Thus, Hazrat Umar(ra) went outside and offered the prayers.
His Holiness(aba) said that people in Ilya began inviting Hazrat Umar(ra) to their homes. One day Hazrat Umar(ra) asked Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) why he had not invited him. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) said that if he invited Hazrat Umar(ra) in, he would not be able to control his emotions. However, they proceeded to Hazrat Abu Ubaidah’s(ra) tent, which was empty except for a make-shift cot, and some bread in the corner. Upon seeing this, tears began flowing from the eyes of Hazrat Umar(ra) and he embraced Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra).
His Holiness(aba) said that while in Ilya, people requested Hazrat Umar(ra) for Hazrat Bilal(ra) to call the Azan (call for prayer). Hazrat Bilal(ra) said that he had vowed after the demise of the Holy Prophet(sa) to never call the Azan again. However, since Hazrat Umar(ra) had asked him, he agreed and called the Azan. This reminded everyone there of the time of the Holy Prophet(sa).
His Holiness(aba) said that as the Muslims gained victory after victory, people and cities were becoming fearful of losing their cities. The people of Jazirah, located between Iraq and Syria wrote to Heraclius seeking his help and asked him to send ships to combat the Muslims. He agreed to send help, as he thought this to be a winning plan. Upon learning that he had agreed, the people of Jazirah took an army of 30,000 to Homs. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) came to learn of these plots and ploys. He consulted with Hazrat Khalid bin Waleed(ra), and they agreed that in order to combat this, they should assemble the entire Muslim army in the South of Syria. When Heraclius’s ships arrived, the Muslims found themselves in a difficult situation. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) wrote to Hazrat Umar(ra) informing him of the delicate situation. Hazrat Umar(ra) commanded Sa‘d bin Abi Waqas(ra) to send help, and thus he sent an army of 4,000 towards Homs. However this would not be enough to combat the army of Jazirah. However, as the army of Jazirah was in Homs, Hazrat Umar(ra) commanded that another army should be sent to Jazirah, so that the army would have to return to Jazirah in order to defend their city, thus relieving the Muslim army in Homs who were facing a difficult situation. This showed the great strategic capabilities of Hazrat Umar(ra), and it proved successful, as when this happened, the army of Jazirah was forced to leave Homs and return to Jazirah. Eventually, the Muslims proved victorious.
His Holiness(aba) said that he would continue highlighting incidents from the life of Hazrat Umar(ra) in future sermons.
His Holiness(aba) said that he would lead the funeral prayers in absentia of the following deceased members:
Chaudhary Saeed Ahmad Lakhan who was residing in Canada. He was the grandson of a companion of the Promised Messiah(as). He is survived by six sons and three daughters, all of whom are serving the Community in one way or another. One of his sons is a Missionary in Kenya and could not attend his father’s funeral. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah grant him patience. He held a great deal of honour for his faith and for the Promised Messiah(as). He always advised his children to never fear anyone when it came to Ahmadiyyat. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah treat him with forgiveness and mercy.
Muhammad Shahabuddin who was serving as the Vice-President of the Community in Bangladesh. He accepted Ahmadiyyat after seeing a dream. He had many virtuous qualities and had a great deal of love for Khilafat. He is survived by four sons and three daughters. He faced opposition even from his family, but did so with great patience. He was a very trustworthy person. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah treat him with forgiveness and mercy.
Raul Abdullah of Argentina. He was one of the first Ahmadis in Argentina. He first learned of the Community at a book fair, and though people tried steering him away from the Community, he would still attend events. He attended the Jalsa Salana UK in order to remove any doubts in his mind, and after meeting His Holiness(aba), he became certain and then accepted Ahmadiyyat. He held great honour for the Community, and would proudly introduce himself as an Ahmadi. His Holiness(aba) prayed that may Allah treat him with forgiveness and mercy and enable his family to also accept Ahmadiyyat.
Summary prepared by The Review of Religions
After reciting the tashahud, ta‘awuz and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V(aa) stated:
Accounts from the time of Hazrat Umar(ra) were being mentioned. Today the conquest of Jerusalem will be mentioned, which took place in 15 AH. After the forces under the leadership of Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas had besieged Jerusalem, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) joined them with his army. Becoming weary from the siege, the Christians proposed a peace treaty, but on the condition that Hazrat Umar(ra) should come himself and agree to the terms. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) informed Hazrat Umar(ra) of this matter. When Hazrat Umar(ra) consulted the companions, Hazrat Ali(ra) suggested that Hazrat Umar(ra) should go. Hazrat Umar(ra) approved of this suggestion and appointed Hazrat Ali(ra) as the amir of Medina. In another narration, it is said that Hazrat Uthman(ra) was made the amir of Medina.
