Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, also known as Umar II, was born in Medina in 61 AH, although some accounts suggest he may have been born in Egypt. His father was ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwan ibn Hakem, a pious and generous man, and his mother was Layla bint Asim ibn Umar ibn Khattab, who was married to the grandson of Prophet Umar.
Umar II was renowned for his knowledge, wisdom, and progressive thinking. He was a serious person who did not enjoy joking around but was skilled at problem-solving and had a strong sense of justice and compassion. He was also known for his virtuous character, intelligence, and piety. Umar II had a broad education, excelling in language, eloquence, tafsir, hadith, sitar, logic, kalam, literature, and many other fields. When Umar II's father was appointed governor of Egypt, he wanted to take his son with him from Damascus to Egypt. However, Umar II suggested that it might be more beneficial for him and his father if he went to Medina instead. "Send me to Medina," he said, "let me sit in the assemblies of the scholars there and learn from their ways." So, his father sent him to Medina with servants.
Umar II's father left him in the care of Salih ibn Kaysan, a tabi’ who had studied under 33 teachers, including eight companions of the Prophet. On an occasion when ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz went on pilgrimage, he visited Umar II in Madina and asked Salih about his condition. Salih responded by saying, "I do not know of anyone in whose heart Allah has a greater place than this child."
Umar II had three siblings: Abu Bakr, Muhammad, and Asim. He married his uncle's daughter, Fatima, and had 15 children according to some accounts, while others state he had 17 or 14 children. His eldest son was ʿAbd al-Malik, who was known for his knowledge and piety and was considered by some to be even better than his father. When ʿAbd al-Malik died, Umar II felt great sorrow but remained patient and resigned to Allah's will, saying, "This is a decree that Allah has approved, and I cannot show discontent with it."
Upon assuming the caliphate, Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz was initially reluctant to accept the responsibility, feeling that he had not been consulted or requested to take on this role. He even attempted to relinquish his position, but the Muslims pledged their allegiance to him and chose him as their leader. Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz understood the gravity of the responsibility that came with the caliphate, and he reminded the people that disobedience to Allah is not acceptable, and that he was just like them, but with greater responsibilities bestowed upon him by Allah.
Islamic governance is fundamentally based on the principles of revelation, competence, consultation, and justice. This applies to all levels of governance, from the state level to the management of a village or a family. Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, like the other righteous caliphs, upheld these principles rigorously, making them the guiding principles of his life. He recognized the importance of consultation with knowledgeable people and believed that consultation and debate are the keys to mercy and success. When he became the caliph, Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz declined to follow the customary practice of having a guard of honour march in front of him, stating that he was merely a Muslim and did not need such formalities. Instead, he walked on foot to the mosque with the common people.
His first speech
After ‘Umar ibn’ Abd al-'Aziz was elected caliph, he ascended the pulpit. After praising Allah, he said:
"O people! Let those who want to be friends with us, follow these five conditions, otherwise, they should leave us:
· Let those who have needs, inform us of their needs.
· Let them assist us by showing their best effort in charity and goodness.
· Let them show us goodness and beauty that we do not see.
· Let no one backbite anyone beside us.
· Let them not interfere in matters that do not concern them."
It is seen that his first speech as caliph was certainly focused on establishing good relationships with his subjects. It's interesting to see how he emphasized the importance of communication, charity, kindness, avoiding gossip, and not meddling in affairs that do not concern them. These, undoubtedly, are important principles that can help build trust and foster a sense of community among people.
Umar II’s government and his virtues
‘Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz primarily relied on the Qur’an and sunnah in all his affairs. He was competent in the caliphate and consulted with competent people about his affairs. He was a just ruler. During his time, the people were favourable to the realization of Islamic principles. He was guided by the Qur’an and adhered to the Prophet and his Sunnah. He followed the practices of the Rashid Caliphs. He loved knowledge and scholars.
‘Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz wanted to abolish the succession system and replace it with the shura system. But some of his kinsmen opposed this. They gave a thousand dinars to a slave and had him poison Umar’s food. Umar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz died on a Friday in the month of Rajab in the 101st year of Hijrah, at the age of 39. May Allah be pleased with him and may his place be in heaven.