ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ مَرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did. (Holy Qur’an, 6:108)
Often Shias are asked by their Sunni counterparts, “Why do you hate the companions (sahabahs)?” The question resembles that which is asked by some of the Americans to the Muslims post 9-11, “Why do you (Muslims) hate us (Americans)?”
The truth is that the Shi’a do not hate the companions (sahabahs) of the Prophet; however, there are some of them who did not merit becoming the leaders of the ummah - and for rightful reasons. I ask the reader to bear with me as I present forth the research in this chapter, which will bring a better understanding as to why the Shi’a are not too fond of certain companions.
One of the primary beliefs in Sunni Islam is the sacredness of the sayings and deeds of the Holy Prophet’s companions (the sahabah). Even today, merely inferring that a particular companion said or did something is enough to engender complete and total respect for that companion, and his words and deeds, and unquestioning compliance with what he or she said or did. For this reason, it is extremely important to investigate what exactly makes a person a sahabah of the Prophet. After all, thousands of people if not more, were in the presence of the Holy Prophet, and yet some of them were hypocrites and enemies of the Prophet according to the Qur’an;1 therefore, how can they be relied upon?
Al-Qaamus al-Muhit is the work of a prominent Sunni scholar and linguist; he defines sahabah as “al-muasharah wa al-mulazimah,” which means living together or associating together inseparably. Raghib al-Isfahani says, “This term applies only to the one who is constantly and continuously in companionship (with another person).”2 Therefore, according to these definitions, a companion of the Prophet would be someone who associated very closely with him, regardless of whether he was a Muslim or a non-Muslim, righteous or unrighteous, and whether he believed or disbelieved in him.
However, Islamic jurists (usuliyun) unanimously agree that for someone to bear the title of “companion,” he or she must have been Muslim and must have accompanied the Prophet for a long period (tallat mujalasatuhu), while listening attentively to him and learning from him, not just merely visiting him or learning from or about his knowledge.3
The Muhaddithun (school of Narrators) defines “companion” as being “every Muslim who saw the Prophet.”4 Some scholars define it as, “any Muslim who lived during the time of the Prophet even if he did not see the Prophet.”5 Still other narrators further expanded the definition of “companion” to encompass every Muslim who met the Prophet and believed in him, and then apostatized and then reverted to Islam.6
In the earlier years of Islam, the Muslim ummah itself divided themselves into three categories in regards to how they viewed the sahabah:
Al-Firqa al-Kamiliyah7 and the Ghulat8 were a minority sect of Muslims that attributed kufr (apostasy) to all of the companions. This view is of course, completely rejected by all modern scholars of Islam, in both the Sunni and Shi’a traditions.
This group attributed absolute adalah (integrity) to all of the companions; this is the commonly held view within the Sunni tradition. For example, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi says, “The justness of the sahabah is proven and firmly established (thabitatun malumah).”9 Ibn Hazm says, “Undoubtedly, all of the companions are among the people of Paradise.”10
Nevertheless, many prominent jurists and scholars in the Sunni tradition reject this idea of the absolute righteousness of all of the companions, and they include: al-Sa’d al-Tafatahzani, al-Marizi, and al-Shawqani,11 as well as scholars from a later generation, such as Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, Sheikh Mahmud Abu Riyah, and others.12 They argued that the companions were not infallible, and thus there were the righteous and the unrighteous individuals amongst their ranks.
The Qur’an does not guarantee automatic righteousness to all of the Prophet’s companions, nor does it grant all of them entrance into Paradise. Many of the righteous companions are praised and honored in the Qur’an, while others have been criticized - even cursed. The Qur’an says,
“Round about you [Muhammad and his community] and among you in Madinah are hypocrites and they are obstinate in hypocrisy. You do not know them, We know them, twice shall We punish them and in addition they shall be sent to a grievous penalty.” (9:101)
The Qur’an also says,
“And Muhammad is not but an apostle, (other) apostles have already passed away prior to him; therefore, if he dies or is slain, will you turn upon your heels? And he who turns upon his heels will by no means do harm to God in the least, and soon will God reward the grateful ones.” (3:144)
These and others verses, such as those found in Surah al-Tawbah (Repentance) and Surah al-Munafiqun (The Hypocrites) indicate that a group of hypocrites existed among the companions of the Prophet. Thus, according to the Qur’an, a group of companions was composed of the righteous and the unrighteous, the believers and the hypocrites, and although companionship was a great honor, it did not ensure immunity from error and this view has been adopted by the Shi’a scholars as well.
In many of the hadith, the companions themselves rejected each other or refuted what other companions said. As for the leaders of the Islamic schools of thought, Imam Abu Hanifah is known to have said that all of the companions were pure except for a few, and he mentioned some of their names.13
Imam Malik Ibn Anas was asked what to do when two narrators relate contradictory hadith from the Prophet and whether both should be accepted or not? He replied that, no, the truth is only one; and when he was asked about the disagreement of the companions (ikhtilaaf al-sahabah), he said that one side is right and the other is wrong, and that the matter had to be investigated.14 Imam al-Shaf’i states that he does not accept the testimony of four known companions: Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas, al-Mugheerah, and Ziyad.15
In the Sunni tradition, a famous hadith, known as the Hadith of the Stars reports that the Prophet said, “My companions are like the stars: whichever you follow, you will be guided.”16 Although this hadith is pivotal to the Sunni belief since it gives absolute certainty that all of the companions were entitled to lead others toward Paradise; nonetheless, Imam Ahmad Ibn al-Hanbal states that this hadith is unauthentic.17 Abu Ibrahim al-Muzni, a student of al-Shaf’i, and his companions also doubted the authenticity of this hadith.18 Abu Bakr al-Bazzaz criticized this hadith and expounded upon its flaws.19
Other narrators (huffaz) also mention its weakness and the unreliability of its chain of narrators. They include: Abul Hasan al-Darqutni, al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Abd al-Birr, Ibn Asakir, Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Dahiyah, Abu Hayan al-Andalusi, Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi, and surprisingly, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah.20 In addition, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has stated that although famous, this hadith had an unreliable and weak chain of narrators (isnad).
Given these doubts, this hadith - one of the most important pillars of the concept of absolute righteousness of the companions - falls apart and is nothing more than a fabrication.
The Prophet has been quoted as saying, “I am the first who will reach the fountain of Hawdh al-Kawthar (located in Paradise). Some people will try to reach me, but they will not be able to. I will say, ‘O my Lord, they are my companions!’ Allah will answer, ‘You do not know what they have invented after you.’”21
This hadith reflects that some of the companions did indeed err. Anyone who considers them all to be just would be disregarding this hadith. If all of the companions were considered to be just, then one must question as to why some of the companions who murdered ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan will go to Heaven? To say because they were companions would not justify entrance into Heaven.
