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Seven Arguments in Support of the ‘Letter Conspiracy’

Evidence of the fact that this scheme was the work of the rebels themselves is as follows:

It has already been proven with relation to the rebels that they did not refrain from lying in order to achieve their ends just as they had lied in opposition to Walid bin ‘Utbah and Sa‘id bin Al-‘As. Similarly, they publicised false complaints regarding various foreign administrations, which were investigated by the prominent companions and found to be false. Thus, when it has been established with relation to the rebels that they did not refrain from lying, there is no reason why they should not be held liable in this case either and such people against whom no charge has ever been established should be held responsible.

Just as Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) and Muhammad bin Maslamah(ra) objected, the prompt return of these rebels and their entrance into Madinah together is a testimony to the fact that this was a conspiracy. The reason being that as history establishes, the rebels of Egypt asserted that they intercepted a messenger at a place known as Buwaib who, according to their statement, was taking the letter of Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) to the governor of Egypt.1 Buwaib is situated at a distance of at least six manzils from Madinah – where the route to Egypt begins.2 If the people of Egypt had reached this far, both the people of Kufah and Basrah must have covered about six manzils each in opposite directions as well. Therefore, news of what transpired before the rebels of Egypt could have reached the other two caravans no earlier than within twelve or thirteen days; and taking into account the time spent in leaving [Madinah] and returning, the rebels could not have returned to Madinah in less than twenty-four days, more or less. However, the rebels returned to Madinah in a much shorter time period than this. Hence, it is clearly evident that even before leaving Madinah, the rebels had planned amongst themselves that all the caravans would return on a particular date and suddenly take over Madinah. ‘Abdullah bin Saba was with the Egyptian caravan and since he was very cunning, he knew that on the one hand people would question them as to why they had returned unnecessarily, and on the other hand he was concerned that the question of why the treaty had been broken after a decision had been made, would weigh heavily upon the conscience of his own men. Hence, he produced a forged letter and mislead the sensibilities of his own men, further igniting the fire of rage and fury in their hearts. After all, it is not difficult to steal a camel given in sadaqah and bring a slave on board through bribery.

The manner in which the incident of the interception of this letter is narrated, is itself unnatural. For if Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) or Marwan had sent such a letter why then would the servant come in front of the rebels at times and hide at other times. This behaviour can only be of such a person who wishes to get himself caught. According to the rebels, this servant had been ordered to reach Egypt before the arrival of their caravan. How then can the notion be entertained that he travelled side by side along with the caravan after reaching the location of Buwaib, which is the gate to Egypt. There is a great difference between the journey of a man and a caravan; a caravan cannot travel at the same speed as one man. The reason being that a caravan has many requirements and all the mounts in a caravan are not equally as swift. So, how could it be possible for the messenger to still be with the caravan when it reached Buwaib? At that time, he should have been close to his final destination. The state of the messenger, as described by them, can be attributed to a spy but not a messenger. Similarly, when the messenger was apprehended, the dialogue that took place with him is completely unnatural. This is because he claims to be a messenger, but neither has he been given a letter nor a verbal message. Who can give such a reply except such a person who is either insane or wishes to make himself seem suspicious? If the person really was a messenger what need was there for him to say that he had been sent by Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) or someone else. Likewise, it cannot be said that he was well committed to speaking the truth either because it is said that he possessed a letter but the messenger claimed that he was not in the possession of a letter. So according to their narration it is evident that the messenger did in fact speak a lie. The question that subsequently arises is why he would fabricate something which in turn would clearly lead to his capture? Why did he not speak a lie which would save him from being detained in such a situation? Hence, all these occurrences show that the entire affair about the letter and the person carrying it, was a fabrication from beginning to end. Therefore, someone from among the rebels themselves (most probably ‘Abdullah bin Saba) forged a letter and handed it to a messenger so that he should travel closely in line with the caravan. However, it was not probable for a rider passing by on a heavily used route to be noticed and apprehended. However, since the person who forged this letter desired, insofar as possible, that this should happen through the agency of someone else, he instructed the emissary to move along with the caravan in such a manner that suspicion would arise in the hearts of people; and when they would question him in order to remove their doubt, the emissary should give such answers which would further increase this suspicion. The general public would search the emissary themselves and upon finding the letter would be certain that Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) had deceived them.

The contents of the letter also indicate that it was a counterfeit and was not crafted by a well-versed Muslim, because in certain narrations the subject matter of the letter reads that the beard of so and so should be shaved. However, the shaving of one’s beard is prohibited in Islam and under the Islamic rule, only such punishments could be meted out which were in accordance with Islam. It was absolutely unacceptable for a person to be made to eat swine, drink alcohol or to shave his beard as a form of punishment, because all these things were forbidden [in Islam]. The only punishments evident in Islam are those of execution, corporal punishment, fine or expulsion from the land, whether it be in the form of exile or imprisonment. No other punishment is proven to have been administered in Islam except for the ones just mentioned. Neither did the Islamic scholars ever impose such a punishment, nor Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) himself, nor his governors. As such, for such a punishment to be written in this letter is sufficient proof of the fact that the letter was forged by someone who was unacquainted with the essence of Islam.

