Othman, Ibn-affan

Othman, Ibn-Affan, the third caliph of the Moslems after the Prophet, is noted in Mohammedan history not only on account of the importance of his own reign, but also as the life-companion of the founder of Islam. He was a direct descendant from Abd el-menaf, one of the ancestors of, the Prophet. Having early adopted Islam by the persuasion of Mohammed, he became one of his most zealous ashab (companions), followed him in his flight from Mecca to Medina, and was made, on his return, one of his most confidential friends and secretaries. Upon the death of the caliph Omar, it was found that Othman was one of the six individuals whom he had by his will designated for his place. After mature deliberation, the majority chose Othman, on condition that he would govern the people according to the rules of the Koran, which Othman solemnly promised to do; and he was accordingly invested with the supreme power towards the end of Dhi-l-hajjah A.H. 32 (Nov. or Dec., A.D. 644), three days after the death of Omar. His first public act was to send a body of troops under El-mugheyrah Ibn-Shaabah to complete the reduction of the province of Hamadan (A.D. 645), while another army expelled Jezdegerd from Persia (A.D. 646). SEE OMAR. Another body of Arabs (A.D. 647) reduced all that part of Khorassan which had escaped former invasions. In the mean while Abdullab Ibn-Said invaded Eastern Africa, and, after defeating and killing at Yakfbiyah the patrician Gregorius, who commanded in the Grecian emperor's name, subdued its principal cities. Four years afterwards (A.D. 651) the same commander made an incursion into Nubia, and obliged the Christian sovereign of that country to sue for peace and pay him tribute. The islands of Cyprus and Rhodes were at, tacked and plundered by Muawivah Ibn- Abi-SufyAn (A.D. 648): these two maritime expeditions being the first which the Arabs ever made. But while the temporal power of Islam was thus extending its hold on all sides, Othman himself was rapidly losing his influence over his subjects, alienating their affections by the weakness of his internal administration and his partiality towards the members of his family. Othman began his reign by removing the celebrated Amru Ibn-el- ass from the government of Egypt — a country which he had conquered — and appointing in his place his own foster-brother, Abdullah Ibn-Said. This measure was as disagreeable to the Arabs as to the Egyptians. The people of Alexandria, who bore impatiently the Mohammedan yoke, and were only kept in obedience by the mildness and the justice of their governor, seeing a favorable opportunity, entered into a correspondence with the Greek emperor, and surrendered to him the city; and although Othman immediately reinstated Amrui, who recovered Alexandria and demolished its fortifications, this was not accomplished without great difficulty and considerable bloodshed (A.D. 646). Saad Ibn-Abi Wakkas and Abu Musa el-ashaari, two of Mohammed's companions, were also deprived by him of their command. Othman rendered himself further obnoxious by occupying the "minbar" (pulpit), and while at prayers in the mosque the same place which the Prophet had used, instead of placing himself, as his predecessors Omar and Abu-Bekr had done, a few steps lower down. He had also lost from off his finger a silver signet-ring which had once belonged to the Prophet, and with which the caliphs his predecessors had sealed their dispatches an ominous circumstance, which was regarded by all zealous Moslems as the greatest blow that could be inflicted on their rising empire; and he had recalled from his exile Hakem Ibn-Aass, whom the Prophet himself had banished from Mecca. Othman was further accused of excessive prodigality towards his favorites. Finally public discontent ran so high that the elders of the Arabian tribes and the most illustrious of Mohammed's own companions met at Medina, and threatened Othman with deposition unless he could justify his public acts. Othman resented this daring action of his subjects as an outrage upon his authority, and he not only ignored the message, but even severely abused the messenger. The people continued their protestations, and loudly clamored for his abdication, and they would even have done violence to his person: had not Ali, who had considerable influence with the rebellious subjects, promised immediate remedy in the caliph's name. Quiet was only maintained for a short time, however; for Ayesha, the Prophet's widow, sorely hated Othman, and she fanned an insurrection which resulted in the murder of Othman in his own palace, his soldiers having previously deserted him. His mutilated body lay unnoticed for three days; but was finally buried in a hole, without any ceremony, according to Abulfeda and Atabari, on June 18, 656 (18th day of Dhi-l-hajjah, A.H. 35). Othman was a pious Mohammedan, and was not only well versed in the Koran, but was the first to make an authentic copy of this sacred book of Islam, thus furnishing the basis for all future copies of the Koran. The transcription was done under his own supervision by Zeyd Ibn-Thabit, Abdullah Ibn- Zobeyr, and other companions of the Prophet. Othman himself transcribed the Koran several times, and while in the palace awaiting his assassination he was found to enjoy the companionship of the Koran. See Abulfaraj, Hist. Dynast. (transl. by Pococke), p. 31 sq.; Ockley, Hist. of the Saracens, vol. i; Price, Mohammedan History, vol. i; Engl. Cyclop. s.v., and the authorities there quoted.

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