Uthman Ibn Affan (RA) and the Qur’an

Uthman Ibn Affan (RA) and the Qur’an

The method by means of which ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan and all the noble Sahabah were educated was the Holy Qur’an which was revealed from the Lord of the Worlds. It was the only source of guidance to be accepted. The Prophet ﷺ was keen to ensure that the Muslims acquired their concepts from one source only. The Holy Qur’an alone was to be the methodology and focal point on which the Muslim individual, family and society were to be raised. The verses which ‘Uthman heard directly from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ played a role in the formation of his Islamic personality. They purified his heart and soul and influenced him, and he became a new man, with new values, emotions, aims, behaviour and aspirations.[1] 

‘Uthman (ra) was deeply attached to the Holy Qur’an. Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami narrated how he learned it from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and his words indicate how greatly he loved to live with the Book of Allah. It was narrated that ‘Abu ‘Abd al- Rahman al-Sulami said: Those who taught the Qur’an – such as ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ood and others – told us that when they learned ten verses from the Prophet ﷺ they would not go beyond them until they had learned the knowledge contained in them and how to apply it in deed. They said: So we learned the Qur’an and knowledge and its application together. Hence they would spend a while to memorize a soorah.[2]

Allah says: 

كِتَـٰبٌ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَـٰرَكٌ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوٓا۟ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ (٢٩)

“(This is) a Book (the Qur’an) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember.” (Qur’an 38:29) 

‘Uthman (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:

خَيرُكُم من تعلَّمَ القرآنَ وعلَّمَهُ

 “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.”[3] 

‘Uthman recited the entire Qur’an back to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ before he died. Among the most famous of ‘Uthman’s students in learning Qur’an were Abu ‘Abd al- Rahman al-Sulami, al-Mugheerah ibn Abi Shihab, Abu’l Aswad and Zurr ibn Hubaysh.[4] 

History has recorded for us some of the things that ‘Uthman (ra) said about the Holy Qur’an. He said: 

“If our hearts were pure, we would never have our fill of the words of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted.”[5] 

“I would not like the day to come when I do not look in the Covenant of Allah (i.e. the Mushaf).”[6] 

“Three worldly things have been made dear to me: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and reading Qur’an.”[7] 

“There are four things which are outwardly virtues, but in reality are obligations: mixing with righteous people is a virtue, and following their example is a duty; reading Qur’an is a virtue and acting upon it is a duty; visiting the graves is a virtue and preparing for death is a duty; and visiting the sick person is a virtue and asking him to make a will is a duty.”[8] 

“Ten things are the greatest waste of time: a scholar whom no one asks about; knowledge that is not acted upon; sound advice that is not accepted; a weapon that is not used; a Masjid that is not prayed in; a Mushaf that is not read from; wealth from which nothing is spent (in charity); a horse that is not ridden; knowledge of asceticism in the heart of one who is seeking worldly gain; and a long life in which no preparation is made for the journey (into the Hereafter).”[9] 

‘Uthman (ra) was hafidh of Qur’an, and he read Qur’an all the time. He was asked about that and he said: “It is blessed and was brought by a blessed one.”[10] When ‘Uthman died, his Mushaf was worn out because he had read from it so much.[11] 

The wife of ‘Uthman said on the day when he was besieged: “Either kill him or leave him alone, for by Allah, he would recite the whole Qur’an in one rak’ah when praying qiyam al-layl.” [12] 

The words of Allah – 

أَمَّنْ هُوَ قَـٰنِتٌ ءَانَآءَ ٱلَّيْلِ سَاجِدًا وَقَآئِمًا يَحْذَرُ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةَ وَيَرْجُوا۟ رَحْمَةَ رَبِّهِۦ ۗ قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِى ٱلَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ (٩)

“Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses).” (Qur’an 39:9) – were fulfilled in him. 

‘Uthman immersed himself in the principles of Islam and studied at the hands of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ instilled in his heart the meaning of those sublime verses, for he was keen to teach his companions the correct concept of their Lord and His rights over them, knowing souls were purified and their nature (fitrah) became sound. ‘Uthman’s view of Allah, the universe, life, Paradise, Hell, the divine will and decree, the true nature of man and man’s struggle with the Shaytan were all based on the Holy Qur’an and the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ.

