The third caliph, or leader of Islam, according to the tradition of Sunni Islam. Uthman followed Abu Bakr and Omar as successors to the Prophet Muhammad. A member of the Ummayad clan, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Mecca, Uthman became a follower of Muhammad in about 620. His presence helped to give added status and respectability to Muhammad’s fledgling religion, and he went on to marry one of the Prophet’s daughters. Uthman was a compromise selection as caliph. His opponents represented diverging viewpoints about the future course of Islam, and Uthman’s membership in the Umayyad clan gave him the support he needed to marginalize them. Following his election in 644, Uthman helped to strengthen early Islam’s institutional elements: he helped to confirm an official version of the Qur’an and created a centralized administrative system. He also continued the pattern of military conquests begun by his predecessors. When too much of the new Islamic empire’s revenue began to be diverted into the hands of Uthman’s family members, however, new conflicts arose, especially within the army. He had also offended some religious thinkers; ironically, his official Qur’an placed control of religious thought in the hands of the centralized administration rather than with the so-called Qur’an reciters who had exercised it previously. Those oppposed to Uthman coalesced around Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and sonin-law. Uthman was killed by a group of rebels in 655.
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