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Uthman Ibn Affan

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Uthman Ibn Affan

For other persons named Uthman, see, see Uthman (name).

Islamic Empire During The Reign
The Generous
Commander of the faithful
(Amir al-Mu'minin)
Reign 11 November 644 AD – 20 June 656 AD
Born 577 CE (47 BH)
Birthplace Taif, Arabia
Died 20 June 656 CE (18th Zulhijjah 35 AH)[1](aged 79)
Deathplace Medina, Arabia
Place of Burial Jannat al-Baqi, Madinah
Predecessor Umar
Successor Ali
Father Affan ibn Abu al-As
Mother Urwa bint Kariz
Sister(s) Amna

Ruqayyah bint Muhammad
Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad
Ramla bint Shuibat
Fatima bint Al-Walid
Fakhtah bint Ghazwan
Umm Al-Banin bint Unaib

Umm Amr bint Jundub
Son(s) • Amro (عمرو)
• Umar (عمر)
• Khalid (خالد)
Aban (أبان)
• Abdullah Al-Asghar
(عبد الله الأصغر)
• Al-Walid (الوليد)
• Saeed (سعيد)
• Abdulmalik (عبدالملك)
Daughter(s) • Maryam (مريم)
• Umm Uthman (أم عثمان)
• Ayesha (عائشة)
• Umm Amr (أم عمرو)
• Umm Aban Al-Kabri
(أم أبان الکبرى)
• Aurvi (أروى)
• Umm Khalid (أم خالد)
• Umm Aban Al-Sagri
(أم أبان الصغرى)
Other Titles Al Ghani الغنى ("The Generous")
Zun Noorain ("Possessor of Two Lights")

Uthman ibn Affan (Arabic: عثمان بن عفان‎, strict transliteration: ʻUthmān ibn ʻAffān) (577 – 20 June 656) was one of the companions of Islamic prophet, Muhammad. He played a major role in early Islamic history as the third of the Sunni Rashidun or Rightly Guided Caliphs.

Uthman was born into the Umayyad clan of Mecca, a powerful family of the Quraish tribe. He was a companion of Muhammad who assumed the role of leader (caliph) of the Muslim Empire at the age of 65 following Umar ibn al-Khattab. Under his leadership, the empire expanded into Fars in 650 (present-day Iran), some areas of Khorasan (present-day Afghanistan) in 651 and the conquest of Armenia was begun in the 640s.[2] Some of Uthman's notable achievements were the economic reforms he introduced, and the compilation of the Qur'an into the unified, authoritative text that is known today.

Early life

Uthman was born in Ta’if, which is situated on a hill, and the presumption[by whom?] is that he was born during the summer months, since wealthy Meccans usually spent the hot summers in the cooler climate of Ta’if. He was born into the wealthy Umayyad (Banu Umayya) clan of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, seven years after Muhammad. Uthman's father, Affan, died young while travelling abroad but left a large inheritance to Uthman. Uthman followed the same profession as his father, and his business flourished, making him one of the richest men among the Qurayshi tribe.[3]

Conversion to Islam

On returning from a business trip to Syria in 611, Uthman found out that Muhammad had declared his mission. After a discussion with his friend Abu Bakr, Uthman decided to convert to Islam, and Abu Bakr took him to Muhammad to whom he declared his faith. Uthman thus became the one of the earliest converts to Islam, following Ali, Zayd, Abu Bakr and few others. His conversion to Islam angered his clan, the Banu Ummayyah, who strongly opposed Muhammad's teachings.[4] He is said[by whom?] to have spent a great amount of his wealth on charity, therefore he gained the epithet "Uthman Ghani", which means "Uthman the giver".

Migration to Abyssinia

Uthman and his wife Ruqayya migrated to Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) in 614–615, along with 11 men and 11 women, all Muslims. As Uthman already had some business contacts in Abyssinia, he continued to practise his profession as a trader. He worked hard and his business soon flourished. After two years the news had spread among the Muslims in Abyssinia that the Quraysh of Mecca had accepted Islam, and that persuaded Uthman, Ruqayya and some other Muslims to return. However when they reached Mecca it transpired that the news about the Quraysh's acceptance of Islam was false. Some of the Muslims who had come from Abyssinia returned but Uthman and Ruqayya decided to stay. In Mecca Uthman had to start his business afresh, but the contacts that he had already established in Abyssinia worked in his favour and his business prospered once again.[5]

Migration to Medina

In 622, Uthman and his wife, Ruqayya, migrated to Medina. They were amongst the third batch of Muslims who migrated to Medina. On arrival in Medina, Uthman stayed with Abu Talha ibn Thabit of the Banu Najjar. After a short while, Uthman purchased a house of his own and moved there. Being one of the richest merchants of Mecca, and having amassed a considerable fortune, Uthman did not need any financial help from his Ansari brothers, as he brought all his wealth with him to Medina. In Medina, the Muslims were generally farmers and were not very interested in trade, and thus most of the trading that took place in the town was handled by the Jews. Thus, there was considerable space for the Muslims in promoting trade and Uthman took advantage of this position, soon establishing himself as a trader in Medina. He worked hard and honestly, and his business flourished, soon becoming one of the richest men in Medina.[6]

Life in Medina

In 624 some Muslims from Medina departed to assist in the capture of a Quraysh caravan. At this time Uthman's wife, Ruqayya, suffered from malaria and then caught smallpox. Uthman stayed at Medina to look after the ailing Ruqayya and did not join those who left with Muhammad. Ruqayya died during the time the Battle of Badr was being fought, and the news of the victory of Badr reached Medina as she was being buried. Because of the battle Muhammad could not attend the funeral of his daughter.

After the Battle of Uhud Uthman married Muhammad's second daughter, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad. The next year Fahida bint ghazwan's son, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman, died. When the Battle of the Trench was fought in 627, Uthman was in charge of a sector of Medina. After the battle a campaign was undertaken against the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa, and when they were taken captive the question of the disposal of the slaves became a problem. Uthman solved the issue by purchasing all the slaves and depositing their price in the Bayt al-mal (Treasury). Any of these slaves who accepted Islam were set free by Uthman in the name of Allah.

When Ali married Fatimah Ali still had no money, nothing for a dowry, nothing for the customary gifts of jewels for his bride or the expenses of marriage. Fortunately Uthman stepped in at the moment. Fixed the value of Ali's newly won body armor at a generously high price, he insisted on buying it for five hundred dirhams. Four hundred could then be set aside as a dowry for Fatimah, leaving a hundred for all other expenses. Later Uthman presented the armor back to Ali as a wedding present.[7][8]

Treaty of Hudaibiyah

Main article: Treaty of Hudaybiyyah

In March 628 (6 Hijri), Muhammad set out for Mecca to perform the ritual pilgrimage of Umra. The Quraysh denied the Muslims entry into the city and posted themselves outside Mecca, determined to show resistance, even though the Muslims had no intention or preparation for battle. Muhammad camped outside Mecca, at Hudaybiyyah, and sent Uthman as his envoy to meet with the leaders of Quraysh and negotiate Muslim entry into the city. The Quraysh made Uthman stay longer in Mecca than he originally planned and refused to inform the Muslims of his whereabouts. This caused the Muslims to believe that Uthman had been killed by the people of Quraysh. On this occasion, Muhammad gathered his nearly 1,400 Followers and called them to pledge to fight until death and avenge the rumoured death of Uthman, which they did by placing a hand on top of Muhammad's. It is reported that Muhammad placed one of his hands on top of the other and pledged on behalf of Uthman as well. This pledge took place under a tree and was known as the Pledge of the Tree and was successful in demonstrating to the Quraysh the determination of the Muslims. They soon released Uthman and sent down an ambassador of their own, Suhail ibn Amr to negotiate terms of a treaty that later became known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

Muhammad's last years

In 629 CE, Uthman fought in the Battle of Khaybar and later that year, he followed Muhammad to perform Umrah in Mecca. While in Mecca, he visited his mother and found that his family was not as hostile to Islam as they used to be. In 630 CE, the Quraysh broke the treaty of Hudaibiyah, and the Muslims attacked and conquered Mecca. General amnesty was granted to the people of the city, although an exception was made in the case of half a dozen people. Amongst those not granted amnesty was Abdullah ibn Saad, a foster brother of Uthman. Later, following an appeal by Abdullah's mother to Uthman, he was forgiven by Muhammad. Following the Conquest of Mecca Uthman's family converted to Islam and he rejoined his mother and siblings. Two weeks later, under the command of Muhammad, he participated in the Battle of Hunayn which was followed by the Siege of Ta'if.

