Uthman ibn Affan: An Example of High Character and Asceticism

‘Uthman ibn Affan was one of the first people who have accepted Islam, just after the first revelation to the Prophet ﷺ. He was elected as Caliph after the martyrdom of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. Hence, today we know him as the third of four Righteous Caliphs.

 

‘Uthman was a very famous and beloved person by the whole Quraysh clan even before Islam [1]. His nickname is Dhul-Nurain (Owner of two lights), as he was the only person who was able to marry two of the Prophets daughters, namely Ruqaya and Umm-Kulthum. And even though both of these great women passed away before reaching their older age, the Prophet ﷺ has told ‘Uthman that if he had another daughter, he would marry her to him [2].

 

He was very respected by the Prophet ﷺ, mainly due to his unique trait of shyness. It is reported that once he ﷺ was lying in Aisha’s house with his thigh uncovered. Firstly, Abu Bakr has visited him, then ‘Umar, and lastly ‘Uthman. When ‘Uthman came, the Prophet ﷺ sat down and fixed his clothes. Seeing this action, Aisha asked him why he did it only for ‘Uthman and not for Abu Bakr or ‘Umar? He ﷺ replied by saying: “Should I not show modesty to one whom even the Angels show modesty” [3].

 

To know more:  Umar ibn al Khattab – a genius leadership

 

Also, Allah’s Messenger ﷺ has said that: “The most merciful of my Ummah towards my Ummah is Abu Bakr; the one who adheres most sternly to the religion of Allah is ‘Umar; the most sincere of them in shyness and modesty is ‘Uthman” [4]. These narrations show us the exceptional character quality of ‘Uthman, which made him distinguished from the rest of companions, and which caused him to take a special place in the heart of the Prophet ﷺ.

 

In this article, we will discuss his unique character, status, and strong will for sacrifice for the sake of Islam. These character traits are much lacking in today’s Muslim community. Thus, the study of ‘Uthman’s biography is significant for all of us.

 

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Particular shyness of Uthman

 

uthamn the fourht caliph of islam  

 

As it was mentioned before, the main character trait of ‘Uthman was his shyness. But we should keep in mind that his shyness was truly extraordinary, as he was not an ordinary man. He was a great businessman, who has collected a lot of wealth. Also, he was very famous and beloved by all people in his area, up to the level that Quraysh women would sing to their children: “I love you as much as Quraysh love ‘Uthman” [5].

 

It is easy to be shy when nobody knows you when you are a simple and ordinary person. A lot of people are scared just because of these reasons. But ‘Uthman is in an entirely different case. He was a superstar. A millionaire superstar. It’s hard to imagine somebody today to have a similar status as ‘Uthman had and to stay shy when journalists or somebody else would be talking to them.

 

It shows us that the natural shyness that is worth respecting and exalts our status is applied in any circumstances. Either when we talk to somebody who is in a much higher position than us, or with somebody of the lowest rank in society, we must be shy in front of them. And this is the natural shyness in Islam.

 

 

Uthman and easygoingness

 

 

Another great character trait of Caliph’ Uthman is his easygoingness in deals with other people. Similarly to shyness, this trait is hardly found between people today. However, the Prophet ﷺ is known to have said: “Allah admitted to Paradise, a man who was easygoing in buying and selling, both when paying off his debts and when asking people to pay him when they owed him.” [6]. Such was ‘Uthman, who once allowed to cancel a deal for a person who became unhappy about it after the agreement between them was already made.

 

When we make business deals today, we are very strict in our agreements, and if some of the clients would like to change their mind for whatever reason after the contract was made, either they would be rejected or would have to go through the court process if there were some of the laws violated. However, Islam is teaching us to be more accessible and forgiving in such cases. Thus, if some person makes a deal, and later on it is terrible for them, we should make it easy and allow them to cancel it. ‘Uthman was an example of such easygoingness.

 

 

‘Uthman’s humility and gentleness

 

 

It was narrated that ‘Uthman ibn Affan would prepare his wudoo water by himself during the night prayers. When somebody saw him doing it, he was asked, why he doesn’t tell his servant to prepare the water for him? ‘Uthman answered to it: “No, the night is for them to rest” [7]. Even when ‘Uthman was in such a high social status, and in such an ideal financial situation, with his full right to request his servants to help him in household affairs, he was so much humble that he would care about every minute of their sleep time, and would take care of such simple affairs like water preparation by himself.

