Date of birth of Usman (R.A)
The exact date of birth of Usman is not known with any degree of certainty. There is also some controversy about the exact age attained by Usman. 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.
The Holy Prophet died at the age of sixty-three. Abu Bakr died at the same age. The age of Umar at the time of his martyrdom was also around sixty-three. The age of sixty-three thus acquired a particular sanctity among the Muslims, and this age was attributed by some persons to Usman merely as a mark of sanctity.
The weight of available evidence is to the effect that Usman was eighty years old at the time of his martyrdom. On this basis it can be computed that Usman was born around 576 C.E. That was six years after the “Year of the Elephant” the year when Abraha the Christian Viceroy of Yemen invaded Makkah, and had to withdraw having failed in his object. Usman was younger than the Holy Prophet of Islam by five or six years.
Although the family of Usman belonged to Makkah they had some property in Taif as well, and Usman was born in Taif and not in Makkah. As Taif is a hill station, the presumption is that Usman was born during the summer months of the year 576 C.E.
The family of Usman
Usman 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 Usman. Abd Shams and Hashim were the two sons of Abd Manaf. The Holy Prophet was descended from Hashim, while Usman was a descendant of Abd Shams. The Holy Prophet was fourth in descent from Abd Manaf, while Usman was fifth in descent from Abd Manaf. Affan the father of Usman was thus a second cousin of the Holy Prophet, and Usman was a nephew of the Holy Prophet.
On the mother’s side Usman’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, Usman was a nephew of the Holy Prophet both on the side of the father as well as the mother.
Early life of Usman
No account has been preserved about the early life of Usman. 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 Usman.
Usman 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. Usman was one of the few young men in Makkah who could read and write. This shows that as a child, Usman received formal education.
Usman 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 Usman had uncovered himself he heard a voice “Cover yourself”. Usman hastened to cover himself. Thereafter he never uncovered himself. Thus at an early age, Usman developed the habit of modesty, and that remained his lifelong attribute.
It is related that while young, Usman once traveled with his father to Yemen. They were accompanied by Abdul Rahman b Auf and his father. When they returned they carried the money of a man of B. Jadhima Amir who had died in Yemen, to his heirs. One man Khalid b Hisham met them in the Jadhima territory before they could get to the family of the dead man who demanded the money. They refused to pay the money to Khalid b Hisham. That led to fighting in which Auf the father of Abdul Rahman, and al Fakih b al Mughira were killed. Usman and his father succeeded in escaping from the Banu Jadhima territory. The Quraish of Makkah thereupon planned to attack the Banu Jadhima, but the Banu Jadhima paid the compensation and the blood money, and the dispute was settled.
Affan the father of Usman died young when travelling abroad. Usman was hardly twenty years old at the time of the death of his father. His father, however, left much wealth for him to inherit. Usman 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, Usman came to be called “Usman Ghani”.
After the death of Affan, Urwa the mother of Usman married Uqba bin Maheet. From the accounts that have come down to us it appears that Urwa had only two children from Affan, namely: Usman 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, Usman 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 Usman, and during the pre-Islamic period, Usman was known by the surname of Abu’Amr.
Physical appearance of Usman
Usman enjoyed fame as one of the most beautiful men in Makkah
In his book History of the Caliphs, Jalaluddin Suyuti records on the authority of Ibn Asakir that Usman 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.
Abdullah b Hazm al Mazini said about him that he had never seen a man of more beautiful face than that of Usman.
Musa b Talha is reported to have said that Usman was the most comely of men.
Personal character of Usman
Usman 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 every one 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 center of power lay elsewhere. He had the inner conviction that some day 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 behavior he did not offend any body. On account of his endearing qualities of head and heart, he enjoyed great popularity among the people of Makkah.
As a trader, Usman traveled frequently to Yemen, Syria, Abyssinia and elsewhere. In the year 610, Usman went as usual with a trading caravan to Syria. This year the business of Usman had been particularly brisk, and he had earned a huge profit. On the return journey the caravan halted for the night at a way side station between Zarqa and Ma’an in Syria. As Usman lay on his bed beneath the star-studded sky, he felt impressed with the vastness and dimensions of space. He thought that the universe with such vast dimensions could not be without a master. In his heart of hearts he felt that some transcendent Being would surely be the master of the universe complex. While he was thus lost in thoughts, and was half-awake and half asleep, he heard a voice, “O, you who are asleep, wake up, for in Makkah the Prophet Ahmad has appeared”. Usman looked around, but there was no body to be seen. The voice that Usman had heard was not a human voice: it appeared to come from outer space.
Conversion to Islam
When Usman came to Makkah, he came to know that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had declared his Prophetic mission. Usman called on Abu Bakr, and they talked long about Muhammad (peace be on him). Usman told Abu Bakr of the voice that he had heard while travelling in Syria. Abu Bakr told Usman that he had taken the oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and he advised Usman to do likewise, for verily Muhammad (peace be on him) was the Apostle of Truth. Abu Bakr took Usman to the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet welcomed Usman, and told him of his experience in Mt. Hira, the visitation of the angel Gabriel, and the call to prophethood. Usman felt thrilled on hearing this account. He told the Holy Prophet of the voice that he had heard in the course of his journey in Syria telling of the advent of a Prophet at Makkah. Usman said that he had full faith in the Holy Prophet and believed in his mission. The Holy Prophet stretched his hand. Usman grasped it in reverence, and declared “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet”. After Abu Bakr, Usman was the second person to be converted to Islam.
Reaction to the conversion of Usman
The conversion of Usman to Islam led to a violent reaction. There was already outstanding rivalry between the Umayyah and the Hashimite sections of the Quraish, and the Umayyads could not tolerate that a young man of the house of the Umayyah should owe allegiance to the prophethood of a scion of the house of Hashim. Affan the father of Usman was dead by this time, and Hakam b Al A’as, an uncle of Usman was the head of the family. Hakam was a neighbor of the Holy Prophet, and when he came to know that his nephew had been converted to Islam he was infuriated, and he took Usman to task. He bound Usman with a cord, and wanted him to repudiate his allegiance to the Holy Prophet. When Urwa the mother of Usman came to know of his conversion to Islam, she was very bitter, and exhorted Usman to recant and return to the faith of his forefathers. The stepfather of Usman, Upba b Abi Muheet whom Urwa the mother of Usman had married after the death of Affan was in the forefront in the opposition to Islam. Usman was warned that unless he recanted from his faith in Islam, he would have to suffer serious consequences. Usman remained firm in his resolve. He told all concerned that he was prepared to face the consequences but he could not abandon Islam which was the way of Truth.
