Uthman Ibn Affan
عثمان بن عفان
Uthman Ibn Affan ”Raddiya Allahu Anhu”
Amirul Mu’minun: ‘Utham Ibn Affan
The Companions of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him)
”Uthman ibn Affan (Arabic: عثمان بن عفان, (c. 579 – 17 July 656) was one of the companions of Islamic prophet, Muhammad. He played a major role in early Islamic history as the third of the Sunni Rashidun or Rightly Guided Caliphs.”
Uthman was born into the Umayyad clan of Mecca, a powerful family of the Quraish tribe. He was a companion of Muhammad who assumed the role of leader (caliph) of the Muslim Empire at the age of 65 following Umar ibn al-Khattab.
Under his leadership, the empire expanded into Fars in 650 (present-day Iran), some areas of Khorasan (present-day Afghanistan) in 651 and the conquest of Armenia was begun in the 640s. Some of Uthman’s notable achievements were the economic reforms he introduced, and the compilation of the Qur’an into the unified, authoritative text that is known today.
Uthman was born in Ta’if, which is situated on a hill, and the presumption is that he was born during the summer months, since wealthy Meccans usually spent the hot summers in the cooler climate of Ta’if. He was born into the wealthy Umayyad (Banu Umayya) clan of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, seven years after Muhammad. Uthman’s father, Affan, died young while travelling abroad but left a large inheritance to Uthman. Uthman followed the same profession as his father, and his business flourished, making him one of the richest men among the Qurayshi tribe.
Conversion to Islam:
Uthman was an early convert to Islam and is said to have spent a great amount of his wealth on charity, therefore he gained the epithet “Uthman Ghani”, which means “Uthman the giver”. On returning from a business trip to Syria in 611, Uthman found out that Muhammad had declared his mission. After a discussion with his friend Abu Bakr Uthman decided to convert to Islam, and Abu Bakr took him to Muhammad to whom he declared his faith. Uthman thus became the fourth male to convert to Islam, after Ali, Zayd and Abu Bakr.
His conversion to Islam angered his clan, the Banu Ummayyah, who strongly opposed Muhammad’s teachings. The only two people who supported Uthman’s decision were Saadi, one of his maternal aunts, and Umm Kulthum, who was his stepsister and who had also converted to Islam. Because of his conversion to Islam, Uthman’s wives deserted him, and he subsequently divorced them. Muhammad then asked Uthman to marry his daughter Ruqayyah bint Muhammad.
Migration to Abyssinia:
Uthman and his wife Ruqayya migrated to Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in 614–615, along with 11 men and 11 women, all Muslims. As Uthman already had some business contacts in Abyssinia, he continued to practise his profession as a trader. He worked hard and his business soon flourished. After two years the news had spread among the Muslims in Abyssinia that the Quraysh of Mecca had accepted Islam, and that persuaded Uthman, Ruqayya and some other Muslims to return.
However when they reached Mecca it transpired that the news about the Quraysh’s acceptance of Islam was false. Some of the Muslims who had come from Abyssinia returned but Uthman and Ruqayya decided to stay. In Mecca Uthman had to start his business afresh, but the contacts that he had already established in Abyssinia worked in his favour and his business prospered once again.
Migration to Medina:
In 622, Uthman and his wife, Ruqayya, migrated to Medina. They were amongst the third batch of Muslims who migrated to Medina. On arrival in Medina, Uthman stayed with Abu Talha ibn Thabit of the Banu Najjar. After a short while, Uthman purchased a house of his own and moved there. Being one of the richest merchants of Mecca, and having amassed a considerable fortune, Uthman did not need any financial help from his Ansari brothers, as he brought all his wealth with him to Medina.
In Medina, the Muslims were generally farmers and were not very interested in trade, and thus most of the trading that took place in the town was handled by the Jews. Thus, there was considerable space for the Muslims in promoting trade and Uthman took advantage of this position, soon establishing himself as a trader in Medina. He worked hard and honestly, and his business flourished, soon becoming one of the richest men in Medina.
Life in Medina:
In 624 some Muslims from Medina departed to assist in the capture of a Quraysh caravan. At this time Uthman’s wife, Ruqayya, suffered from malaria and then caught smallpox. Uthman stayed at Medina to look after the ailing Ruqayya and did not join those who left with Muhammad. Ruqayya died during the time the Battle of Badr was being fought, and the news of the victory of Badr reached Medina as she was being buried. Because of the battle Muhammad could not attend the funeral of his daughter.
After the Battle of Uhud Uthman married Muhammad’s second daughter, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad. The next year Fahida bint ghazwan’s son, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman, died. When the Battle of the Trench was fought in 627,
Uthman was in charge of a sector of Medina. After the battle a campaign was undertaken against the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa, and when they were taken captive the question of the disposal of the slaves became a problem. Uthman solved the issue by purchasing all the slaves and depositing their price in the Bayt al-mal (Treasury). Any of these slaves who accepted Islam were set free by Uthman in the name of Allah.