Even more, anyone who considers them all to be just must also ponder why some of them revolted against ‘Ali - the rightful ruler who had proven his loyalty to Allah, the Prophet, and Islam, and had partaken in the civil battles of Jamal, Siffeen, and Nahrawan, in which thousands of Muslims lost their lives, so will these companions who fought against him also be rewarded with Paradise?
Despite popular misconception, neither Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, nor ‘Uthman participated actively in the main excursions of Islam. Not until the time of Mu’awiyah did the fabrications about their roles in these battles begin to surface in an effort by the Bani Umayyah to attribute the virtues of the Ahlul Bayt to others.
According to Ibn Arafah, “Most of the hadith which have been fabricated and developed in favor of the sahabah, their virtues, bravery, and heroism were fabricated during the time of the Bani Umayyah in order to seek nearness to them, and to defy and humiliate the Bani Hashim.”22
On the day of the Battle of Uhud, the Holy Prophet raised his sword and called, “Who can give this sword its right?” ‘Umar said, “I can,” but the Prophet turned away from him, for he knew that ‘Umar would not do that. Zubayr Ibn Awam said, “I can,” but the Prophet refused him as well. Then Abu Dujanah stood and asked, “What is the right of that sword?” The Prophet replied, “You fight with it until it breaks.” Abu Dujanah swore, “I am the one who will give it its right,” so the Prophet gave his sword to Abu Dujanah.23
The Battle of Uhud commenced and in this regard, al-Tabari says:
‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib began slaying the leaders of the battalions of the mushrikeen (people who associate others with God) in Uhud who were carrying the banners. Whenever a leader of another battalion would approach the Prophet, he (the Prophet) would look at ‘Ali and say, “Start your strike on him,” so he would strike them and disperse them. Group after group came and ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib did the same, until Gabriel came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of Allah, this is real solidarity.” The Prophet said, “Yes, because he is part of me, and I am part of him.” Gabriel replied, “And I am from both of you, O Messenger of Allah.”24
What happened next in the Battle of Uhud has been recorded for eternity in the Holy Qur’an. Allah says, “Behold, you were climbing up the high ground, without even casting a side glance at anyone, and the Messenger in your rear was calling you back.” (c. 3:153) This verse indicates the opposition that the Holy Prophet had faced in maintaining his forces.
Examining the verse deeper and its tafseer (explanation), it explicitly identifies Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and the other companions - all of whom fled the scene except for a few who stood with the Holy Prophet – and this included one woman, Naseebah Umme Amarah Ibn Ka’ab (who fought until she was wounded on her shoulder), a few from the Ansar tribe, and ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Abu Dujanah from the Quraysh.25 As Muhammad Hasanain Haykil says, “The main concern of every Muslim on that day was to rescue himself and salvage himself, except for those who had been protected and blessed by Allah, such as ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib.”26
The Qur’an continues, “It was Shaytan (Satan) who caused them to fail because of some evil that they had done.” (c. 3:153) Most likely, the “evil they had done” was their disobedience to the Holy Prophet, for although the Holy Prophet ordered them to remain in their positions, they ran after the war booty, thus the mushrikeen defeated them.
During his caliphate, ‘Umar recalled that incident when his daughter and a woman came to him, asking for clothing. ‘Umar gave some clothing to the woman but not to his daughter and when asked why he did that, he replied, “The father of that lady stood on the day of Uhud and did not run away, but the father of this one (pointing to his own daughter) ran away on the day of Uhud and did not stand firm.”27 Abu Bakr too later recounted his flight on that day.28
Although most of the companions returned a few hours after the Battle of Uhud, ‘Uthman disappeared for three days.29 When he returned, the Holy Prophet admonished him by saying, “It took you so long to return! Why three days?”30
A similar situation arose during the Battle of Badr. On the eve of the battle, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar staunchly refused to fight. They said to the Holy Prophet, “This is Quraysh. The Quraysh are so powerful. The Quraysh never believed when they disbelieved. The Quraysh have never been defeated because they are so powerful, so do not fight them.”
Displeased, the Prophet turned away from them, until Sa’d Ibn Ma’adh promised the Prophet, “Go and we will fight with you to the last breath.” At that the Prophet became pleased again, and on the morning of the 17th in the month of Ramadhan (2 ah), the Muslims engaged against the mushrikeen in the Battle of Badr.31 Seventy mushrikeen met their end in the battle, half of them exclusively by the sword of ‘Ali, and the other half with the help of ‘Ali’s sword.32
Similarly, ‘Uthman was not present during the Battle of Badr, just as he was not present at the important signing of Bay’at al-Ridhwan; what’s more, he fled from the battles of Uhud and Hunayn.
During the Battle of Khandaq, he refused to fight ‘Amr Ibn Abd al-Wudd al-Aamir. Even after the death of the Prophet, he declined to participate in the battles against those who rejected the caliphate of Abu Bakr. During the time of ‘Umar, he also refused to participate in any form of military service and was known for avoiding battles; his former ally, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf sarcastically chided him with this comment, “I was not the one who was absent from Badr, and I was not the one who ran away on the day of Uhud.”33
The Battle of Khaybar took place during the seventh year of the migration, about 160 km north of Madinah. Due to the terrain, and the mighty fortress that the Jews barricaded themselves in, the first attempt to break through was led by Abu Bakr, who returned defeated. The second attempt, led by ‘Umar, was also unsuccessful. Muslim historians have noted, “They returned not only defeated but exchanging blames of cowardice on each other.”34
After the first two failed attempts, the Holy Prophet pledged, “Tomorrow, I will give this banner, the leadership of this battle, to a man who is loved by Allah and His Apostle, and he himself loves Allah and His Apostle. Allah will open the way by his hands. He will go forward and not be defeated or retreat.” When the Prophet spoke these words, ‘Ali was ill.
Some of the companions brought him to the Prophet. As ‘Ali leaned on the Holy Prophet, the Prophet prayed for him, placed the banner in his hands and said, “O Allah, may the heat and the cold not affect him anymore.” ‘Ali later stated, “After the prayer of the Prophet, I did not feel any heat or cold.”35 From there, ‘Ali went and defeated Marhab, the Jewish leader of the enemies in the castle, including Marhab’s two brothers, Harith and Yasir.36
The Prophet had brought 10,000 soldiers with him to recapture Mecca, and only a few days after their conquest of Mecca in the eighth year of the Hijrah, the Battle of Hunayn broke out. Two thousand more people in Mecca accepted Islam and joined the defense force. Therefore, the Prophet’s army of 12,000 met their enemy in the valley of Hunayn between Mecca and the city of Taif.
Like the Battle of Uhud, the Battle of Hunayn is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an,
“Assuredly, Allah did help you in many battlefields, and on the day of Hunayn; behold, your great numbers elated you, but they availed you nothing; the land did constrain you, and you turned back fleeing.” (c. 9:25-26)
According to the Tafseer of this verse, seeing their large numbers, Abu Bakr exclaimed, “No one will defeat us while we have such a large number.”37 However, their numbers were meaningless since faith, bravery, sincerity, and willingness was lacking.
