In 610 Muhammed started delivering the message of Islam. Umar, alongside others in Makkah, opposed Islam and threatened to kill Muhammad. He resolved to defend the traditional, polytheistic religion of Arabia. He was most adamant and cruel in opposing Muhammad and very prominent in persecuting the Muslims. Umar was the first man who resolved that Muhammad had to be murdered in order to finish Islam. Umar firmly believed in the unity of the Quraish and saw the new faith of Islam as a cause of division and discord among the Quraish.
Due to the persecution at the hands of the Quraish, Muhammad ordered his followers to migrate to Abyssinia. As a small group of Muslims migrated Umar felt worried about the future unity of the Quraish and decided to have Muhammad assassinated.
Umar converted to Islam in 616, one year after the Migration to Abyssinia. The story was recounted in Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah: On the way to murder Muhammad, Umar met his best friend Nu’aim ibn Abdi ‘Allah who had secretly embraced Islam but he did not tell Umar anything about it. When Umar told him that he was going to kill Muhammad, he was afraid. He knew that Umar would attempt what he said. So just to divert his attention he told him to set his own house in order first, as his sister and her husband had converted to Islam. Umar was taken aback to learn this. Upon arriving at her house, Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Saeed bin Zaid (Umar’s cousin), reciting the verses of the Qur’an (Surah Ta Ha). He started quarreling with his brother-in-law . When his sister came to rescue her husband, he also started quarreling with her. Yet still they kept on saying “you may kill us but we will not give up Islam”. Upon hearing these words, Umar slapped his sister so hard that she fell to the ground bleeding from her mouth. When he saw what he had done to his sister, out of guilt he calmed down and asked his sister to give him what she was reciting. She gave him the paper on which was written the verses of the chapter Ta-Ha. He was so struck by the beauty of the verses that he became a Muslim that day. He then went to Muhammad with the same sword he intended to kill him with and converted in front of him and his companions. Umar was 27 when he became Muslim. Following his conversion, Umar went to inform the chief of Quraish, Amr ibn Hisham, about his new faith. According to one account, Umar thereafter openly prayed at the Kaaba as the Quraish chiefs, Amr ibn Hisham and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, reportedly watched in anger. This further helped the Muslims to gain confidence in practicing Islam openly. At this stage Umar even challenged anyone who dared to stop the Muslims from praying, although no one dared to interfere with Umar when he was openly praying.
Umar’s conversion to Islam gave power to the Muslims and the faith in Mecca. It was after this that Muslims offered prayers openly in Masjid al-Haram for the first time. Abdullah bin Masoud said:
Umar’s embracing Islam was our victory, his migration to Medina was our success and his reign a blessing from Allah, we didn’t offer prayers in Al-Haram Mosque until Umar accepted Islam, when he accepted Islam Quraish were compelled to let us pray in the Mosque.
All these things earned Umar the title of Farooq, meaning he who distinguishes truth from falsehood.
Umar’s (Title of Al Farooq)
Mujahid, on the authority of Ibn Abbas related that he had asked ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab why he had been given the epithet of Al-Farooq (he who distinguishes truth from falsehood), he replied: After I had embraced Islam, I asked Mohammad: ‘Aren’t we on the right path here and Hereafter?’ He answered: ‘Of course you are! I swear by Allah in Whose Hand my soul is, that you are right in this world and in the hereafter.’ I, therefore, asked Mohammad ‘Why we then had to conduct clandestine activism. I swear by Allah Who has sent you with the Truth, that we will leave our concealment and proclaim our noble cause publicly.’ We then went out in two groups, Hamzah leading one and I the other. We headed for the Masjid Al Haram in broad daylight. When the polytheists of Quraish saw us, their faces went pale and got incredibly depressed and resentful. On that very occasion, Mohammad attached to me the epithet of Al-Farooq.