Treaty of Hudaybiyyah:
In March 628 (6 Hijri), Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) set out for Mecca to perform the ritual pilgrimage of Umra. The Quraysh denied the Muslims entry into the city and posted themselves outside Mecca, determined to show resistance, even though the Muslims had no intention or preparation for battle. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) camped outside Mecca, at Hudaybiyyah, and sent Uthman as his envoy to meet with the leaders of Quraysh and negotiate Muslim entry into the city.
The Quraysh made Uthman stay longer in Mecca than he originally planned and refused to inform the Muslims of his whereabouts. This caused the Muslims to believe that Uthman had been killed by the people of Quraysh. On this occasion, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) gathered his nearly 1,400 Followers and called them to pledge to fight until death and avenge the rumoured death of Uthman, which they did by placing a hand on top of Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh).
It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) placed one of his hands on top of the other and pledged on behalf of Uthman as well. This pledge took place under a tree and was known as the Pledge of the Tree and was successful in demonstrating to the Quraysh the determination of the Muslims. They soon released Uthman and sent down an ambassador of their own, Suhail ibn Amr to negotiate terms of a treaty that later became known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.
Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh) last years:
In 629, Uthman fought in the Battle of Khaybar and later that year, he followed Muhammad to perform Umrah in Mecca. While in Mecca he visited his mother and found that his family was not as hostile to Islam as they used to be. In 630, the Quraysh broke the treaty of Hudaibiyah, and the Muslims attacked and conquered Mecca. General amnesty was granted to the people of the city, although an exception was made in the case of half a dozen people.
Amongst those not granted amnesty was Abdullah ibn Saad, a foster brother of Uthman. Later, following an appeal by Abdullah’s mother to Uthman, he was forgiven by Muhammad. Following the Conquest of Mecca Uthman’s family converted to Islam and he rejoined his mother and siblings. Two weeks later, under the command of Muhammad, he participated in the Battle of Hunayn which was followed by the Siege of Ta’if.
To Uthman, the conquest of Mecca and Ta’if were of particular significance, as he had considerable property in both cities, and he could now profitably develop them. He was also able to set up sub-offices for his businesses at Mecca and Ta’if. Uthman’s wife, and the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, died soon after the conquest of Mecca. In 630 Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) decided to lead an expedition to Tabuk on the Syrian border. In order to finance the expedition Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) invited contributions from his followers.
Uthman made the largest contribution: 1,000 dinars in cash, 1,000 camels for transport, and horses for the cavalry, which Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) greatly appreciated. In 631, along with other Muslims, Uthman moved to Mecca to perform Hajj under Abu Bakr while Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) stayed in Medina. In Mecca Uthman married Umm Saeed Fatima bint Al Walid b Abd Shams, a Qurayshi lady, and returned to Medina with her. In 632, along with Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), Uthman participated in The Farewell Pilgrimage. In 632 Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) died.
Caliph Abu Bakr’s era (632–634):
Uthman had a very close relationship with Abu Bakr, as it was due to him that Uthman had converted to Islam. When Abu Bakr was elected as the Caliph, Uthman was the first person after Umar to offer his allegiance. During the Ridda wars (Wars of Apostasy), Uthman remained at Medina, acting as Abu Bakr’s adviser. On his death bed, Abu Bakr dictated his will to Uthman, saying that his successor was to be Umar.
Caliph Umar’s era (634–644):
Uthman was the first person to offer his allegiance to Umar. During the reign of Umar, Uthman remained at Medina as his adviser, and a member of his advisory council. Umar did not allow the companions, including Uthman, to leave Medina. The reason for this was that Umar didn’t wish for the companions, who were famous and respected among the Muslims, to spread and have their own followers, which would, it was felt, have resulted in unnecessary divisions in Islam.
During the reign of Umar, considerable wealth flowed into the public treasury. Uthman advised that some amount be reserved in the treasury for future needs, instead of giving all of it as stipends to the Muslims, and this was accepted by Umar.
A controversy then arose about the land in conquered areas. The army was of the view that all lands in conquered territories should be distributed among the soldiers of the conquering army, but others thought that the lands should remain as the property of the original owners, and the lands without claimants should be declared as state property. Uthman supported the latter view and this view was ultimately accepted.
At the time of the conquest of Jerusalem the Christians asked that Umar come to Jerusalem to accept the surrender of the city. Uthman was of the view that it was not necessary for the Caliph of the Muslims to go to Jerusalem and that the enemy, when defeated, would surrender the city unconditionally.
There was much force in Uthman’s argument, but in order to win the good will of the Christians, Umar decided to go to Jerusalem to accept the surrender of the city. In the time of Umar, a severe famine broke out in the country and a large caravan belonging to Uthman that was carrying a large supply of food grains served the poor well.
The election of Uthman:
”Umar, on his death bed formed a committee of six people to choose the next Caliph from amongst themselves.”
This committee was:
- Uthman ibn Affan
- Abdur Rahman bin Awf
- Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas
Umar asked that, after his death, the committee reach a final decision within three days, and the next Caliph should take the oath of office on the fourth day. If Talhah joined the committee within this period, he was to take part in the deliberations, but if he did not return to Medina within this period, the other members of the committee could proceed with the decision. Abdur Rahman bin Awf withdrew his eligibility to be appointed as Caliph in order to act as a moderator and began his task by interviewing every member of the committee separately. He asked them for whom they would cast their vote. When Ali was asked, he didn’t reply. When Uthman was asked, he voted for Ali, Zubayr said for Ali or Uthman. and Saad said for Uthman.