Triumph of Usman
In this ordeal, Usman remained steadfast and firm. He did not waver for a moment in his faith in Islam. On the other hand, the greater the pressure on him, the greater became his faith in Islam. Seeing that nothing could deter Usman from his faith in Islam, his uncle left him to himself. His mother gave expression to her annoyance by enforcing a boycott against him. In this ordeal two persons in the family supported the cause of Usman. Out of these one was Saadi, a maternal aunt of Usman, and a sister of Urwa. The other was Umm Kulsum, a step-sister of Usman, a daughter of Urwa from Uqba bin Abi Muheet.
Saadi was a poetess and she composed some verses praising the stand of Usman. She said:
“Allah called the noble souled Usman to the right way,And he swore allegiance to Muhammad, the Prophet of God. Verily, Allah guides those whom He likes to the Truth”.
Umm Kulsum in spite of the strong opposition of her parents accepted Islam. The Holy Prophet married her to his adopted son Zaid b Harith. She thus became a daughter-in-law of the Holy Prophet.
Marriage with Ruqayya
Because of his conversion to Islam, Usman had to face another crisis. His wives refused to accept Islam, and Usman separated himself from his wives. That was a matter of great grief for Usman, 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 Usman had made in the cause of Islam, and he married his second daughter Ruqayya to Usman. 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. Usman and Ruqayya made a unique pair. Usman was the most beautiful person among men, and Ruqayya was the most beautiful person among the women of Makkah.
On the marriage of Usman and Ruqayya, Saadi the maternal aunt of Usman composed some verses. She said:
“Usman the noble souled became a Muslim; And Muhammad the Prophet of Islam married him to his daughter; Thus, the moon and the sun were united; O son of Banu Hashim, to you I pay my tribute; You are undoubtedly the Messenger of Allah, Sent for the guidance of mankind”.
In his book History of the Caliphs, Jalaluddin Suynti tells an anecdote highlighting the comeliness of the Usman-Ruqayya pair. It is related that one day the Apostle of God sent Usama b Zaid to the house of Usman with a dish of meat. Usama was then a child of six or seven years. He says that some time he looked at Ruqayya and some time at Usman, and wondered at their beauty. Usama relates that on return from the house of Usman, the Holy Prophet asked him, “Have you ever seen a more comely pair than Usman and Ruqayya”? Usama said “Never, O Apostle of Cod”.
Migration to Abyssinia
After marriage with Ruqayya, Usman felt most happy. It was a happy union, and Usman and Ruqayya were lost in the love of each other. That led to jealousies. The wives of Usman felt very bitter at their separation from Usman. The mother of Usman and his other relatives felt unhappy at his marriage to a daughter of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Usman and Ruqayya felt that the atmosphere in Makkah was not congenial. Usman had already some business contacts in Abyssinia, and after a good deal of deliberation and consultation with the Holy Prophet, Usman 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, Usman was the first to migrate with his family in the way of Allah. After Usman 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 Usman, and prevailed upon him to return to Makkah, but they failed in their object.
For long the Holy Prophet got no news about Usman 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 Usman and Ruqayya. She said that she had seen Ruqayya riding a pony and Usman walking by her side. She added that Usman and Ruqayya were doing well in Abyssinia.
In Abyssinia, Usman followed the profession of a trader. He worked hard, and although there were some difficulties at the outset, these were soon overcome, and the business of Usman flourished. A son was born to Usman and Ruqayya in Abyssinia. They named him Abdullah. Henceforward Usman came to be known by the surname of Abu Abdullah. A colony of the Muslims had sprung up in Abyssinia. Usman was most popular with the Muslims, and he provided liberal aid to such Muslims who were poor or in distressed circumstances.
Return to Makkah
After two years, a news spread among the Muslims in Abyssinia that the Quraish of Makkah had accepted Islam. That made Usman, Ruqayya, and some other Muslims return to Makkah. When these Muslims reached Makkah it transpired that the news about the Quraish having accepted Islam was false. Some of the Muslims who had come from Abyssinia returned there, but Usman and Ruqayya decided to stay in Makkah.
In Makkah, Usman had to start his business afresh. The contacts that he had established in Abyssinia stood in good stead and the business of Usman prospered. Although the number of the Muslims steadily grew, there was no relaxation in the persecution of the Muslims by the Quraish. The family of Usman continued their pressure, but Usman’s faith in Islam was too firm to know of any wavering. In the persecution of the Muslims, Uqba b Abi Muheet, the step-father of Usman (the man his mother had married) was in the forefront. One day Uqba put his sheet round the neck of the Holy Prophet, while he was praying in the Kaaba, and tried to strangle him. Abu Bakr and Usman rushed to the aid of the Holy Prophet, and frustrated the evil design of Uqba.
In Makkah, Usman spent most of his time in the company of the Holy Prophet. He liberally helped such Muslims who were poor. He liberated some Muslim slaves.
When the Holy Prophet and the members of the Banu Hashim were shut up in the valley outside Makkah as a consequence of social boycott by the Quraish, Usman took steps to ensure that there was no break in the supply of provisions to the besieged persons. Usman exercised his influence on the youth among the Quraish to create an opinion in favor of the lifting of the boycott.
When after the lifting of the boycott, the Holy Prophet had his experience of the “Miraj” (ascension), there were some persons who were skeptical about it. Abu Bakr and Usman, however, believed in letter as well as in spirit what the Holy Prophet said.
When in 622 C.E., the Holy Prophet advised the Muslims to migrate to Yathrib, Usman migrated to Yathrib with his wife Ruqayya. Usman was among the few Muslims who undertook two migrations in the cause of Allah, once to Abyssinia and for the second time to Yathrib.
To Usman belongs the unique honor 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.
After his conversion to Islam, Usman was married by the Holy Prophet to his second daughter Ruqayya. Usman migrated with Ruqayya to Abyssinia. He returned from Abyssinia and then migrated with his wife to Yathrib in 622. In Yathrib renamed Madina, Usman carried on his business as a merchant. His business flourished, and Usman and Ruqayya lived on happily for sometime in Madina. Such happiness was however short-lived. In 624 C.E. Ruqayya fell ill and died when the Holy Prophet and the Muslims were fighting with the Quraish at the battlefield of Badr. The news of the Muslim victory of Badr was received at Madina when the good lady was being buried. The Holy Prophet could not attend the funeral of Ruqayya.
Hafsa was the daughter of Umar. She was married to Khunays. Khunays was wounded in the battle of Uhud. The wounds proved fatal and he died soon after. Hafsa became a widow at a young age, and Umar felt much worried about her marriage.
After the death of Ruqayya, Usman felt much distressed and disconsolate. Umar saw Usman and dropped hints for offering Hafsa to him in marriage. Usman did not respond favorably to the proposal. He said that after the death of Ruqayya he was too upset to think of another marriage.
Umar saw the Holy Prophet, and complained against the conduct of Usman. The Holy Prophet consoled Umar and said,”Umar, do not worry. Hafsa would get a better husband than Usman, and Usman would get a better wife than Hafsa”.