Although many companions pledged that they would not flee,38 despite their vow, some still did leave including Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Ibn al-Jarah, al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah, Abu Musa al-Ashari, Ma’adh Ibn Jabal, Usayd Ibn Hubayr, Khalid Ibn al-Waleed, and Sa’d Ibn Abi al-Waqqas.39 During the battle, Abu Sufyan, who had just become Muslim two weeks before, said about the Muslims, “I wish their defeat would not stop, and they would keep running away and fleeing until they reach the sea.”40 At the battle, only four stood with the Holy Prophet: ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, al-Abbas - the uncle of the Prophet, Abu Sufyan Ibn al-Harith (from the Bani Hashim), and Abdullah Ibn Masud.41 The rest of the companions fled the scene.
Along with his army, the Messenger of Allah always fought on the frontlines of the battle; but such was not the case for Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman - they never battled alongside their soldiers during their years as caliphs. Instead, they sat in Madinah and dispatched forces.
When Abu Bakr assumed the caliphate, rather than fight himself, he sent Usama Ibn Zayd to fight the Romans. When Usama inquired as to why ‘Umar was remaining in Madinah, Abu Bakr said that he needed him there. When Usama then asked Abu Bakr why he himself was staying behind in Madinah, Abu Bakr told him, “Just lead the army and go.”42
When the Bani Umayyah came to power, they fabricated stories saying that ‘Ali advised ‘Umar and Abu Bakr not to lead their armies, since they were the leaders of the people. Such stories are obviously false, since during his own caliphate, ‘Ali himself led his troops and thus he would not have advised others to do contrary to this.
Despite the unwillingness of the first three caliphs to participate in military activity, the Muslim conquest during their caliphate was tremendous. The Islamic influence spread far and during the reign of ‘Umar, the Persian and Roman Empires were both defeated. However, the motive of the first three caliphs to send the Muslims into battle was less for military necessity than it was to prevent political unrest at home. This ploy is most visible in the advice that Abdullah Ibn Aamir gave to ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan when he instructed him to keep the Muslims preoccupied in battle so that ‘Uthman would have less difficulties with the masses.
The Holy Prophet gave Abu Bakr the surname of Abdullah.43 Before that, he was known as Abd al-Ka’abah (the worshipper of the Ka’abah) and al-Ateeq (the freed one). Although Lady Aishah had been quoted as stating that the Prophet called Abu Bakr, Ateeq Allah min al-Nar (the person whom Allah has vindicated from the Fire);44 however, sources indicate that Abu Bakr’s father had called him Ateeq long before Islam because of the delicacy of his skin.45 His mother’s name is reported as being Salma bint Sakher.
Abu Bakr was the fifteenth man to embrace Islam,46 not the first, as some may believe and in his early days, he made a living selling clothing, as did ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf, and Talha Ibn Ubaydillah.
‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab47 was born thirteen years after the Year of the Elephant, thus he was thirteen years younger than the Prophet was, eleven years younger than Abu Bakr, and seven years younger than ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan. While still young, his mother was adopted by Hisham Ibn al-Mugheerah, so she was known as Hantamah Ibn Hisham Ibn al-Mugheerah.48 He made a living as a merchant dealer and died at the age of eighty-six in the year 23 ah.
At the age of forty-six, he became a Muslim and was the seventy-fifth person to accept Islam. He did so right before the migration from Mecca to Madinah; thus, he did not participate in the first Hijrah to Ethiopia.49
Before joining the Muslims, ‘Umar exhibited an enormous dissatisfaction towards Islam and the Muslims so much so that he beat his brother-in-law and hit his sister when he discovered that they had become Muslims.50 Perhaps for this reason, ‘Umar had been chosen by the rest of the Quraysh to kill the Prophet.51
It is mentioned that one day, ‘Umar took his sword and went to the house of Ibn Abi al-Arqam, where the Holy Prophet was with his uncle, Hamzah and some companions. He knocked loudly and burst into the house angrily. The Prophet restrained him and shook him so hard that he fell to the ground. The Prophet then said, “Isn’t it time that you stop your persecution and terrorization of the Muslims?” At which ‘Umar replied, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, One with no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”52
Throughout his life, ‘Umar was known for his violent nature and outbursts. He usually frowned at people and often used his hand to strike the Muslims, and during his caliphate, he was often seen using his stick (durrah), to strike people. He quickly angered and judged others with the same rapidity.
He was known to be particularly harsh with women, whether they were his daughters, his wives, his sisters, or strangers. He once wrote, “I buried my daughter alive, and while I was burying her, she was putting her hands on my beard to clean the dust from it.”53 Al-Ashath Ibn Qays recalls that when he was hosting ‘Umar at his home, in the middle of the night, ‘Umar kept beating his wife until al-Ashath stopped him.54 ‘Umar told another one of his wives, “You are nothing but a toy that men play with, and then you are abandoned.”55 His harshness caused women to decline his marriage proposals; one of those who refused him was Umme Kulthum, the daughter of Abu Bakr.56
‘Umar did not confine his abuse to only the women of his household. When Lady Aishah was mourning the death of her father Abu Bakr, he threatened to hit her if she did not stop and then retorted to beating her sister, Umme Farwah with his stick instead. Hence, they both stopped crying.57
On another occasion, when he heard the cry of a woman, he took it upon himself to enter her home and hit her with his stick, until the covering of her hair fell off.58 When Zaynab, the Prophet’s daughter died, ‘Umar hit the women who were crying over her, until the Messenger of Allah seized his hand and told him to stop.59 Needless to say, even Fatima al-Zahra, the daughter of the Holy Prophet did not escape his wrath. Tragically, ‘Umar attacked her at her own home and forced her to miscarry her baby son Muhsin, the third grandson of the Holy Prophet.
Numerous traditions relate that the Muslim community greatly feared ‘Umar’s violent tendencies. However in one tradition, although unbecoming, it shows the extent of that fear. In an example of the virtues of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, al-Bukhari relates a peculiar story:
Some women were sitting with the Prophet and enthusiastically asking him questions that caused their voices to be raised above the voice of the Prophet. ‘Umar sought permission to enter, and as soon as the women heard him, they became afraid and put on their hijab (head covering). After the Prophet gave him permission, he entered, at which point the Prophet laughed. ‘Umar asked the Prophet, “Why do you laugh, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied, “I am surprised at these women who were sitting next to me not wearing the hijab, but the moment they heard your voice, they rushed to wear the hijab.” ‘Umar rebuked them, “You are the enemies of Allah; why do you not fear the Prophet and you fear me?” They told him, “Due to the fact that you are harsh and violent.”60
Al-Bukhari considers this narration to be an example of the virtues of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab - perhaps it may be that this tradition reflects the fear of ‘Umar amongst the women; but it also implies that the Prophet was frolicking amongst unveiled Muslim women, and such an implication undermines the moral virtues and character of the Prophet.
