The Corrupt British Parliament and the Umayyad Caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz – A Comparison

At the time of writing, the former British cabinet minister Owen Paterson has resigned as an MP after the public outcry at how the Conservative controlled parliament had voted to prevent his 30-day suspension and change the procedures for how MPs are judged when they break the rules. Mr. Paterson was paid £100,000 a year by two corporations he lobbied for, using his position and office for this purpose [see BBC article here]. This was described by the Standards Committee as “an egregious case of paid advocacy” [click here for the report].

But this is not the first time the British parliament and British ministers have been found to be corrupt. Recently, there was much media coverage of how former British Prime Minister David Cameron was accused of exploiting private contacts with former government colleagues (including the current British Chancellor Rishi Sunak) to benefit himself while working for the collapsed finance company Greensill Capital. He is reported to have made over $10 million for two and a half years part time work.

There have been many more examples of MPs and ministers using their positions and influence to enrich themselves and breaking their own rules, such as the “cash for questions” affair in the 1990s. But perhaps the most significant is the UK parliamentary expenses scandal which was exposed by the Daily Telegraph in 2009. MPs abused the system of expenses to use public money for things like subsidising property development, furnishing properties which were not their second homes and over claiming for food, even when parliament was not sitting. Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith even entered an expenses claim for pornographic films watched by her husband! For more details on the expenses scandal, see the Wikipedia article here.

In contrast to this state of affairs, a comparison with the Caliphs who ruled the Islamic world is pertinent. Specifically, we shall examine the scrupulousness and ascetism of the Umayyad Caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz, who was very careful how he spent public money and who lived a simple life after he became the ruler.

‘Umar ibn Muhajir narrated that a candle was lit for ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz while he was dealing with the needs of Muslims. When he finished, he blew it out and lit his own lamp.

Once ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz craved for apples, therefore, a man of his family sent him some apples as a gift. He said, “What a beautiful smell it has and how good it looks like!” He then said “O boy! Give it back to the one who brought it, send him our greetings and tell him that his gift has been appreciated by us as he wished.” The boy said, “O Amir of the Believers! He is your cousin and a member of your family, and you know that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ accepted the gift.” He said, “Woe unto you! It was a gift for him but for us it is a bribe.”

Malik, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “ ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was brought a piece of ambergris; he closed his nose lest he may smell some of its fragrance.”

Malik ibn Dinar said, “People say that I am an ascetic. However, the real ascetic is ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz to whom this worldly life has come but he abandoned it.”

When Sulayman ibn ‘Abdul Malik died and ‘Umar left his grave (he had recommended to have ‘Umar as his successor), Sulayman’s riding animals were offered to him. He pointed at a white small female mule and it was brought to him. He rode it and left.

‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz narrated, “I was summoned by Al-Mansur. He asked me, “How much money did ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz have when he became the Caliph?” I said, “It was fifty thousand dinars.” He asked, “And how much was it upon his death?” I answered, “It was two hundred dinars.”

‘Amr ibn Muhajir said, “The expenditure of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz was two dirhams per day.”

‘Awn ibn Al-Mu’tamir narrated that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz asked his wife, “Do you have a dirham in order to buy some grapes?” She said, “No. You are the Amir of the Believers and you cannot afford a dirham?” He said, “This is better than dealing with shackles in Hellfire.”

The recently released Pandora Papers [click here for more details] show how the present corrupt rulers of the Muslim world enrich themselves at the expense of the Musim Ummah and use secretive offshore companies to hide their ill-gotten wealth. But Allah has promised us that these kings and emirs will be replaced by the likes of rightly guided rulers like ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz – He has decreed that He will reward those of us who strive to bring this about with success both in this world and the Hereafter:

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Prophethood will last with you for as long as Allah wants it to last. Then there will be Caliphate according to the Method of Prophethood, and things will be as Allah wishes them to be. Then Allah will end it when He wishes. Then there will be hereditary rule, and things will be as Allah wishes them to be. Then Allah will end it when He wishes. Then there will be an oppressive rule, and things will be as Allah wishes them to be. Then Allah will end it when He wishes. Then there will be a Caliphate according to the method of Prophethood.” Then he ﷺ fell silent.

[Musnad Ahmad]

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