Did Omar altered the Athaan? (“Prayer is better than sleep”)

All praise be to Allah, and may His peace and blessings be on the greatest messenger, Muhammad. This is another lie against the best companions of the best Messenger of Allah (may Allah be pleased with them all). That book may be referring to some rumors that circulate between them, which is in part based on a report in the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik, in which it is said,

وَحَدَّثَنِي عن مَالِكٍ أَنَّهُ بَلَغَهُ أَنَّ الْمُؤَذِّنَ جاء إلى عُمَرَ بن الْخَطَّابِ يُؤْذِنُهُ لِصَلاَةِ الصُّبْحِ فَوَجَدَهُ نَائِمًا فقال الصَّلاَةُ خَيْرٌ مِنَ النَّوْمِ فَأَمَرَهُ عُمَرُ أَنْ يَجْعَلَهَا في نِدَاءِ الصُّبْحِ”

“And Malik told me that he was told that the Mu’adhen came to ‘Omar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) to alert him to the prayer of subh (morning) and found him asleep, so he said, “Prayer is better than sleep” so ‘Omar ordered him to make it in the call to the subh (morning) prayer.” (Muwatta’ Malik, Dar Ihya’ at-Turaath al-‘Arabi, Egypt, 1/72). This report is not authentic for Malik does not say who told him ‘Omar did that. Al-Qurtubi said,

” وأما قول مالك في الموطأ أنه بلغه أن المؤذن جاء إلى عمر بن الخطاب يؤذنه بصلاة الصبح فوجده نائما فقال الصلاة خير من النوم فأمره عمر أن يجعلها في نداء الصبح فلا أعلم أن هذا روى عن عمر من جهة يحتج بها وتعلم صحتها.”

“And as for Malik’s statement …., I do not know that this was ever reported from ‘Omar through a chain that is credible and known to be authentic.” (Tafseer al-Qurtubi, Dar ash-Sha’b, Cairo, 6/228). There are reports to this effect by Ibn Abi Shaibah and ad-Daraqutni and they are not authentic, for they have unknown narrators. The reason why Ahl-us-Sunnah were keen to record everything, including that which was reported through weak chains is to preserve all reports for the examination of all generations, and for the record. If the report was true, which it is not, then ‘Omar meant that the Mu’adhen should only use this phrase in his adhaan, not at the door of the khaleefah, out of fear that some would start to make this a habit and repeat parts of the adhaan at the door of the khaleefah. (See Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 6/228 for more clarification and that was the explanation of the commentators on the Muwatta’ such as al-Bajey and others). This part of adhaan (“Prayer is better than sleep”) was from the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and it was both in Maccah and al-Madeenah, and called by both Bilal and Abi Mahdhoorah. Abu Dawood authentically reported from the grandson of Abi Mahdhoorah from his father from Abi Mahdhoorah that he said,

“قال قلت يا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ عَلِّمْنِي سُنَّةَ الْأَذَانِ قال فَمَسَحَ مُقَدَّمَ رَأْسِي وقال تَقُولُ الله أَكْبَرُ الله أَكْبَرُ الله أَكْبَرُ الله أَكْبَرُ تَرْفَعُ بها صَوْتَكَ ثُمَّ تَقُولُ أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إلا الله أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إلا الله أَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رسول اللَّهِ أَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رسول اللَّهِ تَخْفِضُ بها صَوْتَكَ ثُمَّ تَرْفَعُ صَوْتَكَ بِالشَّهَادَةِ أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إلا الله أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إلا الله أَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رسول اللَّهِ أَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رسول اللَّهِ حَيَّ على الصَّلَاةِ حَيَّ على الصَّلَاةِ حَيَّ على الْفَلَاحِ حَيَّ على الْفَلَاحِ فَإِنْ كان صَلَاةُ الصُّبْحِ قُلْتَ الصَّلَاةُ خَيْرٌ من النَّوْمِ الصَّلَاةُ خَيْرٌ من النَّوْمِ الله أَكْبَرُ الله أَكْبَرُ لَا إِلَهَ إلا الله.”

