Omar Ibn al-KhaṬṬĀb°

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OMAR IBN AL-KHAṬṬĀB °, second caliph (634–644), conqueror of Ereẓ Israel, Syria, Iraq, Persia, and Egypt. Omar organized the Muslim empire, established the rules assuring the conquerors of their special status (in spite of their numerical inferiority), fixed the calendar on the basis of the Hegira, and laid the foundations of the legal system. The administrative practices that he introduced were based on Persian and Byzantine models. A man of simple manners and approach, he adopted a humane attitude to non-Muslims as well, and earned the epithet of al-Fārūq ("he who can distinguish truth from falsehood"); according to one tradition, the Jews gave him that name. Balādhurī (d. 862) reports that the Jews of *Khaybar, the last Jewish community in the Hejaz, who had been permitted by *Muḥammad to remain on their land in exchange for one half of their yearly crop, were expelled to Tayma and Jericho by Omar; Ibn al-Athīr (Mosul, 1160–1233) adds that Omar reimbursed them with one half the value of their land. According to Jewish sources, Omar, after the conquest of Persia, gave the Persian king's daughter to *Bustanai in marriage and appointed him to the office of exilarch. A Jewish convert to Islam, *Kaʿb al-Aḥbār, who was a member of Omar's entourage at the time of the conquest of *Jerusalem, is said to have pointed out to Omar the site of the "Sakhra'," the "*Even She tiyyah" ("world's cornerstone") on the Temple Mount; Omar ordered the clearing of the Rock and the site served as a place of prayer until the time of ʿAbd al-Malik (685–705), who built the Dome of the Rock (which became popularly known as the "Mosque of Omar") on this spot. Some Christian and Arab sources report that one of the conditions set by the Christian residents of Jerusalem for their surrender to Omar was a prohibition on the residence of Jews in Jerusalem; the truth of these reports seems doubtful, since Jews did in fact live in Jerusalem during the Arab period. Omar permitted the Jews to reestablish their presence in Jerusalem–after a lapse of 500 years–and also seems to have allotted them a place for prayers on the Temple Mount (from which they were driven out at a later date). Jewish tradition regards Omar as a benevolent ruler and the Midrash (Nistarot de-Rav Shimon bar Yoḥai) refers to him as a "friend of Israel." According to Ṭabarī, a Jewish sage told Omar that he was destined to become the ruler of the Holy Land. Omar has been described as the author of the rules discriminating against minorities in Muslim lands (see *Omar, Covenant of), but this allegation does not stand up to scientific investigation.


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[Eliezer Bashan (Sternberg)]