Uthman ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib [ra]

Ali ibn Abi Talib had a son named Uthman ibn Ali. He was a virtuous son who was a matyr on the day of Ashura in Kerbala at the young age of 21. The question that arises is – why did Ali ibn Abi Talib name his son Uthman ? Some, particularly those who revere Uthman ibn Affan as the third best man in Arabia after the prophet [saw] conclude that the son of Ali was definitely named after the third caliph.

However,  one much refrain from making such a hasty conclusion lacking in any reliable evidence. It could be theoretically possible for Ali ibn Abi Talib to name his son after the caliph [and if this occurred, there are compelling reasons as to why], but for anyone to claim it is a certainty do so on speculation. 

To begin with,  there were several notable Uthmans who were not only very close to Ali ibn Abi Talib, but famous companions of the Prophet [saw]. In the book ‘al-Isaba fi tamyiz al-Sahaba’ by Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, widely claimed to be one of the most comprehensive dictionaries listing the names of the Sahaba [companions] of the Prophet [saw] there are approximately 26 companions listed with the name ‘Uthman’.  This signifies it was a very common name for Arabs to choose. On one hand, not only are there many named Uthman of which a number were prominent and also close to Ali ibn Abi Talib, it may have been that the name was chosen without a personality in mind – because in that socio-cultural context it was not dissimilar to picking ‘George’ or ‘Harry in England today. 


Table of contents:

Part one:  A thought experiment

Part two:  The argument from commonality 

Part three: The two renowned Uthmans

Part four: Uthman ibn Madh’un

Part four [b]: The lofty status of Uthman ibn Madh’un in Shia sources

Part five: Uthman ibn Hunayf

Part six: The fabricated tradition in Asakir 

Part seven: The real position of Ali ibn Abi Talib on Uthman ibn Affan



Part one:  A thought experiment


Unfortunately, as time advanced only one Uthman became famous and prominent. If you for a moment imagine the names  Zen, Odd, and Tem. For sake of this thought experiment, imagine they were common names in your geographical and cultural reality. If you have two close friends named Zen, but there is another Zen you know who gains political power later in your life. One of the Zens was a close companion of yours, fought with you, and died fighting for you. You then choose to name a son after that Zen.  A thousand years later, the Zen who had political power is the only one on peoples minds, such when someones says Zen he is almost exclusively the one thought off. Suppose then the books of history are consulted and it is observed your son was named Zen. Would it be wise for people to automatically assume you had named it after the Zen who with history became exclusively remembered for this name? Or would it be wiser for those to ponder over your mindset at the time, when Zen was a common name not attached to anyone person, and that you could have had a close relationship with other Zens whom you named your son after? Or that it was just a common name you chose?


Part two: The argument from commonality 


Given that there were 26 companions recorded by the name Uthman, as discussed before, it clearly indicates this was a rather common name. We can not base the fact that the name today is exclusively linked to one personality and ignore the culture of the time and how this name was looked at then. As the thought experiment prior to this demonstrates, an Arab named their child Uthman in 7th Century Arabia when the name was common without the strong link to Uthman ibn Affan. Children were named Uthman before he become caliph, after him, during the time he was the caliph because it was culturally a common name. Similarly,  George was a name given to children irrespective if George Bush was president because it was a common name. An argument could be made that a famous personality could increase the frequency of a name in the population, but even this would not necessarily be in honour of a personality.

Thus, before one speculates over who Ali ibn Abi Talib could have named his son Uthman in honour of, we can not neglect that it was a common name and one chosen by Ali ibn Abi Talib and his wife owing to their cultural and historical  context.


Part three: The two renowned Uthmans


When looking at possible Uthmans Ali ibn Abi Talib named his son after,  two can not be ignored by any means, for they are among the notable companions of both Muhammed [saw] and Ali ibn Abi Talib. These are namely Uthman ibn Madh’un and Uthman ibn Hunayf, who were some of the most noble of the companions of Muhammed [saw] as well as those close to Ali ibn Abi Talib. They hold a high standing in Shia thought.


Part four: Uthman ibn Madh’un


The first is Uthman ibn Madh’un who was among the earliest converts to the religion of Islam, with historical sources stating he was the 14th muslims to embrace the religion. He had a high degree of piety, and was loved and adored by the prophet of God, as well as being his foster brother. He was present in the Migration to Abysyyinia, and was one of the 313 who fought in the battle of Badr. In the end, he was buried by the Prophet[saw] next to his children:  Ibrahim, Ruqayya, and Zaynab being the first Muhajir to die in Medina.


وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ أَبِي النَّضْرِ، مَوْلَى عُمَرَ بْنِ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ أَنَّهُ قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَمَّا مَاتَ عُثْمَانُ بْنُ مَظْعُونٍ وَمُرَّ بِجَنَازَتِهِ :  ” ذَهَبْتَ وَلَمْ تَلَبَّسْ مِنْهَا بِشَىْءٍ 

Yahya related to me from Malik that Abu’n Nadr, the mawla of Umar ibn Ubaydullah, said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, when Uthman ibn Madhun’s funeral procession passed by him, “You have gone and you were not involved in any of it.”


Reference: Muwatta of Imam Malik


Furthermore, according to a historical source by a scholar of Zaidi origin, Ali ibn Abi Talib named his son after Uthman ibn Madh’un. It is important to note, Zaidi’s are less anti-partisan towards the caliphs and consider them legitimate and thus have little vested interest to fabricate against the caliphs. 

The Zaidi scholar whose work will be consulted is named Abu Al Faraj. He was born roughly around 286 AH authoring the famous Maqatil al-talibiyyin, which is a book about the matyrs in the Alid line. The book was finished by 313 AH.  We find here it is mentioned, of a tradition from Uthman ibn Ali [ra], from his father Ali ibn Abi Talib [as] in which Ali ibn Abi Talib [as] states that he named his son Uthman, after his brother and famous and renowned companion, Uthman ibn Madh’un [Radiyallahu anhu].


وعثمان بن علي بن أبي طالب ” ع “) * وأمه أم البنين أيضا.

قال يحيى بن الحسن عن علي بن إبراهيم عن عبيد الله بن الحسن وعبد الله ابن العباس، قالا. قتل عثمان بن علي وهو ابن إحدى وعشرين سنة. وقال الضحاك المشرفي في الاسناد الأول الذي ذكرناه آنفا. إن خولي بن يزيد رمى عثمان بن علي بسهم فأوهطه وشد عليه رجل من بني أبان بن دارم فقتله وأخذ رأسه.

وعثمان بن علي الذي روى عن علي أنه قال. إنما سميته باسم أخي عثمان ابن مظعون.


Reference:  Maqatil al-talibiyyin [Abu Al Faraj , Zaydi]


The sources of this book are particularly important, because Abu l-Faraj uses valuable sources which are not otherwise available for us. The most widely-used source by Abu l-Faraj is a book on the account of the uprising of Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hasan, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, and his brother Ibrahim, written by Ibn Shubbah entitled Kitab Muhammad wa Ibrahim ibnay ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hasan (“The Book on Muhammad and Ibrahim the Two Sons of ‘Abd Allah b. al-Hasan”). Among other sources used by Abu l-Faraj with regard to the uprising of the ‘Alids at the time of Mansur is the works of Zubayr b. Bakkar, Ibn Abi Khaythama, al-Waqidi, and Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. Hamza al-‘Alawi.  Furthermore,Abu Al Faraj would consult sources he deemed reliable even if he omitted chains for sake of brevity Also worthy of note, Abu Al Faraj was born 286AH with access to earlier books and sources. This will be important when contrasting the above to another claim of who Ali ibn Abi Talib named his son after.


Part four [b]:The lofty status of Uthman ibn Madh’un in Shia sources


قال أمير المؤمنين عليّ بن أبي طالب عليه السّلام: كان لي فيما مضى أخ في الله، وكان يُعظمه في عيني صِغرُ الدنيا في عينه، وكان خارجاً من سلطان بطنه، فلا يشتهي ما لا يجد، ولا يكثر إذا وجد، وكان أكثر دهره صامتاً، فإن قال بدّ القائلين ونقع غليل السائلين، وكان ضعيفاً مستضعفاً، فإن جاءَ الجِدّ فهو ليثُ غابٍ وصِلُّ وادٍ، لا يدلي بحجّة حتّى يأتي قاضياً، وكان لا يلومُ أحداً على ما يجد العذر في مثله حتّى يسمع اعتذارَه، وكان لا يشكو وجعاً إلاّ عند برئه، وكان يفعل ما يقول ولا يقول ما لا يفعل، وكان اذا غلب على الكلام لم يغلب على السكوت، وكان على ما يسمع أحرص منه على أن يتكلّم، وكان إذا بدهه أمران نظر أيّهما أقرب إلى الهوى فخالفه. فعليكم بهذه الاَخلاق فالزموها وتنافسُوا فيها، فإن لم تستطيعوها فاعلموا أنّ أخذ القليل خيرٌ من ترك الكثير

