Umar ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib had a son named Umar who is said to have been a matyr in the tragedy of Kerbala. Once again, we will employ the same approach we had done when analysing the name ‘Uthman’ , putting side jumping hastily to any conclusions based on fourteenth-century polemics and culture. In order to ascertain the truth, we must return back to seventh century Arabia and attempt – as much as we can – consider the cultural context of the time.


Part one: Argument from commonality

Part two: Umar ibn Abi Salama and other notable Umar

Part three: Amr or Umar? 

Part four: Potential coercion in the naming of the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, by Umar ibn al-Khattab

Part five: Summary 

Part one: Argument from commonality


As we have mentioned before for the name ‘Uthman’, the name ‘Umar’ was also a very common name. Once more, we will not try to solely argue that these were common names, but that it is an important fact of the discussion, and a possible reason as to why he named his son Umar. While there were hundreds of names, there were some more common than others, and of the rather common names, ‘Umar’ was one of them.

Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, in his book Al-Isabah vol. 4 p.587-597 we have counted at least 30 of the companions who were called Umar.  It is worthy to  note that this was not the total number of people named Umar, but actual companions the Prophet ﷺ who went by this name.  


Part two: Umar ibn Abi Salama and other notable Umars


One paticular companion who was firmly on the side of Ali ibn Abi Talib, was Umar ibn Abi Salama (radiyallahu anhu). He was the adopted son of the Prophet ﷺ, and a man who fought on the side of Ali ibn Abi Talib during all of his battles as the Caliph. He was the son of Umm Salama (radiyallahu anha) considered as the most pious wife of the Prophet ﷺ  after the Lady Khadija in the eyes of Shias. Indeed, Ali ibn Abi Talib regarded him so highly, that he made him the governor of Bahrain among other places in his Caliphate.

We also read in Nahjul Balagha, in a letter attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib to Umar ibn Abi Salam: 

أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَإِنِّي قَدْ وَلَّيْتُ النُعْمَانَ بْنَ عَجْلاَنَ الزُّرَقيَّ عَلَى الْبَحْرَيْنِ، وَنَزَعْتُ يَدَكَ، بِلاَ ذَمٍّ لَكَ، وَلاَ تَثْرِيب عَلَيْكَ، فَلَقَدْ أَحْسَنْتَ الْوِلاَيَةَ، وَأَدَّيْتَ الاْمَانَةَ، فَأَقْبِلْ غَيْرَ ظَنِين، وَلاَ مَلُوم، وَلاَ مُتَّهَم، وَلاَ مَأْثُوم، فَقَدْ أَرَدْتُ الْمَسِيرَ إِلَى ظَلَمَةِ أَهْلِ الشَّامِ، وَأَحْبَبْتُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ مَعِي، فَإِنَّكَ مِمَّنْ أَسْتَظْهِرُ بِهِ عَلَى جِهَادِ الْعَدُوِّ، وَإِقَامَةِ عَمُودِ الدِّيِنِ، إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ.

Part three: ‘Amr’ or ‘Umar’?
In Arabic writing, it is very easy to confuse the name ‘Umar’ and ‘Amr’ due to a variation in writing with addition the وَ 
Therefore, we have seen historians sometimes differ in whether or not Ali ibn Abi Talib had a son named Umar, or whether or not this was Amr. These weren’t random individuals, but some well respected figures such as:
1. al-Qadhi al-Nu’man al-Maghribi in his book Sharh al-Akhbar.
2. al-Yaqubi in his book Tarikh al-Ya’qubi.
3. al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan.


Part four: Potential coercion in the naming of the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, by Umar ibn al-Khattab


These Some of our Sunni readers may be surprised at the prospect that Ali ibn Abi Talib did not actually name his son Umar. However we ask for your patience and to keep and open mind where we will demonstrate the evidence.
Al Dhahabi [renowned sunni scholar and historian] writes, in Seir A’lab Al-Nabala, Volume 4, P.134, that “He was born in the time of Umar , and so Umar named him the same as himself”

Additionally, we also find in Biladhiri, Ansab Ul-Ashraf, Vol 1. p 297, whereby he states: ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab named Ali’s son like his own name, Umar’.

In fact, Umar ibn al-Khattab was known to change and enforce names:

1. There was an individual named Abdulrahman ibn Harith, whose father had named him Ibrahim, but Umar changed his name to Abdulrahman. [ Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, al-isabah fi tamiz al-sahabah. Vol 5, P29.]

To those unaware , Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani is a heavy weight in the field of the history of men. This does not mean his reports in these cases are definitely authentic, but it holds weight among sunni’s.

2.  There was an individual named al-ajda’ibn malik umar who also had his name changed to Abdulrahman [ Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, al-isabah fi tamiz al-sahabah, Vol. 1, p.186.]

3. There was a person called Taltah ibn Sa’d. Umar changed his name to Moalli. [Al-ootabi, Al Ansab. ]

It must be clearly stated that we do not affirm any of the above as true, or that Ali ibn Abi Talib was coerced into allowing his son to be named by Umar. However it remains a possibility had this been the case. A Sunni reader might interpret this to mean the closeness of their relationship. However, Umar was known to change names, and given that the appeal is to the Shia reader, we have evidence that Umar coerced Ali in more substantial things.  

The following is taken from:

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ سَالِمٍ وَ حَمَّادٍ عَنْ زُرَارَةَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع فِي تَزْوِيجِ أُمِّ كُلْثُومٍ فَقَالَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ فَرْجٌ غُصِبْنَاهُ

From Zuraarah from Abee `Abd Allaah (عليه السلام) said about the marriage of Umm Kulthoom. So he (عليه السلام) said: “That this was the farj* that was forced (coerced) from us”  [ Al-Kulayni, Al-Kaafi, vol. 5, pg. 346, hadeeth # 1 ]

Clearly, given the reliable tradition presented, if Shias affirm that Umar ibn al-Khattab coerced Ali ibn Abi Talib with regards to the marriage of his daughter, it is no surprise that he may have forced a name upon a child of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Given that Ali ibn Abi Talib opposed them , and this was well noticed by others, this may have been an attempt at appearing to have  close affinity with Ali ibn Abi Talib. This would have been avery intelligent move strategically given those who recognised the Caliphate as the right of Ali and had seen Ali ibn Abi Talib as one who had a greater right. Just as Sunnis today attempt to prove the marriage is evidence he was not the one chosen, this would also have worked in those days at trying to demonstrate that if Ali ibn Abi Talib could give a daughter to Umar, then surely he did not have a grudge against what he had done. 


Part five: Summary 


Why Ali ibn Abi Talib – or if – he named his son Umar is up for debate. What is clear is that enough evidence has been presented to make it evident that any conclusion that he named his son out of reverence of Umar ibn al-Khattab flies in the face of evidence. The reality is, not was it an incredibly common name, but even if Ali ibn Abi Talib chose it out of reverence of an individual, there were those named ‘Umar’ who were very close to him and very likely candidates. Failing this, it may have been coerced and forced upon him. There is also a possibility his son was named Amr, rather than Umar, but we abide by the common view that it was Umar, though this is not a certainty.