Opinion, August 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
Islamic History - 14: Controversy Over Flimsy Issues
The rebels against Uthman, the third caliph, included in their list of indictment two charges involving two people. They claimed that Uthman “sent Abu Al-Dardaa’ out of Syria into exile; and allowed Al-Hakam back into Madinah when it was the Prophet (peace be upon him) who had expelled him.” Both charges are without foundation. In his refutation of all the allegations made against Uthman, Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi has the following to say: Some friction occurred between Abu Al-Dardaa’ and Mu’awiyah. Abu Al-Dardaa’ was a man of a fine character, and was the chief justice in Damascus. When he maintained a strict standard of justice and followed Umar’s approach, the people there could not tolerate it. Hence, he was dismissed and he left for Madinah.
All these are ordinary matters and do not constitute any negative reflection on the integrity or the strength of faith of anyone. Both Abu Dharr and Abu Al-Dardaa’ were free of blame, and so was Uthman. Indeed he was a man without a blemish on his character. Whoever claims that he sent people into exile and gave reasons for that should know that it is all false.
As for letting Al-Hakam back into Madinah, the whole claim is false. Refuting it, our teachers maintain that the Prophet had accepted Uthman’s pleas on Al-Hakam’s behalf. Uthman later spoke to Abu Bakr and Umar informing them of the Prophet’s acceptance. They said to him: “If you have a witness, we will let him back.” When Uthman became the caliph, he ruled on this point on the basis of his own knowledge. For certain, Uthman would have never maintained good relations with someone the Prophet had abandoned, even if that person were his own father. He would have never overruled a decision by the Prophet.
Again we note that Ibn Al-Arabi is very precise in his refutation of the false allegations. In his annotation of Ibn Al-Arabi’s work, Al-Khateeb mentions that Mu’awiyah tried to follow the line followed by Umar. He quotes a report given by Ibn Katheer in his book on history, Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, quoting Al-Zuhri: “Mu’awiyah tried for two whole years to meticulously follow Umar’s line, but he then abandoned it.”
Some people, who have little understanding of how to conduct public affairs, may think that a ruler can adopt the policy of his choosing wherever he happens to be. This is wrong. The local environment influences the ruler and his system of government more than the ruler and his system can influence the social environment. This is alluded to in the Qur’anic verse that says: “God does not change a people’s situation until they have changed themselves.” (13: 11)
Concerning Al-Hakam, the rebels’ claim is absolutely false. Ibn Taimiyah says in his book Minhaj Al-Sunnah: “Numerous scholars have discounted the report that the Prophet imposed exile on Al-Hakam. They maintain that he left of his own accord. Indeed, the report of his exile is not mentioned in any of the authentic collections of Hadith, and it is not reported with a proper chain of transmission to verify it. Besides, the people of Makkah whom the Prophet pardoned when the city fell to him remained there and did not migrate to Madinah. Hence, had the Prophet expelled Al-Hakam, he would have expelled him from Makkah, not Madinah. Had he expelled him from Madinah, he would have sent him to Makkah... Furthermore, if the Prophet punished a man sending him into exile, this did not mean that he would remain exiled for the rest of his life. Such a punishment is not prescribed for any offence... On the other hand, Uthman had pleaded the case of Abdullah ibn Saad ibn Abi Sarh, and the Prophet accepted his plea.
He also accepted Abdullah’s pledge of loyalty. Why would he not accept Uthman’s pleading for Al-Hakam? It is indeed reported that Uthman sought the Prophet’s permission for him to return and the Prophet permitted that. We know that Al-Hakam’s was a lesser offense than that of Abdullah ibn Saad.
Abdullah’s story is confirmed and authentic, while the report concerning Al-Hakam remains lacking in authenticity. It is mentioned by historians in whose reports is included much that is untrue. This means that we do not have any confirmed report to detract from the position of a person who is of a lesser standing than Uthman. Indeed, Uthman’s position is unassailable. The Prophet dearly loved and praised him, gave him two of his daughters in marriage (one after the other’s death), confirmed that he was among those certain to be admitted into heaven, sent him to Makkah as his representative and made the Ridwan pledge on his behalf as he was absent.
The Prophet’s companions chose him as their leader. Umar and others testified that when the Prophet died, he was well pleased with Uthman. All this makes it clear that Uthman was one of the best God-fearing people who earn God’s pleasure. All this cannot be discounted on the basis of a flimsy report that is poor in authenticity, blaming Uthman for a fictitious offence...”
Writing in the same vein, Ibn Hazm says in Al-Fisal: “The exile imposed by the Prophet was neither a mandatory punishment nor a legal decision that must be enforced for the rest of time. It was merely a punishment for a particular offence. Repentance is available to all sinners. If he had repented, the punishment would have been waived as unanimously agreed by all Muslims. In this case, he could go anywhere on earth.”
Ibn Al-Wazeer, a distinguished Zaydi scholar quotes a report by Al-Muhsin ibn Karamah that mentions the Prophet’s acceptance of Uthman’s pleading on Al-Hakam’s behalf. He goes on to say that this report should be accepted by all followers of the Zaydi school, because it is reported by a person they consider as highly reliable. He follows that with arguments taking three pages in defense of Uthman.
Al-Khateeb concludes his annotation on this point by saying that all these scholars, following different schools of thought, concur in pronouncing Uthman blameless on this point. The whole allegation is absolutely flimsy.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.