Towards the close of the year 625, the Holy Prophet married Hafsa, and Usman 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 Usman, 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 Usman to my forefather Abraham”.
Usman’s union with Umm Kulthum was as happy as that of the union between Usman 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.
Other marriages of Usman
After the death of Umm Kulthum; Usman once again became a victim of despair and disconsolation. Touched by the sadness of Usman, the Holy Prophet asked the people:
“Give your daughters in marriage to Usman. 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.”
Ibn Asakir records on the authority of Ali that the Holy Prophet said to Usman: “If I had forty daughters, I would have wedded them with you one after the other, until no one of them was left”.
Thereafter Usman 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, and he had been deprived of the honor of being the son-in-law of the Holy Prophet.
Migration to Madina
In 622 C.E. Usman migrated with his wife Ruqayya to Madina. They were in the third batch of the Muslims who migrated to Madina. Their companions on the migration included Akasha bin Muhsin, Zainab b Jahsh, and her sisters Hamna and Umm Habiba. On arrival in Madina Usman stayed with Aus b Thabit Ansari of the Najjar tribe. After some time Usman purchased a house of his own and shifted there.
Generosity of Usman
Usman already well known for his generosity stepped up his beneficent activities. He financed the project for the construction of the Prophet’s mosque in Madina.
In Madina, the Muslims faced the problem of water supply. Most of the wells in Madina had brackish water supply. There was only one well of sweet water in the town namely Beer Rauma. It belonged to a Jew, and he did not allow free access to the Muslims. One day in the Prophet’s mosque at Madina the Muslims brought their difficulty to the notice of the Holy Prophet. Thereupon addressing the congregation the Holy Prophet said, “O ye Muslims, who among you would like to purchase the Beer Rauma for the Muslims in return for a home in paradise. Usman purchased the well for ten thousand dirhams and dedicated it to the free use of the Muslims. Pleased with this beneficent act of Usman, the Holy Prophet gave him the tiding of paradise in the world to come.
Death of Ruqayya
Usman, Ruqayya and their son Abdullah adjusted themselves to the new surroundings. Usman devoted most of his time to his business, and whatever time he could spare, he spent it in the company of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet called frequently at their house to inquire about their welfare. The Holy Prophet had great liking for the young Abdullah, and often played with him.
The happiness of the family was, however, short lived. The climate of Makkah was dry but the climate of Madina was damp. That adversely affected the health of the immigrants. During the first year of their migration many Muslims from Makkah suffered from fever. In the second year of the migration small pox broke out in Madina. In 624 C.E., Ruqayya suffered from malaria and then caught small pox. No remedy availed her, and her malady grew worse day by day.
On the occasion of the battle of Badr, Ruqayya lay on the sick bed. Usman offered to join the battle. The Holy Prophet made him stay at Madina as his vicegerent, and also to look after the ailing Ruqayya. The Holy Prophet assured him that he would have the reward of participating in the battle, and would have his share in the booty captured from the enemy.
Ruqayya died while the Holy Prophet was still at Badr. When the news of the victory of Badr was brought to Madina, the good lady Ruqayya was being buried. The Holy Prophet could not attend her funeral.
In the battle of Badr the Quraish suffered a serious defeat. Seventy men of the Quraish were killed, and about seventy of them were taken as prisoners. Among those taken captive was Uqba 1’ Abi Muheet, the man, Usman’s mother had married. Uqba had been in the forefront in his hostility to the Holy Prophet and Islam. While most of the other captives were released on ransom, Uqba on account of his crimes, was ordered by the Holy Prophet to be killed. Uqba wanted Usman to intercede in his behalf, but Usman refused to interfere on the ground that his crimes were too heinous to be forgiven. When Uqba was being led to execution, he asked the Holy Prophet,”Who will take care of my children” ? The Holy Prophet said, “Hell would take care of you and your children who die in disbelief”.
Testament for his successor
Thereafter, Umar dictated a testament for his successor. It provided:
“I enjoin upon you to have trust and faith in God, He Who has no peer.
Be kind and generous to the Muhajreen and the Ansar. Those out of them who are good, be good to them. Those who are bad overlook their lapses.
Be good to the people of the conquered lands. They are the outer line of our defense, and they are the target of the anger and distress of the enemies. They contribute to our revenues. They should be taxed only on their surplus wealth.
Be gracious to the Bedouins as they are the backbone of the Arab nation.
I instruct you to be good to the Dhimmis, for they are your responsibility. Do not tax them beyond their capacity. Ensure that they pay “Jizya” without undue inconvenience. Fear God, and in all that you do, keep His pleasure in view. In the matter of people fear God, and in the matter of Allah do not be afraid of the people. With regard to the people, I enjoin upon you to administer justice with an even hand. See that all the legitimate requirements of people are met. Be concerned for their welfare. Ensure the safety of their person and property.
See that the frontiers of our dominions are not violated. Take steps to guard the frontiers. In the matter of administration do not prefer the rich to the poor. Be hard against those who violate the law. Show them no mercy. Do not rest content until you have brought the malcreants to book. Treat all the people as equal. Be a pillar of strength for those who are weak and oppressed. Those who are strong but do wrong, make them pay for their wrong doings. In the distribution of booty and other matters, be above nepotism. Let not considerations of relationship or selfish interest weigh with you. The Satan is at large; it will tempt you. Rise above all temptations and perform your duties in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. Get guidance from the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Freely consult the wise men around you. Apply your own mind to difficult cases and seek light from God. Be simple in your living and your habits. Lead life as a model Muslim. As you are the leader of the Muslims, justify your leadership by being the best among them. May God bless you”.
Death of Umar and after
When Umar died, both Ali and Usman 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 authoriZed 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. As Talha b Ubaidullah was still out of Madinah, the meeting of the Committee was attended by five persons only. 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.
Election of Usman
On the fourth day after the death of Umar, the Muslims gathered in the Prophet’s mosque at Madina. Abdul Rahman b Auf took the stage, and recounted the efforts that he had made in arriving at a decision with regard to the successor to Umar. He observed that the choice lay between two candidates namely Ali and Usman. He dwelt at length on the merits of both the candidates, and observed that after consulting the people at large he had arrived at the conclusion that the majority of the people favored the succession of Usman. He declared on solemn oath that in arriving at the decision he had not been moved by any extraneous consideration. He had taken the decision in the sole interest of the Muslim community. Addressing Ali he said that he should not feel annoyed at the decision. He was still young, and there would be further opportunities for him to come to power. He appealed to him to accept the decision in the interests of Muslim solidarity. Thereafter Abdul Rahman b Auf said to Usman “Stretch forth your hand so that I may take the oath of allegiance to you”. Usman stretched his hand, and Abdul Rahman b Auf took the oath of allegiance to him as the Caliph. Thereafter all the Muslims gathered in the mosque took the oath of allegiance to Usman. Ali felt dissatisfied, but he too took the oath of allegiance to Usman. Thus Usman was elected as the third Caliph. That was the first day of the year 24 A.H.
