Spread of Unrest in the Muslim World,
Death of Uthman in a Revolt 656CE
Caliph Uthman رضي الله عنه was nearly eighty years old, his capacity to cope with the complex problems of the empire was decreasing and he had become impervious to helpful counsel.
He had delegated considerable authority of his office (especially relating to the public treasury) to his controversial secretary and cousin, Marwan ibn Hakam, who, many years later, was to become a Caliph [684-5] of the Umayyad dynasty. The general body of the Arabs, always impatient of control had been successfully kept under discipline with tact and firmness by the first two Caliphs. But they now began to chafe and sow the seeds of sedition in distant parts of the empire. Coupled with this was the increase in general malaise. Opposition to Uthman's rule became widespread, particularly in Iraq and Egypt. The local mutineers in Kufa, Basra and Fustat were openly defying the central government.
However, there was no trouble in Syria, which was well managed by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan رضي الله عنهما. He was concerned with the Caliph's safety and advised him to move to Damascus, putting himself under the protection of the loyal Syrian army. But Uthman رضي الله عنه refused and also dismissed any suggestion of his abdication, insisting that the Caliphate had been bestowed upon him by God.
Although the Muslim Caliph was by now the ruler of a vast empire, he still lived a very simple life with no personal protection and was easily accessible to his subjects. Even after the murder of Umar (by a non-Muslim slave), it had not been felt necessary to appoint bodyguards for the Caliph's protection. No one ever thought of insurrection at home, so there were no soldiers in Madinah or Makkah.
The army was kept in the provinces and on the frontiers of the empire. But the Caliph's life was now thought to be in so much danger that a few local young men were posted at Uthman's house to give him protection. But this measure was nowhere near enough to cope with a band of insurgents led by Muhammad the son of the first Caliph, Abu Bakrرضي الله عنه, who marched on Madinah from Egypt. The other leader of the rebellion was Malik al-Ashtar, an experienced soldier. The helpless old Caliph was besieged in his own house and was thus murdered on 17 June, while reading the Qur`aan, which was spread over his lap.
For the first time, Muslim blood was spilt by Muslims in the second holiest city and it turned out not to be the last. What followed was a period of schism and civil war.
The period between the uprising against Uthman رضي الله عنه and the death of Caliph Ali رضي الله عنه is usually referred to as the First Civil War in Islamic history, during which time Islam was divided into rival and feuding sects. For this reason, the historical records are quite confusing and contradictory, each depending on the doctrinal disposition of the historian and the time it was written.