Third Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.)
Praise be to Allah, and prayers and peace be upon the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and his sanctiﬁed and dedicated Companions (R.A.), as well as all their followers till the Day of Judgment.
In this article, we present a brief-biography of the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.) 'Dhun-Nurain' to extract lessons and examples from the sides of this unique character.
His Ancestry, Family and Attributes:
His full name is Uthman ibn Affan bin Al-Aas bin Umayyah bin Abdul Shams bin Abd Manaf. He was born in Makkah on the sixth year of Amul-Fil (the year of the Elephant). He was about five years younger than the Prophet (S.A.W.). His father died before Islam i-e pre-Islamic period. His mother’s name was Arwa bint Kurayz and she died during the Caliphate of his son Uthman (R.A.). He became Muslim early and participated in the two Migrations: ﬁrst to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the second to Madinah.
He married Ruqayyahh bint Mohammad, daughter of the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) and she died on the night of Battle of Badr. The Prophet (S.A.W.) then married her sister Umm Kulthum bint Mohammad, to him.
His Title “Dhun-Nurain”:
The scholars say that no one is known to have married two daughters of a Prophet except him. For this reason, he was nicknamed 'Dhun-Nurain' (the one with the two lights). He was one of the ten given the tiding of Paradise and one of the Companions who compiled the Quran.
Uthman (R.A.) married eight wives in all and he had nine sons from five wives.
His Physical Appearance:
He was neither short nor tall with broad shoulder and thick hair on his head. He had a long beard and was good looking. It is said that he was the most handsome of the people.
His early life in the Pre-Islamic Society:
In the pre-Islamic society, Uthman (R.A.) was among the best of his people. He was of high status, very wealthy, extremely modest, and eloquent in speech. His people loved him dearly and respected him. He never prostrated to any idol and had never committed any immoral action even before Islam. He also did not drink alcohol before Islam.
He was well versed in the knowledge of lineages, proverbs and the history of important-events. He travelled to Syria and Ethiopia and mixed with non-Arab people, learning things about their lives and customs that no one else knew. He took care of the business that he had inherited from his father and his wealth grew. He was regarded as one of the men of Banu Umayyah clan who were held in high esteem by all of Quraish. Thus, Uthman (R.A.) was regarded as being of high status among his people and he was loved dearly.
His Conversion to Islam:
Uthman (R.A.) was thirty-four years old when Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (R.A.) called him to Islam and he did not hesitate at all and responded immediately to the call of Abu Bakr (R.A.). He was the fourth man to embrace Islam after Abu Bakr (R.A.), Ali ibn Talib (R.A.) and Zaid ibn Harithah (R.A.).
His Persecution and Migration to Ethiopia:
Uthman (R.A.) and his wife Ruqayyah (R.A.), daughter of the Prophet (S.A.W.), migrated to Ethiopia (Abyssinia) along with ten Muslim men and three women. Some Muslims later joined them as migrants. All emigrant Muslims found safety, security and freedom of worship in Abyssinia. Uthman (R.A.) already had some business contacts in Ethiopia, therefore, he continued to practice his profession as a trader.
The Holy Quran speaks of the migration of the early Muslims to Abyssinia, as Allah says:
“And as for those who emigrated for the Cause of Allah, after they had been wronged, We shall certainly give them goodly residence in this world, but indeed the reward of the Hereafter will be greater; if they but knew!” (Al-Nahl 16:41).
When there was rumor that the people of Makkah had become Muslims, news of that reached the emigrants in Abyssinia, so they came back but when drew close to Makkah, they heard that the news was false. Nevertheless, all emigrants entered the city. Among those who returned was Uthman (R.A.) and Ruqayyah (R.A.) and they re-settled in Makkah. Uthman (R.A.) remained in Makkah until Allah granted permission to migrate to Madinah.
Him staying Close to Prophet (S.A.W.):
The strongest factor that shaped Uthman's (R.A.) character, brought out his talents and potentials and purified his soul was his keeping company with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and studying at his hands. Uthman (R.A.) stayed close to the Prophet (S.A.W.) in Makkah after he became Muslim and stayed close to him in Madinah after he Migrated there.
