Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Uthman's address on the occasion of the Hajj

In response to the call of Uthman, the followers of Ibn Saba sent large delegations from various cities. They were thoroughly briefed and were armed with a catalogue of imaginary wrongs which they were requited to present before the gathering.

Uthman presided at the Hajj functions, and thereafter he addressed the people. After praising God and the Holy Prophet, Uthman said that he had summoned that meeting at the house of God to redress the grievances of the people, to foster accord between the people and the Government; and to remove misunderstandings if any. He said that of late some false rumors had been circulating against him and his government in a surreptitious manner. He said that Islam did not favor such underhand means. Islam stood for calling a spade a spade. He said that the object of the meeting was to promote a dialogue between the people and the rulers, and to take steps to redress the grievances of the people if any. He assured the people that he would espouse their just cause, and as such they should come forward with their grievances so that these could be redressed. He said that in view of this assurance on his part the underhand propaganda against the Government should cease for that was likely to undermine the integrity of the State.

He wanted the people to be his witness that before assuming the caliphate he was one of the richest man. As such the caliphate could not be an office of profit with him. He wanted the people to say whether what he had said was correct or not. Thereupon the congregation said, "Yes O Caliph of the Holy Prophet, you are correct".

Uthman continued: "You know after the Holy Prophet Abu Bakr became the Caliph and after him Umar became the Caliph. During this period the Muslim dominions expanded, and the Muslim State was burdened with onerous responsibilities. Abu Bakr and Umar administered the affairs of the State with admirable skill. Thereafter the burden fell on me. I swear by God that I did not covet the office, but once I had been made the caliph, I had to discharge my functions. You know Umar was a hard task master. After him you wanted some relaxation. In contrast I followed mild policies. At the outset of my rule I increased the stipends of the people. I treated the people as my children, and my treatment was liberal and generous". Then Uthman paused and inquired of the people whether what he had said was correct. They answered, "Yes, we testify to your kindness."

Uthman added, "You know after the demise of Umar there were revolts in Persia, and the Persians made a bid to overthrow the Muslim yoke. At one time we practically lost the whole of Persia. In this crisis your Government was not found wanting. We directed campaigns in Persia. The whole of Persia was reconquerd. Not only that but we extended the Muslim conquests. In the east we reached the borders of India. In the north we penetrated into Transoxiana and reached the borders of China. You know the Byzantines tried to reconquer Egypt and captured Alexandria. We drove them from the soil of Egypt. Thereafter we undertook campaigns in North Africa, and captured the whole of North Africa. Thereafter we crossed over Spain and established a foothold there. You know the Muslims had heretofore avoided wars on the sea. During my time the Muslims became a naval power for the first time. We conquered the island of Cypress. We defeated the Byzantines at the battle of the Masts. We conducted campaigns in Asia Minor and captured many Byzantine forts." Uthman paused and addressing the people said, " O ye people, swear by God whether what I have said is correct or not?" The people cried with one voice, "We testify that what you have said is correct".

Uthman further said, "Now O people look around you and say honestly whether you are not more prosperous than what were you yesterday. Look to Madina itself. Has it not expanded and is such expansion not an indication of the prosperity of the people. Are the people of Makkah not more prosperous than what they were in the past. Is there any man in the State who is starved. Previously the companions were not allowed to leave Madina. Have I not removed this restriction. Have I not allowed free purchase and sale of land. Have I not promoted your freedom of speech and movement? Look to your Baitul Mall Does it not have more reserve than what it had previously? Look to the Prophet's mosque at Madina. Have I not extended it. Again look to the Ka'aba. Have I not extended or embellished it? Please let me know whether this is correct or not". And the people said that verily this was correct.

Uthman continued: "If all that I have said is correct is it not uncharitable on the part of some of the people to indulge in unfounded propaganda. If you make the head of your State the victim of false propaganda you weaken the solidarity of the Ummah. Our strength lies in our unity, and if any attempt is made to sow dissension among the Muslims we will be playing in the hands of the enemy. I therefore appeal to you to be just and fair. If you seek justice you must be just yourself. I assure you that if you have any legitimate grievance it will be redressed. On the other hand if you have no real grievance, but merely resort to frivolous allegations that will be neither in your interest nor in the interests of the State.

