His name and genealogy
His name is Abu ‘Amr ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan Ibn Abi l-‘As. His mother is ‘Arwa Bintou Kariz and his family tree joins that of the Prophet in ‘Abdou Manaf.
He was born in At-Tâif, six years after the year of the elephant.
His conversion (-13 H.; 39 years)
He was among the first converts to Islam, by Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with them both. He was thirty-nine years old at that time.
His struggles in the way of Allâh
He attended all the great events with the Messenger of Allah except the battle of Badr because his wife Ruqayya was ill. The Prophet ordered him to stay at her bedside in Madinah, but he counted him among the participants in the battle of Badr and gave him his share of the booty.
His election as Caliph (23 H.)
He was sworn in as the successor of the Muslims three nights after the burial of ‘Umar Ibn l-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him.
It was time for the dawn prayer. After the prayer, Ibn Awf sent for all the Emigrants and Helpers in Madinah, all the leaders of the armies who had come to Mecca with the late Caliph Omar, and they all gathered in the mosque of the Prophet. Ibn Awf said that after consulting the people, he found that “they did not consider anyone to be on the same level as ‘Uthman”.
So he pledged his allegiance to ‘Uthman, and the leaders present also pledged their allegiance to him (Al-Bukhari 7207). Alî also pledged allegiance to him (Al-Bukhâri 3700).
The expeditions he sent
Many countries were conquered in his time, such as Armenia and western Tripoli.
‘Uthman prepared an army for the conquest of Ifriqiya – the present day Tunisia -. The king of this region was Jarjir, a representative of Heraclius, to whom he sent an annual tribute. When this king heard the news, he gathered an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men and came to meet the Muslims in Subaytullah, the capital of his kingdom. They called him to Islam or to pay the jizyah but he was proud.
Then ‘Uthman sent ‘Abdullah Ibn z-Zubayr with soldiers as reinforcements. Jarjir heard of the arrival of the reinforcements and became afraid. The clashes began and the battle raged. They stormed the Roman camps and routed them, many of them were killed. ‘Abdullah Ibn z-Zubayr killed Jarjir, conquered Subaytullah, and then the people of Ifriqiyah asked for peace in return for two million five hundred thousand dinars.
The problems he faced as caliph
It was during the caliphate of our master ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, that the criticism of the governors he had appointed in different regions began. The people blamed the governors for their mistakes and amplified them, and these remarks spread among some of the residents of these lands who started to speak loudly about the oppression and injustice of the governors appointed by ‘Uthman in the different lands and regions. These words eventually reached the greatest companions in Madinah. They spoke to ‘Uthman asking him to remove some of the governors in order to stop the dissension. So ‘Uthman sent observers to the different regions who would bring him the real information. Among others, he sent Muhammad Ibn Maslamah to Kufa, Usama Ibn Zayd to Basra, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar to Sham and ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir to Egypt. They left and returned saying, “We have not seen anything blameworthy.
The perverse instigators of the dissension hid their deceitfulness in their hearts and made people believe that they wanted to bring out the truth and justice. Their leader in this matter was ‘Abdullah Ibn Saba known as “Ibn as-Sawda”. He was a Jew from Iraq, hypocritically showing the appearance of Islam in order to sow dissension and division in the Muslim community. When the people of Basra discovered him, they expelled him from Basra and he went to Kufa and then to Sham, from where he was expelled again. Ibn Sawda went to Egypt and settled there. It was there that the number of his followers increased. His nuisance towards ‘Uthman increased because his aim was to make the Muslims’ speech diverge.
The masterminds of the plot have no qualms about achieving their goals: they do not hesitate to write forgeries which they sign with the names of illustrious companions and send to people to raise them up. They will claim that Alî wrote them a letter criticizing ‘Uthman.
Alî will exclaim: “By Allâh I never sent you a letter”.
Similarly, when Masrûq reproaches Aïcha for having written to the people to raise them against ‘Uthman, she protests and says: “By Him in whom the believers have faith and whom the unbelievers deny, I have not written a single letter to them!
He set up a public register in every large city to receive the complaints of the people, and invited those who had complaints to come and voice them during the pilgrimage; but he refused to allow anything likely to spill blood to be done in his defense.
Mu’âwiya proposed to him to send a small army to ensure order in Medina because it could be the prey of those who were in the process of creating a groundswell. ‘Uthman refused. Later, other companions offered to defend him against the insurgents. ‘Uthman again refused to take the first step that would lead to bloodshed.
His house was under siege for 40 days
Criticism multiplied as well as rumors in Medina. The leaders of the dissension contacted their followers in the different cities, telling them to come to Madinah. The latter entered Madinah on the pretext of pilgrimage, hiding their plot to harm ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him.
‘Uthman asked them, “What do you want?”
They stated their demands, and ‘Uthman finally undertook to comply with them: these included appointing only those people whom these insurgents considered worthy of administrative posts; there was also the fact of distributing the tax revenues equally. For their part, the insurgents pledged to recognize his authority as Caliph.
