Hadrat Usman (R.A.) belonged to a noble family of Quraish in Mecca. His ancestral pedigree joins with that of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam) in the fifth generation. He was from the "Umayyah" family of Quraish, which was a well reputed and honourable family of Mecca during the pre-Islamic days. In the famous battle of "Fajar" the Commander-in-Chief of the Quraish army, Harb bin Umayyah was from the same family. The descendants of this family are known as "Banu Umayyah" or "Umawwin".
Hadrat Usman (R.A.) was born in 573 A.C. His patronymic name was "Abu Amr" and father's name was "Affan bin Abul-As". He was known by the name "Uthman ibn ‘Affan". Hadrat Uthman was one of the few persons of Mecca who knew reading and writing. When he grew up, he started business in cloth which made him very rich. He used his money in good ways and always helped the poor. Uthman (R.A.) was a soft natured and kind hearted man. He did not hesitate to spend any amount of money on seeing a man in trouble in order to remove his misery. For his noble qualities the Meccans had great respect for him.
Acceptance of Islam
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) accepted Islam when Abu Bakr (R.A.) preached to him. He was one of those Muslims who accepted Islam in its very early days. Though "Banu Hashim" (the Holy Prophet's family) was rival to "Banu Umayyah" (Hadrat Uthman's family), and the latter was in power at that time, yet Uthman (R.A.) did not hesitate to acknowledge the prophethood of Hadrat Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) which meant authority and supremacy over "Banu Hashim". This was one of the reasons why Quraish leaders, belonging to Banu Umayyah (like Abu Sufyan) were opposing the Holy Prophet(Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam). Thus acceptance of Islam in such a position shows the clear-mindedness of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). When he accepted Islam, the Quraish who once loved Uthman became his enemies. Even his relatives like Hakam (one of his uncles) began to rebuke him and chastised him severely.
One of the daughters of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), Hadrat Ruqayyah (R.A.) was married to one of the sons of Abu Lahb (an arch-enemy of Islam). When the Holy Prophet(Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) started to preach Islam, Abu Lahb asked his son ‘Utbah to divorce her. Then the Holy Prophet married her to Hadrat Uthman (R.A.)
Emigration to Abyssinia
When life in Mecca became hard for the Muslims, he went to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam) and sought permission to take refuge in Abyssinia along with other Muslims. The permission was granted. Hadrat Uthman and his wife crossed the Red Sea with other Muslims and migrated to Abyssinia. At the time of his migration the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam) remarked: "Uthman is the first man of my Ummah to migrate (for sake of Allah) with his family." He stayed there for a couple of months and came back to Mecca when he was wrongly informed by somebody that the Quraish had accepted Islam.
Hazrat Umar the Third Caliph Of Islamic State
Before his death, Hadrat ‘Umar (R.A.) appointed a panel of six men to select a "Khalifah" from amongst themselves and then sought his approval through Bai'at (Pledge of loyalty) by Muslim Public. He also instructed them to make the nomination within three days. The panel included Uthman,'Ali, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas, Talha, Zubair and 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Auf (Ridwanullah-i-'Alaihim) as the members.
The panel could not arrive at any decision even after long meetings. Then, Hadrat '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. He consulted each member individually except Hadrat Talha (R.A.) who was not present at Medina. It so happened that Hadrat Uthman proposed 'Ali's name and Hadrat 'Ali proposed Uthman's name for the post of Khalifah. But Zubair and Sa'd (R.A.) were more in favour of Hadrat Uthman than Hadrat ‘Ali. After more consultations with other companions and thinking over the problem during the third night, Hadrat ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf(R.A.) gave his decision in the morning of the fourth day in favour of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.).
First of all Hadrat ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf(R.A.) took Bai'at at the hands of Hadrat Uthman and then all the Muslims present in the Mosque followed suit and took Bai'at (pledge of loyalty) at the hands of Hadrat Uthman(R.A.). In this way, Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was declared to be the third Khalifah. When Hadrat Talha (R.A.) returned to Medina, Uthman (R.A.) requested him either to accept the post of "Khalifah" (as he was among the persons proposed by Hadrat ‘Umar for the post) or to acknowledge him as Khalifah by taking Bai'at. Hadrat Talha declined to be the Khalifah and took pledge of loyalty at his hand, saying "How can I object to your being the Khalifah when all the Muslims have agreed upon you."
A brief review of the conquests during Hadrat Uthman’s caliphate
Thus we see that during the caliphate of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) the Muslims conquered a number of new areas. They took over Antalya and Asia Minor in the west including Cyprus. Afghanistan, Samarkand, Tashkent, Trukmennistan, Khurasan and Tabrastan in the East and North East; and Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa. In this way Muslims were ruling over a vast part of Asia and Africa viz. Afghanistan, Turkmennistan, Uzbekistan, Persia or Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and of course Arabia (now Saudi Arabia) and Yemen including the Gulf states. All these countries and places were under one flag, and the Islamic state was far bigger than any one of the past mighty Byzantine or Persian Empires. Islam as a religion was also prevailing in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and in some parts of East and Central Africa though these places were not under the direct control of the Caliphate.
