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DAWN - Features; March 5, 2003

March 05, 2003


Caliph Umar’s glorious role in early critical years

By Prof Ziauddin Ahmad

Hazrat Umar, the second Caliph, was an ideal and exemplary Muslim Ruler who discharged his duties remarkably setting a model and mould for an Islamic state. His policies and precepts were based on the principles and teachings of the Quran and Sunnah.

All the pious Caliphs had a Consultative Assembly, called the Majlis-i-Shura, composed of some able and learned companions, who were consulted in all important affairs of the administration. During the reign of Hazrat Umar there were two such consultative bodies. One was a general assembly which was convened by making a general announcement and where only affairs of national importance were discussed.

For the conduct of daily business, there was a separate committee on a smaller scale. Even matters in respect of appointment and dismissal of public servants were brought before this working committee. In addition to the deputies from the capital, even the representatives from the outlying parts of the empire were invited to these deliberations.

Non-Muslims were also allowed to participate. For example, in connection with the management of Mesopotamia, the native Parsi chiefs were consulted. This principle was even extended down to the general public who were consulted in certain matters. Every citizen of the State of Islam enjoyed the right to give his opinion and was perfectly free to do so.

No one was above law. Even the Caliphs were questioned by the common man. There was a Public treasury (Bait-al-Mal) in which the revenue of the State derived from different sources, was deposited. Abdullah-bin-Arqam was appointed the Chief Officer of this department. He was directed to increase the production, and the welfare of the peasantry and people at large. Revenues were realised according to planned assessment, therefore agriculture flourished immensely.

The revenue from land was Kharaj, i.e. one-fifth of the produce of land; (2) Ushr, one-tenth of the produce of land; (3) Zakat, two and half per cent of the wealth; (4) Jizya, (military tax paid by non-Muslims), but the poor, the sick and the crippled, women, children, the aged and priests and monks were exempted; (5) Ghanimah or Khums one-fifth of the war booty; (6) Ushoor i.e. import duty of 10 per cent on the traders and businessmen.

From the Public Treasury expenditure was made for the welfare of the people as well as for the poor and needy. The weak and disabled were granted allowances, and in this there was no distinction of Muslim or Non-Muslim.

The system of old-age pension now prevailing in many countries of the West, was first introduced by Hazrat Umar. For wayfarers, large rest houses were made in all big centres. Children without guardians were brought up at the expense of the State. During the famine days, the Caliph worked day and night to render succour to the starving people. To ascertain the weal and woe of his people, he used to go out in the night and visit various places.

During the 30 years that the Republic lasted, the policy derived its character chiefly from Hazrat Umar. To regulate the receipt and expenditure of the revenue, the Caliph established the department of finance under the name of the Diwan. The expenses were on civil administration, the army, the navy and the common people. In the Diwan a register containing the names of Arab and non-Arab allowance-holders was maintained and no favour was shown to any one.

From public revenues the canals for irrigation purposes were built. During Hazrat Umar’s reign a canal was made which joined the Nile to the Red Sea. This canal facilitated transport of grains from Egypt to Hejaz. Other famous canals were canal of Abu Musa, Canal of Maaqal and canal of Sa’ad, which solved the irrigation problems.

For smooth running of the State the Empire was divided into fourteen provinces, each governed by a Wali. The provinces were Makkah, Madinah, Syria, Basra, Kufa, Egypt, Algiers, Palestine, Khorasan, Azarbaijan, Faras, Yemen, Najd and Bahrain.

The provinces were sub-divided into districts and each district had its Amils i.e. Revenue Collector and Qazi (Judge). They worked under the jurisdiction of the provincial Governor. The duties of the Governor and the officers were clearly defined so that they should not misuse their powers. Before appointment the Governor and officers had to submit an account of their wealth and properties, and at the time of retirement their accounts were verified and if it was found that any excess had come to them, those additional riches were confiscated.

The Qazis were directed to decide cases according to the Quran and Sunnah, Ijma (consensus of opinion) qiyas and Ijtehad. But this privilege was given to most learned and honest Fuqaha (jurists).

For helping the citizens and giving them free legal advice, a department of Ifta was established by Hazrat Umar which has no parallel in the history of modern world. The most eminent persons were appointed for advice and help, namely, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Usman, Ma’az ibn Jabal, Abdur Rehman bin Auf, Ubayya bin Ka’ab, Zaib bin Thabit, Abu Huraira and others.

Caliph Omar fully organised the army by 15 A.H. which was composed of infantry, cavalry, and archers. The army was broadly divided into standing and reserve. The regular one, ready for defence of the State and borders; the reserves were called during the time of war. Intelligence and communication were also developed.

