By Amatullah Abdullah**
November 29, 2005
In the sixth year after the emigration to Madinah, the Prophet decided to perform the `Umrah, so he set out with 1,400 Muslims in pilgrim’s dress, heading towards Makkah, but the Quraish did not allow them to enter the city. The Muslims halted at a place called Hudaibiyah. From there, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sent a messenger to the Makkans to tell them that the Muslims were there only to perform `Umrah and had not the slightest intention to fight. But the Makkans humiliated the messenger, and he returned without success. The Prophet then wanted to send someone highly respected by the Quraish, so he chose `Uthman, who was from one of the most powerful families in Makkah, the Umayyah family. The Makkans detained him for three days and a rumor reached the Muslim camp that `Uthman was killed. This outraged the Muslims and, without exception, all of the 1,400 Muslims present pledged that they would stand firm together to avenge `Uthman’s murder. After everybody had taken the pledge, the Prophet placed his own right hand on his left hand and took the pledge on behalf of `Uthman. `Uthman thus secured the unique honor that the Prophet himself took the pledge on his behalf. The Muslims’ pledge pleased Allah and it was revealed in the Qur’an:
Soon they learned that the rumor of `Uthman’s death was false.
`Uthman returned from Makkah in the company of an emissary from the Quraish. When `Uthman came to know about the pledge the Muslims in the camp had taken in his absence, and that the Prophet had taken the pledge on his behalf, he immediately took the pledge in person.
The Treaty of Hudaibiyah
After considerable discussion, an agreement was arrived at, which came to be known as the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. According to the pact there was to be a truce between the Quraish and the Muslims for a period of 10 years. Each party was free to make its own alliances, but they were not to resort to war. Any person who deserted the Muslims and sought refuge with the Quraish was not to be returned, but any person who escaped from the Quraish to the Muslims was to be returned to the Quraish. It was stipulated that the Muslims were to return to Madinah that year without performing the `Umrah, but they could come to Makkah for three days the following year to perform it, during which time the Quraish would vacate the city for them.
After the pact had been signed, the Muslims sacrificed the animals they had brought with them, broke camp, and started on the return journey to Madinah.
On the face of it, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah appeared to be loaded in favor of the Quraish. Some of the Muslims, particularly `Umar, felt dissatisfied with the terms of the pact and expressed their dissatisfaction. `Uthman, however, felt satisfied with the terms of the agreement. He was confident that the pact, though apparently in favor of the Quraish, would ultimately turn out to be against them. He said that the Quraish were fast losing their will to resist Islam, and in pursuance of the pact the Muslims and the Quraish would come into contact, and most of the Quraish were likely to accept Islam. While on the way to Madinah, Allah revealed to the Prophet that the Hudaibiyah pact was indeed a victory for the Muslims, as it would work to their advantage and the disadvantage of the Quraish. When the Prophet told of these tidings to `Umar and his other Companions, all of them felt happy.
The assessment of `Uthman also proved correct, for in the period following the Hudaibiyah pact, many Quraish including such stalwarts as Khalid ibn Al-Walid and `Amr ibn Al-`Aas accepted Islam.
`Uthman’s generosity was boundless. Even before he became caliph, he was always ready to spend in the cause of Islam and to help the needy with his wealth. On two special occasions he proved to be one of the most generous men of his time.
In AH 9 the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) got the news that the Romans were plotting to destroy the newly emerging Islamic state, so he wanted the Muslims to equip themselves and prepare for the attack. That seemed impossible because in that year the Muslims suffered from reduced crops and limited resources, as they had faced an extremely hot summer. They did not have enough resources to meet such a powerful army, and most of the Muslims were poor. This situation did not stop the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He urged his Companions to prepare for the battle. Every Companion tried his or her best to strengthen the army. The women sold the few jewels they had to help the men prepare for the battle.
Though hundreds of Companions were ready to enter the battlefield, they were short of many things that were required for the battle, such as horses, camels, even swords and spears. The Prophet told them that this was a matter of life or death for the new Islamic state. The Prophet made a loud and clear announcement: “Anyone who provides outfits for the soldiers will have all his sins forgiven by Allah.”
The moment `Uthman heard this, he outfitted two hundred saddled camels that were to travel to Ash-Sham, and presented them all with 200 ounces of gold as charity. He also fetched 1,000 dinars and cast them into the lap of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Again and again `Uthman gave till his charity topped 900 camels and 100 horses, besides the money he paid. Seeing `Uthman’s generosity, the Prophet made the following statement: “From this day on, nothing will harm `Uthman regardless of what he does.”
