KhalifaUthman bin Ghani

The exact date of birth of Uthman is not known with any degree of certainty. There is also some controversy about the exact age attained by Uthman. When he died in 656 C.E. some said that he was eighty-five, while others said that he was eighty. There were some persons who held that he was only sixty-three.

Although the family of Uthman belonged to Makkah they had some property in Taif as well, and Uthman was born in Taif and not in Makkah. As Taif is a hill station, the presumption is that Uthman was born during the summer months of the year 576 C.E.

Uthman belonged to the Umayyad section of the Quraish. He was the son of Affan, who was the son of Abi Al A'as, who was the son of Umayyah, who was the son of Abd Shams, who was the son Abd Manaf.

The Holy Prophet was the son of Abdullah, who was the son of Abdul Muttalib, who was the son of Hashim, who was the son of Abd Manaf.

Abd Manaf was the common ancestor of the Holy Prophet as well as Uthman. Abd Shams and Hashim were the two sons of Abd Manaf. The Holy Prophet was descended from Hashim, while Uthman was a descendant of Abd Shams. The Holy Prophet was fourth in descent from Abd Manaf, while Uthman was fifth in descent from Abd Manaf. Affan the father of Uthman was thus a second cousin of the Holy Prophet, and Uthman was a nephew of the Holy Prophet.

On the mother's side Uthman's relationship with the Holy Prophet was still closer. His mother was Urwa. She was the daughter of Kariz, who was the son of Rabeah,who was the son of Habib who was the son of Abd Shams.

Urwa's mother was Umm Hakim who was a sister of the Holy Prophet's father. Urwa was thus a first cousin of the Holy Prophet. On this basis, Uthman was a nephew of the Holy Prophet both on the side of the father as well as the mother.

No account has been preserved about the early life of Uthman. Only a few stray facts can be gleaned from here and there and on the basis of this meager information, we can have some glimpses of the early life of Uthman.

Uthman was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His father Affan was a merchant and was counted as one of the richest men among the Quraish. Uthman was one of the few young men in Makkah who could read and write. This shows that as a child, Uthman received formal education.

Uthman spent the days of his childhood like other Arab children. One of the games played by the Arab children was to uncover themselves and carry stones in their shirts. One day when as a child Uthman had uncovered himself he heard a voice "Cover yourself". Uthman hastened to cover himself. Thereafter he never uncovered himself. Thus at an early age, Uthman developed the habit of modesty, and that remained his lifelong attribute.

Affan the father of Uthman died young when travelling abroad. Uthman was hardly twenty years old at the time of the death of his father. His father, however, left much wealth for him to inherit. Uthman followed the same profession as his father. His business flourished, and after a few years he became a millionaire, one of the richest men among the Quraish. For his wealth, Uthman came to be called "Uthman Ghani".

After the death of Affan, Urwa the mother of Uthman married Uqba bin Maheet. From the accounts that have come down to us it appears that Urwa had only two children from Affan, namely: Uthman and his sister Amna. She. bore Uqba three sons and one daughter, namely: Walid; Khalid;'Amr and Umm Kulthum.

It appears that during the age of ignorance, Uthman had two wives, namely Umm'Amr bint Jandab, and Fatimah bint Al Walid. Bint 'Amr was the mother of 'Amr, Khalid; Aban; Umar; and Maryam. Fatimah was the mother of Walid; Said; and 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 of medium stature, neither short, nor tall. He was of a comely aspect. His complexion was white with a yellowish tinge. There were faint marks of small pox on his face, which instead of disfiguring the comeliness of his appearance, added to his beauty. He was full bearded, and the beard looked well on his face. The locks of the hair of his head fell below his ears. He was large of limbs, broad between the shoulders; fleshy in the thighs; and long in the forearms. His teeth were most beautiful, and were bound with wires of gold.

Uthman was conspicuous for his strong moral character. He was handsome and wealthy, and many women were attracted to him, but he never touched a woman beyond wedlock. In the immoral society of Makkah in the age of ignorance, he led a chaste life. He never touched wine. He did not gamble, and took no part in the frivolities which formed the pastime of the youth of Makkah.

He was a good trader and made ample money out of trade, but he never resorted to unfair practices in trade. He was scrupulously honest, and believed in fair deal. He amassed considerable wealth through honest means. On account of his wealth he came to be known as "Ghan)". In spite of being a millionaire, his way of life was not that of a capitalist. He was a man of simple habits, and did not indulge in a luxurious way of life. He used a greater part of his wealth in helping those in distress. He had a flair for social work. He supported many poor families. He awarded liberal stipends to widows and orphans who had none to support them. He was soft spoken and kind hearted. He had a kind word for everyone who came across him. He patronized his relatives, and gave liberal aid to such relatives who were in straitened circumstances.