Internal Disorder: Introductory Note
The first half of Hadrat Uthman's caliphate was very peaceful. During this time the Muslims gained many victories as described above, and the caliphate extended to a vast area of the then known world. 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 (R.A.) was a very gentle and soft-hearted person. The people who wanted to create chaos among the Muslims took advantage of his soft nature. Hadrat '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 HadrAt Uthman (R.A.) sometimes overlooked the faults of the governors and other officers in various provinces, though he himself totally and completely followed the ways of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) 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.
The enemies of Islam were in search of a suitable occasion to work against Islam and the Muslims. They got the desired opportunity for this and sent out their men to disturb the peace and to spread false news. Only the main events that happened during that time would be discussed in the following lines.
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 Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). 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 (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) and his family (Ahli-Bait). Some of the beliefs invented by Abdullah bin Saba were
(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 (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) must have a "Wasi", and his "Wasi" was Hadrat 'Ali (R.A.) Being the "Wasi", Hadrat 'Ali (R.A.) was the only rightful man to be the "Khalifah". He went to the extent of declaration that the "Khilafat" (caliphate) of Hadrat Abu Bakr,'Umar and Uthman (R.A.) was unlawful. The only way to redress matters was to remove the then Caliph, Hadrat Uthman(R.A.).
(2) He said that it was strange for the Muslims to believe that Jesus ('Alaihis Salam) would descend from the heaven to follow Islam and to fight for Muslims against non-believers, and not to believe that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) would not come back. So he believed that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) 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 preached his false self-coined beliefs secretly and selected the main headquarters of Muslim military power, Kufa, Basrah, Syria and Egypt as centres of his activities. He picked up a number of newly converted Muslims who lent an easy ear to what he said. Some simple Muslims who were having certain complaints against various governors also joined him. It was the real cause of all the troubles.
First of all he visited Medina to note the internal conditions of the capital. He pretended to be a very pious Muslim but could not get much followers over there. Then he came to Basrah and started to preach his beliefs and incite the public against Muslim officers. At that time Hadrat'Abdullah bin 'Amir was the Governor. Hearing about his activities, he called him and made certain enquiries because of which he was frightened and left Basrah leaving his followers and workers over there under the supervision of Hakim bin Hublah, one of the opponents of the governor.
From Basrah 'Abdullah bin Saba moved to Kufa and found it more suitable for his destructive activities. He pretended to be a very pious Muslim and because of his show of piety, a number of simple Muslims started to respect him. Then he preached his beliefs. Soon the governor of Kufa, Hadrat Sa'd bin al-'As was informed about him. He called him and warned him against his false beliefs and the damage he wanted to cause to the Muslim community. For this reason he left Kufa as well but made Ashtar as his deputy with instructions that the mission should be carried on secretly. From there he also went to Damascus but was not successful because of the strict control of Amir Mu'awiya (R.A.).
At last he selected Egypt and went there. The governor of Egypt, Hadrat'Abdullah bin Sarah was busy in the battles against Byzantine forces in North Africa and could not pay much attention to Ibn Saba's activities. He continued correspondence with his followers in Basrah, Kufa and other places from Egypt, and gave them directions for creating disorder and rivalry among the Muslims.
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 Khalifah as well. A new campaign against most of the officers was started by calling them irreligious, non-practical and bad Muslims. They sent forged letters from place to place which talked of injustice and unrest in the place from where they were posted. Such letters were usually sent to Sabaites (the followers of ‘Abdullah bin Saba) who read them out to as many people as possible. These forged letters also showed that Hadrat'Ali, Talha, and Zubair (Rid. A.) had full sympathy with them and with their mission and they disliked the "Khalifah", Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). These were the three leading Companions in Medina at that time. Thus the people of various places began to believe that there was a widespread unrest and that the leading Companions wanted to remove the "Khalifah".
The Sabaites also worked throughout the state against various governors. They were the real cause of their removal from time to time. Sabaites were the main figures behind the removal of Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari from the governorship of Basrah at the time when their mission was not so popular. They spread rumours against Hadrat Walid bin 'Uqbah, governor of Kufa, and wrongly accused him of drinking liquor, and provided false witnesses against him because of which the "Khalifah" punished him. When he was punished they accused the "Khalifah" of punishing innocent Muslims. When Hadrat 'Abdullah bin'Amir (R.A.) was appointed as the governor of Basrah to replace Hadrat Abu Musa Ash'ari they incited the public against him and against the Khalifah that he was related to the Khalifah because of which he was given the governorship in his young age.
On one side they incited the people against the governors and on the other they accused the Khalifah. On the basis of complaints when Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) removed the governors they criticised him to be unduly kind to his relatives by appointing them to big posts.
Allegations against Hadrat Uthman
(1) Hadrat Uthman belonged to the family Banu Umayyah of Quraish. Before Islam there was rivalry between Banu Umayyah and Banu Hashim, the family of the Quraish to which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam) and Hadrat 'Ali (Allah be pleased with him) belonged. In Medina the Sabaites incited Banu Hashim against Banu Umayyah, actually against Hadrat Uthman, by saying that he was removing Hashmites from the big offices in order to support Umayyads and that he was unduly considerate to his family.
