Was Ibn Saba the Organizer of the Revolt Against 'Uthman in Basra, Kufa, and Egypt?
Should a reader of Islamic history be liberated from his emotions towards or against the Third Caliph, he can be assured that the call for a revolt against the Caliph did not start in Basra, Kufa, Syria, or Egypt.
The agitation against the Caliph started in Medina by prominent and influential individuals. The most prominent among them were 'A'ishah, the mother of believers, Talhah, Zubayr, Abdul Rahman Ibn Awf, Amr Ibn al-As, and Ammar Ibn Yasir.
The Third Caliph, 'Uthman, was given the allegiance of the people with the stipulation that he would manage the affairs of the nation according to the Book of God and the teachings of the Prophet. He was to follow the method of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, if there was no instruction from the Qur'an or the Prophet.
It is well-known that the first two caliphs lived very simple lives. They did not give members of their clans a preference over other people, nor did they appoint any of their relatives to prominent positions in the State.
'Uthman, on the other hand, had his own opinions. He allowed himself to live luxuriously. He put members of his clan in prominent and strong positions in the State, preferring them over other Muslims. However, his relatives were not righteous. 'Uthman thought that his preference towards them was in accordance with the Book of God because the Qur'an urges people to be kind to their relatives. This method of handling the affairs of the State did not please many companions. They found it extravagant and extreme.
They criticized the Caliph for the following things:
(1). He brought his uncle Al-Hakam Ibn Al-As, (son of Umayyah, son of Abd Shams), to Medina after the Prophet had exiled him from Medina.
It was reported that Al-Hakam used to hide and listen to the words of the Prophet as he spoke secretly to prominent companions and circulated what he heard. He used to imitate and ridicule the Prophet in the way he walked. The Prophet one time looked at him while he was being imitated and said: "This way you will be." Al-Hakam started immediately shaking and continued that way until he died.
One day, while sitting with some of his companions, the Messenger of God said, "A cursed man will enter the room." Shortly thereafter, Al-Hakam entered. He was the cursed man. (Yusuf Ibn Abd Al-Barr, AI-Isti'ab, part one, pages 359-360)
(2). After bringing him to Medina, 'Uthman gave his uncle Al-Hakam 300,000 dirhams.
(3). He made Marwan, son of Al-Hakam, his highest assistant and top advisor, giving him influence equal to his own. Marwan bought a fifth of the spoils of North Africa for 500,000 dinars. However, he did not pay this amount. The Caliph allowed him to keep the money. This amount was equal to ten million dollars.
(4). The Caliph appointed his foster brother Abdullah Ibn Sa'd governor of Egypt. At that time, Egypt was the largest province in the Muslim State.
Ibn Sa'd had declared his Islam and moved from Mecca to Medina. The Prophet enlisted him as a recorder of the revelation. However, Ibn Sa'd then deserted the faith and returned to Mecca. He used to say: "I shall reveal equal to what God revealed to Muhammad."
When Mecca was conquered, the Prophet ordered the Muslims to kill Ibn Sa'd. He was to be killed even if he was found tying himself to the cloth of the Ka'bah. Ibn Sa'd hid himself at the house of 'Uthman. When the situation calmed down, 'Uthman brought Ibn Sa'd to the Prophet and informed him that he had put Ibn Sa'd under his protection. The Prophet remained silent for a long while, hoping that one of those present would kill Ibn Sa'd before he honored 'Uthman's request. The companions, however, did not understand what the Prophet meant by his long silence. Since no one moved to kill Ibn Sa'd, the Prophet approved the protection of 'Uthman.
(5). The Caliph 'Uthman appointed Al-Walid Ibn 'Uqbah (one of his Umayyad relatives), governor of Kufa after dismissing the previous governor, the famous companion Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqas. Sa'd was a famous marksman known for combating enemies of Islam in front of the Prophet at the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet prayed for him saying:
"Lord, I ask Thee to make his arrow accurate as I ask Thee to respond to his prayer." Walid's past during the time of the Prophet was not honorable. The Qur'an discredited him and called him a transgressor. For instance, the Messenger sent him to Banu Al-Mustalaq to collect their Zakat. Walid witnessed from a distance the Mustalaqites coming toward him on their horses. He became frightened due to a previous hostility between the Mustalaqites and him. He returned to the Messenger of God and informed him that the Mustalaqites wanted to kill him. This was not true. However, Walid's information infuriated the Medinite Muslims, and they wanted to attack the Mustalaqites. At this time, the following revelation came down:
"Oh you believe, if a transgressor comes to you with news, try to verify it, lest you inflict damage on people unwittingly; then you may consequently regret your hasty action." (ch. 49, v.6)
Walid continued in his non-Islamic way for the rest of his life. He used to drink wine and several witnesses testified to the Caliph that they had witnessed Walid drunk while leading a congregational prayer. Upon the testimony of good witnesses, Walid was lashed eighty times and was dismissed by the Caliph. The Caliph was expected to replace this transgressor with a good companion of the Prophet but, instead, he replaced Walid with Sa'id Ibn al-As, one of his Umayyad relatives.
Adapted from the book: "The Shi'ites Under Attack" by: "Imam Muhammad Jawad Chirri"
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