To Uthman, the conquest of Mecca and Ta’if were of particular significance, as he had considerable property in both cities, and he could now profitably develop them. He was also able to set up sub-offices for his businesses at Mecca and Ta’if. Uthman's wife, and the daughter of Muhammad, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, died soon after the conquest of Mecca.

In 630 Muhammad decided to lead an expedition to Tabuk on the Syrian border. In order to finance the expedition Muhammad invited contributions from his followers. Uthman made the largest contribution: 1,000 dinars in cash, 1,000 camels for transport, and horses for the cavalry, which Muhammad greatly appreciated. In 631, along with other Muslims, Uthman moved to Mecca to perform Hajj under Abu Bakr while Muhammad stayed in Medina. In Mecca Uthman married Umm Saeed Fatima bint Al Walid b Abd Shams, a Qurayshi lady, and returned to Medina with her.

In 632, along with Muhammad, Uthman participated in The Farewell Pilgrimage.[3] In 632 Muhammad died.

Caliph Abu Bakr's era (632–634)

Uthman had a very close relationship with Abu Bakr, as it was due to him that Uthman had converted to Islam. When Abu Bakr was selected as the Caliph, Uthman was the first person after Umar to offer his allegiance. During the Ridda wars (Wars of Apostasy), Uthman remained at Medina, acting as Abu Bakr's adviser. On his deathbed, Abu Bakr dictated his will to Uthman, saying that his successor was to be Umar.[9]

Caliph Umar's era (634–644)

Uthman was the first person to offer his allegiance to Umar. During the reign of Umar, Uthman remained at Medina as his adviser, and a member of his advisory council. Umar did not allow the companions, including Uthman, to leave Medina. The reason for this was that Umar didn't wish for the companions, who were famous and respected among the Muslims, to spread and have their own followers, which would, it was felt, have resulted in unnecessary divisions in Islam.

During the reign of Umar, considerable wealth flowed into the public treasury. Uthman advised that some amount be reserved in the treasury for future needs, instead of giving all of it as stipends to the Muslims, and this was accepted by Umar. A controversy then arose about the land in conquered areas. The army was of the view that all lands in conquered territories should be distributed among the soldiers of the conquering army, but others thought that the lands should remain as the property of the original owners, and the lands without claimants should be declared as state property. Uthman supported the latter view and this view was ultimately accepted.

At the time of the conquest of Jerusalem the Christians asked that Umar come to Jerusalem to accept the surrender of the city. Uthman was of the view that it was not necessary for the Caliph of the Muslims to go to Jerusalem and that the enemy, when defeated, would surrender the city unconditionally. There was much force in Uthman's argument, but in order to win the good will of the Christians, Umar decided to go to Jerusalem to accept the surrender of the city. In the time of Umar, a severe famine broke out in the country and a large caravan belonging to Uthman that was carrying a large supply of food grains served the poor well.

Election of Uthman

Main article: The election of Uthman

Umar, on his deathbed formed a committee of six people to choose the next Caliph from amongst themselves.

This committee was:

Umar asked that, after his death, the committee reach a final decision within three days, and the next Caliph should take the oath of office on the fourth day. If Talhah joined the committee within this period, he was to take part in the deliberations, but if he did not return to Medina within this period, the other members of the committee could proceed with the decision. Abdur Rahman bin Awf withdrew his eligibility to be appointed as Caliph in order to act as a moderator and began his task by interviewing every member of the committee separately. He asked them for whom they would cast their vote. When Ali was asked, he didn't reply. When Uthman was asked, he voted for Ali, Zubayr said for Ali or Uthman. and Saad said for Uthman.[9]

After Abdul Rahman consulted the other leaders of public opinion in Medina, who were in favour of Uthman, he arrived at the conclusion that the majority of the people favoured the election of Uthman. On the fourth day after the death of Umar, 11 November 644, 5 Muharram 24 Hijri, Uthman was elected as the third Caliph, with the title "Amir al-Mu'minin".

Reign as a Caliph (644–656)

On assuming office, Uthman issued a number of directives to the officials all over the dominions, ordering them to hold fast the laws made by his predecessor Umar. Uthman's realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to South east of present day Pakistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate, the first Islamic naval force was established, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed.

Uthman sent prominent sahabas ("companions of Muhammad") as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people. In total, Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquillity, and he remained the most popular Caliph among the Rashidun; but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose.

Uthman had the distinction of working for the expansion of Islam, and he sent the first official Muslim envoy to China in 650. The envoy, headed by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, arrived in the Tang capital, Chang'an, in 651 via the overseas route. The Hui people generally consider this date to be the official founding of Islam in China. The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty recorded the historic meeting, in which the envoy greeted Emperor Gaozong of Tang and tried to convert him to Islam. Although the envoy failed to convince the Emperor to embrace Islam, the Emperor allowed him to proselytize in China and ordered the establishment of the first Chinese mosque in the capital to show his respect for the religion. Uthman also sent official Muslim envoys to Sri Lanka.

Uthman and Muawiyah

Uthman and Muawiyah were both from the Umayyad clan. In 639 Muawiyah I was appointed the Governor of Syria by Umar after his elder brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan (Governor of Syria) died in a plague, along with Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah the governor before him and 25,000 other people. To stop the Byzantine harassment from the sea during the Arab-Byzantine Wars, in 649 Muawiyah set up a navy; manned by Monophysitise Christians, Copts and Jacobite Syrian Christians sailors and Muslim troops. This resulted in the defeat of the Byzantine navy at the Battle of the Masts in 655, opening up the Mediterranean.[10][11][12][13][14]

Reforms of Uthman's era

Economic reforms

Uthman was a shrewd businessman and a successful trader from his youth, which contributed greatly to the Rashidun Empire. Umar had fixed the allowance of the people and on assuming office, Uthman increased it by about 25%. Umar had placed a ban on the sale of lands and the purchase of agricultural lands in conquered territories.[15] Uthman withdrew these restrictions, in view of the fact that the trade could not flourish. Uthman also permitted people to draw loans from the public treasury. Under Umar it had been laid down as a policy that the lands in conquered territories were not to be distributed among the combatants, but were to remain the property of the previous owners. The army felt dissatisfied at this decision, but Umar suppressed the opposition with a strong hand. Uthman followed the policy devised by Umar and there were more conquests, and the revenues from land increased considerably.[9] The army once again raised the demand for the distribution of the lands in conquered territories among the fighting soldiers but Uthman turned down the demand and it favoured the Dhimmis (non-Muslims in Islamic state).

In 651, the first Islamic coins were struck during the caliphate of Uthman, these were the Persian dirhams that had an image of the Persian emperor Yazdgerd III with the addition of the Arabic sentence Bismillah (بسم الله) (in the name of Allah). However the first original minting of the Islamic dirham was done in 695 during Umayyad period.

Umar, the predecessor of Uthman was very strict in the use of money from the public treasury. Apart from the meagre allowance that had been sanctioned in his favour, Umar took no money from the treasury. He did not receive any gifts, nor did he allow any of his family members to accept any gift from any quarter. During the time of Uthman there was some relaxation in such strictness. Uthman did not draw any allowance from the treasury for his personal use, nor did he receive a salary, he was a wealthy man with sufficient resources of his own, but unlike Umar, Uthman accepted gifts and allowed his family members to accept gifts from certain quarters.[3] Uthman honestly felt that he had the right to utilize the public funds according to his best judgment, and no one criticized him for that. The economic reforms introduced by Uthman had far reaching effects; Muslims as well as non-Muslims of the Rashidun Empire enjoyed an economically prosperous life during his reign.[16]

Public works

Under Uthman the people became economically more prosperous, and they invested their money in the construction of buildings. Many new and larger buildings were constructed throughout the empire. During the caliphate of Uthman as many as five thousand new mosques were constructed. Uthman enlarged, extended, and embellished the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi at Medina and the Kaaba as well. With the expansion of the army, the cantonments were extended and enlarged, more barracks were constructed for the soldiers and stables for the cavalry were extended. Uthman provided separate pastures for state camels.

During the caliphate of Uthman, guest houses were provided in main cities to provide comfort to the merchants coming from faraway places. More and more markets were constructed and Uthman appointed Market Officers to look after them. In Iraq, Egypt and Persia numerous canals were dug, which stimulated agricultural development. In the cities, particular attention was directed towards the provision of the water supply. In Medina, a number of wells were dug to provide drinking water for the people and in Mecca the water supply was also improved. Water was brought to Kufa and Basra by canals. Shuaibia was the port for Mecca but it was inconvenient, so Uthman selected Jeddah as the site of the new seaport, and a new port was built there. Uthman also reformed the police departments in cities.