(2) They alleged that Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was extravagant and gave away money to his relatives, thus squandered the "Baitul Mal". The allegation was absolutely false. Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was one of the wealthiest merchants in Arabia due to which people called him "Ghani" (The Richman). His liberal contributions towards the cause of Islam during the life of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam) have been mentioned in the preceding pages. His generosity continued in the same way during his caliphate. He spent his own money to help the poor, and also his relatives but never took anything wrongfully from the "Baitul Mal". Not only this he did not accept any allowance from the "Baitul Mal" for his services as Caliph. Through his addresses and speeches he clarified his position several times and gave satisfactorily explanations to the false accusations against him. Once he promised to give one fifth of the booty of Tripoli, the state share, to Hadrat'Abdullah bin Sarah, the then Governor of Egypt, for his invaluable services and the bravery he showed in the battles that took place between the Muslims and the Byzantine forces in North African territories. But the general public disapproved his view and he asked ‘Abdullah to return that share.
(3) One of the allegations, levelled by Sabaites against Hadrat Uthman was that he had burnt some copies of the Holy Qur'an. The fact was that Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) sent copies of the Holy Qur'an, written by Hadrat Zaid bin Thabit by the order of Hadrat Abu Bakr during his caliphate, to various places of the state and asked the governors and other officers to burn all those copies of the Holy Qur'an which were incomplete and were not in accordance with the Holy Qur'an compiled by Hadrat Zaid bin Thabit. This was done in order to avoid confusion between the Muslims because there were some copies of the Holy Qur'an at that time in which the order of the Surahs (Chapters) was not like that which was proposed by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) in accordance to Hadrat Gabriel instructions as commanded by Allah. Moreover, some of the copies existing at that time at various places other than Medina were lacking in some chapters, and were incomplete. For this reason Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) got copies made from the standard Book compiled during the time of Abu Bakr (R.A.) and sent them to various places. Differences had also arisen due to differences in handwritings so he also standardised the way of writing the Holy Qur'an. This has been considered as one of the greatest services of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) rendered to Islam for which he has been given the title of "Jami'ul-Qur'an" (The Compiler of the Qur'an) although the Holy Qur'an was compiled in a book form by Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) on the insistence of Hadrat 'Umar (R.A.).
(4) At this place I would like to mention something about Hadrat Abu Dharr Ghifari(R.A.) because this allegation is concerned with him. He was a well-known and pious Companion of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) who always kept aloof from the world and its riches. He was not in favour of accumulation of money and saving it. As regards the "Baitul Mal"(Public Treasury), he held the view that all the money should be spent for the welfare of Muslims as soon as it came through taxes etc. In Syria he started to publicise his opinion and a number of people followed him. Seeing this Hadrat Amir Mu'awiya wrote to Hadrat Uthman who recalled Hadrat Abu Dharr to Medina and then he retired to a village named Rabdhah near Medina.'Abdullah bin Saba tried to gain favour of Hadrat Abu Dharr(R.A.) when he was in Syria but he rebuked Ibn Saba and told him that the beliefs she was preaching were foreign to Islam and that his aim was to create chaos among the Muslims.
When Hadrat Abu Dhar (R.A.) had retired they started accusing Hadrat Uthman that he forced him to live in a village. Not only this but they also accused him of ill treatment of other recognised Companions like Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir and Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud (R.A.) But all of these accusations were false.
(5) One of the allegations against Hadrat Uthman was that he called Hakam bin'As to Medina who was exiled by the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'alaihi wa Sallam). However this step of Hadrat Uthman was not too wise. Not only this but 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.
The forthcoming discussion on this point would reveal that Marwan became the main cause of insurgents' existent who ultimately assassinated the Khalifah. It is alleged that he wrote to Egypt's governor Hadrat 'Abdullah to kill Muhammad bin Abi Bakr whom Hadrat Uthman had appointed the governor of Egypt in place of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr when the insurgents pressed Hadrat Uthman to do so but this, too, was false. The letter was sheer forgery.
There are some other false allegations which were levelled by Sabaites to defame the Khalifah. Since most of them are purely theological in nature and not political, they are not been mentioned here.
Conference of the Governors
When the unrest caused by Sabaites went on growing in all parts of the State, the news began to pour in Medina. The leading Companions asked Hadrat Uthman to take steps against them. So he called a conference of the governors in Medina in the year 34 A.H., just after the Hajj. All the governors attended the meeting. Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) enquired from them about the growing unrest in the State. They told him that it was due to some mischief-mongers who wanted to overthrow the government. They suggested that such persons must be punished and those who were the leaders must be put to sword. But Hadrat Uthman disliked the suggestion and told them that without just cause he would never shed even a single drop of Muslim blood. Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was not willing to take stern action against such persons because he did not want that hundreds of men should be massacred for his interest. Instead, he sent a mission of four persons: Muhammad bin Muslimah, Usamah bin Zaid,'Ammar bin Yasir and 'Abdullah bin 'Umar(Rad. A .)to tour the provinces.
