Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Discover Islam | Al-Risala December 1987

When Uthman, the third of the rightly guided Caliphs, was nearing the end of his life, he found himself besieged in his house in Medina by a thousand-strong horde from Egypt who had descended upon Medina in a great state of wrath because of some false rumours they had heard about him. Despite their accusations being utterly without foundation they refused to allow him to leave his house, and they cut off his water supply. The siege lasted forty days, then finally, on the 18th of month of Dhil-Hijjah, 35 AH, after raising a great hue and cry, they attacked Uthman and killed him. He was then 82 years of age. During the period of siege, because he was surrounded on all sides by rioters, he was unable to visit the Prophet’s mosque for prayers. As Caliph, it was Uthman’s duty to lead the Muslims in prayer. When he was prevented from doing so, the leader of the insurrectionists, Ghafiqy ibn Harb, took over the duties of the Imam.

This placed the Muslims of Medina in a serious dilemma. On the one hand, they considered themselves duty-bound to attend prayers at the mosque, while, on the other hand, they could not overlook the fact that the person leading the prayers was himself a blatant mischief­-maker and wrong-doer. During these critical days, one of them managed to meet Uthman and asked him what was proper to do under such circumstances. The Caliph told him that they should follow the lead of this man in offering their prayers. “As long as they do good, do good along with them, but if they do evil, then you should refrain from doing evil along with them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 695)

In giving such a reply, the Caliph set us a wonderful example of how we should always keep our sense of justice while passing judgement on anyone-no matter how strong the grudges we may bear against him. Our disagreements with him should be limited to the actual subject of disagreement and should not be allowed to influence either our thinking on other matters of mutual concern, or our general opinion of the offender. The fact that we are at odds with him should not make us deviate one whit from the path of justice in our dealings with him. This is not an easy attitude to adopt, but it is one to which, out of fairness, we should give much serious thought.