Siege of Uthman
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The Generous - (Al Ghani)
- 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 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. . The dissatisfaction with his regime and the government's appointed by him wasn't restricted to the provinces outside Arabia. 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.
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 they were about to leave they got a letter that was said to be signed by Uthman to kill the Egyptian rulers, but it was later found out that this letter was forged by Marwan ibn Al-Hakam. This brought the rebels back to Medina and began the siege.
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. He tried to mitigate the severity of the siege by his insistence that Uthman should be allowed to have water. Ali went to the extent of even sending his own sons to protect Uthman's house when he was in danger of being attacked. The rebels protested against this and committed excesses as a result.
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. The rebels including Amr ibn al-Aas, Ammar bin Yasir, and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr raised their voices against Uthman. One rebel, Jabala bin 'Amr Saahadi, addressing Uthman said,
- "Beware you foolish old man, that unless you abdicate we will strangle you to death".[this quote needs a citation][cite this quote]
When Uthman was addressing the congregation from the pulpit, one Jamjah Ghaffari seized the staff from the hands of Uthman, and broke it on his knees. This staff is said to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad himself.[by whom?][by whom?] Addressing Uthman, Jamjah Ghaffari insolently said that he had brought a dirty apparel and an old camel for Uthman to wear and ride, for he was no longer worthy of wearing the robes of the caliphate. Uthman merely dismissed him with the remarks, "May God curse you, and all that you have brought."[this quote needs a citation][cite this quote]
Some of the supporters of Uthman took up cudgels on behalf of Uthman. Hot words were exchanged between the parties. Tempers flared up on both the sides, and that led to the pelting of stones at one another. The state of complete rowdyism came to prevail in the mosque. One of the stones hit Uthman, and he fell unconscious. The gathering dissolved in a state of great disorder, and Uthman was carried to his house in a state of unconsciousness.
Intensification of the siege 
The proceedings in the mosque showed to the rebels that Uthman did not enjoy the full support of the people of Madina. Apart from the Umayyads and a few other persons, most of the people of Madina preferred to be neutral and watch developments. When the rebels felt that the people of Madina were not likely to offer active support to Uthman, they changed their strategy, and tightened the siege of the house of Uthman. Uthman was denied the freedom to move about. He was not allowed to go to the mosque. Prayers in the mosque were now led by Amir Ghafiqi the leader of the rebels. Madina thus came to be in the full control of the rebels.
As days passed on, and no one came forward to oppose the rebels, they felt bold, and intensified their pressure against Uthman. They forbade the entry of any food or provisions into the house of Uthman. Then they placed an embargo even on the entry of water into the house of Uthman. Umm Habiba, a widow of Muhammad, and a sister of Muawiyah came to see Uthman and brought some water and provisions for Uthman. She was not allowed to enter the house of Uthman. Aisha bint Abu Bakr, a widow of Muhammad made a similar attempt, and she was also prevailed upon by the rebels to go back.
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."[this quote needs a citation][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."Hazrat Usman (radiallho anhu) opted for the second. That made Uthman know that it was his last day of life.He was assasinated 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. Therefore some historians consider Ali as one the leading members of Uthman's opposition, if not the main one of them.[who?] Because he could clearly be expected to be the prime beneficiary of the overthrow of Uthman. 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. 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. Some other sources says Ali had acted as a restraining influence on Uthman without directly opposing him. 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.
- Madelung (1997), pp. 87 and 88
- Madelung (1997), p. 90
- Madelung (1997), pp. 92-107
- Madelung (1997), pp. 111-112
- * Madelung (1997), pp. 112, 113 and 130
- "Ali ibn Abitalib". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- Madelung (1997), pp. 107 and 134
- "Ali". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Holt (1977), pp. 67 - 68
- Madelung (1997), pp. 107 and 111
- Madelung (1997), p.334
- Ali ibn Abi Talib (1984). Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), compiled by ash-Sharif ar-Radi. Alhoda UK. SBN 0940368439.
- Al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (1990). History of the Prophets and Kings , translation and commentary issued by R. Stephen Humphreys. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-0154-5. (volume XV.)
- Holt, P. M.; Bernard Lewis (1977). Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29136-4.
- Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64696-0.