In another incident, ‘Umar summoned a woman whose chastity he doubted so that he could inquire whether her pregnancy was legitimate. Terrified, the woman miscarried. When ‘Umar asked his aides whether he had to pay the diyah (blood money), they told him that he did not have to because he was only instructing her. However, ‘Ali instructed him, “They misled you, they ill-advised you and you have to pay the diyah of the baby to its mother.”
Men too were on the receiving end of ‘Umar’s durrah (stick). People used to say, “The stick of ‘Umar is sharper than the sword of al-Hajjaj (al-Hajjaj was a well-known tyrant who had killed thousands of his opponents).”61 Ibn Sa’dah al-Hadhalah narrates, “I saw ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab in the market beating the merchants with his stick.
When they gathered around the food in the market, he wanted to disturb them, so he used his stick.”62 When he was not using his stick, he often used his hands or his feet, and sometimes he would bite people. In one instance, he bit the hand of Ubaydallah Ibn ‘Umar, the son of a man who was known as Abu Isa, and warned him, “Do not call yourself Abu Isa, since Isa [Prophet Jesus] did not have a father.”63
Again in the market, he beat people for purchasing red meat, which was considered a delicacy, two days in a row.64 In addition, he beat Timem al-Darimi for performing the sunnah (recommended) prayers after the afternoon prayers.65 He even beat the man who later became a popular transmitter of hadith, Abu Huraira. Many other incidents of ‘Umar’s brutality have been reported by the companions, such as Bilal66 and Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf.67 Even ‘Umar himself knew he was too harsh and once prayed, “O my Lord, I am tough, so make me soft.”68
Unlike his predecessor Abu Bakr, ‘Umar was known for his toughness, even sometimes, he was merciless.69 ‘Umar’s toughness caused many of the companions in Madinah to react against him. Openly, the Muslims could not retaliate against him, thus the people would aim their stones at him during the stoning of the symbolic Shaytan at the Hajj and cause him to bleed.70
In addition to using aggression, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab also imprisoned many people during his caliphate. Al-Dhahabi relates that ‘Umar detained three prominent companions: Abdullah Ibn Masud, Abu Dardah, and Abu Masud al-Ansari.71 According to Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi, they were only released after ‘Umar died.72 ‘Umar imprisoned these three because he feared they would spread certain hadith from the Prophet that threatened his rule.
‘Umar saw little value in the blood relationships between people and the Holy Prophet. When Safiyah, the aunt of the Prophet, whom the Prophet respected considerably lost her son, the Prophet consoled her by saying that Allah would build a house in Paradise for anyone who lost a child and was patient through the ordeal.
After hearing this, Safiyah was comforted and the Prophet left her. Afterwards, ‘Umar came and said to her, “Safiyah, I heard your cries, and your relationship to the Prophet will not help you on the Day of Judgment.” At that, she started crying again. The Prophet heard her cry again and said, “O my aunt, you are still crying and you heard what I said to you?” She replied, “No, O Messenger of Allah, what made me cry again was when ‘Umar said to me that my relationship to the Prophet would not help me on the Day of Judgment.” Angered, the Prophet told Bilal to call for the prayer (adhan), and when the people assembled, he climbed the pulpit, praised Allah and asked, “What is wrong with the people that they claim that my relationship does not benefit them and is useless on the Day of Judgment? My relationship is binding in this world and in the Hereafter.”73
‘Umar is also recorded to have had a propensity towards music and wine (nabeeth74).75 He habitually listened to and requested music to be played and he is said to have stayed awake until dawn to listen to singing (ghina).76
Since wine was initially discouraged rather than prohibited, some Muslims continued to drink between the Qur’anic revelations of c. 2:219 and c. 4:42 and ‘Umar was one of those who drank between the revelations. Once while drunk, he fractured the head of Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf and then sat poetically lamenting the mushrikeen who had been killed in the Battle of Badr. At that moment, Allah revealed the third verse that completely prohibited the drinking of alcohol (wine).77 Having realized Allah’s commandment that there was no more permissibility for drinking, ‘Umar cried out, “We stopped (intahayna), we stopped (intahayna).”78
However, during his caliphate, ‘Umar is recorded to have continued to ask for wine - once when he was traveling to Shaam (Syria);79 and once when he was traveling to Mecca, he met a man named Abdullah Ibn Ayash al-Maszumi and sipped his wine before passing it on to the man on his right.80 Other stories have also been recorded; however, the last known incident of him drinking alcohol was after doing his prayers just before he was killed.81 However, some tend to explain these stories by saying that the wine that ‘Umar drank after the time of jahilliyah was non-alcoholic.
By the time ‘Umar became the caliph, Muslims already had the Qur’an in its complete and present-day form. Many verses of the Qur’an also attest to its preserved status before the life of the Prophet ended.82
The Prophet handpicked the scribes who would copy word for word each ayah (considered as a letter or a word in the Qur’an) under his direct supervision. The known scribes were: ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Abdullah Ibn Masud, Abu Dardah, Zayd Ibn Thabit, Ma’adh Ibn Jabal, and Salim Mawla Abi Hudayfah. During the lifetime of the Prophet, many of the companions - forty-one of whom are recorded by Ibn Nadeem83 - had written the entire Qur’an with their own hands; therefore, each copy was known as “the copy of Abdullah Ibn Masud,” “the copy of Ibn Abbas,” and so on.
In later times, some attempted to credit Abu Bakr and ‘Umar for first compiling the Qur’an, but those who did so neglected the earlier historical references. In reality, ‘Umar not only lacked interest in the Qur’an, but he also cast serious doubt on its completeness and authenticity. Oftentimes, he would inform the people from the minbar (pulpit) that some verses of the Qur’an were removed.
