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Imam Ali (as) and the Caliphate of Uthman

It was concluded according to the Islamic history that Uthman was a man of feeble will and credulous. His counselor Marwan, who was disrespectable and mean among the Muslims, used his undue influence upon the caliph. Time and again he promised the people to improve their affairs and time and again he broke his promise.

Consequently the people gathered before his house and repeated their demands.

When he saw the matter became so serious he asked Imam Ali (s) imploringly to quiet the people and to find a suitable way for rescuing him. At the same time he authorized Imam Ali to bring the mater to an end by negotiating with the people.

The Egyptians insisted on Uthman to appoint Mohammad ibn Abu-Bakr in stead of ibn Abu Sarh, the wali of Egypt. Imam Ali (s) put their lawful demand before Uthman. Uthman accepted but asked for a three-day deadline to manage it. For the other cities, more time was necessary until the caliph's decision would reach there.

Imam Ali (s) came back and talked to the Egyptians. They agreed to get back on the condition that their demands should be carried out and Mohammad ibn Abu-Bakr should become the wali after deposing ibn Abu Sarh.

Uthman, by the mediation of Imam Ali, accepted this without any hesitation. The Egyptians dispersed when Imam Ali (s) accepted the responsibility for doing that. Then some of them went to Egypt with Mohammad ibn Abu-Bakr and some went to stay in a valley near Medina for a while.

On the next day Marwan said to Uthman: “It is alright now. The Egyptians have left. In order to stop people to come from the other cities, you have to issue a decree saying that there was some misunderstanding but when the Egyptians knew that whatever they had heard was wrong, the whole matter ended and they were satisfied and left here for Egypt. In this way the people of the other cities will not come here and they will be quiet at their places.”

Uthman did not want to tell such a lie but Marwan persisted in that until he accepted. Then he went straight to the Prophet's mosque. As soon as he expressed his thought, the people began to shout at Uthman: “Fear Allah! What is this lie? You have to repent.”

At last he had to repent. He turned to Kaabah and repented groaningly and went back to his house.

Imam Ali (s), in order to make these uprisings subside, advised Uthman to repent of his past misdeeds before people in the mosque again, otherwise if the next day some other people came, Uthman would again cling to Imam Ali’s neck to rescue him from them.

Therefore Uthman made repentance in the mosque and swore to be more adequate in the future. He promised the people that when their representatives met him, he would solve their problems and would satisfy their demands as soon as possible.

When he got back home, Marwan wanted to say something but Uthman's wife interfered and said to Marwan: “For the sake of God; keep quiet! You will cause him to be killed for such sayings.”

Marwan said with fury: “You have no right to interfere in these matters. You are the daughter of that man, who did not know how to perform his ablution till the end of his life.”

She said: “You are wrong ...”

The dispute became more serious between them but Uthman stopped them and asked Marwan: “What did you want to say?” He said; “What was that you said in the mosque and what repentance you made? In my opinion, committing a sin is much better than making repentance by force. The result of this notification is the crowding of people before your house. Now go forward and perform their demands.”

Uthman said: “I am not able to deal with the people. Now you go and fulfill their demands. Marwan came out and spoke out: “Why have you gathered here? Do you want to attack or to plunder? You know you can not take the authority from our hands and no one can defeat us. Take your black faces away from here. Allah may damn you.”

When the people saw this double-dealing, they got angry and went to meet Imam Ali (s) and explained to him the whole story. Imam Ali went straight to Uthman's house and said to him angrily: “Good heavens! Why did you misbehave towards the Muslims? You broke your promise for the sake of a faithless man (Marwan) and lost all your wit. At least you should respect your own promise. You know that Marwan will throw you in such a deep hell that you will never be able to come out form it. He has ridden on you and pulled you to wherever he wished. I shall neither interfere in your affairs nor tell the people anything.”

Na’ila (Uthman's wife) confirmed Imam Ali's words and asked her husband to follow Imam Ali’s advices. She said: “Neither you nor your counselor can restore the bad state.” Then Uthman sought after Ameer-al-Mu’mineen (Imam Ali) but he refused to meet him. Uthman himself went to Imam Ali's. He expressed his loneliness and helplessness and asked him for help again.

