Authenticity of the story concerning ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb burying his daughter alive

By Mawlānā Muntasir Zaman

The story being referred to is as follows,

Once ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) was sitting with his companions when all of a sudden he started to laugh after which he began to cry. Those around him asked him, “What made you laugh after which you cried?” He replied,” During the days of Jāhiliyyah (ignorance), we used to make idols out of dates which we would worship and when we would get hungry we would eat them! Remembering this made me laugh. As for my crying, one day, I took my daughter to a field to bury her alive. As I was digging the grave, some dust fell on my beard. My daughter saw this and wiped the dust off my beard. Remembering this made me cry.”[1] 

However, there are some fundamental flaws in this narration.

Firstly, this story has not been recorded by any reliable source.[2]  The names of the children of Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhum) are well documented. However, there is no mention of a daughter that he had buried alive.

Secondly, it was not the custom of Hazrat ‘Umar’s tribe to bury their daughters alive. Moreover, Hafsah (Radhiyallahu ‘Anha), who was born five years before Rasūlullah’s (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) prophet hood, was his eldest daughter but was not buried alive.[3] Hence, it would not make sense that Hazrat ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) buried a younger daughter when he did not do the same with his eldest daughter.

Thirdly, it is mentioned in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer of Tabrānī that ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) was asked regarding the verse of the Quran,

وإذا الموؤدة سئلت (التكوير)

“When the girl buried alive will be asked”

‘Umar replied, “Qays bin ‘Asim (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) came to Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) and said, “During the days of ignorance, I buried eight of my daughters alive.” Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) told him, “Free one slave on behalf of every daughter.” Qays bin Asim said, “I possess many camels.” Therefore, Rasūlullah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “If you wish, sacrifice one camel on behalf of each daughter.”[4]

It is important to note that if the incident you refer to had actually occurred, then ‘Umar (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu) would have replied to the questioner by mentioning his own personal experience instead of narrating the incident of Qays bin ‘Asim (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu).

In view of the above explanation, the incident in reference is questionable and should not be mentioned.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Muntasir Zaman

Student Darul Iftaa
USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


[1]  دراسة نقدية في المرويات الواردة في شخصية عمر بن الخطاب وسياسته الإدارية رضي الله عنه (1/ 111)

[2]  المرجع السابق

[3]  الإصابة في تمييز الصحابة 70/7 دار الفكر

[4]  المعجم الكبير للطبراني (18/ 337) مكتبة ابن تيمية – القاهرة

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