History

Webinar: Lessons from the life of ʿUmar II

Webinar: Lessons from the life of ʿUmar II

In this webinar, I discuss the life of one of my favorite heroes, ʿUmar II aka ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (RA). We do a deep dive into his life covering various accomplishments of his and extracting a lot of important lessons from his life.

To continue learning lessons from the life of ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, get the eBook that this webinar is based on here: https://gumroad.com/l/umar2

The eBook is also available at Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, Leadership, 0 comments

Shūrā as a Productivity Principle

This is an extract from my latest book Productivity Principles of ʿUmar II. You can learn more about the book here.

The Shūrā Committee of ʿUmar II

When ʿUmar II was governor of Medina, he surrounded himself with a panel of pious and experienced consultants. When he became king, he maintained this system, and once again put together a team of experts to consult with on every major decision.

The practice of consulting experts has always been a recommended practice for Muslims. In the Quran, there is an entire chapter titled the Chapter of Shūrā (Consultation) which includes the verse, “And their affairs are decided through consultation among themselves,”[1]

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “If your brother requests your consultation, let him give counsel.”[2] It was also the practice of the Rightly Guided Caliphs to have a committee of consultants to discuss all important issues. In Islam, such committees are called shūrā committees and are very important for success in any project.

ʿUmar II wanted to emulate the leadership style of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Based on their example, he set up shūrā committees to consult whenever he was in a position of power. He first established such a committee when he was governor of Medina. His committee at that time included ten of Medina’s leading scholars. This included ʿUrwa b. al-Zubayr, ʿUbaydullāh b. ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUtbah, Abū Bakr b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, and many other leading scholars from the second and third generation of Muslims.[3]

This council was given several tasks, which included giving ʿUmar their opinion on any action he planned to take, informing him of any misconduct in his region, and advising him on matters of policy. Based on the advice of this council, he made several improvements to the social structure of Medina. This resulted in a large number of people migrating to Medina during his short reign.[4]

When he was appointed caliph of the Muslim world, ʿUmar again set in place a shūrā council to guide his decisions. This committee included leading scholars from across the Muslim world including Sālim b. ʿAbdullāh, Muhammad al-Qurṭubī, Rajāʾ b. Ḥaywa and Yazīd b. al-Muhallab.[5]

Surrounded by such exemplary individuals, and in contact with various others throughout the Muslim Empire via letters, ʿUmar’s policies and decisions were guided by sincere advice, experience, and piety. This led to some of the most important decisions that shaped the history of the Muslim world.

Because of the wise and righteous advice of these consultants, ʿUmar II was able to set up various long-term projects that benefited the Muslim community for centuries.

Some of the decisions that resulted from consultation include the removal of various unjust taxes, increasing the salaries of religious scholars, sending scholars to teach Islam to the newly conquered regions, and the compilation of hadith into books. Each of these decisions played an important role in improving the lives of the Muslim community.

ʿUmar II’s High Regard for Consultation

ʿUmar II once said, “Nobody is entitled to be a judge unless he has five qualities. He must be chaste, gentle and patient, knowledgeable of the past, accustomed to seeking the consultation of others, and indifferent to criticism from others.”[6]

Among the five most crucial qualities of a judge, ʿUmar II included seeking consultation. A judge cannot always rely on his own opinion or view of a matter, and neither can he always trust his own ability to remain unbiased. A just judge will seek the opinion of righteous experts before making a decision.

ʿUmar II advised his governors, judges, and contemporary scholars to seek consultation on every important issue.

He once wrote to ʿUrwah a letter in which he mentioned, “You have written to me asking about the practice of issuing legal rulings and settling people’s dispute. That heart of the judicial practice is adherence to what you find in the Book of God, the issuing of rulings based on the example set by the Messenger of God as well as the judgments handed down by the Rightly-Guided leaders, and consultation with the learned whose points of view can be trusted.”[7]

In these two quotations, we can see the high status ʿUmar II gave to consultation. He considered it among the most important sources of decision making, policy making, deduction of laws, and application of principles. He would not make any major decisions without consulting experts on the topic, and he advised others to do the same.