Imam Ali (s) said: “So many times you made promises in the mosque before the people to perform their demands but you broke your promises and when people came to you, they did not receive attention; moreover that your men insulted them. How can I trust in your words in the future? Therefore do not expect anything from me. The ways are clear before you. You can choose the one you like to deal with the people.”

This was the result of Uthman's repentance. Now let's see what happened on the other side.

When the Egyptians caravan reached the coast of the Red Sea, they saw a camel rider crossing with all speed. As he instilled doubts into their minds, they stopped him and asked who he was. He said that he was the slave of Uthman. They enquired where he was going to. He said that he was going to Egypt. They enquired what his aim was of this journey. He said that he was to meet the wali of Egypt. The people said that the wali of Egypt was with them. (According to Uthman's promise it was decided that Mohammad ibn Abu-Bakr would be in stead of ibn Abu Sarh). The slave was enquired if any letter was with him. He denied.

They decided to search his clothes but they found nothing with him. They wanted to leave him alone but some one said: “Search his flask on the back of the camel.”

They found a lead pipe in the water skin. There was a letter enclosed in the pipe. The caliph Uthman had commanded the wali ibn Abu Sarh as the following: “When Mohammad and his companions get to you, from among them kill so and so and arrest so and so and put so and so in jail. You are reinstated in your position.”

It was a surprise to them. They looked at one another in astonishment. They returned to Medina immediately and put the letter before the Prophet’s companions. Whoever heard about this event was filled with wonder because it was a great surprise. This conduct disgusted every one against Uthman. Thereupon some of the companions accompanied by this people went to meet Uthman to ask him whose seal was stamped on the letter.

He answered that it was his own seal. They asked who had written the letter. He said it was his clerk's handwriting. They enquired whose slave was that man. He replied that he was his. They asked whose camel it was with the slave. He answered that the camel belonged to the government. He was enquired who had sent it. He said he did not know. They said: “Everything is yours. How do you not know who has sent the letter? You would better leave the caliphate off until another man comes to manage it.”

He said: “I will never put off the dress of the caliphate, which Allah has put on me. I will make repentance again.” They said: “Do not talk about repentance. Your repentance had already been considered as nothing since that day when Marwan talked on behalf of you at your door. Now we are not going to be cheated by these bluffs. You have to leave the caliphate and if your men stand in our way we will keep them away and if they prepare for a war we will fight too. If you regard all the Muslims equally and if you are going to administer justice, then hand Marwan over to us to ask him by whose power and support he wanted to bring about the killing of many Muslims by writing this letter.” But Uthman refused to submit Marwan to them. The three-day deadline was finished but every thing was as it had been before.

When the people saw the result of the repentance, they surged and spread over the streets of Medina and finally surrounded Uthman's house from every side.

During these days one of the Prophet’s companions went to Uthman’s house and shouted: “O Uthman, give up this caliphate and for the sake of Allah save the Muslims from any bloodshed.” Suddenly one of Uthman's men aimed at him with an arrow and killed him. This action goaded the people into fury. They shouted: “The killer must be handed over to us.”

Uthman said: “It is not possible to hand over anyone, who supports me.” Then the people, furiously, set fire to Uthman’s house and tried to enter into the house but Uthman's men confronted the people and kept them away from the door.

At last the people entered into the house of Uthman from adjacent houses drawing their swords.

Those who were guarding the house ran away and those who were defending Uthman were killed with him.

Let it not remain unsaid that Mu’awiyah, the wali of Syria, was previously ordered by Uthman to help him during the days of the siege but he rejected his order pretending that he would not interfere in the affairs of the Prophet’s companions. He did not pay attention to Uthman’s order because he himself, heart and soul, intended to take the reins of the caliphate.

I had to explain the events of Uthman's end in details because, later on, Talhah, Al-Zubayr, (the two members of the consultative committee, which was formed by Umar to select Uthman for the caliphate) and Mu’awiyah in particular accused Imam Ali of Uthman’s bloodshed. Consequently they raised many disturbances and created civil wars that their bad results have still remained among the Muslims until today.

If Uthman had heeded the advices of Imam Ali (s) or at least he had handed Marwan over to the people, he would never have been killed. But it was the fate otherwise.

Adopted from the book : "Imam Ali (a.s.); Sunshine of Civilized Islam" by : "Muhammad Huseyn Tahmasebi"

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