The events preceding this letter also refute the possibility of it being from Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) or his secretary, because all narrations unanimously agree that Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) exhibited a great deal of leniency in punishing the rebels. If he had wished, Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) could have executed them all at the first instance of their arrival. Then, if Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) had left them on that occasion, the ringleaders could have most surely been arrested on their arrival a second time, because then they had openly committed an act of rebellion; and the companions were ready to fight them. However, to believe that he showed the rebels leniency at this stage but wrote a letter to the governor of Egypt that he should punish them, is a remarkably irrational notion. Similarly, it cannot be asserted that Marwan wrote this letter in view of the leniency of Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra), because Marwan knew well that Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) was very strict in guarding the penal code. The conscience of Marwan could not have allowed him to think for even a minute that he would remain safe from punishment after writing such a letter. Then, if he were to write such a letter, why would he only write one to the governor of Egypt? Why did he not write similar letters to the governors of Basrah and Kufah as well? In this way all the enemies would have been dealt with once and for all. The fact that a letter was only written to the governor of Egypt is evidence of the fact that the caravans of Kufah and Basrah did not have in their midst a man as cunning as Abdullah bin Saba.

One may assert that perhaps similar instructions were issued to the governors of both these regions as well, but the people who were carrying them could not been apprehended. The answer is that if this were the case then the matter could not have remained hidden. If ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amir is accused of remaining silent due to being a relative of Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra), then Hazrat Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari(ra), who was from among the prominent companions; whose impeccable faith has been testified to in the Holy Quran and who was the governor of Kufah at the time, would never have remained silent, and would have surely disclosed the matter. Hence, the truth is that this letter was forged and had been crafted by someone from within the Egyptian caravan. Aside from the Egyptian caravan, since there was neither such a person present in the other caravans as was capable of carrying out such a scheme, nor was it possible to steal so many camels from baitul-mal in such a short time, nor could so many slaves be bribed; for this reason, letters addressed to the governors of other regions were not forged.

The servant about whom it was suggested that he carried this letter, could have shed the most light on this matter. However, it is surprising that when Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) demanded for witnesses this servant was neither presented, nor is there any mention of him in the events that followed. This indicates that it was not in their best interest to present him. Perhaps they feared that he would disclose the true state of affairs before the companions. Therefore, keeping him hidden is a testimony to the fact that it was the rebel party themselves, who was responsible for forging this letter.

A very compelling proof of the fact that these people had forged this letter themselves is that this was not the first letter which they had crafted. In fact, they had forged many other letters in addition to this, in order to ignite the flames of the very same disorder. Hence, it was neither difficult for them to craft this letter, nor can this be attributed to anyone else in the presence of this reality. The counterfeit letters which these people had been producing previously were written [falsely on behalf of ] Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) in order to defame him, and the contents of these letters was along the lines of, ‘Incite rage against Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra).’ The vehemence of the general public was instigated through these letters and upon seeing the attestation of Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) [on these letters] they would fall for the words of ‘Abdullah bin Saba. However, it appears that they were ordered to keep the content of the letters very secret, lest Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) found out about them and rejected having any connection with them. Furthermore, the masterminds behind this disorder presented a valid reason for their emphasis upon secrecy, i.e. [they claimed that] if these letters were exposed then Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) would be confronted with difficulty. For this reason, people would not disclose the subject matter of these letters for the sake of Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) and since the matter was kept secret, the deception of the masterminds would not be disclosed either. However, falsehood never remains hidden for long, especially when hundreds are made aware of it. The letter which was supposedly written on behalf of Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) was seized and the ordinary masses of Kufah turned back extremely enraged. A group of them approached Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) and asked for his assistance. Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) had become aware of the falsity of this account as soon as he heard about it, and due to his God-given insight, the deception of the rebels of Egypt had become evident to him. He plainly refused saying, “I cannot join you in such a thing.” At the time, in the heat of their emotion, some were unable to exercise caution and spontaneously said, “Then why have you been sending us letters?” This was very surprising for Hazrat ‘Ali(ra). He plainly rejected this, expressed his ignorance and said, “I swear by God the Exalted! I have never written any such letter to you people.” These people were also extremely shocked because in actuality, they had also been deceived themselves. They began to look at one another in amazement and enquired, “Is this the person for whom you express rage and fight?” In other words, this was to say that, God-forbid, Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) was such a coward that after having done everything, he was now wiping his hands clean.3

It appears from this incident that there were certain people from among the rebels who were skilled in crafting counterfeit letters and that such people were present among the people of Egypt. The reason being that these letters could only be written on behalf of Hazrat ‘Ali(ra) to the Egyptians, who professed their love for Hazrat ‘Ali(ra). Hence, the fact that the letter attributed to Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra) was seized by the Egyptian caravan is overwhelming evidence that the person who wrote it was not a person from Madinah; rather, he belonged to the caravan from Egypt.

Since the ‘letter incident’ is the most significant occurrence in the eyes of those who raise an allegation against Hazrat ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, I have expounded my research on this incident in detail. Although this incident can be described even more extensively, I believe that what I have mentioned thus far is sufficient to prove that this letter was a forged counterfeit; and that the people who crafted this letter were ‘Abdullah bin Saba and his accomplices, not Marwan or anyone else; as for Hazrat ‘Uthman(ra), his person is far above such an allegation.

1 Tarikhut-Tabari, vol. 5, p. 170, Dhikrul-Khabari ‘An Qatlihi Wa Kaifa Qutila, Published by Darul-Fikr, Beirut, 2002 edition [Publishers]

2 Mu‘jamul-Buldan, vol. 1, part 2, p. 403, under the word ‘Al-Buwaib,’ Published by Daru Ihya’it-Turathil-Arabiyy, Beirut [Publishers]

3 Tarikhut-Tabari, vol. 5, pp. 156-157, Dhikru Masiri Mann Sara Ila Dhi Khashabin Min Ahli Misra….., Published by Darul-Fikr, Beirut, 2002 edition [Publishers]