The Role of Aishah in the History of Islam (volume 1)

Uthman Concludes a Pact With the Rebels

al-Baladhuri writes199: al-Mughayrah ibn Shu'bah asked 'Uthman to give him leave to contact the Egyptians and inquire into their demands. The caliph gave him permission and when al-Mughayrah approached the Egyptians' camp, they cried out: "O you one-eyed blind man! Go back, you shameless one! Go back, you wicked fellow!"

So al-Mughayrah had to return. 'Uthman summoned 'Amr ibn al-'As and said to him: "Go and meet this group and invite them towards the Book of God and we will meet their wishes."

Amr approached the Egyptians and greeted them and they replied: "May God remove your health from you! O enemy of God goes back! O son of Nabighah, go back!, we neither trust you nor can your grace be trusted." 'Abd Allah ibn 'Umar and some of those present said to 'Uthman: "The only 197. History of at-Tabari 5/111 to 112, al-Baladhuri 5/64 to 65, Ibn al-Athir 3/68, Description of Nahj al-

balaghah 1/162 to 164, Ibn Kathir 7/172, Ibn Khaldun 2/396 to 397 and Ibn A'tham 147-152.

  1. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter ar-Ra'd, Verse 11.

  2. Ansab al-ashraf of al-Baladhuri 5/111 to 112.

person who can carry out this mission is 'Ali ibn Abi Talib." When 'Ali came, 'Uthman said to him: "O Abu al-Hasan! Contact these people and invite them to the Book of God and His prophet's traditions!" 'Ali answered: "I accept this task only on condition that you promise me and take God to witness that you will fulfill whatever I promise them on your behalf."

'Uthman said: "I accept." So 'Ali took his promise and his oath upon God's testimony, which were the strongest he could secure, and then departed. When he faced the Egyptians, they cried out: "Go back, 'Ali!" But 'Ali said: "No! I come forward and promise acting upon the Book of God and the fulfillment of your demands." Then he explained what had taken place between him and 'Uthman, and promised that 'Uthman would fulfill his promise. The Egyptians asked: "Do you guarantee it?" He said: "Yes." So they said: "If this is so, we agree." Then some of the chiefs and dignitaries of Egypt accompanied by 'Ali entered Medina and went to 'Uthman's house. They explained their purpose and reproached the caliph. 'Uthman did not refute any of their objections and admitted all of them, and undertook to remedy them. The Egyptian deputies asked him to express it in writing and give it to them for a greater assurance. Re agreed and wrote the following pact in his own handwriting:

"In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

This is an agreement that 'Uthman, servant of God and Commander of the Faithful writes for that group of believers and Muslims who have been irritated with him, and he undertakes: 1-To act henceforth according to the Book of God and the Prophet's tradition.

2-To reimburse the salaries of those which I have stopped. 3-To give grace to those who fear my rage and safeguard their freedom. 4-To bring back the exiled to their families. 5-To abstain from keeping the soldiers at the frontiers for a long time. 6-To divide the spoils of war among the warriors without any scruple or exception.

'Ali ibn Abi Talib acts on behalf of 'Uthman towards the believers and Muslims as a guarantor for the fulfillment of all these commitments. The following persons testify the correctness of the above commitments:

1-az-Zubayr ibn al-'Awam 2-Talhah ibn 'Ubayd Allah 3-Sa'd ibn Malik Abi Waqqas 4-'Abd Allah ibn 'Umar 5-Zayd ibn Thabit 6-Sahl ibn Hunayf 7-Abu Ayyub Khalid ibn Zayd.

Dated: Dhu al-Qa'dah, 35 of the Hijrah."

Then each group took a copy of the above pact and returned.

Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and governorship of Egypt

The accounts given by al-Baladhuri and others show that in addition to the above pact, 'Uthman gave another document to the Egyptians in which he dismissed 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh from the governorship of Egypt and replaced him by Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr.

al-Baladhuri writes: Talhah, 'A'ishah's cousin stood up and spoke harshly to 'Uthman. 'A'ishah, too, sent 'Uthman a message to give the right of the Egyptians with the dismissal of 'Abd Allah from his position as governor of Egypt. At this time 'Ali entered and spoke on behalf of the Egyptians, saying: "These people want you to remove 'Abd Allah from his position and appoint another person in his place. They accuse 'Abd Allah of having spilled an innocent person's blood too. Dismiss him and judge between them. If the accusation is true and 'Abd Allah has committed such a crime, administer God's law in his case and redress their right."