Ali ibn Abi Talib said said:In the past I had one I considered a brother in the way of Allah, he became prestigious in my eyes because of how lowly he considered the world to be in his eyes, the needs of the stomach did not have sway over him, he did not long for what he did not get; if he got a thing he would not ask for more; most of his time was spent in silence, but if he spoke he silenced the other speakers and quenched the thirst of questioners, he was weak and considered weak, but at the time of seriousness he was like the lion of the forest or the serpent of the valley, he would not put forth an argument unless it was decisive.

He would not reproach anyone in an excusable matter unless he had heard the excuse, he would not speak of any ailment except after its disappearance, he would do what he says, and would not say what he would not do, even if he could be excelled in speaking, he could not be excelled in silence; he was more eager to listen than to speak, if two things confronted him he would see which was more akin to the longing of the heart and would then oppose it [do the other].

Betake yourself to these and implement them and try to compete with each other in them. even if you cannot do it fully then know that acquiring a part is better than giving up the whole.”


Reference: Ali ibn Abi Talb – Nahjul Balagha [ It is believed the above is attributed to Uthman ibn Madh’un]


محمد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن الحسين بن سعيد، عن فضالة بن أيوب عن إسماعيل بن أبي زياد، عن أبي عبدالله عليه السلام قال: إن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله قبل عثمان ابن مظعون بعد موته 

The messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه kissed Uthman b. Madh`un after his death.

Reference:  Al Kafi


أخبرنا عبد الله بن محمد قال أخبرنا محمد بن محمد قال حدثني موسى بن إسماعيل قال حدثنا أبي عن أبيه عن جده جعفر بن محمد عن أبيه عن جده علي بن الحسين عن أبيه عن علي بن أبي طالب عليهم السلام قال لما مات عثمان بن مظعون قبله رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله فلما دفنه رش على تراب القبر الماء رشا و بسط على قبره ثوبا و كان أول من بسط عليه ثوبا يومئذ و سوى عليه تراب القبر ثم قال ص علي بحجر فقيل يا رسول الله و ما تصنع به قال أعلم به قبره حتى أدفن إليه قرابتي فوضع الحجر عند رأس القبر

Ali b. Abi Talib عليه السلام said: when Uthman b. Madh`un died, the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله kissed him, and when he had buried him he sprinkled water on top of the soil of the grave and stretched out a piece of cloth over the grave. He [Uthman] was the first person over whose grave the prophet stretched out a cloth. The prophet went on to level the soil of the grave, then he called for a stone, it was said: O messenger of Allah – what will you do with it? he said: I will mark his grave by it so that I can bury my relations near him, then he placed the stone near the head of the grave.

Reference:  Al Kashi [Rijal]


عدة من أصحابنا، عن سهل بن زياد، عن جعفر بن محمد، عن ابن القداح عن أبي عبدالله عليه السلام قال: … فلما مات إبراهيم ابن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله هملت عين رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله بالدموع ثم قال النبي صلى الله عليه وآله: تدمع العين ويحزن القلب ولا نقول ما يسخط الرب وإنا بك ياإبراهيم لمحزونون ثم رأى النبي صلى الله عليه وآله في قبره خللا فسواه بيده ثم قال: إذا عمل أحدكم عملا فليتقن، ثم قال: الحق بسلفك الصالح عثمان بن مظعون

 Aba Abdillah عليه السلام said: … when Ibrahim the son of the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله died the eyes of the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وآله overflowed with tears and he said: the eyes tear-up and the heart grieves but we do not say that which may anger our Lord, we sure are saddened because of you O Ibrahim. Then the prophet صلى الله عليه وآله saw a disparity in his grave so he levelled it out with his hand and said: when one of you does any work then he should do it well, then he said: meet up with you righteous ancestor Uthman b. Madh`un …

Reference:  Al Kashi [Rijal]


Part five: Uthman ibn Hunayf


The second of the Uthmans is Uthman Ibn Hunayf, who was not only a close companion of the Prophet [saw] but lived with Ali ibn Abi Talib [as] for a considerable amount of time , being a fierce and loyal follower. He was not a random individual named Uthman Ali ibn Abi Talib would have met, but among his most ardent of companions. 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. From the battle of Uhud , he was present in the battles of Islam as well as fighting on the side of Ali ibn Abi Talib. 

