The cousin and twice son-in-law to Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hazrat Usman ibn Affan (RA), was the third caliph of Islam. As per the traditions, his (RA) mother Umm Hakim bint Abdul-Muttalib was the twin sister of Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib, the father of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), making him the prophet’s (PBUH) second cousin. He (RA) was also known as Zun Noorain, or the “possessor of two lights,” as he married Hazrat Rukayya and after her death, Umm-e-Kulsum, two of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughters. After Hazrat Usman’s (RA) demise, Muslims fell into disarray, sometimes even fighting each other. He was a very mild person in nature and the only caliph to be selected from among and by his equals, individuals who later clashed after his (RA) death.
Hazrat Usman-e-Ghani (RA) was one of the early converts, actually the 5th person to embrace Islam. As per a tradition, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) took him to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), where he (RA) converted to Islam. His father, Affan ibn Abi al-Aas, was a very rich merchant who died very young, before the Holy Prophet (PBUH) began calling people to Islam. He (RA) belonged to Banu Umayyah clan of Quraysh tribe, and at his 5th grandfather, his lineage meets with that of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He (RA) was six years younger to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in age. His titles include Ghani, Zun Noorain and Jame-ul-Quran. He (RA) was associated with the profession of trade and was an affluent person. When he (RA) converted to Islam, Quraysh reacted strongly because he was one of the prominent merchants of Hejaz.
He (RA) was also a literate person; that’s why he was appointed a scribe of the Holy Quran by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He (RA) had also memorized the Holy Quran. He (RA) is included in Ashra Mubashara i.e. the ten persons who were given the glad tiding of the paradise by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) during their life time.
Initial services for Islam and shining aspects of his pre-caliphate life
(1) Participation in two migrations: He (RA) migrated twice for the cause of Islam. First, during the 5th year of prophethood, he (RA) migrated to Abyssinia along with his wife Hazrat Rukkaya (RA) and second, he (RA) migrated to Madina Munawara.
(2) Zun-Noorain: He tied marital knot with two daughters of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) – first Hazrat Rukayya (RA) and after her demise, another daughter of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Hazrat Umm-e-Kulsoom (RA). On that account, he is called Zun-Noorain i.e. the possessor of two lights. In this regard, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “If I had 100 daughters, I would have married them to Usman (RA) after the death of one another.”
(3) Exemplary decency: Hazrat Usman (RA) had an impeccable character, decency and honour that were always appreciated by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Once, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was sitting in a gathering of companions when someone told him about the arrival of Hazrat Usman (RA). The Holy Prophet (PBUH) brought his clothes in proper position. When the companions inquired that why he (PBUH) was having so much respect for [Hazrat] Usman (RA), the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Even the angels respect and admire the decency/honour of Usman (RA).”
(4) Deputy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH): On the occasion of Ghazwa Zat-ul-Raqa, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) appointed him as his Second/Deputy in Madina.
(5) Pledge of tree (Bait-e-Rizwan): In 6th AH, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) proceeded to Makkah along with 1400 companions to perform Umrah. When they reached near Makkah, they learnt that infidels of Makkah were preparing for a war. So, the Muslims encamped at a place named Hudaybia, and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sent Hazrat Usman (RA) to negotiate with the Quraysh. When a few days passed and Hazrat Usman (RA) did not return, a rumour broke out that he (RA) had been martyred by the Quraysh. Upon this, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) took a pledge from Muslims to fight till death for avenging the murder of Hazrat Usman (RA). This pledge is called Bait-e-Rizwan i.e. pledge of good pleasure. It is also called Bait-ul-Shajara i.e. pledge of tree, as at the time of pledge, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was standing under a tree. In verse 18 of Surrah Fatah of the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty has mentioned that pledge in this way:
“Indeed Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave Baiah (Pledge) to you under the tree.”
Generosity: On account of his generosity, he (RA) was given the title of Ghani meaning generous. He always spent his wealth for the cause of Islam. Some important incidents depicting his enormous generosity are as under
a) On the occasion of Ghazwa-e-Tabook, when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sought financial assistance from Muslims, Hazrat Usman (RA) gave 10,000 gold dinars (coins), 300 camels and 50 horses. In addition, he (RA) fully armed 300 soldiers. At that moment, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “After today, no act of Usman would cause him any harm.” He (PBUH) also prayed, “O Allah be pleased with Usman, as I am pleased with him.”
