"Every Prophet has an assistant, and my
assistant will be Uthman." (Hadith)
When 'Umar fell under the assassin's dagger,
before he died the people asked him to nominate his successor. 'Umar
appointed a committee consisting of six of the ten companions of the Prophet
(peace be on him) about whom the Prophet had said, "They are the people of
Heaven" - Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman, Sa'ad, Al-Zubayr and Talha - to select
the next Caliph from among themselves. He also outlined the procedure to be
followed if any differences of opinion should arise. Abdul Rahman withdrew
his name. He was then authorized by the committee to nominate the Caliph.
After two days of discussion among the candidates and after the opinions of
the Muslims in Medina had been ascertained, the choice was finally limited
to Uthman and Ali. Abdul Rahman came to the mosque together with other
Muslims, and after a brief speech and questioning of the two men, swore
allegiance to Uthman. All those present did the same, and Uthman became the
third Caliph of Islam in the month of Muharram, 24 A.H.
Uthman bin Affan was born seven years after
the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). He belonged to the Omayyad branch of the
Quraish tribe. He learned to read and write at an early age, and as a young
man became a successful merchant. Even before Islam Uthman had been noted
for his truthfulness and integrity. He and Abu Bakr were close friends, and
it was Abu Bakr who brought him to Islam when he was thirty-four years of
age. Some years later he married the Prophet's second daughter, Ruqayya. In
spite of his wealth and position, his relatives subjected him to torture
because he had embraced Islam, and he was forced to emigrate to Abyssinia.
Some time later he returned to Mecca but soon migrated to Medina with the
other Muslims. In Medina his business again began to flourish and he
regained his former prosperity. Uthman's generosity had no limits. On
various occasions he spent a great portion of his wealth for the welfare of
the Muslims, for charity and for equipping the Muslim armies. That is why he
came to be known as 'Ghani' meaning 'Generous.'
Uthman's wife, Ruqayya was seriously ill just
before the Battle of Badr and he was excused by the Prophet (peace be on
him) from participating in the battle. The illness Ruqayya proved fatal,
leaving Uthman deeply grieved. The Prophet was moved and offered Uthman the
hand of another of his daughters, Kulthum. Because he had the high privilege
of having two daughters of the Prophet as wives Uthman was known as 'The
Possessor of the Two Lights. '
Uthman participated in the Battles of Uhud
and the Trench. After the encounter of the Trench, the Prophet (peace be on
him) determined to perform Hajj and sent Uthman as his emissary to the
Quraish in Mecca, who detained him. The episode ended in a treaty with the
Meccans known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya.
The portrait we have of Uthman is of an
unassuming, honest, mild, generous and very kindly man, noted especially for
his modesty and his piety. He often spent part of the night in prayer,
fasted every second or third day, performed hajj every year, and looked
after the needy of the whole community. In spite of his wealth, he lived
very simply and slept on bare sand in the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque.
Uthman knew the Qur'an from memory and had an intimate knowledge of the
context and circumstances relating to each verse.
During Uthman's rule the characteristics of
Abu Bakr's and Umar's caliphates - impartial justice for all, mild and
humane policies, striving in the path of God, and the expansion of Islam -
continued. Uthman's realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to
Afghanistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his
caliphate a navy was organized, administrative divisions of the state were
revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed. Uthman sent
prominent Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) as his personal
deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the
condition of the people.
Uthman's most notable contribution to the
religion of God was the compilation of a complete and authoritative text of
the Qur'an. A large number of copies of this text were made and distributed
all over the Muslim world.
Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six
years were marked by internal peace and tranquility, but during the second
half of his caliphate a rebellion arose. The Jews and the Magians, taking
advantage of dissatisfaction among the people, began conspiring against
Uthman, and by publicly airing their complaints and grievances, gained so
much sympathy that it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe.
It may seem surprising that a ruler of such
vast territories, whose armies were matchless, was unable to deal with these
rebels. If Uthman had wished, the rebellion could have been crushed at the
very moment it began. But he was reluctant to be the first to shed the blood
of Muslims, however rebellious they might be. He preferred to reason with
them, to persuade them with kindness and generosity. He well remembered
hearing the Prophet (peace be on him) say, "Once the sword is unsheathed
among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day."
The rebels demanded that he abdicate and some
of the Companions advised him to do so. He would gladly have followed this
course of action, but again he was bound by a solemn pledge he had given to
the Prophet. "Perhaps God will clothe you with a shirt, Uthman" the Prophet
had told him once, "and if the people want you to take it off, do not take
it off for them." Uthman said to a well-wisher on a day when his house was
surrounded by the rebels, "God's Messenger made a covenant with me and I
shall show endurance in adhering to it."
After a long siege, the rebels broke into
Uthman's house and murdered him. When the first assassin's sword struck
Uthman, he was reciting the verse,
"Verily, God sufficeth thee; He is the
All-Hearing, the All-Knowing" [Q2:137]
Uthman breathed his last on the afternoon of
Friday, 17 Dhul Hijja, 35 A.H. (June. (656 A.C.). He was eighty-four years
old. The power of the rebels was so great that Uthman's body lay unburied
until Saturday night when he was buried in his blood-stained clothes, the
shroud which befits all martyrs in the cause of God.
Syria like many other countries around the world
witnessed, during this period, the flood of refugees
from war troubled nations like Somalia, arrival of
people from Algeria during the brutal struggling between
the Mujahidun and the government, resettlement of the
Palestinians fleeing from sophisticated guns of the
Israelis as well as adventure of African migrants for