Umar RA and the Plaque in the Levant (Shaam)
In the winter of 638-639 an infectious plague broke out in Syria, Egypt and Iraq. The plague exacted its heaviest toll in Syria, particularly Amwas, and the plague came to be known as the Amwas plague.
When Umar RA heard of the outbreak of the plague, he decided to proceed to Syria personally to watch the measures to be adopted to suppress the epidemic.
When Umar reached Surgh a few stages from Madina, he met Abu Ubaida RA and other officers. He was told that the virulence of the plague was increasing, and that people were dying in the thousands.
Many persons advised Umar RA that he should not proceed to the infected area. Umar RA held a counsel. Abu Ubaida RA suggested that Umar RA should visit the infected areas. Abdur Rahman bin Auf (RA) quoted a tradition of the Noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) according to which the Noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) had enjoined that when a plague was raging one should not go from the non-infected to the infected area or vice versa. That settled the issue and Umar RA decided to return to Madina.
Abu Ubaida RA did not feel happy at the decision of Umar. He said: "O Amir-ul-Mumnin, why are you flying from Allah's will." Umar RA replied that he merely moved from one will of Allah to another will.
On his return to Madina, Umar RA addressed a letter to Abu Ubaida RA asking him to come to Madina as he wanted to consult with him on some important matters. Abu Ubaida RA guessed the purpose of the call and wrote back saying that Fate ruled everything, and that he could not move away from Syria to save his own life leaving others in danger. Abu Ubaida RA caught the plague and passed away. Before his death he appointed Muadh b. Jabal RA as his successor.
Some Muslims held that the plague was a calamity. Addressing the people on the occasion of the Friday prayer, Muadh RA said that the plague was not a calamity; it was a mercy of Allah. The son of Muadh RA caught the plague. While his son lay on his death bed, Muadh RA addressing him said, "My son this is a visitation from Allah. Let there be no doubt in your heart on this account." The boy said, "You will find me resigned to the will of Allah" and with these words he breathed his last.
It is estimated that 25,000 people died in this outbreak.