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The Pious Caliphs: Uthman Ibn Affan

His Early Life


Life before acceptance of Islam
Hadrat Uthman belonged to a noble family of Quraish in Mecca. He was from the Umayyah family of Quraish, which was a well reputed and honourable family of Mecca during the pre-Islamic days. He was born in 573AC. Uthman was one of the few persons of Mecca that knew reading and writing. He started business in cloth which made him very rich. He used his money in good ways and always helped the poor. Hadrat Uthman was a soft natured and kind-hearted man. For his noble qualities Meccans had great respect for him.

Acceptance of Islam
'Uthman accepted Islam when Abu Bakr preached to him. He was one of those Muslims who accepted Islam in its very early days.

Emigration to Abyssinia
Hadrat Uthman and his wife Ruqayyah, one of the Prophets daughters, crossed the Red Sea with other Muslims and migrated to Abyssinia when life in Mecca became too hard. He stayed there for a couple of months and came back to Mecca when he was wrongly informed that the Quraish had accepted Islam.

Uthman gets the title of Dhun-nurain


Hadrat Uthman migrated the second time with the other Muslims to Medina. He could not participate in the first battle of Islam at Badr because his wife was very ill. She died before the Muslims returned from Badr. After the death of Hadrat Ruqayyah, the Holy Prophet married his next daughter, Umm Kulthum with him and he was given the title of "Dhun-nurain (the man with two lights).

His other services for the cause of Islam before Caliphate


He participated in almost all the battles with the non-believers in which the Holy Prophet had also taken part, except Badr. At the time of the Treaty of Hudaibiya he was negotiate with the non-believers. In Medina, the Emigrants had great difficulty in getting drinking water. Hadrat Uthman bought a well named Bi'r-i-Rumah from a Jew for twenty thousand dirhams for free use of Muslims. That was the first trust ever made in the history of Islam. He bought land for the Prophet's mosque extension. During the expedition of Tabuk, Uthman bore the expenses for one third of the Islamic army and he also gave further support for the rest of the army. He was one of the scribes of the Wahy (Revelation) and also used to write other documents (letters and messages, etc.) of the Holy Prophet. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr and 'Umar (R.A.), he was a member of the Shura (Advisory Council). He occupied a prominent position in the affairs of the Islamic State during that time.

Hadrat Uthmans Caliphate


Election of the third Caliph
Before his death, Umar appointed a panel of six men to select a Khalifah from amongst themselves and to make the nomination within three days The panel could not arrive at any decision even after long meetings. Then, ' Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf proposed somebody to withdraw his name in order to decide the matter. When he got no response, he withdrew his own name. The remaining members agreed that he could take a decision. First of all 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf took Baiat at the hands of Hadrat 'Uthman and then all the Muslims present in the mosque followed.

Conquests and miscellaneous events


The Romans were having a covetous eye on the parts conquered by the Muslims, specially Syria and Alexandria but the Muslims armies managed to drove the Romans out and recover the cities. During the conquest of Cyprus, for the first time in Islam, a naval force was built. During the caliphate of Hadrat Uthman the Muslims conquered a number of new areas. They took over Antalya and Asia Minor in the west including Cyprus, Afghanistan, Samarkand, Tashkent, Turkmenistan, Khurasan and Tabrastan in the East and North East; and Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa . The Islamic state was far bigger than any one of the past mighty Byzantine or Persian Empire.

Internal disorder
The first half of Hadrat Uthmans caliphate was very peaceful. But the later part of Hadrat 'Uthman's caliphate was marred by a terrible civil war which ultimately led to the murder of the caliph himself . Hadrat 'Uthman was a very gentle and soft-hearted person. The people who wanted to create chaos among the Muslims took advantage of his soft nature. Umar's stern hand had kept away the undemocratic and non-Islamic customs,

and the practices that prevailed in the courts of Persian and Byzantine Empires. But 'Uthman sometimes overlooked the faults of the governors and other officers in various provinces, though he himself completely followed the ways of the Holy Prophet and the first two caliphs. His compassionate nature made the provincial governors bold as a result of which unrest in the provincial capitals grew and ultimately it engulfed the whole Islamic State .

