Monday, July 28, 2014

The Rashidun: Uthman ibn Affan

Uthman ibn Affan
The reign of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab ended in bloodshed. His reign brought great expansion and glory to Islam and the Rashidun Caliphate. On his death bed, he left the decision on his successor to an assigned council. From that council, a new caliph was elected. Eventually, Uthman ibn Affan came out as the new Rashidun Caliph. His reign would mark the continuous expansion of the Empire and his clan’s influence, paying dearly with blood.

In 577, Uthman ibn al-Khattab was born in Mecca. He was born to a family of affluent and wealthy Quarysh tribe. He came from the rich and powerful clan of Umayya. When the Prophet Mohammad began to preach about returning to the one true God, Allah, Uthman’s clan led the persecution of the first Muslims. His family would even instigate the event that would lead Mohammad to escape Mecca to the city of Yethrib, later known as Medina. In 611, Uthman defied his family and converted to Islam after a business trip from Syria. He became a close Companion of the Prophet.  Later on he became an in-law of the Prophet when he married the daughter of Mohammad, Ruqayya. Both of them tried to escape persecution by taking refuge in Abyssinia. But a year later, they returned. In 622, they joined the Prophet to escape Mecca and sought refuge to Medina. There, he joined the Prophet in preparing to fight back against their enemies. During the famous battle of Badr, Uthman’s wife, Ruqayya, suddenly died. The family relationship between the Prophet and Uthman continued. Uthman married another daughter of Mohammad, Umm Kulthum. Being married to the Prophet’s two daughters, he was called Dhu-l-Nurayn, which meant he of two lights.

When the Prophet Mohammad passed away in 632, his companions succeeded him in ruling the political entity he left. Abu Bakar was first elected with the support of another close Companion of the Prophet, Umar. During Abu Bakar, the Rashidun Caliphate or the Rightly Guided Caliphs began to cement its position in the Arabian Peninsula.  After two years, Abu Bakar was succeeded by Umar. Umar reigned for almost a decade before expiring in a hands of a slave. Before dying, Umar had designated a Shura or a council to elect his successor. Uthman and the Prophets cousin, Ali ibn Abu Talib were placed as members. When Caliph Umar died, the Shura elected Uthman to become the new Rashidun Caliph.

Under Uthman, the military expansion of the Caliphate continued. Under Muwawiyah, the Rashidun annexed Armenia. It also continued the conquest of remaining territories of the Sassanid Persians. In the west, Much of Libya began to fell to the hands of the Rashidun Caliphate.

But most of the remembered events during the reign of Uthman was on his policies in the domestic front. For Islam, he ordered Zayd bin Thabit to compile the verses of the words of the Prophet and edit those that were already recognized. After the compilation and edits, the product Quran was made the standard and spread across the Caliphate. Those that counter or do not comply with the standardized version were all destroyed. The Caliph also undertook development projects. He expanded mosques and shrines in Medina and Mecca. Some cities were also expanded. Jeddah for example was made into a port city by Uthman.

But the reign of Uthman, however, was deemed corrupt. Many of the Muslims accused the Caliph of breaking the tradition of Sabiqa where those who converted first to Islam had highest honor and later converts had lesser. It meant that those who were first to convert to Islam must have higher chances to have a post. But during Uthman’s reign, his relatives from the Umayya clan rose. This infuriated many. The Umayya were not just late comers, but they were also responsible for the persecution of the early Muslims in Mecca. Ummaya’s relatives became governors of important cities of Basra, Kufa, and the province of Egypt. Along with nepotism, more infuriating to many Muslim was the rampant corruption of his appointees.

His nepotism led later on to his downfall. In 656, concerned Muslims from Egypt, led by the first Caliph’s son Mohammad ibn Abu Bakar, went to Medina. They wanted to persuade Uthman to change his way. However, Uthman was said to have wrote a letter to the governor of Egypt condemning the group and ordered their arrest. But the protestors intercepted the letter. Enrage, they stormed the palace. There, they saw Uthnam reading the Quran that he commissioned. And while reading, he was stab by the rioters. The event was known as Yawn al-Dar. His death would cause shockwave across the Islamic World. Civil war occurred when Uthman’s successor and last Rashidun Caliph, Ali ibn Abu Talib came to power.

See also:
Abu Bakar
Ali ibn Abi Talib
Umar ibn al-Khattab
What happened in the First Fitna?

Bowen, W. The History of Saudi Arabia. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008.

Glasse, C. The New Encyclopedia of Islam. California: AltaMira Press, 2002.

Hughes, A. Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

Martin, R. Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim World. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004.

Wynbrandt, J. A Brief History of Saudi Arabia. New York: Facts On File, 2010. 

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