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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: October 2009

3 - 'Uthmān: the Vicegerent of God and the reign of 'Abd Shams


‘Uthmān's rule ended after twelve years amid rebellion and with the violent death of the caliph. The grievances against his arbitrary acts were substantial by the standards of the time and widely felt. The historical sources contain lengthy accounts of the wrongdoings (aḥdāth) of which he was accused. Towards the end of his reign dissatisfaction and opposition to his conduct appear to have been almost universal except among his kin and close associates. It was only his violent death that, having been turned into a political tool, came to absolve him in Sunnite ideology from any aḥdāth and make him a martyr and the third Rightly Guided Caliph.

‘Uthmān's wrongdoings, it should be emphasized, must seem trivial from the perspective of later generations. Not a single Muslim was killed on his orders, except in punishment for murder or adultery. The arbitrary acts of violence of which he was accused were confined to beatings, imprisonment and deportations. The sanctity of Muslim life enjoined by Muḥammad was still respected. Abū Bakr had been forced to declare those refusing to pay the alms-tax to him apostates in order to make war on them. ‘Umar had to call on God and rely on the help of the jinn to get rid of his political enemy Sa‘d b. ‘Ubāda. ‘Uthmān, by nature averse to bloodshed, found it easy to comply with the Prophet's injunction.

As a wealthy member of the Qurayshite aristocracy, son of the Mekkan merchant ‘Afiān and grandson of Muḥammad's aunt Umm Ḥakīm bt ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib, ‘Uthmān had occupied a special place among the early Companions of the Prophet. Muhammad deeply appreciated his adherence to, and loyal support of, …

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The Succession to Muhammad
  • Online ISBN: 9780511582042
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