In his testament, Umar had instructed his successor not to make any change in the administrative set up for one year after his death. For one year Uthman maintained the pattern of political administration as it stood under Umar, later making some amendments.

Under Umar, Egypt was divided into two provinces, Upper and Lower Egypt. Uthman made Egypt one province and created a new province for Efriqya. Under Umar, Syria was divided into two provinces but Uthman made it one province. During Uthman’s reign the empire was divided into twelve provinces. These were:

  1. Medina
  2. Mecca
  3. Yemen
  4. Kufa
  5. Basra
  6. Jazira
  7. Faris
  8. Azerbaijan
  9. Khorasan
  10. Syria
  11. Egypt
  12. Efriqya (lit. "Africa", signifying N. Africa)

The provinces were further divided into districts (more than 100 districts in the empire) and each district or main city had its own Governor, Chief judge and Amil (tax collector). The governors were appointed by Uthman and every appointment was made in writing. At the time of appointment, an instrument of instructions was issued with a view to regulating the conduct of the governors. On assuming office, the governor was required to assemble the people in the main mosque, and read the instrument of instructions before them.

Kinsmen as governors

Uthman appointed his kinsmen as governors of four provinces: Egypt, Syria, Basra and Kufa.[17] The kindest explanation for this reliance on his kin is that the Rashidun Empire had expanded so far, so fast, that it was becoming extremely difficult to govern, and that Uthman felt that he could trust his own kin not to revolt against him. However Shiah did not see this as prudence; they saw it as nepotism, and an attempt to rule like a king rather than as the first among equals.


Main article: Qur'an

Uthman is perhaps best known for forming the committee which produced multiple copies of the text of the Qur'an as it exists today.[18] The reason was that various Muslim centres, like Kufa and Damascus, had begun to develop their own traditions for reciting the Qur'an and writing it down with stylistic differences.

During the time of Uthman, by which time Islam had spread far and wide, differences in reading the Quran in different dialects of Arabic language became obvious. A group of companions, headed by Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, who was then stationed in Iraq, came to Uthman and urged him to "save the Muslim ummah before they differ about the Quran" . Uthman obtained the complete manuscript of the Qur'an from Hafsah, one of the wives of the Islamic prophet Muhammad who had been entrusted to keep the manuscript ever since the Qur'an was comprehensively compiled by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr . Uthman then again summoned the leading compiling authority, Zayd ibn Thabit, and some other companions to make copies of the manuscript. Zayd was put in charge of the task. The style of Arabic dialect used was that of the Quraysh tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged. Hence this style was emphasized over all others.

Zayd and his assistants produced several copies of the manuscript of the Qur'an. One of each was sent to every Muslim province with the order that all other Quranic materials, whether fragmentary or complete copies, be destroyed. As such, when the standard copies were made widely available to the Muslim community everywhere, then all other material was burnt voluntarily by the Muslim community themselves. The annihilation of these extra-Qur'anic documents remained essential in order to eradicate scriptural incongruities, contradictions of consequence or differences in the dialect from the customary text of the Qur'an. The Caliph Uthman kept a copy for himself and returned the original manuscript to Hafsah.

While Shi'a and Sunni accept the same sacred text, the Qur'an, some claim that Shi'a dispute the current version, i.e. they add two additional surahs known as al-Nurayn and al-Wilaya.[19] Nonetheless, Shi'as claim that they are falsely accused of this, as they believe, like Sunnis, that the Qur'an has never been changed and it is with reference from sunni hadeeth books that this inference is drawn not only by uninformed shias but sunnis too.[20][21][22][23][24]

Military expansion

Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate under Caliph Umar, following the death of Caliph Umar, almost whole of the former Sassanid empire's territory rebelled from time to time until 650, when the last Sassanid emperor was assassinated. Caliph Uthman thus directed several military expeditions to crush rebellion and re-capture the Persia and their vassal states. The main rebellion was in the Persian provinces of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Fars, Sistan, Tabaristan, Khorasan, and Makran. These provinces were across present days Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Turkmenistan and Armenia. In addition to these provinces several other territories were also subdued in the region. After the death of Caliph Umar, Byzantine emperor Constantine III launched an attack but was repulsed, due to which Uthman ordered annual raids in Anatolia to cut off the power of Byzantine. From 647 to 651 major offensives were launched in Cappadocia, Caesarea Mazaca, Cilicia and Isauria in 650–651 forced the Byzantine emperor Constans II to enter into negotiations The truce that followed made it possible for Constans II to hold on to the western portions of Armenia. A naval force was built and island of Cyprus was captured in 649 followed by the capture of Crete and Rhodes. After a naval victory against Byzantine fleet a part of Sicily was also captured. In 654–655 Uthman ordered for the preparation of an expedition to capture Constantinopole, it was about to be launched when Uthman was murdered. North Africa was invaded in 647 and Byzantine Exarchate of Africa which had declared its independence under its King Gregory the Patrician was annexed. Nubia was invaded in 652 and its capital Dongola was sacked. Though battle remained inconclusive and a peace offer from Nubian King was accepted according to which no party will any aggressive moves against each other. In 652–653 the Iberian Peninsula was invaded and its coastal areas were captured, before further expansion could be made Caliph was murdered and forces were pulled back from Iberia and north Africa during Muslim civil war.

Sabaites, Qurra and the Kharijities

Islamic empire expanded at an unprecedented rate, but there was a cost associated with this high rate of expansion. Many desert nomads and some bandits living between current day Iraq and Saudi Arabia also joined in, not out of commitment to Islam, but to share the spoils and benefit from the change in the social order, after the defeat of the Persian Empire.[25]

The Qur'an and Muhammad talked about racial equality and justice as in the The Farewell Sermon.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] Tribal and nationalistic differences were discouraged. But after Muhammad's passing the old tribal differences between the Arabs started to resurface.

Roman–Persian Wars Timeline
Roman–Parthian Wars
69 BC First Roman-Parthian contacts, when Lucullus invaded Southern Armenia.
66–65 BC Dispute between Pompey and Phraates III over Euphrates boundary
53 BC Roman defeat at the Battle of Carrhae
42–37 BC A great Parthian invasion of Syria, and other Roman territories was decisively defeated by Mark Antony and Ventidius
36–33 BC Unsuccessful campaign of Mark Antony against Parthia. Subsequent campaign in Armenia successful, but followed by withdrawal — the whole region passed under Parthian control.
20 BC Settlement with the Parthians by Augustus and Tiberius — Return of the standards captured at Carrhae.
36 AD Defeated by the Romans, Artabanus II renounced his claims to Armenia.
58–63 AD Roman invasion of Armenia — arrangement with the Parthians over the kingship of Armenia.
114–117 AD Major campaign of Trajan against Parthia — Trajan's conquests later abandoned by Hadrian.
161–165 AD War over Armenia (161–163) ended by a Roman victory after initial Parthian successes
Avidius Cassius sacked Ctesiphon in 165 AD.
195–197 AD An offensive under the emperor Septimius Severus led to the Roman acquisition of northern Mesopotamia.
216–217 AD Caracalla launched a new war against the Parthians — His successor Macrinus was defeated by the Parthians near Nisibis.
Roman–Sassanid Wars
230–232 AD Ardashir I raided Mesopotamia and Syria, but was finally repulsed by Alexander Severus.
238–244 AD Ardashir's invasion of Mesopotamia, and Persian defeat at the Battle of Resaena.
Gordian III advanced down the Euphrates but was repelled near Ctesiphon at the Battle of Misiche in 244.
253 AD Roman defeat at the Battle of Barbalissos.
c. 258–260 AD Shapur I defeated and captured Valerian at Edessa.
283 AD Carus sacked Ctesiphon.
296–298 AD Roman defeat at Carrhae in 296 or 297.
In 298 Galerius defeated the Persians.
363 AD After an initial victory at the Ctesiphon, Julian was killed at the Battle of Samarra.
384 AD Shapur III and Theodosius I divided Armenia between the two states.
421–422 AD Roman reaction to Bahram's persecution of Christian Persians.
440 AD Yazdegerd II raided Roman Armenia.
502–506 AD Anastasian War: It broke out when Anastasius I refused to financially support the Persians, and ended with a 7-year peace-treaty.
526–532 AD Iberian War: Roman victories at Dara and Satala, and defeat at Callinicum — end of the war with the "Treaty of Eternal Peace".
540–561 AD Lazic War: It broke out when the Persians broke the "Treaty of Eternal Peace" invading Syria — end of the war in 561 with the signing of a 50-year peace and the Roman acquisition of Lazica.
572–591 AD War for the Caucasus: It broke out when the Armenians revolted against Sassanid rule.
In 589 the Persian general Bahram Chobin raised a rebellion against Hormizd IV.
Restoration of Khosrau II, Hormizd's son, to power by Roman and Persian forces — Restoration of Roman rule in northern Mesopotamia (Dara, Martyropolis) and expansion into Iberia and Armenia.
602 AD After Maurice's assassination, Khosrau II conquered Mesopotamia.
611–623 AD The Persians conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Rhodes, and entered Anatolia.
626 AD Unsuccessful Avar-Persian siege of Constantinople
627 AD Persian defeat at Nineveh.
629 AD Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem, after the Persians agreed to withdraw from all occupied territories.