After Abdul Rahman consulted the other leaders of public opinion in Medina, who were in favour of Uthman, he arrived at the conclusion that the majority of the people favoured the election of Uthman. On the fourth day after the death of Umar, 11 November 644, 5 Muharram 24 Hijri, Uthman was elected as the third Caliph, with the title “Amir al-Mu’minin”.
Reign as a Caliph (644–656):
On assuming office, Uthman issued a number of directives to the officials all over the dominions, ordering them to hold fast the laws made by his predecessor Umar. Uthman’s realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to South east of present day Pakistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate, the first Islamic naval force was established, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed.
Uthman sent prominent sahabas (“companions of Muhammad”) as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people. In total, Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquillity, and he remained the most popular Caliph among the Rashidun; but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose.
Uthman had the distinction of working for the expansion of Islam, and he sent the first official Muslim envoy to China in 650. The envoy, headed by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, arrived in the Tang capital, Chang’an, in 651 via the overseas route. The Hui people generally consider this date to be the official founding of Islam in China.
The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty recorded the historic meeting, in which the envoy greeted Emperor Gaozong of Tang and tried to convert him to Islam. Although the envoy failed to convince the Emperor to embrace Islam, the Emperor allowed him to proselytize in China and ordered the establishment of the first Chinese mosque in the capital to show his respect for the religion.
”Uthman also sent official Muslim envoys to Sri Lanka.”
Reforms of Uthman’s era: Economic reforms:
Uthman was a shrewd businessman and a successful trader from his youth, which contributed greatly to the Rashidun Empire. Umar had fixed the allowance of the people and on assuming office, Uthman increased it by about 25%. Umar had placed a ban on the sale of lands and the purchase of agricultural lands in conquered territories. Uthman withdrew these restrictions, in view of the fact that the trade could not flourish. Uthman also permitted people to draw loans from the public treasury.
Under Umar it had been laid down as a policy that the lands in conquered territories were not to be distributed among the combatants, but were to remain the property of the previous owners. The army felt dissatisfied at this decision, but Umar suppressed the opposition with a strong hand. Uthman followed the policy devised by Umar and there were more conquests, and the revenues from land increased considerably.
The army once again raised the demand for the distribution of the lands in conquered territories among the fighting soldiers but Uthman turned down the demand and it favoured the Dhimmis (non-Muslims in Islamic state). In 651, the first Islamic coins were struck during the caliphate of Uthman, these were the Persian dirhams that had an image of the Persian emperor Yazdgerd III with the addition of the Arabic sentence Bismillah (بسم الله) (in the name of Allah). However the first original minting of the Islamic dirham was done in 695 during Umayyad period.
Umar, the predecessor of Uthman was very strict in the use of money from the public treasury. Apart from the meagre allowance that had been sanctioned in his favour, Umar took no money from the treasury. He did not receive any gifts, nor did he allow any of his family members to accept any gift from any quarter. During the time of Uthman there was some relaxation in such strictness.
Uthman did not draw any allowance from the treasury for his personal use, nor did he receive a salary, he was a wealthy man with sufficient resources of his own, but unlike Umar, Uthman accepted gifts and allowed his family members to accept gifts from certain quarters. Uthman honestly felt that he had the right to utilize the public funds according to his best judgment, and no one criticized him for that. The economic reforms introduced by Uthman had far reaching effects; Muslims as well as non-Muslims of the Rashidun Empire enjoyed an economically prosperous life during his reign.
Under Uthman the people became economically more prosperous, and they invested their money in the construction of buildings. Many new and larger buildings were constructed throughout the empire. During the caliphate of Uthman as many as five thousand new mosques were constructed. Uthman enlarged, extended, and embellished the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi at Medina and the Kaaba as well. With the expansion of the army, the cantonments were extended and enlarged, more barracks were constructed for the soldiers and stables for the cavalry were extended. Uthman provided separate pastures for state camels.
During the caliphate of Uthman, guest houses were provided in main cities to provide comfort to the merchants coming from faraway places. More and more markets were constructed and Uthman appointed Market Officers to look after them. In Iraq, Egypt and Persia numerous canals were dug, which stimulated agricultural development.
In the cities, particular attention was directed towards the provision of the water supply. In Medina, a number of wells were dug to provide drinking water for the people and in Mecca the water supply was also improved. Water was brought to Kufa and Basra by canals. Shuaibia was the port for Mecca but it was inconvenient, so Uthman selected Jeddah as the site of the new seaport, and a new port was built there. Uthman also reformed the police departments in cities.
In his testament, Umar had instructed his successor not to make any change in the administrative set up for one year after his death. For one year Uthman maintained the pattern of political administration as it stood under Umar, later making some amendments. Under Umar, Egypt was divided into two provinces, Upper and Lower Egypt. Uthman made Egypt one province and created a new province for Efriqya. Under Umar, Syria was divided into two provinces but Uthman made it one province. During Uthman’s reign the empire was divided into twelve provinces.
