After the Prophet (PBUH) passed away, the baton of leadership passed on to the companions. We know the first four caliphs and the rightly guided caliphs. They form the Rashidun caliphate. The first caliph was Abu Bakr (RA), while the secodnd one was Umar (RA). Then, it was the turn of Hazrat Usman Ghani (RA), and finally, it was Ali’s (RA) turn. Here, we will focus on Uthman, one of the major companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and also his son-in-law. He played an important role in early Islamic history, especially when it comes to the spread of the Quran and Quranic knowledge.
Hazrat Uthman’s RA Background
Uthman was one of the many early Muslims hailing from the various clans of the Quraish. His parents were both from among the most high-profile and wealthy clans in the region. Additionally, his mother was the first cousin of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Hence, he was a distant relative. We know from various details about Islamic history that Uthman was a wealthy man due to his background. His father passed away while he was young, and Uthman inherited all his wealth. He utilized it well to make his business flourish, and, as a result, he was very rich.
However, all this didn’t deter him from being a Muslim in the slightest. In fact, he used his stature to bring immense benefit to the Muslims. He was among the most generous companions. He came to Islam after learning about Prophet Muhammad’s mission as a prophet of Allah. Abu Bakr (RA) and his words also helped to convince Uthman about the truthfulness of Islam. Hence, he decided to convert, becoming one of the earliest people to accept the prophet’s (PBUH) message alongside the likes of Abu Bakr, Ali, Zayd, etc. Of course, this made his tribe very angry since they opposed the Prophet (PBUH).
Hazrat Usman During Prophet Muhammad’s Lifetime
During his earlier years after accepting Islam, Hazrat Usman married the prophet’s (PBUH) daughter. However, the early years were difficult for the Muslims due to the torture from the Quraish and the authorities. Hence, eventually, they took the decision to migrate to Abyssinia, among the few Muslims to take this step. Later on, there would be more migrations, and more Muslims would seek refuge there, hoping to get away from the Quraish and being able to practice their religion in peace.
Uthman, in the meantime, continued to trade and do business, which he was excellent at. This enabled him to ensure that he was flourishing and was in a great position to help the Muslims, which he would go on to do later. At some point, they returned to Makkah and resumed life there, despite the threat of the Quraish hanging over them. Soon, there would be better news as the Muslims would be migrating to Madinah. There, they would be able to start afresh, away from all the persecution.
The Muslims eventually completed the migration, and a new life began for Usman. Now, he could establish his business and trade in peace without being tortured – even by his own family. His business went to be very fruitful. He would later utilize that in the best ways by helping the Muslims. When they fell short of water, he would buy a well for the Muslims to use. When they needed money and arms for a battle, he would generally present a massive amount to help the army out. He was a very generous man, always helping other Muslims.
Uthman’s Election as the Khalifa-Caliph
After the passing away of the Prophet (PBUH), Abu Bakr became the first caliph after mutual consultation between the companions. However, when he passed away, he had already told the Muslims about his successor, naming Umar. Thus, the process was fairly straightforward for the first two ‘rightly guided caliphs’ to be selected in their respective roles. Abu Bakr and Umar dealt with various challenges and helped make the Muslim state strong and efficient.
Unlike Abu Bakr, Umar didn’t die a natural death. A disgruntled Persian slave attacked him with a knife, injuring him. That injury would later prove to be fatal. On his deathbed, Umar appointed a committee of senior companions to have discussions about the next caliph. He wanted them to consult each other and choose one amongst themselves as the next leader, rather than favor any one of them in the same manner as Abu Bakr did for him.
The senior companions Umar named included Uthman, Ali, Abd al-Rahman ibn Auf, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqas, Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, and Talha ibn Ubaydullah (RA). These were six of the most distinguished companions of the Prophet (PBUH). Umar also stipulated that his son must not be considered since he didn’t want to follow the style of monarchs, which was so prevalent. Additionally, he said they must decide within three days so that the process wasn’t long.