Consultation is one of those principles that ʿUmar both practiced and preached, and it is one of the most important principles that led to his success in various fields.

The Benefits of Consultation

There are many benefits of seeking the counsel of experts. Ahmad al-Raysuni, in his book al-Shūrā, lists ten major benefits of consultation.

These are:

  1. Choosing the most correct opinion
  2. Protecting the decision from bias and desire
  3. Preventing tyranny
  4. Promoting humility
  5. Giving people their due
  6. Promoting an atmosphere of freedom
  7. Improving one’s thinking and planning capabilities
  8. Building support structures
  9. Promoting unity and goodwill
  10. Increasing the ability to deal with unwanted consequences.[8]

Each of these is important for achieving maximum productivity from one’s goals. When we consult others, we increase the chance of arriving at the correct opinion and therefore increase our chances of succeeding at our goals.

Sometimes when we make decisions on our own, these decisions are clouded by bias or desire. Seeking the counsel of someone unbiased helps us see past these distortions and helps us arrive at a better conclusion. In doing so, we also protect ourselves and others from any unintentional tyranny that our biased opinions may cause.

It takes humility to seek the counsel of others. This makes consultation an act that strengthens humility and reduces arrogance. This increases the chance of success, as humble people are far more likely to excel than the arrogant.

Consultation with specialists actively demonstrates appreciation and respect for the experts. This is a way of giving people their dues, promoting an atmosphere of freedom and discussion, as well as promoting unity and goodwill among people.

The more we discuss our ideas with others, our thinking and planning capabilities grow accordingly. Each discussion teaches us a new way of looking at things and refines our thinking process.

Finally, consultation is a team task. When you consult others, they become invested in your outcome, which gives you a stronger support structure and an increased ability to deal with any obstacles or problems that may arise.

These are just ten benefits of consultation.

To continue reading this chapter, and to access the full eBook, hit the ‘Get It Now’ button and follow the instructions that pop up:

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[1] Quran 42:38

[2] Ibn Mājah 3747

[3] As-Sallabi, ʿUmar Bin ʿAbd al- ʿAzīz, pp. 77-78

[4] Ibid. pp. 78-81

[5] Ibid. pp. 115-118

[6] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, vol. 15, p. 50

[7] Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Jamiʿ Bayan al-ʿIlm, vol. 2, p. 30

[8] Al-Raysuni, al-Shura, pp.24-40

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments
20 Facts about the Islamic Golden Ages

20 Facts about the Islamic Golden Ages

The Islamic Golden Ages refers to points in time when Muslims were the dominant civilization in the world. It was a time of prosperity and cultural advancement. The Muslims led the world in almost every single field. I discuss the rise and fall of the Golden Age in more detail in this course.

This short article serves as a simple fact sheet on the Golden Ages, to help readers remember some core facts about these beautiful parts of our history. All the facts listed below are taken from authentic history books.

Facts About The Eras

  1. There were three Islamic Golden Ages (so far).
  2. The first two occurred concurrently in the Abbasid Empire and Umayyad Spain.
  3. The second occurred during the middle phase of the Ottoman Era.
  4. The Umayyad and Abbasid Golden Ages produced far more important developments than the Ottoman Golden Age.
  5. All of these Golden Ages were possible because the Muslim rulers of that time were committed to research, education, and development.

Facts About The Umayyad Golden Age

  1. It did not occur when the Umayyads were the sole rulers of the Muslim world. It occurred when their authority was restricted to Spain.
  2. Under Umayyad rule, Spain became the most advanced civilization in Europe at that time.
  3. The Umayyads built some of the most impressive buildings in history, including the Alhambra Palace, Madina al-Zahra and the Cordoba Mosque.
  4. The height of their Golden Age was the reign of Abdur Rahman III which lasted for fifty years.
  5. Spain remained a Muslim land for around three hundred years after the Umayyad Era, but it never experienced another Golden Age.
Cordoba Mosque
The Cordoba Mosque remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Spain.