- Efriqya (lit. “Africa”, signifying N. Africa)
The provinces were further divided into districts (more than 100 districts in the empire) and each district or main city had its own Governor, Chief judge and Amil (tax collector). The governors were appointed by Uthman and every appointment was made in writing. At the time of appointment, an instrument of instructions was issued with a view to regulating the conduct of the governors. On assuming office, the governor was required to assemble the people in the main mosque, and read the instrument of instructions before them.
thman appointed his kinsmen as governors of four provinces: Egypt, Syria, Basra and Kufa. The kindest explanation for this reliance on his kin is that the Rashidun Empire had expanded so far, so fast, that it was becoming extremely difficult to govern, and that Uthman felt that he could trust his own kin not to revolt against him. However Shiah did not see this as prudence; they saw it as nepotism, and an attempt to rule like a king rather than as the first among equals.
Uthman is perhaps best known for forming the committee which produced multiple copies of the text of the Qur’an as it exists today. The reason was that various Muslim centres, like Kufa and Damascus, had begun to develop their own traditions for reciting the Qur’an and writing it down with stylistic differences.
During the time of Uthman, by which time Islam had spread far and wide, differences in reading the Quran in different dialects of Arabic language became obvious. A group of companions, headed by Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, who was then stationed in Iraq, came to Uthman and urged him to “save the Muslim ummah before they differ about the Quran” . Uthman obtained the complete manuscript of the Qur’an from Hafsah, one of the wives of the Islamic prophet Muhammad who had been entrusted to keep the manuscript ever since the Qur’an was comprehensively compiled by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr .
Uthman then again summoned the leading compiling authority, Zayd ibn Thabit, and some other companions to make copies of the manuscript. Zayd was put in charge of the task. The style of Arabic dialect used was that of the Quraysh tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged. Hence this style was emphasized over all others.
Zayd and his assistants produced several copies of the manuscript of the Qur’an. One of each was sent to every Muslim province with the order that all other Quranic materials, whether fragmentary or complete copies, be destroyed. As such, when the standard copies were made widely available to the Muslim community everywhere, then all other material was burnt voluntarily by the Muslim community themselves.
The annihilation of these extra-Qur’anic documents remained essential in order to eradicate scriptural incongruities, contradictions of consequence or differences in the dialect from the customary text of the Qur’an. The Caliph Uthman kept a copy for himself and returned the original manuscript to Hafsah.
While Shi’a and Sunni accept the same sacred text, the Qur’an, some claim that Shi’a dispute the current version, i.e. they add two additional surahs known as al-Nurayn and al-Wilaya. Nonetheless, Shi’as claim that they are falsely accused of this, as they believe, like Sunnis, that the Qur’an has never been changed and it is with reference from sunni hadeeth books that this inference is drawn not only by uninformed shias but sunnis too.
Further information: Military campaigns under Caliph Uthman: Islamic empire expanded at unprecedented rate under Caliph Umar, following the death of Caliph Umar, almost whole of the former Sassanid empire’s territory rebelled from time to time until 650, when the last Sassanid emperor was assassinated. Caliph Uthman thus directed several military expeditions to crush rebellion and re-capture the Persia and their vassal states. The main rebellion was in the Persian provinces of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Fars, Sistan, Tabaristan, Khorasan, and Makran.
These provinces were across present days Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Turkmenistan and Armenia. In addition to these provinces several other territories were also subdued in the region. After the death of Caliph Umar, Byzantine emperor Constantine III launched an attack but was repulsed, due to which Uthman ordered annual raids in Anatolia to cut off the power of Byzantine. From 647 to 651 major offensives were launched in Cappadocia,
Caesarea Mazaca, Cilicia and Isauria in 650–651 forced the Byzantine emperor Constans II to enter into negotiations The truce that followed made it possible for Constans II to hold on to the western portions of Armenia. A naval force was built and island of Cyprus was captured in 649 followed by the capture of Crete and Rhodes. After a naval victory against Byzantine fleet a part of Sicily was also captured. In 654–655 Uthman ordered for the preparation of an expedition to capture Constantinopole, it was about to be launched when Uthman was murdered.
North Africa was invaded in 647 and Byzantine Exarchate of Africa which had declared its independence under its King Gregory the Patrician was annexed. Nubia was invaded in 652 and its capital Dongola was sacked. Though battle remained inconclusive and a peace offer from Nubian King was accepted according to which no party will any aggressive moves against each other. In 652–653 the Iberian Peninsula was invaded and its coastal areas were captured, before further expansion could be made Caliph was murdered and forces were pulled back from Iberia and north Africa during Muslim civil war.
According to Muslim sources, unlike his predecessor, Umar, who maintained discipline with a stern hand, Uthman was less rigorous upon his people; he focused more on economic prosperity. Under Uthman, the people became economically more prosperous and on the political plane they came to enjoy a larger degree of freedom.