Hazrat Umar laid great stress on knowledge and learning and made education compulsory both for boys and girls. A number of schools were built in cities and towns for public instruction. Such distinguished companions as Abu Ayyub, Abu Durda and Ubaida were deputed to Syria for the purpose of organising Islamic education in that country. They spent sometime in Hims, Damascus and Palestine and popularised Quranic teaching in those places.

Prof. Philip K. Hitti in the “History of the Arabs writes; “Umar, who was of towering height, strong physique, continued, at least for some time after becoming Caliph, to support himself by trade and lived throughout his life in a style as unostentatious as that of a Bedouin Sheikh. In fact Umar whose name according to Muslim tradition is the greatest in early Islam has been idolized by Muslim writers for his piety, justice and patriarchal simplicity and treated as the personification of all the virtues a Caliph ought to possess. His irreproachable character became an exemplar for all conscientious successors to follow.”

The glorious period of 10 years, six months and four days of Hazrat Umar’s Caliphate came to an end with his martyrdom at the hands of an assassin, Abu Lu’lu (Feroz) an Iranian slave on first Muharram, 24 A.H. (Saturday, Nov. 6, 644 AD).

Awaiting a debate on foreign policy

Seemingly, the government does not want to publicly discuss how it would vote in the event of a new UN resolution on Iraq. That perhaps is the reason why a debate on foreign policy is being deferred on one pretext or the other.

On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to meet at around 5pm. Normally, evening sessions do not last for more than three hours. The House Advisory Committee (HAC), which normally lasts for two hours, will meet at 4pm on Wednesday. Then the Speaker could allow the members to waste time on irrelevant and out-of-rule points of order.

On the question of Iraq, the opposition’s interest too is lukewarm. The debate could not be initiated on Monday because among other reasons which the Speaker gave, those who had wanted to participate had not communicated their names to the Speaker’s secretariat.

The PPP’s reluctance in the matter is understandable. Perhaps it does not want to be seen speaking against the US and, neither would it like to be seen throwing a lifeline to a government which is finding itself in a fix on the matter. But MMA’s silence is rather intriguing.

If the government had faced a straightforward situation like the Taliban’s Afghanistan in 2001, perhaps, it would not have suffered from any self-doubts or reservations about how to go about meeting the Iraq situation in the UNSC. At the time, except for a few pockets of opposition, the entire nation was seemingly on government’s side.

The government is well aware how embarrassing it would be if Pakistan, a Muslim country, is seen to be siding with the US in its policy to attack another Muslim country.

The situation for Pakistan has become all the more awkward, because the Security Council members have made their positions on the proposed UN resolution on Iraq more or less known. Islamabad’s vote has become the most decisive factor. It is the ninth vote in a pack of 15.

The US needs nine votes in the UNSC to get the resolution through and then dare the permanent members to veto it. Washington perhaps believes that once it gets its resolution through the UNSC, it would have the moral authority not only to get the nation behind it but also it would have the needed sanction to go it alone even if the resolution was vetoed subsequently.

On the other hand the permanent members which are opposed to the proposed resolution would like to see it killed at the voting stage by Pakistan’s vote and they are spared the use of their veto and its consequences for their countries.

Pakistan, on the other hand knows what had happened to Yemen when in 1990 as a non-permanent member of the UNSC it had voted against a US resolution soliciting support for war against Iraq.

Today, Pakistan is totally dependent on the US for its economy as well as its security. That perhaps is the reason why the government seems reluctant to put itself in a position of answering questions in the National Assembly on the issue of Iraq.

There are other foreign policy questions which are likely to be raised in the NA. Qazi Hussain Ahmed may be asked to explain his pronouncement at the foreign office the other day in which he had advised the government to initiate peace talks with India rather than submit to US pressures.

Next, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed may have to answer some difficult questions on his recent statement in which he had said that the Kashmir solution might not be in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and India, and that we must be mentally prepared for that.

And finally the foreign minister could be asked to explain what president meant when he said in an interview to an Indian TV channel on Sunday that he was willing to join hands with India to fight extremism.

How does the president intend to do this when he had already rejected an earlier Indian proposal for joint patrolling of the LoC?

Yagana Changezi’s rebirth

MIRZA Yaas Yagana Changezi, in spite of being one of the most important poets of the 20th century, has not been accorded the kind of attention by our critics and research scholars which he deserved.

The honour of compiling Yagana’s poetry could have gone to Indian scholarship because it is there that his published and unpublished poetry could be collected, pruned, annotated much more easily, but the honour has come to Pakistan. Mushfiq Khwaja, our renowned researcher, has done what a Yagana Academy could have achieved if its scholars could have steered themselves clear of all those prejudices which have inhibited a work worth Yagana’s stature.