'Uthman said to the Egyptians: "You yourself choose someone as governor of Egypt and I will issue the decree." A group of the Egyptians made signs to each other nominating Muhammad son of Abi Bakr, and eventually asked 'Uthman to issue the decree for his governorship.200

'Uthman accepted the proposal and issued a decree in Muhammad's name, and commissioned a number of the Emigrants and Ansar to act as supervisors in this change of governorship between him and 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh, and at the same time to investigate the claim of the Egyptians against 'Abd Allah, and report their findings to 'Uthman.

In this way both sides separated in perfect peace and reconciliation and the Egyptians returned to Egypt from Medina, fully satisfied with their mission. 'Ali abandons his support for 'Uthman 'Uthman! I swear to God that lam certain that Marwan will bring about your annihilation and then cannot save you.

Imam 'Ali

  1. It seems that in the choice of Muhammad as governor of Egypt, the suggestion and activity of 'A'ishah, his sister and of Talhah, his cousin, and others of Banu Taym have not been without influence.

'Uthman's political repentance

When peace and reconciliation were made between the Egyptians and 'Uthman with the efforts and mediation of Imam 'Ali, concluded a pact under-taking to fulfill their wishes and after they returned fully satisfied, the Imam said to 'Uthman: "Now stand up and speak to the people, informing them of your intentions and take God as witness to your sincere return and repentance; for, the conditions in most cities of Islam are wretched and convulsive, and everyone speaks of you and your conduct, and this time it is feared that the Kufans will rise in rebellion against you. Now you will turn to me to go and speak with them. But in such a case I will be unable to undertake such a task and they will accept no excuse from me. It could also be that the people of Basra may rise against you, and then if you ask me to go and negotiate with them and if I refuse to do so, you may accuse me of having broken the ties of relationship with you and of having trifled with your right."

'Uthman rose and went to the mosque, delivering a sermon, expressing regret and repentance, saying: "O people! I swear to God, I was aware of everything you criticized me for, and all I had done. I did everything with full knowledge, and never acted ignorantly. But so far I have been badly misled by my inner whims and desires and facts were shown me in an inverted way, ultimately leading me astray, and turning me away from truth and rightfulness. I myself heard the Prophet say: Whoever is involved in a blunder, should repent, and anyone who commits a sin, should repent, and let not himself wander in deviation, and if he continues his injustice, he will belong to that group who have turned away from the path of truth altogether.

Now when I descend from the pulpit your leaders and dignitaries may come to me and state their proposals. I swear to God that I shall comply with their rightful wishes. There is no way which does not reach God, and all return to Him.

Let your select ones not turn away from proximity to me, and let them know that if my right hand does not obey them, my left hand will submit to them." The people were moved with compassion at 'Uthman's words and some of them even wept for his helplessness. At this time Sa'id ibn Zayd said to him: "O commander of the faithful! No one feels more compassion for you than I. Therefore, think of yourself and act upon what you have promised."

Marwan's obstruction

When 'Uthman descended the pulpit and entered his house, he saw Marwan and Sa'id and some of the Umayyads waiting for him. They had not attended the sermon in the mosque. When 'Uthman sat down, Marwan turned to him and said: "Would the Commander of the Faithful permit me to say something?" Na'ilah, 'Uthman's wife, interrupted and said: "No! You had better say nothing and remain silent." Then she continued: "By God, the conditions are so tense and confused that people will rebel against him and kill him, too and make orphans of his children. In regard to the existing conditions he has made promises that would not be advisable not to keep."

Marwan who was taken aback at this untimely meddlesomeness, turned to Na'ilah and said sharply: "What has it got to do with you? Your father departed this world when he could not even perform his ablution properly!" Na'ilah shouted angrily: "Keep quiet, Marwan! You speak of fathers, and say something of my dead father, and lie about him. Rather it is your father whom no one can talk good about him. I swear to God that if your father were not 'Uthman's uncle and naturally the evil of an uncle is bound to affect his nephew, I would say something to you which you could never deny?"

Marwan was compelled to turn away from her and then turning to 'Uthman, repeated his former request to speak, and 'Uthman gave him leave to do so. Marwan said: "May you accept the blessings of my parents. How fine would it have been for you to utter those words when you possessed power and ability and when you were not so humble and abject. Then I would have been the first person to be pleased and to support you, and would even have aided you in that declaration. But alas! You uttered those words at a time when everything had quickened down and there was left no sign of the tumultuous torrent of your threatening power but foams mingled with straw on the earth. You stretched your arm of imploration towards them in complete abjectness and humility, and surrendered to them in full humbleness and helplessness. I swear to God that if you insist upon a sin for which you beg only God's forgiveness, it would be far better than confessing your impotence to the people and expressing your repentance. If you wished to win people's favour with your repentance, there was no need to confess your errors and sins. It is because of this expression of impotence and confession of your blunders that people have converged into masses threatening you."

