The attitude of the Mothers of the Believers and some of the female Sahabiyat regarding the murder of `Uthman

The martyrdom of `Uthman
May 25, 2015
Praise of Ahl al-Bayt for `Uthman and their innocence of shedding his blood
May 25, 2015

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The attitude of the Mothers of the Believers and some of the female Sahabiyat


Umm Habibah bint Abi Sufyan radiya Llahu ‘anhuma

The stance taken by Umm Habibah radiya Llahu ‘anha, the Mother of the Believers, concerning these events was a very serious one, as she was nearly killed for ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu sake. When ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was besieged and water was withheld from him, ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent a son of ‘Amr ibn Hazam al Ansari -who was one of his neighbours – to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu to tell him: “They are withholding water from us; if you can, send us some of your surplus water.” He also sent word to Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha and the other wives of Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The first ones to come to his aid were ‘Ali and Umm Habibah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.[1]

Umm Habibah radiya Llahu ‘anha was very concerned about ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, as Ibn ‘Asakir said, and this was entirely natural on her part, as they shared a common lineage and were from the same tribe (Banu Umayyah). Umm Habibah came and they struck the face of her mule, and she said: “The wills of Banu Umayyah are all with this man; I want to meet him and ask him about that so that the wills of the widows and orphans will not be lost.” They said: “You are lying; and they struck out at her with their swords, and cut the rope of her mule, which started running away with Umm Habibah. The people tried to stop it, and the saddle tilted, so they grabbed hold of it and stopped the mule, but Umm Habibah radiya Llahu ‘anha was nearly killed. Then they took her back to her house.[2]

It seems that she told her freed slave Ibn al Jarrah to stay close to ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and the events that took place in the house (of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu) happened when Ibn al Jarrah was present.[3]


Safiyyah bint Huyay radiya Llahu ‘anha

Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha, the mother of the believers, did something similar to what Umm Habibah did. It was narrated that Kinanah[4] said:


I was leading Safiyyah’s mule when she went and tried to defend ‘Uthman, and she was met by Ashtar[5]. He struck the face of her mule until the saddle tilted, and she said: Let me go back for I do not want this to expose me. Then she put a piece of wood from her house to ‘Uthman, and transported food and water on it.[6]


‘A’ishah bint Abi Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anha

When that happened to Umm Habibah radiya Llahu ‘anha, the people were very upset and Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha left Madinah filled with anger against the rebels. Marwan ibn al Hakam came to her and said: O Mother of the Believers, if you had stayed they would have shown some respect towards this man.” She said: “Do you want to happen to me what happened to Umm Habibah? And there is no one there to defend me. No, by Allah, I do not want to be in such a humiliating situation. I do not know where this matter will end.[7]

She thought that by leaving it might help to disperse the crowds as may be explained by a second report, so the Mothers of the Believers prepared to separate from the turmoil, but their departure was not aimed only at escaping the turmoil, so it was not merely an escape; rather it was an attempt to save ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the hands of those who were deceived, among whom was Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the brother of Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, who had tried to get him to follow her to hajj, but he had refused.

What led to this attempt on her part to get him to follow her and his refusal to do so, was so obvious that Hanzalah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the scribe[8], was surprised when Muhammad refused to follow Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha. He compared this refusal with his following of the people from the regions and said:

O Muhammad, the Mother of the Believers is calling you but you do not follow her, and the wolves[9] of the Arabs are calling you to something that is not permissible, and you follow them. But he refused.

Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha said: By Allah, if I could stop them, I would do it.[10] These words of hers, which she said after trying to persuade her brother, indicate that she had begun her attempt to make the rebels disperse from besieging ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and to stir up public opinion against them from the time they first started to think of going to Makkah. This is what was confirmed by Imam Ibn al ‘Arabi, who said:


It was narrated that their leaving – i.e., the leaving of the Mothers of the Believers with a number of the Sahabah -was meant as a means to put an end to the turmoil, in the hope that the people would follow their mothers, the Mothers of the Believers, respect the sanctity of their Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam[11] and listen to their words, as they used to come from the furthest horizons to listen to them.[12]


