Uthman bin Affan RA belonged to a noble family of Quraish in Makkah. His ancestral pedigree joins with that of the Holy Prophet PBUH in the fifth generation. He was from the “Umayyah” family of Quraish, which was a well reputed and honourable family of Makkah during the pre-Islamic days. The descendants of this family are known as “Banu Umayyah” or “Umawwin”.
Usman RA was born in 573 A.C. He was one of the few persons of Makkah who knew reading and writing. He was one of the scribes of the “Wahy” (Revelation) and also used to write other documents (letters and messages etc.) of the Prophet PBUH.
He was a rich cloth merchant. He used his money in good causes and always helped the poor. Usman 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 ameliorate his misery. He was deeply regarded for his righteousness among the Makkans.
Acceptance of Islam
Abu Bakr As-Siddique RA introduced Islam to Usman RA which he readily accepted. He was one of those Muslims who accepted Islam in its very early days. The moment Usman RA stepped in the folds of Islam, calamities befell him. The Quraish, who loved Usman, became his enemies.
Emigration to Abyssinia
When life in Mecca became hard for the Muslims, Usman RA went to the Prophet PBUH to seek permission to migrate to Abyssinia by virtue of protecting his faith along with other Muslims. The permission was granted. Usman RA and his wife, Ruqaiyyah bint Rasoolillah, crossed the Red Sea with other Muslims and migrated to Abyssinia. At the time of his migration, Prophet PBUH said: “Usman 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 Makkah when he was misinformed by somebody that the Quraish had accepted Islam.
Uthman RA gets the title of “Dhun-nurain”
Usman RA re-migrated to Madinah with other Muslims. Due to his wife’s illness he could not participate in the first battle of Islam against non-believers at Badr. Eventually, she died before the victorious Muslims returned from Badr. The Prophet PBUH gave him glad tidings that he would get the same reward as though he had participated in the battle. After the death of Ruqayyah RA, the Prophet PBUH married his next daughter, “Umm Kulthum” with him and he was given the title of “Dhun-nurain” i.e., the possessor of two lights. Later on when Umm Kulthum RA also passed, the Prophet said that if he had more daughters, he would have wed them to Usman RA.
Treaty of Hudaibiyah
The Prophet PBUH chose Usman RA as a representative from the Muslim camp to negotiate with the pagans of Makkah at the time of the “Treaty of Hudaibiyah”. The rumour had spread that the pagans had executed him. Prophet PBUH immediately gathered his men and sought their pledge to fight Usman’s murderers. This historic event is remembered as “Bai’at al-Ridwan” (the Pledge of Ridwan). Prophet represented his left hand as Usman’s hand for the pledge. But this rumour proved unfounded.
When the Muhajirun (Emigrants) migrated to Medina, they encountered great deal of difficulty in fetching drinking water. Usman RA bought a well named “bi’r-i-Rumah” from a Jew for twenty thousand dirham for free use of Muslims. That was the first big charity made in the history of Islam. Prophet PBUH gave him the glad tidings of Paradise for this act.
Usman was always ready to help the cause of Islam in whatever way possible. Islam began to spread and Masjid an Nabawi was too small to accommodate the increasing population of Muslims. Therefore, Prophet expressed the desire to extend the Masjid. Usman was the one who responded to Prophet’s call by buying and donating the land for expansion.
Who can forget the generosity of Usman at the time of Tabuk expedition? He singlehandedly bore the expense of one third of the army. The Prophet PBUH remarked on this saying, “Nothing will do any harm to Usman from this day, whatever he does.”
Usman RA elected as the third Khalifa (Caliph)
Usman RA was one among the six members appointed by Umar RA for the post of next Khalifa of Muslims. The other five were Ali, Saa’d bin Abi Waqqas, Talha, Zubair and ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf (Ridwanullah-i-‘Alaihim).
The panel could not arrive at any decision even after long meetings and discussion. 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. He consulted each member individually except Talha RA who was not present at Madina. It so happened that Uthman proposed Ali’s name and Ali proposed Uthman’s name for the post of Khalifa. But Zubair and Sa’d were more in favour of Uthman than Ali. After more consultations with other companions and thinking over the problem during the third night, ‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf RA gave his decision in the morning of the fourth day in favour of Uthman RA to be the third Caliph of Muslims.