Following this, Hazrat Umar(ra) departed for Jerusalem. This journey was not an ordinary journey. The purpose of it was to impress the awe of Islam onto the enemy’s hearts and establish its grandeur. However, when Hazrat Umar(ra) departed, unlike worldly kings, there was no extravagant procession accompanying him, nor was there any beating of drums. It was such that not even a simple tent was brought along. Instead, Hazrat Umar(ra) was riding a horse, accompanied by a few Muhajirin and Ansar companions. In one narration, it is said that Hazrat Umar(ra) was traveling by camel and accompanied only by a single servant who was carrying parched grains and a wooden bowl. Despite these conditions, the earth would tremble at the news that Hazrat Umar(ra) was traveling from Medina to Jerusalem. (Tarikh Ibn Khuldun, Vol. 3, Part 1, [Karachi: Dar al- Isha‘ah, 2009], p. 207)
This is a short account of the journey and there are not many details about it. Nonetheless, Iliya was the [old] name of where Jerusalem is situated. The details of who besieged Jerusalem are mentioned in Al-Tabari, including who requested Hazrat Umar(ra) to come there. It is mentioned in Al-Tabari that Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas wrote to Hazrat Umar(ra) requesting reinforcements. Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas sent a letter to Hazrat Umar(ra). He explained that he was fighting intense and fierce battles and there were many cities that still remained to be engaged with, so he awaited further instructions. Upon receiving this letter from Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas, Hazrat Umar(ra) understood that this letter must have been written after careful consideration. Following this, Hazrat Umar(ra)announced his departure amongst the public and set forth on his journey. (Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2, Part 2 [Karachi: Dar al-Isha‘at, 2004], p. 804)
Al-Tabari also mentions that the actual reason for Hazrat Umar’s(ra)journey to Syria was when Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) arrived in Jerusalem, the people asked for a peace treaty on the same conditions as was established with the cities in Syria. They also desired that Hazrat Umar(ra)should represent the Muslims as their leader in taking this covenant of peace. When Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) wrote to Hazrat Umar(ra) about this in a letter, Hazrat Umar(ra) set out from Medina. (Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 1987], p. 449) (Yaqut Ibn Abd Allah al-Hamawi, Mu‘jam al-Buldan, Vol. 14 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah], p. 348)
However, some historians are not in agreement with this narration of Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra). In this regard, Muhammad Hussain Haikal writes:
“It is imperative that we consider this narration documented by Al-Tabari, Ibn Athir and Ibn Kathir, which mentions that Hazrat Khalid(ra) bin Walid and Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) bin al-Jarah, either individually or collectively, laid siege on Jerusalem to be far from the truth. Al-Tabari narrates that the reason Hazrat Umar(ra) came to Syria was because when Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) besieged Jerusalem, the people asked for a peace treaty on the same conditions as was established with other regions of Syria. However, they added the condition that Hazrat Umar(ra) should be present for the finalisation of the peace agreement. Accordingly, Hazrat Abu Ubiadah(ra) sent word of this to the Khalifa and Hazrat Umar(ra) departed from Medina.”
He [Haikal] writes:
“I believe these accounts to be untrue, that Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) and Hazrat Khalid(ra) were present at the siege of Jerusalem. They were occupied with conquests in Homs [Emessa], Halab [Aleppo], Antakiyah [Antioch/Antakya] and other surrounding areas, while Heraclius was collecting his forces in Ruha (Edessa) in the hope of driving the Muslims away by force. All these events took place in 15 AH, or 636 CE, along with the siege of Jerusalem.”
He further writes:
“In my opinion, the truth is that the siege of Jerusalem lasted for many months during the same year that these two commanders went deeper into Syria, to the extent that it forced Heraclius to take refuge in his capital. In these circumstances, in which these two were occupied, it does not make sense to say that one of them or both of them besieged Jerusalem. That is why this narration must be rendered unacceptable. The only other narration that remains, which has also been quoted in al-Tabari, is that Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas besieged Jerusalem, which lasted for a long time.”
The people of Jerusalem very fiercely and intensely opposed the Muslims. This is the correct narration according to Haikal because it is consistent with the resistance that was shown by the people of Jerusalem which they similarly demonstrated throughout history. (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, pp. 365-366, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore)
Muhammad Hussain Haikal further writes:
“It is astonishing that Hazrat Umar(ra) would set out with an army only to finalise the peace treaty and for the promulgation of the agreement. Similarly, it is astonishing that the people of Jerusalem requested the presence of Hazrat Umar(ra) for the finalisation of the peace treaty knowing well that if a caravan was to travel to them from Medina continuously, it would take a full three weeks. For this reason, (Haikal writes) in light of the lengthy siege and letters from Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas which detailed the enemy’s strength and requested reinforcements, Hazrat Umar’s(ra)patience began to wear thin. Thus, Hazrat Umar(ra) accompanied the reinforcements who set up camp in Jabiya, located between the Syrian desert and Jordan.
“During this time, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) and Hazrat Khalid(ra) had also concluded their conquest of Syria. Hazrat Umar(ra) sent an order for both of them to convene in Jabiya so that he could deliberate with them and the other army commanders about the best plan of action for the success of the conquest of Jerusalem.”
Atraboon and Sophroneyus received news of the arrival of Hazrat Umar(ra). Here, there is also a conflict in names. In Arabic literature, the name recorded is Artaboon, but according to Haikal that is incorrect, and the name is Atraboon according to his research. The name Sophroneyus in Arabic literature is Sophronius. In any case, he says that Hazrat Umar(ra) sought to find a way and come up with a strategy, and so he gathered the commanders for this.
