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Siege of Uthman

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Siege of Uthman

This is a sub-article of Uthman Ibn Affan.

The Third Rightly Guided Caliph, Uthman, was assassinated at the end of a siege upon his house. Initially a protest, the siege escalated following an apparently wrongly attributed threat as well as the death of a protester. The protesters turned rebels had demanded a new caliph to which demands Uthman had refused and on July 17, 656 C.E., as his house was set alight, he died.

Uthman's death had a polarizing effect in the Muslim world at the time. Questions were raised not only regarding his character and policies but also the relationship between Muslims and the state, religious beliefs regarding rebellion and governance, and the qualifications of rulership in Islam.[1]

Background

Uthman Ibn Affan, third caliph, was being sieged by several rioters for several reasons, chief of these was making his kin, Banu Umayya, governors of key Islamic provinces. .[2] The dissatisfaction with his regime and the government's appointed by him wasn't restricted to the provinces outside Arabia.[3] When Uthman's kin, especially Marwan, gained control over him, Uthman lost control over his Caliphate and many of the noble Companions including most of the members of elector council, withdrew their support.[4]

Rebellion

Finally dissatisfaction led to rebellion in Egypt, Kufa and Basra. When Egyptian rebels gathered near Medina, Uthman asked Ali to speak with them. The delegates of Muhajirun led by Ali beside the delegates of Ansar led by Muhammad Ibn Maslamah met them and persuaded them to return by promising them in the name of the caliph redress for all their grievances and agreeing to act as guarantors. Due to their mediation and Uthman's commitment, the rebellion settled down. As the rebel party departed back towards Egypt, they were overtaken by a courier from Medina, upon whom they discovered a letter which (it is claimed) featured the official seal from the office of Caliph Uthman. The letter instructed the Egyptian governor to kill the rebel party once it arrived back home. Historians now consider the letter to have been issued not by Uthman, but his secretary, Marwan ibn Al-Hakam. However, upon discovering the contents of the letter, the rebel party immediately returned to Medina and began the siege.[5]

Beginning of the siege

When Egyptian rebels returned to Madina, outraged by the official letter ordering the punishment of their leaders, Ali as the guarantor of Uthman's promises asked him to speak with the rebels directly. Uthman denied any knowledge about the letter and Ali and Muhammad Ibn Maslamah attested to this. But at this time the choices offered by the rebels amounted to resignation or abdication by Uthman and selection of another caliph. As turmoil broke out Ali left them. Ali seems to have broken with Uthman in despair over his own inability to break the influence of Marwan on the caliph. Ali intervened only after being informed that the rebels were preventing the delivery of water to the besieged caliph.[6] He tried to mitigate the severity of the siege by his insistence that Uthman should be allowed to have water.[7] Ali went to the extent of even sending his own sons to protect Uthman's house when he was in danger of being attacked.[8][9] The rebels protested against this and committed excesses as a result.[10]

Uthman's address in the Prophet's Mosque

On the first Friday after the siege, Uthman addressed the congregation in the mosque. After praising God and blessing and wishing peace on the Prophet Muhammad, Uthman invited the attention of the people to the commandment in the Quran requiring the people to obey God, His Apostle, and those in authority among them. He observed that the Muslims had been enjoined to settle all matters by mutual consultation. He said that he had kept the doors of consultation wide open. All the allegations that had been levelled against him had been duly explained by him and shown to be false. He had expressed his readiness to solve the legitimate grievances of the people, if any. He observed that under the circumstances it was uncharitable on the part of some persons to create disturbances in Mecca. He said that he was not afraid of death, but he did not want the Muslims to be guilty of bloodshed. To him the solidarity of the Muslim community was very dear and in order to prevent dissension among the Muslims he had instructed his supporters to refrain from violence. He wanted the people to be afraid of God and not to indulge in activities subversive of Islam. He pointed out that the foreign powers smarting under their defeat inflicted by the Muslim arms had sponsored some conspiracies to subvert Islam. He warned the people not to play in the hands of the enemies of Islam. He appealed to the rebels to retire from Madina. He wanted the people of Madina to support the cause of truth and justice and withhold their support from the rebels bent on mischief.

Rowdyism in the mosque

Some two or three persons from among the congregation stood up to assure Uthman of their support. They were manhandled by the rebels and were forced to sit down.

