Umar - The Great Famine

The Great Famine

In the year 638 Arabia fell into severe drought followed by a famine. Bedouin people began to die because of hunger and epidemic disease. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Arabia gathered at Madinah where food was rationed. Soon the reserves of food at Madinah began to decline, and Umar wrote to the provincial governors of Syria, Palestine and Iraq for aid. A state of emergency was declared in Madinah and Arabia. The timely aid of Umar's governors saved the lives of thousands of people throughout Arabia. The first governor to respond was Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, the governor of Syria and supreme commander of Rashidun army. He sent a historic letter to Umar saying

I am sending you the Caravans whose one end will be here at Syria and the other will be at Madinah.

Later, Abu Ubaidah paid a personal visit to Madinah and acted as an officer of Disaster management cell, which was headed personally by Umar. Once an adequate supply of rations reached Madinah, Umar dispatched his men to the routes of Iraq, Palestine and Syria to take the supply caravans to the desert settlements deeper into Arabia, which in turn saved millions from starvation. For internally displaced people, Umar hosted a dinner every night at Madinah, which according to one estimate had attendance of more than hundred thousand people. By early 639 conditions begun to improve. Arabia received precipitation and as soon as the famine ended, Umar personally supervised the rehabilitation of the displaced people. They were given adequate amounts of rations and were exempted from payment of zakat for that year and the next year.

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    They can rule the world while they can persuade us
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    Adrienne Rich (b. 1929)