Hazrat Umar(ra) was informed of what was happening in Syria by Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) and Hazrat Khalid(ra). Subsequently, the two chieftains of the enemy [Atraboon and Sophroneyus] understood that the resistance of Jerusalem would not last much longer, i.e. that it was becoming more and more difficult for the fighting to endure. Therefore, Atraboon took some of the army with him and entered Egypt covertly. Being convinced of his own security, an elderly priest began discussing a peace treaty as he understood that the Leader of the Faithful [Hazrat Umar(ra)] had reached Jabiya and was staying there. For this reason, he placed a condition that he should attend himself in person to write up the peace treaty. The distance between Jabiya and Jerusalem was not extensive that any excuse be presented in response to this request of Sophroneyus. He [Haikal] says, “This is what I deem to be correct and to be in accordance with the historical context around the incidents regarding the attacks on Syria and Palestine.” (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, p. 358, 368, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore) (Tarikh al-Khulafa al-Rashidin, al-Futuhat wa al-Injazat al-Siyasiyyah, p. 279, Maktabah Shamilah)
As it were, in relation to Hazrat Umar(ra) seeking counsel after receiving these letters, he [Haikal] has written that Hazrat Umar(ra) gathered all the revered companions and took consultation. Hazrat Uthman(ra) gave his suggestion that the Christians were terrified and hopeless, so he should refuse their request. In this way, they would be further humiliated and lay down their arms unconditionally, knowing that the Muslims see them as insignificant. However, Hazrat Ali(ra) advised against this and instead suggested Hazrat Umar(ra) go to Jerusalem [Ilya] and said that the Muslims had endured extraordinary hardships from fighting in the cold and the prolonged stay. If he went, there would be security, prosperity and betterment for him and for the Muslims. But if he were to reject this peace proposal, it would not be in his best interest. The enemy would remain sat in their fortresses and reinforcements would arrive from their land and from the Byzantine emperor, especially considering that Jerusalem was of great importance and a site of pilgrimage. Hazrat Umar(ra) was pleased with the suggestion of Hazrat Ali(ra) and accepted it. (Al-Faruq, Shibli Nu‘mani, p. 124, Idarah Islamiyyat, 2004) (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, p. 369, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore)
Among the Muhajirin and Ansar who accompanied Hazrat Umar(ra) on this journey was Hazrat Abbas(ra) bin Abdil Muttalib. There is a narration of Abu Saeed Maqburi in relation to this journey, that after performing the morning prayer, Hazrat Umar(ra) went to his companions, turned to them and said:
“All praise belongs to Allah Who has honoured us with Islam and faith; Who has granted us honour through accepting Muhammad(sa), through whom we were granted guidance whilst previously being in a state of misguidance; Who united us as one rather than dispersing us into groups; Who has instilled love in our hearts; Who has granted us support through him against the enemy; Who has settled us in different cities, and Who, through the Holy Prophet(sa), has made us tender to one another and like brothers. Thus, praise Allah the Almighty for these bounties; seek further help of Him; seek the ability to thank Allah for these blessings, pray that Allah the Almighty completes these favours for you which you have been given, for Allah the Almighty desires that one turns to Him and that He completes His favours upon those who are grateful.”
Hazrat Umar(ra) continued stating this every morning of this journey; from the beginning right until he had returned, and he did not forsake it, i.e. he continued to give the same message every day. (Al-Iktifa bima Tadmanuhu min Maghazi Rasul Allah wa al-Thalathah al-Khulafa, Vol. 2, Chapter 1, pp. 292-293, Alam al-Kutub, Beirut, 1997)
The commanders of the Muslim army were informed that they should come and meet in Jabiya. In accordance with this announcement, Yazid bin Abi Sufyan(ra) and Khalid(ra) bin Walid etc. met with them. Having stayed in Syria, these chiefs had lost their simplicity. Hence, when they came before Hazrat Umar(ra), he was furious to see them in a state where they were wearing beautiful silk and brocades and were wearing ceremonious dresses and luxury garments, and it seemed from their outward appearance that they were non-Arabs. Hazrat Umar(ra) dismounted his horse, picked up some pebbles and threw them towards them, asking why they had adopted the non-Arab customs so quickly. They said that beneath the dresses were their weapons, i.e. they never gave up their art of fighting. Hazrat Umar(ra) then said, “If this is true, then it is fine that you wore this to display to them, but inside you are still Arabs.” (Al-Faruq, Shibli Nu‘mani, p. 124, Idarah Islamiyyat, 2004)
It is mentioned in one narration that Yazid bin Abi Sufyan(ra) said: “O Leader of the Faithful! We have many garments and riding animals, life is very good, goods are very cheap, and the state of the Muslims is such that would please you. If you wear these white clothes, ride these fine animals, and give the Muslims to eat out of the plentiful grain and wheat, it would be a means of increasing your reputation, a means of adorning your discharging of state responsibilities, and a way to increase your grandeur in the eyes of the non-Arabs.”
Upon this, Hazrat Umar(ra) replied:
“O Yazid! No! By Allah, I shall never forsake this appearance in which I left my two companions, i.e. I shall remain in the same state that I left the Holy Prophet(sa) and Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra), and I shall not adopt this adornment and embellishments for the sake of people, for I fear that in doing so it may leave me sinful in the eyes of my Lord, and I do not wish for my state to be of grandeur before the people but lowly before Allah Almighty.”
Hence, Hazrat Umar(ra) remained in this state in which the Holy Prophet(sa)and Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) lived their lives, until he passed from this world. (Al-Iktifa bima Tadmanuhu min Maghazi Rasul Allah wa al-Thalathah al-Khulafa, Vol. 2, Chapter 1, pp. 295, Alam al-Kutub, Beirut, 1997)
In relation to the way in which the peace treaty was formed between the Muslims and the Christians and where the agreement took place according to the people of Jerusalem [Ilya], many historians have written that the pact between the Muslims and the Christians was formed in Jabiya. It is written that during the stay in Jabiya, Hazrat Umar(ra) sat in the army ranks, when all of a sudden, some horse riders were seen coming in a hurry, whilst their weapons were shining. The Muslims immediately took up their weapons. Hazrat Umar(ra) asked what the matter was. The people pointed towards the horse riders. To this he said, “Worry not, for these people have come to seek peace.” They were the people of Jerusalem with whom a peace treaty had been agreed. (Tarikh al-Tabaritranslated, Vol. 2, Chapter 2, pp. 369-270, Nafis Academy, Karachi, 2004) (Al-Faruq, Shibli Nu‘mani, p. 125, Idarah Islamiyyat, 2004)
Then, in another narration, Allama Buladhari and Muhammad Hussain Haikal have written that the peace treaty was formed in Jerusalem [Ilya], not Jabiya. In fact, in his book, Muhammad Hussain Haikal has also written in another instance that the treaty was agreed in Jabiya. (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, p. 368, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore) (Futuh al-Buldan, p. 88, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut)
With regard to the wording of the pact between the Muslims and the people of Jerusalem [Ilya], the following has been recorded in Tarikh al-Tabari:
“In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Leader of the Faithful, has given to the people of Ilya [Jerusalem]. An assurance of safety is granted for themselves, for their wealth, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and their entire nation. No one shall reside in their churches or homes, nor will they be destroyed. The boundaries of their homes and churches will not be reduced and nor will their crosses or wealth be destroyed. There will be no compulsion upon them in matters of faith, nor will they be given any trouble. No one from among the Jews will live with them in Ilya and it is incumbent upon the people of Ilya to pay the jizya [tax] just as the inhabitants of the other cities do. They should expel the Byzantines and those who are instigating disorder from Ilya. And the life and wealth of those who are taken out from there will be protected until they reach their place of safety. And whoever amongst them wishes to remain in Ilya, they will be granted protection and they will have to pay the jizya just like the other inhabitants of Ilya do.