Even more, ‘Umar believed that certain verses were lost with the death of the Prophet.84 In accordance with al-Bukhari, ‘Umar is related to have said, “Allah sent Muhammad with the truth, and He sent a book to him, and we used to read verses in that book, and we don’t find them anymore.” The “missing” verse that ‘Umar is referring to - in which only he thought - was about stoning of an adulterer.85
At times, during the dawn prayers, ‘Umar would recite verses that no one else heard; he called them “al-hafd wal-khul.”86 As for the entirety of the Qur’an, ‘Umar mentioned that it was composed of a whopping 1,027,000 letters, while the Qur’an consists of just over 300,000 letters.87
‘Umar would argue, for instance, with one of the original transcribers of the Qur’an, Hudayfah. ‘Umar asked him how many verses were in Surah al-Ahzab, and Hudayfah answered that there were 72 or 73. ‘Umar countered that the number of verses in that surah was similar to the number of verses in Surah al-Baqarah, which has 286 verses, implying that over 200 verses of the original surah had been lost.88 He also said that Surah al-Tawbah (Repentance) was only one-fourth of the original, and that it was first called “Surah al-Adhab (The Punishment)” before the people changed its name to Surah al-Tawbah.89
Tafseer, the interpretation of the verses of the Holy Qur’an was also not one of ‘Umar’s strong points. He would often discourage, even react violently when people asked him questions about the meaning of the Qur’an, which he could not answer.90 When a man came to ‘Umar and inquired about what c. 4:128 meant, ‘Umar hit him rather than admitting that he did not know the answer. Similarly, when someone asked ‘Umar what “fodder” meant in the verse,
“We split the earth in fragments and produce therein grain...and fruits and fodder”91
‘Umar reproached him saying, “You have the book of your Lord with you. Practice what you know from it, and leave what you do not know.”92 According to Ibn Abil Hadid, ‘Umar was not concerned with the interpretation (tafseer) of the Qur’an and used to say, “Just recite the Qur’an and do not interpret it (tufassiruhu),”93 since he himself did not know much about it.
Occasionally, ‘Umar would hear verses of the Qur’an but not recognize them as such.94 One day, ‘Umar angrily interrupted a man who was reading verse 11 from Surah al-Tawbah because he did not recognize the verse and assumed that the man was inventing it. Defending himself, the man asserted, “Yes, I heard it from Ubay Ibn Ka’ab,” one of the transcribers of the Qur’an. Then, ‘Umar went to Ubay Ibn Ka’ab and asked him three times about the verse. Each time he replied, “Yes, I received it from Prophet Muhammad.” After that, ‘Umar left raising his hands and shouting “Allahu akbar (God is Great),” “Allahu akbar,” confessing that the verse was authentic but that he had never heard it before.95
Elsewhere, when ‘Umar saw verse nine of Surah al-Jumuah (c. 62) written on a tablet he questioned, “Who dictated this verse to you?” Someone replied that Ubay Ibn Ka’ab had narrated the verse. ‘Umar said, “The Prophet has died and we did not read this verse the way it is written here.” He then continued that the verse should have read “fa umdhu ilaa dhikr Allah,” instead of “fasaw ilaa dhikr Allah” (with both versions having the same meaning of “march” or “go”).96
‘Umar himself knew that his knowledge of the Qur’an was lacking because once when he heard a man read verse 107 of Surah al-Maidah, he told him, “You are a liar.” The man rebuked, “You are a liar.” Another man interjected, “Are you denying that the Commander of the Faithful is saying the truth?” The man replied, “No, I respect the Commander of the Faithful, but he is unaware of the Qur’an.” ‘Umar admitted, “He is telling the truth (sadaq).”97
One of the scribers of the Qur’an, Ubay Ibn Ka’ab commented, “I was busy with the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet, but you (‘Umar) were busy walking in the markets and in the streets.”98
An assailant stabbed ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab on Wednesday, four days before the end of Dhul Hijjah in 23 ah.99 As his condition worsened he realized that his life was about to end, thus he began addressing the subject of his impending death with apprehension and anxiety. Abdullah Ibn Amar Ibn Rabiah relates:
I saw ‘Umar when he was on his deathbed, holding in his hand a piece of straw. He raised it and said, “I wish I was this straw. I wish I was nothing. I wish my mother had not delivered me.” 100
Soon after, he said:
I wish I was a male sheep in my family. They would feed me and fatten me, and once I became fat, someone who likes my family would visit, so they would slaughter me. They would grill part of me and dry the second half. After that, they would eat me and turn me into adharah (human waste - feces). I wish I was not a human being. 101
He expressed a similar sentiment again:
I wish I was a tree on the side of a road, and a camel would pass by and eat me, and start to chew me and swallow me, and then get rid of me as its droppings. I wish I was not a human being. 102
These statements raise many questions. Perhaps ‘Umar was regretting how he had treated the Prophet, or how he had accused the Prophet of hallucinating,103 or how he had delayed the burial of the Prophet until Abu Bakr had returned to participate in the power-sharing talks.104 Perhaps he regretted tugging on the clothes of the Prophet while he was reading Salat al-Janazah (Prayer of the Deceased);105 or raising his voice above the voice of the Prophet despite the command of the Qur’an to the contrary (c. 49:2). Maybe at the time of his death, the incident of the attack on the house of Fatima al-Zahra came to his mind.
Just before he died, ‘Umar was resting his head in the lap of his son Abdullah. He asked his son to put his cheek on the ground. His son did not listen, so ‘Umar repeated his words harshly. As soon as his cheek touched the earth, ‘Umar said, “Woe to ‘Umar and to the mother of ‘Umar, if Allah does not forgive ‘Umar.” After the fatal attack on him on Wednesday, ‘Umar was buried the following Sunday, the first day of Muharram, in 24 ah. His khalifah lasted for ten years, five months, and twenty-one days.
As mentioned elsewhere, the primary reason why ‘Uthman was killed was for mismanaging the affairs of the Muslim nation, and it was Lady Aishah who was the forerunner to censure him regarding this.
While both the Prophet and Abu Bakr had distributed the revenue from the treasury equally amongst the Muslims, ‘Umar, on the other hand, begun to shift the distribution in favor of his allies. Thus ‘Umar had assigned Lady Aishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr; Hafsa, his own daughter; and Umme Habiba, the daughter of Abu Sufyan with 12,000 dinars a month, while providing the rest of the wives of the Prophet with only 5,000 dinars per month.
When ‘Uthman came to power, he wanted to reinstate the equal stipend among the Prophet’s widows but Lady Aishah protested,106 and thus the campaign to turn against ‘Uthman first began by her. According to al-Tabari,107 she is recorded to have said, “Kill this Nathal108 (the nickname she gave to ‘Uthman), for he has disbelieved.”109
Besides his practice of nepotism and favoritism, ‘Uthman on many levels suspended the practices of the Qur’an and the Holy Prophet. Blatantly disregarding the two most fundamental aspects of Islam had undoubtedly caused a furor amongst the Muslim population, as a result of his actions, ‘Uthman was murdered and his corpse was prohibited from being buried inside the Muslim cemetery of al-Baqi,110 and to add to this, the prayer of the deceased was prohibited from being performed on him.111
Further information about these individuals can be found in the history of al-Tabari.112
According to historical records, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab prided himself on his “improvements” to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet. Although Abu Bakr and ‘Uthman both adjusted religious law for special cases,113 ‘Umar relied almost entirely on his own opinion and encouraged others to do the same.
