Uthman: Third Of The Rashidun Caliphs
At the time of Umar’s assassination, his empire stretched from Tunisia to parts of modern-day Pakistan. The people he ruled were of different ethnicity, languages, and religion. The Empire needed a strong leader a force to keep them in check. Before his death, Umar had chosen six people to form a committee to appoint his successor. Eventually, out of those six, it came down to two. Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s heir. According to some historians, the final question that determines the next caliph was, “Would you govern the Empire the way that Abu Bakr and Umar did it?” Uthman said yes. Ali said no. Hence Uthman was elected as the third of Rashidun Caliphs. Uthman had no earlier experience of leadership or military. He was a merchant by trade and the business had been very kind to him. He was very rich even during Muhammad’s lifetime. Due to a lack of governing experience, he allowed his army a lot of autonomy. His governors were allowed to invade foreign lands as they saw fit. Uthman’s experience in trade actually benefited the Empire a lot. He made reforms to allow for more efficient trade as he controlled a significant portion of the Silk Road. Under him, expansions continued to happen and some new areas were conquered. Islam’s first naval engagement also happened during his reign. Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, who was a cousin of Uthman, was appointed governor of Syria by Umar. During Uthman’s reign, his governors got autonomy. Muawiyah built a naval fleet and engaged the Byzantines in the Mediterranean. This resulted in the Battle of the Masts. Muawiyah even unsuccessfully tried to lay siege to Constantinople. Some areas revolved during Uthman’s reign but were quickly put down. Looking at it objectively, Uthman failed to the government the vast empire. He was accused of nepotism, living in excess, corruption even. Although, personally, I don’t think all that was really the source of his dissent. I think since he made governors autonomous, They forgot who the Caliph was and they wanted more power and so started to sow dissent in the public against the Caliph. Finally, a rebellion broke out in Egypt. The governor was ousted and the new governor sent a thousand men to Madinah, with orders to kill Uthman. Just a thousand men to kill the ruler of an empire that stretched over 6.5 million square kilometers. Uthman didn’t have anyone to defend him. He didn’t have a standing army or any personal guard because all of his power was divided amongst his governors. He was a little more than just a title. He didn’t have any power to enforce anything. Eventually, after a siege, Uthman was assassinated home in 656 CE, after 12 years as Caliph. Death was Uthman’s Redemption. He is now revered as a martyr in Islam and forever remembered as the third of the Rashidun, the rightly guided ones. I would like to add here that during the siege, Ali’s sons Hassan and Hussain guarded Uthman’s home. It just shows how great and big Ali and sons were to protect the Caliph who held the title that Ali should have held.
Uthman, The Third Of Rashidun Caliphs’ successor was none other than Ali ibn Abi Talib. He was reluctant to accept at first mostly because most of his staunch supporters were rebels but he was eventually convinced by the people of Madinah. On June 18th, 656, Ali became the fourth Rashidun Caliph. He reigned for around five years and his time was the most turbulent yet, due to the First Fitna. First of all, Ali moved his capital to Kufa in Mesopotamia. Secondly, he had some problems with the Banu Ummayah, especially Muawiyah, the governor of Syria. Uthman was also a member of the Banu Ummayah and if there was anything this family taught their kids it was to stick together and they did stick together! Muawiyah demanded that the Killers of Uthman should be found and dealt with each and every one of them but Muawiyah demands were just an excuse to legitimize his authority and rule by the name of Uthman’s. So, he further erupted the chaos by declaring Ali as an accomplice in the assassination of Uthman’s and the matter of propagation of the idea that Ali killed the caliph or he was an accomplice in the killing of Uthman blew up into a full-scale civil war between Ali and Muawiyah The two main battles of the Civil War were the Battle of Camel and the Battle of Siffin. The first battle in 656 CE, the Battle of Carmel was fought between Aisha, Muhammad’s Widow, and Ali, Muhammad’s heir, cousin, and son-in-law. It was fought due to some confusion during negotiations. Aisha demanded justice for Uthman and well, it blew up into a battle. Ali won the battle and decided to forgive everyone and move on. The second battle, Battle of Saffin was fought between Muawiyah and Ali in which Muawiyah in order to win the war raised the Quran in their Spikes when he was about to be defeated by the marching armies of Ali, So as a result, negotiations were started. It was clear then, that there was gonna be no more fighting because it was unbearable to think that Muslims were killing Muslims. During Ali’s war, a group emerged which was called the Khawarij. This was an extremist group who believed in their own interpretation of the Quran. The Khawarij declared that since Ali decided to negotiate with Muawiyah rather than punish him, Ali was no longer fit to be Caliph. They revolted. Ali spent some time trying to finish off this rebellion. Ali fought the Battle of Naharwanagainst the Khawarij in 659 CE. Even though Ali won the battle, theKhawarij didn’t stop being a problem. They went as far as to kill anyone who wasn’t them. It was you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us kinda situation. They considered anyone who wasn’t on their interpretation of the Quran to be infidels. Sounds familiar, no? Meanwhile, the peace talks broke down. Muawiyah started raiding, Even took Egypt from Ali. Ali had two problems now; Muawiyah and the Khawarij. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to solve any of them. On 27th January 661 CE, Ali was attacked by a Khawarij Assassin during prayer in the Great Mosque of Kufa. Ali died two days after. He declared that if he lives he forgives his assassin but if he dies, the assassin will be delivered only one equal hit as to what he had received, regardless of whether or not the assassin dies from that hit. Ali is revered in all of Islam. Shias considered him the first Imam. While the Sunnis consider him Muhammad’s kin and love him equally. Both consider him the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph. I, personally, believe that he was treated very unfairly by the Muslims around him and the circumstances of his caliphate were very unfortunate. Had it not been for the troubles of the empire he inherited, He could have made a great, kind, and just ruler. His son Hassan ibn Ali eventually gave the Caliphate to Muawiyah in 661 CE, in the same year as Ali’s assassination. Thus, Hassan ended the five-year turbulent period of the First Fitna. Muawiyah ascended to the throne of the Caliphate and yes, I do mean throne, in a ceremony in Jerusalem. He established the Umayyad dynasty that ruled the Empire through their corruption, intrigue and plotting for 90 years. Thank you and see you next time. Read also about the First two Rashidun Caliphs