Thus, given that Uthman Ibn Hunayf  – it can be argued- was close if not closer to Ali ibn Abi Talib than Uthman ibn Affan, it is not a serious possibility that he named his son after Uthman ibn Hunayf?


Part six: The fabricated tradition in Asakir 


One tradition often used to prove Ali ibn Abi Talib named his son after Uthman ibn Affan is the following one in Ibn ‘Asakir:

أخبرنا أبو عبد الله محمد بن إبراهيم النشابي أنا أبو الفضل أحمد بن عبد المنعم بن أحمد بن بندار أنا أبو الحسن العتيقي أنا أبو الحسن الدارقطني نا أبو بكر الشافعي نا عبد الله بن ناجية نا عباد بن أحمد العرزمي نا عمي عن أبيه عن عمرو بن قيس عن عطية عن أبي سعيد قال مررت بغلام له ذؤابة وجمة إلى جنب علي بن أبي طالب فقلت ما هذا الصبي إلى جانبك قال هذا عثمان بن علي سميته بعثمان بن عفان وقد سميته بعمر بن الخطاب وسميت بعباس عم النبي ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) وسميت بخير البرية محمد ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) فأما حسن وحسين ومحسن فإنما سماهم رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) وعق عنهم وحلق رؤوسهم وتصدق بوزنها وأمر بهم فسروا وختنوا

[We were told by abu `Abdullah Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Nashabi: abu al-Fadl Ahmad bin `Abdul-Mun`im bin Ahmad bin Bindar told us, abu al-Hasan al-`Atiqi told us, abu al-Hasan al-Daraqutni told us, abu Bakr al-Shafi`i told us, `Abdullah ibn Najiyah told us, `Abbad bin Ahmad al-`Arzami told us: My uncle told me, from his father, from `Amro bin Qays, from `Atiyyah, from abu Sa`eed: I passed by a young boy with bangs sitting next to `Ali ibn abi Talib, so I said: “Who is the boy next to you?” He answered: “This is `Uthman bin `Ali, I called him after `Uthman bin `Affan, and I called(others) after `Umar bin al-Khattab, and I called after al-`Abbas the uncle of Rasul-Allah (saw), and I called after the best of creation Muhammad (saw). As for al-Hasan and al-Husayn and Muhassin, it was the messenger of Allah (saw) who named them and did `Aqiqah for them and shaved their heads etc…]


Clearly, by both shia and sunni standards, the chain of narrators contained above and also the chain that is a duplicate for the latter half in Zaidi sources is extremely weak [Dhai’f Jiddan] to the extent it could also equally be classed as Mawdu [Fabricated]. Using the above as proof against the Shia or even as proof for the Sunnis is unacademic if one knows the reality of the reliability of the above. 

To begin with,  Ibn Asakir was born approximately 500AH.  That is an incredibly long time in the future to be narrating a hadith from.  if you contrast this to the Zaidi historian  Abu Al Farajquoted previously who was born on 286AH, thus being a much earlier source. With time, polemics crystalize and the chance of fabrications increase. additionally, books and earlier sources available to Abu Al Faraj may not have been available three hundred years later during the time of Ibn Asakir.

The length of the chain above is approximately 11 individuals.  making it a very long chain, which is not surprising given the very late date this hadith is being recorded.  Ahadith which have chains this long are very unfavourable, as the chance of distortion of the words, interpolation and fabrication are significantly higher. There are a number of individuals who are considered very weak or fabricators contained in this chain,  as well as those who are potentially unknown ‘my uncles told me, from his father’. Furthermore, there may be a number of unknown [majhool] but named individuals in the chain.

To give an example , as per sunni sciences of hadith , Attiyah in the chain is regarded to be a fabricators whose traditions should not be written down:

Ahir al-Fattani states in Qanun al-Mowdu`at:

عطية العوفى ضعيف و موضع لا يحل كتب حديثه الا على جهة التعجب يدلس فى الكلبى بابى سعيد فيظن الخدرى

`Atiyyah al-`Aufi: A weak narrator and fabricator, whose narrations are not permissible to write except with the purpose of noting it down as something really peculiar. He would conceal the name of Muhammad ibn al-Sa’ib al-Kalbi by referring to him using the agnomen Abu Sa`id thereby deceiving people into believing that he was narrating from the companion of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri radiya Llahu `anhu

Al-Dhahabi states in al-Mizan: `Atiyyah ibn Sa`d al-`Aufi al-Kufi a famous Tabi`i who is da`if… Salim al-Muradi said: ….i. He gave his teacher the agnomen Abu Sa`id and he would narrate from him saying: “Abu Sa`id said”, thus creating the impression that he is narrating from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri. Nasa’i and a group of others have stated that he is da`if.