Before Islam, the Roman-Persian Wars and the Byzantine–Sasanian wars had occurred every few years for hundreds of years between 69 BC and 629 AD. High taxes were imposed on the populations in both the Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires to finance these wars. There was also continuous bloodshed of the people during these wars. The Arab tribes in Iraq were paid by the Persian Sassanids to act as mercenaries. While the Arab tribes in Syria were paid by the Byzantine to act as their mercenaries. The Persians maintained an Arab satellite state of Lakhm and the Byzantine Empire maintained the Arab satellite state of Ghassan which they used to fight each other.[33] The Syrians and the Iraqis had been fighting each other for centuries. Therefore later, each wanted the capital of the newly established Islamic State to be in their area.[34] Later others like the Lakhm Arabs, many of whom became the Qurra, also wanted to rule Persia.

Sects started to form, among them the Sabaites named after Abdala Ben Saba [35]

At-Tabri (5:66) reported that when a man called "Abdullah ibn Saba" came to Syria, he met Adu Dharr. He Said "Adu Dharr, aren't you amazed at Muawiya saying, "The property is the property of Allah. Doesn't everything belong to Allah?' It seems he means to cut it off from the Muslims and erase the name of the Muslims!" Adu Dharr therefore went to him and said "What leads you to call the property of the Muslims the property of Allah?" Muawiya said "May Allah have mercy on you, Adu Dharr! Are we not the slaves of Allah and all property is His property and all creation is His creation and all the affair is His affair?" Abu Dharr said "Do not say that." Muawiya said "I do not say that it does not belong to Allah, but I say, 'The property of the Muslims'" Adbullah ibn Saba came back to Abu Dharr who them said to him "Who are you? By Allah, I think that you are a Jew." Then Ibn Saba went to Abdullah ibn as-Samit and attempted to make his discontented. 'Adbullah took him to Muawiya and said "By Allah this is one who sent Abu Dharr to you".

There is also Jewish literature from that time, regarding Adbullah ibn Saba. Much of the Jewish literature on Adbullah ibn Saba from that time regards Adbullah ibn Saba as an apostate from Judaism and asks Jews to keep away from him.[36][37][38][39]

There was also the movement towards more autonomous tribal groupings which was particularly strong in Kufa, in Iraq, they wanted to rule their own states. Amongst them developed a group called the Qurra who later became known as the Kharijities.[40][41]

The Qurra are referenced in many Hadith from the period of Muhammad, Abu Bakr and Umar in Sahih Al Bukhari (Volume 6, Book 60, Number 201 and Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509 and Volume 8, Book 75, Number 403):

The Qurra had taken part in the Battle of Yamama. But the Qurra never listened to orders and would start battles even when they were ordered not to and were heavily out numbered. At Yamamah, Khalid ibn al-Walid wrote to them and Ikrimah to just observe the forces of Musaylimah at Yamamah, and told them not to start fighting until he had arrived. Shurahbil bin Hasanah was also dispatched to assist them. But even though they were heavily out numbered, they disobeyed their orders and started a battle and as a result suffered heavy casualties. They later disobeyed orders and started the Battle of the Camel and the Battle of Saffin and did the same against Ali in the Battle of Nahrawan even through they were heavily out numbered.[42]

Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 201 : Narrated by Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari

"...Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of qurra' were killed). 'Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, 'Umar has come to me and said, The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the qurra' at other battle-fields ...

Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 9, Book 92, Number 386 : Narrated by Hammam

Hudhaifa said, "O the Group of Al-qurra! Follow the straight path, for then you have taken a great lead (and will be the leaders), but if you divert right or left, then you will go astray far away."

Al-Masudi calls them the "ahl al-qar wa l-ashraf" The earliest reference to these people are as Ajl al-Qura, the people of the village, those who fought with Abu Bakr against the desert tribes of Yamama during the Ridda when some of the tribes refused to pay taxes.[43][44][45] The Qurra had political and economic interests that were different from those of Ali or Muawiyah. They had served in the Ridda wars and had been granted trusteeship over some of the lands in Sawad in Iraq and were now called Ahl al Ayyam, those who had taken part in the eastern conquests.[46][47] They then became known as the Qurra and received the highest stipend of the Muslim army, the sharaf al ata and they had the use of the best lands which they came to regard as their private domain. The Qurra received stipends varying between 2,000 and 3,000 dirhams, while the majority of the rest of the troops received only 250 to 300 dirhams. The other Ridda tribesmen in Kufa, in Iraq, resented the special position given to the Qurra. The tension between the Ridda tribesmen and the Qurra threatened the Qurra's newly acquired prestige. The Qurra therefore felt obliged to defend their position in the new but rapidly changing society. Uthman's policies of reducing their status threatened their interests.[48][49][50][51]

The Qurra were mainly based in Kufa, in Iraq.[52][53] They had not been involved in Syria. But later when Uthman declined to give them more lands in Persia [52][54] they felt that their status was being reduced and therefore started to cause trouble.[52][55] He also removed the distinction between the Ridda and pre-Ridda tribesmen which was not to their liking and lessened their prestige.[56][57][58]

The Qurra had previously been desert nomads and some were also bandits and had joined to Muslims so that they could gain lands and status and become the new aristocrats in Iraq[59] But later when Uthman imposed restrictions on them and prevented them from becoming landlords in Iran they rebelled.[60][61][52][62]

Some of the people with their tribal names as Qurra had been expelled from Kufa, in Iraq, for fomenting trouble and were sent to Muawiyah in Syria. Muawiyah then said to them:

"You are people from the Arabs. You have importance and are heard. You have obtained nobility by Islam. You have conquered the nations and you have won their positions and their inheritance. I have heard that you resent the Quraysh. If it had not been for the Quraysh, you would have been considered abased as you were before, However, they are still your Imams today and your shelter, so do not impede your shelter. Your Imamns are patient with you in the face of your injustice and endure the trouble that you cause. By Allah, either you will cease or Allah will try you with someone who will be hard on you. Then you will share with them in what you brough about on the populace while you were alive and after your death. "[63]

The Qurra Arabs had previously been desert nomads and bandits. One of them then spoke with great arrogance and said to Muawiyah

"How much you go on about authority and the Quraysh! The Arabs (meaning they the Qurra) were eating from the hilts of their swords while the Quraysh were nothing but merchants!" He then said "As for the shelter you mentioned, when the shelter is pierced, then come to us" meaning that they will remove the Quraysh and will rule them selves.[64]

Muawiyah then said to him "I remind you by Islam and yet you mention the Jahiliyya (meaning their days before Islam)"[65]

Muawiyah then wrote to Uthman saying: "Some people have come to me who have neither intellect nor deen (faith). Islam is burdensome to them and justice vexes them. They do not aim for Allah in anything nor do they speak by any proof. They are busy with sedition and appropriating the property of the non Muslims. Allah is the One who will test and try them. Then He will be the One to disgrace them and humiliate them. They are those who injure people."[66]

Then they were sent to Abdur r Rahman ibn Khalid ibn Walid. He said to them:

"Tools of Shaytan! You have no welcome! Shaytan has returned in sorrow and yet you are still active! May Allah disappoint Abdur Rahman if he does not discipline you until he makes you feel regret! O company of a people whom I do not know to be Arab or non Arab, you will not say to me what I heard you said to Muawiyah! I am the son of Khalid ibn al-Walid. I am the son of the one who was tested by the teeth. I am the son of the one who knocked out the Ridda!" [67] He mentioned the Ridda and not the defeat of the Byzantine or the Persian because he recognized that these people were an internal threat.[68] The Qurra had previously fought in the Ridda wars alongside Khalid ibn al-Walid but now had political and economic interests that were different from the rest of the Muslims.