'Uthman said to Marwan: "Go out and speak to them, for, I feel ashamed of talking to them!" Marwan went out. The people had gathered there to state their wants and needs. When Marwan appeared at the door, he faced the crowd and said: "What is going on? Have you come for plunder? Shame on you! I see that everyone has brought his friend with him, but not those whom I expected to see! What is wrong? Have you sharpened your teeth for our government? The way you have rushed upon us shows that you intend to seize it from us! Go away! I swear to God that if you intend to attack us, you will receive such a punishment that you never expected and it will cost you heavily. What stupid people you are! Go back to your homes. You are wrong! We have never retreated before you, and will never surrender our power and rule!"

'Uthman's prudent wife

The people were perplexed at what they had heard the caliph promise an hour before, and what they were hearing now. What a difference between these two! It was difficult to find an answer. Some people went to 'Ali and informed him of what had occurred. 'Ali entered upon 'Uthman in great anger and said:

"Have you not yet put Marwan aside? Does he not still leave you alone? Does he intend to remove from you your religion and intelligence? And you move on like an abject and poor camel with a bent head towards wherever you are dragged? I swear to God that Marwan has neither a true faith, nor a sound common sense. I swear to God from what I see that Marwan will bring about your annihilation, and then cannot save you. You have trampled upon your honour and prestige, and you are captivated by the destiny of your conduct and deeds. I will not come here again and will have nothing to do with you, and will not blame you for your deeds."

When 'Ali left 'Uthman's house in that state of mind, Na'ilah, 'Uthman's wife, asked permission to speak when he gave her leave, she said: "I heard what 'Ali said. He will not come here again. You have placed your hand in Marwan's hand and let him drag you wherever he wants."

'Uthman said: "What do you think I should do?" Na'ilah said: "Fear God Almighty, and follow the ways of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. If you obey Marwan, he will cause your death eventually. Marwan, has no worth in people's eyes, and it is because of him that they have turned away from you. Send someone to 'Ali and invite him for reconciliation. He is your relative and people have seen no injustice from him." 'Uthman sent someone for 'Ali but he abstained from coming and said: "I have told him that I would not go again."

Meanwhile when Marwan learnt of Na'ilah's words, he went to 'Uthman, sat down and asked permission to speak. 'Uthman gave him leave and he said: "This Na'ilah, this daughter of al-Farafasah..." but 'Uthman interrupted him and said: "Don't speak of her since the consequence will be bad for you. By God, she is more concerned about me than you are and wishes me well." Thus Marwan had to remain silent. at-Tabari says in his book201:

'Abd ar- Rahman ibn al-Aswad speaks of Marwan as follows: May God bring shame on Marwan! 'Uthman came among the people and secured their satisfaction. This closeness with them and the purity of emotion so affected him that involuntarily tears came to his eyes on the pulpit and the people too wept with him. I noticed that his beard had become wet with tears, and at the same time he said: "O God! I beg your forgiveness! I beg your forgiveness! By God, if I were to be a bought slave, I would submit to it and be glad. When I go home, come to me. I swear to God I will no more conceal myself from you, and will 201. at-Tabari 5/112, Ibn al-Athir 3/96, al-Baladhuri 5/65 for a part of this narration.

not place a sentinel at my door! I will give you your right and even more and will satisfy you more than ever. I promise to keep away from me Marwan and his relatives!"

When 'Uthman went home, he ordered to leave the door open and have no sentinel there. But Marwan went in with him and soon after he made the caliph go back on his word. He deceived him and resorted to such slyness as to dissuade him from his reconciliation with people and his intention to carry out his promises. Consequently 'Uthman did not leave the house for three days feeling ashamed.202

On the same day Marwan went out of 'Uthman's house and shouted at the people: "Shame on all of you except a few that I consider as friends. Go back to your houses. If the Commander of the Faithful wishes to see any of you, he will send for you otherwise no one has the right to leave his house." At this time I was looking for 'Ali. When I entered the mosque I saw him sitting between the Prophet's tomb and his pulpit and Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and 'Ammar ibn Yasir were sitting by him and reporting the matter of Marwan and his conduct towards the people. When 'Ali saw me, he said:

-Were you in the mosque when 'Uthman delivered his sermon? -I said: "Yes," then 'Ali asked: "Did you hear Marwan's words, too?" I said: "Yes." 'Ali then said: "May God help the Muslims! If I sit at home and have nothing to do with 'Uthman, he will say: "You have disregarded me and my right and my kinship and have abandoned it. And if I interfere and speak to the people, Marwan comes forward and makes a toy of 'Uthman despite his old age and the fact that he has been associated with the Prophet, and drags him wherever he wishes."