Furthermore, Attiyah is considered an extremist shia. Why would such a person narrate a tradition in favour of Uthman ibn Afftan? Given the fact that this tradition encompasses he naming of individuals, polemics play an enormous role in this as well as the temptation to fabricate ones own romanticised beliefs in a post-adhoc manner. It stands to test that given the late date of the writing of this hadith, the long chain, the severe weaknesses of the tradition and questionable narrator of origin , no human being seeking the truth should use this tradition after knowledge has come to them.


Part seven: The real position of Ali ibn Abi Talib on Uthman ibn Affan


If one were to argue that Ali ibn Talib named his son after Uthman ibn Affan, could there be good reasons for this ? Is there a reason that is more or equally as plausible than naming it simple out of honour and reverence?

If one studies history,  they will see that the three major battles that afflicted the Ummah and were waged against Ali ibn abi Talib were due to accusations he was sympathetic to the killers of Uthman with some even accusing him of colluding with his killers. This scapegoat was used by those who started the battle of Jamal and by M’uawyiya ibn Abi Sufiyan, who was part of the Band Ummayah tribe and the cousin of Uthman.

Ali ibn Abi Talib is narrated to have responded to accusations against him by saying :

“If I had ordered his assassination I should have been his killer, but if I had refrained others from killing him I would have been his helper. The position was that he who helped him cannot now say that he is better than the one who deserted him while he who deserted him cannot say that he is better than the one who helped him. I am putting before you his case. He appropriated (wealth) and did it badly. You protested against it and committed excess therein. With Allah lies the real verdict between the appropriator and the protester.”

Reference: (1) Al-Baladhuri, Ansab, V, 98, 101.

It is therefore a possibility – and it must be stressed this is only a speculative one- that if Ali ibn Abi Talib named his son Uthman, it was to those who were waging war on him and accusing him of killing Uthman- as a symbolic gesture that he was not guilty of any of these accusations. This would make sense given his time as Khalifah was plagued by three battles and accusation after accusation relating to Uthman.

We will leave you with these traditions which give a glimpse of the relationship Ali ibn Abi Talib had with Uthman ibn Affan:


If `Ali had spoken anything bad about `Uthman then he would have mentioned the day when some persons came to him and complained about the Zakat officials of `Uthman. `Ali then said to me, “Go to `Uthman and say to him, ‘This document contains the regulations of spending the Sadaqa of Allah’s Apostle so order your Zakat officials to act accordingly.” I took the document to `Uthman. `Uthman said, “Take it away, for we are not in need of it.” I returned to `Ali with it and informed him of that. He said, “Put it whence you took it.”

Reference: Saheeh-Bukhari 3111,  Book 57, Hadith 20 / Vol. 4, Book 53, Hadith 343 ENG

Muhammed ibn Hanafiyyah is quoted to having said that if there was ever a case where Ali ibn Abi Talib would have spoken negatively about Uthman ibn Affan, it would be when he had heard complaints about the corruption going on with how Uthman and his officials handled the public money in the form of Zakat. Ali ibn Abi Talib writes the regulations on paper which he had learned from the Messenger of Allah [saw]. Instead of taking the paper, reviewing it, and trying to establish what may be going wrong, Uthman ibn Affan immediately discards what Ali ibn Abi Talib had sent in a very callous manner. Muhammed ibn Hanafiyyah states clearly that if there was ever a time Ali ibn Abi Talib would speak ill of Uthman, it would be in this case, given the way his valuable words were discarded – which really shows what light and esteem Uthman held Ali 


I saw `Uthman and `Ali. `Uthman used to forbid people to perform Hajj-at-Tamattu` and Hajj-al- Qiran (Hajj and `Umra together), and when `Ali saw (this act of `Uthman), he assumed Ihram for Hajj and `Umra together saying, “Lubbaik for `Umra and Hajj,” and said, “I will not leave the tradition of the Prophet (ﷺ) on the saying of somebody.”

Reference: Saheeh Bukhari: 1563 ,Book 25, Hadith 49/ Vol. 2, Book 26, Hadith 634