Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Hormuzan

Khalifa Umar bin al-Khattab - Hormuzan

After the conquest of Sus and Junde Sabur the entire Khuzistan stretching to the foothills of the Zagros mountains now lay in Muslim hands.

Abu Musa forwarded the state share of the spoils of war captured at Sus and Junde Sabur to Madina. He also despatched Hormuzan to Madina with an escort. The escort included the companions Unas bin Malik and Ashraf bin Qais. Unas was the brother of Braa b. Malik who had been killed by Hormuzan at Sus.

As the party entered Madina, Hormuzan was dressed in the court regalia, robes of velvet and gold. He had on his head his coronet of gold studded with precious stones.

The party waited on Umar who was found sleeping in a corner of the mosque. It was a strange scene-a richly dressed captive, and a poorly dressed Caliph. As Umar woke, and many people gathered in the mosque, Umar turning to the Muslims said:

"Praise be to Allah who has used Islam to debase the prince of Persia. Muslims! hold fast in this faith and be guided by the teachings of your Prophet. Let not this world lead you astray, for it is full of deceit."

Umar ordered that Hormuzan should be stripped of his finery and presented before him in ordinary dress. Hormuzan retired and was presented before Umar again dressed in ordinary clothes.

Addressing the captive, Umar said, "You are Hormuzan, the rebellious Governor of Ahvaz'.

Hormuzan said, "Yes, I am Hormuzan".

The Caliph said, "And you have over and over again broken your pledge with the Muslims."

Hormuzan said, "Unfortunately that is correct, but I was prompted by love for my own country, and I was always hoping that I would drive away the Muslims from my land".

Umar said, "Now that you have been defeated, and your treachery has been established, do you know that the punishment for such crime is death."

Hormuzan said, "Yes, I know that. The law is on the side of the victor". Umar said, "Then I order your death. Be prepared for your death."

Hormuzan said, "I am feeling thirsty, let me have a cup of water before I die."

Umar ordered that a cup of water be brought and handed to the captive.

Taking the cup in his hand, Hormuzan said, "What if I am killed before I have drunk this water."

Umar said, "Rest assured. You will not be killed until you have drunk this water."

Hormuzan laid aside the cup and said. "In that case, I will not drink, and you have given me promise that you will not kill me until I have drunk this water."

Annoyed the Caliph thundered, "O enemy of God, you have tricked me and I will kill you."

Hormuzan retorted, "You may do as you like but I have your promise of safety. You may break your promise if your, religion teaches you to do so."

At this stage, other Muslims intervened and they said, "Promise is promise, and it must be kept."

Umar turned to Unas bin Malik and asked for his view. Unas bin Malik said, "Although this man has killed my brother and I am burning for revenge, but I would not advise the Caliph to break his promise, trick or no trick."

Turning to Hormuzan, Utnar said, "Woe to you O clever Persian, I would allow you safety only on one condition and that is that you accept Islam".

Hormuzan said "I agree."

Thereupon Hormuzan declared the article of faith and became a Muslim.

Welcoming him to the fold of Islam, Umar said, "You may remain with us as our guest a few days, and thereafter you have the option to return to Persia."

Hormuzan said that as a Muslim he would prefer to stay in Madina.

Thereafter Hormuzan settled down as a citizen of Madina, and Umar awarded him an annual allowance of two thousand dihams.

This episode forms the theme of a poem by Richard Chenevix French. The poem reads:

"Now the third and fatal conflict for the Persian throne was done,

And the Muslims' fiery valour had the crowning' victory won,

Hormuzan the last and boldest, the invader to defy,

Captive, overborne by number, they were bringing forth to dic.

Then exclaimed that noble captive, "Lo I perish in my thirst;

Give me but one drink of water, and let then arrive the worst!'

In his hand he took the goblet and while the draught forebore,

Seeming doubtfully the purpose of the foeman to explore.

Well might then have paused the bravest-for around him angry foes,

With a hedge of naked weapons did that lonely man enclose.

'But what fear'st thou' cried the Caliph: Is it, friend a secret blow?

Fear it not, our gallant Muslims no such treacherous dealing know.

Thou may'st quench thy thirst, securely for thou shall not die before,

Thou hast drunk this cup of water, this reprive is shine-no more'.

Quick, the satrap dashed the goblet down to earth with ready hand,

And the liquid sank for ever, lost amid the burning sand.

'Thou best said that mine my life is, till the water of that cup,

I have drained then, bid thy servants that spilled water gather up!'

For a moment stood the Caliph as by doubtful! passion stirred,

Then exclaimed: 'For ever sacred must remain a monarch's word,

Bring another cup, and straightaways to the noble Persian give'

'Drink' I said before, 'and perish'-now I bid thee 'drink and live'.