Allah is above having any shortcomings; His are the attributes of infinite perfection. He is One, with no partner or associate, and He has no wife or child. He, may be glorified, has defined this concept of ‘uboodiyyah (complete servitude to Allah) and Tawheed in the Holy Qur’an.[13] 

‘Uthman’s view of the universe was based on the verses in which Allah says: 

۞ قُلْ أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَكْفُرُونَ بِٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلْأَرْضَ فِى يَوْمَيْنِ وَتَجْعَلُونَ لَهُۥٓ أَندَادًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ رَبُّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ (٩) وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَٰسِىَ مِن فَوْقِهَا وَبَـٰرَكَ فِيهَا وَقَدَّرَ فِيهَآ أَقْوَٰتَهَا فِىٓ أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ سَوَآءً لِّلسَّآئِلِينَ (١٠) ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَهِىَ دُخَانٌ فَقَالَ لَهَا وَلِلْأَرْضِ ٱئْتِيَا طَوْعًا أَوْ كَرْهًا قَالَتَآ أَتَيْنَا طَآئِعِينَ (١١) فَقَضَىٰهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَـٰوَاتٍ فِى يَوْمَيْنِ وَأَوْحَىٰ فِى كُلِّ سَمَآءٍ أَمْرَهَا ۚ وَزَيَّنَّا ٱلسَّمَآءَ ٱلدُّنْيَا بِمَصَـٰبِيحَ وَحِفْظًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ ٱلْعَزِيزِ ٱلْعَلِيمِ (١٢)

“Say (O Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): Do you verily disbelieve in Him who created the earth in two Days? And you set up rivals (in worship) with Him? That is the Lord of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists). He placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers) in four Days equal (i.e. all these four ‘days’ were equal in the length of time) for all those who ask (about its creation)…Then He rose over (Istawa) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: ‘Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.’ They both said: ‘We come willingly.’ Then He completed and finished from their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days and He made in each heaven its affair. And We adorned the nearest (lowest) heaven with lamps (stars) to be an adornment as well as to guard (from the devils by using them as missiles against the devils). Such is the Decree of Him, the All-Mighty, the All-Knower.” (Qur’an 41:9-12) 

As for this life, no matter how long it lasts, it will inevitably come to an end, and no matter how great its conveniences and luxuries, they are in fact insignificant. Allah says: 

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا كَمَآءٍ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَٱخْتَلَطَ بِهِۦ نَبَاتُ ٱلْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلْأَنْعَـٰمُ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَآ أَخَذَتِ ٱلْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَٱزَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَآ أَنَّهُمْ قَـٰدِرُونَ عَلَيْهَآ أَتَىٰهَآ أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَـٰهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِٱلْأَمْسِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ ٱلْـَٔايَـٰتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (٢٤)

“Verily, the likeness of (this) worldly life is as the water (rain) which We send down from the sky; so by it arises the intermingled produce of the earth of which men and cattle eat: until when the earth is clad in its adornments and is beautiful, and its people think that they have all the powers of disposal over it, Our Command reaches it by night or by day and We make it like a clean-mown harvest, as if it had not flourished yesterday! Thus do We explain the Ayat in detail for the people who reflect.” (Qur’an 10:24) 

‘Uthman’s view of Paradise was derived from the verses which describe it, and this concept became a deterrent which prevented him from going astray from the laws of Allah. Anyone who studies the life of ‘Uthman will see how clear the idea of meeting Allah was in his mind, and how greatly he feared the wrath and punishment of Allah.

His concept of the Divine will and decree was derived from the Book of Allah and the teachings of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. This concept was firmly entrenched in his heart, and he understood its different categories as mentioned in the Book of Allah. He was certain that the knowledge of Allah encompasses all things: 

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِى شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُوا۟ مِنْهُ مِن قُرْءَانٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَن رَّبِّكَ مِن مِّثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِى ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَلَآ أَصْغَرَ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَآ أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِى كِتَـٰبٍ مُّبِينٍ (٦١)

“Neither you (O Muhammad) do any deed nor recite any portion of the Qur’an, nor you (O mankind) do any deed (good or evil), but We are Witness thereof, when you are doing it. And nothing is hidden from your Lord (so much as) the weight of an atom (or small ant) on the earth or in the heaven. Not what is less than that or what is greater than that but is (written) in a Clear Record.” (Qur’an 10:61) 

And he was certain that Allah has decreed everything that is to be:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْىِ ٱلْمَوْتَىٰ وَنَكْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوا۟ وَءَاثَـٰرَهُمْ ۚ وَكُلَّ شَىْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَـٰهُ فِىٓ إِمَامٍ مُّبِينٍ (١٢)

“Verily, We give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before (them), and their traces[14] and all things We have recorded with numbers (as a record) in a Clear Book.” (Qur’an 36:12)

The will of Allah is ever executed and His power is absolute: 

أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا۟ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَـٰقِبَةُ ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَكَانُوٓا۟ أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً ۚ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُعْجِزَهُۥ مِن شَىْءٍ فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَلَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ عَلِيمًا قَدِيرًا (٤٤)

“Have they not travelled in the land, and seen what was the end of those before them – though they were superior to them in power? Allah is not such that anything in the heavens or in the earth escapes Him. Verily, He is All-Knowing, All-Omnipotent.” (Qur’an 35:44) 

And Allah is the Creator of all things:

ذَٰلِكُمُ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ خَـٰلِقُ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ فَٱعْبُدُوهُ ۚ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ وَكِيلٌ (١٠٢)