They left Medina satisfied, but soon intercepted a horseman carrying a letter signed by ‘Uthman asking the governor of Egypt to put the insurgents to death. They then returned to Medina. The insurgents came to meet Alî and told him that they were going to rise up against ‘Uthman and that he should help them in this undertaking. When he refused, they said to him: “Well, why did you send us the letter?
- By Allâh I never sent you a letter!
The insurgents will ask for explanations to the caliph ‘Uthman. This one swears not to be the origin of the missive which they intercepted. They then asked him to hand over Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, his secretary. ‘Uthman refused. The insurgents besieged ‘Uthman in his house.
They besieged him for forty days, even preventing him from getting water. ‘Ali became angry and sent for water, and then sent Al-Ha’an, Al-Husayn and a group of sons of the Companions to stand guard in front of ‘Uthman’s house, fearing that it would be stormed. The rebels attacked by rushing to the door of ‘Uthman, but they were prevented from doing so by Al-Hasan, Al-Husayn, Az-Zubayr, Talha and others, and then they climbed the walls and stormed the house through the house of ‘Amr Ibn Hazim and those guarding the door did not notice.
Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr entered and spoke with ‘Uthman, then ‘Uthman said to him, “If your father Abu Bakr saw you he would not accept this,” so he was ashamed and went out regretting.
He refused the three proposals of Al-Mughîra Ibn Su’ba, one of which was to use force to fight the insurgents present in Medina (Ahmad n°451).
As for these insurgents, ‘Uthman said to them: “If you kill me, then you will no longer be able to love each other, you will no longer pray under each other’s guidance and you will no longer be united against your enemies”. (At-Tabari)
‘Uthman reminded the insurgents that the Prophet had forbidden the shedding of human blood, sacred by nature, except in specific cases; however, none of these motives were present in him; “For what reason are you going to kill me?” he asked (At-Tirmidhî n°2158, Abou Dâoûd n°4502, An-Nasâi n°4019, Ibn Mâja n°2533)
‘Uthman also reminds them that, at the time of the Prophet, when Muslims had to buy their water, he bought and offered to Muslims the well of Rûma in Medina at the request of the Prophet, and that today the insurgents forbid him to benefit from the water of the city; That he bought a piece of land to join the mosque of the Prophet and that today they forbid him to perform even one prayer in the same mosque; that one day, when the Prophet, Abu Bakr, Omar and himself were on a hill in Mecca, that the hill had a tremor and that the Prophet then told the hill to be quiet because it carried a Prophet, a righteous man and two martyrs. His enemies having recognized all that he told them, ‘Uthman exclaimed: “Allâhu Akbar! They are witnesses in my favor, by the Lord of the Kaaba, that I am a martyr! (At-Tirmidhî n°3703, An-Nasâi 3608)
His death (35 H.; 81 years)
Then the brazen sowers of discord entered his house and one of them struck him with his sword, his wife Na’ilah rushed at him and had the fingers of her hand cut off, then they killed him, the insurrection raged and the house was looted.
He died on Friday the 18th of Dhu’l-Hijja in the year 35 H, aged 81. His caliphate lasted twelve years minus one day.
‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, said before his assassination: “Yesterday, I saw the Messenger of Allah in a dream and Abu Bakr and ‘Umar said to me: “Be patient, because you will have lunch with us next night.
He stayed in his house for three days and then Hakim Ibn Huzam and Jabir Ibn Mut’am came to ‘Ali who authorized them to prepare his funeral and bury him. He was buried between al-Maghrib and al-‘icha in a garden that ‘Uthman, may Allâh be pleased with him, had bought and that he integrated into the cemetery of Baqi’ou l-Gharqad.
His physical description
He was of medium height, had a handsome face, white with a redness, on which appeared scars from smallpox. He had a thick beard, broad shoulders, long arms and covered with hair.
It is reported about Abu Musa Al Ash’ari that he said: “If Allâh wants good for my brother. He will bring him at this time.
Just then someone moved the door. I said, “Who goes there?”
He said, “‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan.
I said, “Wait a minute!” I went to tell the Prophet and he said, “Let him enter and tell him about Paradise and a trial that will affect him.
I came back and said, “Enter! The Messenger of Allah has announced to you the Paradise and a trial that will touch you”.
He went in and found this side of the curbstone already occupied and sat on the opposite side. (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
According to ‘Âicha: “The Prophet was sitting with his thigh uncovered, Abu Bakr asked him for permission to enter and he granted it without changing his position, then he asked ‘Umar and he granted it without changing his position, then he asked ‘Uthman and he covered his thigh. When they came out I asked him: “O Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar asked you for permission to enter and you gave it to them without changing your posture, but when ‘Uthman asked you, you covered yourself”?
He said: “O ‘Âicha, should I not be ashamed of a man from whom, by Allah, the angels are ashamed of him”. (Ahmad, Al-Bukhari also mentioned it)