Inaugural address of Usman
After election, Usman took his stand on the pulpit and addressed the congregation. He glorified God and His Prophet, and then talked of the transitoriness of the world. He wanted the people to do good deeds which might stand them in good stead in the next world. He said that he was conscious of his limitations but he would do his best to serve Islam and the people. Then overwhelmed by emotions, Usman broke down and could not complete his address. He said:
“O people, it is not easy to manage a new horse. If God willing I live, there will be several other occasions to talk to you. Right now I cannot address you. You know that I am not good at making public speeches”.
Reaction to the election of Usman
The reaction to the election of Usman as the Caliph was on the whole favorable. After the stem rule of Umar, (he people welcomed the mild rule of Usman.
In his book History of the Caliphs, Suyuti observes that Ibn Sa’ad and Al Hakim record on the authority of Ibn Mas’ud that he said:
“When Usman was sworn allegiance, we placed the best among us in authority, and we were not remiss”. It is recorded that addressing Abdul Rahman b Auf, Mughira b Sha’aba said, “Abdul Rahman, by offering allegiance to Usman you have taken the correct decision. We would not have agreed to any other decision”.
Farzuq, the poet composed the following verses to mark the occasion:
“Suhaib led the prayers for three days,
And then handed over the custody of the Muslim community to Usman b Affan;
It’s the caliphate which Abu Bakr had entrusted to Umar;
And which has now been passed on to Usman. Verily, all of them were rightly guided persons, Who were very dear to the Prophet of Islam”.
Assassination of Umar, a conspiracy?
When Umar was stabbed by a Persian slave Firoz, a question arose whether this was the act of a single disgruntled person or whether it was the result of a conspiracy. Abdur Rahman b Abu Bakr reported that the previous day, he had seen Firoz, Jafina and 1-lurmuzan conferring together. Seeing him the three men were confused, and a double edged dagger fell from the hands of one of them. It was alleged that that was the dagger with which Umar had been stabbed.
Ubaidullah’s orgy of murder
When Ubaidullah a son of Umar heard the report of Abdur Rahman, he took his sword, and rushed out of his house to take the revenge for the assassination of his father. After stabbing Umar, Firoz had killed himself. Ubaidullah first went to the house of Firoz, and killed his wife and daughter. He then sought Jafina. He was a Christian of Hirah, who had been brought to Madina after the conquest of Iraq. He was employed in teaching the art of writing to the Arab students. Ubaidullah killed Jafina. Thereafter Ubaidullah went to Hurmuzan and killed him likewise. Hurmrzan was a Persian General who had been taken captive in one of the Persian campaigns. He accepted Islam and settled in Madina. Umar had sanctioned a stipend for him. When the Muslims came to know that in a fit of frenzy, Ubaidullah had killed four persons, they apprehended him and confined him to his house.
The trial of Ubaidullah
After assuming office as the Caliph, the first case that Usman was to try was the case of Ubaidullah. Apart from Abdur Rahman b Abu Bakr no other person supported the theory of any conspiracy. Adequate evidence was thus not forthcoming to support the theory of the involvement of Jafina and Hurmuzan in the alleged conspiracy. Again, even if it was established that these persons had entered into a conspiracy, there was no justification for the killing of the wife and daughter of Firoz. Even if there were strong prima facie grounds for holding that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy, the State alone could have tried the accused and condemned them only when they had offered their defense, and the case was established against them. Ubaidullah had no right or justification to take the law in his own hand and murder four persons without affording them an opportunity for defense. That was the Arab practice of the days of ignorance which was in violation of the injunctions of Islam.
The verdict of Usman
The case was tried by Usman with the help of a jury. The jury included Ali, Amr b Al A’as and some prominent Companions. Ali was of the opinion that the dictates of justice demanded that Ubaidullah should be executed for taking the law in his hand, and murdering four citizens without cause. Ali was emphatically of the view that in Islam, law was no respecter of persons, and Ubaidullah could not be saved from the penalty of law merely on the ground that he was the son of the late Caliph.
Amr b Al A’as and other companions were of the view that they lost Umar only yesterday, and it could not be that today his son should be killed. They said that they owed to the memory of Umar that his son should be protected.
Usman pondered over the matter. He said that as the murdered person had left no heir, he was their heir, and in this capacity it was open to him to accept blood money for the murdered persons. His verdict was that Ubaidullah should pay a thousand diners as blood money, for each murdered person.
Ubaidullah was not in a position to pay the blood money. Usman paid the blood money out of his own pocket and credited it into the Baitul Mal.
Reaction to the verdict of Usman
On the whole the people were satisfied with the verdict of Usman, and they praised him for his generosity in paying the blood money out of his own pocket. There were, however, a few persons who found fault with his judgment, and insisted that Ubaidullah should have been executed. In a poem the poet Ziyad b Labid said:
“O Usman, there is no doubt that after the assassination of Hurmuzan, Ubaidullah had no right to live. You have unjustly pardoned him although you had no right to do so”.
Usman summoned Ziyad, and explained to him the justification for his verdict. Thereafter Ziyad composed some verses praising Usman for his verdict, and for his generosity in paying the blood money out of his pocket.
Sermons of Usman
Some sermons of Usman have been preserved in history. We refer to some of these sermons with a view to illustrating the beliefs of Usman. These sermons speak of Usman’s unshakable faith in Islam.
His role In one of the sermons, Usman defined his role as Caliph. He said:
“My role is to follow what has already been laid down. I do not intend to be an innovator. I declare that I will faithfully follow the Quran and the Sunnah. In matters not covered by the Quran and the Sunnah, I promise that I will follow all such things which command consensus before my caliphate. If in any matter, no consensus has been reached already, I will follow the way of the good with your consultation. I assure you that I will restrain my hand from you, till that is the dictate of the law ”
The World is a tarrying place
In another sermon Usman said:
“O people, this world is merely a tarrying place. You are marching towards your goal. Do as many good deeds as you can, so that when death overtakes you, there is much of good in your account. Learn from the lives of those who are dead. O people you consider yourself to be safe within your houses. Beware that you are in the latter part of your life. Therefore do good deeds during whatever life is left for you. No body knows when the call of death may come. You should spend your life in such a way that when you die, you die as a true Muslim. Take lesson from death, and be constantly engaged in good works. It is a matter of wonder that man believes in death, and yet laughs. O men instead of running after the world run for the hereafter. In the Holy Quran Allah asked the Holy Prophet to explain to the people the simile of the world. The life is like water which descends from the heavens. In the hereafter there will be Punishment as well as reward. Worry for the world darkens the soul, and anxiety for the hereafter brightens the soul. Know that the world is not everlasting; the hereafter is ever lasting. Therefore prefer the hereafter to this world. If your eyes can have true vision then every day is doomsday.”
