The second caliph of Islam, meaning the second successor to the prophet Muhammad as the leader of the faith. Omar, whose full name was Umar ibn al-Khattab (and is often rendered as Umar rather than Omar), is credited by Sunni Muslims as well as general historical scholarship with firmly establishing the basis for a largescale Islamic Empire, and his contributions to the tradition were more administrative and political than religious. A native of Mecca, Omar rejected Muhammad’s teachings until 618, when he experienced a sudden conversion. He accompanied Muhammad on the hijra to Medina, where he proved to be both devout and an extremely able administrator and organizer. The Prophet called him Faruq, a name indicating that Omar was clearly able to tell the difference between truth and falsehood. Omar succeeded his predecessor, Abu Bakr, upon the latter’s death in 634. The Shia tradition rejects Omar, whom they consider to have stood in the way of the claims of the rightful caliph, Ali. Before he was assassinated by rivals in 644, apparently in retaliation for his ruthlessness, Omar contributed a number of elements that helped Islam establish itself as an institution. Among them were the canonization of the standard text of the Qur’an, the establishment of the 622 hijra as the beginning of the Islamic calendar, and regulations governing prayers, welfare for poor believers, and the treatment of non-Muslims within Islamic communities. He also established several military garrisons, such as Kufa in Iraq, which later became major cities.

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