The companions had intense discussions for these stipulated days. Initially, they couldn’t come to any kind of agreement. However, Abd al-Rahman took the initiative and moved the matter along. Eventually, they narrowed the contenders to Uthman and Ali. Abd al-Rahman gave a speech, then pledged allegiance to Uthman. Instantly, the offers did the same, and they decided the matter.
Consolidation of the Empire
The immediate task that Uthman had on his hands was to consolidate the Muslim state. During the era of Umar, the Muslims went to the Persian and Roman lands. After fierce battles, they defeated the tyrannical rulers in these areas. Then, they went about setting up provinces and districts with their own leaders and governors. However, they would all take direct command from the central authority, i.e., the caliph, and they would be accountable for all their actions, especially when they did something wrong.
Uthman had the task of continuing with this mission and the process of administration. Hence, he soon realized there was a problem brewing in some part of what used to be the Persian Empire. Some people were rebelling over there and overwhelming the leadership. Hence, Uthman quickly dispatched a new governor to the area who subdued the rebels. Furthermore, the Muslims made more gains as they moved toward the areas of what we now know as Afghanistan.
Toward the West, the Muslims began to formulate a formidable naval power. This soon came in handy when Roman forces began to attack from the north. The Muslim commanders quickly hit back and defeated them. For good measure, they captured more of the Romans’ lands, fortifying the Muslim state ever further as a result. Cyprus and the Greek Islands fell to the Muslims soon, too.
The Muslims would go on to deal a significant blow to the Romans in Alexandria. Utilizing naval power, they dealt multiple severe blows to their forces. Eventually, they destroyed their naval forces altogether, making the Muslim state secure from further Roman attacks in the area. Hence, during Uthman’s era, the process of consolidation continued to take place as effectively as it had done in the latter years of Umar.
Hazrat Usman’s Role In the Compilation of The Quran
During the time of Abu Bakr, the Muslims fought many battles. One of them was the Battle of Yamama against the false prophet, Musailma, and his army. While the Muslims eventually overwhelmed the opposition in this battle, they faced many losses. Among them were around 70 Quran reciters, i.e., many of the companions who had memorized the Quran. After Umar noticed this and brought it up with Abu Bakr, the Muslims eventually compiled a copy of the Quran in its complete form to ensure that they had it in written form.
Then, during Umar’s caliphate, Islam spread to many new areas alongside the Muslim army. Hence, there were many new people accepting Islam all the time in far-off areas. Due to the spread of Islam in this manner, the Quran also naturally spread to those places. However, this was in the recited form. As it passed from one person to another, people began to recite in differing dialects that were far from the original method of recitation. Uthman noticed this and realized the danger it posed for the Muslims and knew he had to do something.
Uthman, therefore, took a drastic step. He decided to standardize the Quran based on the version that the Muslims compiled during Abu Bakr’s caliphate. He directed people in all parts of the Muslim state to burn their copies. Then, he made five copies of the original and dispatched them to the various lands where people needed them. These were the master copies. Hence, they were the reference points for any other printed or written version of the Quran. This was a great move; it ensured that any mistakes were quickly weeded out early on.
Problems During Uthman’s Caliphate
Despite the best efforts from Uthman and the senior companions to keep everything under control, the size of the Islamic State proved to be a problem. There were areas of the state that were hundreds, even thousands of kilometers away from each other.
With no quick form of transportation or communication, this made things difficult. Hence, the administrative aspect of governance became problematic. Some people began to revolt. Lack of communication resulted in misunderstandings. Additionally, people’s grievances could take a long time to address. This was a recipe for disaster since an impatient or dissatisfied populace is always dangerous for any state.
On the other hand, there were challenges from the enemies as well. The Persians always wanted to get revenge. Additionally, the Romans harbored grievances as well. Furthermore, even the Jews within the Islamic state wanted to take advantage of this for their own gain.