Abdur r Rahman ibn Khalid ibn Walid then sent them to Uthman in Madina. In Madina they took an oath that they will not cause trouble and following the example of Muhammad, Uthman accepted their word and let them go.[69] They then split up and went to various different Muslim centers and started fomenting rebellion, particularly in Egypt.[35]

In the best selling book, Shadow of the sword, The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, Tom Holland writes [70] "Uthman was not content to divide up the loot of the old empires in the time-honoured manner of a bandit chieftain sharing out plunder after a successful raid. The Arabs, so it seemed to the new Amir had moved on from that. The conquerors, if they were to make best use of the defeated superpowers bureaucracies, would themselves have to accept certain disciplines: a central administration, not least, and a clear-cut chain of command. Precisely the marks of slavery, in short, that the desert Arabs had always derided."

The Qurra then felt that Abu Musa al_Ashari could look after their interests better. Sa'id ibn al-As, the governor in Kufa, in Iraq, then wrote to Uthman "I have no power at all over Kufa with Al-Ashtar and his friends who are called al-qurra, and they are idiots" [71] In 655/634 the Qurra stopped Uthans governor Sa'id ibn al-As at Jara'a, preventing him from entering Kufa and declared Abu Musa al-Ashari to be their governor. (Later the Qurra proposed Abu Musa al_Ashari as the arbitrator against the wished of Ali after the Battle of Saffin because they felt that he could also better represent their interests there and split away from Ali and became officially known as the Khawarij.)[72]

In 656, The Qurra approached Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr the son of Abu Bakr and the adopted son of Ali ibn Abi Talib and the great grandfather of Ja'far al-Sadiq and asked him why he was not a governor. They had fought under the service of his father in the Ridda wars. They also asked Uthman's adopted son, Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa, who Uthman had refused to appoint as a governor of any province, why he was not a governor.

There were references to these people in earlier texts too. Abū Dharr narrated that Muhammad said: Aḥmad, Muslim, and Ibn Mājah

“There will definitely be a people after me from my nation who recite the Quran yet it will not even reach beyond their throats. They will pass through the religion as an arrow passes through a target, then they will not return back to it. They are the worst of people, the worst of all creatures.” [73]

al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Abū Dāwūd, and al-Nasā`ī all recorded a Ḥadīth from Abū Sa’īd al- Khudrī ( رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ ) that he said: ‘Alī ( رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ ) sent some gold to the prophet ( صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم ) so divided and distributed it among four groups: al-Aqra’ Ibn Ḥābis al-Ḥanẓalī, al-Mujāshi’ī, ‘Uyaynah Ibn Badr al-Fazārī, and Zayd al-Ṭā`ī; a man from the Nabhān tribe and ‘Alqamah Ibn ‘Ulāthah al-‘Āmirī; then a man from the Kilāb tribe. (The Muslims of) Quraysh and the residents of Medina became upset and said, “He gives to the noble one from Najd and leaves us?” The prophet ( صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم ) said: إِنَّمَا أَتَأَلَّفُهُمْ “I am only trying to unite their hearts.” Then a man with sunken eyes, thick cheeks, a high forehead, a thick beard, and a shaven head came up and said, “Fear Allah, Muhammad!” He replied: مَنْ يُطِعْ اللَّهَ إِذَا عَصَيْتُ؟ أَيَأْمَنُنِي اللَّهُ عَلَى أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ فَلا تَأْمَنُونِي؟ “Who would obey Allah if I were disobedient (to Him)? Allah trusts me with regards to the people of the earth but you don’t trust me?” [74] After the man left, he said: إِنَّ مِنْ ضِئْضِئِ هَذَا أَوْ فِي عَقِبِ هَذَا قَوْمًا يَقْرَءُونَ الْقُرْآنَ لا يُجَاوِزُ حَنَاجِرَهُمْ يَمْرُقُونَ مِنْ الدِّينِ مُرُوقَ السَّهْمِ مِنْ الرَّمِيَّةِ يَقْتُلُونَ أَهْلَ الإِسْلامِ وَيَدَعُونَ أَهْلَ الأَوْثَانِ لَئِنْ أَنَا أَدْرَكْتُهُمْ لأَقْتُلَنَّهُمْ قَتْلَ عَادٍ “From the progeny of this man,” or he said, “From the offspring of this man, there will come a people who will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats. They will go through the religion like a arrow going through a target. They will murder the people of Islam while ignoring the people of idol-worship. If I were to reach them (their time), I would destroy them like the people of ‘Ād were destroyed.” [75]

Some modern scholars like R. E. Brunnow trace the origins of the Qurra and the Kharitites back to Bedouin stock and desert tribesmen, who had become soldiers not out of commitment to Islam but to share the spoils. Brunnow held that the Kharijites were Bedouin Arabs (Beduinenaraber) or full blooded Arabs.[76]

Anti-Uthman sentiment

According to Muslim sources, unlike his predecessor, Umar, who maintained discipline with a stern hand, Uthman was less rigorous upon his people; he focused more on economic prosperity. Under Uthman, the people became economically more prosperous and on the political plane they came to enjoy a larger degree of freedom. No institutions were devised to channel political activity, and, in the absence of such institutions, the pre-Islamic tribal jealousies and rivalries, which had been suppressed under earlier caliphs, erupted once again. In view of the lenient policies adopted by Uthman, the people took advantage of such liberties, which became a headache for the state, and it culminated in the assassination of Uthman.[77]

According to some contemporary salafi scholars, the foreign powers became nervous at the success of the Muslims under the leadership of Uthman, and now their only hope lay in aiding and abetting subversive movements within the territories of Uthman's caliphate. According to some viewpoints, under such circumstances, leaders like Abdullah Ibn Saba, felt that it was a good opportunity to accomplish their aims of rebellion by starting arguments over religion.

Wilferd Madelung from the Institute for Ismaili Studies discredits the alleged role of Abdullah ibn Saba in the rebellion against Uthman, Madelung observes that ‘’few if any modern historians would accept Sayf's legend of Ibn Saba’’[78] How ever there is much Jewish literature from that time, regarding Adbullah ibn Saba and the Jewish community in Iraq and the Exilarch. Much of the Jewish literature on Adbullah ibn Saba from that time regards Adbullah ibn Saba as an apostate from Judaism and asks Jews to keep away from him.[36][37][38][39]

Uthman's emissaries to the provinces

The situation was becoming tense and so the Uthman administration had to investigate the origins and extent of anti-government propaganda and its aims. Some time around 654, Uthman called all the governors of his 12 provinces to Medina to discuss the problem. In this Council of Governors, Uthman directed the governors that they should adopt all the expedients they had suggested, according to local circumstances. Later, in the Majlis al Shurah (council of ministry), it was suggested to Uthman that reliable agents should be sent to various provinces to investigate the matter and report about the sources of such rumours. Uthman accordingly sent his agents to the main provinces, Muhammad ibn Maslamah was sent to Kufa; Usama ibn Zayd was sent to Basra; Ammar ibn Yasir was sent to Egypt, while `Abd Allah ibn Umar was sent to Syria. The emissaries who had been sent to Kufa, Basra, and Syria submitted their reports to Uthman, that all was well in Kufa, Basra and Syria. The people were satisfied with the administration, and they had no legitimate grievance against it. Some individuals in various locations had some personal grievances of minor character, with which the people at large were not concerned. Abdullah ibn Saad, the governor of Egypt, reported about the activities of the opposition in Egypt. He wanted to take action against Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (The son of Abu Bakr adopted by Ali) and Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa (adopted son of Uthman).[17] However, Uthman did not want Abdullah ibn Saad to be harsh against them because he held them in high regard. After the Egyptian emissary's failure, Uthman looked for further developments in Egypt.

Further measures

In 655, Uthman directed the people who had any grievance against the administration to assemble at Mecca for the Hajj. He promised them that all their legitimate grievances would be redressed. He directed the governors and the "Amils" throughout the empire to come to Mecca on the occasion of the Hajj. In response to the call of Uthman, the opposition came in large delegations from various cities to present their grievances before the gathering.[77]

Uthman addressed the people and gave a long explanation of the criticism about himself and his administration and then said: "I have had my say. Now I am prepared to listen to you. If any one of you has any legitimate grievance against me or my Government you are free to give expression to such grievance, and I assure you that, I will do my best to redress such grievance."