After the governors' conference was over Hadrat Amir Mu’awiya (R.A.) suggested that he should leave Medina and should pass some time in Damascus but he said, "I would not leave Medina even though people kill me." Then Amir Mu'awiya (R.A.) requested Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) to allow him to send an army to Medina for his protection but Hadrat Uthman did not agree to even that.
Tour of the Mission
The mission sent by Hadrat Uthman toured various places and talked with the people. Three of them returned to Medina and reported to Hadrat Uthman that the conditions were normal. The fourth member of the mission Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir (R.A.) did not return. He was sent to Egypt where 'Abdullah bin Saba and his followers coaxed him and he started to live with them instead of returning to Medina.
Saba gets friends
'Abdullah bin Saba was in search of some important men who were having some influence over the Muslims. At last he won over three important figures. One among them was Hadrat 'Ammar bin Yasir, described above. The other two joined Ibn Saba before Hadrat 'Ammar. They were Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifah and Muhammad bin Abi Bakr. Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifah was an orphan and was brought up by Hadrat Uthman along with some other orphans. When he grew up he desired some big post. Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) did not consider him fit for that. So he left Medina and went to Egypt and ultimately joined Ibn Saba. Muhammad bin Abi Bakr(R.A.) was in debt. The creditor complained to the "Khalifah" who decided the case impartially in favour of the creditor as a result of which Muhammad bin Abi Bakr left Medina and came to Egypt and ultimately joined Ibn Saba.
Plan of the Sabaites
The Sabaites were planning to cause a general rising when the Governors were away to attend the conference. However the plot could not be carried out.
Kufa was the main centre of the Sabaites besides their headquarters in Egypt. The hooligans of Kufa tried to carry out the plan and did not allow the governor to enter the city when he returned from the conference. They demanded that Hadrat Musa Ash'ari should be appointed as the governor in place of Sa'd bin'As. Their request was granted and Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) sent Hadrat Musa Ash'ari to Kufa.
Then they chalked out another plan and decided that their ring leaders should meet at Medina. This plan had to serve double purpose. On the one hand they wanted to study the situation for future course of action, and on the other hand they wanted to show to the public that they put their grievances before the "Khalifah" but he did not pay any attention to them.
According to the plan three delegations came, one from Egypt, the second from Kufa and the third from Basrah. Hadrat Uthman was informed about their plan but he accepted it quietly. When these Sabaites entered Medina some Companions suggested to Uthman (R.A.) to kill them but he told that without sufficient legal grounds no man can be executed, and that 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 Allah's Will."
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) listened to them and gave a long address in which he replied to all the charges which were put against him. Some parts of his historical address are quoted here
"I have been accused of loving my kinsmen and to be unduly kind to them. It is not a sin to love one's relatives but I have never been unjust to other people because of my love of my relatives. Whatever I give them that is from my own pocket. I never spent anything on my relatives and kinsmen from public funds ......"
"It has been said that I have appointed comparatively young men as officers. I did it only because I found them abler for the cause of Islam. Nobody could deny their honesty and the work they rendered for the cause of Islam and the Muslims. The appointment of Usamah as the commander of the army by the Holy Prophet is proof that youth is no disqualification."
".... It has been alleged that I gave the whole booty of North Africa as reward to the governor of Egypt. It is true but when I learnt the public objection to it, I took back the money from the governor and deposited it in the "Baitul Mal"....."
"It is said that I have reserved the public pastures for my personal use. I swear by Allah that I never did it. In public pastures only those animals graze which are the property of the "Baitul Mal" (Public Treasury). All of you know that when I was entrusted with this office (i.e. caliphate) I had more animals than any one in the whole of Arabia but now I have only two camels that are to serve me at the time of Hajj. How could I reserve the public pastures for my personal use?......"
"People accuse me of sending copies of the Holy Qur'an. The Holy Qur'an is Allah's book sent down to His Prophet. The Companions who wrote it under the direct supervision of the Holy Prophet are still alive. I have sent only that copy of the Holy Qur'an which was compiled by those Companions.."
"It is said that I called Hakam to Medina who was exiled by the Holy Prophet. Actually the Holy Prophet exiled him from Mecca to Taif. Then the Holy Prophet had allowed him to live at Medina on my request. I only put into force the permission granted by the Holy Prophet himself...."
In this way Hadrat Uthman gave satisfactory explanation to all the allegations put against him by the Sabaites. In the end of his address he asked the audience
"Tell me if all what I have said is not correct."
But the aim of these ring leaders was to create mischief. They returned to their places and instead of telling the truth told them that the "Khalifah" was not ready to set things right. Then they planned to send strong contingents from places like Basrah, Kufa and Egypt for the forthcoming Hajj. The parties were to leave their places pretending to perform Hajj but there aim was to go to Medina and decide the matter with the sword i.e. to change the "Khalifah" by force. Though the "Khalifah" knew about this plan from before hand but he did not want to use force. He was determined to win over his enemies with love and compassion.
