Opinion, July 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
Uthman: A Model Islamic Ruler
When Uthman ibn Affan was chosen as the third Caliph, after the six-man committee appointed by Umar for the task of choosing the Caliph completed its work, he proved himself worthy of the post which was fast becoming the most powerful in the world. Justice Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi, who has verified the attitudes adopted by the Prophet’s companions in the period that followed his death and in subsequent developments, states that “Uthman lived up to all expectations. He never breached anything the Prophet had enjoined. Nor did he ever violate a commitment, perpetrate anything reprehensible or go against the Prophet’s Sunnah. Indeed the Prophet had foretold that Umar would die a martyr, as would Uthman. And he further added that Uthman would be a martyr and that he was certain to be in heaven, but that he would have to first endure some personal trouble. He and his wife, Ruqayyah, the Prophet’s daughter, were the first people to undertake the trouble of immigrating from their hometown to serve God’s cause after Abraham, the prophet. This fact has qualified him to have a special entry in books that mention the pioneers in different areas.”
Muhibb Al-Deen Al-Khateeb comments that Uthman was always expected to be exemplary in his behavior as a ruler, because the Prophet, who received revelations from on high, testified to his integrity and that he would end his life well. Al-Khateeb quotes Ibn Hajar, a reputable scholar of Hadith who wrote a voluminous commentary on Al-Bukhari’s Sahih: “Many are the reports that quote the Prophet assuring Uthman of admission into heaven, and giving him the honor of martyrs. None tries to twist the Hadith giving Uthman such assurance other than a person who is happy to plunge himself into hell.” Moreover, Al-Tirmidhi reports a Hadith on the authority of Talhah quoting the Prophet as saying: “Every prophet has a companion, and my companion in heaven is Uthman.” In another Hadith the Prophet says: “I have prayed to God that He would not let into hell anyone who has married into my family, or one into whose family I have married.” The Prophet gave Uthman a further testimony which both Abu Bakr and Umar would have dearly loved to have. Muslim relates on Aishah’s authority that the Prophet said: “Should I not cover my embarrassment in the presence of a man in whose presence even angels feel embarrassed?”
Numerous are the reports Al-Khateeb adds, quoting many of the Prophet’s companions and their successors testifying to Uthman’s high standing. Abdullah ibn Umar, a distinguished scholar among the Prophet’s companions, says: “During the Prophet’s time, we never rated anyone higher than Abu Bakr, then Umar, then Uthman. We then looked at the rest of the Prophet’s companions in the same light, giving none any preference over the others.” (Related by Al-Bukhari). Al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufrah was asked: “Why was Uthman given the title Dhu Al-Noorayn (which means ‘the man with two lights’)?” He answered: “Because we do not know of anyone else in history who married two daughters of any prophet.”
Al-Nazzal ibn Sabirah, a scholar who learned directly from Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali and taught many scholars of the tabieen generation, reports: “We requested Ali to tell us about Uthman and he said: ‘He is the man known among the Supreme Society of the angels as Dhu Al-Noorayn’.” Furthermore, when Uthman was elected as Caliph, Abdullah ibn Masood, a scholar among the Prophet’s companions, said: “We have spared no effort in choosing the best man among us.” After Uthman’s death, Ali described him in the following words: “Uthman was the best of us in extending kindness to relatives. He was one of those who have truly attained to faith, feared God and was keen to do every good thing. These are the ones whom God loves.”
Abullah ibn Umar is quoted by his son, Salim, as saying: “They have taken against Uthman things which none would have found fault with, had they been done by Umar.” This statement is highly significant, because it is the statement of a learned companion of the Prophet who was present throughout Uthman’s reign and was most meticulous in following the Prophet’s Sunnah. He is stating here that everything that people held against Uthman could have been done by Umar, his own father, and would have raised no objection. Another report mentions that Abdullah ibn Umar was asked about Uthman and Ali. He said to his questioner: “How can you ask me about two men each of whom is better than me, and you want me to praise one in preference to the other?”
As mentioned earlier, the Prophet foretold that Uthman would be a martyr and that he would be among those who were certain to be in heaven, but that he would have to first endure some personal trouble. This refers to an authentic Hadith related by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih on the authority of Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari which mentions that “the Prophet entered an orchard and told me to watch at the door. A man sought permission to enter, and the Prophet told me: ‘Admit him and tell him that he is certain to be in heaven.’ The man was Abu Bakr. Another person sought permission to enter, and the Prophet said to me: ‘Let him in and tell him that he will be in heaven.’ It was Umar. A third person then came and requested entry. The Prophet was silent for a short while before saying to me: ‘Admit him and tell him that he will be in heaven but he will encounter some trouble in life.’ The man was Uthman ibn Affan.”
This is a clear reference by the Prophet to the fact that those who rebelled against Uthman were definitely in the wrong. Had he been the one who was wrong, he would not earn martyrdom when they killed him. The Prophet made it clear that Uthman would be a martyr, as he indeed was when he was unjustly killed. The Prophet also describes the conflict that led to Uthman’s killing as trouble that was clear to earn Uthman the martyrdom that every Muslim would dearly love to earn.
Furthermore, the Prophet indicated that the trouble would lead to the unjust killing of Uthman. A Hadith related by Ibn Majah quotes Kaab ibn Ajrah, a companion of the Prophet, as saying: “The Prophet mentioned some future trouble which was to come in the near future. A man covering himself with a hood passed by and the Prophet said: ‘This man will be properly guided on that day.’ I rushed to him and held him by his shoulders to find out that he was Uthman. I turned to the Prophet and said: ‘Is he the one?’ The Prophet confirmed that he was.”
We also learn from Ibn Al-Arabi that Uthman was the first man ever to migrate for God’s sake since Abraham, the distinguished Prophet.
This is a reference to the immigration by a number of the Prophet’s companions to Abyssinia in the early days of Islam. The Prophet suggested that some of his companions should settle there, as the country was ruled by a king distinguished for justice. Uthman was the first to take up the Prophet’s suggestion, and he traveled with his wife, Ruqaiyyah, the Prophet’s daughter. They came back later when the Prophet himself migrated to Madinah. This is certainly a distinction that Uthman had earned.
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