Exhorting the people to maintain unity, Usman said:
“Remain united. Let there be no dissension in your ranks. You were the enemies of one another. God blessed you with Islam, and you began to love one another, and became brothers. Maintain your unity. Do not break up into sections. Allah is happy with your unity, and exhorts you to refrain from disunity.”
The people of Madina
Stressing the importance of the people of Madina in the Islamic community, Usman said:
“O the people of Madina you are the backbone of Islam. If you stray from the right path, the other Muslims will also stray. Therefore maintain the highest standards of integrity. Beware that if I come to know of any dereliction on your part I will exile you. In this respect no excuse will be entertained. You know that in the previous regimes those who strayed were put to death. I will overlook your petty lapses, but such conduct which is volatile of Islam will not be tolerated. Things are happening which I do not approve either for you or for myself. I will have to be very cautious. You should also be careful. Reform your tongue. When the tongue is restrained the heart is purified. When Allah sees His men making efforts to reform He gets pleased. He becomes wroth when He sees the people bent on mischief. Man should therefore try to reform himself.”
The last sermon
According to Tabari, the last sermon of Usman was as follows:
“The truth of the matter is that you are in this world merely to prepare for the next world. God never intended that you should be attracted by the world. This world will not last; the hereafter alone will be eternal. Therefore you should not be proud of anything in this world. Beware that you do not become forgetful of the next world. Prefer the hereafter to this world, for you have to ultimately return to God. Always fear God. This fear will serve you as a shield against His punishment. Be afraid of the punishment of God. Remain united, and be not divided into sections. Remember that you were the enemies of one another, and under Islam, God made you like brothers. See that this unity is maintained at all costs.”
Promotion of the purposes of Islam
Usman was a great Muslim. He followed the injunctions of Islam rigorously in letter as well as in spirit. He spent a greater part of the night in prayers. He knew the Holy Quran by heart, and would complete the recitation of the whole of the Holy Quran during a night. He held that the primary and basic responsibility of the Caliph was to protect and safeguard Islam, and take steps to promote its purposes and values. During his caliphate Usman took several measures with a view to promoting the purposes of Islam.
Public works under Umar
Umar stood for simplicity and austerity. Consequently he did not believe in any large scale program of public works involving extravagance. Nevertheless as a consequence of the extension of the Muslim rule to distant lands, the undertaking of works of public utility became imperative. As Muslim conquests extended east and west, and more and more persons embraced Islam it became necessary to construct mosques. During the caliphate of Umar, as many as four thousand mosques were constructed. During the caliphate of Umar many new cities were founded. These included Kufa, Basra and Fustat. Umar issued instructions against the construction of double storied houses and palatial buildings. Many buildings were constructed for administrative purposes. Many cantonments were constructed at strategic places. Special stables were provided for cavalry.
Public works under Usman
Under Usman the people became economically more prosperous, and they invested their money in the construction of buildings. Many new buildings came to be constructed in Madina, and the city expanded considerably. Usman relaxed the restriction on the construction of large houses. Usman built a palatial building for himself known as the “Zawar”. Many other Companions constructed large buildings. Intensive building activity took place at Kufa, Basra, Damascus, Fustat and other cities.
During the caliphate of Usman as many as five thousand new mosques were constructed. Usman 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. Usman provided separate pastures for State camels. During the caliphate of Usman, guest houses were provided in main cities. More and more markets were constructed. Usman appointed Market Officers to look after markets.
Umar had placed restriction on the purchase of agricultural lands in conquered territories. Usman 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.
Heretofore Shuaibia was the port for Makkah. It was inconvenient. Usman selected Jeddah as the site of the new seaport. Usman bathed in the sea-water at Jeddah, and said that it was a blessed spot. Other companions also bathed in the sea-water at Jeddah. Usman prayed for the prosperity of the new seaport.
Public treasury under Usman
Usman maintained the system set up under Umar. Umar was very strict in the use of money from the public treasury. Apart from the meager allowance that had been sanctioned in his favor Umar took no money from the treasury. He did not receive any gifts, nor did he allow any of his family members to accept any gift from any quarter. It appears that during the time of Usman there was some relaxation in such strictness. In Kufa a dispute arose between Sa’ad b Abi Waqas and the treasurer Abdullah b. Masud over a certain amount which Sa’ad b. Waqas as Governor had taken as a loan from the treasury, and which he was not able to repay within the stipulated period. A similar dispute arose between Walid b Uqba the successor of Sa’ad b Abi Waqas and Abdullah b Mas’l
Usman did not draw any allowance from the treasury for performing the functions of the caliphate. He was a wealthy man with sufficient resources of his own, and he had no need to draw any allowance from the treasury. There were, however, some complaints that Usman was not as strict as his predecessor about the use of public funds. It was alleged that out of the public treasury Usman made liberal grants to certain favorites. It was also alleged that unlike Umar, Usman accepted gifts and allowed his family members to accept gifts from certain quarters. Abdullah b Arqam was in charge of the treasury at Madina, and according to some accounts that have come down to us, it is alleged that he resigned from his office as a protest against Usman’s policies with regard to the utilization of public funds.
The various accounts that have come down to us are prejudiced and biased. Usman was a very rich man; he was most religious and pious. We cannot therefore, imagine that Usman was corrupt in any way. He always acted, in a bona fide way. What appears to have happened is that Usman had his own concept about the public funds, while his critics held an entirely different view on the subject.
Companions like Abu Dhar Ghaffari sponsored the theory that the funds in the public treasury were the property of the Muslims and as such had to be distributed equally among the Muslims. Under the circumstances the Caliph had no authority to make any grant to any person at the cost of the Muslims.
Usman’s view on the other hand was that the amount in the treasury was not the property of the Muslims. After the Muslims had received their due share, all that was in the treasury was the property of God and not of the Muslims. As the Caliph was in charge of the affairs of the State, he was a trustee of such property and he could utilize the funds on his own authority in public interest according to his best judgment. Usman honestly felt that he had the right to utilize the public funds according to his best judgment, and no one had the right to criticize him for that. Usman’s argument was that if he could not spend the fund at the disposal of the State at his discretion, then what was the fun in being the Caliph?