No institutions were devised to channel political activity, and, in the absence of such institutions, the pre-Islamic tribal jealousies and rivalries, which had been suppressed under earlier caliphs, erupted once again. In view of the lenient policies adopted by Uthman, the people took advantage of such liberties, which became a headache for the state, and it culminated in the assassination of Uthman.
According to some contemporary salafi scholars, the foreign powers became nervous at the success of the Muslims under the leadership of Uthman, and now their only hope lay in aiding and abetting subversive movements within the territories of Uthman’s caliphate. According to some viewpoints, under such circumstances, leaders like Abdullah Ibn Saba, felt that it was a good opportunity to accomplish their aims of rebellion by starting arguments over religion.
However, the figure Abdullah Ibn Saba is believed by many Shia or Sunni Scholars to be an imaginary one created by certain Salafi historians to stir up anti-Shia sentiment. However, Wilferd Madelung discredits the alleged role of Abdullah ibn Saba in the rebellion against Uthman, Madelung observes that ‘’few if any modern historians would accept Sayf’s legend of Ibn Saba’’
It is believed that the movement had its links with conquered territories out of Arabian Peninsula. Due to the lack of any particular political department to deal with the growing political agitation in the Islamic state, the political leaders in various towns campaigned against Uthman. Initially, they started with arguments over Uthman’s kinsmen, who were governors of Egypt, Bosra and Kufa and they were joined by the companions who supported Ali.
The most prominent of these were Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, who despite being an Umayyad like Uthman, was raised in Ali’s house, and Ammar ibn Yasir, who supported the right of Ali to become caliph because of his close relationship with Muhammad. The campaign was also supported by some companions who had a personal grievance with Uthman, like ‘Amr ibn al-’As, also an Ummayad, who was stripped of the governorship of Egypt by Uthman, and Uthman’s adopted son, Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa, who Uthman had refused to appoint as a governor of any province.
The actual reason for the anti-Uthman movement is disputed among the Shia and Sunni Muslims. Many anonymous letters were written to the leading companions of Muhammad, complaining about the alleged tyranny of Uthman’s appointed governors.
Moreover, letters were sent to the leaders of public opinion in different provinces concerning the reported mishandling of power by Uthman’s family. This contributed to unrest in the empire and finally Uthman had to investigate the matter in an attempt to ascertain the authenticity of the rumours. The movement however exploited differences between the Hashemite (Ali’s clan) and Umayyad (Uthman’s clan) clans of Quraysh.
Sunni Muslims consider these claims about the governors of Uthman, who achieved much success during their reign, to be untrue, while Sunni Muslims believe this to be a tactic used by seditionists to overthrow the realm of Uthman, by making him lose control over the main provinces of Egypt, Syria, Kufa and Bosra, where Uthman had appointed his own kinsmen for loyalty’s sake.
On the other hand Shia Muslims suggest that these claims were correct, and Uthman’s kinsmen, although they achieved success as governors, failed to lead the people according to the principles of Islam, giving references to various early narrations present in primary sources of Islamic history. Sunni Muslims reject these narrations, on the basis that their authenticity is disputed.
Uthman’s emissaries to the provinces:
The situation was becoming tense and so the Uthman administration had to investigate the origins and extent of anti-government propaganda and its aims.
Some time around 654, Uthman called all the governors of his 12 provinces to Medina to discuss the problem. In this Council of Governors, Uthman directed the governors that they should adopt all the expedients they had suggested, according to local circumstances. Later, in the Majlis al Shurah (council of ministry), it was suggested to Uthman that reliable agents should be sent to various provinces to investigate the matter and report about the sources of such rumours.
Uthman accordingly sent his agents to the main provinces, Muhammad ibn Maslamah was sent to Kufa; Usama ibn Zayd was sent to Basra; Ammar ibn Yasir was sent to Egypt, while `Abd Allah ibn Umar was sent to Syria. The emissaries who had been sent to Kufa, Basra, and Syria submitted their reports to Uthman, that all was well in Kufa, Basra and Syria. The people were satisfied with the administration, and they had no legitimate grievance against it. Some individuals in various locations had some personal grievances of minor character, with which the people at large were not concerned.
Ammar ibn Yasir, the emissary to Egypt, however, did not return to Medina. The rebels had carried on with their propaganda in favour of the Caliphate of Ali. Ammar ibn Yasir had been affiliated with Ali; he left Uthman, and instead joined the opposition in Egypt.
Abdullah ibn Saad, the governor of Egypt, reported about the activities of the opposition in Egypt. He wanted to take action against Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (foster son of Ali), Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa (adopted son of Uthman) and Ammar ibn Yasir. However, Uthman did not want Abdullah ibn Saad to be harsh against them because he held them in high regard. After the Egyptian emissary’s failure, Uthman looked for further developments in Egypt.
In 655, Uthman directed the people who had any grievance against the administration to assemble at Mecca for the Hajj. He promised them that all their legitimate grievances would be redressed. He directed the governors and the “Amils” throughout the empire to come to Mecca on the occasion of the Hajj. In response to the call of Uthman, the opposition came in large delegations from various cities to present their grievances before the gathering.
