Sayyidina `Uthman ibn `Affan (r)

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad


`Uthman ibn `Affan ibn Abi al-`As ibn Umayya ibn `Abd Shams, Abu `Amr, Abu `Abd Allah, Abu Layla al-Qurashi al-Umawi (d. 35), the Prophet’s Friend, Amîr al-Mu’minîn, the third of the four Rightly-Guided Successors of the Prophet and third of the Ten promised Paradise. He is named Dhu al-Nûrayn or “Possessing Two Lights,” a reference to his marriage with two daughters of the Prophet, Ruqayya then Umm Kulthum. He is among those who emigrated twice: once to Abyssinia, and again to Madina. He gathered together the Qur’an which he had read in its entirety before the Prophet. During his tenure as Caliph, Armenia, Caucasia, Khurasan, Kirman, Sijistan, Cyprus, and much of North Africa were added to the dominions of Islam. He related 146 hadiths from the Prophet. Among the Companions who narrated from him in the Nine Books are Anas, Abu Hurayra, Jundub, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas, `Abd Allah ibn `Umar. A host of prominent Followers narrated from him, among them al-Zuhri, Ibn al-Musayyib, al-Dahhak, and `Alqama.

`Uthman was extremely wealthy and generous. When he heard the Prophet say: “Whoever equips the army of al-`Usra, Paradise is for him,” he brought the Prophet a thousand gold dinars which he poured into his lap. The Prophet picked them up with his hand and said repeatedly: “Nothing shall harm `Uthman after what he did today.” It is also narrated that equipped the army of al-`Usra with seven hundred ounces of gold, or seven hundred and fifty camels and fifty horses.

The Prophet said: “The most compassionate of my Community towards my Community is Abu Bakr; the staunchest in Allah’s Religion is `Umar; and the most truthful in his modesty is `Uthman.” The pebbles were heard by Abu Dharr glorifying Allah in the hands of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, `Umar, and `Uthman. The Prophet particularly praised `Uthman for his modesty and said: “Shall I not feel bashful before a man when even the angels feel bashful before him?”

He was humble and was seen at the time of his caliphate sleeping alone in the mosque, wrapped in a blanket with no one around him, and riding on a mule with his son Na’il behind him.

It is related through several sound chains that `Uthman recited the Qur’an in a single rak`a. Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi said: “Four are the Imams that recited the entire Qur’an in a single rak`a: `Uthman ibn `Affan, Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa.” Ibn al-Mubarak also narrated that `Uthman used to fast all year round. `Ali ibn Abi Talib said: “`Uthman was one of those who were ‘mindful of their duty and [did] good works, and again [were] mindful of [their] duty, and [believed], and once again [were] mindful of their duty, and did right. Allah loves those who do good.’ (5:93)” Ibn `Umar said that `Uthman was meant by the verse “Is he who pays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord. . .” (39:9).

Anas narrated: When Hudhayfa campaigned with the people of Iraq and al-Sham in Armenia, the Muslims contended with regard to the Qur’an in a reprehensible manner. Hudhayfa came to `Uthman and told him: “O Commander of the Believers, rescue this Community before they differ in the Qur’an the way Christians and Jews differed in the Books.” `Uthman was alarmed at this and sent word to Hafsa the Mother of the Believers: “Send me all the volumes in which the Qur’an has been written down.” When she did, `Uthman ordered Zayd ibn Thabit, Sa`id ibn al-`As, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and `Abd Al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham to copy them into volumes. He said: “If you all differ with Zayd concerning the Arabic, then write it in the dialect of Quraysh, for truly the Qur’an was only revealed in their dialect.” There is Consensus around the integral contents of `Uthman’s volume. This means that one who denies or questions it in whole or in part has left Islam.

`Uthman was neither tall nor short, extremely handsome, brunet, large-jointed, wide-shouldered, with a large beard which he dyed yellow and long hair which reached to his shoulders, and gold-braced teeth. `Abd Allah ibn Hazm said: “I saw `Uthman, and I never saw man nor woman handsomer of face than him.”

The plot to kill `Uthman marked the onset of Dissension (fitna) in the Community. Together with deadly division, the great sign of this Dissension was the beginning of falsehood. The timing of the spread of falsehood was foretold by the Prophet in the hadith: “I entrust to you the well-being of my Companions, and that of those that come after them. Then falsehood will spread.” To counter this, the sciences of hadith and hadith criticism were innovated within the half-century which followed `Uthman’s death in order to sift true Prophetic and Companion-reports from false ones. This was done by verifying the authenticity of transmission chains (isnâds) embodied in the honesty and competence of transmitters, and by examining the conditions and contents of transmission in their minutest historical, linguistic, and doctrinal details. Ibn Sirin (d. 110) said: “We used to accept as true what we heard, then lies spread and we began to say: Name your transmitters.” Confirming this is al-Hasan al-Basri’s (d. 110) reaction to someone who requested his isnâd: “O man! I neither lie nor was ever called a liar!” Later scholars such as Ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181) declared: “Isnâd is an integral part of the Religion, otherwise anyone can say anything.”

