Uthman b. Hunayf

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Uthman b. Hunayf
Personal Information
Full NameʿUthmān b. Ḥunayf al-Awsī al-Anṣārī
TeknonymAbu 'Abd Allah
Well-Known RelativesSahl b. Hunayf (brother)
Place(s) of ResidenceMedina, Basra,
Death/Martyrdomin the era of Mu'awiya
Burial PlaceMedina
Religious Information
Presence at ghazwasUhud and the following battles

ʿUthmān b. Ḥunayf al-Awsī al-Anṣārī (Arabic: عثمان بن حُنیف الأوسي الأنصاري) was one of the companions of the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a). During the Caliphate of 'Umar, he was responsible for tax of Iraq and measuring its lands (for paying tax).

He was the governor of Basra from the beginning of Imam Ali's reign until a while before the Battle of Jamal. When warmongers of Jamal entered Basra, 'Uthman fought them and after a serious conflict he contracted with them not to do anything before the arrival of Imam 'Ali. However, al-Zubayr and his soldiers violated the contract and attacked 'Uthman and his associates at night, killed a lot of them, captured 'Uthman and tortured him. After that they freed him, he went to Imam 'Ali's campsite.

Lineage, Teknonym, Demise

His full name was 'Uthman b. Hunayf b. Wahib al-Awsi al-Ansari[1] and his teknonym was Abu 'Abd Allah.[2] His mother was Umm Sahl bt. Rafi' b. Qays b. Mu'awiya b. Umayya b. Zayd b. Malik b. 'Awf. Sahl b. Hunayf and 'Ibad b. Hunayf were his brothers. 'Uthman was paternal uncle of Abu Amama b. Sahl b. Hunayf.[3] He passed away after Imam 'Ali's martyrdom, during Mu'awiya's reign, in Kufa.[4] However, Ibn Hibban said that he passed away during Mu'awiya's reign in Medina.[5]

During the Prophet's Life

'Uthman participated in the Battle of Uhud and the following battles. He narrated a hadith from the Prophet (s).[6]

During the Reign of the Three Caliphs

It has been narrated from Fadl b. Shadhan that 'Uthman and his brother, Sahl, were among the first people who returned to Imam 'Ali (a) after the events which took place after the Prophet's demise.[7]

During the Caliphate of 'Umar, he was responsible for tax of Iraq and measuring its lands (for paying tax), and taking Jizya[8] (a sum of money that the believers to other religions must pay the Islamic government if they want to live under the protection of the Islamic government).

During Imam 'Ali's Reign

In 36/656-7, on the beginning of the Caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a), 'Uthman was appointed as the governor of Basra. During his governorship, he participated in a party held by one of the wealthy people of Basra. Imam rebuked him for this action in a letter, which has been narrated in Nahj al-balagha.[9]

'Uthman and his brother, Sahl, were members in Shurtat al-Khamis.[10]

Nakithun Near Basra

The battle of Jamal took place when 'Uthman b. Hunayf was the governor of Basra. As Nakithun (pledge-breakers) reached the outskirts of Basra, they sent a letter (written by Talha) to 'Uthman b. Hunayf ordering him to vacant Dar al-Imara (the government palace) for them. 'Uthman b. Hunayf consulted Ahnaf b. Qays about the letter. Ahnaf said, "They brought Aisha (pretending) to avenge 'Uthman b. 'Affan's (third Caliph) murder, while in fact they are the ones who mobilized people against 'Uthman and shed his blood. As I see, they will not leave us until they create animosity among us and shed our blood." Ahnaf suggested, "before the people of Basra disobey you, prepare them and fight them."[11]

'Uthman b. Hunayf accepted his opinion but said, "I do not like the evil and starting the war. I hope to receive Imam 'Ali's letter and act according to it." After this conversation, Hakim b. Jabla al-'Abdi came and 'Uthman b. Hunayf read the letter (sent from Nakithun) to him. He said the same words of Ahnaf b. Qays and 'Uthman replied him the same.[12]