We were talking when a messenger came from 'Uthman saying that 'Uthman wished to see 'Ali. 'Ali said loudly: "Tell him that I will neither come to him, nor will I mediate between him and the Muslims." His messenger returned to report 'Ali's words. 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Aswad continues his narration, saying: Two nights later I saw 'Uthman coming from some place. I asked Natil, 'Uthman's slave: "Where does the caliph come from?" He said: "From 'Ali's house."

The following evening I visited 'Ali who said to me: "Last night 'Uthman came to my house claiming that he would no more return to the wrong acts of the past and will carry out all he had promised." I answered: "Did you do so after you spoke to the people from the Prophet's pulpit and promised them all kinds of assistance and assured them of it all and then went home? Then Marwan came out of your house and abused and insulted the (hopeful) people and hurt their feelings."

'Uthman rose in annoyance and on leaving he said: "You have severed your 202. One of the caliph's duties is to lead the congregation prayer, so 'Uthman shirked this duty for three days. (Sardar-Niya)

kinship with me and humbled me and turned the people against me!" 'Ali said: "I swear that I have been more of a friend and supporter to you than anyone else, and have kept you away from people's molestation. But wherever I humbled myself for your sake, Marwan has come up and you, have accepted his words and ignored my efforts and guidance." 'Ali says that Then 'Uthman left for his house.

'Abd ar-Rahman says: Thenceforth I did not see 'Ali having anything more to do with the business of the caliphate or defend it as he had done before.203 'Uthman is besieged God knows that I noticed in 'Ali's visage signs of pity and compassion for 'Uthman.

Ibn 'Abbas

We read that Imam 'Ali repeatedly and sincerely stood up to save 'Uthman and negotiated with his representatives from one side and the oppressed people as the other side as mediator, in order to quench the fire of revolution and keep the caliph immune. But despite all his efforts, whenever, 'Uthman promised to fulfill the wishes of the people and put an end to the domination of the Umayyads oppressors over the life and property of the Muslims, he was led astray by his unwise the Umayyads companions headed by Marwan. Thus he would break his promises, with the consequence that renewed riots began once again and 'Uthman had to call on 'Ali to his aid. But the weakness and incapability's of 'Uthman went so far that the Imam had to abstain from further aid and leave the caliph to himself to deal with the situation and let him and his adviser Marwan and other Umayyad chiefs reach an agreement with the people who had besieged him to secure their rights and see justice done, and accepted no promise but his abdication.

'Ikrimah, quoting Ibn 'Abbas, describes as follows the account of 'Uthman's siege: They besieged 'Uthman twice. The first time he was in siege by the Egyptians for twelve days which ended with the mediation of 'Ali at Dhu Khushub. I swear to God that 'Ali endeavored with perfect sincerity to save 'Uthman and spared no effort in this way until they vexed him with 'Uthman. The reason was that Marwan, Sa'id and their relatives instigated 'Uthman 203. According to the testimony of history and various narrations, 'Ali ibn 'Abi Talib has defended 'Uthman even more than the Umayyads did who were closely related to the caliph, and his defense has been very useful, too. As the author's intention has not been to write a biography, he has given only a few examples in his book.


against 'Ali and he believed their words and even confirmed them. They said to him: "If only 'Ali desires, no one dares to approach and criticize you." Meanwhile, 'Ali gave advice to 'Uthman and guided him and spoke harshly of Marwan and his relatives with him. They, in their turn, were uneasy at this conduct of 'Ali and said to 'Uthman: "Though you are his Imam and leader and have priority over him and are his cousin and near of kin, he speaks thus to your face. Then what would he not say behind your back?!"

They uttered so many remarks of this kind to 'Uthman that at last 'Ali broke off his contact with him and abstained from cooperating with him. Ibn 'Abbas said: On the day that I left Medina for Mecca, I visited 'Ali and told him that I was ordered by 'Uthman to go to Mecca. 'Ali said: " 'Uthman does not really wish anyone to advise him. He has collected round him a number of mean and ill-natured individuals who have seized some lands and earmarked their taxes and tributes for themselves, plundering the products of people's labors." I answered: "Owing to his kinship with us it would be right and fitting that you should rise to defend him and no excuse is acceptable from you m this matter!"

Ibn 'Abbas concludes, saying: "God knows that I noticed in 'Ali's visage signs of pity and compassion for 'Uthman, and at the same time I saw that this matter was too heavy for him."204 'Ikrimah says also: One Friday, 'Uthman climbed the pulpit of the mosque and praised God the Almighty. At this moment a man rose and exclaimed to 'Uthman: "If you are truthful, make the Book of God your guide and carry out its decrees."