“I said, O messenger of Allah, teach me the sunnah (proper method) of adhaan, so he (peace and blessings be upon him) wiped on my forelock and forehead and said, say…and when it is the prayer of as-Subh (morning), say, as-salaatu khairun mina an-nawm (prayer is better than sleep)…” (Abu Dawood, dar al-Fikr, Beirut, Chapter of the Description of Adhaan, 1/136). Ibn Majah reported authentically from Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyeb from Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him),

أَنَّهُ أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يُؤْذِنُهُ بِصَلَاةِ الْفَجْرِ فَقِيلَ هو نَائِمٌ فقال الصَّلَاةُ خَيْرٌ من النَّوْمِ الصَّلَاةُ خَيْرٌ من النَّوْمِ فَأُقِرَّتْ في تَأْذِينِ الْفَجْرِ فَثَبَتَ الْأَمْرُ على ذلك”

“that he came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to alert him to the prayer of fajr (morning) and it was said that he (peace and blessings be upon him) is asleep. He (Bilal) said, “prayer is better than sleep” and then it was made part of the adhaan for fajr, and was there ever since.” (Sunna Ibn Majah, dar al-Fikr, Beirut, Chapter of the Beginning of Adhaan, 1/72).

This part of adhaan was known during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and was Bilal’s adhaan. Suwaid ibn Ghaflah sent to his mu’adhen saying, “When you reach “hayy ala al-falaah”, then say “as-salaatu khairun mina an-nawm”, for this was the adhaan of Bilal. Bilal did not make adhaan after the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), nor did ‘Omar hear his adhaan except once, when they opened Jerusalem.(See Tafseer al-Qurtubi, Dar ash-Sha’b, Cairo, 6/228). It is without any doubt that ‘Omar did not add this part to the adhaan, and if one of the rightly guided khaleefahs recommended anything, it is in conformity with the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), for he said,

فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِسُنَّتِي وَسُنَّةِ الْخُلَفَاءِ الرَّاشِدِينَ الْمَهْدِيِّينَ”

Follow my sunnah and that of the rightly guided righteous khaleefahs after me” (Sunan Ibn Majah, dar al-Fikr, Beirut, chapter of following the sunnah of the rightly guided righteous khaleefahs, 1/15, Mustadrak al-Hakim & Sunan al-Baihaqi) This does not mean they would add to the religion, nor would it mean they were infallible, but rather their methodology is a guided one.

‘Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) was of the most diligent followers of the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He said, speaking to the Blackstone,

“والله لقد عَلِمْتُ أَنَّكَ حَجَرٌ وَلَوْلَا أَنِّي رأيت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُقَبِّلُكَ ما قَبَّلْتُكَ”

By Allah, I know that you are a stone, and had it not been that I saw the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) kiss you I would have not kissed you.” (Agreed upon, and the quoted wording is from Muslim, Book of Hajj, Chapter of Kissing the Blackstone). The enemies of ‘Omar are so intrigued in assassinating his character and personality because of his stature that is undeniable by any possessor of sound intellect. It is he who – by the grace of Allah – defeated the evil empires of the Romans and Persians, and it was he who rescued their subjects in ash-Sham, Egypt, Iraq, parts of Turkey, Libya and Persia itself from the oppression of their rulers and systems to the justice of Islam. His virtues, justice, tolerance and brilliance are acknowledged by those of his adversaries amongst the European historians who have some degree of sensibility, fairness and impartiality. The authors of the Columbia History of the World said the following,

“Umar’s organizational abilities also contributed greatly to the Arabs’ success. He regularized the legal position of the millions of non-Muslim subjects in his domain and set up an efficient administrative system for the empire. Muhammad established the precedent of “tolerance” for the “People of the Book,” the Jewish and Christian communities in the northern Hijaz. ‘Umar left these communities undistributed except for the payment of an annual tribute in the form of poll tax (jizya); indeed, he extended the principle of toleration to cover not only all Christians and Jews in the empire, but also the Zoroastrians of Persia. Non-Muslims groups formed their own self-administered communities, lived under their own civil codes, and were governed by their own religious leaders.” (The Columbia History of the World, Harper & Brown 1972, 1st Ed., pp. 264). He was counted as one of the 100 most influential figures in the History of mankind by Michael Hart, who said, “After Muhammad himself, he [‘Omar] was the principal figure in the spread of Islam…some expansion was bound to occur, but not to the enormous extent that it did under ‘Umar’s brilliant leadership.” (The 100, by Michael Hart, Citadel Press, NY, 1992, pp. 261-265).