The rebels realized that the people in Mecca supported the defence offered by Uthman and were not in the mood to listen to them.[4] That was a great psychological victory for Uthman. It is said, according to Sunni Muslim accounts, that before returning to Syria, the governor Muawiyah, Uthman’s cousin, suggested Uthman should come with him to Syria as the atmosphere there was peaceful. Uthman rejected his offer, saying that he didn't want to leave the city of Muhammad (referring to Medina). Muawiyah then suggested that he be allowed to send a strong force from Syria to Medina to guard Uthman against any possible attempt by rebels to harm him. Uthman rejected it too, saying that the Syrian forces in Medina would be an incitement to civil war, and he could not be party to such a move.[17]

Agitation in Medina

After the Hajj of 655 things remained quiet for some time. With the dawn of the year 656, Medina, the capital city of Uthman, became a hotbed of intrigue and unrest. Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr returned to Medina from Egypt, and assisted in leading a campaign against the Caliphate of Uthman.

When the crisis deepened in Medina, Uthman addressed the congregation in the Masjid-e-Nabawi and gave an explanation and rebuttal of all the claims against him. The general public was again satisfied with Uthman. He had hoped that after his speech in which he had explained his position, and offered full defence for his actions, the allegedly false propaganda against him would cease.

Armed revolt against Uthman

The politics of Egypt played the major role in the propaganda war against the caliphate, so Uthman summoned Abdullah ibn Saad, the governor of Egypt, to Medina to consult with him as to the course of action that should be adopted. Abdullah ibn Saad came to Medina, leaving the affairs of Egypt to his deputy, and in his absence, Muhammad bin Abi Hudhaifa (adopted son of Uthman) staged a coup d'état and took power. On hearing of the revolt in Egypt, Abdullah hastened back but Uthman was not in a position to offer him any military assistance and, accordingly, Abdullah ibn Saad failed to recapture his power.[79]

The Qurra then felt that Abu Musa al_Ashari could look after their interests better. Sa'id ibn al-As, the governor in Kufa, in Iraq, then wrote to Uthman "I have no power at all over Kufa with Al-Ashtar and his friends who are called al-qurra, and they are idiots" [80] In 655/634 the Qurra stopped Uthans governor Sa'id ibn al-As at Jara'a, preventing him from entering Kufa and declared Abu Musa al-Ashari to be their governor. (Later the Qurra proposed Abu Musa al_Ashari as the arbitrator against the wished of Ali after the Battle of Saffin because they felt that he could also better represent their interests there and split away from Ali and became officially known as the Khawarij.)[81]

In Basra the governor, Abdullah ibn Aamir, left for Hajj, and in his absence the affairs of the province fell into a state of confusion. The three main provinces of Egypt (which was already the center of the dissident movement), Kufa, and Basra became essentially independent from the Caliphate of Uthman, and became the center of revolt.

Rebels in Medina

From Egypt a contingent of about 1,000 people were sent to Medina, with instructions to assassinate Uthman and overthrow the government. Similar contingents marched from Kufa and Basra to Medina.[82] They sent their representatives to Medina to contact the leaders of public opinion. The representatives of the contingent from Egypt waited on Ali, and offered him the Caliphate in succession to Uthman, which Ali turned down. The representatives of the contingent from Kufa waited on Al-Zubayr, while the representatives of the contingent from Basra waited on Talhah, and offered them their allegiance as the next Caliph, which were both turned down. In proposing alternatives to Uthman as Caliph, the rebels neutralized the bulk of public opinion in Medina and Uthman's faction could no longer offer a united front. Uthman had the active support of the Umayyads, and a few other people in Medina,[83] but the rest of the people of Medina chose to be neutral and help neither side.

Siege of Uthman

Main article: Siege of Uthman

The situation in Medina was a big gain for the rebels. When they felt satisfied that the people of Medina would not offer them any resistance, they entered the city of Medina and laid siege to the house of Uthman, essentially taking it over but not confining the Caliph. The rebels declared that no harm from them would come to any person who choose not to resist them. Uthman strongly instructed his supporters to refrain from violence but his various servants (about 40 of them) appealed for permission to fight against the rebels, along with a thousand other citizens of Medina. Uthman, who was a wealthy man even from the days before Islam, freed all 40 of his slaves and ordered them to stay away from the civil war between the Muslims.

The early stage of the siege of Uthman’s house was not severe,[84] the rebels merely hovered around the house and did not place any restrictions on him. Uthman went to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi as usual, and led the prayers. The rebels offered prayers under the leadership of Uthman. While Uthman addressed the people in the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi he was criticized by opponents. At this the supporters of Uthman took up cudgels on his behalf. Tempers flared up on both sides, hot words were exchanged between the parties, and that led to the pelting of stones at one another. One of the stones hit Uthman, he fell unconscious and was carried to his house, still unconscious.

The proceedings in the mosque showed that most of the people of Medina (or at least those in the mosque) preferred not to fight, but to watch developments. When the rebels felt that the people of Medina were not likely to offer active support to Uthman, they changed their strategy, and tightened the siege of the house of Uthman, thus confining Uthman to his home. Uthman was denied the freedom to move about and was not allowed to go to the mosque.

As the days passed, the rebels intensified their pressure against Uthman.[84] They forbade the entry of any food or provisions, and later water as well, into his house, even turning down a few widows of Muhammad. Ramlah bint Abi-Sufyan, a widow of Muhammad, came to see Uthman and brought some water and provisions for him but she was not allowed to enter. Another widow of Muhammad, and the daughter of the late Caliph Abu Bakr, Aisha, made a similar attempt, and she was also prevailed upon by the rebels to go back.

When Ali first heard about the siege of Uthman, he sent his sons Hassan and Hussayn to protect Uthman.[85] Zubayr ibn Awwam sent his son Abdullah ibn Zubair and Talha ibn Ubaydullah sent his son also sent his son to protect Uthman.[86][87]

With the departure of the pilgrims from Medina to Mecca, the hands of the rebels were further strengthened, and as a consequence the crisis deepened further. The rebels understood that after the Hajj, the Muslims gathered at Mecca from all parts of the Muslim world might march to Medina to relieve Uthman. They therefore decided to take action against Uthman before the pilgrimage was over. During the siege, Uthman was asked by his supporters, who outnumbered the rebels, to let them fight against the rebels and rout them. Uthman prevented them in an effort to avoid the bloodshed of Muslim by Muslim. Unfortunately for Uthman, violence occurred anyhow. The gates of the house of Uthman were shut and guarded by the renowned warrior, Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr.[84] The sons of Ali, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, were also among the guards;[88] while amongst those inciting the people to fight included Aisha,[89] one of the wives of Muhammad. A skirmish erupted between the opponents and the supporters of Uthman at the gate, some anti-Uthman partisans were killed, and the rebels were finally pushed back. Among the supporters of Uthman, Hasan ibn Ali, Marwan and some other people were wounded.


Finding the gate of Uthman's house strongly guarded by his supporters, the Qurra climbed the back wall and sneaked inside, leaving the guards on the gate unaware of what was going on inside. Hassan and Hussein were also guarding Uthman at the time.[90] The rebels entered his room and struck blows at his head.[91] Naila, the wife of Uthman, threw herself on his body to protect him.

Raising her hand to protect him she had her fingers chopped off and was pushed aside, and further blows were struck until he was dead. The supporters of Uthman then counterattacked the assassins and, in turn, killed them. There was further fighting between the rebels and the supporters of Uthman, with casualties on both sides, after which the rebels looted the house.[92]

According to Encyclopedia of Islam, Muawiyah sent a relief force led by Habib ibn Maslama al-Fihri to protect Uthman, but events moved so fast that Uthman got killed before they arrived, so they turned back from the wadi I kura [93][94][95][96] According to al-Baladhuri one of the earliest books of these events, Ali was furious and slapped Hassan and Hussein saying "How did he get killed when you were at the door?"[97]

The rioters wanted to mutilate his body and were keen that he be denied burial. When some of the rioters came forward to mutilate the body of Uthman, his two widows, Nailah and Ramlah bint Sheibah, covered him, and raised loud cries which deterred the rioters. The rebels left the house and the supporters of Uthman at gate hearing it, entered, but it was too late.[98]

Thereafter the rioters maintained a presence round the house in order to prevent the dead body from being carried to the graveyard.

Uthman was assassinated on the 18 Dhul Haj.


After the body of Uthman had been in the house for three days, Naila, Uthman's wife, approached some of his supporters to help in his burial, but only about a dozen people responded. These included Marwan, Zayd ibn Thabit, 'Huwatib bin Alfarah, Jabir bin Muta'am, Abu Jahm bin Hudaifa, Hakim bin Hazam and Niyar bin Mukarram.[99] The body was lifted at dusk, and because of the blockade, no coffin could be procured. The body was not washed, as Islamic teaching states that martyrs' bodies are not supposed to be washed before burial. Thus Uthman was carried to the graveyard in the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his assassination.[100]

His body was buried by Hassan and Hussein[101] Naila followed the funeral with a lamp, but in order to maintain secrecy the lamp had to be extinguished. Naila was accompanied by some women including Ayesha, Uthman's daughter.


