Ask not about the white flag

One of the most endearing stories of Umar Ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, was when on nightly patrol of the city of Madinah he saw a distant fire in the desert.null

That night, Umar went out to Hurrah Waaqim, a rocky area of land just outside of Madinah, with his usual companion when out on patrol, Aslam.

Umar thought that some people had made camp out in the open desert and might need some help. Umar ordered Aslam to accompany him towards the direction of the fire.null

Both Umar and Aslam ran towards the campsite. As they drew near to it, they saw a woman watching over a group of children, who were crying loudly.

Beside the woman was a pot hanging over a flame of fire. Umar called out to the woman and asked for her permission to come nearer to her.

As Umar came close enough to speak to her without having to raise his voice, the woman complained about the harsh conditions and of the cold night.

According to some narrations, the year then was known as the Year of Ashes (Ar-Ramadah). During the day, the wind was so hot it burnt the skin as if with hot ashes. Famine, drought and hunger struck Madinah. Meat, butter and milk became unavailable, and the people existed on little more than dry bread sometimes dipped in olive oil.

After hearing out the woman’s complaints, Umar asked, “And what is the matter with these children? Why are they crying out loud?”

“Hunger,” replied the woman tersely. “If it is hunger, then what are you cooking in that pot?” asked Umar.

“It is only water,” replied the woman, explaining that she had placed a pot with some stones over a flaming fire in order to calm the children down until they fell asleep.

She then said, “Ah! Allah will judge between Caliph Umar and me, on the Day of Judgment, for neglecting me in my distress.”

Umar said, “How can Umar know of your distress?” The woman said, “When he is our leader, he must keep himself informed about us.”

Umar then turned to Aslam and ran off. Aslam, the loyal companion, had to play catch up. They continued running until they reached the BaitulMal (The Treasury) to fill a sack with flour, dates, fat, and clothes, and also drew some money.

When the sack was ready, Umar said to Aslam, “Now put this sack on my back,” to which Aslam replied, “No please, Leader of the people! I shall carry this sack.”

Umar then exclaimed, “Will you carry the burden of my sins for me on the Day of Resurrection?” Aslam reluctantly placed the sack on Umar’s back, who carried it with a swift pace right to the woman’s tent.

He put a little flour and some dates and fat in the pot and began to stir. He blew into the fire to kindle it. Aslam narrated how he saw the smoke passing through Umar’s thick beard.

When the meal was ready, Umar himself served it to the woman and the children. When they had eaten until they were full, he gave them what was left for their next meal. The children were very happy after their meal and began to play merrily.

The woman felt very grateful and said, “May Allah reward you for your kindness! In fact, you deserve to take the place of the Caliph instead of Umar.”

So, when you see a white flag, see it like a distant fire in the desert that Umar saw. Run to the white flag and hear the complaints, if any. Then ask, “What is the matter?”

Zaidi Dollah, 56, hoisting a white flag in front of his house in Kampung Banggol, Gelang Mas, Kelantan, July 1, 2021. — Bernama pic
Zaidi Dollah, 56, hoisting a white flag in front of his house in Kampung Banggol, Gelang Mas, Kelantan, July 1, 2021. — Bernama pic

If the reply is the harsh conditions and hunger, ask not why their hands are not raised in prayers.

Ask not why their phones have not rung the Disaster Control Operation Centre (PKOB) for assistance.

Ask not if the white flag is political propaganda.

Umar did not ask more than “What is the matter?” Umar ran after hearing the answer. No, he did not run away. He ran back and forth to provide sustenance for the woman and the children.

Umar asked himself what would be his answer if Allah were to ask him about the woman and the children.

Ask not about the white flag.

By : Hafiz Hassan – MALAY MAIL

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