When he appointed Shurayh al-Qadi as the religious judge of Madinah, he instructed him, “If you are searching for a verdict, then look in the Book of God. If you do not find one, then look in the tradition of the Prophet. But if you do not find it in the tradition of the Prophet, then make up a verdict yourself.” 114
Similarly, he wrote to Abu Musa al-Ashari, “If you do not find an answer in the Book or the tradition, then make an analogy and develop an answer yourself.”115 For these reasons, al-Tabari says that people preferred not to take their disputes to ‘Umar, because he was known for judging by his personal beliefs, rather than the Islamic criteria.116
Some of the practices that ‘Umar is best known for changing are the adhan (call to prayer), tarawih117 prayer, prayers for the deceased, and the laws of divorce which we will explain in detail:
Initially, “as-salatu khayrun min an-nawm (prayer is better than sleep)” was not part of the adhan. It came about one morning when ‘Umar’s servant came to wake him for prayer by calling to him, “as-salatu khayrun min an-nawm.” Approving of that phrase, ‘Umar instructed the muadhdhin (a person who performs the call to prayer) to include it in the adhan from then on.118
A majority of the Sunni commentators maintain that the Prophet learned the adhan from a companion named Abdullah Ibn Zayd. Narrators such as al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah say that the Prophet asked his companions how he should inform people about the time for prayer. Some said he should use a banner, others said a horn, and others said a bell, like the Christians. According to these narrators, it is reported that on that night, Abdullah Ibn Zayd had the following strange dream:
Abdullah Ibn Zayd saw a man carrying a bell in his hand. He asked if he could buy the bell, and the man asked him what he wanted it for. Abdullah Ibn Zayd said, “I want to use it to call the people to prayer.” The man replied, “I can teach you something better than ringing the bell,” and then he taught Abdullah Ibn Zayd the adhan.
According to these commentators, in the morning Abdullah Ibn Zayd told the Prophet his dream. The Prophet replied, “This is a true dream that you have seen. Come with me to Bilal - teach him what you have seen in the dream and let Bilal learn the adhan.” The story concludes that when ‘Umar heard the adhan, he told the Prophet, “I swear, I saw the same dream,” and the Prophet said, “praise be to Allah.”
Clearly, this story cannot be true for surely Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate to humankind, would not provide detailed revelation and then omit an important practice such as the adhan.
Nonetheless, there exists another explanation, which is accepted by Shi’a scholars:119
Gabriel came to the Prophet while the Prophet was resting on ‘Ali. Gabriel read the adhan to them. To maintain this, the Prophet turned to ‘Ali and said, “Did you hear the adhan?” ‘Ali said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Did you memorize it?” ‘Ali said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “Then call Bilal; let us teach him the adhan.” So they called Bilal and taught him the adhan.120
An important point to note is that because the instructions came from angel Gabriel, the adhan must be considered as being part of the revelation, and not a whimsical dream seen by one of the companions.
Al-Bukhari narrates that one day a man came to ‘Umar and said, “I am in a state of janabah (ritual impurity) and I cannot find water.” ‘Umar told him, “Do not pray.” Ammar Ibn Yasir, who was sitting there retorted:
Do you not remember that you and I were in a battalion going to the battles, and both of us woke up and found ourselves in a state of ritual impurity, and we did not find water? So you did not pray, but I did the tayammum (ritual purification by means of dust) in the dust. We mentioned this to the Prophet, and the Prophet said that you should have put your hands in the dust and performed the tayammum. 121
Primarily, the Qur’an prescribes the tayammum for situations when water cannot be found. (c. 4:43) Therefore, most of the Sunni schools of thought follow the Qur’an in this regard. Only the Hanafi school follows ‘Umar’s opinion and indicates that tayammum is permissible only while traveling or ill, but in all other cases, a person who cannot find water for taharah should not pray.
Al-Bukhari narrates from Abdullah Ibn Abd al-Qari:
I went with ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab during his period of caliphate one night in the Month of Ramadhan to the mosque. We saw the people praying scattered, not together. ‘Umar said, “It is best if these people can pray together, and there is only one who leads the prayers.” So he gathered them and appointed Ubay Ibn Ka’ab to lead the prayers. Another night, I went with ‘Umar to the mosque and saw that the people were praying together, organized, and ‘Umar said, “What an excellent innovation (niam al-bidah hadhihi).”122
Although narrators like Ahmad Ibn al-Hanbal, al-Muslim, and al-Nisa’i all relate that the Prophet read prayers over the deceased with five takbiraat (uttering “Allahu akbar”);123 however, ‘Umar reduced the number of takbiraat in prayers over the deceased from five to four.124
According to the Holy Qur’an (c. 2:229), a married couple may divorce each other three times before they are no longer allowed to remarry each other.125 Thus, divorce must be declared and its rulings applied on three separate periods; the pronouncement of the three divorces cannot be declared in one declaration. The Holy Prophet explained:
A man came to the Prophet and told him, “I divorced my wife.” The Prophet asked, “How did you divorce her?” He said, “Three times in one session.” The Prophet said, “That divorce is considered only one divorce. It cannot be considered three divorces, so you may take your wife back.”126
However, historians say that divorce became more prevalent during the time of the second caliph; thus to make divorce easier, ‘Umar allowed men to read all three pronouncements of divorce at one time.127
‘Umar also did following:
• Prevented the death announcement of the Prophet
• Objected to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
• Refused to join the dispatch of Usama as the Prophet commanded him to do so just before his death
• Prevented the Prophet from narrating his will
• He was the first person to give allegiance to Abu Bakr at Saqifah
• Offered two options to ‘Ali and Fatima al-Zahra - pay allegiance to Abu Bakr or face the consequences
• Appointed Mu’awiyah as governor of Syria
• Appointed Abu Huraira as governor of Bahrain and then accused him of theft and lying about the statements of the Prophet
• Allocated different salaries to different groups of people, introducing discrimination into the financial system
• Permitted wiping over one’s socks in wudhu instead of removing them and performing it on the bare feet;
• Prevented people from mourning over the dead128
• Forced people who had taken the names of prophets (as their first names) to change their names129
• Required all men to offer the same amount of mahr (marriage gift) to all women
According to Muslim historians, the third caliph ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan was assassinated because of his financial mismanagement and religious digression. The prominent historian Ibn Sa’d says that ‘Uthman Ibn al-Affan governed for twelve years.
For the first six years, he was very popular, but in the second six years, he brought his family members and clan to political power and flooded them with money, whereby he angered the people because those whom he appointed as administrators and governors over all the Islamic lands were corrupt.130 Al-Tabari and Ibn al-Atheer go further and agree that financial mismanagement was not the only reason why ‘Uthman was killed; nonetheless, they say that they do not want to mention the other reasons because they do not want to stir the tension in the public.131 Other sources are more vocal about what actually happened during that time.
Before assuming the caliphate, ‘Uthman had agreed to follow the policies of his predecessors. However, after becoming the caliph, he reverted to the jahiliyyah practice of favoring his own relatives. Aware of ‘Uthman’s tendencies in that direction, ‘Umar had previously warned him to refrain from nepotism because the people would reject it and the Quraysh would lose power,132 however ‘Uthman did not heed his advice.