The complete anthology of Yagana Changezi is a good example of immaculate editing. The kind of good taste which the very presentation of this Kulliat (complete works) exhibits should serve the future researchers of Urdu. Nothing has been left to chance and all of Yagana’s collections of poetry starting from Nishtar-i-Yaas to Ganjina has been presented in a chronological order ensuring that no overlapping of verses occurs so that Yagana could be studied exactly according to the progress of his poetic career. This is the kind of work which only Qazi Abdul Wudood or Masood Husain Rizvi could have undertaken without having the assured success of their mission.

Yagana’s first collection of poetry, Nishtar-i-Yaas, appeared in 1914 when he was 30 years of age (Yagana was born in 1884 in Patna) and his second collection, Aayat-i-Wijdani, was published in 1927. In 1933, Tarana, and in the year 1934 and 1945, the second and third edition of Aayat-i-Wijdani appeared. Each edition of Aayat-i-Wijdani was a bit enlarged, but the compiler of the Kulliyat-i-Yagana, Mushfiq Khwaja, thinks that Yagana or his publishers appeared to be naive as far as the art of presentation was concerned. In 1946, Sajjad Zaheer had prevailed upon Yagana to prepare his Kulliyat so that it could be published by the publication house of the Communist Party of India — Qaumi Darul Ishaat, Bombay. Yagana agreed and the publication saw the light of the day. This collection, however, proved to be so unwholesome that we could consider it a major tragedy. Some couplets were added and some corrected (rather changed to the extent that Yagana lost his cool and blew up).

Yagana, as we know, like Seemab Akbarabadi, had tried to make Lahore his home and it was here that he was made to realize that he was an important poet in the eyes of an innovative school of thought Lahore was known to be. The first serious effort in Yagana’s appreciation was made in Lahore - to be precise by Dr M. D. Taseer, soon after partition. Prof Mujtaba Husain and Prof Fakhir Husain followed suit but in the 1960s and 70s, respectively.

True that Yagana had a grand opinion about himself. He thought that he was truly the ‘pride of Urdu poetry.’ Many a Lucknow or Delhi writer did not seem to be agreeing with his claim. His controversies about the unmindful eulogies of Ghalib could also be explained quite simply keeping in view Yagana’s belief that Ghalib euphoria could act as a detriment to his own stature as a poet. He was not averse to the idea that Ghalib was a great poet, but he thought that Abul Kalam Azad and Abdul Rahman Bijnori were trying to turn Ghalib into a cult only to gain a mileage for themselves; and some smaller poets and writers had resigned themselves to stay as non-entities only because Ghalib was not leaving for them any space to grow or have a shade of their own.

Mushfiq Khwaja’s Kulliyat-i-Yagana is an important event in Yagana Shanasi (understanding Yagana) in that it clears all the spots in the text which had crept into the published work. On top of it he has presented all that poetry which could not be included in any of Yagana’s collections. Quite a good deal of it would have been lost to posterity had a determined and sustained effort not been made to secure all that was securable. It took Mushfiq Khwaja 13 years to do that and something strange has happened enroute. Some seven books on Yagana - Yagana — Ek Adabi Swanh, Makateeb-i-Yagana, Ghalibiat-i-Yagana, Mazameen-i-Yagana, Khudnawisht-i-Yaas (Yagana’s memoirs), Dar Madah-i-Khud (In self-praise — a collection of those articles which Yagana himself wrote in his appreciation or praise under different names. Quite a shocker!) and then to cap it all — Yagana - Shakhshiat Aur Fun, are due to appear as the companion book to take Yagana studies to dizzy heights.

I believe that no research scholar has been able to do for any poet what Mushfiq Khwaja has done and is doing. That’s the reason that Yagana’s son, Agha Jan, accorded permission to Mushfiq Khwaja to use all of Yagana’s published and unpublished works and letters.


Literary Dialogues: Shafi Aqil’s latest book, Adab Aur Adabi Mukalme, opens a new angle for literary scholarship. He has published all those interviews with important Urdu writers 40-50 years before. And one comes across some wonderful discrepancies in some writers’ views about their contemporaries.

Published by the Academy Bazyaft, which published the magnum opus on Yagana as well, this book takes us back to the 1950s as the interviews were mostly taken 45-50 years ago, except some panel discussions which could be termed ten years old. The interviewees were Maulana Abdul Majeed Salik, Josh Malihabadi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Maulana Salahuddin Ahmed, Shahid Ahmed Dehlavi, Mohammed Hasan Askari, Mumtaz Husain, Hafiz Hoshiarpuri, Aziz Ahmed, Mumtaz Shirin, Hameed Nizami, Meerza Adeeb, Nasir Kazmi, Zaheer Kashmiri, Ibrahim Jalees, Farigh Bokhari, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Qurratul Ain Hyder, Shaukat Siddiqui, Qateel Shifai, Mushtaq Ahmed Yusfi and some renowned artists belonging to the field of music, such as Ustad Bundo Khan, Firoz Nizami, Ustad Nazakat Ali Salamat Ali and world-renowned painter Abdur Rahman Chughtai. Dr Annemarie Schimmel and Dr Jan Mark also figure in the book to give it an international look.