Martyrdom: Insurgents (Sabaites) enter Medina
As the time of Hajj in the year 35 A.H. (656 A.C.) came near they started to put their plans into action. In the month of Shawwal 35 A.H. they started coming in small groups from various places. In all about three thousand Sabaites came, one thousand from each place viz. Basrah, Kufa and Egypt. The groups from Basrah stayed at DhiKhashab, and those from Kufa stayed at A'was while the Egyptians stayed at Dhi-Murwah. All the three places are near Medina. All of them wanted Hadrat Uthman to step down but there was some difference of opinion regarding the next "Khalifah". Because of Ibn Saba, the Egyptians wanted Hadrat 'Ali (R.A.), but Kufites preferred Hadrat Zubair while Basrites were in favour of Hadrat Talha. The Egyptians came to Hadrat 'Ali and requested him to accept the "Khilafat". Hadrat 'Ali replied, "The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam) has told us that the parties of Dhi-Khashab, Dhi-Murwah and A'was are cursed. Every pious Muslim knows about it. I can't co-operate with you. Go back to your places." The insurgents from Kufa made the same request to Hadrat Zubair who also gave the same reply. The Basrites approached Hadrat Talha who also refused.
When Hadrat Uthman heard about the insurgents he sent some of the leading Companions including Hadrat 'Ali to them. Hadrat 'Ali assured the insurgents that their complaints would be listened to. They put certain demands including the dismissal of the governor of Egypt and appointment of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as the new governor. Hadrat Uthman acceded to their demand without any question. Then he gave a short address in which he said, "By Allah, for the cause of truth, 1 am ready to obey even a slave. I promise to fulfil your demands." Saying this tears rolled down the eyes of Hadrat Uthman, and the audience also wept.
Hadrat 'Ali (R.A.) then again assured the insurgents and they seemed to be satisfied and started to go back. All the Muslims at Medina thought that the trouble had ended.
The siege of Khalifah's house
A few days later the Medinites were surprised to hear shouts of "Revenge", "Revenge" in the streets of Medina. Hearing the shouts Hadrat ’Ali came out to enquire about the matter. The insurgents showed a letter to him under the seal of "Khalifah" and signed by Marwan bin Hakm, the chief secretary of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). The letter was being carried to the Governor of Egypt by a special messenger whom they intercepted on the way. The letter said; "Uqtul Muhammad bin Abu Bakr" (i.e. Kill Muhammad bin Abu Bakr) instead of "lqbil Muhammad bin Abu Bakr" (i.e. Accept Muhammad bin Abu Bakr as governor).
Note: It seems that the "Nuqtab "(dot) of Arabic letter "Ba" was wrongly placed at the top giving it a letter similar to another letter "Ta" due to which the meaning was totally changed. But 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 was a plot of insurgents and they produced a forget letter. For the reason given in the Glorious Caliphate by Athar Husain the letter was a clean forgery.
Hadrat'Ali tried to pacify them but they did not listen to him and went straight to Uthman, saying: “We do not want Uthman (R.A.) to be the Khalifah. Allah has made his blood lawful for us. You should also help us." Hadrat 'Ali said, "By Allah, I have nothing to do with you. It seems that you have hated a plot and are trying to carry it out."
When the insurgents went to Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) he took a solemn oath that he knew nothing about the letter. But they did not believe him and said, "Whether you wrote it or not, you are unfit to be the Khalifah and you must abdicate." They threatened to kill him on which Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) replied, "I do not fear death, but I do not want to shed Muslim blood."
When Hadrat'Ali saw that the insurgents were not in control and Hadrat Uthman did not want to use force against them, he left for Ahjar, a place few miles away from Medina, because his position was becoming difficult as the insurgents wanted to drag him in the dispute.
Afterwards the insurgents demanded Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) to give up the "Khilafat". He rejected their demand and said, "I can't take off the robe of honour with my own hands that Allah has bestowed upon me." Consequently the insurgents laid a siege to his house and did not allow him to come out except for offering Salats in the Masjid. But later on they did not allow him to come out even for the Salats. The siege went on for forty days. During the last few days they also stopped supply of water. Some brave Muslim youths like Hadrat Hasan, Husain, Muhammad bin Talha, 'Abdullah bin Zubair (R.A.) were guarding the gate of the house so that nobody among the insurgents could enter the house. Beside Hadrat Uthman and his wife, Nailah, Marwan bin Hakam was also in the house. He did not allow any person to fight with the insurgents although a fight took place between Hadrat Hasan, Husain and Marwan and the insurgents when they did not allow Umm-ul-mu'minin Hadrat Habibah (R.A.) to supply meals to Hadrat Uthman. Hadrat Hasan received minor injuries but Marwan was seriously hurt. However the insurgents did not fight with Hadrat Hasan and Husain because of the fear of Hashmites. During the siege Hadrat Uthman sent Abdullah bin ’Abbas to Mecca to lead the Hajj and also to inform people about the insurgents. He also sent messengers to provincial governors.