“Such is Allah, your Lord! La Ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Creator of all things. So worship Him (Alone), and He is the Wakeel (Trustee, Disposer of affairs or Guardian) over all things.” (Qur’an 6:102) 

This correct understanding and deep conviction of the reality of the Divine will and decree bore many fruits which were apparent in his life, as we shall in this book. From the Holy Qur’an he understood the reality of his own self and of all men. He knew that man’s essence went back to two origins: his ancient origin when he was first created from clay, when he was formed and the soul was breathed into him, and his recent origin when he was created from a drop of sperm. Allah says: 

ٱلَّذِىٓ أَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ خَلَقَهُۥ ۖ وَبَدَأَ خَلْقَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنِ مِن طِينٍ (٧) ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسْلَهُۥ مِن سُلَـٰلَةٍ مِّن مَّآءٍ مَّهِينٍ (٨) ثُمَّ سَوَّىٰهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِۦ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلسَّمْعَ وَٱلْأَبْصَـٰرَ وَٱلْأَفْـِٔدَةَ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ (٩)

“Who made everything He has created good and He began the creation of man from clay. Then He made his offspring from semen of despised water (male and female sexual discharge). Then He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him the soul (created by Allah for that person); and He gave you hearing (ears), sight (eyes) and hearts. Little is the thanks you give!” (Qur’an 32:7-9) 

He understood that Allah had created man with His own hand, and honoured him with a beautiful form and an upright posture. He had blessed him with wisdom, logic and discernment, and subjugated to him all that is in the heavens and on earth. Allah favoured man over much of His creation, and honoured him by sending the Messengers to him. The most wondrous manifestation of this divine honour towards man was that He made man qualified to receive His love and good pleasure, which could be attained by following the Prophet ﷺ who called man to Islam so that they might live a good life in this world and attain eternal bliss in the Hereafter. Allah says: 

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَـٰلِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُۥ حَيَوٰةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ (٩٧)

“Whoever works righteousness – whether male or female – while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter).” (Qur’an 16:97) 

From the Qur’an, ‘Uthman understood the true nature of the struggle between man and the Shaytan. He knew that this enemy comes to man from before and behind, from his right and from his left, and whispers to him, tempting him to commit sin, and stirring up his desires. He used to seek the help of Allah against his enemy Iblees and he prevailed over him throughout his life.

He learned from the story of Adam with the Shaytan, as mentioned in the Qur’an, that Adam was the origin of mankind, and that the essence of Islam is absolute obedience to Allah, and that man is vulnerable to falling into sin. From the story of Adam’s sin he learned the necessity of putting one’s trust in Allah, the importance of repentance and praying for forgiveness in the life of the believer, the necessity of keeping away from envy and arrogance, and the importance of speaking in the best manner to one’s companions, because Allah says: 

وَقُل لِّعِبَادِى يَقُولُوا۟ ٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنَ يَنزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنَ كَانَ لِلْإِنسَـٰنِ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا (٥٣)

“And say to My slaves (i.e. the true believers of Islamic Monotheism) that they should (only) say those words that are the best. (Because) Shaytan (Satan) verily, sows a state of conflict and disagreements among them. Surely, Shaytan (Satan) is to man a plain enemy.” (Qur’an 17:53)

The Lord, may He be glorified and exalted, honoured ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan with Islam, and he lived by it and strove to spread its message. He learned its major and minor issues from the Book of Allah and the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ, and he became one of the leaders of Islam who guided the people and whose words and deeds were taken as an example in this life. We should not forget that ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan was one of the scribes who wrote down the Revelation for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.

[The Biography of Uthman Ibn Affan (RA) by Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, p.27-35]


[1] An-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah by al-Sallabi, 1/145
[2] al-Fatawa, 13/177
[3] al-Bukhari, Fada’il al-Qur’an, no.5027
[4] Tareekh al-Islam, ‘Ahd al-Khulafa’ al-Rashideen by al-Dhahabi, p.467
[5] al-Fatawa, 11/122; al-Bidayah wa’n-Nihayah, 7/225
[6] al-Bidayah wa’n-Nihayah, 7/225; Fara’id al-Kalam, p.275
[7] Irshad al-‘Ibad li Isti’dad li Yaw mil-Ma’ad, p.88
[8] op.cit., p.90; Fara’id al-Kalam, p.278
[9] Irshad al-‘Ibad, p.91; Fara’id al-Kalam, p.278
[10] al-Bayan wa’l-Tabyan fi Maqtal al-Shaheed ‘Uthman, 3/177; Fara’id al-Kalam, p.273
[11] al-Bidayah wa’n-Nihayah, 7/255
[12] al-Khilafah al-Rashidah wa’l-Dawlah al-Umawiyyah, p.397
[13] Manhaj ar-Rasool fi Gharas ar-Rooh al-Jihadiyyah, p.10-16
[14] Traces: Their footsteps and walking on the earth with their legs to the mosques for the five compulsory congregational prayers, Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) and all other good and evil they did, and that which they leave behind. 

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