May 1, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 704

'Ever Since the Murder of 'Uthman [The Third Caliph]' - Arab Literary Scholar on the Evil Spirit of Murder and Violence in Early Islam Re-Appearing Today

May 1, 2004
Sudan | Special Dispatch No. 704

In article titled 'Ever Since the Murder of 'Uthman [The Third Caliph],' published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, renowned Sudanese author and literary scholar Al-Tayyib Salih castigated Islamic extremists' use of violent means to achieve their ends. The following is the translation of the article: [1]

'If You Kill Me, You Put the Sword to Your Own Neck'

"It is as though the prophecy that our great leader 'Uthman Ibn 'Affan, [2] may Allah be pleased with him, [made] in the year 35 or 36 of the Hijra has come true. [He made this prophecy] when the wild mob that came from distant regions of the kingdom, from Egypt and Iraq, entered his home, having decided to kill him.

"[The Caliph Uthman] told them, 'If you kill me, you put the sword to your own neck, and then Allah will not lift it from you until the Day of Resurrection. And if you kill me, you will never be united in prayer, and you will never divide the booty amongst you, and Allah will never remove discord from amongst you.'

"[The Caliph Uthman], may Allah be pleased with him, was a caliph who had, to use a contemporary term, been democratically elected. He had in him all the required qualifications to be the Commander of the Faithful. He was illustrious and beloved. He was one of the early Muslims, and was related by marriage to the Prophet, may Allah pray for him and give him peace. He was of the top [families] of Quraysh, and the Companion of the Prophet who, more than any other, spent of his own wealth to help Islam. The days of his rule were a time of prosperity and affluence. The most senior Companions of the Prophet were pleased with him, as were the people of Al-Madina, and all agreed to swear allegiance to him."

'Their Murder of Him was Tantamount to the Crushing of the Symbol of Consensus In the [Islamic] Nation'

"However, all this did not intercede on his behalf with these evildoers. They murdered him, and their murder of him was tantamount to the crushing of the symbol of consensus in the [Islamic] nation, and the violation of its sanctity, and the tearing to shreds of the garment of awe and reverence without which the ruled cannot be pleased with the ruler. This garment is woven spontaneously, by free nations, of their own choice, and they bestow it upon an individual whom they choose from amongst them, so that this individual will, despite his shortcomings, become a symbol of their collective will. [This individual] becomes an idea greater than his limited personal capabilities. When the nation is pleased with him, it is in fact pleased with itself.

"It was demonic boldness on the part of these criminals. They violated the sanctity of the home of the Caliph – the pious, worshipping, prostrating [caliph] – as he sat on his prayer mat reading the Holy Koran. They killed him and spilled his blood on the holy book, and cut off his wife's fingers as she tried to protect him with her own body.

"With this deed, they transgressed all bounds and trampled all that is sacred. And indeed, we see after that deed how this frightful recklessness recurs throughout Islamic history to this day.

"It is as though the criminals who killed 'Uthman are the very same criminals who murdered the Imam Ali in Kufa, and killed Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet, may Allah pray for him and give him peace, in Karbala. They are the very same who violated the sanctity of Al-Madina, the city of the Prophet, in the time of the Umayyads, and who catapulted stones on the Ka'ba, and who dared violate the sanctity of the holy mosque of Mecca in the 20th century. [3] They are like evil spirits embodied by different individuals in different periods of history."

'The Elements of This First Instance of Sedition are the Very Same Aroused Recurrent Instances of Sedition'

"Besides, the elements of this first instance of sedition are the very same elements which aroused recurrent instances of sedition. Collective rage is a combination of little truth and much falsehood, and dubious leaders who bewitch the hearts of the gullible and fan the flames of grievance and alien hands weaving plots in the dark with no aim but to undermine the foundations of society.

"In that first instance of sedition, also, they claimed that they were demanding justice and called for changing the political order. But they did not resort to the peaceful means afforded them by Islam. They did not turn to wisdom and good counsel and to working towards the creation of a new consensus for the purpose of bringing about peaceful change. [Instead] they hastened blindly from the light [of Islam] to the most heinous of means – namely, senseless violence. They overthrew the regime, but they neither knew how to nor were able to build a new regime. They were [aptly described] by Hassan Ibn Thabit, who said, 'You forsook raiding the highways, and you raid us near the tomb of Muhammad?' [4]

"When the leading companions [of the Prophet Muhammad] and the wise men of the community returned to their senses [after the shock of 'Uthman's murder], and swore allegiance to a new caliph, who also had in him all the necessary qualifications, and more, the Muslims had already been disunited and have never been reunited to this day.

'We are Seeing Those Same Evil Spirits Returning with Different Masks'

"And now we are seeing today those same evil spirits returning with different masks, garb, and forms, using a new language with diverse tongues, holding implements of destruction which are capable of more destruction and more widespread damage. Behind them are other evildoers, even more devious and of sharper cunning. This is a hidden evil against which reasonable people must unite, so as to purge the body of it.

"This can be [accomplished] only by wisdom, prudence, knowledge, honesty, and frankness. It's either this or clear deterioration."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 24, 2004.

[2] The Third Caliph 'Uthman Ibn 'Affan ruled from 644-656, and was married, consecutively, to two of the daughters of the Prophet Muhammad.

[3] In 1979, the Ka'ba was desecrated and parts of it were destroyed when the Saudi regime, with the help of foreign forces, attempted to put down the rebellion of Jahiman Al-'Atibi. In 1987, Iranian pilgrims took over the Ka'ba, and the incident ended with hundreds of dead at the site holiest to Islam.

[4] Hassan Ibn Thabit (d. circa 660) was known as the "poet laureate" of the Prophet Muhammad.

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