Uthman said, "Now I will dwell on the various allegations that are afloat against me or my Government. I am criticized that on the occasion of the Hajj I offered four rakaats of prayers instead of availing of the concession of two rakaats in accordance with the precedent set by the Holy Prophet and my two predecessors. In this connection it may be borne in mind that the stipulated number of rakaats in such prayers is four, but in the case of exceptional circumstances the prayer can be shortened to two rakaats. Now such exceptional circumstances cannot last for all times. I have married in Makkah and I reside here for some time in a year. I therefore felt that I was no longer entitled to the concession of shortening the prayer. If four rakaats were enjoined and I had shortened them I could have been held guilty, but when I offer the full prayers, and do not avail of a concession meant for exceptional circumstances, what is the wrong that I have done. Again it is said that I have been guilty of sacrilege in burning some copies of the Holy Quran. Do you know what happened to the Holy Books revealed to other prophets. Their followers produced variety of versions, and in such diversity the original text was lost. I was anxious that the Holy Quran should not become a victim of such diversity. I therefore in consultation with the eminent companions had a standard text compiled, and destroyed all other texts, so that the integrity of the text should be maintained for all times. O Muslims I ask you in the name of God whether this was a service or a disservice to the cause of Islam?" Uthman paused for a reply from the people and they said, "Yes, O Caliph you have done a great service to the cause of Islam".

Uthman continued: It is objected that 1 have appointed young persons to high offices, and that most of the Governors are my relatives. In appointing young persons I followed the precedent set by the Holy Prophet. He appointed Usama a young man of seventeen to lead the expedition against the Byzantines. It is true that some of the Governors are related to me. As Caliph I am responsible for the administration of the entire country. I have therefore to appoint persons in whom I have full confidence. Whether a person is related to me or not is not the material thing. The material thing is: how far have such persons discharged their functions. Is it not a fact that as Governor Muawiyah is most popular in Syria? Is it not a fact that Abdullah b Sa'ad conquered the whole of North Africa? Is it not a fact that he was the victor of the battle of the Masts? Is it not a fact that Uqba's son Walid was most popular in Kufa during the first five years of his rule and I removed him when voices were raised against his rule? Is it not a fact as the Governor of Basra Abdullah b 'Aamir reconquerd the whole of Persia, and even carried the Muslim arms to Transoxiana? O Muslims be just and fair. How can you deny the achievements of these Governors in the cause of Islam, and merely condemn them because they are related to me? I assure you that I appointed them because I thought them to be the fittest persons. All of them came to my expectations and I maintain that I did not commit any wrong in appointing them as Governors. On the other hand Muhammad b Hudhaifa who was like a son to me wanted to be appointed to a post but 1 refused to do so, because I did not consider him fit to bear such responsibilities." Then Uthman paused and said, "Have I not narrated the true facts", and the people said, ~ Yes, you have stated the facts as they are..

Uthman continued, "It is said that I have reserved the pastures for my camels. This is incorrect. I have reserved the State pastures for State camels and that was necessary. It is objected that I recalled my uncle Hakam from exile. The fact is that the Holy Prophet exiled him, and then permitted his recall. It is objected that on the eve of the conquest of Makkah, Abdullah b Sa'ad was on the murder list, but I intervened on his behalf. It is true that Abdullah b Sa'ad was guilty, but he repented. Forgiveness is an attribute of God. On the occasion of the conquest of Makkah the Holy Prophet granted the Quraish general amnesty and in this context he forgave Abdullah b Sa'ad. Thereafter Abdullah b Sa'ad proved to be a staunch Muslim and he performed valuable services in the cause of Islam. Uqba's son Walid was certainly guilty of a lapse but the Holy Prophet forgave him. It is a tradition of the Holy Prophet that once a man is forgiven we have to judge him solely on the basis of his conclusion after such forgiveness. These persons have nothing to their discredit after they had been forgiven. It is uncharitable on the part of Muslims to condemn these persons for their conduct for which they have been forgiven. If previous misconduct is to remain alive what is the purpose of forgiveness?"

Uthman said, "I have had may say. Now I am prepared to listen to you. If any one of you has any legitimate grievance against me or my Government you are free to give expression to such grievance, and I assure you that, I will do my best to redress such grievance."

The seditionist had come fully prepared to give vent to their imaginary grievances, but they realized that the people in view of the defense offered by Uthman were not in the mood to listen to any imaginary grievances. All the seditionist remained quiet, and they did not have the courage to declare any grievance.

That was a great psychological victory for Uthman.

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