Internal Disorder: Introductory Note
Usman’s RA caliphate could be understood in two phases. The first phase which lasted for 8-9 years was very peaceful. During this time the Muslims gained many victories, and the caliphate extended to a vast area of the then known world. But the later part i.e. 2-3 years was marred by a terrible internal strife eventually leading to the murder of the caliph himself. Usman RA was a very gentle and soft-hearted person. The people who wanted to create chaos among the Muslims took advantage of his soft nature and did what they did. Due to his tender nature Usman RA sometimes overlooked the faults of the governors and other officers in various provinces, though he himself devoted a total submission to the ways of the Prophet PBUH and his two successors. 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.
It would not be out of place here to mention that a large number of people were coming to the fold of Islam during that time. Their belief was not as strong as the belief of the earlier Muslims. They could be easily swayed by people who wanted to create mischief. The enemies of Islam were in search of a suitable occasion to work against Islam and the Muslims. They got the desired opportunity and succeeded in hatching a plot for this and sent out their men to disturb the peace and to spread false news. Due to the constraint of space and our blog’s policy of keeping to a strict word limit, it would be extremely difficult to write down the whole conspiracy. However, the whole conspiracy was the wickedness of Abdullah Bin Saba, a clever Yemenite Jew who had accepted Islam to destabilize and sow the seeds of discord among the vast Muslim empire.
Insurgents (Sabaites) enter Madinah
It was the season of Hajj in the year 35 A.H. (656 A.C.), the people of Abdullah bin Saba started to put their plan 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. These people stayed at three different places at the fringes of Madina. All of them wanted Hadrat Uthman to step down but there was some difference of opinion regarding the next “Khalifa”. These different groups approached Ali, Zubayr and Talha to become the Khalifa, but all of them strongly refused their offers.
When Uthman RA heard about the insurgents, he sent some of the leading Companions including Hadrat ‘Ali to them. Hadrat ‘Ali assured the insurgents that their grievances would be addressed. They put certain demands including the dismissal of the governor of Egypt and appointment of Muhammad bin Abi Bakr as the new governor. Uthman RA acceded to their demand without any question. Then he gave a short address in which he said, “By Allah, for the cause of truth, I am ready to obey even a slave. I promise to fulfil your demands.” Saying these tears rolled down the eyes of Uthman RA, and the audience also wept.
Hadrat ‘Ali RA 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 Khalifa’s house
A few days later the Medinites were surprised to hear shouts of “Revenge”, “Revenge” in the streets of Medina. Hearing the shouts Ali RA came out to enquire about the matter. The insurgents who were shouting showed a letter to him under the seal of “Khalifa” and purportedly signed by Marwan bin Hakm, the chief secretary of Uthman RA. The letter allegedly carried instructions to kill Muhammad bin Abu Bakr. Historians believe that this was a forged letter to create confusion, chaos and ‘fitna’ in the Islamic State. Having known the life history of Uthman and the high esteem in which the Prophet PBUH held him, it is not even possible for a right thinking Muslim to attach such malafide intentions to him.
Ali RA tried to pacify them but they did not listen to him and went straight to Ali, saying: “We do not want Uthman RA to be the Khalifa. Allah has made his blood lawful for us. You should also help us.” ‘Ali’s responded, “By Allah, I have nothing to do with you. It seems that you have hatched a plot and are trying to carry it out.”
The insurgents were hell bent on killing Usman RA even after 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 Khalifa and you must abdicate.” They threatened to kill him on which Usman RA replied, “I do not fear death, but I do not want to shed Muslim blood.”
When Ali saw that the insurgents were not in control and 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 Usman RA 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 Salah in the Masjid. But later on they did not allow him to come out even for the Salah. 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 and ‘Abdullah bin Zubayr RA were guarding 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. Uthman 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 RA to supply meals to Uthman RA. 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 Mughirah bin Shu’bah requested the “Khalifa” 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 bloodshed of Muslims and that too in Madina. Then they proposed that he should leave the house through the back door and either go to Makkah 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 aggravated.
The only weapon with Uthman RA was his kindness and soft nature. He addressed the insurgents several times from the roof of his house and reminded them about his family relations with the Prophet PBUH, 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 “Khalifa” would come to Medina. They decided therefore to assassinate him without delay. So the insurgents climbed the back walls of the house and entered the room where Usman RA 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. He got hold of Hadrat Uthman’s beard and pulled it. On this Hadrat Uthman remarked, “O my dear nephew if your father (Abu Bakr) were alive you would not have done this.” The remarks of 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 of insurgents, an Egyptian named ‘Amr bin Hamq cut off Khalifa’s head.
Uthman RA was assassinated on Friday, the 17th Dhul-Hijjah, 35 A.H. (the 17th July, 656 C.E).