“Among the people of Ilya, whoever wishes to go to the Byzantines and leave behind their places of worship and crosses, then their lives, places of worship and crosses will remain protected. (Even if they leave them behind, no harm will be done to them until they reach their place of safety.) Prior to the battle in Ilya, those who were among the farmers, and who now wish to remain settled upon their land, they also need to pay the jizya like the people of Ilya do; however, those who wish to go with the Byzantines can do so, and whoever wants to return to their homes, they can do so and no jizya will be taken from them until the harvest of their crops. The conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God and are the responsibility of His Prophet(sa), of the Caliphs and of the faithful for as long as they pay the jizya.”
Hazrat Khalid(ra) bin Walid, Hazrat Amr(ra) bin al-Aas, Hazrat Abdur Rahman(ra) bin Auf and Hazrat Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan(ra) testified to this treaty. (Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, Vol. 2 [Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, 2012], p. 449)
In Tarikh Ibn Khaldun it is written:
“In light of this treaty, the following is evident:
“1. The Muslims did not spread their religion through the use of the sword.
“2. During the era of their governance, people greatly enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion.
“3. The non-Muslims were not forced to pay the jizya; rather, it was their choice to stay in the land and pay the jizya and in both instances they were afforded with protection.” (Tarikh Ibn Khuldun, Vol. 3, Chapter 1 [Karachi: Dar al-Isha‘at 2009], p. 208)
When news of this treaty reached the people of Ramla, they were also eager to settle a similar treaty with Hazrat Umar(ra). The same was the case with the rest of the people who dwelled in Palestine. The people of Lud received a letter from Hazrat Umar(ra) and those cities were also addressed in that who later accepted the rule of the Muslims. In this letter, the people of Lud were granted protection by Hazrat Umar(ra) for themselves, their wealth, their churches, their crosses, including their sick and healthy and also the people of all other faiths, but on the condition that if they pay the jizya, just like the citizens of Syria did, there would be no compulsion in matters of their faith, nor would they be given any trouble on account of their religious differences. After seeing to these tasks, Hazrat Umar(ra) then appointed two governors over Palestine and divided the land in two. Alqamah bin Hakeem was appointed to govern Ramla and Alqamah bin Mujazziz was to govern Ilya [Jerusalem]. (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam translated, Muhammad Husain Haikal, p. 373, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore)
Hazrat Umar(ra) then arrived at Baitul Maqdis. In regard to this, it is written that after granting protection to the people of Ilya, Hazrat Umar(ra)stationed the army there and then travelled from Jabiya to Baitul Maqdis. It is written that when Hazrat Umar(ra) mounted upon his horse, he realised that the horse was limping owing to an injury to one of its hoofs. A horse of Turkish breed was brought before Hazrat Umar(ra). When Hazrat Umar(ra)mounted it, it began to prance and so he dismounted.
A few days later, Hazrat Umar(ra) called for his original horse, which he was not using as it was being treated. Hazrat Umar(ra) mounted upon the horse and travelled on it to Baitul Maqdis. (Tarikh al-Tabari translated, Vol. 2, Chapter 2, p. 809, Nafis Academy, Karachi, 2003)
When they reached near Baitul Maqdis, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) and few other army chiefs came out to receive him. Hazrat Umar(ra) was wearing an extremely simple and modest attire and thinking what the Christians might say upon seeing him in this manner, they presented him with an expensive garment. However, Hazrat Umar(ra) stated, “The honour Allah the Almighty has conferred upon me is that of Islam and that is sufficient for me.” The Christian priests themselves handed over the keys to the city gates to Hazrat Umar(ra).
Hazrat Umar(ra) first want to Masjid Aqsa and then went to the church of the Christians and began to observe it and toured the church. When it was time for prayer, the Christians permitted Hazrat Umar(ra) to offer his prayers in the church. However, Hazrat Umar(ra) came outside and offered his prayer lest people who come later took this as a justification to annex the Christian churches.
During Hazrat Umar’s(ra) stay in Jerusalem, the officers of the Muslim army would invite him for meals. They would prepare the meals and would then request Hazrat Umar(ra) to come to their tent. Hazrat Umar(ra) would honour them by graciously accepting their request. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra), however, did not invite Hazrat Umar(ra) for a meal and Hazrat Umar(ra)stated to him, “Among the officers of the army, everyone except you has invited me for a meal.” Upon this, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) submitted, “O Leader of the Faithful! I fear that if I were to invite you, you will not be able to possess control over your eyes.” In other words, he would be overcome with emotion.