Facts About the Abbasid Golden Age

  1. The Abbasid Golden Age began with Harun al-Rashid and lasted a few centuries.
  2. It was the longest of all the Islamic Golden ages and the most significant.
  3. Mamun al-Rashid set up Bait al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) as the main research center in Baghdad. Many important discoveries and inventions can be traced back to Bait al-Hikmah.
  4. Math, Science, Fiqh, Hadith, Tafsir, Language, Philosophy, Medicine, and many other important fields all developed greatly during this Golden Age.
  5. The Abbasid Golden Age ended with the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in which thousands of important books were destroyed.

Facts about the Ottoman Golden Age

  1. The Ottoman Empire reached its Golden Age during the reign of Sulaiman the Magnificent.
  2. At the height of Sulaiman’s reign, he ruled fifty countries across three continents.
  3. The reign of Sulaiman lasted forty-five years.
  4. The main advancements of Muslim civilization during the Ottoman Era were in the fields of military science and politics.
  5. The Ottoman Era only ended less than a century ago during World War I.

These are just a few interesting facts about the Muslim Golden Ages. To learn more, check out our full online course here.

Golden Age Buildings
A remnant of the Islamic Golden Ages.
Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 0 comments
3 Important Points Regarding Muslim History

3 Important Points Regarding Muslim History

I have been studying history all my life. It has always been a passion of mine and one of my favorite subjects. However, as a history teacher at a university, I noticed that my students don’t always share my passion for history. Often they are baffled, puzzled and horrified by the events of history. Some even lose faith in their religion when they study the histories of related empire.

There are three main reasons why this happens, and I will explain all three in this article. My hope is that by the end of this article, you will be able to study any part of history without it shaking your faith in the least.

The misnomer of Islamic History

The first major problem for Muslim students, in particular, is that the history of the Muslim Empires is often labeled Islamic History. This mislabelling of events creates unrealistic expectations in the mind of the student, as they assume whatever they are going to study represents the religion of Islam. They also may take this history as a source of Islamic legislation as it is labeled as Islamic.

The label itself is a problem. Classically, Muslim scholars divided history into two subjects, known in Arabic as Sīrah and Taʾrīk̲h̲. Sīrah focused on the life of the Prophet Muḥammad (peace be upon him) only. His life would be studied religiously, and various lessons extracted from it upon which the foundations of the religion were built.

Any book focusing on events after his time is called a Taʾrīk̲h̲ book. Generally, these books narrated all historical events for that time period without comment or judgment.

If we had to invent similar labels in English for these two parts of history, then we can say that the life of Prophet Muḥammad (peace be upon him) is Islamic History, and whatever came after his time is Muslim History. The difference is very important.

The life of Prophet Muḥammad (peace be upon him) represents Islam at its best. His life is to be studied in detail, analyzed for lessons, taken as a proof of the truthfulness of his message, and used as a basis for forming our understanding of Islam. It is truly Islamic History is that his actions were guided by revelation and represent the perfect role model of Islam for the world.

Anything that occurred after his life is actually Muslim History. It is the history of people who believe in Islam but are subject to human temptation, corruption, and error. They may at times accomplish amazing things in the name of Islam. And they may at times fall to the deepest of lows due to temptation or human error. Their lives do not represent Islam. Rather their lives represent the struggles, highs, and lows of the average Muslim.

Just as the Muslim world today is full of sinners, saints and everything in between. So was the case in every century of Muslim history. The difference being that the sinners and saints often made it into the history books, while everybody else was left out. This is because the life of the average person is probably too boring to write a history book about, but the life of a tyrant king or a saintly king is the topic of a bestseller.

If we approach the life of an individual after the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as Muslim History, this will lower our expectations and help us appreciate history better. We will be able to appreciate their struggles, understand their errors, and marvel at their accomplishments because this is the history of Muslims.

The Human Aspect of History

Continuing on the topic of Muslim History, the second issue that people often overlook is just how human Muslims throughout history have been.