Uthman (R.A.) tells us how he stayed close to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) as he said:
"Allah, may He be gloriﬁed and exalted, sent Mohammad (S.A.W.) with the truth and revealed the Book to him and I was one of those who responded to Allah and His Messenger (S.A.W.) and believed. I made the two early migrations and I became the son-in-law of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and I received guidance directly from him".
Uthman (R.A.) and the Holy Quran:
Uthman (R.A.) was deeply attached to the Holy Quran. It was narrated that Abu Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sulami said:
“Those who taught the Quran, such as Uthman ibn Affan, Abd-Allah ibn Masood and others, told us that when they learned ten verses from the Prophet (S.A.W.), they would not go beyond them until they had learned the knowledge contained in them and how to apply it in deed. They said: So we learned the Quran and knowledge and its application together. Hence they would spend a while to memorize a surah.”
Following sayings of Uthman (R.A.) clearly show his attachment and love for the Holy Quran:
“If our hearts were pure, we would never have our ﬁll of the words of Allah, may He be gloriﬁed and exalted.”
“I would not like the day to come when I do not look in the Covenant of Allah (i.e. Holy Quran).” “There are four things which are outwardly virtues, but in reality are obligations: mixing with righteous people is a virtue and following their example is a duty, reading Quran is a virtue and acting upon it is a duty, visiting the graves is a virtue and preparing for death is a duty and visiting the sick person is a virtue and asking him to make a will is a duty.” “Ten things are the greatest waste of time: a scholar whom no one asks about, knowledge that is not acted upon, sound advice that is not accepted, a weapon that is not used, a Mosque that is not prayed in, a Mushaf (Quran) that is not read from, wealth from which nothing is spent (in charity), a horse that is not ridden, knowledge of asceticism in the heart of one who is seeking worldly gain and a long life in which no preparation is made for the journey (into the Hereafter).”
Utman (R.A.) was Hafiz of Quran (memorization of Quran) and he read Quran all the time. Uthman (R.A.) recited the entire Quran back to Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) before he died.
His Migration to Madinah:
Uthman (R.A.) and his wife, Ruqayya (R.A.), were among the Muslims to migrate to Madinah. Upon arrival, Uthman (R.A) stayed with Abu Talha ibn Thabit (R.A.) before moving into the house he purchased a short time later.
After the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) had settled in Madinah, he started establishing the foundations of Islamic State. Uthman (R.A.) was one of the pillars of the Islamic State and he did not withhold any advice, opinion or wealth. He was also present at every major event except Battle of Badr.
Battle of Badr and Death of his Wife:
When the Muslims went out to fight the Battle of Badr, Uthman’s (R.A.) wife Ruqayyah (R.A.) was sick and was confined to her bed at the time when his father Mohammad (S.A.W.) called on the Muslims to intercept the caravan of Quraish. Uthman (R.A.) hastened to go out with the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) but he (S.A.W.) did not allowed Uthman (R.A.) to go with them and ordered him to stay with Ruqayyah (R.A.) and nurse her by saying:
“You [Uthman (R.A.)] will receive the same reward and share (of the booty) as anyone of those who participated in the battle of Badr (if you stay with her).” (Bukhari: 3699)
Uthman (R.A.) obeyed willingly and stayed with his wife Ruqayyah (R.A.). When she breathed her last breaths, she was longing to see her Father (S.A.W.) who had gone out to Badr. She departed this life but she did not get to see her Father (S.A.W.) because he was in Badr with his noble Companions (R.A.), striving to make the word of Allah supreme, and he did not attend her burial. Her grieving husband, Uthman (R.A.), buried his beloved wife in Al-Baqee (sacred graveyard of Muslims near Masjid Al-Nabawi in Madinah). After returning victories from the Battle of Badr, Messenger (S.A.W.) learned about the death of his daughter Ruqayyah (R.A.), he went out to Al-Baqee and stood over the grave of his daughter and prayed for forgiveness for her.
