Islamic history: Uthman ibn Affan Pt. 1- charges against the caliph

i'm reading The History of al-Tabari. Vol. 15, translated by R. Stephen Humphreys.

My aim is to deconstruct what happened during Uthman's reign that led to his killing, the lasting polarization of the community, and above all take away the romanticized picture i have of figures, events, and social norms in our Islamic history and give it a touch of reality.

So there's been alot of controversy over the governors Uthman appointed and the ones he had removed. (this is something i guess i already knew) But Uthman appointed men who were close in relation to him, rather than skill, or closeness to Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Mu'awiyah, the governor of the Syrian provinces, son of Abu Sufyan the chief of the Quraysh opposition against Muhammad, was quite outspoken in his legitimacy to rule by virtue of his lineage. This many people took issue with, and asked him to step down, and he inturn rejected the motion, informing Uthman about it.

Just to keep in mind, Mu'awiyah was the man who led the overall mission that conquered Cyprus and made inroads towards Constantinople.

so i'll jump into where Ali b. abi talib comes in and confronts Uthman about the rumbling going on with the people: purple is primary reading, green is me

the people assembled and spoke to 'Ali b. Abi Talib, and he entered "uthman's presence and said, "The people stand behind me, and they have spoken to me about you... Know, 'uthman, that the best of God's servants in His eyes is a just imam, one who has been guided aright and who himself gives right guidance, for he upholds accepted prescriptions and destroys rejected innovations. By God, everything is clear...the worst of men in God's sight is a tyrannical imam, one who has gone astray himself and by whom others are led astray, for he destroys an accepted prescription and revives a rejected innovation...I tell you to beware lest you be the murdered imam of this Community. Indeed it is said that an imam will be killed in this Community, and that bloody strife will be loosed upon it until the Day of Resurrection, and its affairs will become hopelessly entangled."

I paraphrased and cut out about 50% of the dialogue, but it is clear that Ali confronts Uthman and accuses him of being a corrupt ruler. He warns him that, a corrupt ruler, will only face the punishment of God, and the community, may resolve to rebel and murder him. This will essentially break up the Muslim state. He's exhorting him to fix whatever's he's done.

Note that Ali makes no mention of what the charges against Uthman are, and Uthman himself identifies the charges levied against him in his response below.

Then 'Uthman replied, "By God, I knew that people would be saying what you have said. But by God, if you were in my place i would not have berated you nor left you in the lurch nor shamed you nor behaved foully. If i have favored kinsmen, filled a need, sheltered an impoverished wretch, and appointed as governors men like those whom Umar used to appoint, then what have i done wrong?

Ali said, "I will tell you that everyone appointed by 'Umar b. Al-Khattab (caliph before Uthman) was kept under close scrutiny by him. If 'umar heard a single word concerning him he would flog him, then punish him with utmost severity. But you do not do that. You ahave been weak and easygoing with your relatives." "They are your relatives as well," answered uthman. Ali said, "by my life, they are closely related to me indeed, but merit is found in others." Uthman said, "Do you know that 'umar kept Mu'awiyah in office throughout his entire caliphate, and i have only done the same." Ali answered, "i adjure you by God, do you know that Mu'awiyah was more afraid of "umar than was "umar's own slave Yarfa?" "Yes," said Uthman. Ali went on, "In fact Mu'awiyah makes decisions on issues without consulting you, and you know it. Thus, he says to the people. "This is Uthman's command." You hear of this, but do not censure him. Then Ali left him, and Uthman went out on his heels.

Note Uthman, defends his own actions, at first showing himself as continuing the practices of his predecessor to the Islamic state, Umar ibn Khattab. Ali brings him back to reality, so to speak, and contrasts Umar's impartial and harsh way of keeping his governors in check with Uthman's laxness and leniency towards his kinsfolk. The following is Uthman addressing the crowd from his pulpit.

By God, you have surely blamed me for things like those which you accepted from Ibn al-Khattab. But he trampled you underfoot, smote you with his hand, and subdued you by his tongue, and so you submitted to him whether you like it or not. I have been lenient with you. I let you tread on my shoulders while I restrained my hand and tongue, and therefore you have been insolent toward me. By God, I am stronger than he in kinsmen, I have allies closer at hand, I possess more supporters... Nay but which of your rights are you deprived of? by God, I have achieved no less than did my predecessors or those about whose standing in the Community you have not disagreed. There is a surplus of wealth, so why should i not do as i wish with the surplus? Why otherwise did i become Imam?

Now, to the crowd, Uthman contrasts himself with Umar, citing that he is much more lenient to his governors than Umar ever was. He cites the strength of his lineage (he and the Prophet have a common link Abd Al-Shams in their ancestry, as does Mu'awiyah and his father Abu Sufyan). he invokes the strength and support of his lineage as his right to rule, and by account of it all, is telling his subjects not to question his authority and the nature of his rule, since he has not cheated them of their rights.

I will stop here, and continue in piecemeal until i finish this book.

Full citation: Humphreys, R. Stephen. The History of al-Tabari Volume XV The Crisis of the Early Caliphate. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.