Many Muslims approach history with the misconception that we are living at the worst point in history, and that every era before us was full of saintly Muslims representing the religion properly.

Reality is that every generation of Muslims had their saints, sinners and everything in between. The average Muslim general, king, merchant, and governor were just that; average.

They weren’t all saints. Their lives were a complex mix of good deeds, sins, and permissible deeds. They experienced highs and lows, moments of greatness and moments of weakness. They passed some tests of life and failed others. So it is perfectly normal to study the life of any individual in history and learn that he at some points in his life was a righteous worshipper, while at some other point murdered his enemies. This is because of the complexity of human life, and especially leadership and governance which often forces people to make extremely difficult decisions between life and death.

The correct approach to studying the life of anybody after the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to accept their humanity. The first generation of Muslims was the best, but they were still human and still erred. Each generation after that fell into different types of sins and mistakes. Just as we do today.

When you realize that every historical figure was struggling with desires and temptation just as we do, you become more understanding of their mistakes, and you approach history with more realistic expectations.

Different Times, Different Norms

The final thing that confuses people when studying history is that there are some fundamental differences between the cultures we live in and that of the ancient world.

A lot of young people have not been exposed to anything outside the modern culture and they assume that that is the way the world always was. As a result, when they study history they are shocked to find things that contradict their norms and it shakes their faith.

We live in a time that is very unique to human history. We live in the only century in human history without child marriages, slavery, or military expansion of empires. These things are foreign concepts to our times and many people wrongly assume that people always considered these things immoral or wrong.

Reality is that the bulk of human history, including almost all major cultures, civilizations, and religions, had no problem with any of these. Slavery, child marriages, and military expansion were global norms in the ancient world. This is simply a reality. As soon as we accept these as historical realities, then history makes a lot more sense. We must approach history with this understanding in order to understand it in its proper context.

Conclusion

If we accept this reality, then history makes a lot more sense. We shouldn’t be surprised by any of these concepts when we find them in the history of any civilization, because these were the norms of that time. To judge ancient cultures and civilizations by 21st-century norms is illogical and unfair. Historical incidents should be understood within the context of the places and times they took place in. If history is studied in light of these three facts, it becomes much easier to understand and interact with. We should not expect perfection from the people of the past, present or future. We should not project our cultural norms onto past civilizations. And we should not judge Islam by the actions of Muslims. Because Islam is the revelation from God, but Muslims are humans who struggle to follow that revelation to various degrees. Keep these three points in mind whenever studying any aspect of Muslim History.

To learn more about Muslim History, sign up for our online course Muslim Golden Ages: Rise & Fall today – limited seats available.

Muslim History
Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, Inner Peace, 2 comments
History of the Umayyad Empire

History of the Umayyad Empire

This video is a module from my latest online course; Muslim Golden Ages: Rise & Fall.

Through this course, you will

  1. unlock the hidden history of Muslim civilizations that has been kept a secret for too long.
  2. discover the key contributions of Muslims to various arts and sciences.
  3. understand how the Muslims fell from power, and how history was rewritten to hide our accomplishments.
  4. be inspired to become the best version of yourself and rise to greater heights.
  5. contribute to a discussion on how the ummah can rebuild itself and enter a new golden age.

In this course, you will NOT learn about:

  1. Too many names, dates and locations. (The focus is on beneficial knowledge)
  2. Sectarianism. (The course focuses on positive contributions, not criticisms)
  3. Political history and wars. (unless relevant to the topics…like the Mongols!)

Who is this course for? (You, of course!)

  • History Buffs.
  • Muslims who are curious about their legacy.
  • Muslim Teenagers who want to learn the real history of science and culture.
  • Parents who want to teach their children the correct history of science and culture.
  • Anybody who is tired of the Islamaphobes controlling the narrative and wants to empower themselves with the true history of the Muslim world.

Who is this course NOT for?

  • Sectarians who want history to reflect their worldview.
  • People who are unable to study history without bias.
  • Anybody who has no interest in the history of the Muslim world at all.
  • Young children as some of the content is mature in nature!

Join the course today by clicking here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 0 comments