However, none of these enemies had the means to challenge the Muslims in a battle anymore. They couldn’t have an open fight with the Muslims. Hence, they began to conspire and try and take the state down from within. The aim was to spread confusion and resentment among the Muslims and weaken their unity. This would create many challenges for Uthman, and he would have to deal with them appropriately.
The way in which the enemies did this was to firstly spread rumors about Uthman. They spread wrong information about his appointments, alleging that he favored his relatives and fellow tribesmen. These rumors continued to spread in many parts of the state until people began to start believing what they heard. Eventually, led by conspirators, a full-blown revolt started breaking out in parts of the state.
The Martyrdom of Hazrat Usman (RA)
The acts by the conspirators led to a lot of discontentment. Enemy forces staged a huge war of propaganda against the caliphate. This propaganda was successful, and people began to stage an uprising in some provinces. Many of the problems stemmed from Egypt. People there were opposing the governor who Uthman had appointed. Hence, he decided to depart for Madinah and have a meeting with the caliph to discuss the problems and what action they should take in the meantime.
However, while the governor was away, his government was overthrown. When he went back, he couldn’t contain the opposition. At the same time, Usman was dealing with problems on other fronts. Therefore, he couldn’t provide him with reinforcements. In the meantime, people from parts of the state arrived in Madinah, intending to overthrow the government. They also sowed the seeds of resentment among the Muslims of Madinah, causing them to lose their united front.
The rebels assigned the task of overthrowing the government laid siege to Usman’s house. Initially, things were somewhat calm. However, they began to make huge demands from the caliph. Wanting to have peace in the state and avoid further problems, Usman reportedly agreed to some of their demands. That seemed to pacify them. However, they had other plans, which would have disastrous consequences.
The rebels decided that they didn’t want to have any more discussion. Uthman’s defenders asked for permission to fight them, but he didn’t want bloodshed and refused. In a cowardly attack, they sprung a surprise on the Muslims. Eventually, they went over the wall and injured his wife. She tried to protect him, but they ruthlessly pushed her aside. Then, they killed Uthman, bringing an end to the third caliph’s life on this earth.
The Importance of His Martyrdom
This event was tragic and a blow to the Islamic State. It heralded the start of infighting and sectarianism that would plague the Muslims for a long time. To an extent, that remains true till today. The Prophet (PBUH) even predicted that this would happen – that Muslims would be divided into various groups.
The actions by the rebels and conspirators also served to raise Uthman’s stature. He didn’t appease them, but he fought for peace in the state right to the end. Even when it was apparent that they would attack him, he preferred not to fight back. This showed how gentle he was. However, the rebels clearly exploited this characteristic.
Hazrat Usman Ghani (RA) Legacy
Hazrat Usman maintained a similar style of administration as before. He utilized the advisory council of the Muslims with the senior companions holding consultations on important matters. He appointed governors to the various provinces to ensure that there was a robust system in place catering to the different parts of the state.
From a personal point of view, he remained generous as ever. During the prophet’s (PBUH) life, he gave up large portions of his wealth for the good of the Muslims. He continued to spend his money on initiatives that would benefit the Muslims. Therefore, the state witnessed a lot of growth and prosperity during his tenure.
Additionally, the third caliph also continued the consolidation we saw in the earlier years of Abu Bakr and Umar’s caliphates. For a large part of his tenure, things were quite peaceful, and there was prosperity. At the same time, the Muslims also expanded the empire further, ensuring more strength in numbers and security. One of Uthman’s acts had a lasting impact on the Muslims, and that was his contribution toward the standardization of the Quran. This was an extremely important thing that needed to be done. If the Muslims differed on the Quran itself, it could have had devastating consequences. However, when Muslims nowadays have disagreements about other things, they usually remain united when it comes to the Quran. For this, Usman holds a special stature of importance in Islamic history.