Uthman addressed the people and gave a long explanation of the criticism about himself and his administration and then said: “I have had my say. Now I am prepared to listen to you. If any one of you has any legitimate grievance against me or my Government you are free to give expression to such grievance, and I assure you that, I will do my best to redress such grievance.” The rebels realized that the people in Mecca supported the defence offered by Uthman and were not in the mood to listen to them.
That was a great psychological victory for Uthman. It is said, according to Sunni Muslim accounts, that before returning to Syria, the governor Muawiyah, Uthman’s cousin, suggested Uthman should come with him to Syria as the atmosphere there was peaceful.
Uthman rejected his offer, saying that he didn’t want to leave the city of Muhammad (referring to Medina). Muawiyah then suggested that he be allowed to send a strong force from Syria to Medina to guard Uthman against any possible attempt by rebels to harm him. Uthman rejected it too, saying that the Syrian forces in Medina would be an incitement to civil war, and he could not be party to such a move.
Agitation in Medina:
After the Hajj of 655 things remained quiet for some time. With the dawn of the year 656, Medina, the capital city of Uthman, became a hotbed of intrigue and unrest. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr returned to Medina from Egypt, and assisted in leading a campaign against the Caliphate of Uthman.
When the crisis deepened in Medina, Uthman addressed the congregation in the Masjid-e-Nabawi and gave an explanation and rebuttal of all the claims against him. The general public was again satisfied with Uthman. He had hoped that after his speech in which he had explained his position, and offered full defence for his actions, the allegedly false propaganda against him would cease.
Armed revolt against Uthman:
The politics of Egypt played the major role in the propaganda war against the caliphate, so Uthman summoned Abdullah ibn Saad, the governor of Egypt, to Medina to consult with him as to the course of action that should be adopted. Abdullah ibn Saad came to Medina, leaving the affairs of Egypt to his deputy, and in his absence, Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa staged a coup d’état and took power.
On hearing of the revolt in Egypt, Abdullah hastened back but Uthman was not in a position to offer him any military assistance and, accordingly, Abdullah ibn Saad failed to recapture his power.
In middle of 656, Uthman’s governor of Kufa, Abu-Musa al-Asha’ari, was unable to control the province. In Basra the governor, Abdullah ibn Aamir, left for Hajj, and in his absence the affairs of the province fell into a state of confusion. The three main provinces of Egypt (which was already the center of the dissident movement), Kufa, and Basra became essentially independent from the Caliphate of Uthman, and became the center of revolt.
Rebels in Medina:
From Egypt a contingent of about 1,000 people were sent to Medina, with instructions to assassinate Uthman and overthrow the government. Similar contingents marched from Kufa and Basra to Medina. They sent their representatives to Medina to contact the leaders of public opinion. The representatives of the contingent from Egypt waited on Ali, and offered him the Caliphate in succession to Uthman, which Ali turned down.
The representatives of the contingent from Kufa waited on Al-Zubayr, while the representatives of the contingent from Basra waited on Talhah, and offered them their allegiance as the next Caliph, which were both turned down. In proposing alternatives to Uthman as Caliph, the rebels neutralized the bulk of public opinion in Medina and Uthman’s faction could no longer offer a united front. Uthman had the active support of the Umayyads, and a few other people in Medina, but the rest of the people of Medina chose to be neutral and help neither side.
Siege of Uthman:
The situation in Medina was a big gain for the rebels. When they felt satisfied that the people of Medina would not offer them any resistance, they entered the city of Medina and laid siege to the house of Uthman, essentially taking it over but not confining the Caliph. The rebels declared that no harm from them would come to any person who choose not to resist them.
Uthman strongly instructed his supporters to refrain from violence but his various servants (about 40 of them) appealed for permission to fight against the rebels, along with a thousand other citizens of Medina. Uthman, who was a wealthy man even from the days before Islam, freed all 40 of his slaves and ordered them to stay away from the civil war between the Muslims.
The early stage of the siege of Uthman’s house was not severe, the rebels merely hovered around the house and did not place any restrictions on him. Uthman went to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi as usual, and led the prayers. The rebels offered prayers under the leadership of Uthman. While Uthman addressed the people in the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi he was criticized by opponents.
At this the supporters of Uthman took up cudgels on his behalf. Tempers flared up on both sides, hot words were exchanged between the parties, and that led to the pelting of stones at one another. One of the stones hit Uthman, he fell unconscious and was carried to his house, still unconscious.
The proceedings in the mosque showed that most of the people of Medina (or at least those in the mosque) preferred not to fight, but to watch developments. When the rebels felt that the people of Medina were not likely to offer active support to Uthman, they changed their strategy, and tightened the siege of the house of Uthman, thus confining Uthman to his home. Uthman was denied the freedom to move about and was not allowed to go to the mosque.
As the days passed, the rebels intensified their pressure against Uthman. They forbade the entry of any food or provisions, and later water as well, into his house, even turning down a few widows of Muhammad. Ramlah bint Abi-Sufyan, a widow of Muhammad, came to see Uthman and brought some water and provisions for him but she was not allowed to enter. Another widow of Muhammad, and the daughter of the late Caliph Abu Bakr, Aisha, made a similar attempt, and she was also prevailed upon by the rebels to go back.