'Uthman told him to sit down and he did so. But he stood up again and protested. 'Uthman told him again to sit down, and he did so. But he stood up again and protested. 'Uthman told him again to sit down. At last he ordered to force him to sit down. Meantime differences arose among the people and they began to attack each other with pebbles so insistently that the air was full of them, with the result that 'Uthman fell down unconscious from the pulpit, and they carried him home. At this time one of his servants came out of the house, carrying a Qur'an and recited the following verse aloud205:

"Surely they who divided their religion into parts and became sects, you have no concern with them; their affair is only with Allah, then He will inform them of what they did." 'Ali hurried to 'Uthman's house and found him unconscious and surrounded by the Umayyads. He asked what had happened. They said: " 'Ali! You have brought death upon us and caused this to the caliph! By God! If you attain your wish, we will make this world a bitter place for you!" 204. History of at-Tabari 5/113.

  1. The Holy Qur'an, Chapter al-An'am, Verse 159.

  2. History of at-Tabari 5/116-117, Ibn al-Athir 3/71, Ibn Abi al-Hadid 1/166.

When 'Ali heard this remark, he left 'Uthman's house in great anger and annoyance. 'Ikrimah also says206: The people of Medina wrote to 'Uthman, describing his misdeeds and insistently demanded his repentance. They had sworn that they would not give up unless he acts upon what is prescribed by God, and grant it to them, otherwise they would kill him.

'Uthman who was frightened for his life discussed the matter with his wife, children and Umayyads companions saying to them: "You see that I am placed under pressure from every side and the sparks of public rebellion surround me intensely. What can I do?" They all suggested that 'Ali should be sent for to talk with the people and make promises to them and treat them leniently until reinforcement is provided to support him. 'Uthman said: "The people will no longer be deceived and they won't accept any excuses. The first time I made promises to them I did not act up on them. This time they are bound to seize a divine pact from me and demand a survey, and if I agree, they will want its fulfillment."

Marwan said: "O commander of the faithful! To approach them and secure their approval is better than engaging in conflict with them until you are in a strong position. Promise them whatever they ask, and in your talk with them, be as lenient as you can. Anyway as they have rebelled against you, your pact and promise to them are not so valid and binding!" 'Uthman agreed and sent for 'Ali. When he arrived 'Uthman said to him: "You have seen what the people have done and what I did. You also know my situation. I do not feel secure for my life from this crowd. Use whatever means you can to ward off their evil from me! May Great God be a surety that I will give them whatever they want from me and my relatives, even if my blood is shed in the process."

'Ali replied: "The people require your justice more than your blood. You should know that behind this door and against you I have seen a people who will by no means speak of agreement and compromise with you until their right is secured. You had concluded a pact with them and took God as witness to abandon your past acts which had been the main factor of their rage. And I calmed them down because of the promises you made. But you have not acted upon any items of your promise. Do not try to deceive me this time, and do not feel happy with something chimerical. For, if I decide to get in touch with them this time, I shall judge according to the exigency of right and justice and will grant them their right."

'Uthman said: "I accept. Make promises to them. I swear to God that I will fulfill them."

'Ali came out and said to the people: " You have asked for your right, and you have secured it. 'Uthman has accepted and promised to observe right and justice towards you on behalf of himself and others, and to abstain from whatever is contrary to your wish. Believe his words, and emphatically ask him to fulfill them."

The people said: "We agree, but give us some assurances for we do not trust his words without action!" 'Ali said: "You are right," and then he went back to 'Uthman and informed him of what had taken place. 'Uthman said: "Arrange for a reprieve between us by which I may comply with their demands. For, I do not have the power to fulfill all their wishes in one day." 'Ali said: "The matters which are related to Medina require no reprieve, but as for other cities the grace period is the time when your instruction reaches them."

'Uthman answered: "that is true. Nevertheless ask for three days' grace even about what is related to Medina." 'Ali said: "Very well", and then went Out and informed the people. Then a pact was concluded between them and 'Uthman to the effect that he would redress the rights of the oppressed within three days, and remove the agents who are disliked by the people. In that pact he had called God to witness the strongest agreement which could be received from a servant and the fulfillment of his promise. It was testified by a group of Emigrant and Ansar chiefs. Thus the Muslims ended their antagonism to 'Uthman and went away hoping for the fulfillment of the pact. But with the dispersion of the crowd, 'Uthman did not remain idle, and instead of granting their demands, he was engaged in collecting forces and war equipment for confronting the people, and formed a large army with the captives who belonged to the government.

