?Umar (C. 581–644)

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˓UMAR (C. 581–644)

˓Umar b. al-Khattab al-˓Adawi al-Qurashi, an early Meccan companion of the prophet Muhammad, became the Prophet's second successor and is usually viewed as having done much to establish the foundations of the caliphal state. At first opposed to Islam, ˓Umar embraced it circa 615 in a reversal cherished and dramatized by tradition. Like Abu Bakr, with whom he was closely associated, ˓Umar married a daughter of the Prophet in 625. Because of his strong personality, a motif frequently noted in the sources, he gained considerable influence. At the death of the Prophet in 632, he helped Abu Bakr to be elected as successor, and Abu Bakr in turn appointed ˓Umar to succeed him two years later.

On taking office, ˓Umar placed the new caliphal state on firmer footing. He assumed the new title of Commander of the Believers (amir al-mu˒minin), thus making clear his superior authority. He continued the campaign started by Abu Bakr to expand the caliphate outside of Arabia. Under his rule, Syria (636), Iraq (637), Egypt (639–642), and western Iran (641–643) all came under Muslim rule, a transformation that greatly altered the nature of the state. Internally, he organized the state over a much larger area, founded new cities, and distributed offices more widely among the various Arabian tribes, thereby moving away from Abu Bakr's favoritism for the Quraysh.

See alsoCaliphate ; Law ; Succession .


Kennedy, Hugh. The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: TheIslamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century. London: Longman, 1986.

Madelung, Wilfred. The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Khalid Yahya Blankinship