An Analysis of Uthman’s Motivations

For the first six years of his caliphate, Uthman followed the precedents of the first two caliphs. At some point however, he realized that the people did not view him as his own entity; but rather as a follower of the Shaykhayn (Abu Bakr and Umar b. al-Khattab) and he felt that he was not receiving the respect that his position entitled him to.

The people had permitted Umar b. al-Khattab to alter the religion based on circumstances, such as when Umar expanded the grounds of Masjid al-Haram (the Ka’abah), or increased the government subsidies (aba). However, they did not give Uthman the same level of tolerance and flexibility, even though Uthman, like Umar, was tied by blood to the Holy Prophet.

Even when he tried to expand the sacred mosque (in Madinah) as Umar had done, the people said, “He expands the mosque of the Prophet, but he changes his tradition.” According to al-Tabari, when Uthman demolished the homes around the sacred mosque for its expansion, he attempted to compensate their owners, but they refused to accept the money. Uthman said to them, “Do you know what made you strong in front of me and made you accuse me? It was my forbearance. Umar did exactly the same thing to you, but you did not protest.”[155]

He said to others, “You accuse me of things that happened during the time of Umar b. al-Khattab, but you did not accuse him. You agreed with him, and he forced you to follow him and his tradition; whereas I gave you freedom and freedom of expression, and I barred my hands and my tongue from you, and that is what gave you the courage to attack me.”[156]

Overall, Uthman lacked the strength to resist the desire for fame and recognition and new ideas in his name.

[155] Tarikh al-Tabari, 4:251
[156] Tarikh al-Tabari, 4:339

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