When the three days' grace was over and there came no sign of the fulfillment of 'Uthman's promises, nor of the removal of any of his agents, the people rose up in rebellion once more. 'Amr ibn Hazm al-Ansari informed the Egyptians at Dhu Khushub of the non-fulfillment of 'Uthman's promises, and a fresh revolution. They accompanied him to Medina, and sent deputies to 'Uthman. When they entered, they said: "Have you not repented your past deeds, and promised upon God's testimony to abstain from whatever has roused the people's rage and hatred?"

'Uthman said: "Yes, and I still uphold that pact." They said: "If this is so, what is this letter that you have written about us to 'Abd Allah, your agent in Egypt? We have seized it from your messenger!" He said: "I have done nothing and I know nothing of what you say." They said: "Your messenger was riding your special camel, and the letter is in the handwriting of your secretary and bears your seal as a caliph!" He said: "As for the camel, it may have been stolen. Moreover two handwritings may look alike and the signature or the seal may be forgery!" They said: "we are not hasty in your affairs, though we consider you as accused. Nevertheless, we ask you to remove the evil of your debauchee agents from us, and place as governor over us someone whose hands are not polluted with our life and property."

He said: "What a position would I have if I remove an agent that you dislike and appoint someone as governor that you like? In that case everything will be in accordance with your order, and I will be a good-for-nothing fellow!" They said: "By God! You must either do these things or retire as caliph. If you show my resistance we will kill you. Think well and fear for your life!" He said: "Forget this idea that I would relinquish my position as caliph. I shall never disrobe myself from the garment, which God has placed on my body!"

A strange letter

Cut off their heads and their hands, and let them write in their blood, and then hang their bodies on date-palms. A letter from 'Uthman to the governor of Egypt Now let us see what was the strange letter of which the Egyptians spoke as a definite evidence of the caliph's revelation of his promise and his obstinacy, and how it came into their hands.

If you remember, the first time that 'Uthman was besieged by the Egyptians, he showed a desire to make peace with them through 'Ali's mediation, and repented his past deeds. The Egyptians, too, on their part promised not to molest him on condition that he should be just to them and remove 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh and replaced by Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr as governor of Egypt and dispatched a number of Emigrants and Ansar there to investigate the Egyptians' complaints of the dismissed governor.

The Egyptians accompanied these supervisors of 'Uthman's reform project to Egypt and when they reached Ilah207 or a few miles near it, they noticed a rider behind them proceeding in the same direction. They inquired as to his identity and destination. The rider who was a black man, introduced himself as 'Uthman's slave and said he was carrying a verbal message for 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd, governor of Egypt.

Some of the Egyptians thought it advisable to search him in case 'Uthman had issued an order contrary to expectation to 'Abd Allah. When they found 207. Ansab al-ashraf of al-Baladhuri 5/26-29, History of at-Tabari 5/199-200, ar-Riyad an-nadrah 2/123-125, al- Ma'arif of Ibn Qutaybah 84, al-'Iqd al-farid 2/263, Ibn al-Athir 3/70-71, Ibn Abi al-Hadid 1/165-166, Ibn Kathir 7/173-189, History of Khamis 2/259.

nothing in his baggage they decided to leave him alone. But Kinanah ibn Bishr said: "By God! I won't let you act so carelessly until I search inside his water- skin." They said: "God be praised! Could it be possible that he has got something there?" He answered: "People's cunning takes different forms, and one is not secure from slyness and deceit." Then he untied the water-skin and poured down the contents and suddenly a bottle fell out in which there was a lead pipe inside which there was a letter containing the following points: "When 'Amr ibn Badil comes to you, seize him and cut off his head, and cut off the hands of Ibn Udays, Kinanah and 'Urwah and let them writhe in their blood until they die! After their death hang their bodies on date-palms."

When the Egyptians read the contents, they said: "It is now lawful to spill 'Uthman's blood." They turned back towards Medina, met 'Ali and narrated the matter and gave 'Uthman's letter to him. 'Ali showed the letter to 'Uthman and asked him what he meant by it. 'Uthman swore that he had neither written the letter, nor did he know of it. He added: "The handwriting is my secretary's, and the seal resembles mine!" 'Ali asked: "Whom do you suspect then? Whom do you accuse?" 'Uthman answered: "I accuse you and my secretary!" According to another narration he said: "I accuse you since the people obey you and you do not disperse them from around me!"

'Ali in great anger went out and as he was leaving he turned to 'Uthman and said: "Maybe it was your own order." It is also said that the Umayyads said to 'Ali on that occasion: "O 'Ali! You have ruined us and incited the people to revolt against us!" 'Ali answered: "You stupid fools! How could I have a hand in this when I dispersed the people from around 'Uthman and many times tried to adjust his affairs? What else can I do?" Then he turned back and leaving he said: "O God! You know that lam innocent of what they attribute to me. If meanwhile 'Uthman's blood is shed, I have no responsibility at all."