With the departure of the pilgrims from Medina to Mecca, the hands of the rebels were further strengthened, and as a consequence the crisis deepened further. The rebels understood that after the Hajj, the Muslims gathered at Mecca from all parts of the Muslim world might march to Medina to relieve Uthman. They therefore decided to take action against Uthman before the pilgrimage was over. During the siege, Uthman was asked by his supporters, who outnumbered the rebels, to let them fight against the rebels and rout them. Uthman prevented them in an effort to avoid the bloodshed of Muslim by Muslim.
Unfortunately for Uthman, violence occurred anyhow. The gates of the house of Uthman were shut and guarded by the renowned warrior, Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr. The sons of Ali, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, were also among the guards; while amongst those inciting the people to fight included Aisha, one of the wives of Muhammad. A skirmish erupted between the opponents and the supporters of Uthman at the gate, some anti-Uthman partisans were killed, and the rebels were finally pushed back. Among the supporters of Uthman, Hasan ibn Ali, Marwan and some other people were wounded. When Uthman came to know of this action he said: No, I do not want to spill the blood of Muslims, to save my own neck.
Finding the gate of Uthman’s house strongly guarded by his supporters, the rebels climbed the back wall and sneaked inside, leaving the guards on the gate unaware of what was going on inside. The rebels entered his room and struck blows at his head. Naila, the wife of Uthman, threw herself on his body to protect him.
Raising her hand to protect him she had her fingers chopped off and was pushed aside, and further blows were struck until he was dead. The supporters of Uthman then counterattacked the assassins and, in turn, killed them. There was further fighting between the rebels and the supporters of Uthman, with casualties on both sides, after which the rebels looted the house.
The rioters wanted to mutilate his body and were keen that he be denied burial. When some of the rioters came forward to mutilate the body of Uthman, his two widows, Nailah and Ramlah bint Sheibah, covered him, and raised loud cries which deterred the rioters. The rebels left the house and the supporters of Uthman at gate hearing it, entered, but it was too late. Thereafter the rioters maintained a presence round the house in order to prevent the dead body from being carried to the graveyard.
After the body of Uthman had been in the house for three days, Naila, Uthman’s wife, approached some of his supporters to help in his burial, but only about a dozen people responded. These included Marwan, Zayd ibn Thabit, ‘Huwatib bin Alfarah, Jabir bin Muta’am, Abu Jahm bin Hudaifa, Hakim bin Hazam and Niyar bin Mukarram. The body was lifted at dusk, and because of the blockade, no coffin could be procured.
The body was not washed, as Islamic teaching states that martyrs’ bodies are not supposed to be washed before burial. Thus Uthman was carried to the graveyard in the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his assassination. His body was buried by Hassan, Hussein, Ali and others however some people reject that Ali attended the funeral Naila followed the funeral with a lamp, but in order to maintain secrecy the lamp had to be extinguished. Naila was accompanied by some women including Ayesha, Uthman’s daughter.
The body was carried to Jannat al-Baqi, the Muslim graveyard. It appears that some people gathered there, and they resisted the burial of Uthman in the graveyard of the Muslims. The supporters of Uthman insisted that the body should be buried in Jannat al-Baqi. They later buried him in the Jewish graveyard behind Jannat al-Baqi. Some decades later, the Umayyad rulers demolished the wall separating the two cemeteries and merged the Jewish cemetery into the Muslim one to ensure that his tomb was now inside a Muslim cemetery.
The funeral prayers were led by Jabir bin Muta’am, and the dead body was lowered into the grave without much of a ceremony. After burial, Naila the widow of Uthman and Aisha the daughter of Uthman wanted to speak, but they were advised to remain quiet due to possible danger from the rioters.
Family of Uthman:
Uthman belonged to the Umayyad branch of the Quraish tribe. He was the son of Affan ibn Abi al-‘As and Urwa bint Kariz. Urwa bore only two children from Affan: Uthman and his sister Amna. After the death of Affan, Urwa married Uqbah ibn Abu Mu’ayt, to whom she bore three sons and a daughter:
- Walid ibn Uqba
- Khalid ibn Uqba
- Amr ibn Uqba
- Umm Kulthum bint Uqba
- Umm’Amr bint Jandab
- Fatimah bint Al Walid
He had following children from them: From Umm’Amr bint Jandab:
From Fatimah bint al-Walid
- Umm Said.
Amr, was the eldest son of Uthman, and during the pre-Islamic period, Uthman was known by the surname of Abu’Amr.
Uthman was nicknamed Thun-Nurayn (Zunnorain) (Arabic: ذو النورين, literally: possessor of two lights), because of his marriage with two of Prophet Muhammad’s daughters. Ruqayyah bint Muhammad, Muhammad’s daughter. Ruqayyah and Uthman had a son, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman, but he died early, because of him after Islam he was called by the surname Abu’Abdullah. When she died, Uthman was married to her sister, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, second daughter of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Umm Kulthum bore no child.
From Fahida bint Ghazwan
- Abdullah bin Uthman al-asghar, he died in early age.