In other words, their leaving for Makkah was an attempt to disperse these crowds, because it was the custom of the people to ask their opinion and consult them, and they – may Allah be pleased with them all – never imagined that it would reach a point where these people would kill the khalifah.[13]


How the female Sahabiyat dealt with the situation


Asma’ bint Umays radiya Llahu ‘anha

Asma’ bint Umays radiya Llahu ‘anha tried to do the same thing as the Mother of the Believers Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha had done. She sent word to her two sons, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr and Muhammad ibn Jafar[14], saying:

The lamp consumes itself in order give light to the people, so do not indulge in sin for something that will benefit someone else. The thing that you are trying to achieve now will end up being for someone else later on, so beware lest your actions today lead to regret.

But they would not listen and they left angrily, saying: “We will never forget what ‘Uthman did to us. And she said: “All he did to you was command you to adhere to the way of Allah.”[15] And it was said that this conversation took place between Layla bint Asma’ and her two brothers.[16]

In this case, she was referring to when the people of the regions had come to Madinah then come back again after they had debated with ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and he had debated with them and established proof against them, then they pretended that they were returning to their homelands, then they soon came back, claiming that ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu had sent a man with instructions that the people be killed, including – or so they claimed – Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr.[17]

This is probably what Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr was referring to when he said: “We will never forget what ‘Uthman did to us.” But ‘Uthman denied having anything to do with this letter and he said: “Either bring two men to witness against me, or I will give you my oath that I never wrote (the letter) or told anyone else to write (it). It is possible that a letter could be forged and falsely attributed to a man, or his signature or seal could be forged.”[18]

Asma’ radiya Llahu ‘anha was aware of what was happening, namely plots to shake the foundation of the Islamic state and depose ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the khilafah. Hence her attitude towards her two sons and her clear understanding of the matter caused her not to be influenced by the fact that she was a mother, and she took the right stance with regard to this clear situation. This attitude is undoubtedly very significant and gives a clear image of the dignity and good character of the noble Sahabah.[19]


Sa‘bah bint al Hadrami radiya Llahu ‘anha

When the siege intensified, Sa’bah bint al Hadrami asked her son Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah to speak to ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and make him change his mind about exposing himself to danger and not allowing the Sahabah to come to his defence or seeking help from the governors of other provinces. Sa’bah bint al Hadrami went out and said to her son Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah:

The siege of ‘Uthman has intensified; why do you not speak to him and make him change his mind?[20]

This report clearly shows that Sa’bah was concerned about ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and that Umm ‘Abdullah ibn Rafi’ was also concerned about the matter and was following developments as the turmoil progressed;[21] as she is the one who narrated this incident from Sa’bah bint al Hadrami.[22]

This was the attitude of the Muslim women in general, a balanced attitude that was able to see things as they really were, despite the clouds that were surrounding the scene. Whatever the case, this was the attitude of all the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.[23]


NEXT⇒ How ‘Uthman was murdered



[1]Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, by Asma’ Muhammad, p. 340

[2]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/402; quoted in Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 340

[3]Tarikh al Madinah, 2/298

[4]  Kinanah ibn ‘Adiyy ibn Rabi’ah ibn ‘Abdul ‘Uzza ibn ‘Abd Shams ibn ‘Abd Manaf al ‘Abshami.

[5]Dawr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 340

[6]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, 2/237

[7]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/401

[8]  Hanzalah ibn Rabi’ al Tamimi, who used to write down the wahi for the Rasul of Allah H, and was called the scribe (al katib).

[9]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/401

[10]  ibid

[11]Al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 156

[12]Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 342

[13]  op. cit., p. 343

[14]  Muhammad ibn Jafar ibn Abi Talib, whose mother was Asma’ bint Umays al Khash’amiyyah. He was born in Abyssinia, and was present at Siffin with ‘Ali I, and was with his brother Muhammad in Egypt when he was killed.

[15]Tarikh al Tabari, 5/202

[16]  op. cit., 5/202

[17]Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 343

[18]Al ‘Awasim min al Qawasim, p. 120

[19]Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 544

[20]Dowr al Mar’ah al Siyasi, p. 345

[21]  ibid

[22]  op. cit., p. 345

[23]  op. cit., p. 345, 346.