Unlike Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, ‘Uthman filled the official positions with his own tribesmen, such as Abu Sufyan, Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah, Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh, and Sa’ed Ibn al-Aas. In doing so, he angered many people, even those on the side of Quraysh, such as Lady Aishah.
Particularly upset were those who lost power due to ‘Uthman’s nepotism, such as ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas, who lost Egypt; al-Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah, who lost Kufa; and Abu Musa al-Ashari, who lost Basra. Adding insult to injury, ‘Uthman then appointed incompetent and corrupt individuals from among the Bani Umayyah to fill those positions. As a result, some of those townships revolted and in Kufa for example, the people ousted ‘Uthman’s choice and reinstated Abu Musa al-Ashari.133
The administrative mismanagement began with al-Hakam Ibn al-Aas and his son Marwan. The Holy Prophet had exiled both of them from Madinah because they had been agitating the populace. During the caliphates of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, both leaders refused permission for them to return.
However, when ‘Uthman came to power, not only did he bring back al-Hakam Ibn al-Aas and Marwan, but he gave al-Hakam Ibn al-Aas 100,000 dirhams, and he gave his own daughter, Umme Aban in marriage to Marwan. As his son-in-law, Marwan became a close minister to ‘Uthman and in turn, ‘Uthman presented him with many gifts, such as allocating him all of the income of Africa. He even gave Marwan’s brother Harith Ibn al-Hakam 300,000 dirhams.
‘Uthman favored his own relatives for government positions despite their incompetence, and in doing so, he alienated the rest of the Muslims, especially the Muhajireen and the Ansar. Rumor spread in the city of Kufa that ‘Uthman wanted to honor his stepbrother at the expense of the ummah of Muhammad.134
In truth, ‘Uthman replaced Sa’d Ibn Abi al-Waqqas, the well-liked governor of Kufa, with his step-brother al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah and thereby earned the wrath of the people, who asked whether it was just to replace Sa’d Ibn Abi al-Waqqas, whom they felt was moderate, kind, and forgiving with his own step-brother, who was in their words, “stupid, irreligious, and corrupt (ahmaq, majin, wa fajir).”135
He also allocated the entire income of Africa, from Tripoli to Tangiers, to another stepbrother, Ibn Abi Sarh and made him supreme governor of Egypt instead of governor of the countryside. In addition, he expanded the authority of Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, which had been limited to Damascus during the time of ‘Umar, to include all of Shaam, which encompassed Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and other areas at that time. He treated others from the Bani Umayyah in a similar fashion.
These actions brought him into conflict with the people, not because they disliked the Bani Umayyah, but because those whom he appointed were dishonest and corrupt. However, when historians analyze the reasons behind ‘Uthman’s assassination, they say that it was not only because he departed from the egalitarian spirit of the Qur’an and allowed his clansmen to take from the people at a time of economic crisis and poverty, but that bidah (religious innovation) was a factor as well. Closer investigation of that period reveals that ‘Uthman did in fact attempt to make changes to the religion.
‘Uthman’s nepotism led to his assassination and the awaited succession of ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib to the caliphate. After ‘Ali was murdered, power again shifted to the Quraysh group under the rule of Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan. Learning from ‘Uthman’s errors, Mu’awiyah balanced political with tribal alliances and followed ‘Umar’s practice of appointing allies from outside his own tribe to official positions. Hence, ‘Amr Ibn al-Aas, al-Mugheerah Ibn al-Shu’bah, Abu Huraira, al-Numan Ibn Basheer, and Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khalid all found places in the new caliphate under Mu’awiyah, and even Lady Aishah was pacified.
One of the first examples of ‘Uthman’s mismanagement revolved around his stepbrother, al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah, whom ‘Uthman made the governor of Kufa - much to the dismay of the people. Al-Waleed was habituated to drinking wine. One day when he was drunk, he came to the mosque to lead the prayers.
After finishing two rakats (units of prayer), he turned to the people and asked, “Do you need more prayers?” One of the companions reproached him, “May the Lord never increase you in goodness, and neither the one who sent you as a governor over us (‘Uthman),” and then he threw a handful of pebbles in the face of al-Waleed. Others in the mosque followed suit, and al-Waleed drunkenly staggered back to the palace as the people stoned him.136
A group of Kufans went to Madinah to raise their grievances about al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah, but ‘Uthman did not believe them and mocked them, so they went to the house of Lady Aishah. Aishah was furious at ‘Uthman and told him, “You abandoned the tradition of the Prophet.”137 News of this incident spread and a crowd gathered in the Masjid of Madinah.
Those who took Lady Aishah’s side and those who took ‘Uthman’s side fought and threw stones at each other. This day marked the first public fighting between Muslims in the city of Madinah since the death of the Prophet and this incident forced ‘Uthman to replace his stepbrother with Sa’ed Ibn al-Aas as governor of Kufa in order to resolve the matter.
Known for his fusuq (impiety), Sa’ed Ibn al-Aas was no better than his predecessor and he treated Iraq as the personal property of the Quraysh, and in particular, the Bani Umayyah. One of those who opposed his governorship was Malik al-Ashtar al-Nakhai, but when he brought the issue up in public, more conflict ensued.138 Others also objected to the practice of Sa’ed Ibn al-Aas that the public treasury (bayt al-mal) was wide open to the Bani Umayyah. ‘Ali, Zubayr, Talha, Sa’d Ibn Abdullah, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf, and others came to ‘Uthman to voice their objections to him, but ‘Uthman rebuked them by saying, “This is my family and Allah has enjoined upon me to be kind to them.”139
When the Messenger of Allah used to go to the mosque for the Friday prayers, the person in charge of giving the call to prayer would first call the adhan and then the iqamah, and this practice continued during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and for half of the caliphate of ‘Uthman. However, in the seventh year of his caliphate, ‘Uthman ordered that a third call to prayer be given. This shocked the Muslims140 because they considered the addition of a third adhan to be a bidah (religious innovation).141
Al-Yaqubi comments in his history that ‘Uthman had the audacity to climb the pulpit of the Prophet and sit in the same place that the Prophet used to sit in, even though Abu Bakr and ‘Umar respected it by never sitting on the pulpit of the Prophet. 142
During the Hajj (the Pilgrimage), the prayers in Mina used to be performed in the shortened version (qasr) by a person who was traveling. However, one year, ‘Uthman recited the prayers in their full form rather than in their shortened form.
Many of the companions protested and one of them, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf came to ‘Uthman and asked, “Didn’t you pray with the Prophet in this spot with two rakats (units of prayer)?” ‘Uthman said he had. Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf then asked, “Didn’t you pray with Abu Bakr in this spot with two rakats?” ‘Uthman said he had. Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf further asked, “Didn’t you pray with ‘Umar in this spot with two rakats?” ‘Uthman said that he had. Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf continued, “Didn’t you, yourself lead the prayers during your caliphate in this spot with two rakats?”