He enjoyed the friendship of Abu Bakr. Even in the pre-Islamic period he profited from the company of the Holy Prophet. He was much impressed with the personality of the Holy Prophet, and always sought his counsel and guidance. He did not worship the idols in the Kaaba. He had little faith in the superstitious practices in which the people of Makkah indulged. He felt that those who worshipped the idols merely groped in the dark. In his heart of hearts he felt that these lifeless idols could not be expected to control the destinies of mankind. He felt that the centre of power lay elsewhere. He had the inner conviction that someday the Truth would dawn in some manifest form.

He was an embodiment of modesty. In spite of his wealth there was no sense of pride in him. He never boasted of anything. He never tried to thrust his opinion on others. He believed in action rather than talk. There was a particular decorum and dignity about him. He was very particular that by his behaviour he did not offend anybody. On account of his endearing qualities of head and heart, he enjoyed great popularity among the people of Makkah.

As a trader, Uthman travelled frequently to Yemen, Syria, Abyssinia and elsewhere.

When Uthman came to Makkah, he came to know that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had declared his Prophetic mission. Uthman called on Abu Bakr, and they talked long about Muhammad (peace be on him). Abu Bakr told Uthman that he had taken the oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and he advised Uthman to do likewise, for verily Muhammad (peace be on him) was the Apostle of Truth. Abu Bakr took Uthman to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet welcomed Uthman, and told him of his experience in Mt. Hira, the visitation of the angel Gabriel, and the call to prophethood. Uthman felt thrilled on hearing this account. Uthman said that he had full faith in the Holy Prophet and believed in his mission. The Holy Prophet stretched his hand. Uthman grasped it in reverence, and declared "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet". After Abu Bakr, Uthman was the second person to be converted to Islam.

Because of his conversion to Islam, Uthman had to face another crisis. His wives refused to accept Islam, and Uthman separated himself from his wives. That was a matter of great grief for Uthman, but so great was his love for Islam that he felt no sacrifice too great in the cause of Islam. He felt distressed at the break up of his family life, but Islam was certainly more valuable for him.  

The Holy Prophet of Islam was much impressed with the sacrifice that Uthman had made in the cause of Islam, and he married his second daughter Ruqayya to Uthman. In the days of ignorance Ruqayya had been engaged to her cousin Utba son of Abu Lahb, an uncle of the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission Abu Lahb became hostile to him, and under his instructions Utba repudiated his engagement to the daughter of the Holy Prophet. Uthman and Ruqayya made a unique pair. Uthman was the most beautiful person among men, and Ruqayya was the most beautiful person among the women of Makkah.  

After marriage with Ruqayya, Uthman felt most happy. It was a happy union, and Uthman and Ruqayya were lost in the love of each other. That led to jealousies. The wives of Uthman felt very bitter at their separation from Uthman. The mother of Uthman and his other relatives felt unhappy at his marriage to a daughter of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Uthman and Ruqayya felt that the atmosphere in Makkah was not congenial. Uthman had already some business contacts in Abyssinia, and after a good deal of deliberation and consultation with the Holy Prophet, Uthman and Ruqayya decided to migrate to Abyssinia. On their departure the Holy Prophet prayed for their safety and protection. He said that after the Prophet Lot, Uthman was the first to migrate with his family in the way of Allah. After Uthman and his wife had left for Abyssinia, some other Muslims also left for Abyssinia. The Negus of Abyssinia welcomed the emigrants, and provided them with all necessary facilities for their stay in his dominions. The Quraish sent a delegation to Abyssinia to prevail upon the Negus to expel the Muslims from his State. The Negus heard the Quraish as well as the Muslims, and refused to oblige the Quraish by expelling the Muslims. The Quraish delegation saw Uthman, and prevailed upon him to return to Makkah, but they failed in their object.  

For long the Holy Prophet got no news about Uthman and Ruqayya, and he got worried about their welfare. A Quraish woman came from Abyssinia to Makkah. The Holy Prophet inquired from her about the welfare of Uthman and Ruqayya. She said that she had seen Ruqayya riding a pony and Uthman walking by her side. She added that Uthman and Ruqayya were doing well in Abyssinia.  