His Marriage to Umm Kulthoom (R.A.) and her death:
After the death of Ruqayyah (R.A.), Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) married his daughter Umm Kulthom (R.A.) wih Uthman (R.A.) in 3 AH. As per sources, her real name was Umayyah and she was older than Fatima (R.A.). As narrated by Abu Hurairah (R.A.) that Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) stood at the door of Masjid Al-Nabawi and said:
“O Uthman, Jibreel has told me that Allah wants you to marry Umm Kulthoom for a dowry (Mehr) similar to that of Ruqayyah and to treat her with similar kindness.” (Ibn Majah: 110)
Utman (R.A.) and Umm Kulthoom (R.A.) got married in Jumada Al-Akhirah, 3 AH. After three days of their marriage, Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) paid visit to her daughter and asked:
“O my daughter, how did you find your husband (i-e Uthman)?” She said: “The best of husbands.”
Umm Kulthoom (R.A.) stayed with Uthman (R.A.) unitll her death in Shaban, 9 AH. Prophet (S.A.W.) offered the funeral prayer for her. Uthman (R.A.) was deeply grieved by the loss of Umm Kulthoom (R.A.) and Prophet (S.A.W.) saw Uthman (R.A.) walking broken-hearted with signs of grief were on his face. He (S.A.W.) came to Uthman (R.A.) and said:
“O Uthman, if we had a third one, we would give her in marriage to you.”
This is inductive of the love of the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) for Uthman (R.A.) and of Uthman’s (R.A.) loyalty and respect towards his Prophet (S.A.W.).
His Contribution for the Islamic State:
Uthman (R.A.) was one of the richest of those on whom Allah Had bestowed wealth. He used his wealth in obedience of Allah. He always first to do good and spent and he did not fear poverty. Among the many examples of his spending are the following:
When the Prophet (S.A.W.) came to Madinah, the only source of fresh water was the well of Bir Rumah and without payment, no one allowed to drink water from the well. Uthman (R.A.) bought the well from the owner (who was a jew) for twenty-thousand dirhams and donated it for the rich and poor and wayfarers.
In Madinah, Mashid Al-Nabawi became too small for the Muslims to even pray 5 times. Uthman (R.A.) bought the land, next to the mosque, for twenty-five or twenty thousand dirhams and this land was added to the mosque which then became large enough to accommodate the Muslims.
He spent a huge amount on equipping the Muslim army for the campaign of Tabook.
Him during Caliphate of Abu Bakr (R.A.) and Umar (R.A.):
When Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) died in 11 AH (632 AD), Abu Bakr (R.A.) was selected as Caliph. In fact, Uthman (R.A.) was the first person, after Umar (R.A.), to offer his allegiance to Abu Bakr (R.A.) as Caliph. During Wars of Apostasy (Ridda Wars) during caliphate of Abu Bakr (R.A.), Uthman (R.A.) remained in Madinah and acted as Abu Bakr’s (R.A.) adviser. On his deathbed, Abu Bakr Siddiq(R.A.) dictated his will to Uthman (R.A.), saying that his successor was to be Umar (R.A.).
During the caliphate of Umar (R.A.), the status of Uthman (R.A.) was that of adviser and you could say that his position was like that of Umar (R.A.) to Abu Bakr (R.A.) during Abu Bakr’s (R.A.) caliphate.
During Umar (R.A.) caliphate, Uthman (R.A.) set-up the system of keeping records of wealth spent and earned (the Diwan). Uthman (R.A.) was the one who suggested to Umar (R.A.) that he should make the Hijri Year (Islamic Calendar).
His Appointment as Caliph and Successor of Umar (R.A.):
Umaribn Al-Kattab (R.A.) on his death bed formed a committee of six people to choose the next Caliph from amongst themselves. This committee was: Ali bin Abi Talib (R.A.), Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.), Abdur Rahman bin Awf (R.A.), Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (R.A.), Al-Zubayrm (R.A) and Talhah (R.A.). Majority of the people favored the election of Uthman (R.A.). On the fourth day after the death of Umar (R.A.) in 23 AH, Uthman (R.A.) was elected as the third Caliph with the title ‘Amir Al-Muminin’ (The Prince of the Believers).
