In the early years of Islam, Umar, who was a man of intelligence and fully committed to the ideals of the Arabian pagan society, was bitterly opposed to Islam. He repeatedly beat up a slave woman in his clan because she embraced Islam. He even thought of killing the Prophet (peace be upon him) so that he would rid the Arabian society of the problem he presented. In fact he was on the way to do that when he met Nuaym ibn Abdullah and declared to him his intention to kill the Prophet. Nuaym warned him that Muhammadâs clan were certain to avenge his murder by killing Umar. Besides, âyou better look nearer home. There were things to mend there, if you were really concerned about Muhammadâs religion.â Nuaym told him that his sister Fatimah and her husband Saeed ibn Zayd were Muslims.
Umar went straight to his sisterâs house, and as he approached he overheard people either talking or reading. In his fury, Umar asked as he entered about the voices he overheard. Receiving an unsatisfactory answer from his sister, he assaulted his brother-in-law making it clear that he knew their secret. His sister rushed to push him away from her husband but he struck her, causing blood to gush from her face. She then said, with a boldness and determination which surprised Umar himself: âYes indeed, we are Muslims; we believe in God and His Messenger. You may do as you please.â
The sight of blood on his sisterâs face made Umar feel sorry for her. He said in a rather conciliatory tone: âGive me what you have been reading. Let me see what Muhammad teaches.â When she hesitated, expressing her fear that he might destroy the sheet, he swore by his idols to give it back to her after he had read it. The sheet contained the opening verses of surah 20 entitled Ta Ha. These verses addressed the Prophet as follows: âWe have not bestowed the Qurâan on you from on high to make you unhappy, but only as an exhortation to all who stand in awe [of God]: a revelation from Him Who has created the earth and the high heavens, the Merciful, the One established on the throne of His almightiness. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, as well as all that is between them and all that is beneath the sod. And if you say anything aloud, well, He indeed knows even the secret thoughts as well as that which is hidden even more deeply. God, there is no deity other than Him; His alone are the attributes of perfection.â
Impressed, Umar read on, and then he read the whole sheet again. He felt the powerful verses striking their notes on the strings of his heart. He looked at the floor for a moment as he repeated verse 13: âFor certain. I â I alone â am God; there is no deity other than Me. Hence, worship Me alone and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me.â He then raised his head and said: âHow beautiful and how noble.â
Shortly after that, Umar went to the Prophet and declared himself a Muslim. No threats or promises were explicit or implied in those verses of the Qurâan he read; only the truth of Godâs oneness and a clear concept of life and its purpose. This is what makes people of understanding believe in the truth of the message of Islam and dedicate their lives to advocating it. ¬