In another incident during Abu Bakr’s caliphate, people faced great hardships. The land became arid and very few people could find something to eat. The people of Madinah came to Abu Bakr and asked him to provide them with something that they could survive with.
However, the caliph could not do anything to help them. The treasury was empty and there were no other means to feed the hungry people. At that time, `Uthman received a huge caravan from Damascus carrying food and other goods. All the merchants gathered at his house asking him to sell them some of the items he received so that they could sell them to the people. `Uthman asked them to offer him a good price. Though the merchants offered a high price, he kept asking them for a higher price. They offered him the highest price they could and told him that no merchant would be able to pay more than what they had offered. But `Uthman told them that he would sell the goods to the One Who would pay him 10 times what the merchants had offered, that is, Allah Almighty. `Uthman then gave away the whole of caravan to the starving people of Madinah and did not charge them anything.
Election of `Uthman
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, was stabbed by a Persian slave Abu Lu’ lu’ a Al-Majussi while performing Fajr Prayer. As `Umar was lying on his death bed, the people around him asked him to appoint a successor. `Umar constituted a committee of six people to choose the next caliph from among themselves.
This committee comprised `Ali ibn Abi Talib, `Uthman ibn `Affan, `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, Az-Zubayr ibn Al-`Awam, and Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah, who were among the most eminent Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and who had received in their lifetime the tidings of Paradise.
The instructions of `Umar were that the Selection Committee should choose the successor within three days, and he should assume office on the fourth day. As two days passed by without a decision, the members felt anxious that the time was running out fast, and still no solution to the problem appeared to be in sight. `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf offered to forgo his own claim if others agreed to abide by his decision. All agreed to let `Abdur-Rahman choose the new caliph. He interviewed each nominee and went about Madinah asking the people for their choice. He finally selected `Uthman as the new caliph as the majority of the people chose him.
Reign of `Uthman ibn `Affan (644–656 CE)
During the reign of Caliph `Umar (634-644 CE), the Islamic state expanded beyond the borders of the Arab Peninsula into Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. In the subsequent reign of Caliph `Uthman, the expansion continued on into Persia, India, Russia, China, Turkey, and across North Africa. The Islamic state became rich and powerful, and many people of these regions accepted Islam and learned the recitation of the Qur’an from the early Muslims.
His Life as a Caliph
`Uthman led a simple life even after becoming the leader of the Islamic state. It would have been easy for a successful businessman such as him to lead a luxurious life, but he never aimed at leading such in this world. His only aim was to taste the pleasure of the hereafter, as he knew that this world is a test and temporary. `Uthman’s generosity continued after he became caliph.
The caliphs were paid for their services from bait al-mal the treasury but `Uthman never took any salary for his service to Islam. Not only this, he also developed a custom to free slaves every Friday, look after widows and orphans, and give unlimited charity. His patience and endurance were among the characteristics that made him a successful leader.
His great love and trust in Allah were steadfast. Whatever happened, he never lost trust in Allah and resigned himself completely to the decree of Allah. He was always mindful of Allah, and that guided his actions.
`Uthman’s love for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was evident from the way he lived his life. He followed the teachings of the Prophet and took them as his source for guidance. As a way of taking care of the Prophet’s wives, he doubled their allowances.
Opposition and the End
During his caliphate, `Uthman faced a lot of hostility. His rivals started accusing him of not following the Prophet and the preceding caliphs. However, the Companions who were true defended him. These accusations never changed him. He remained persistent to be a merciful governor. Even during the time when his foes attacked him, he did not use the treasury funds to shield his house or himself. As envisaged by Prophet Muhammad, `Uthman’s enemies relentlessly made his governing difficult by constantly opposing and accusing him. His opponents finally plotted against him, surrounded his house, and encouraged people to kill him.
Many of his advisors asked him to stop the assault but he did not, until he was killed while reciting the Qur’an exactly as the Prophet had predicted. `Uthman died as a martyr.
Anas ibn Malik narrated the following hadith:
**Amatullah Abdullah is a freelance writer who resides in Chennai, India. Her essays have been published in India, the United States, and the United Kingdom. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and is working on her master’s degree. Amatullah is a staff writer of One Ummah and on the editorial staff of IQRA newspaper. She is an active member of the Islamic Writers Alliance and the Muslim Writers Society. She can be reached at [email protected]. To read more of her works visit http://writerinislam.blogspot.com/.