A son was born to Uthman and Ruqayya in Abyssinia. They named him Abdullah. Henceforward Uthman came to be known by the surname of Abu Abdullah. A colony of the Muslims had sprung up in Abyssinia. Uthman was most popular with the Muslims, and he provided liberal aid to such Muslims who were poor or in distressed circumstances.

To Uthman belongs the unique honour of having married two daughters of the Holy Prophet, one after the other. For this rare distinction he was called "Dhun-Nurain" the possessor of two lights.

Towards the close of the year 625, the Holy Prophet married Hafsa, and Uthman was married to Umm Kulthum the third daughter of the Holy Prophet. While still a child she was engaged to Utaibah a son of Abu Lahb, an uncle of the Holy Prophet. When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Abu Lahb opposed him, and under his instructions his son Utaibah repudiated his engagement to Umm Kulthum.  

When the Holy Prophet married Umm Kulthum to Uthman, he said to her, "Verily, your husband resembles most among men your forefather Abraham, and your father Muhammad". Ibn Asakir has recorded on the authority of lbn Umar that the Holy Prophet said," I find a resemblance in Uthman to my forefather Abraham".  

Uthman's union with Umm Kulthum was as happy as that of the union between Uthman and Ruqayya. Unfortunately such happiness was short lived, and Umm Kulthum died in 630 barely six years after her marriage. Umm Kulthum bore no child. Ruqayya left a son Abdullah, but he died two years after the death of his mother.

After the death of Umm Kulthum; Uthman once again became a victim of despair and disconsolation. Touched by the sadness of Uthman, the Holy Prophet asked the people:  

"Give your daughters in marriage to Uthman. If I had a third daughter, I would assuredly give her in marriage to him. I have never wedded any daughter to him save under inspiration."  

Thereafter Uthman married a number of wives, but the memories of his union with Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum always remained fresh in his mind. He felt sorry that he could not enjoy the company of the daughters of the Holy Prophet for long,

When Umar died, both Ali and Uthman wanted to lead the funeral prayer. Abdul Rahman b Auf, however, advised that as both of them were candidates for the office of the Caliph they should not lead such prayer. The funeral prayers were accordingly led by Suhaib, the man who had been authorised by Umar to lead the ordinary prayers. Umar was put in the grave by all the five members of the Selection Committee constituted by him.  

Immediately after the burial of Umar, the Selection Committee constituted by him to nominate his successor met in session. The Committee had a long session for two days, but it was unable to arrive at any decision. The differences among the parties were acute, and no reconciliation appeared to be in sight.

Uthman was elected as the third Caliph. That was the first day of the year 24 A.H.

During the caliphate of Uthman as many as five thousand new mosques were constructed. Uthman enlarged, extended, and embellished the Prophet's mosque at Madina. He enlarged and extended the Holy Kaaba as well. With the expansion in army, the cantonments were extended and enlarged. More barracks were constructed for the soldiers. 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. More and more markets were constructed. Uthman appointed Market Officers to look after markets.  

Umar had placed restriction on the purchase of agricultural lands in conquered territories. Uthman withdrew this restriction. The Arabs purchased lands in conquered territories and exchanged them with lands in Arabia. Big landed estates came to be established in Arabia, Iraq and elsewhere. In Iraq, Egypt and Persia numerous canals were dug which stimulated the process of agricultural development.  

In the cities, particular attention was directed towards the provision of water supply. In Madina, a number of wells were dug to provide drinking water for the people. The water supply in Makkah was also improved. Water was brought to Kufa and Basra by canals.  

In the month of Shawwal, a contingent of about 1,000 persons was sent from Egypt to Madina. These persons travelled in four separate groups, and gave out that they were going to perform the Hajj. They were fully armed, and their instructions were to overthrow the government of Uthman, and to murder him. The contingent was led by Amir Ghafqi b Harb. Ibn Saba accompanied the contingent as their general adviser.  

Reaching the neighbourhood of Madina the contingent from Egypt encamped at Dhil Marwah. The contingent from Basra encamped at Dukhshab, while the contingent from Kufa encamped at Ahwas. From these camps the contingents sent their representatives to one another for mutual consultation. They also sent their representatives to Madina 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. Ali turned down their offer. The representatives of the contingent from Kufa waited on Zubair, while the representatives of the contingent from Basra waited on Talha, and offered them their allegiance as the next Caliph. These offers were turned down. This move on the part of the rebels neutralized the bulk of public opinion in Madina. Madina could no longer offer a united front; it became a divided house. Uthman could enjoy the active support of the Umayyads, and a few other persons in Madina. The rest of the people of Madina chose to be neutral and help neither side. That was a big gain for the rebels. After surveying the situation in Madina, the rebels felt satisfied that the circumstances were favorable to the launching of their campaign for overthrowing the government of Uthman.