The principle of authentication was founded by the Prophet himself and used by the Companions. This is proved by the Prophet’s questioning of the man who said he had seen the new moon of Ramadan: “Do you bear witness that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?” When he replied in the affirmative, the Prophet accepted his news. Similarly, Ibn `Abbas said: “If a trustworthy source tells us of a fatwa by `Ali, we do not seek any further concerning it.” This shows that they already distinguished between true and dubious sources. Furthermore, all the Companions are considered trustworthy sources according to Allah’s saying: “You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind” (3:110) and several other verses and hadiths to that effect. This evidence was listed by al-Khatib in al-Kifaya and Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba.

The Prophet spoke of `Uthman’s forthcoming martyrdom on numerous occasions:

“Give him [`Uthman] the tidings of Paradise after a trial that shall befall him.”

“A dissension shall surge like so many bull’s horns. At that time, he [indicating a man wearing a veil] and whoever is with him are on the side of right.” Ka`b ibn Murra al-Bahzi then ran to the man, lifted his veil, and turned him towards the Prophet saying: “Him, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said yes. It was `Uthman ibn `Affan.

`Uthman said: “The Prophet took a covenant from me [not to fight at the time of my martyrdom] and I shall fulfill it.”

“O `Uthman! It may be that Allah shall vest you with a shirt. If they demand that you remove it, do not remove it.”

Ibn `Umar said: “As `Uthman was delivering a sermon, Jahjah al-Ghafari walked up to him, snatched his stick, and broke it on his knee. A shard of wood entered his thigh and it got gangrened and was amputated. Then he died within the year. Al-Qadi `Iyad relates in his book al-Shifa’, chapter entitled “Esteem for the things and places connected with the Prophet,” that this staff had belonged to the Prophet.

`Abd Allah ibn Salam said to the Egyptians at the time they were besieging the Commander of the Believers `Uthman ibn `Affan: “Never did Allah’s sword not remain sheathed from harming you since the Prophet came to it until this very day.” Yazid ibn Abi Habib said: “I have heard that most of those that rode to kill `Uthman were later seized by demonic possession.” Al-Dhahabi mentioned that `Ali had pronounced a curse on `Uthman’s killers. One of the reasons for the climate of hatred stirred up against the Caliph was the grievance of some parties from Egypt and Iraq that `Uthman was favoring his relatives among the Banu Umayya with public offices and demanded that he remove them.

Ibn al-Musayyib related that a group of seven hundred Egyptians came to complain to `Uthman about their governor Ibn Abi Sarh’s tyranny, so `Uthman said: “Chose someone to govern you.” They chose Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, so `Uthman wrote credentials for him and they returned. On their way back, at three days’ distace from Madina, a black slave caught up with them with the news that he carried orders from `Uthman to the governor of Egypt. They searched him and found a message from `Uthman to Ibn Abi Sarh ordering the death of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and some of his friends. They returned to Madina and besieged `Uthman. The latter acknowledged that the camel, the slave, and the seal on the letter belonged to him, but he swore that he had never written nor ordered the letter to be written. It was discovered that the letter had been hand-written by Marwan ibn al-Hakam. `Uthman was besieged for twenty-two days during which he refused both to give up Marwan and to resign. He was killed on the last day of Dhu al-Hijja, on the day of Jum`a, by several men who had crept into his house.

Ibn `Umar related from `Uthman that the previous night the latter had seen the Prophet in his dream telling him: “Be strong! Verily you shall break your fast with us tomorrow night.” When his assailants came in they found him reading the Qur’an. `Uthman was first stabbed in the head with an arrow-head, then a man placed the point of his sword against his belly, whereupon his wife Na’ila tried to prevent him with her hand, losing several fingers. Then `Uthman and Na’ila’s servant were killed as the latter fought back. She ran out of the house screaming for help and the killers dispersed. It is narrated that `Uthman was killed as he was reading the verse “And Allah will suffice you for defense against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower.” (2:137) Several reports state that at the time of `Uthman’s siege and death Zayd ibn Thabit had marshalled three hundred Ansâr in his defense together with Abu Hurayra, Ibn `Umar, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, but `Uthman forbade all of them to fight.

Among `Uthman’s sayings:

“If I were between Paradise and the Fire, unsure where I will be sent, I would choose to be turned into ash before finding out where I was bound.”

“I swear by Allah that I never committed fornication in the Time of Ignorance nor in Islam. Islam only increased me in modesty.”

His servant Hani’ narrated: “Whenever `Uthman stood before a grave he wept until his beard was wet. He was asked: ‘You have seen battle and death without a tear, and you cry for this?’ He said: ‘The grave is the first abode of the hereafter. Whoever is saved from it, what follows is easier; whoever is not saved from it, what follows is harder. The Prophet said: “I have not seen anything more frightful than the punishment in the grave.”’” `Uthman also related from the Prophet that whenever the latter finished burying someone, he would stand by the grave and say: “All of you, ask Allah to forgive your brother and make him steadfast, for he is now being questioned.”

The Prophet said: “More men will enter Paradise through the intercession of a certain man than there are people in the tribes of Rabi`a and Mudar.” The elders considered that this was `Uthman ibn `Affan.

Main sources: Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya’ 1:92-100 #3; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 1/2: 566-614 #4.