As all the facts pertaining to the allegations are not available, it is not possible to say with any degree of certainty as to how far Usman was right, or how far his critics were right. The view of the critics that the funds in the public treasury were the property of the Muslims and not of God does not appear to be correct. As in an Islamic State the State sovereignty vests in God, it follows as a matter of basic principle that all property vests in God. As the Caliph was the Head of Government he obviously had the authority to disburse funds for such purposes as he thought necessary. A Caliph is however not an absolute ruler, and if there is anything wrong with his exercise of discretion he can certainly be called in question. Thus while we can hold that the Caliph had the right to spend the money on his own authority it has also to be conceded that the people had the right to criticize the Caliph in case he had not exercised his discretion properly. At that stage of Islamic polity no machinery had been evolved to take cognizance of such criticism, and give its verdict which should be binding both on the Caliph as well as the people. Thus my personal view is that whatever difficulties arose during the caliphate of Usman about the administration of the public funds were due more to procedural defects than because of any lapse on the part of Usman.
Usman’s Concept of the Caliphate
Concept of the caliphate
Most of the difficulties in the time of Usman arose because of differences about the concept of the Caliphs. Most of the people regarded the Caliph as an Arab Sheikh on a higher scale amenable to the will of the people and even their idiocynracies. Usman was of the view that the analogy of a tribal Sheikh did not apply to the Caliph.- He held that there was a divinity about the office of the Caliph, which had to be understood with reference to the Quran and the traditions and not in accordance with any man made concepts.
The Holy Quran and the caliphate In the Holy Quran, the term “caliphate” has been used in general terms with reference to communities or people in their collectivity. The word “Caliph” with reference to an individual has been used only once in the Holy Quran with reference to David. Here the word “Caliph” has been used with reference to a ruler or a vicegerent.
There are however numerous traditions on the point. The Holy Prophet said:
“Whoso obeys me obeys God, and whoso rebels against me rebels against God. Whoso obeys the ruler obeys me and whoso rebels against the ruler rebels against me.”
The Holy Prophet said:
“After me will come rulers; tender them your obedience for the ruler is like a shield wherewith a man protects himself; if they are righteous and rule you well, they shall have their reward, but if they do evil then punishment will fall upon them, and you will be quit of it, for they are responsible for you, and you have no responsibility.”
The Holy Prophet said:
“Obey your rulers whatever may happen; if they bid you do anything different from what I have taught you, they shall be punished for it, and you will be rewarded for your obedience.” According to another tradition, the Holy Prophet said that on the Day of Judgement, the people will say to God: “O Lord, You sent us prophets and we obeyed them by Your permission, and You set over us Caliphs and we obeyed them by Your permission. Our rulers gave us orders, and we obeyed them for Your sake.” Thereupon God will say, “You speak the truth; theirs is the responsibility and you are quit of it.”
The Holy Prophet said:
“Obey every ruler; pray behind every Iman, and do not insult my Companions.”
The Holy Prophet said:
” O men, obey God even though He sets over you as your ruler a mutilated Abyssinian slave.”
The Holy Prophet said:
“When God wishes good for a people He sets over them the forbearing and wise and places their goods in the hands of generous rulers, but when God wishes evil for a people He sets over them the witless and base and entrusts their goods to avaricious rulers.”
The Holy Prophet said:
“When in the days to come you see the caliphate of God on earth, attach yourself closely to it even though it may consume your body and rob you of your property.”
The Holy Prophet also said:
“If the Government is just it may expect reward from God. and the people ought to show their gratitude to it; if it is unjust, it incurs the guilt of sin, but the people must Rive Proof of their obedience to it.”
Usman’s concept of the caliphate
In view of these traditions the view of Usman was that there was a divinity about the office of the Caliph, and as such the Caliph was responsible to God and not to the people. As such the people had no right to disobey or criticize the Caliph. If the Caliph was just his reward lay with God.
On the other hand if he was unjust his punishment lay with God. Accordingly when a demand for his deposition was made he turned down the demand not because he was fond of power, but because he held that an office which he held on behalf of God had divinity about it, and he was bound to perform his duties to God whatever the odds. According to Usman his resignation from an office which he held on behalf of God would amount to his refusal to serve God, and that was against the spirit of Islam. He therefore welcomed death to deposition, and that was certainly most noble and elevating on the part of Usman. Some writers have indulged in the view that at the last moment, Usman had agreed to be deposed, but that the rebels did not allow him time to announce his deposition. There is no truth in such stories. Usman stuck to his view to the last, and he preferred to die rather than abandon the post which he held on behalf of God.
As a matter of principle the view that Usman held about the caliphate was correct and in conformity with the traditions of the Holy Prophet. The people had no right to demand his deposition and he had no right to resign. The concepts of the so-called democracy and the sovereignty of the people were developed later in secular context. Unfortunately most of the writers, Muslims as well as non-Muslims have tried to judge Usman in the light of concepts which were developed much later, and which are strictly speaking not in consonance with the spirit of Islam. Usman acted strictly in accordance with the injunctions of Islam, and who rebelled against his authority were rebels against Islam. As a matter of fact all the allegations that had been levelled against Usman were frivolous and had no substance. Usman duly considered these allegations and he explained his position in sufficient detail. After such explanation the people had no right to agitate, and rebel against the authority of the State. That was outright sedition. In his book on Usman, Taha Hussain has taken pains to establish that most of the complaints against Usman were justified. I am afraid Mr. Taha Hussain has missed the point that under the Islamic constitutional law the authority to determine how far these complaints were justified was the Caliph himself and when he took cognize Ice of these complaints and explained his position publicly that was the end of the matter, and it does not lie within the competence of any writer, howsoever eminent, to sit in judgement over the conduct of Usman and hold that most of the complaints against him were justified. My submission is that posterity has no right to sit in judgement over the caliphate of Usman. Usman acted to the best of his judgement, and we are precluded from finding any fault with what he did. It may be recalled that on the occasion of the expedition to Tabuk when the Holy Prophet gave the tidings of paradise to Usman he also said that Usman was not to be judged for anything thereafter. In view of this verdict of the Holy Prophet, it is not open to any Muslim to sit in judgement over what Usman did as Caliph, and criticize him for any sins of omission or commission. As a matter of fact the revolt against Usman was not due to any legitimate grievances of the people; it was due to extraneous cause, and was abetted by foreign powers who wanted to subvert Islam from within. The revolt against Usman was in fact revolt against Islam. Usman met a martyr’s death in defense of Islam.
Re-Conquest of Fars
Conquest of Fars under Umar
The province of Fars in Persia was conquered by the Muslims during the caliphate of Umar.
A column of the Muslim army led by Mujashe b Masud advanced in the district of Ardsheer Khurra. A confrontation between the Muslim and the Persian forces took place at Tawwaj. The Persians resisted the Muslim advance but they suffered defeat, and they agreed to pay tribute. From Tawwaj the Muslim forces proceeded to the town of Sabur. The Persians shut themselves within the city and closed the gates. The Muslims besieged the town. The siege did not last long for the Persians laid down their arms and sued for peace. Peace was made on the payment of tribute.
