Umar (R.A.) belonged to "'Adi" family of Quraish tribe. In the 8th generation, his lineage joins with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Abu Hafs was his patronymic name and "al-Faruq" his title given by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). He was born in 583 A.C., about forty years before the great Hijrah. The early life of Hadrat Umar is not known in detail. In his youth he was a famous wrestler and orator, and a spirited person. He was one among the few people in Mecca who knew reading and writing before Islam. His main occupation was business.
When the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) got revelation and invited people to Islam, Umar became the sworn enemy of Islam and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) and did not hesitate to harm the Muslims and Islam at every opportunity.
Umar's acceptance of Islam
It was the sixth year of Holy Prophet's mission when Quraish leaders called a meeting and asked a volunteer for the assassination of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) Umar offered himself for this job and everybody in the meeting exclaimed that he was the right person for it. While he was on his way with a sword in his hand he met Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas who enquired of him about his destination. Umar told him that he was going to murder the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). After some discussion Sa'd said, "You had better take care of your own family first. Your sister and brother-in-law both have accepted Islam". Hearing this Umar changed his direction and went straight to his sister's house. When Hadrat Umar knocked at the door, they were studying the Holy Qur'an from Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.). His sister Fatimah was frightened on hearing Umar’s voice and tried to hide the portion of the Holy Qur'an she was reciting. When Umar entered the house he enquired about their Islam and on finding that they had accepted Islam, he first fell upon his brother-in-law and beat him severely. When his sister intervened he smote her so violently on her face that it bled profusely. On this his sister burst out: "Do whatever you like, we are determined to die as Muslims". When Umar saw his sister bleeding, he cooled down and felt ashamed. He loved Fatimah very much but could not tolerate her conversion to Islam. However, deeply moved, Umar asked her to show the pages on which the Holy Qur'an was written. But she was, after all, Umar’s sister and told him straight, "You can not touch it unless you take a bath and make yourself clean" He washed his body and then read the leaves. That was the beginning of Surah Ta Ha (Chapter 20 of the Holy Qur'an). When he came to the verse:
"Lo! I even I, am Allah, there is no god save Me. So serve Me and establish Salat for My remembrance". (20:14)
Umar exclaimed, "Surely this is the Word of Allah. Take me to Muhammad (Sallallahu ’alaihi wa Sallam)".
On hearing this Hadrat Khabbab (R.A.), who had hidden himself in the house, came out from inside and said, "0 "Umar! Glad tidings for you. It seems that the prayer of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) which he said last night has been answered in your favour. He had prayer to Allah: "O Allah, strengthen Islam with either Umar b. Khattab or Umar b. Hisham whomsoever Thou pleaseth".
Umar then went to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ’alaihi wa Sallam). On seeing him, the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) asked him, "Umar! what brings you here”? He said, "I am here to accept Islam". Hearing this the Muslims shouted with joy, "Allahu Akbar"(Allah is the Greatest) and the sound rent the air of Mecca. As a matter of fact, Umar’s conversion to Islam was a terrible blow to the morale of the disbelieves. 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, a great Companion, says, "Umar's conversion to Islam was a great triumph, his emigration to Medina a tremendous reinforcement and his accession to Caliphate a great blessing for the Muslims". In some history books there are more details in this connection. I have followed the version of Shaikh Muhammad Zakariya (Damat Barakatuhu) given in his book " Hikayat-i-Sahabah".
Umar (R.A.) gets the title of "Al-Faruq"
Conversion of Hadrat Umar (R.A.) strengthened Islam. Hitherto, Muslims had lived in constant fear of disbelievers, and most of them were concealing their faith. The Muslims were now able to offer their Salat publicly. When Hadrat Umar (R.A.) became a Muslim he declared his faith openly before the Quraish Chiefs. Though they stared at him but could not do any harm to him. Then he requested the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) to offer Salat in the Ka'bah. On getting the consent of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), Hadrat Umar led a party of the Muslims to that place. Hadrat Hamzah, who had accepted Islam a few days before Umar (R.A.) carried another party of the Muslims to Ka'bah. When all the Muslims gathered in the Ka'bah they offered their Salat in congregation. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) led this first public Salat in the history of Islam. For this courageous and bold action of Hadrat Umar (R.A) the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) gave him the title of "al-Faruq" i.e., the one who makes a distinction between the "Right" (Haqq) and the "Wrong" (Batil).