Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Umar's Attitude To Sinners

Some time in 639 A.D. the year of the famine and the plague some Muslims in Syria drank wine. When called to question, they argued that in the Holy Quran, no definite punishment was prescribed for drinking and as such they were not liable to any punishment. Abu Ubaida reported the matter to Umar.

In reply, Umar instructed Abu Ubaida to call the delinquents to the mosque and there before the congregation ask them whether they considered drinking lawlul or unlawful. If they considered it lawful they should be deemed to have apostasised and in that case they should meet thc penalty for apostasy namely death. If they held that drinking was unlawful then they should be inflicted eighty lashes. Umar explained that although the Holy Quran did not provide the penalty for drinking, it did not forbid the prescription of such penalty. The State could therefore in public interest prescribe a penalty. The State had after due deliberation provided a penalty of 80 lashes and this was in no way repugnant to Islam.

When the instructions of Umar were received at Emessa, Abu Ubaida called the delinquents to the mosque. These included Zarrar bin Azwar and Abu Jandal. There before the congregation Abu Ubaida put them the question whether they regarded drinking as lawful or unlawful. They held that they regarded it unlawful. Abu Ubaida then said that if they had done an unlawful thing they exposed themselves to punishment. They argued that no punishment was due as none had been prescribed by the Quran. Abu Ubadia explained in the terms of the instructions of Umar that when a person was guilty of an unlawful act, the State could prescribe a penalty. Abu Ubaida accordingly inflicted on the delinquents the punishment of eighty stripes.

The delinquents took the punishment to heart. Abu Jandal was particularly very disconsolate. He locked himself in his house and refused to come out and face the people. Abu Ubaida felt for him and reported the matter to Umar. Thereupon Umar wrote a conciliatory letter. He wrote:

"It is a fact that when you violate the principle of the unity of God, and create rivals to Allah the sin is too serious to be forgiven. Allah does not forgive this sin. As regards other sins God in His Mercy and Kindness forgives such sins when one is repentant. Allah says 'O my people, if you transgress and then repent do not despair of the mercy of Allah for He is Forgiving and Merciful."

In the letter Umar advised Abu Jandal to seek the forgiveness of Allah and come out of his house and attend to the affairs of the world as usual. To the general public Umar advised in the letter:

"Do not exult over the sins of others. Do not ridicule them. If they are repentant help them in the process of repentance so that Allah may forgive them."

When the letter of Umar was received, Abu Ubaida called Abu Jandal and other delinquents to the mosque and there read the letter of Umar before the gathering. The letter had the necessary solacing effect. The delinquents repented and then applied for being sent to some expedition on Jihad. Abu Ubaida sent them to fight and they fought with a sense of dedication.

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