We say, it was the grace of Allah and his help and support of ‘Omar that helped him do all of this, for he received no training in leadership or administration to rank above figures like Julius Caesar according to a westerner. Here is a piece of poetry about ‘Omar al-Farooq (may Allah be pleased with him), which records in poetic verses the story of the ally of Chosroes who was surprised when he saw ‘Omar, the “king” who defeated the greatest two empires of the time sleeping under a tree, without guards, and covered by a piece of worn out cloth,

قد راع صاحب كسرى أن رأى عُمراً *** بين الرّعية عُطـلاً وهو راعيهـا
وعهـده بِملـوك الفُـرس أن لـها *** سُوراً من الجند والأحراس يَحميها
رآه مُستغرقـاً في نـومـه فـرأى *** فـيه الجلالـة في أسْـمى معانيها
فوق الثرى تحت ظلّ الدّوح مُشتمِلاً *** بِبُردة كـاد طـول العهد يُبليهـا
فَـهـان في عينـه مـا كـان يُكبِره *** من الأكاسِـر والدنيا بأيـديهـا
وقال قولَـة حـقّ أصبحت مَـثلاً *** وأصبح الجيل بعـد الجيل يَرويهـا
أمِنتَ لَمّـا أقمـتَ العـدل بينهم *** فَنمتَ نـوم قـرير العين هانيهـا

It shocked the partner of Chosroes to have seen ‘Omar between the public as one of them, when he is their leader. His experience with the kings of Persia was to have fences of soldiers and guards for their protection. He saw him in deep sleep, and saw in him majesty in its greatest expression. On the soil, underneath a tree, covered by a piece of cloth, which is worn out by the passage of time. So, he despised what he used to think was majestic about the kings of Persia, who had all the world under their control. And he then said a statement of truth that became a dictum and generations narrate it one after another. You have become secure when you established justice between them, and thus, slept with contentment and comfort. There is no wonder that ‘Omar was who he was! Is not it Allah’s best of creation and greatest of Messengers who said about him,

“أُرِيتُ في الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَنْزِعُ بِدَلْوِ بَكْرَةٍ على قَلِيبٍ فَجَاءَ أبو بَكْرٍ فَنَزَعَ ذَنُوبًا أو ذَنُوبَيْنِ نَزْعًا ضَعِيفًا وَاللَّهُ يَغْفِرُ له ثُمَّ جاء عُمَرُ بن الْخَطَّابِ فَاسْتَحَالَتْ غَرْبًا فلم أَرَ عَبْقَرِيًّا يَفْرِي فَرِيَّهُ حتى رَوِيَ الناس وَضَرَبُوا بِعَطَنٍ قال بن جُبَيْرٍ الْعَبْقَرِيُّ عِتَاقُ الزَّرَابِيِّ وقال يحيى الزَّرَابِيُّ الطَّنَافِسُ لها خَمْلٌ رَقِيقٌ مَبْثُوثَةٌ كَثِيرَةٌ”

“While I was sleeping, I saw myself standing at a well, on it there was a bucket. I drew water from the well as much as Allah wished. Then Ibn Abi Quhafa (i.e. Abu Bakr) took the bucket from me and brought out one or two buckets (of water) and there was weakness in his drawing the water. May Allah forgive his weakness for him. Then the bucket turned into a very big one and Ibn Al-Khattab took it over and I had never seen such a mighty person amongst the people as him in performing such hard work, till the people drank to their satisfaction and watered their camels that knelt down there.” (al-Bukhari, M. Khan’s translation, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 16). The hadeeth addresses the accomplishments of ‘Omar, but when it comes to his ranking, Abu Bakr is greater than him and second to none of the ummah other than Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). The accomplishments of ‘Omar were a result of Allah’s support to him, not mere intelligence, for he was a tribesman, who did not grow up in royal courts, nor did he receive training in war tactics, particularly when it comes to fighting with the worlds two greatest superpowers at the time. In summary, it was because of his piety and Allah’s grace on him, and why not when it is he who scares the Shaytaan away, as the Prophet said in the following hadeeth,