A comparative study of some recent interviews of all the important literary figures - living or recently dead - provide interesting modifications or changes. One could really ascribe these ‘shifts’ to the changes in time. For example, Askari’s opinion about Kirshan Chander has varied from a run-of-the- mill short-story writer to a writer of most lucid and fluent Urdu prose to give him the berth of the most important short-story writer.

Bowlers fail in crunch match against India

Pakistan’s chance in the World Cup hangs by a slender thread. By the time this column appears in print, we will know whether Pakistan will live to fight another day or the team will return home, probably, one player at a time and with none of the fanfare with which the team left midst high hopes and much muscle-flexing. I want to concentrate on Pakistan’s match against India and put this ‘clash of titans’ in its proper perspective.

273 was an eminently respectable score and India would have to bat outstandingly or Pakistan bowl atrociously. In the end, it was a combination of both. The key was always going to be Sachin Tendulkar. The moment of momentum came in Shoaib Akhtar’s first over and more specifically when Tendulkar hit Shoaib Akhtar for six at cover-point. Sachin had thrown down the gauntlet. Shoaib Akhtar went for 18 in that first over and was promptly taken off. The fear factor that Shoaib Akhtar represented had been eliminated.

Thereafter, Sachin Tendulkar batted like Sachin Tendulkar at his murderous best. I would have said like Viv Richards but even Richards must have watched that innings with awe. Even as it hurt, one was left spell-bound. It could have been said that he had saved his best for this ‘match’ but so gifted is this young man, that it is entirely possible, that the best is yet to come. Pakistan might have come back into the game had Abdul Razzak held on to a sharp chance when Tendulkar was 32. But that’s the way the rub of the green goes.

Shoaib Akhtar did get Tendulkar when he was 98 but by then, the real damage had been done and the Pakistan bowling was a spent force. And Saqlain Mushtaq had once again been left out, the one bowler who could have slowed down the Indian charge. There is the danger of mistaking obstinacy for mental toughness. I have a feeling that Pakistan’s think-tank has not been watching the other matches or not watching them with a critical eye. Once the ball has got soft then pace becomes a liability.

The game has to be slowed down and this is done by taking the pace off the ball so that the runs dry up. You need Bichel not Brett Lee. The most vital piece of information was that the World Cup matches are being played at the end of the South African cricket season. The wickets are ‘tired.’ There may be bounce but the tracks are slow. That should have been factored in to the game plan.

Just as the batsmen need to adjust, so too the bowlers and the line and length become paramount. In every match that Pakistan played, it gave away extras on an average of some 25 runs and the corresponding extra deliveries. This is unacceptable. Throughout, we have complained about the batting but when the batting came through, it was the bowling that let Pakistan down badly.

Waqar Yunus has got a lot of flak. That, unfortunately, goes with the territory. Let’s face it, had Pakistan won the match, he would have been praised to the skies and the mistakes he made would have gone unnoticed. But there’s no getting away from the fact that his captaincy has been far from inspiring. He seems to be stuck in a groove and was too rigid, hence he was not innovative.

He settled for a settled tempo, neither able to speed it up or slow it down. Understandably, the biggest disappointment was Shoaib Akhtar. I can’t help feeling that he was his own worst enemy. There is a difference between being a showman and being a loudmouth. I was surprised that he was allowed to make statement which were boastful. He had promises to keep but in the words of the poet, Robert Frost, “miles to go.”

But again, he wasn’t the only bowler who was off-target. We are painfully accustomed to batting collapses but in this crunch match, it was the bowling that collapsed.

In our disappointment, we should not lose sight of Saeed Anwar’s hundred. He was under tremendous pressure and many had begun to question, if not, mock his selection in the team. He delivered when most needed to deliver. A sobering reminder, perhaps, of Tennyson’s lines: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” It was a superb innings and he handed the match to the bowlers on a platter. Inzamam’s run out showed only that when one’s luck is out, one’s luck is out and nothing goes right.

Of course, we are all disappointed but we must be careful that disappointment is expressed in constructive ways. The team was not able to turn around its fortunes. We now need to do an agonising reappraisal but not in the heat of the moment. We need to remember that Pakistan has never won against India in the World Cup and only won the World Cup once.

As I write this, only a miracle can keep Pakistan in the World Cup and if that miracle does not happen, we need to go back to drawing-board, calmly, without anger.