When hardship grew, some eminent Companions like Hadrat Mughirah bin Shu'bah requested the "Khalifah" to take action against the insurgents and said that all the people of Medina were ready to fight for him but he did not agree to shedding of blood of Muslims. Then they proposed that he should leave the house through the back door and either go to Mecca or to Damascus where he would be safer but he accepted neither of the proposals. The things got worse day by day, and at last the crisis arrived.
Martyrdom of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.)
The only weapon with Hadrat Uthman was his kindness and soft nature. He addressed several times the insurgents from the roof of his house and reminded them about his family relations with the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), and the services he had rendered to Islam but they never listened to him.
The insurgents were afraid that the Hajj was coming to an end and after the Hajj a number of supporters of the "Khalifah" would come to Medina. They decided therefore to assassinate him without delay. As stated before, they did not want to fight with Hashmites like Hadrat Hasan, Husain and 'Abdullah bin Zubair who were standing guard at the main gate of Hadrat Uthman's big residence. The reason not to fight with Hashmites was that they had incited a number of people against Banu Umayyah (Hadrat Uthman’s family) in favour of Banu Hashim (Hashmites). So the insurgents climbed the back walls of the house and entered the room where Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was reciting the Holy Qur'an.
On seeing Hadrat Uthman, one of the insurgents hit his head with an axe while the next struck him with a sword. His wife, Nailah tried to shield her husband but she also got several wounds and her fingers were chopped off. Chronicles record that Muhammad bin Abu Bakr was the leader of the assassins. He got hold of Hadrat Uthman’s beard and pulled it. On this Hadrat Uthman remarked, "0 my dear nephew if your father (Abu Bakr) were alive you would not have done this." The remarks of Hadrat Uthman cut him to the quick and he turned back and did not take part in the assassination.
After giving severe injuries to Hadrat Uthman, one af insurgents, an Egyptian named 'Amr bin Hamq cut off Khalifah's head.
Hadrat Uthman (Radiallahu 'Anhu) was assassinated on Friday, the 17th Dhul-Hijjah, 35 A.H. (the 17th July, 656 A.D.).
A great Martyr
Hadrat Uthman was a great martyr as prophesied in the following Hadith quoted by Bukhari and others
Hadrat Anas (R.A.) narrated that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), Abu Bakr,'Umar, and Uthman went up Uhud (the mountain near Medina) and when it quivered because of them the Holy Prophet kicked it with his foot and said, "Keep steady, 0 Uhud, for there are a prophet, a Siddiq and two martyrs on you."
In the above Hadith, Hadrat Abu Bakr had been said as the Siddiq (friend) while 'Umar and Uthman (R.A.) had been prophesied as the martyrs.
The news of martyrdom
The news of Hadrat Uthman's cruel assassination shocked everybody. Hadrat'Ali (R.A.) received the news when he was returning from Ahjar to see Hadrat Uthman. He was stunned on hearing the assassination of Hadrat Uthman and exclaimed, "0 Allah, You know it, I am free from any blame." He rebuked his sons Hasan and Husain (R.A.) and others who had stood guard at the gate for not being more alert.
After assassinating the Khalifah, the insurgents virtually took over charge of Medina. They also looted the "Baitul Mal". Medinites were afraid of them and did not come out of their houses. The corpse of the "Khalifah" could not be buried for two days. At last some Muslims in succeeded getting into the house and carried out the burial service. There were only 17 Muslims who participated in the 'Burial Prayers". Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was 82 years old at the time of his assassination and remained in the office of "Khilafas" for about 12 years. His words "I do not want to spill Muslim blood to save my own neck", will be remembered for ever in the history of Islam. He sacrificed his life to save Muslim blood.
Consequences of assassination
The assassination of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was unparalled in Islamic history and it had far reaching effects. Hadrat Hudhaifah (Rad.A) the secret keeper of Holy Prophet's prophecies remarked on hearing the assassination of Hadrat Uthman, "Ah, the assassination of Uthman has divided the Muslims till resurrection, they would never be united again." It proved to be true because just after the assassination civil war started and continued up to the tragedy of Karbala. At that time the Muslim community was divided into four groups
(i) Uthmanis: The Syrians and Basrites were in favour of capital punishment of the assassins. Syrians thought Hadrat Mu'awiyah the most suitable person to punish the assassins while the Basrites wanted the Khalifah from any of these two Talha or Zubair, as they were included in the panel appointed by Hadrat Umar to select the Khalifah.
(ii) Shi'an-i-'Ali: These people did not think Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) fit for "Khilafat" and called themselves as the "Shi ‘an-i-'Ali" i.e., the friends of ‘Ali. Kufans and some Egyptians were in this group. According to Sunni historians, the assassins were from amongst this group.
(iii) Murhibah: These were those people who were busy in "Jihad" (Holy Wars) at the time when Hadrat Uthman was assassinated. They said: "Neither we are with Uthmanis nor with Shi'as. We want to keep aloof from their differences."