The caliph's seal was usually kept by Hamran208 and when he was exiled to Basra by 'Uthman, he took it from him and gave it to Marwan. It is also said about the letter which was seized by the Egyptians that Marwan as the caliph's seal-keeper had a direct hand in it and 'Uthman had no knowledge of it. When the Egyptians showed the letter to 'Uthman, he denied his knowledge of it and said: "It is a forgery!" They said: "Is it not in your secretary's handwriting?" He said: "It is but he who has written it without my order." They said: "Your slave has been its messenger!" He said: "It is true, but he has left Medina without my permission."

They said: "But he was riding your special camel." He said: "The camel

  1. The subject of the exile of Hamran, the freed slave of 'Uthman to Basra was mentioned in the story of al- Walid ibn 'Uqbah.

must have been taken without my knowledge and leave." They said: "There are two alternatives: either you are telling the truth, or lying and this is your own doing! If this letter is written to 'Abd Allah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh and you are lying, you deserve being deposed since you have given this order to shed our blood without having any reason for it. But if you are telling the truth and know nothing of the letter and of your slave and camel, then you deserve removal from the caliphate on account of your weakness and negligence about the affairs and allowing your wicked relations to interfere in the affairs of the Muslims; for it is not proper and advisable to have you as Emir and leader when others make use of your weakness and ignorance." They added: "You have during you rule unjustly lashed a number of the Prophet's friends and companions and other Muslims only on the charge of advising and guiding you and for reminding you to return towards right and justice. Now the time has come for you to prepare yourself for punishment!"

'Uthman answered: "Firstly even an Imam and leader may occasionally blunder, but I shall never place myself at your disposal for punishment; for, if I were to pay personally the punishment of every innocent and oppressed person, I myself would be destroyed."209

The Egyptians said: "You have committed many great and undesirable misdeeds, each of which alone deserves your deposal, and when you have been spoken to you have uttered a verbal repentance and expressed regret and penitence for your conduct. But contrary to all expectations you have fallen back on the same and similar deeds and violated your repentance. When we have come to you to redress our rights and do justice, you have resorted again to regret and repentance to keep our minds away from the subject.

At that time Muhammad ibn Muslamah severely reproached our conduct towards you but at the same time he guaranteed the fulfillment of your promise. But when this time you summoned him for mediation between us and yourself, he refused your request, and kept away from you, and said: 'I will no longer interfere in his business.' Anyhow on the first occasion we yielded and returned to give you no excuse, and waited hopefully for the fulfillment of your promises and relying on Great God-Whom you took as witness. But after all that repentance and affability and to our great astonishment we found a letter written by you to your agent about killing us and cutting off our hands and hanging our bodies.

Now you pretend that you know nothing of it, whereas that order was carried 209. The Prophet in his last days of life climbed the pulpit of his mosque and said in his sermon: "Whoever has been oppressed by me, may stand up and retaliate, and not leave it to the hereafter." A companion rose and said: "In one of the battles you were riding a camel, and your staff hit me in the belly. Now I wish to retaliate your deed." The Prophet ordered to produce the same staff and gave it to that man who said: "At that time my belly was naked!" The Prophet lifted his robe and bared that part of his body, preparing himself for that man's retaliation. A silence mingled wit fear fell over the mosque and everyone held his breath. The Prophet, ill and feverish, had prepared himself for punishment. But at this moment that man bent down and kissed the Prophet's body and said: "I take refuge from divine punishment to the retaliation place, which is the body of the Prophet of God!" 'Uthman has been the caliph of this same Prophet! (Sardar-Niya)

by your slave riding your personal camel and in the handwriting of your secretary and bearing your seal as a caliph.

Now in view of what we have seen of you in the past and of the injustice of your verdicts, of earmarking public funds for yourself and your relatives, and the fact that you expressed regret and repentance and violated it and have fallen back on your former deeds, no one but you can resort to such ugly deeds, which are contrary to right and conscience.

On the first occasion we let you free, which was a wrong decision. For we should then have removed you from your position, and replaced you by one of the Prophet's friends who, unlike you, had committed no wrong and had not been tarnished with accusation.

Now leave to us the position of caliphate and retire, since this retirement is the most peaceful solution which will benefit both parties."

'Uthman said: "Have you nothing more to say, and have you said all you want?" They said: "Yes!" then 'Uthman continued: "After praising God, let me say that you have disregarded justice and fairness in your words, and have hastily issued a verdict which is far from right and equity. When you say that I should retire, you should know that I shall never remove from my body the garment that God has placed on it, and will never put aside the task by which He has honoured me and selected me out of all people. But I repent and abandon misconducts, and will never engage in actions which are disposed by the Muslims; for, I swear to God that I desire His favour and fear His wrath."