Hazrat Umar(ra) afterwards went to his tent and saw that it was completely empty except for the saddle of his horse, which he used as a sleeping mat and he would use the soft layer that sits above the saddle as his pillow. The soft layer of the saddle would be used as a pillow and the saddle itself would be used as a sleeping mat. There was a piece of dried bread in one corner of the tent. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) took the bread and placed it on the ground in front of Hazrat Umar(ra). He then bought a clay pot which contained some water. Upon observing this, Hazrat Umar(ra)began to cry and then tightly embraced Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) and stated, “You are my brother. Among my companions there is no one who has not partaken anything of this world, nor has the world partaken anything from him, except you.” To this, Abu Ubaidah(ra) submitted, “Did I not tell you before that you would not be able to control your eyes?”
Thereafter, Hazrat Umar(ra) came out and stood amongst the people and after offering praise to Allah the Almighty which He is worthy of and invoking salutations upon the Holy Prophet(sa), he stated:
“O followers of Islam! Verily, Allah has fulfilled His promise He made with you and He granted you support against the enemy. He has granted you these lands and has firmly established you in them. Thus, you ought to express gratitude to your Lord for these bounties. You should abstain from all those deeds which go against the commandments of God for this is ingratitude to God. There are many a people who were bestowed the bounties of God and in turn they became ungrateful, and failing to repent, their honour was taken away from them.”
In other words, if one fails to repent after having become ungrateful, then their honour is taken away from them. Their rewards are taken away from them and the enemy overcomes them. Since, many of the army chiefs and officers had assembled in Ilya, therefore Hazrat Umar(ra) remained there for a few days and issued important instructions.
One day, Hazrat Bilal(ra) complained, “O Leader of the Faithful! Our Officers-in-Charge eat the fowl’s meat and white bread, whereas the general Muslim population eats ordinary food.”
Hazrat Umar(ra) enquired from the officers and they submitted, “Everything is very cheap here. For the price we pay for brown bread and dates in Hejaz, we can acquire fowl’s meat and white bread.”
Hazrat Umar(ra) did not compel the officers to refrain from this food, but he did issue an instruction that in addition to their share from the spoils of war and salaries, the meals for every solider must also be provided.
Another detail of this is mentioned in other source as follows:
Hazrat Yazid(ra) bin Abi Sufyan stated, “The market price here is quite cheap and for the same cost we can buy provisions to last us a month. The food items mentioned by Bilal can be easily acquired here.” Hazrat Umar Al-Farooq(ra) stated, “If that is the case then eat to your fill. However, I will not leave from here until you present me with a list of commodities and its prices. I will prepare a budget for the Muslims facing straitened circumstances who dwell in the cities and villages. Subsequently, according to this budget, whatever needs the Muslims have, can be acquired from it and each household will be provided with wheat, barley, honey, olive, etc.”
Hazrat Umar(ra) then addressed the Muslims, who were faced with straitened circumstances and were not well-off, saying:
“Your leaders will continue to provide for you from this list which I have prepared for you. And this will be in addition to whatever I send you from the bait-ul-mal [treasury]. However, if any of your leaders fail to provide you with these provisions, then you should inform me and I will remove that person from their post.”
Whilst staying in Ilya, it was the time for prayer and people insisted Hazrat Umar(ra) to instruct Hazrat Bilal(ra) to call the azan. Hazrat Bilal(ra)stated that he had vowed to never call the azan again after the demise of the Holy Prophet(sa), but nevertheless he would fulfil the instruction of Hazrat Umar(ra). Subsequently, upon the instruction of Hazrat Umar(ra), when Hazrat Bilal(ra) called the azan, all of the companions who were present were reminded of the era of the Holy Prophet(sa). They became so emotional that they began to profusely weep. Hazrat Umar(ra) also became so emotional that he started to hiccup and the impact of this incident on him remained for a long time.
Upon returning from Baitul Maqdis, Hazrat Umar(ra) toured the entire land and assessed the conditions at the borders and made the security arrangements to ensure the protection of the land. (Al-Faruq, Shibli Nu‘mani, pp. 125-126, Idarah Islamiyyat, 2004) (Futuhah al-Sham translated, Vol. 2, p. 224, Maktabah A‘la Hazrat Darbar Market, Lahore, September 2008) (Khulafa Rashidin, pp. 126-127, Maktabah Rahmaniyyah, Lahore) (Al-Iktifa bima Tadmanuhu min Maghazi Rasul Allah wa al-Thalathah al-Khulafa, Vol. 2, Chapter 1, pp. 295-296, Alam al-Kutub, Beirut, 1997)
The purpose of Hazrat Umar(ra) travelling to Baitul Maqdis had been fulfilled and he returned to Medina on the same route as he had come from. Upon reaching Jabiyah, Hazrat Umar(ra) stayed there for a few days and then departed from there on his horse. Hazart Ali(ra) and the other Muslims had already been informed of the work that had been carried out by Hazrat Umar(ra) in Palestine. And so, they gave him a huge welcome just outside of Medina. (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, p. 382, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore)
Hazrat Umar(ra) entered Masjid Nabawi and offered two rak‘aat of prayer near the pulpit. He then stood at the pulpit and people gathered around him. Hazrat Umar(ra) stood up and after praising Allah the Almighty and invoking salutations upon the Holy Prophet(sa), he stated:
“O people! Indeed, Allah the Almighty has bestowed His blessings upon this ummah, so that people may offer praise to Him and express their gratitude to Him. Allah has honoured the message of this ummah and united the people together. He has established victory for them and granted them help against the enemy. He conferred honour upon them, established them in the land and granted them the land, property and wealth of the idolaters. Thus, continue to express gratitude to Allah the Almighty and He will grant you manifold in return. Praise Allah the Almighty for the bounties He has blessed you with and He will continue granting these to you. May Allah enable us all to be from among those who are grateful to Him.”