(iv) Ahl-i-Sunnah wal Jama'ah: These were the bulk of the Companions and the Muslims of various parts of the Islamic state including Mecca, Medina and other parts of Arabia. They said, "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. If any of the Companions committed a mistake it was due to his "Ijtihad" (his disciplined verdict based upon the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet) and he would not be questioned for it. We follow the Sunnah (ways) of the Holy Prophet and the Sunnah (ways) of his righteous jama'ah (i.e. the group of ail the Companions).
The first and the third viz. Uthmanis and Murhibah proved to be temporary political groups but the other two viz. "Shi'as" and "Ahli Sunnah wal Jama'ah" or Sunnis took the shape of permanent theological groups and still exist.
Hearing the news of Hadrat Uthman's assassination Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas (R.A.), a prominent commentator of the Holy Qur'an remarked "Allah might have stoned us as He stoned the people of Lot if majority of the Muslims supported the assassinations of Hadrat Uthman."
Thamamah bin 'Adi (R.A.) the governor of Yemen started to cry and weep hearing the news of the assassination of Hadrat Uthman. Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Salam (R.A.), well versed in the past scriptures, said: "By Allah, the power of the Arabs has finished now." Hadrat 'Aisha (R.A.), the most beloved wife of the Holy Prophet, said, "Ah, Uthman has been assassinated most cruelly. His record of deeds is shining like a well washed cloth."
Hearing the news of the assassination Hadrat Abu Hurairah and Hadrat Zaid bin Thabit (R.A.) started to weep continuously and their tears did not stop for a long time.
The shirt of Hadrat Uthman, which was spotted with his blood, and the cut fingers of his wife, Nailah, were carried to Hadrat Amir Mu'awiyah (R.A.), the Governor of Syria, in Damascus. When they were shown to the Muslim public the whole gathering started to cry and shouted, "Revenge", "Revenge".
Mr. Joseph Hell, a Western historian says: "The assassination of Uthman was a signal for civil war." Mr. Wellhausen, a German historian says, "The murder of Uthman was more epoch-making than, almost any other event of Islamic history." Philip Hitti has remarked: "With Uthman's death the political unity of Islam came to an end. Soon Islam's religious unity was divided. Islamic society entered upon a period punctuated with schism and civil strife that has not yet ended." A Muslim historian, Prof. K. Ali, writes, "Unity of Islam which was maintained by the first two "Khalifahs" was lost and serious dissensions arose among the Muslims."
The assassination of Hadrat Uthman was followed by great civil wars and battles between the Muslims, the details of which would come later. The system of centralised government initiated by Hadrat ‘Umar and developed by Hadrat Uthman was shattered and a number of internal movements started of which the Kharijite's movement was the most serious.
Hadrat Uthman’s reign constituted a glorious period in the history of Islam. The territories of Islamic state (caliphate) were immensely extended. Though the conquests during his time were not so much in number as during the time of ‘Umar, nevertheless they were not few. He ruled over a vast part of the then known world, right from Kabul (Afghanistan) to Morocco. He put down the rebellions with an iron hand.
During Hadrat Uthman’s period Muslim naval force was developed and Muslims started naval victories. The victory over the huge naval force of Byzantine Empire comprising 500 ships has been termed as the Grand Victory.
After the capture of North African territories by Muslims and gaining full control over Mediterranean, the mighty power of Byzantine and Roman Empire had collapsed. Actually Islam was at the zenith of its glory during the period of Hadrat Uthman.
Official manuscript of the Holy Qur'an
One of the magnificent services to Islam done by Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was to safeguard any possible change in the codex of the Holy Qur'an. After the conquests by the Muslims hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, whose mother tongue was not Arabic, accepted Islam because of its teachings. Hadrat Hudhaifah (R.A.), one of the prominent Companions of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), went for "Jihad" (Holy War) during that time and noticed many differences in the manner of recitation (Qira't) of the Holy Qur'an. The Syrians recited in a way different from that of Kufis while the Kufis differed from Basris and so on. As a matter of fact these differences were due to the differences in the way of writing Arabic. Seeing this condition Hadrat Hudhaifah reported the matter to the Khalifah on his return from the "Jihad" and suggested that the Medinese codex should be regarded as authentic, i.e. the Holy Qur'an, which was written and compiled in Book form during the time of Hadrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) and was kept with Ummul-mumminin Hadrat Hafsah (R.A.). Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) took that Book from Hadrat Hafsah(R.A.) and canonised the Medinese codex. He asked Hadrat Zaid bin Thabit (R.A.), the person who wrote it during the time of Hadrat Abu Bakr, to make copies of the same with the help of some other Companions like Abdullah bin Zubair and Sa'd bin 'As etc. Then he ordered all other copies, beside the Medinese codex, to be burnt and destroyed throughout the State. Those people who earned their living in the provinces as the receptacles and expositors of the sacred text were not pleased with this act. It has been discussed before that such persons criticised Uthman for burning unauthentic texts. However for this great service Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) is famous as the "Jami'ul-Qur'an" (The compiler of the Qur'an).
Uthman (R.A.) as a great Scholar
Hadrat Uthman had a beautiful handwriting because of which the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam) appointed him as one of the scribes of the "Wahy" (Revelation).