Conspiracy of Abdullah bin Saba


'Abdullah bin Saba, a clever Yemenite Jew who had accepted Islam only for self-interest and to destroy peace of the Islamic state, took the leading part in the agitation against 'Uthman He was having a number of followers who had accepted Islam only to create disharmony among the Muslims. He invented quite a few beliefs and started to preach them. He based his beliefs upon the love of the Holy Prophet and his family. Some of his beliefs are: (1) every prophet left a Wasi (administrator) behind him, and the Wasi was his relative. For example Prophet Musa (Moses) made Harun his Wasi (administrator). Consequently the Holy Prophet must have a Wasi, and his Wasi was Hadrat 'Ali Being the Wasi, Hadrat' Ali was the only rightful man to be the Khalifah. (2) He said that it was strange for the Muslims to believe that Jesus would descend from the heaven to follow Islam and to fight for Muslims against non-believers, and not to believe that the Holy Prophet would not come back. So he believed that the Holy Prophet being superior to Jesus, as the Last Prophet and the Leader of all prophets, would also come back. (3) He started to give wrong commentaries of various verses of the Holy Qur'an and twisted their meaning in favour of his beliefs. He pretended to be very pious and because of his show of piety, a number of simple Muslims started to respect him. Then he preached his beliefs. His followers, most of whom were pretending to be Muslims, used various techniques to increase their strength. They made a great show of piety and posed to be very pious worshippers. They incited people to forge complaints against the governors, various officers and the Caliph as well. These forged letters sent by the Sabaites (the followers of Abdullah bin Saba) also showed that Hadrat Ali, Talha and Zubair had full sympathy with them and with their mission and they disliked the Caliph Uthman. People of various places began to believe that there was a widespread unrest and that the leading Companions wanted to remove the Caliph. They criticised the Caliph for, after removing bad governors, being unduly kind to his relatives by appointing them to big post. Allegations against Hadrat Uthman: He was removing the people of the Banu Hashim (the family of the Quraish to which the Holy Prophet and Ali belonged) from the big offices in order to support Umayyads (Uthmans family) and that he was unduly considerate to his family. He was extravagant and gave away money to his relatives, thus squandered the Baitul Mal. This allegation was absolutely false. He had burnt some copies of the Holy Qur'an. The fact was that Uthman sent copies of the Holy Quran, written by Zaid bin Thabit by the order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr, to various places of the state and asked the governors to burn all those copies of the Holy Quran which were incomplete and were not in accordance with the Holy Quran compiled by Zaid bin Thabit. This was done in order to avoid confusion between the Muslims because there were copies of the Quran which didnt have the same order of the Surah as it was proposed by the Holy Prophet in accordance to angel Gabriels instructions as commanded by Allah, or they were missing some chapters or verses so they were incomplete, also there were differences in handwritings so he also standardised the way of writing the Holy Quran. This has been considered as one of the greatest services Hadrat Uthman rendered to Islam so he was given the title Jamiul-Quran (The Compiler of the Quran). He was accused of ill treatment of recognized Companions but all of these accusations were false. Uthman called Hakam bin 'As, who was exiled by the Holy Prophet to Medina. However this step of Uthman was not too wise. He also appointed Hakam's son Marwan as his chief secretary which was not liked by some prominent Companions and also by the Muslim public. Marwan became the main cause of insurgents' existence who ultimately assassinated the Caliph. It is alleged that he wrote to Egypt's governor 'Abdullah to kill Muhammad bin Abi Bakr whom 'Uthman had appointed the governor of Egypt in place of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr when the insurgents pressed Uthman to do so but this, too, was false. The letter was sheer forgery. In the year 34AH, just after the Hajj, Uthman called a conference of the governors in Medina and enquired from them about the growing unrest in the State. Because he was no willing to take stern action, he sent a mission of four persons to tour the provinces. Three of them returned to Medina saying the situation was normal. The fourth was coaxed by the Sabaites. The Sabaites decided to their ring leaders should meet at Medina. Three delegations came, one from Egypt, the second from Kufa and the third from Basrah. Some Companions told the Caliph to execute them but he said that he will not do so because there no sufficient legal grounds. He would try to remove the misunderstandings. He told them, I would be kind to them and if kindness failed to work I would rather sacrifice myself for Allahs Will. He listened to them and gave a long address giving satisfactory explanation to all the allegations put against him by the Sabaites. The parties returned to their places but didn't say the truth. They told them that the Caliph was not ready to set things right. So they made a plan for the forthcoming Hajj when they would go to Medina under false pretences of observing the pilgrimage, and decide the matter with the sword, i.e. to change the Caliph by force.