The body was carried to Jannat al-Baqi, the Muslim graveyard.

It appears that some people gathered there, and they resisted the burial of Uthman in the graveyard of the Muslims. The supporters of Uthman insisted that the body should be buried in Jannat al-Baqi. They later buried him in the Jewish graveyard behind Jannat al-Baqi. Some decades later, the Umayyad rulers demolished the wall separating the two cemeteries and merged the Jewish cemetery into the Muslim one to ensure that his tomb was now inside a Muslim cemetery.[102]

The funeral prayers were led by Jabir bin Muta'am, and the dead body was lowered into the grave without much of a ceremony. After burial, Naila the widow of Uthman and Aisha the daughter of Uthman wanted to speak, but they were advised to remain quiet due to possible danger from the rioters.[103]

Ali later confronted the Kharijites

Ali later assumed the position of caliph. Following the Roman-Persian Wars and the Byzantine–Sasanian wars there were deep rooted differences between Iraq, formally under the Persian Sassanid Empire and Syria formally under the Byzantine Empire. The Iraqis wanted the capital of the newly established Islamic State to be in Kufa so as to bring revenues into their area and oppose Syria.[104] They convinced Ali to come to Kufa and establish the capital in Kufa, in Iraq.[104] Ali later moved the capital to Kufa.[104]

After making everyone else fight, the Qurra later turned against Ali. Ali wanted Malik Ashtar or Abdullah bin Abbas to be appointed as an arbitrator for the people of Kufa, Iraq, after the battle of Saffin, but the Qurra strongly demurred. They nominated Abu Musa al-Ashari as their arbitrator. (During the time of Uthman, they had appointed Abu Musa al-Ashari as the Governor of Kufa and removed Uthams governor before they started fighting Uthman)

After the battle of Saffin the Qurra realised that Ali could not safeguard their interests and therefore split off and formed their own Party called the Kharijites and later developed into an anarchist movement [105] and plagued successive governments even Harun the Abbasid ruler died fighting the Kharijites [106]

They also started killing Ali's supporters. They considered anyone who was not part of their group as an unbeliever.[107]

In the best selling book, Shadow of the sword, The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, Tom Holland writes [108] "The Kharijites argued a true believer would have trusted his fate not to diplomacy but to ongoing warfare and God will decide." Even though they them selves had put forward their representative and become a party of them selves, so that the negotiations could go in their favor and satisfy their own political and economic interests. Tom Holland says that "they then condemned Ali as an unbeliever, as the man who had strayed from the Strait Path. The fact that he was Muhammad's nephew only confirmed them in their militancy of their egalitarianism; that the true aristocracy was one of piety and not blood. Even a Companion of the Prophet, if he did not pray until he developed marks on his forehead. If he did not look pale and haggard from regular fasting, if he did not live like a lion by day and a monk by night, ranked in the opinion of the Kharijites as no better than an apostate." They then developed even more twisted views. Tom Holland writes "Other Kharijites, so it was reported, might go out and with their swords into the markets while people would stand around not realizing what was happening; they would shout "no judgment except God!" and plunge their blades into whom ever they could reach and go on killing until they them selves were killed.[109]

In 659 Ali's forces finally moved against the Kharijites and they finally met in the Battle of Nahrawan. Although Ali won the battle, the constant conflict had begun to affect his standing.[110] Tom Holland writes "Ali won a victory over them as crushing as it was to prove pyrrhic: for all he had done, in effect was to fertilise the soil of Iraq with the blood of their martyrs. Three years later, and there came the inevitable blowback: a Kharijite assassin.".[111]

The Kharijites caused so much trouble that in both the Sunni and the Shia books Ali said:"With regard to me, two categories of people will be ruined, namely he who loves me too much and the love takes him away from rightfulness, and he who hates me too much and the hatred takes him away from rightfulness. The best man with regard to me is he who is on the middle course. So be with him and be with the great majority of Muslims because Allah’s hand of protection is on keeping unity. You should beware of division because the one isolated from the group is a prey to Satan just as the one isolated from the flock of sheep is a prey to the wolf. Beware! Whoever calls to this course [of sectarianism], kill him, even though he may be under this headband of mine."(Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 126)

Ali was assassinated by Kharijites in 661. On the 19th of Ramadan, while Praying in the Great Mosque of Kufa, Ali was attacked by the Khawarij Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam. He was wounded by ibn Muljam's poison-coated sword while prostrating in the Fajr prayer.[112]

Scholars like Wellhausen have argued that the Kharijites when revolting against Ali used the same formula as they had previously applied against Uthman, when they revolted against Uthman.[113]

Wellhausen argues that for the Kharijite Ali's pact with Muawiyah compromised the Devine Right the same act which caused the insurgencies against Uthman and Muawiya as well.[114]

Scholars like Wellhausen argue that the Kharijites sprang from the Qurra and they did not start off as a marginal and clandestine sect, but were in full public eye. Wellhausen argues that:[115]

"Their origins were essentially very different from those of the Abbasid and Fatimid parties. They did not have to resort to conspiracy and widespread propaganda and were not held together by a secret complex organization. They had only principles but these were always well known to the people and attracted supporters without them seeking them".[116]

M. A. Shaban in his Islamic History A.D. 600-750 (A.H. 132): A new Interpretation (1971) Proclaims that the Qurra were the tribesmen who had the trusteeship of the conquered lands. This means that they shared the wealth and the prestige of the new system. Their special position and prestige in the Sawad in Iraq however was threatened by Uthmans policies. This explains their participation in removing Uthman. Although the policy of Ali was lucrative to the Qurra they realized that the new Caliph's inheritance of a divided community and turmoil would make his unable to protect their newly established economic status. Thus at this stage and during the Battle of Siffin (Ali's weakest moments) the Qurra decided to secede from Ali's coalition and become a party of their own.[117] In the article entitled "The Emergence of the Kharijites: Religion and the Social Order in Early Islam" (1989) Jeffrey T Kenny has argued that the Kharijites were just one of many factions that emerged from an intricate web of chaning socioeconomic policies in the newly established provinces of the Islamic Empire.[118]

M. A. Shaban in his book Islamic History A.D. 600-750 (A.H. 132): A new Interpretation (1971) writes the Qurra insisted on choosing Abu Musa al Ashari to be the Iraqi representative after the battle of Siffin despite Ali's vehement objection. Shaban writes that the same Qurra originally insisted on Abu Musa becoming the governor of Kufa and replaced Uthmans governor because Abu Musa had opposed Uthman's policy and therefore had been the choice of the Qurra as governor of Kufa, when they expelled Uthmans governor Sa'id b Al-As. Shaban adds that the Qurra tried to turn the negotiations between the Syrians and the Iraqis to their own advantage and that they wished to become a third party in the dispute. Thus it is at this point that the coalition of Ali ended and that the ex-qurra emerged as the Kharijites.[119]

While Watt argues that the Kharijites were not simply dissatisfied with a particular man or family or economics, rather their dissatisfaction was with the whole social structure which was represented by both Uthman and Ali. In the old way they had freedom in the affairs of the tribe. Now they were in the "super-tribe" of Islam and could not behave as they had behaved previously. They wanted to go back to their old tribal structure where they could glory and boast about their tribe. He writes "Those who had been accustomed to tribal societies missed the security ... provided by the old system; nothing in the new system quite replaced it[120]

After the death of Ali the Kharijites got stronger in Iraq and Hassan made a peace agreement with Muawiya. Two decades later, after years of planning and scheming and making every one else fight, Marwan came to power in Syria and the Qurra (the Kharijites) established a state in Southern Iraq. The very thing Hassan signed a treaty with Muawiyah to avoid.

Now there were three camps, the Scholars in Madina, the Kharijites in Iraq and Umayyads in Syria.

In Sahih Al Bukhari the people still referred to the Kharijites by their old name Qurra and most Muslims resented these civil wars and felt that the Arabs had left the teachings of Muhammad and gone back to their old ways of fighting over wealth.

Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 228:[121] Narrated by Abu Al-Minhal

When Ibn Ziyad and Marwan were in Sham and Ibn Az-zubair took over the authority in Mecca and Qurra' (the Kharijites) revolted in Basra, I went out with my father to Abu Barza Al-Aslami till we entered upon him in his house while he was sitting in the shade of a room built of cane. So we sat with him and my father started talking to him saying, "O Abu Barza! Don't you see in what dilemma the people has fallen?" The first thing heard him saying "I seek reward from Allah for myself because of being angry and scornful at the Quraish tribe. O you Arabs! You know very well that you were in misery and were few in number and misguided, and that Allah has brought you out of all that with Islam and with Muhammad till He brought you to this state (of prosperity and happiness) which you see now; and it is this worldly wealth and pleasures which has caused mischief to appear among you. The one who is in Sham (i.e., Marwan), by Allah, is not fighting except for the sake of worldly gain: and those who are among you, by Allah, are not fighting except for the sake of worldly gain; and that one who is in Mecca (i.e., Ibn Az-zubair) by Allah, is not fighting except for the sake of worldly gain."

Family of Uthman

Main article: Family tree of Uthman

Uthman belonged to the Umayyad branch of the Quraish tribe. He was the son of Affan ibn Abi al-'As and Urwa bint Kariz. Urwa bore only two children from Affan: Uthman and his sister Amna. After the death of Affan, Urwa married Uqbah ibn Abu Mu'ayt, to whom she bore three sons and a daughter:

  1. Walid ibn Uqba
  2. Khalid ibn Uqba
  3. Amr ibn Uqba
  4. Umm Kulthum bint Uqba


  • Umm'Amr bint Jandab
  • Fatimah bint Al Walid

He had following children from them,

  • From Umm'Amr bint Jandab
  1. Amr
  2. Khalid
  3. Aban bin uthman bin affan
  4. Umar
  5. Maryam
  • From Fatimah bint al-Walid
  1. Walid
  2. Said
  3. Umm Said.

Amr, was the eldest son of Uthman, and during the pre-Islamic period, Uthman was known by the surname of Abu'Amr.


Uthman was nicknamed Thun-Nurayn (Zunnorain) (Arabic: ذو النورين‎, literally: possessor of two lights), because of his marriage with two of Prophet Muhammad's daughters.[122]

  • Ruqayyah bint Muhammad, Muhammad's daughter. Ruqayyah and Uthman had a son, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman, but he died early, because of him after Islam he was called by the surname Abu'Abdullah. Ibnu Taimiyyah said, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman not died at young because he have one student Ali Zein al-Abidin ibn Hussain, grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib.

When she died, Uthman was married to her sister,

  • Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, second daughter of Muhammad. Umm Kulthum bore no child.
  • From Fahida bint Ghazwan
  1. Abdullah bin Uthman al-asghar, he died in early age.
  • From Umm Al-Baneen bint Einiyah
  1. Abdulmalik bin Uthman, he too died in early age.
  • From Ramla bany Sheibah
  1. Ayesha bint Uthman
  2. Umm Aban bint Uthman
  3. Umm Amr bint Uthman
  • From Nailah bint Fraizah
  1. Maryum


Islamic history, particularly Sunni history, remembers Uthman in positive terms, calling him handsome, generous, and plain rather than luxurious. It is said that Uthman was one of the most handsome and charming men of his time.[123] Uthman was well known for his reported generosity. During Muhammad's time, while in Medina, he financed the project for the construction of the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi and purchased the well Beer Rauma, which he dedicated to the free use of all Muslims. Uthman’s generosity continued after he became caliph.

Uthman apparently led a simple life even after becoming the Caliph of the Rashidun Empire, though it would have been easy for a successful businessman such as him to lead a luxurious life. The caliphs were paid for their services from bait al-mal, the public treasury, but Uthman never took any salary for his service as a Caliph, as he was independently wealthy.[4] Uthman also developed a custom to free slaves every Friday, look after the widows and orphans, and give unlimited charity. His patience and endurance were among the characteristics that made him a successful leader. He was a devoted Muslim, As a way of taking care of Muhammad’s wives, he doubled their allowances. Uthman wasn't completely plain and simple, however: Uthman built a Palace for himself in Medina, known as Al-Zawar, with a notable feature being doors of precious wood. Although Uthman paid for the palace with his own money, Shia Muslims consider it his first step towards ruling like a King.[3] Uthman's sister Amna bint Affan was married to Abdur Rahman bin Awf, one of the closest companion of Muhammad.

Sunni view of Uthman

According to the Sunni account of Uthman, he was married to two of Muhammad’s daughters at separate times, earning him the name Zun-Nurayn (Dhun Nurayn) or the "Possessor of Two Lights.". In this he was supposed to outrank Ali, who had married only one of Muhammad's daughters.

Sunni Muslims also consider Uthman as one of the ten Sahaba (companions) for whom Muhammad had testified that they were destined for Paradise . He was a wealthy and very noble man. When he became khalifa, he used the same method Umar did.

Uthman is regarded by Sunnis as a beacon of light who refused to participate in the civil conflict. The claims against his wealth do not detract from his personal sacrifice against the rebels.


Uthman was a prominent figure in Islam and history in general and a successful business man, however accounts of his amal (good actions) are numerous and suggested a different side to Uthman, a side that rarely gets publicized.

In the times of Umar there was a severe famine. All the people of Madinah were suffering due to the shortage of food. A caravan made up of a thousand camels loaded with a large stock of food grains belonging to Uthman arrived from Shaam (Syria). Several merchants offered to buy all of it. He asked them what profit they would pay. "Five per cent," they said. He answered that he could get higher profit than that. They began to argue with him, saying that they did not know of any merchant who would offer him more than their quote. He said to them, "I know of one who repays a profit of more than seven hundred to a dirham (Arabian currency)." He then recited the verse of the Quran in which Allah mentioned this profit. "The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures' needs, All-Knower." (2:261).

"O traders! Bear witness with me that I donate all this to the poor people of Madinah!" said Uthman.[124]

‘Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Uthman reported that, “One night I was praying when someone touched me on my back. I saw that it was ‘Uthman, the leader of the believers. I made space for him and then he started to pray. He recited the whole Qur’an in one single rakah and then came out of prayer. I said to him, ‘But you have prayed only one rakah’ “That is my Witr prayer.” he said.”[125]

Ruhaimah said, “‘Uthman used to fast all the time and used to stay awake the whole night in prayer, except for a short time after ‘Ishaa’.”[126]


Bernard Lewis, a 20th-century scholar, says of Uthman:

Uthman, like Mu'awiya, was a member of the leading Meccan family of Ummaya and was indeed the sole representative of the Meccan patricians among the early companions of the Prophet with sufficient prestige to rank as a candidate. His election was at once their victory and their opportunity. That opportunity was not neglected. Uthman soon fell under the influence of the dominant Meccan families and one after another of the high posts of the Empire went to members of those families.

The weakness and nepotism of Uthman brought to a head the resentment which had for some time been stirring obscurely among the Arab warriors. The Muslim tradition attribute the breakdown which occurred during his reign to the personal defects of Uthman. But the causes lie far deeper and the guilt of Uthman lay in his failure to recognize, control or remedy them

According to Ronald Bodley, during Muhammad's lifetime Uthman was not an outstanding figure and was not assigned to any authority, and was not ever distinguished in any of Muhammad's campaigns.[128][129] Bodley also believed that after Umar's assassination, Ali rejected the caliphate as he disagreed with governing according to regulations established by Abu Bakr and Umar, and that Uthman, being less honest than Ali, accepted those terms[130] which he failed to administrate during his ten years Caliphate.[128] He subjected most of the Islamic nation to his relatives, Bani Umayya, who were partially accursed during Muhamad's lifetime.[129][131][132] Uthman compiled the Qur'an, and burnt its other copies. Uthman's governing policies and nepotism led to openly rise of dissatisfaction and resistance throughout most of the empire, especially among noble Companions of Muhammad [128][131][133]

See also

Islam portal
Islam portal



  • Levi Della Vida, G. and R.G. Khoury. "‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān." Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Eds. P.J. Bearman et al. 12 Vols. Brill, 2004. 30 October 2005
  • Radhia Allahu Anaha (The third Caliph 644–656 C.E.)

External links

Views of various Islamic historians on Uthman:

  • Uthman in History
  • Uthman ibn Affan

Views of the Arab Media on Uthman:

  • Ever Since the Murder of Uthman

Sunni view of Uthman:

  • Uthman ibn Affan -

Shi'a view of Uthman:

  • Uthman's election
  • The assassination of `Uthman Ibn `Affan
  • Uthman and Abdullah bin Massood
Uthman ibn Affan
Cadet branch of the Quraysh
Died: June 20 656
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Rashidun Caliph
Succeeded by
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Yazdgerd III
Ruler of Persia
Merged into
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