When the oath of allegiance was sworn to Uthman (R.A.) as caliph, he stood before the people and declared his approach to ruling, explaining that he would follow the guidelines of the Quran and Sunnah and follow in the footsteps of the two Caliphs [i.e., Abu Bakr (R.A.) and Umar (R.A.)]. He also stated that he was going to run the people's affairs with forbearance and wisdom, but he would accept no compromise with regard to punishments that must be carried out. Then, he warned them against feeling content with worldly things and being tempted by worldly trivia, lest that lead them to compete with one another and stir up grudges and resentment among them, which would in turn lead to division and disunity.
Highlights of His Reign as Caliph:
Uthman’s (R.A.) achievements, during his reign as Caliph, are so many. Following are some highlights of his accomplishments during the tenure of his Caliphate (Khilafat):
Conquest: The most important works of Uthman (R.A.) are the conquest of Murrow, Turkey and the expansion of the Islamic State. In addition to the conquest of Alexandria and then Armenia, Caucasus, Khurasan, Kerman, Sajistan, Africa, and Cyprus.
Expansion of Prophet’s Mosque: Uthman (R.A.) expanded the Prophet's Mosque (Masjid Al-Nabawi) in 29-30 AH and has established the ﬁrst Islamic ﬂeet to protect the Muslim beaches from the attacks of Byzantines.
Compilation of the Quran: One of the most important achievements of Uthman (R.A.) is the compilation of the Holy Quran, which was started in the caliphate of Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.).
Hudhaifah (R.A.) was very alarmed by the differences in the recitation of Quran of Syrian and Iraqi people. So Hudhaifah (R.A.) said to Uthman (R.A.):
“O Prince of Believers, save this nation before they differ concerning the Book (Quran) as the Jews and the Christians did.”
Uthman (R.A.) said:
"Send us the manuscript so that we may make copies of it, then we will return it to you".
So Hafsah (R.A.), with whom the original manuscript of Quran was safe, sent it to Uthman (R.A.) and he ordered four of the Companions (R.A.) to make copies of it. They did that until they had made many copies then Uthman (R.A.) returned the manuscript to Hafsah (R.A.) and he sent a copied Book (Mushaf i-e Quran) to every reign and ordered that all other Quranic material, other than the sent copies, whether it was manuscripts or entire copies, be burnt.
Sedition: At the end of his reign and due to the expansion of Islamic conquests and the presence of recent Muslims who did not absorb the spirit of order and obedience, enemies of Islam, led by Jews, started to foment civil strife to undermine the unity of Muslims and their state. They raise suspicions about the policy of Uthman (R.A.) and incited the people in Egypt, Kufa, and Basra to revolt. They deceived their followers to implement their plan and met the caliph and asked him to give up. Uthman (R.A.) called them to the meeting in the mosque with senior Companions (R.A.) and other people of the city and he refuted their unreliable gossips, and he answered their questions and pardoned them. Thus, they returned to their country but they concealed malevolence and promised to come back to the city to carry out their plots, which were embellished by the Jew Abdullah bin Saba, who pretended Islam.
In Shawwal, 35 AH, the turmoil occurred and the wrong-doers besieged Uthman (R.A.) in his home (forty days) and prevented him from praying in the mosque and even from water. But when he saw some of the Companions (R.A.) that had prepared to ﬁght them he prevented that ﬁght as he did not want to drop the blood of a Muslim for his own sake. Then the conspirators broke into his house from the back (from the house of Abu Hazm Al-Ansari) and attacked him as he was reading the Holy Quran. His wife Naila (R.A.) attempted to protect him, but they beat her with the sword, cutting off her ﬁngers. The rebels killed him (R.A.) and his blood spelled onto the Quran. He was martyred on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah 35AH (17 June, 656 AD), and he was buried at Al-Baqee [sacred graveyard of Muslims near Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid Al-Nabawi)] in Madinah.
May Allah have mercy on Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.) and be pleased with him and assembles us among his company.