Hadrat Uthman's Martyrdom and Review of His Works


Martyrdom
As the time of Hajj in the year 35AH came near, 3000 Sabaites came to Medina. All of them wanted Uthman to step down but there were some differences of opinion regarding the next Caliph. When the insurgents came Uthman decided to listen to their demands. They wanted the dismissal of the governor of Egypt and appointment of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as the new governor. Uthman agreed and the insurgents seemed to be satisfied and started to go back. All the Muslims in Medina thought that the trouble has ended. A few days later shouts of revenge could be heard in the streets of Medina. The insurgents showed the letter under the seal of the Caliph. The letter was being carried to the Governor of Egypt by a special messenger whom they intercepted on the way. The letter said, "UqtuI Muhammad bin Abu Bakr"' (i.e. "kill Muhammad bin Abu Bakr") instead of "Iqbil Muhammad bin Abu Bakr" (i.e. "accept Muhamm bin Abu Bakr as governor"). According to most of the historians the letter was intentionally written by Marwan about which Hadrat Uthman did not know. While some others say that it was a plot of insurgents and they produced a forged letter. The insurgents demanded Uthman to give up his Caliphate . They laid siege to his house and this went on for 40 days. During the last few days they also stopped supply of water. Some brave Muslims were guarding the gate of the house so that none of the insurgents can get in. Uthman sent messengers to provincial governors. The Caliph refused to fight the insurgents or to flee Medina . The insurgents decided to assassinate the Caliph before the end of the Hajj in fear that his supporters would come to Medina. They climbed the back walls of the house and entered the room where Hadrat Uthman was reciting the Holy Quran. One of the insurgent s hit his head with an axe and the other struck him with a sword. After giving his severe injuries, one of the Egyptian insurgents cut off the Caliphs head. Hadrat Uthman was assassinated on Friday, the 17 th Dhul-Hijjah, 35AH (July 17, 656AD). After assassination of the Caliph, the insurgents virtually took over charge of Medina. They also looted the Baitul Mal. The Caliph was buried after two days when some Muslims succeeded getting into the house and carrying out the burial service. His words I do not want to spill Muslim blood to save my own neck will be remembered forever in the history of Islam. He sacrificed his life to save Muslim blood. It proved to be true that the assassination of Hadrat Uthman has divided the Muslims till resurrection; they would never be united again. Just after the assassination, civil war started and continued up to the tragedy of Karbala. At that time the Muslims community was divided into four groups: (1) Uthmanis in favour of the capital punishment of the assassins and thought Hadrat Muawiyah to most suitable person to punish the assassins, while the Basrites wanted the next Caliph to be either Talha or Zubair. (2) Shian-i-Ali did not see Uthamn fir for the Caliphate and called themselves friends of Ali. (3 ) Murhibah wanted to keep aloof from the differences of the first two groups. (4) Ahl-i-Sunnah wal Jamaah We love both Uthman and Ali and consider them as righteous and pious Companions. We do not curse any of the Companions and the righteous Muslims. We follow the Sunnah (ways) of the Holy Prophet and the Sunnah of his righteous Jamaah (the group of all Companions). The second and fourth group took the shape of permanent theological groups and still exist. The assassination of Uthman was a signal for civil war. It was more epoch-making than almost any other event of Islamic history. With Uthmans death the political unity of Islam came to an end. Soon Islams religious unity was divided. Islamic society ente red upon a period punctuated with schism and civil strife that has not yet ended. Unity of Islam which was maintained by the first two Caliphs was lost and serious dissensions arose among the Muslims. The system of centralised government initiated by Hadrat Umar and developed by Hadrat Uthman was shattered.

Review of Hadrat Uthmans services to Islam


The territories of the Islamic State were immensely extended. He ruled over a vast part of the known world, right from Kabul (Afghanistan) to Morocco. He put down rebellions with an iron hand. Naval force was developed and Muslims started naval victories. Amir Muawiyah played a very important role in this. He is the man who worked for the development of the Islamic naval force. Under his command the first naval battle took place in the history of Islam. Islam was at the zenith of its glory during the period of Hadrat Uthman. He safeguarded any possible change in the codex of the Holy Quran. Hadrat Uthman took the copy of Quran in Hadrat Hafsas keeping and canonized the Medinese codex. He extended the Mosque of the Holy Prophet. He taught Islamic Law. He took special care to send missionaries to various places and appointed teachers to teach Islamic Law, the Holy Quran and Hadith. Hadrat Uthman was a great scholar of the Holy Quran and was a Hafiz. He was well-versed in the chronology of revelation of various verses and the chapters of the Holy Quran and was considered an authority in this respect. He excelled in deriving laws from the verses of t he Holy Quran. He was considered an authority on the laws of Hajj. He never took any allowance from the Baitul Mal for his services as a Caliph . He established a library

in the back of his house for the education of the Muslims. Hadrat Uthman observed the same principles in his government as were laid down by Hadrat Umar . He maintained the Council of Advisers (Shura) in the same way as was maintained by the first two caliphs. General councils for consultations were also called from time to time. On Fridays he used to come to the mosque long before the Khutbah Adhan to listen to the complaints of Muslims and to remove their difficulties. Uthman kept the armed forces on the same pattern as was laid down by his predecessor. During his time there was a notable increase in the number of armed forces. He took special care of military personnel and increased their allowances. The civil departments were separated from the military departments. The entire public funds were used for the general welfare of the public. He increased the allowances given to various people and the poor. He used a major part of the revenue in construction of bridges, roads, wells and mosques. He also fixed salaries for the Muezzins. Hadrat Uthman showed an exemplary tolerance against the insurgents. By not using force against the civil public, he set the first example of the highest democratic rule in human civilization.