Deepening of the crisis

With the departure of the pilgrims from Medina to Makkah, the hands of the rebels were further strengthened and as a consequence the crisis deepened further. The rebels decided that after the Hajj the Muslims gathered at Makkah, from all parts of the Muslim world, would march to Madina to support the Caliph. They therefore decided to take action against Uthman before the pilgrimage was over.

It is related that during the course of the siege Mugheera bin Shu'ba went to Uthman and placed three courses of action before him, firstly, to go forth and fight against the rebels, secondly, to mount a camel and go to Mecca and thirdly to move to Syria. Uthman rejected all the three proposals. He rejected the first proposal saying that he did not want to be the first Caliph during whose time blood is shed. He turned down the second proposal to escape to Makkah on the ground that he had heard from Muhammad that a man of the Quraish would be buried in Makkah on whom would be half the chastisement of the world, and he did not want to be that person. He rejected the third proposal on the ground that he could not forsake Medina.

Abdullah bin Salam, a companion of the Prophet visited the house of Uthman and he is reported to have addressed the besiegers as follows:

"Slay him not, for by Allah not a man among you shall slay him, but he shall meet the Lord mutilated without a hand, and verily the sword of God has continued sheathed, but surely by Allah if you slay him the Lord will indeed draw it, and will never sheath it from you. Never was a Prophet slain, but there were slain on account of him 70,000 persons, and never was a Caliph slain. but 35,000 Persons were killed on his account."[cite this quote]

A companion Nayyar bin Ayyad Aslami who joined the rebels exhorted them to enter the house and assassinate Uthman. When the rebels under the leadership of Nayyar bin Ayyad advanced to rush into the house, Kathir bin Salat Kundi, a supporter of Uthman, shot an arrow which killed Nayyar. That infuriated the rebels. They demanded that Kathir bin Salat Kundi should be handed over to them. Uthman said that he could not thus betray a person who had shot an arrow in his defense. That precipitated the matters. Uthman had the gates of the house shut. The gate was guarded by Hasan, Hussein, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Marwan and a few other persons. Open fighting now began between the rebels and the supporters of Uthman. There were some casualties among the rebels. Among the supporters Hasan, Marwan and some other persons were wounded.

Assassination of Uthman

The rebels increased their pressure and reaching the door of the house of Uthman set it on fire. Some rebels led by Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr climbed the houses of the neighbors and then jumped into the house of Uthman. It was July 17, 656 C.E. and Uthman was fasting that day. The previous night he had seen Prophet Muhammad in a dream. The Prophet had said,"If you wish help can be sent to you and if you want you can break your fast with us this evening. We will welcome you. Uthman opted for the second. That made Uthman know that it was his last day of life.He was assassinated while reciting the Quran, The ayat of Surah Baqarah "137. So if they believe in the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allah will suffice you against them. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower". The blood-stained Quran he was reciting from is still preserved in a museum in Tashkent today.

Ali's role

There is controversy among historians about the relationship between Ali and Uthman Ibn Affan, the third Caliph. Ali disagreed with some of his policies. He clashed with Uthman in particular in question of the religious law. But German historian Wilferd Madelung is of the opinion that there is no evidence to suggest that Ali had close relations with the rebels who supported his caliphate or directed their actions.[11] On the other hand Ali himself said in numerous cases that he had done whatever he had been able to defend him but he didn't agree with Uthman's policies.[12] Some other sources says Ali had acted as a restraining influence on Uthman without directly opposing him.[7] However Madelung narrates Marwan told Ali ibn Husayn, the grandson of Ali, that

No one [among the Islamic nobility] was more temperate toward our master than your master.[13]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Valerie Jon Hoffman, The Essentials of Ibadi Islam, pg. 8. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780815650843
  2. ^ Madelung (1997), pp. 87 and 88
  3. ^ Madelung (1997), p. 90
  4. ^ Madelung (1997), pp. 92-107
  5. ^ Madelung (1997), pp. 111-112
  6. ^ * Madelung (1997), pp. 112, 113 and 130
  7. ^ a b "Ali ibn Abitalib". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  8. ^ Madelung (1997), pp. 107 and 134
  9. ^ "Ali". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  10. ^ See:
  11. ^ See:
    • Holt (1977), pp. 67 - 68
    • Madelung (1997), pp. 107 and 111
  12. ^ See:
  13. ^ Madelung (1997), p.334

References

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