The Egyptians said: "If this were the first time you had blundered and then repented and were steadfast in your repentance and did not resume your misdeeds, it would have been incumbent upon us to accept your proposal and leave you alone. You are well aware that despite your many wrong deeds in the past, we accepted your first repentance and did not molest you, having no more anxiety and never supposing that you would write something against us to your agent, ordering our death, as you have done and as it is proved by your letter. Now what assurance can we have about you and your conduct, while we have tested you and found you to be perfidious? You do not repent a sin without committing that sin again. You should realize now that we will not return without deposing you and replacing you by someone else. If your followers and relatives decide to confront and massacre us, we will resist and fight them to death until we overcome and kill your or be killed in the process."

'Uthman answered: "As for my abandoning my position as ruler, it is an impossible thing; for, even if you hang me, it would be far easier to give up the position which God has granted me as caliph. As for your claim that you will fight those who aid me in killing you, I do not order anyone to fight you, and if meanwhile someone rises in my support, it is not I who have given such an order. Upon my life, if I intended to fight you, I would have issued a written instruction to the Islamic armies about this matter and would have filled Medina with soldiers and warriors, or I would have sought refuge in Egypt or Iraq. Nevertheless, think of yourselves and if you have no pity for my life, fear for your own; for, if you shed my blood, much bloodshed will follow!" When the Egyptian deputies departed, 'Uthman summoned Muhammad ibn Muslamah and asked him to bring back the Egyptians. Muhammad answered:

"By God I cannot lie to them twice in one year!"

al-Baladhuri writes210: The Egyptians were within twelve miles of Medina when they saw the caliph's messenger hurriedly going towards Egypt. When they found the letter Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr held a session in the presence of the Emigrants and Ansar and read the letter to them, the content of which was as follows: "When Ibn Abi Bakr and so and so came to you, use every trick in order to kill them, and destroy the writ of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr's governorship and until my next notice keep your position as governor, and imprison anyone who intends to come and complain to me."

When the Egyptians heard the content of the letter, they were full of rage and fury, and hastily returned to Medina. Muhammad first got a few of his companions to put their seals on the letter, and when they reached Medina, they assembled 'Ali, Talhah, az-Zubayr, Sa'd and all the Prophet's companions and narrated the story of 'Uthman's messenger and the letter, and recited its contents to them. When the session was over, not one of those present was left who did not express his vexation and hatred at this lowly action of 'Uthman and this matter added to the painful reminiscences about Ibn Mas'ud, 'Ammar ibn Yasir and Abu Dharr, enhanced their range and dislike towards 'Uthman. The companions departed for their homes, feeling exceedingly vexed at these successive events and at 'Uthman's attitude and his letter about the Muslims. The people besieged 'Uthman, and Ibn Abi Bakr assisted by Talhah asked the aid of the Banu Taym tribe and others for a clash with 'Uthman, and meanwhile 'A'ishah continued to hurt 'Uthman with her bitter tongue.

It is stated in al-Bad'u wa at-tarikh211 Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Talhah, az- Zubayr and 'A'ishah were among the most stubborn opponents of 'Uthman. The Emigrants and Ansar, too, left 'Uthman alone and had nothing to do with him and were completely indifferent towards the difficulty that had arisen for him. In the mosque 'A'ishah protested to 'Uthman and enumerated his misdeeds, and by exhibiting a hair of the Prophet and his robe and shoes to the crowd cried out: "How soon you have ignored and forgotten the way and tradition of the Prophet!"

When 'Uthman heard these words, he began to speak ill of Abu Bakr's household, and uttered many abuses and was so enraged that he did not know what to say.

  1. Ansab al-ashraf of al-Baladhuri 5/67-68.

  2. al-Bad' wa at-tarikh 5/205.

The leaders of the opposition against 'Uthman were three members of the Banu Taym tribe, namely 'A'ishah, her brother Muhammad and her cousin Talhah. As historians write, many times there occurred very sharp and violent clashes between 'A'ishah and 'Uthman. For instance al-Ya'qubi writes in his book of history212: 'Uthman was speaking on the pulpit the Prophet would give sermons when 'A'ishah suddenly held one of the Prophet's shirts and showing it, cried out loudly: "O Muslims! This is the Prophet's garment which is not yet old and worn Out. But so soon has 'Uthman forgotten and abandoned the way and tradition of the Prophet!"

'Uthman who was taken aback at the unexpected outcry of 'A'ishah, felt obliged to resort to the Qur'an. So he recited the following verse of the Qur'an in answer to her: "If Thou turn not away their (women) device from me, I will yearn towards them and become one of the ignorant." 213