After this, Hazrat Umar(ra) descended from the pulpit. (Al-Iktifa bima Tadmanuhu min Maghazi Rasul Allah wa al-Thalathah al-Khulafa, Vol. 2, Chapter 1, pp. 305-306, Alam al-Kutub, Beirut, 1997)
Hazrat Khalifatul Maish I(ra) states:
“During the siege of Jerusalem, the priests stated that they would only grant entry to the Muslims if their Khalifa came. Hazrat Umar(ra) departed in a simple and modest manner whereby he would take turns with his servant to sit on the camel. Abu Ubaidah(ra) submitted, ‘You should change your clothes and mount upon this horse.’ Hazrat Umar(ra) accepted this request of his, but after a short while later, he asked for the same clothes and camel he had arrived in. When he entered, Tabreek [high priest] and others were overawed by his presence and handed over the keys. They stated that they could not challenge such a commander.” (Haqa‘iq-ul-Furqan, Vol. 2, p. 174)
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I(ra) has narrated this same incident in his own words.
Regarding this, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud(ra) states:
“In Jerusalem, there is a mosque, which is as sacred for the Jews as the Holy Ka‘bah is for us. In the time of the [early] Muslims when Jerusalem was conquered, the Christians wished for Hazrat Umar(ra) to pray inside the sacred site. Hazrat Umar(ra) said, ‘I fear that if I offer prayers inside, then Muslims will take over it as their own place of worship,’ and thus Hazrat Umar(ra) offered prayers outside.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 11, p. 437, Friday Sermon 27 July 1928, Dalhousie)
In another instance, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud(ra) writes:
“Palestine was conquered during the era of Hazrat Umar(ra). When Hazrat Umar(ra) went to Jerusalem, the priests came outside to hand over the keys of the city and said, ‘You are now our sovereign, offer prayers in our place of worship, which is sacred to both you and us, so that you can be content that you have offered prayers in our holy site.’ Hazrat Umar(ra)replied, ‘I cannot offer prayers inside your place of worship as I am their Caliph. Tomorrow the Muslims will snatch this away, claiming it to be their sacred site. Therefore, I will offer prayers outside, so that your mosque is not taken away from you.’” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 5, p. 573)
Nonetheless, in 17 AH, the Byzantines made a last attempt and owing to this attempt, the Muslims were able to conquer all of Syria. Since the Islamic conquests continued and the borders of the Islamic government continued to gain more territory, the neighbouring empires were alarmed, fearing that one day it would be their turn. Therefore, the people of Jazirah – which was an area between Iraq and Syria – lost hope in Yazdegerd after he fled to Rayy. For this reason, they wrote to Heraclius stating that if he sent an army along the sea in order to remove the Muslims from their occupied lands, they would assist him. Heraclius pondered over the matter and concluded that there was no harm in sending an army. The people of Jazirah wrote to Heraclius for a second time, from which he understood that there was no doubting their intentions. He saw that most of the people were Christian Arabs, who were firmly rooted on their faith to the extent that they deemed it better to die for this cause. It had been over a year that Heraclius had left the wars in the land of Syria and so he no longer had the fear he had previously in his heart. He also saw that the frontier areas were strong enough to withstand an attack by the Muslims. Furthermore, his naval fleet was still intact. He also knew that the Muslims were fearful of the sea and anything associated with it. This gave strength to his resolve and he agreed to the request of the people of Jazirah.
In his letter he incited the tribes and wrote that the fleet had been prepared and they would arrive at Antioch from Alexandria carrying the army and war supplies. Upon receiving the letter of Heraclius, the tribes took their army of 30,000 and marched towards Homs. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) received information about all of this. He called Hazrat Khalid(ra)bin Walid from Qinnasrin in order to seek his advice. Both commanders decided that in order to confront the enemy, all the Muslim armies should gather in northern Syria. Thus, all the armies in Antioch, Hama, Aleppo and all nearby garrisons were ordered to gather in Homs. At the same time, news had spread throughout the country that Heraclius had sent an army via the sea and also that the tribes of Jazirah had set off to attack Homs. People crowded around and looking over each other’s heads they began asking each other just how this attack by Heraclius and his allies could be stopped?
When the fleet carrying the army of Heraclius reached Antioch, the gates of the city opened for them. The people had turned against the Muslims and a revolt began in most areas of northern Syria. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra)realised that he was besieged in Homs as the rebels had surrounded it and he saw the enemy advancing both from the sea and the desert. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) gathered his people and said, “I have sent a letter to the Leader of the Faithful, explaining the delicate situation and also requested for assistance.” He then asked them whether they should go out to fight the enemy or remain inside the forts in wait for the reinforcements from Medina. Only Khalid(ra) bin Walid was of the opinion that they should go outside and face the enemy in open plain. All other army commanders were of the opinion that they should remain inside the fort and request for reinforcements immediately. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra)accepted the opinions of those who said to stay in the fort and disagreed with the advice of Hazrat Khalid(ra) to fight outside the fort.
Thus, the walls were reinforced and the opinion of his commanders was sent to the Khalifa. Hazrat Umar(ra) would never allow himself to forget the difficult situation faced by the Islamic armies in Iraq and Syria which had initially hindered the Islamic victories in the early days of his Khilafat, i.e. the conditions of the early days could be faced now as well. For this reason, Hazrat Umar(ra) ordered for the towns of Kufa and Basrah to be inhabited and it was for this reason that both of these towns contained garrisons for the Muslim army, a place where no non-Muslims resided. Aside from this, from among the other seven towns, each town had a cavalry unit of 4,000, which was fully equipped and always ready for any emergency situations.
