Uthman ibn Affan (Arabic: عثمان بن عفان, strict transliteration: ʻUthmān ibn ʻAffān) (c. 579 – 656CE) was one of the companions of the prophet, Muhammad. He played a major role in early Islamic history as the third Sunni Rashidun or Rightly Guided Caliph.
Uthman was born into the Umayyad clan of Mecca, a powerful family of the Quraish tribe. He was a companion of Muhammad who assumed the role of leader (caliph) of the Muslim faith at the age of 65 following Umar ibn al-Khattab. Under his leadership, the faith expanded into Fars in 650 (present-day Iran), some areas of Khorasan (present-day Afghanistan) in 651 and the conquest of Armenia was begun in the 640s. Some of Uthman’s notable achievements were the economic reforms he introduced, and the compilation of the Qur’an into the unified, authoritative text that is known today.
Uthman was an early convert to Islam and is said to have spent a great amount of his wealth on charity,therefore he was nicknamed as ‘Uthman Ghani’ i.e. Uthman the giver. On returning from a business trip to Syria in 611, `Uthman found out that Muhammad(saw) had declared his mission. After a discussion with his friend Abu Bakr `Uthman decided to convert to Islam, and Abu Bakr took him to Muhammad (saw) to whom he declared his faith. `Uthman thus became the fourth male to convert to Islam, after Ali, Zayd and Abu Bakr. His conversion to Islam angered his clan, the Banu Ummayyah, who strongly opposed Muhammad’s (saw) teachings. The only two people who supported `Uthman’s decision were Saadi, one of his maternal aunts, and Umm Kulthum, who was his stepsister and who had also converted to Islam. Because of his conversion to Islam, `Uthman’s wives deserted him, and he subsequently divorced them. Muhammad (saw) then asked `Uthman to marry his daughter Ruqayyah bint Muhammad.
In 622, `Uthman and his wife, Ruqayya, migrated to Medina. They were amongst the third batch of Muslims who migrated to Medina. On arrival in Medina, `Uthman stayed with Abu Talha ibn Thabit of the Banu Najjar. After a short while, `Uthman purchased a house of his own and moved there. Being one of the richest merchants of Mecca, and having amassed a considerable fortune, `Uthman did not need any financial help from his Ansari brothers, as he brought all his wealth with him to Medina. In Medina, the Muslims were generally farmers and were not very interested in trade, and thus most of the trading that took place in the town was handled by the Jews. Thus, there was considerable space for the Muslims in promoting trade and `Uthman took advantage of this position, soon establishing himself as a trader in Medina. He worked hard and honestly, and his business flourished, soon becoming one of the richest men in Medina.
In 624 some Muslims from Medina departed to assist in the capture of a Quraysh caravan. At this time Uthman’s wife, Ruqayya, suffered from malaria and then caught smallpox. Uthman stayed at Medina to look after the ailing Ruqayya and did not join those who left with Muhammad (saw). Ruqayya died during the time the Battle of Badr was being fought, and the news of the victory of Badr reached Medina as she was being buried. Because of the battle Muhammad (saw) could not attend the funeral of his daughter.
After the Battle of Uhud Uthman married Muhammad’s (saw) second daughter, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad. The next year Ruqayyah’s son, Abd-Allah ibn Uthman, died. When the Battle of the Trench was fought in 627, Uthman was in charge of a sector of Medina. After the battle a campaign was undertaken against the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa, and when they were taken captive the question of the disposal of the slaves became a problem. Uthman solved the issue by purchasing all the slaves and depositing their price in the Bayt al-mal (Treasury). Any of these slaves who accepted Islam were set free by Uthman in the name of Allah.
In 632, along with Muhammad (saw), Uthman participated in The Farewell Pilgrimage. In 632 Muhammad(saw) died, and, like other Muslims, Uthman was griefstricken.
Umar, on his death bed formed a committee of six people to choose the next Caliph from amongst themselves.
After Abdul Rahman consulted the other leaders of public opinion in Medina, who were in favour of Uthman, he arrived at the conclusion that the majority of the people favoured the election of Uthman. On the fourth day after the death of Umar, 11 November 644, 5 Muharram 24 Hijri, Uthman was elected as the third Caliph, with the title “Amir al-Mu’minin”.
Uthman had the distinction of working for the expansion of Islam, and he sent the first official Muslim envoy to China in 650. The envoy, headed by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, arrived in the Tang capital, Chang’an, in 651 via the overseas route. The Hui people generally consider this date to be the official founding of Islam in China. The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty recorded the historic meeting, in which the envoy greeted Emperor Gaozong of Tang and tried to convert him to Islam. Although the envoy failed to convince the Emperor to embrace Islam, the Emperor allowed him to proselytize in China and ordered the establishment of the first Chinese mosque in the capital to show his respect for the religion. Uthman also sent official Muslim envoys to Sri Lanka.
Under Uthman the people became economically more prosperous, and they invested their money in the construction of buildings. Many new and larger buildings were constructed throughout the empire. During the caliphate of Uthman as many as five thousand new mosques were constructed. Uthman enlarged, extended, and embellished the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi at Medina and the Kaaba as well. With the expansion of the army, the cantonments were extended and enlarged, more barracks were constructed for the soldiers and stables for the cavalry were extended. Uthman provided separate pastures for state camels.
Uthman is perhaps best known for forming the committee which produced multiple copies of the text of the Qur’an as it exists today. The reason was that various Muslim centres, like Kufa and Damascus, had begun to develop their own traditions for reciting the Qur’an and writing it down with stylistic differences.
In 656CE after much political turmoil, Hazrat Uthman was assassinated. He was buried in a graveyard in Medina which later became part of Janat-al-Baqi.