His style of writing was well recognised among the Companions. Arabic knowing persons can recognise the fluency of his writings specially of the letters and the orders he sent to various officers during his Khilafat. Though he was not an orator but his way of lecturing was very effective. His addresses and lectures can be seen in history books.
Hadrat Uthman was a great scholar of the Holy Qur'an and was a "Hafiz"(i.e. the one who commits the whole Holy Book to memory). He was well versed in "Shan-i-Nuzul"i.e. the chronology of revelation of various verses and the chapters of the Holy Qur'an, and was considered an authority in this respect. He was one of the few Companions who excelled in deriving laws from the verses of the Holy Qur'an.
Although he was not a great jurist like ‘Umar and 'Ali (R.A.) nevertheless he was well qualified in this respect. His verdicts and judgements have been mentioned in books. He was considered an authority on the laws of Hajj. Even ‘Umar (R.A.) asked Uthman about that during his time.
Character and Piety
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) was a very pious Companion and a man of high character. He was the most modest of all the Companions. Once the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam) was sitting with some of his Companions and the shin of this leg was not covered. In the meantime somebody informed him about the arrival of Hadrat Uthman (R.A.). The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu'Alaihi wa Sallam) immediately covered it and remarked: "Even the angels have regard for the modesty of Uthman"
He was a strict follower of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam). Somebody asked him the reason for smiling after wudu. He replied he had seen the Holy Prophet smiling after making wudu, so he smiled to follow him. Once he demonstrated to Muslims the correct way of making wudu according to the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam).
He used to fear Allah very much. Tears used to roll down his face because of Allah's fear. Whenever the consequences to be faced in the grave were described before him, he used to weep so much that his beard could get wet with tears. Sometimes he wept and cried seeing a corpse or a grave because of fear of Allah. He used to say, "Grave is the first stage among all the stages of the Hereafter. If a person is successful there, he would be successful on the Day of Judgement too. If a person faces difficulty in the grave, other stages would also be difficult for him."
He used to do household work although he was one of the wealthiest persons in the whole of Arabia. He would not wake his slave to take any help from him when he got up to perform "Tahajjud" Salat.
Hadrat Uthman was very soft spoken. If any person talked to him in a harsh tone he always replied gently. Once he was delivering "Khutbah" of Jumu'a Salat, a person shouted during the Sermon: "O Uthman, repent for Allah’s sake and keep away from going wrong." He immediately turned his face towards the Qiblah and exclaimed, "0 Allah, I am the first to repent before Thee and to turn towards Thee."
He never took any allowance from the "Bait ul-Mal" for his services as a Khalifah. Hadrat ‘Umar got 5,000 darhams annually as an allowance from the Public Treasury, thus Hadrat Uthman contributed 60,000 Drahms after his 12 years service, towards the Public Fund.
Examples of his generosity have already been given. He was the most generous among all the wealthy Companions and never hesitated to spend his money for the cause of Islam and Muslims. His house was one of the biggest in Medina which he built near the mosque of the Holy Prophet. He established a library in the back of his house for the education of the Muslims.
Wives and Children
Hadrat Uthman was first married to the Holy Prophet's daughter, Hadrat Ruqayyah (R.A.) who died in Medina while the Holy Prophet was away on the expedition of Badr. Then he was married to the younger daughter of the Holy Prophet whose name was Hadrat Umm-i-Kulthum. She also died in the year 9 A.H. His first wife, Hadrat Ruqayyah bore him a son, Abdullah, who died at an early age. He had no child from Umm-i-Kulthum (R.A.).
After the death of his second wife Hadrat Umm-i-Kulthum, he married, the following ladies from time to time: Fakhtah bint Walid; Umm-i-'Amr bint Jundah; Fatimah bint Shaibah; Umm-i-Banin bint'Uwainah; Ramlah bint Shaibah; 'Aishah; Umm-i-Aban; and Nailah bint Farafsah, his last wife whose fingers were chopped by the insurgents.
Eleven sons were born to him from different wives. Some of them died at an early age. One of his sons, Aban became famous and held high positions during the Umayyads. He had six or seven daughters.
No use of Force against Civilians
Hadrat Uthman (R.A.) 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 civilisation. If studied from this point of view, it would be noted that Uthman (R.A.) was at the peak of modern democratic principles. It is unfortunate that the masses at that time were not trained for that highest form of democracy. They have had experienced in the past of the tyranny of Persian and Roman Emperors and their officers. However the base elements took advantage of the Islamic democratic principles and incited some of the Muslim population against the Khalifah. Hadrat Uthman used all the democratic principles, now prevailing in the modern society, to satisfy the insurgents. He gave before the public, full explanation of all the allegations brought against him, and the public was fully satisfied with his explanation. He acceded to the demands of the insurgents by appointing Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as the Governor of Egypt. But he did not resign because the majority of the Muslims were in his favour and only a few were the mischief-mongers. His words: "I do not want to spill Muslim blood to save my own neck" would be remembered for ever.