b) When the Muslims migrated to Madina, they were faced with scarcity of drinking water. A well named ‘RUMA’ having abundant water was there but it was owned by a Jew. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Paradise is due for the one who will purchase this well.” It was Hazrat Usman (RA) who purchased that well from the Jew and devoted it for the Muslims.
c) He (RA) spent a large amount from his wealth on expansion of Masjid-e-Nabvi, i.e. Mosque of the Prophet in Madina during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
d) At the time of his marriage with Hazrat Fatima (RA), Hazrat Ali (RA) went to market for selling his armour so as to get some money for making necessary arrangements. It was Hazrat Usman (RA) who purchased that armour and then gave it as a gift to Hazrat Ali (RA) on the day of his marriage.
e) During the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA), a severe famine hit Madina, and there was an acute dearth of food. During those days, a large trade caravan of Hazrat Usman (RA) comprising hundreds of camels laden with food items reached Madina. The traders came to Hazrat Usman (RA) and offered manifolds profit. But, he (RA) told them that they could not give the profit that had been promised by Allah Almighty reciting verse No. 261 of Surah Baqra which says:
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, and in every ear there are a hundred grains. Thus Allah multiplies the action of whomsoever He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All Knowing”.
Then, he (RA) distributed all the food items among the inhabitants of Madina free of cost.
Election as Caliph
Before his demise, Hazrat Umar (RA) constituted a 6-member committee comprising revered companions Hazrat Usman (RA), Hazrat Ali (RA), Hazrat Zubair (RA), Hazrat Talha (RA), Hazrat Abdur Rehman bin Auf (RA) and Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqqas (RA), for choosing any one amongst them as Caliph. With a majority vote, the committee elected Hazrat Usman (RA) as the 3rd Caliph of Muslims, and the Muslims took oath of allegiance to him.
Services as Caliph
1. Standardization of Holy Quran (Jame-ul-Quran): During the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA), the Muslim Empire had expanded tremendously, and new areas beyond Arabia were included in its territories. During the caliphate of Hazrat Usman (RA), a verbal duel happened between two groups of Muslims over the way of reciting some verses of the Holy Quran in a part of Central Asia. When that incident was reported to the caliph (RA), he (RA) asked a commission headed by Hazrat Zaid bin Thabit (RA) to prepare some copies of the manuscript that was prepared by them during the reign of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA). So, after a hectic and delicate exercise, seven copies of that manuscript were prepared by the commission and those were read from beginning to end in front of the Muslims in Masjid-e-Nabvi for ensuring accuracy. Then, one copy each was sent to all provincial headquarters with the directive to use it as the standard. All other copies of the Holy Quran were burnt in order to avoid any controversies in future. Thus, he (RA) not only preserved purity and correctness of the holy text, but also united Muslims on a single recitation of Holy Quran, owing to which he is called Jame-ul-Quran, i.e. the one who united the Muslims on one Quran.
2. First Navy of Islam: The first Muslim Navy was established during the caliphate of Hazrat Usman (RA) on the advice of Hazrat Ameer Muaywia (RA), the firstt naval commander in Islam.
3. Expansion of the court of Ka’aba: The project of expansion of the court of Holy Ka’aba, which was initiated by Hazrat Umar (RA), was completed during the caliphate of Hazrat Usman (RA), in 647 AD.
4. Conquests: During his 12-year reign, he (RA) not only safeguarded the Muslim Empire from enemies, e.g. Ottoman and Persian empires, but also expanded that with his glorious victories in various parts of the world. For instance, in the battle of Alexandria, the naval prowess of the Byzantine Empire was routed. Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and certain areas of Africa and South China were made part of Islamic Empire during his caliphate. Spain was also attacked for the first time.
Unpopularity and martyrdom
The first half of his twelve-year rule was smooth and successful but the second half saw tumult and turbulence; instability, intrigues, chaos and anarchy led to a fall in his popularity and ultimately to his tragic martyrdom on 17th June 656 AD at the hands of certain rebels from Kufa, Basra and Egypt. The rebels had levelled allegations like financial mismanagement, nepotism, favouritism, maltreatment of some companions, etc. against him. They gathered in Madina and when the inhabitants of that sacred city went to Makkah for Hajj, they forcibly entered his house and martyred him in a brutal manner when he (RA) was reciting verses of the Holy Quran. His wife Hazrat Naila attempted to protect him during the course of which four of her fingers were chopped. When the bloodstained clothes of Hazrat Usman (RA) and chopped fingers of his spouse were displayed in the mosque of Damascus, it led to the first Civil War in the Muslim world.
