The Four Rightly Guided Caliphs: Uthman ibn Affan

History Contributor
Uthman ibn Affan the Caliph

Uthman ibn Affan was elected ruler of the Muslim state in 644 becoming the 3rd Rightly Guided Caliph after Abu Bakr and Umar. During his reign the canonical text of the Holy Quran was finally codified. The Caliphate continued its expansion. However due to the gentle character of Uthman it found itself unable to withstand dissent and tumult in the provinces. Caliph Uthman is also known as the person who lost the Prophet’s ring in the well of Aris in Medina.

The exact year of Uthman’s birth is unknown. Some say he was 6 year the Prophet’s junior, some say 12.

Uthman stemmed from an influential Arab Quraysh tribe. His father was one of the wealthiest merchants and Uthman inherited his riches and his business. Uthman was very influential in Mecca. While at the same time possessing mild character and bashfulness. Even before he became a Muslim, he felt deep inside that its laws prevail for men. For example, turning away from idols, abstaining from wine and shunning fornication. Uthman was among the 22 people in Mecca who could write.

The appearance of  Uthman ibn Affan was described as a man of medium height, broad shoulders, thick hair. Also with a broad beard which he painted yellow. The top of his head was bald and his nose was aquiline.

Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s friend, who was the first to adopt Islam after the Prophet’s wife Khadija and very keen to safeguard the well-being of the newly-born Muslim community from persecution by idol worshippers. He knew well of Uthman’s righteous inclinations and was aware of the clout he had with the business and political circles. He came to Uthman and offered him to convert to Islam. On the same day Uthman appeared before the Prophet to become the fifth adept of the Muslim faith after the Prophet’s wife. Then his cousin Ali, his adopted son and former slave Zayd and Abu Bakr himself.

Uthman’s relatives were outraged at the news of his conversion and began spiting him in every way possible.

The Prophet thus advised those Muslims whose families were in especially forceful opposition to them to go and live for some time in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Uthman was one of those migrants. In Abyssinia he established business connections and started profitable trade thus multiplying his former.

Some time afterwards, Uthman returned to Mecca and from their migrated together with the Prophet and his ummah (Muslim community) to Median. In Medina, whose residents adopted Islam and invited the Prophet to come and rule there, the ummah received political power and became a state. The Muslims together with the Prophet set forth to conquer neighbouring lands and convert the idol worshippers living there to Islam. Uthman remained by the Prophet’s side on all such missions.

Upon the Prophet’s death, Uthman supported his friend Abu Bakr as the claimant for the position of the ummah’s head. Abu Bakr called himself ‘the deputy (in Arabic, ‘caliph’) of the Messenger of Allah’. After Abu Bakr, the caliph’s post was bestowed upon the Pophet’s other companion and his ‘head of security’ Umar ibn al-Khattab. After the treacherous assassination of Umar by an idol worshipper, the post of Caliph was passed on to Uthman.

The Caliphate continued to expand, finally conquering the eastern regions of Persia, including Fars, Khorasan, Balkh. Now all of the Sassanian (i.e. Iranian) state became part of the Caliphate.