Thus, when the letter of Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) reached Hazrat Umar(ra)and he realised that the great commander-in-chief was in grave danger, he commanded Hazrat Saad(ra) bin Abi Waqas, “The day you receive this letter, send Qa‘qa‘ bin Amr with reinforcements to Homs on the same day. Abu Ubaidah is under siege. Ensure the reinforcements reach there as quickly as possible.”
Hazrat Saad(ra) acted on the guidance of the Leader of the Faithful, and on the very day he sent an experienced cavalry unit of 4,000 riders, under the command of Qa‘qa‘ from Kufa to Homs. The situation was so perilous that Qa‘qa‘ taking a 4,000 strong cavalry unit was not enough, because the army coming from Jazirah to Homs alone was 30,000; and the army sent by Heraclius to Antioch on boats was in addition to this. Hazrat Umar(ra) knew that his soldiers were contesting in almost every city of Syria. If they left these places and went to Homs, the entire administration of Syria would collapse. For this reason, after giving the order for Qa‘qa‘ to travel from Kufa, Hazrat Umar(ra) also issued several other commands, which exhibited Hazrat Umar’s(ra) foresightedness and wisdom.
The tribes coming from Jazirah to Homs took the brazen step because they thought that their settlements were outside the reach of the Islamic army. If these settlements were attacked, they would retreat and the pressure on Abu Ubaidah(ra) and his army would be relieved. For this reason, in his letter to Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqas(ra), Hazrat Umar(ra)wrote:
“Send an army to Raqqah, (a town in Jazirah), under the command of Suhail bin Adi. The people of Jazirah were the ones who encouraged the Byzantines to attack Homs, and before this, the people of Qarqisiyyah had done the same thing. The second army should go to attack Nasibain under the command of Abdullah bin Itban. The people residing here incited the people of Qarqisiyyah. After this, go to Haran, the capital of Jazirah and also to Rauha and remove the enemy from there. The third army is to be sent to the Christian Arab tribes of Rabi‘ah and Tanukh residing in Jazirah under the command of Walid bin Uqbah. Also send Iyaz bin Ghanam to this battle in Jazirah. If there is a war, then the other commanders are to serve under the command of Iyaz bin Ghanam.”
Thus, when all of these commanders set off, the tribes of Jazirah lifted the siege of Homs and left. This was Hazrat Umar’s(ra) strategy that instead of gathering one army, different contingents were sent to the places where the enemy army had come from. Subsequently, when the enemies realised that the Muslims were advancing towards their own towns and settlements, they would lift the siege and returned to their areas. Hazrat Umar(ra) did not suffice at this; Hazrat Umar(ra) understood that despite suffering many defeats, Heraclius sent an army via the sea because he had full conviction in his power and he believed that he could fight against the Muslims alone. The biggest proof of this was that the commander-in-chief of the naval fleet from Alexandria was his son, Constantine.
According to Hazrat Umar’s(ra) plan, Qa‘qa‘ bin Amr left with 4,000 horsemen towards Homs. Suhail bin Adi, Abdullah bin Itban, Walid bin Uqbah and Iyaz bin Ghanam left for the northern towns of Jazirah. Hazrat Umar(ra) left for Homs from Medina and stayed in Jabiyah. The people of Jazirah supported the Byzantines in the siege of Homs.
They learned of the Muslim armies’ arrival from Iraq; however, they were not aware of whether the army would attack their city of Jazirah or would attack Homs. Hence, they returned to their city in order to defend their brothers and abandoned the Byzantines. One day, upon waking up, Abu Ubaidah(ra) learned that the tribes from Jazirah had returned to their country and now only the army of Heraclius remained. He called the commanders of his army and said that he wished to go out into the battlefield against the Byzantines. Upon hearing this, Khalid(ra) bin Walid became very happy and said that before the Byzantines could gather themselves amidst the changed circumstances, they should attack them immediately. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) spoke passionately to the soldiers of the army and said, “Muslims! Whoever remains steadfast today and stays alive, they will receive property and wealth, and if you are killed, then you will receive the riches of martyrdom. I testify that the Holy Prophet(sa) has said that whoever dies and is not a disbeliever, they will surely enter Paradise.”
The army was already restless and ready to attack; Abu Ubaidah’s(ra)speech brought about an even greater passion within them and everyone immediately prepared their arms. Hazrat Abu Ubaidah(ra) was leading the army positioned in the centre. Hazrat Khalid(ra) bin Walid was commanding the right flank and Hazrat Abbas(ra) was commanding the left. The two sides battled and within a short amount of time, they defeated the Byzantines.
When Qa‘qa‘ bin Amr reached Homs with the army from Kufa, it had already been three days since the battle had finished. On the other hand, Hazrat Umar(ra) had just reached Jabiyah on his way to Syria, when Hazrat Abu Ubaidah’s(ra) messenger met him and informed him that Allah the Almighty had granted the Muslims victory over the Byzantines three days before Qa‘qa‘ even reached Homs. He also asked about whether Qa‘qa‘ and his army should be given a share of the spoils or not. Hazrat Umar(ra)was relieved and after receiving this news, he did not see any need to continue his journey. He wrote a letter from there to the custodian of the nation, Abu Ubaidah(ra) saying that the people of Kufa should be included in the distribution of spoils because the very news of their arrival worried the enemy due to which they suffered defeat. [He said] “May Allah grant a good reward to the people of Kufa for they protect their city and help people from other cities.” Then, he set out towards Medina.