Imam 'Ali's Letter

Afterward, 'Uthman b. Hunayf received Imam 'Ali's letter from Rabadha. In the letter, considering that Talha and Zubayr had broken their allegiance, 'Uthman was asked to call them to obedience of God and loyalty to their allegiance. If they accepted this, he must treat them nicely, but if they refused and insisted on schism and breaking their allegiance, he was told to fight them.[13]

When 'Uthman read the letter, he sent Abu l-Aswad al-Du'ali and 'Imran b. Husayn al-Khuza'i to talk with Aisha, Talha and al-Zubayr. But when the talks were of no avail, 'Uthman ordered his army to be ready.[14]

Conflict, Peace Treaty and Violation of it

After negotiations between the two sides, a severe fight took place which ended in signing a peace treaty that prohibits fighting before Imam 'Ali's arrival. Thus, 'Uthman b. Hunayf returned to Dar al-Imara (governing palace) and ordered his army to put down their weapons and treat their injuries.[15]

But, Talha and al-Zubayr violated the peace treaty and by talking to some tribes of Basra formed alliance with them. One night they entered the masque, in which the Imam al-Jama'a was 'Uthman b. Hunayf, and prevented him to lead congregational prayer. The companions of al-Zubayr overcame the people who wanted to support and defend 'Uthman. So, Nakithun took 'Uthman, beat him and plucked out all the hairs of his head, eyebrows, eyelids, beard and mustache and took her along with 70 of his companions to Aisha. Aisha said to Aban b. 'Uthman b. 'Affan (son of the third Caliph), "Go to him ('Uthman b. Hunayf) and cut his head; because they killed your father's supporters and assisted [people] on his murder."

'Uthman b. Hunayf said, "O Aisha, Talha and al-Zubayr! My brother, Sahl, is the governor of Medina appointed by Imam 'Ali. I swear to God, if you kill me, he will unsheathe his sword on your families and will not leave any of them [alive]." Being afraid from their families security, they desisted from killing 'Uthman.[16] Al-Rawandi has reported that it was 'Uthman's wife who threatened them.[17]

Killing 'Uthman b. Hunayf's Companions

When Aisha told al-Zubayr to kill 70 people from Sayabaja (name of a tribe that most of its people fought beside 'Uthman b. Hunayf), al-Zubayr and his son 'Abd Allah beheaded them. Another group from Sayabaja who were guards of treasury of Basra, said, "We will not give you bayt al-mal until Imam 'Ali (a) arrives. But al-Zubayr attacked them at night and captured 50 of them, and then killed them. According to Abu Mikhnaf's report, 400 people from Sayabaja were killed on that day.[18]

Joining Imam Ali's Campsite

When 'Uthman b. Hunayf was released, he left Basra and when he reached Amir al-Mu'minin (a) and saw him, cried and said, "I left you as a graybeard and returned [to you] beardless." Imam 'Ali (a) recited this verse of the Qur'an three times,[19] "Indeed we belong to Allah and to him do we indeed return."[20]


  1. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 142.
  2. Khaṭīb Baghdādī, Tārīkh-i Baghdād, vol. 1, p. 191.
  3. Ibn Ḥabbān, Mashāhīr ʿulamā al-amṣār, p. 49.
  4. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 142.
  5. Ibn Ḥabbān, Mashāhīr ʿulamā al-amṣār, p. 49.
  6. Khaṭīb Baghdādī, Tārīkh-i Baghdād, vol. 1, p. 191.
  7. Ṭūsī, Ikhtiyār maʿrifat al-rijāl, vol. 1, p. 177-183.
  8. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 139.
  9. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 139.
  10. Barqī, Kitāb al-Rijāl, p. 4.
  11. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 139-140.
  12. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 140.
  13. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 140.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 140.
  15. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 141.
  16. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 141; Quṭb al-Rāwandī, Minhāj al-barāʿa, vol. 2, p. 158.
  17. Quṭb al-Rāwandī, Minhāj al-barāʿa, vol. 2, p. 158.
  18. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 141-142.
  19. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 142.
  20. Quran 2:156


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