Uthman addressed the people in the Prophet's mosque; admitted his mistakes; prayed for the forgiveness of Allah and the people; and undertook to make amends within three days. It is said that on this occasion Uthman wept and the audience wept with him. The accounts continue that under the influence of Marwan b Hakam Uthman retracted from his repentance, and did not make any amends. Uthman and Ali had another meeting at which Ali accused Uthman of breach of faith. Ali felt deeply annoyed, and said that that was the parting of ways between them.  

The accounts that have come down to us continue that when the rebels from Egypt proceeded a few stages from Madina they came across a slave of Uthman who was carrying a letter of Uthman to the Governor of Egypt commanding him not to give effect to the orders regarding his deposition, arrest the rebels and execute them. That made the rebels return to Madina. The rebels from Kufa and Basra returned likewise. It is stated that the rebels brought this breach of faith on the part of Uthman to the notice of the leaders of public opinion in Madina and invoked their assistance. Uthman admitted that the letter bore his official seal, but he denied all knowledge about the contents of the letter. It was contended that the letter was in the handwriting of Marwan. Marwan was however never confronted with the letter, and the accounts recorded in histories leave the matter about the contents of the letter unresolved.

Ten distinctions

It is recorded on the authority of Abu Thaur al Fahami that he visited Uthman when he was besieged, and Uthman referred to his ten distinctions vis-a-vis Islam, namely:

1.    He was one of the first four converts to Islam.  

2.    He had the distinction of marrying two daughters of the Holy Prophet.  

3.    He had not applied his hand to worldly use since he had offered allegiance to the Holy Prophet.  

4.    He liberated a slave every week.  

5.    He never committed fornication.  

6.    He never committed a sin.  

7.    He preserved the text of the Holy Quran.  

8.    He was one of the ten persons who were given the tidings of paradise during their lifetime.  

9.    He freely spent his wealth in the way of Allah.  

10.  The Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar were happy with him.

 

The rebels increased their pressure, and reaching the door of the house of Uthman set it on fire. Some rebels led by Muhammad b Abu Bakr climbed the houses of the neighbours and then jumped into the house of Uthman. It was the seventeenth day of July in the year 856 C.E. uthman was keeping the fast that day. The previous night he had seen the Holy Prophet in a dream. The Holy Prophet had said, "Uthman, break your fast with us this evening. We will welcome you". That made Uthman feel that it was his last day of life. He prepared himself for death. He sat reading the Holy, Quran, and his wife Naila sat by his side. Some rebels entered the room of Uthman, but they could not dare murder the Caliph. Then Muhammad b Abu Bakr entered the room and held the beard of Uthman. Uthman said that he was like a nephew to him, and he would be false to the memory of his father Abu Bakr if he contemplated any violence against him. That made Muhammad b Abu Bakr waver in his resolve, and he walked out of the room. Seeing this some of the rebels entered the room, and struck blows at the head of Uthman. Naila threw herself on the body of Uthman to protect him. She was pushed aside, and further blows were struck on Uthman till he was dead. From God he had come and to God he returned. He died while keeping the fast, and true to his dream he broke the fast in the company of the Holy Prophet that evening.  

Even after the gruesome murder of Uthman, the rioters did not feel satisfied that they had taken the full revenge. They wanted to mutilate the dead body of Uthman. They were also keen that the dead body was denied burial. When some of the rioters came forward to mutilate the dead body of Uthman, his two widows covered the dead body, and raised loud lamentations which deterred the rioters from pursuing their nefarious design. Thereafter the rioters hovered round the house with a view to preventing the dead body being carried to the graveyard.

 The dead body of Uthman lay in the house for three days. Naila the wife of Uthman approached some of the supporters of Uthman to help in the burial of Uthman. Only about a dozen persons responded to the call. The dead body was lifted at dusk. In view of the blockade no coffin could be procured. The dead body was not washed as water was not available. Uthman was carried to the graveyard in the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his assassination. The dead body was carried to "Baqi' al Farqad", the graveyard of Muslims. It appears that some persons gathered there, and they resisted the burial of Uthman in the graveyard of the Muslims. The supporters of Uthman insisted that the dead body would be buried in the graveyard of the Muslims. 



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