After this defeat, the Byzantine ruler became so disheartened that he never returned to Syria. When the rebels learned that the Byzantine armies had boarded their ships and fled, their rebellion dissipated at the same time. This occurred in 17 AH; three years later in 20 Hijri, the year 641 CE, Heraclius passed away. (Hazrat Umar Farooq A‘zam, Muhammad Husain Haikal, pp. 384-390, 590, Islami Kutub Khana, Lahore) (Sirat Amir-il-Momineen Umar(ra) bin al-Khattab, Al-Salabi, pp. 750-752, Al-Furqan Trust, Khangarh Muzaffargarh, Pakistan) (Al-Faruq, Shibli Nu‘mani, pp. 134-136, Dar al-Isha‘ah, Karachi, 1991)
These incidents are ongoing, and insha-Allah, will continue in future sermons.
At this time, I wish to mention about some deceased members. The first mention is of Chaudhary Saeed Ahmad Lakhan Sahib, retired station master, who had been living in Canada these days. He passed away at the age of 86.
اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ وَاِنَّا اِلَیْہِ رَاجِعُوْنَ
[“Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.”]
He was the grandson of Chaudhary Sikandar Ali Sahib(ra) and Hazrat Gujar Bibi Sahiba(ra), companions of the Promised Messiah(as). Hazrat Chaudhary Sikandar Ali Sahib(ra) pledged allegiance at the hand of the Promised Messiah(as) on 30 March 1902. From 1904 to 1928, he had the opportunity of teaching in Talim-ul-Islam High School. He was among the pioneer teachers who were appointed during the lifetime of the Promised Messiah(as) – and Chaudhary Saeed Sahib was his grandson. Chaudhary Saeed Sahib also served the faith whenever he had the opportunity, by the grace of Allah. He was a musi [part of the scheme of Wasiyyat] by the grace of Allah. He is survived by his wife, six sons and three daughters. Due to providing a good upbringing, all of his children are serving the Jamaat in one way or another.
One of his sons, Faheem Ahmad Lakhan, is serving as a missionary in Kenya, and due to being in the field of service, he was unable to attend his father’s funeral. May Allah the Almighty grant him patience and forbearance, and may He treat the deceased with forgiveness and mercy.
The deceased had a great deal of honour for his faith. When he was a student, in 1953, he was present at the convention held by the Majlis Ahrar along with other non-Ahmadi students. When Ataullah Shah Bukhari raised heinous allegations against the Promised Messiah(as) and used derogatory language, Saeed Sahib immediately stood up and challenged the cleric and in the middle of his speech, he said to him that he was lying and silenced him. Upon this, the cleric said, “Grab this Mirzai and beat him.” He was beaten severely; nonetheless, there was a commotion in the gathering owing to which it was suspended. He always advised his children never to be silenced or afraid when it came to Ahmadiyyat.
The second mention is of Muhammad Shahabuddin Sahib, who was the naib amir of Bangladesh. He passed away on 12 July .
He accepted Ahmadiyyat after seeing a dream in 1964 when he was 18 years old.
He was a musi. He was an enduring servant of the Jamaat and possessed many great qualities. He was an ardent devotee of Khilafat; he was trustworthy, had a quiet disposition and understood what was best for the benefit of the Jamaat.
Before his demise, he fulfilled all of his dues for Wasiyyat. His eldest son, Shamsuddin Ahmad Masoom Sahib, is a missionary. He is survived by four sons and three daughters. He was influenced by the preaching of his uncle and accepted Ahmadiyyat and had to face a great deal of opposition in his own home, which he endured with patience and steadfastness. In 1963, he endured this opposition for a few months after which he left his home and first went to Brahmanbaria and then Dhaka where he settled. He was later married into an old Ahmadi family. One of his qualities was that he was always content; he knew how to be content even with a small amount while remaining patient and thankful. Due to his trustworthiness, non-Ahmadi businessmen had a great deal of respect for him and everyone thought of him to be pious and a good businessman in this regard.
May Allah the Almighty grant the deceased His forgiveness and mercy.
The next mention is of Respected Raul Abdullah Sahib from Argentina, who passed away on 6 September :
The missionary in Argentina writes that he was among the pioneer Ahmadis of the Jamaat in Argentina. The Argentinian Jamaat is quite new and was established only a few years ago. He was first introduced to the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in 2018 at a book fair. When he got in contact with the Jamaat, his non-Ahmadi friends who were Muslims tried to distance him from the Community. Despite this, however, he continued participating in programmes regularly.
Due to the influence of his friends, he did have some doubts and concerns in his mind. In order to remove them, he attended Jalsa Salana UK. He came here at his own expense and then he also met with me. After this meeting, his doubts and concerns were removed and he became completely certain, and thus did bai‘at. Even before doing bai‘at, he was already an Ahmadi and would preach Ahmadiyyat to others. However, he had not officially done bai‘at, until he came here. He was the only Muslim in his family. Until the very end, his friends tried distancing him from the Jamaat; however, he resolutely remained steadfast upon Ahmadiyyat. He had a great deal of honour for the Jamaat and would always proudly introduce himself as an Ahmadi to those he knew and even those he did not. He would take part in the Jamaat’s programmes with great sincerity and enthusiasm.
May Allah the Almighty grant him His forgiveness and mercy and enable his friends and family to accept Ahmadiyyat.
After the [Friday] prayer, I will offer their funeral prayers in absentia.
Original Urdu transcript published in Al Fazl International, 19 October 2021, pp. 5-10. Translated by The Review of Religions.