From Umm Al-Baneen bint Einiyah
- Abdulmalik bin Uthman, he too died in early age.
From Ramla bany Sheibah
- Ayesha bint Uthman
- Umm Aban bint Uthman
- Umm Amr bint Uthman
From Nailah bint Fraizah
Islamic history, particularly Sunni history, remembers Uthman in positive terms, calling him handsome, generous, and plain rather than luxurious. It is said that Uthman was one of the most handsome and charming men of his time. Uthman was well known for his reported generosity. During Muhammad’s time, while in Medina, he financed the project for the construction of the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi and purchased the well Beer Rauma, which he dedicated to the free use of all Muslims. Uthman’s generosity continued after he became caliph.
Uthman apparently led a simple life even after becoming the Caliph of the Rashidun Empire, though it would have been easy for a successful businessman such as him to lead a luxurious life. The caliphs were paid for their services from bait al-mal, the public treasury, but Uthman never took any salary for his service as a Caliph, as he was independently wealthy. Uthman also developed a custom to free slaves every Friday, look after the widows and orphans, and give unlimited charity. His patience and endurance were among the characteristics that made him a successful leader.
He was a devoted Muslim, As a way of taking care of Muhammad’s wives, he doubled their allowances. Uthman wasn’t completely plain and simple, however: Uthman built a Palace for himself in Medina, known as Al-Zawar, with a notable feature being doors of precious wood. Although Uthman paid for the palace with his own money, Shia Muslims consider it his first step towards ruling like a King. Uthman’s sister Amna bint Affan was married to Abdur Rahman bin Awf, one of the closest companion of Muhammad.
Sunni view of Uthman:
According to the Sunni account of Uthman, he was married to two of Muhammad’s daughters at separate times, earning him the name Zun-Nurayn (Dhun Nurayn) or the “Possessor of Two Lights.”. In this he was supposed to outrank Ali, who had married only one of Muhammad’s daughters.
Sunni Muslims also consider Uthman as one of the ten Sahaba (companions) for whom Muhammad had testified that they were destined for Paradise . He was a wealthy and very noble man. When he became khalifa, he used the same method Umar did.
Uthman is regarded by Sunnis as a beacon of light who refused to participate in the civil conflict. The claims against his wealth do not detract from his personal sacrifice against the rebels.
Uthman was a prominent figure in Islam and history in general and a successful business man, however accounts of his amal (good actions) are numerous and suggested a different side to Uthman, a side that rarely gets publicized. In the times of Umar there was a severe famine. All the people of Madinah were suffering due to the shortage of food. A caravan made up of a thousand camels loaded with a large stock of food grains belonging to Uthman arrived from Shaam (Syria). Several merchants offered to buy all of it. He asked them what profit they would pay. “Five per cent,” they said. He answered that he could get higher profit than that. They began to argue with him, saying that they did not know of any merchant who would offer him more than their quote.
He said to them, “I know of one who repays a profit of more than seven hundred to a dirham (Arabian currency).” He then recited the verse of the Quran in which Allah mentioned this profit. “The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.” (2:261). “O traders! Bear witness with me that I donate all this to the poor people of Madinah!” said Uthman.
Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Uthman reported that, “One night I was praying when someone touched me on my back. I saw that it was ‘Uthman, the leader of the believers. I made space for him and then he started to pray. He recited the whole Qur’an in one single rakah and then came out of prayer. I said to him, ‘But you have prayed only one rakah’ “That is my Witr prayer.” he said.” Ruhaimah said, “‘Uthman used to fast all the time and used to stay awake the whole night in prayer, except for a short time after ‘Ishaa’.”
Bernard Lewis, a 20th century scholar, says of Uthman:
Uthman, like Mu’awiya, was a member of the leading Meccan family of Ummaya and was indeed the sole representative of the Meccan patricians among the early companions of the Prophet with sufficient prestige to rank as a candidate. His election was at once their victory and their opportunity. That opportunity was not neglected. Uthman soon fell under the influence of the dominant Meccan families and one after another of the high posts of the Empire went to members of those families.
The weakness and nepotism of Uthman brought to a head the resentment which had for some time been stirring obscurely among the Arab warriors. The Muslim tradition attribute the breakdown which occurred during his reign to the personal defects of Uthman. But the causes lie far deeper and the guilt of Uthman lay in his failure to recognize, control or remedy them.
According to Ronald Bodley, during Muhammad’s lifetime Uthman was not an outstanding figure and was not assigned to any authority, and was not ever distinguished in any of Muhammad’s campaigns. Bodley also believed that after Umar’s assassination, Ali rejected the caliphate as he disagreed with governing according to regulations established by Abu Bakr and Umar, and that Uthman, being less honest than Ali, accepted those terms which he failed to administrate during his ten years Caliphate.
He subjected most of the Islamic nation to his relatives, Bani Umayya, who were partially accursed during Muhamad’s lifetime. Uthman compiled the Qur’an, and burnt its other copies. Uthman’s governing policies and nepotism led to openly rise of dissatisfaction and resistance throughout most of the empire, especially among noble Companions of Muhammad.