“إِيهًا يا بن الْخَطَّابِ وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بيده ما لَقِيَكَ الشَّيْطَانُ سَالِكًا فَجًّا قَطُّ إلا سَلَكَ فَجًّا غير فَجِّكَ.”

“”O Ibn Al-Khattab! By Him in Whose Hands my life is! Never does Satan find you going on a way, but he takes another way other than yours.” (al-Bukhari, M. Khan’s translation, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 32) The companions were very united under his leadership and they knew there was no one on earth better than him after the death of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him). And here is what ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) had to say about him,

“عن بن أبي مُلَيْكَةَ أَنَّهُ سمع بن عَبَّاسٍ يقول وُضِعَ عُمَرُ على سَرِيرِهِ فَتَكَنَّفَهُ الناس يَدْعُونَ وَيُصَلُّونَ قبل أَنْ يُرْفَعَ وأنا فِيهِمْ فلم يَرُعْنِي إلا رَجُلٌ آخِذٌ مَنْكِبِي فإذا عَلِيُّ بن أبي طَالِبٍ فَتَرَحَّمَ على عُمَرَ وقال ما خَلَّفْتَ أَحَدًا أَحَبَّ إلي أَنْ ألقي اللَّهَ بِمِثْلِ عَمَلِهِ مِنْكَ وأيم اللَّهِ إن كنت لَأَظُنُّ أَنْ يَجْعَلَكَ الله مع صَاحِبَيْكَ وَحَسِبْتُ إني كنت كَثِيرًا أَسْمَعُ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول ذَهَبْتُ أنا وأبو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ وَدَخَلْتُ أنا وأبو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ وَخَرَجْتُ أنا وأبو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ.”

“Ibn ‘Abbas said, While I was standing amongst the people who were invoking Allah for Umar bin Al-Khattab who was lying (dead) on his bed, a man behind me rested his elbows on my shoulder, I turned back to see that the speaker was Ali bin Abi Talib and he said, “(O `Umar!) May Allah bestow His Mercy on you. I always hoped that Allah will keep you with your two companions, for I often heard Allah`s Apostle saying, “I, Abu Bakr and `Umar went (somewhere). I, Abu Bakr and `Umar came in. I, Abu Bakr and `Umar set out.` So I hoped that Allah will keep you with both of them.” ( al-Bukhari, M. Khan’s translation, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 26) Dear brother, let us learn the history of the greatest students and disciples of the greatest teacher and messenger, and if anyone attempted to discredit them, then let me remind you of the statement of Imam Abi Zur’ah (may Allah bestow mercy on him),

“إذا رأيت الرجل ينتقص أحداً من أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فاعلم أنه زنديق، وذلك أن الرسول حق والقرآن حق وما جاء به حق وإنما أدى إلينا ذلك كله الصحابة وهؤلاء يريدون أن يجرحوا شهودنا ليبطلوا الكتاب والسنة، والجرح بهم أولى وهم زنادقة”

“When you see a man put down one of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), know that he is zindeeq (heretic). That is because the Messenger is true and the Quran is true and what he (the Messenger) brought forth to us is true and all of this was conveyed to us by the companions. Those people want to discredit our witnesses to invalidate the Quran and Sunnah and they are the most worthy of dispraise, and they are zanadiqah (heretics).”

I would recommend for you to establish yourself in the true knowledge of Islam, and then you may read for others after being well grounded in the knowledge of the sunnah and mainstream Islam. Then, you will have answers ready for any suspicion that gets out in your way. Otherwise, such suspicions and distortions can devour your faith. O Allah, send your peace and blessings on Muhammad, his family and companions. Allah knows best.

Answered by
Sheikh Hatem Mohammad Al-Haj Aly

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