All educated Muslims are probably aware that signs of dissension amongst the Muslims began to prominently emerge in the era of the third Khalifah. Prior to him, in the era of Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) and Hazrat ‘Umar(ra), discord never took on a serious nature. The Muslims were so united that both friend and foe believed that it was impossible to divide them. It is for this reason that people generally attribute the discord under discussion to the weakness of the third Khalifah. However, as I shall explain ahead, this is not the case.
After Hazrat ‘Umar(ra), the gaze of all the companions fell upon Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) for the office of Khilafat and thus, he was appointed for this task through the consultation of the eminent companions. He was the son-in-law of the Holy Prophet(sa) and two daughters of the Holy Prophet(sa) were wedded to him one after another. When the second daughter of the Holy Prophet(sa) passed away, the Holy Prophet(sa) said, “If I had another daughter I would marry her to Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) as well.”1 This shows that he held a special rank of honour in the sight of the Holy Prophet(sa). He held a very unique position in the sight of the people of Makkah and was a wealthy man according to the circumstances of Arabia at the time. After Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) accepted Islam, one of the people to whom he particularly chose to preach the message of Islam was Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra). The view of Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) with respect to Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) did not prove false and only after a few days of preaching, he accepted Islam. In this manner, he joined the as-sabiqunal-awwalun2 or that pioneer group of Islam which the Holy Quran has praised in admirable words. The degree of honour and respect that he possessed in Arabia can be understood from the incident that when the Holy Prophet(sa) journeyed to Makkah on the basis of a vision, and the Makkans, blinded by their malice and enmity, refused to grant him permission to perform the ‘umrah,3 the Holy Prophet(sa) proposed that an esteemed person should be sent to the Makkans to negotiate the matter. When Hazrat ‘Umar(ra) was selected for this, hereplied,
“O Messenger of Allah, I am prepared to go, but if there is anyone in Makkah who can negotiate with the Makkans then it is Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) because he holds special regard in their eyes. Hence, if someone else were to go, there cannot be as much hope for success in him as opposed to if Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) went.”
The Holy Prophet(sa) also considered this view as being correct and consequently sent Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) for the task. It can be understood from this incident that Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) was looked upon with special honour even by the disbelievers.
1 Usdul-Ghabah Fi Ma‘rifatis-Sahabah, vol. 3, p. 481, ‘Uthmānubnu ‘Affana, Darul-Fikr, Beirut, Lebanon [Publishers]
2 The foremost among the believers. [Publishers]
3 A lesser pilgrimage to the Holy Ka‘bah, in which some of the rites of hajj are left out.