‘Uthman said that he had. Abd al-Rahman then resorted to ask why ‘Uthman had read the prayers with four rakats this time, to which ‘Uthman replied, “I have married a woman from Mecca, and the people of Yemen came to me and said, ‘Uthman is a resident of Mecca, but he still prays qasr even though he should pray the complete prayers; because of this, I wanted to do four rakats.” Abd al-Rahman Ibn Auf then pointed out to him that the Holy Prophet himself was a resident of Mecca and he still led the prayers with two rakats, and that ‘Uthman should follow the tradition of the Prophet. ‘Uthman replied, “This is the opinion that I have followed.”143
In another case, when ‘Uthman was in Mina, he became ill and asked ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib to lead the prayers. ‘Ali replied, “If you like, I will lead the prayers, but I will pray exactly the way that Prophet Muhammad did (the shortened prayers).” ‘Uthman objected and told him that he had to pray with four rakats, and the matter was left at that.
Throughout the time of the Prophet and the caliphates of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, as well as today, the khutbah (sermon) on the day of Eid is said after the Eid Prayer. However, ‘Uthman noticed that people tended to miss the prayers, so he developed the habit of giving the sermon first, and then after that leading the prayer.144
Aside from encouraging Marwan Ibn al-Hakam to return from exile and making him his son-in-law, ‘Uthman also granted him the land of Fadak.
Originally, the Prophet gave Fadak to his daughter Fatima al-Zahra because when the ayah of the Qur’an was revealed, “And give to your kin their right,” (c. 17:26) the Angel Gabriel told the Prophet that he had to give Fadak to Fatima. However when Abu Bakr assumed the caliphate, he held that it was fay (income for all of the Muslim community), so he took Fadak away from her and made it a public endowment, while the Ahlul Bayt maintained that it was a private gift. Irrespective of which viewpoint one takes, ‘Uthman still had no right to grant the land to a specific individual, since neither public endowments, nor private property of someone else can be given to a private party.
In addition to Fadak, as mentioned earlier, ‘Uthman also gave Marwan all of the income from Africa. Such treatment raised discontent among the Muslims of Madinah because Marwan was not an admired or moral figure.
On the account of ‘Uthman’s actions, many Muslims were not happy with him. The negative reaction of prominent Muslims is well documented, and a careful review of this, may perhaps give some insight as to why ‘Uthman was eventually assassinated.
Talha Ibn Abdullah said to ‘Uthman, “You brought new innovations into the religion that people were unaware of before and did not know about in religion.”145
Al-Zubayr Ibn al-Awam one day said about ‘Uthman, “Kill him, he has changed your religion.” The people reminded him that his own son stood at the door of ‘Uthman and protected him. Al-Zubayr replied, “I would not dislike that ‘Uthman be killed even if they start by killing my son.”146
Abdullah Ibn Masud used to say about ‘Uthman, “The best of truth is the Book of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the most evil things are the ones which have been innovated, and every new thing that has been brought up is bidah, and every bidah is deviation, and every deviant is in the Fire.”147
Ammar Ibn Yasir, at the Battle of Siffeen, said that when the people were asked why they killed ‘Uthman, they answered, “We killed him because of his ihdath (new innovations).”148
Sa’d Ibn Abi al-Waqqas was asked about the motivations behind ‘Uthman’s assassination and he said, “He changed - and he has been changed. He did good things and he did bad things. If we do good, then we have done good, and if we do bad then we ask forgiveness from Allah.”149
Malik al-Ashtar describes ‘Uthman in his letter to him as “the one who throws the injunctions of the Qur’an behind his back (al-nabidh li hukm al-Qur’an),” and “the one who has turned away from the tradition of the Prophet (al-haid an sunnat al-Nabi).”150
Lady Aishah, the wife of the Prophet said to ‘Uthman, “How quickly you have deserted the tradition of your Prophet. His hair and his sandals have not yet decomposed” [the sunnah fell apart quicker than the remnants of the Holy Prophet]. She also said to him, “You have abandoned the tradition (sunnah) of the Messenger of Allah.”151
Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr, the son of the first caliph Abu Bakr, said to ‘Uthman, “What religion do you follow?” ‘Uthman replied, “I follow the religion of Islam,” after which Muhammad told him, “You have changed the injunctions of the Book of Allah,” and left angrily.152
Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, a close companion of the Prophet, said to ‘Uthman, “By God, I have seen affairs and events that I cannot even recognize” [that they are neither in the Book of Allah, nor in the traditions of the Prophet]. He also said, “I can see truth which has been extinguished and falsehood (batil) which is being resurrected and an honest person whom people are doing wrong to and are saying that he is a liar.”153
Such comments indicate that many prominent companions were displeased with ‘Uthman’s policies and his implementation of the Qur’an and the sunnah. The accusations they levied upon him, bidah and ihdath - both meaning innovation - are very serious in Islam. After he was killed, his body was left for three days - unwashed and unburied.154
Finally, Marwan Ibn al-Hakam and three of his disciples recited the funeral prayers over him, but the people of Madinah, who had refused to participate in the funeral prayer stoned them. They did not allow his body to be buried in the same cemetery (as the Muslims), thus he was buried outside the boundaries of the al-Baqi cemetery. Later on, when Mu’awiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan took power, he extended al-Baqi to include the grave of ‘Uthman.
For the first six years of his caliphate, ‘Uthman followed the precedents of the first two caliphs. At some point however, he realized that the people did not view him as his own entity; but rather as a follower of the Shaykhayn (Abu Bakr and ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab) and he felt that he was not receiving the respect that his position entitled him to.
The people had permitted ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab to alter the religion based on circumstances, such as when ‘Umar expanded the grounds of Masjid al-Haram (the Ka’abah), or increased the government subsidies (aba). However, they did not give ‘Uthman the same level of tolerance and flexibility, even though ‘Uthman, like ‘Umar, was tied by blood to the Holy Prophet.
Even when he tried to expand the sacred mosque (in Madinah) as ‘Umar had done, the people said, “He expands the mosque of the Prophet, but he changes his tradition.” According to al-Tabari, when ‘Uthman demolished the homes around the sacred mosque for its expansion, he attempted to compensate their owners, but they refused to accept the money. ‘Uthman said to them, “Do you know what made you strong in front of me and made you accuse me? It was my forbearance. ‘Umar did exactly the same thing to you, but you did not protest.”155
He said to others, “You accuse me of things that happened during the time of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, but you did not accuse him. You agreed with him, and he forced you to follow him and his tradition; whereas I gave you freedom and freedom of expression, and I barred my hands and my tongue from you, and that is what gave you the courage to attack me.”156
Overall, ‘Uthman lacked the strength to resist the desire for fame and recognition and new ideas in his name.