Another Muslim column took the field under the commend of Usman b Abul Aas. 1t started the campaign from where the column under Mujashe b Masud had left. The Muslim force advanced to Jor, a city to the south of Shiraz. The Persian force at Jor offered resistance, but it was overcome by the Muslims and the city was captured. From Jor the Muslim force struck north and occupied Shiraz without tiring a shot. From Shiraz the Muslim force struck north east, and occupied Persepolis the ancient capital of Persia.
With Persepolis as the base another Muslim column under Sariyah bin Zuneim penetrated further into the hilly tracts of the province. The Muslims captured the town of Fasa, and then they advanced to Darab which also fell to them.
Another column led by Suhail b Adi marched to Kirman. A feeble resistance was offered by the Persians which was soon overcome by the Muslims. From Kirman the Muslims advanced to Jeeraft which city was taken by assault. Thereafter the Muslims force advanced to Sirjan which city also fell to them after some show of resistance.
As a result of these campaigns the Muslims became the masters of Fars.
Reconquest of Fars under Usman
During the caliphate of Usman, the people of Fars revolted against the Muslim rule. No details about the revolt are available. Obviously the Persians wanted to throw off the yoke of the Muslims. Under Usman, the process of the reconquest of Fars had to be taken up afresh.
The accounts of the campaigns that were undertaken to reclaim Fars available in the source books are too sketchy and brief. It appears that the revolt began at Persepolis. The Muslim garrison at Persepolis under the command of Abdullah b Ma’amar was outnumbered and could not cope with the situation. In the confrontation that took place between the Muslims and the Persians the Muslims suffered defeat and were driven away from Persepolis. Usman directed Abdullah b ‘Aamir the Governor General of Basra to take immediate steps to retrieve the situation. Abdullah b’Aamir marched at the head of a large force to Persepolis. The Persians closed the gates of the city. The Muslim force besieged the city, and took it by assault. The citizens surrendered and agreed to pay tribute.
From Persepolis, the Muslim forces advanced to Al j bard. Some feeble resistance was offered which was overcome and the city was captured by the Muslims. Peace was made on the usual terms of the Persians agreeing to pay tribute.
Thereafter the Muslim force advanced to Jor. The Persians gave battle but they were defeated and the city was captured by the Muslims. Peace was made on the usual term of the payment of Jizya.
While the main Muslim force was still at Jor, the people of Persepolis broke into revolt once again. They expelled the Muslim ruler from the city, and re-established the Persian rule. Abdullah b ‘Aamir rushed from Jor to Persepolis. Persepolis had strong walls and the Persians shut themselves within the city. The Muslims besieged the city, and succeeded in demolishing the walls. The Persians were thus forced to come out of the city. A violent battle took place outside the city. In the hand to hand fight the Persians were no match for the Arabs. The Persian force suffered great slaughter, and they ultimately laid down arms. As the people of Persepolis had revolted repeatedly and no reliance could be placed on their promises very stringent teems were imposed this time. immense booty fell into the hands of the Muslims. All leaders among the Persians who were guilty of instigating the revolt were hunted out and executed.
With the fall of Persepolis, other cities in Fars also submitted unconditionally. Thus the Muslims once again became the masters of Fars. Usman appointed Shareek b Aaor Harithi as the governor of Fars. Shareek restored law and order. He sent missionaries of Islam to various cities. Shareek’s analysis of the situation was that the Persians had revolted for they still followed their old religion, and that the only way to peace was that the people should be converted to Islam, so that they were cut off from their old associations. As a result of the efforts of the Muslim missionaries conversions to Islam took place on a large scale. Under the orders of Usman, mosques were built in the various cities of Fars, and these became the centers for the promotion of Islam.
Reconquest of Tabaristan under Usman
During the caliphate of Usman the people of Tabaristan like the people of the other provinces of Persia revolted against the authority of the Muslim rule. Usman directed Sa’ad b ‘Aas the Governor General of Kufa to suppress the revolt. Sa’ad b Al ‘Aas led a strong force of 80,000 warriors to Tabaristan under his personal command. The force included such eminent persons as Abdullah b Abbas; Abdullah b Umar; Abdullah b Zubair; and Abdullah b Umar b Al ‘Aas .
The Muslim force advanced in the first instance to Qumas. The Persians at Qumas were not in a position to fight against such a large Muslim force. They surrendered, and peace was made subject to their payment of an annual tribute. From Qumas the Muslims advanced to Jurjan. The Persian garrison offered some resistance but finding such resistance useless surrendered. A tribute of 20 lakh dirhams was imposed on the people and peace was made.
Thereafter the Muslim force advanced to Tamlisa. It was situated on the sea coast. It was a fortified town and contained a large Persian force. The Persian force offered stiff resistance. So stiff and violent was the resistance of the Persians that Saeed b A1 ‘Aas had to offer Salat-i-Khauf, prayers offered on the occasion of great danger. A violent battle took place outside the city which was not conclusive. The Muslims increased their pressure, and at last the Persian garrison surrendered. The peace terms agreed upon were ambiguous, and one of the terms agreed upon was liable to the interpretation that immunity was to be allowed to one man only. Availing of the ambiguity of the term when the Persians surrendered and laid down arms, all male persons except one were executed. Women and children were made slaves. Immense booty fell into the hands of the Muslims. The harsh treatment meted out to the people of Tamlisa struck terror into the hearts of the people of other towns and they lost the will to resist the Muslims
The Muslim forces thereafter overran Gilan and other parts of Tabaristan. Even the hilly tract which had not been conquered during the caliphate of Umar was brought under Muslim rule. Having reconquerd the whole of Tabaristan Saeed b A1 ‘Aas planned to march to Khurasan, but when he came to know that Ibn ‘Aamir the Governor General of Basra was already in };hurasan, Saeed returned to Kufa.
Ka’ab b Jamil wrote some verses in the honor of Saeed b A1 ‘Aas . He said:
“The bravery of young Saeed was notable; He overpowered the whole of Tabaristan; And that was a great feat; He even penetrated the hills, Heretofore inaccessible to the Muslims. He led a force of 80,000 warriors, And his efforts were crowned with success As a General and Administrator, He has surpassed his predecessors, Verily, he is a great man.”
Revolt against Usman
With the capture of power by Muhammad b Abu Hudhaifa in Egypt the stage was set for an open revolt against the caliphate of Usman. In Kufa though Abu Musa Ashtari, as Governor, paid nominal allegiance to Usman, he was really a nominee of the rebels, and could not go against their wishes. In Basra the Governor Abdullah b ‘Aamir left for Hajj, and in his absence the affairs of the province fell into a state of confusion. Thus the three main provinces of Egypt, Kufa, and Basra came to be cut off from the caliphate of Usman, and became the center of revolt.
In the month of Shawwal, a contingent of about 1,000 persons was sent from Egypt to Madina. These persons traveled 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 Usman, and to murder him. The contingent was led by Amir Ghafqi b Harb. Ibn Saba accompanied the contingent as their general adviser.