 

Also, this narration teaches us the gentleness of ‘Uthman. How gentle he was towards his servants, that he would not dare to wake them up when they could help him. In all of his biography, ‘Uthman is known as a gentleman, who would be compassionate towards people, taking care of poor, and assuring that strong were fulfilling their duties [8].

 

 

‘Uthman’s will for sacrifice and asceticism

 

the iportance of uthman ibn Affan  

 

In its ordinary sense, religious asceticism is understood as avoidance of various indulgences, such as luxury, marriage, or even social life. However, in the Islamic sense, asceticism (known as zuhd in Arabic) is very much different and usually is defined as the state when attachment to this world is in a person’s hands, but not in his heart.

 

It means that one may have significant wealth, good social life, enjoy luxury, but still be ascetic as long as the love for all of those things doesn’t enter their heart. If everything that such person has disappeared in one day, it would not make him sad, and if it would return, it would not make him happier. Thus, absolute asceticism is the detachment of the heart, not of the limbs, from indulging in worldly affairs.

 

The most excellent example of such detachment we can find in the biography of ‘Uthman, as it was mentioned before, he was not only very rich but well known, loved and well respected in his community before Islam. For such a man to leave everything behind indeed would not be an easy task. However, when the persecution against Muslims in Mecca intensified, and life for many believers became unbearable, ‘Uthman was one of the first to migrate to Abyssinia, where Muslims could freely practice their religion.

 

He had to leave behind his business and wealth and his social status as an honoured man to migrate. Because ‘Uthman was ascetic, his heart was free from the love of his wealth and quality, and it was easy for him to leave behind what he had achieved in his life for the sake of Allah.

 

Later in his life ‘Uthman, again and again, proved his asceticism and spend big portions of his wealth for the sake of Islam. He has purchased a well in Madinah so that people could use it for free [9]. Also, had bought a land and gave it for the extension of the Prophets Mosque when it became too small for Muslims, and spend a huge amount of his wealth for the Muslims who were preparing for the campaign of Tabook [10].

 

Today so much of the people are attached to this world. We are counting our success by the progress that we make. If this progress stops, or all our achievements are lost, then many of us become depressed or even suicidal. If we hear a story when so and so lost all they had, we look at it as the greatest possible challenge in a person’s life. However, if we would be ascetics, like the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, such loss would be effortless, even if we would have to initiate it by ourselves. ‘Uthman’s biography is the most evident proof for that.

 

 

 Conclusion

 

 

Indeed, the third Caliph of Islam’ Uthman ibn Affan, Dhul-Nurain, was a man of extraordinary character, which made him an extinguished companion of the Prophet ﷺ and one of the most remarkable men in the history.

 

Interestingly, even when he was of special social status, a wealthy businessman, it was not those achievements for which he is remembered today by how he dealt with them. His shyness while being a famous “superstar”, his humility, easygoingness in business deals, and gentleness to people, including his servants, while being a wealthy businessman is the main reason why this article is written today.

 

On the other hand, many people today are thinking of “write themselves into history” by achieving fame, wealth, and honour. But they forget that these are not the reasons worth being written into it. It is one’s virtue in dealing with these things. In the example of ‘Uthman, we can see how he managed to stay shy in a state when others would become proud and boastful, and how he had everything, and gave everything for the sake of Allah and his love to the Messenger ﷺ.

 

These are the character traits that made him so great man, and these are the traits that we need to seek to become people of virtue, people who Allah loves.

 

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References

[1] Ali M. Sallaabee Sallaabee, The Biography Of ‘Uthman Ibn Affan (Darussalam, 2006), p. 18.

[2] ابن كثير، البداية والنهاية، (دار عالم الكتب: 1424ه/2003م)، ج10، ص347.

[3] Sahih Muslim 2401.

[4] Sunan Ibn Majah 154.

[5] Ali M. Sallaabee Sallaabee, The Biography Of ‘Uthman Ibn Affan (Darussalam, 2006), p. 18.

[6] Musnad Ahmad 410.

[7] Ali M. Sallaabee Sallaabee, The Biography Of ‘Uthman Ibn Affan (Darussalam, 2006), p. 149.

[8] Ibid, p. 147.

[9] Ibid, p. 58.

[10] Ibid, p. 59.

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