Allegation against Hazrat Usman (RA) and their rebuttal
The allegations levelled against Hazrat Usman (RA) are wrong, absurd, frivolous and based on distortion of historical facts and ground realities. A brief overview of them is as under:
1. Dismissal of important companions and their replacement by men of his clan
This is an absurd allegation as dismissal of the governors was on the basis of cogent reasons. Mughira bin Shoba was removed in conformity with the will of Hazrat Umar (RA) and after some time of his dismissal from governorship of Basra, he was appointed Wali/Governor of Kufa. The reason for dismissal of Hazrat Saad bin Abi Waqqas (RA) was his failure to clear a loan he had taken from the national exchequer. Hazrat Abdullah bin Masood (RA) was removed from post on account of advance age and was replaced with another important companion Hazrat Zaid bin Thabit (RA). The cause for removal of Hazrat Umru bin Ala’as (RA) was financial mismanagement.
2. Maltreatment of some important companions
This is also a false allegation. For example, Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (RA) was not sent on exile but he himself started living in isolation and refused to accept financial assistance. The financial stipend of Abdullah bin Masood (RA) was halted because he refused to comply with genuine official orders.
3. Misuse of government money
Even prior to becoming a caliph, Hazrat Usman (RA) was an affluent and generous person. He used to grant financial assistance to poor relatives from his personal resources. But, in order to dent his image, his opponents with malafide intention falsely accused him of spending government money lavishly and unauthorizedly on his kith and kin. On the basis of his strong financial status, he (RA) was the only caliph who used to draw nothing from government exchequer for meeting his basic needs.
4. Failure to control financial mismanagement of government functionaries
This is also not true as he (RA) took actions, including dismissal from service, against many government functionaries when he (RA) received serious complaints against them. However, he was very kind and lenient temperament-wise. Therefore, he (RA) tried his utmost to avoid awarding strict punishments.
5. Destruction of copies of Holy Quran
This is just a flimsy accusation against Hazrat Usman (RA) which is no less than a distortion of historical facts. In order to unite the Muslims on one recitation of the Holy Quran, Hazrat Usman (RA) requested the commission led by Hazrat Zaid bin Thabit (RA) to prepare some copies of the manuscript ‘Mashaf-e-Siddiqui’ that was prepared by them during the reign of the first Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA). After the demise of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), that manuscript came in the possession of the second caliph Hazrat Umar (RA), and after his martyrdom, in the possession of his daughter Umm-ul-Momineen Hazrat Hafsa (RA). Hazrat Usman (RA) requested her to hand over that manuscript to him so that it could be handed over to Hazrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RA). Hence copies were made from the original manuscript by the commission and all other copies of the Holy Quran were destroyed only to leave no room for confusion and ambiguity. It was a great service of Hazrat Usman (RA) and the whole Muslim Ummah is indebted to him for that.
6. Soft nature that was unfit for administration
Although piety, chastity, modesty, honesty, generosity, kind-heartedness and leniency were the hallmarks of his character, he (RA) lacked some essential qualities of a statesman like prompt and timely decision-making power and taking stern action against rebels, and trouble-makers. He (RA) vacillated often that weakened the writ of the state and fomented unruly tendencies of Bedouin tribes.
We, however, may also take it in this way that on account of having a high degree of piety and fear of Allah, he (RA) was reluctant to punish even his staunch adversaries and instead of taking punitive action against them, he (RA) left their affairs at the disposal of Allah who is the Best Judge. In order to avoid bloodshed and rifts among Muslims, he (RA) avoided action against the rebels who had assembled in Madina for taking his life.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is history’s first major figure to condemn collateral damage in word and deed. His advanced rules of war established 1400 years ago a yet unmatched humanitarian standard. And herein lies the solution to modern conflict. !Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) commanded the following uncompromising rules of war:
O people! I charge you with ten rules; learn them well…for your guidance in the battlefield! Do not commit treachery, or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.
Thus, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) rules of war permit defensive fighting against active combatants while forbidding harm to anyone or anything else—human, animal, or property. According to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) rules of war, no justification exists for either side to attack civilians, property, animals, or anyone who is not an active combatant.
And even against combatants, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) put Muslims on notice. Once, Usama bin Zaid (RA) overcame an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. The soldier implored Usama (RA) for amnesty just as Usama (RA) prepared to deliver the deathblow. Usama (RA) heard but ignored the plea and killed him anyway. Learning of this, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) vociferously condemned Usama’s (RA) act as repulsive to Islamic rules of war.