Similar contingents marched from Kufa and Basra to Madina. The Kufa contingent was led by Ashtar Nakh’i while the contingent from Basra was led by Hakim b Jabala.
All these contingents converged on Madina according to a pre-arranged plan. Reaching the neighborhood 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 Usman. 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. Usman 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 Usman.
The campaign against Usman
The accounts that have come down to us about the activities of the rebels are very much distorted and confused. The usual version is that Usman appealed to Ali to intervene and use his influence with the rebels to prevail upon them to withdraw from Madina. It is related that Ali was critical of the conduct of Usman, and Usman gave a solemn undertaking that in future he would be guided by the counsels of Ali. It is said that Ali met the rebels, and prevailed upon them to retire from Madina. They agreed to do so, in case formal orders were passed by the Caliph for the deposition of Abdullah b Sa ‘ad from the governorship of Egypt. Had rat Usman passed the orders for the deposition of Abdullah b Sa’ad, and the appointment of Muhammad b Abu Bakr as the Governor of Egypt.
It is stated that on the demand of Ali, Usman 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 Usman wept and the audience wept with him. The accounts continue that under the influence of Marwan b Hakam Usman retracted from his repentance, and did not make any amends. Usman and Ali had another meeting at which Ali accused Usman 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 Usman who was carrying a letter of Usman 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 Usman to the notice of the leaders of public opinion in Madina and invoked their assistance. Usman 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.
Martyrdom of Hadrath Usman
Deepening of the crisis
With the departure of the pilgrims from Madina to Makkah, the hands of the rebels were further strengthened, and as a consequence the crisis deepened further. The rebels apprehended that after the Hajj, thc Muslims gathered at Makkah from all parts of the Muslim world might march to Madina to the relief of the Caliph. They therefore decided to take action against Usman before the pilgrimage was over.
Mugheera b Shu’ba
It is related that during the course of the siege, Mugheera b Shu’ba went to Usman, and placed three courses of action before him, firstly to go forth and fight against the refuels; secondly to mount a camel and go to Makkah; and thirdly to betake himself to Syria. Usman rejected all the three proposals He rejected the first proposal saying that he did not want to be the first Caliph during whose time blood in shed. He turned down the second proposal to escape to Makkah on the ground that he had heard from the Holy Prophet that a man of the Quraish would be buried in Makkah on whom whom would be half the chastisement of the world, and he did not want to be that person. He rejected the third proposal on the ground that he could not forsake the city of the Holv Prophet.
It is recorded on the authority of Abu Thaur al Fahami that he visited Usman when he was besieged, and Usman referred to his ten distinctions vis-a-vis Islam, namely:
He was one of the first four converts to Islam.
He had the distinction of marrying two daughters of the Holy Prophet.
He had not applied his hand to worldly use since he had offered allegiance to the Holy Prophet.
He liberated a slave every week.
He never committed fornication.
He never committed a sin.
He preserved the text of the Holy Quran.
He was one of the ten persons who were given the tidings of paradise during their lifetime.
He freely spent his wealth in the way of Allah.
The Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar were happy with him.
Assassination of Usman
The rebels increased their pressure, and reaching the door of the house of Usman set it on fire. Some rebels led by Muhammad b Abu Bakr climbed the houses of the neighbors and then jumped into the house of Usman. It was the seventeenth day of July in the year 856 C.E. Usman was keeping the fast that day. The previous night he had seen the Holy Prophet in a dream. The Holy Prophet had said, “Usman, break your fast with us this evening. We will welcome you”. That made Usman 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 Usman, but they could not dare murder the Caliph. Then Muhammad b Abu Bakr entered the room and held the beard of Usman. Usman 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 Usman. Naila threw herself on the body of Usman to protect him. She was pushed aside, and further blows were struck on Usman 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.
Some slaves of Usman fell on the person whose blows had killed Usman and killed him. There was some fighting between the rebels and the supporters of Usman. There were casualties on both the sides. Rowdyism prevailed for some time, and the rebels looted the house. When the women raised loud lamentations over the dead body of Usman, the rebels left the house.
The Funeral of Hadrath Usman
The vengeance of the rioters
Even after the gruesome murder of Usman, the rioters did not feel satisfied that they had taken the full revenge. They wanted to mutilate the dead body of Usman. They were also keen that the dead body was denied burial. When some of the rioters came forward to mutilate the dead body of Usman, 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 Usman lay in the house for three days. Naila the wife of Usman approached some of the supporters of Usman to help in the burial of Usman. Only about a dozen persons responded to the call. These included Marwan b Hakam, Zaid b Thabit,’Huwatib b Alfarah, Jabir b Muta’am, Abu Jahm b Hudaifa, Hakim b Hazam and Niyar b Mukarram. 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. Usman was carried to the graveyard in the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his assassination. According to one account permission was obtained from Ali to bury the dead body. According to another account, no permission was obtained, and the dead body was carried to the graveyard in secret. According to another account when the rioters came to know that the dead body was being carried to the graveyard they gathered to stone the funeral, but Ali forbade them to resort to any such act, and they withdrew. According to one account Ali attended the funeral. There is however overwhelming evidence to the effect that Ali did not attend the funeral. Naila the widow of Usman followed the funeral with a lamp, but in order to maintain secrecy the lamp had to be extinguished. Naila was accompanied by some women including Ayesha a daughter of Usman.
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 Usman in the graveyard of the Muslims. The supporters of Usman insisted that the dead body would be buried in the graveyard of the Muslims. Those who were opposed to such burial grew in strength, and fearing lest such opposition might take a more ominous turn. the dead body of Usman was taken to the neighboring graveyard of the Jews “Hush Kaukab”, and buried there in a hurry. The funeral prayers were led by Jabir b Muta’am, and the dead body was lowered in the grave without much of ceremony. After burial, Naila the widow of Usman and Ayesha the daughter of Usman wanted to speak, but they were advised to remain quiet as danger was apprehended from the rioters.
Assessment of the accounts about the burial of Usman
When we reflect at the accounts that have come down to us about the funeral of Usman we cannot help but grieve at the hapless state of affairs to which the Muslim polity had become a victim. What a pity that the Caliph of the Muslims could not be given even a decent burial. No tragedy could be more tragic than that. It is not understood Wily the people of Madina had become so callous that they could not attend the funeral of the Caliph who had looked after their interests for twelve years, and who had done so much for the promotion of their interest. It is most ironical that he who had been the Caliph of the Muslims was denied burial in the graveyard of the Muslims and had to find a resting place in the graveyard of the Jews who had worked for the subversion of Islam. When Muawiyah came to power he had the wall between the Muslim graveyard and “Hush Kaukab” demolished. More Muslims were buried around the grave of Usman, and this part of “Hush Kaukab” became a part of “Baqi’ al Farqad; the graveyard of the Muslims.