By Dr A Q Khan
The law of the land is not applicable to the select few and they openly ignore even court orders. In the olden days a Qazi would hear and decide cases quickly and fairly. Our history and traditions have many golden chapters. There were not merely a dozen or so honest, efficient rulers, but literally hundreds of them.
An efficient administrative and legal system already existed during the period of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), but it was Hazrat Umar (RA) who established the most efficient, honest and neutral system. Everything was properly recorded and coded and it was a complete, exemplary constitution.
In one of my previous columns I had mentioned how the Qazi, a former Turkish slave, had thrashed Ali Noshtgin, commander-in-chief of Mahmud Ghaznavi’s army, for being under the influence of alcohol. Here I would like to mention Sher Shah Suri, who had the Grand Trunk Road built from Peshawar to Calcutta. What he achieved in the five years of his rule our inept rulers have not been able to achieve in even 62 years. His minister of finance was Raja Todar Mal, who was so efficient that, years later when Akbar became emperor, he sent for Raja Todar Mal and requested him to be his minister of finance. History is witness to the prosperity and progress made during Akbar’s reign.
Let us also take a look at the excellent administrative and legal system enforced by Hazrat Umar (RA). During the short reign of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), Muslims were not only consolidating their rule, but also expanding their territory. Even then, law and order was supreme. When Hazrat Umar (RA) became caliph, proper and detailed laws were made and strictly enforced. Muslims ruled extensive territories from Samarqand to Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, etc. Just imagine, with no modern facilities such as railways, roads, vehicles, electronic communication, etc., how difficult it must have been to dispense justice to the public.
Hazrat Umar (RA) is reported to have said that, even if a dog died of hunger and thirst at the bank of the Euphrates in Baghdad, he would be held accountable by Almighty Allah. Look what is happening in Karachi and how many are held accountable! Hazrat Umar (RA) did not overlook or ignore any aspect of good governance and enforced the golden rules of Islam on every aspect of life.
Here are two instances that show just how sacred Hazrat Umar (RA) considered the rule of law and the sanctity of words to be. It is reported that Jabla bin Aiham Al-Ghassani was the king of a small state near Syria. He was originally a Christian who later embraced Islam. During the rule of Hazrat Umar (RA) he was performing Tawaf around the Kaaba. At one point a man inadvertently stepped on Jabla’s robes. The king was furious and slapped the man. The victim immediately complained to Caliph Umar (RA) who, according to the Islamic law of Qisas, gave permission to the victim to slap the king in public. The king retorted: “What kind of a religion is it that equates a king with a commoner?” Hazrat Umar (RA) said that the punishment would be duly carried out unless the victim forgave him of his own free will. The king managed to escape and upon reaching his kingdom, he abandoned Islam. Upon hearing this, Hazrat Umar (RA) remarked: “It is good that we got rid of such a vainglorious person as there is no place in Islam for such elements. Our prestige does not depend on kings’ allegiances.”
The second episode is about Harmazan, a Persian army commander who had excelled in bravery and warfare. During the rule of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), Muslim armies were already fighting in Persia and Iraq, but it was Hazrat Umar (RA) who put full force behind these efforts. The famous battle of Qadisiya, which put a seal on Persia’s fate, was fought. Hazrat Saad Bin Abi Waqas (RA), uncle of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), was the commander-in-chief. This battle was of great historic importance and has been described in detail by both Eastern and Western historians. Rustam was the commander-in-chief of the Persian forces.
The Persians fought bravely, but were defeated despite their numerical superiority. Many Persian commanders fought bravely, most notably Harmazan. He had inflicted heavy casualties on Muslim forces by raiding at odd hours at night. It was Wamiq Abul Hol (RA), a black burly man with a pockmarked face, who put an end to Harmazan’s adventures. Harmazan managed to slip away to Shoster, the capital of Khozistan. Mughira Bin Sha’ba (RA), governor of Basra, attacked Hurmuz (Ahwaz). After his removal by Hazrat Umar (RA), Abu Musa Ashari (RA) took charge and laid siege to Shoster. Harmazan came out of the city with a large army, attacked the Muslims, was defeated and retreated into the fort. After lengthy discussions, Harmazan agreed to surrender on condition that he was taken to Hazrat Umar (RA) and that he would accept whatever the caliph decided. Hazrat Anas (RA) took him to Madina and presented him to Hazrat Umar (RA) who was resting on the floor in Masjid-e-Nabvi.
Because Harmazan had inflicted great harm on Muslim forces and had martyred two famous Sahaba–Bara’ bin Malik (RA) and Mahrat bin Sur (RA)–in hand-to-hand combat, Hazrat Umar (RA) was furious and was determined to have him beheaded. However, for the sake of moral and legal formalities, Hazrat Umar (RA) asked him if he had any last wish. Harmazan asked for some water to drink. After having been given a bowl of water, he held it and looked around. Upon enquiry from Hazrat Umar (RA), he replied that he was afraid that his head would be chopped off while he was drinking. Hazrat Umar (RA) then promised that no harm would come to him as long as he did not drink the water. Upon hearing this, Harmazan poured the water onto the sand and said that since Hazrat Umar (RA) had made that promise, he could not be executed now.
Everyone present advised Hazrat Umar (RA) not to spare Harmazan because of this clever trick, as he was the murderer of many Muslims. However, Hazrat Umar (RA) said that, as caliph and as Muslim, he had given his word, and he therefore stood by it. He then ordered Harmazan to be set free. Thereupon, Harmazan immediately embraced Islam and Hazrat Umar (RA) often sought his advice for expeditions into Persia and surrounding areas. Now look at how our rulers, who disregard solemnly made promises without a trace of shame or repentance.
Hazrat Umar (RA) ruled for 10 years and see what he achieved in this relatively short time. When Saad Bin Abi Waqas (RA), Muar Bin Al-Aas (RA), Khalid Bin Walid (RA), Mughira Bin Sha’ba (RA), Ammar Bin Yasar (RA) and Ayaz Bin Ghanam (RA), all highly respected sahaba holding high offices, were found to have transgressed, Hazrat Umar (RA) had no hesitation in removing them from their posts. What a contrast to today’s rulers! Their cronies commit a crime for which they are convicted but then, with the stroke of a pen, they are cleared of all wrongdoing.
All this while we, the general public, can only look on aghast and pray for a miracle to happen to change the situation.