Abdullah bin Mas`ud was one of those persons who embraced Islam first of all. It is said that his number was sixth on the list. He had the honour of migrating twice in the first instance to Ethiopia and then to Madina. He always remained in the company of the prophet. He was one of those whom the prophet loved and respected for their truthfulness, honesty and piety.
The Muslims of the early era considered Ibn Mas`ud to be one of the greatest scholars. It was on account of his profound knowledge that Umar sent him to Kufa to guide and educate the people of that city, although he himself needed his advice in Madina. While sending him to Kufa Umar sent a letter to the citizens of Kufa. He wrote:
"I am sending Abdullah bin Mas`ud to educate you. By sending him to Kufa I have given you preference over myself. You should acquire knoweldge from him".
Many Kufans benefited from Ibn Mas`ud. The number of his pupils increased day after day and they became renowned scholars. The famous Tabe`i (companion of the companions of the prophet) Sa`id bin Jaybar used to say:
"The pupils of Abdullah bin Mas`ud were the lamps of this city". (i.e. Kufa).
All the Muslims acknowledged Abdullah bin Mas`ud to be an erudite scholar. So much so that during the time of Umar it was he to whom the Kufans referred their religious problems and only his judgments were accepted by them.
In the matter of exegesis also he was one of the topmost authorities, and his rank was almost equal to that of Abdullah bin Abbas. He had many pupils who distinguished themselves in this branch of learning, such as Qatada and Masrooq ibn Ajda`.
In short Abdullah bin Mas`ud was the most respectable personality of his time. He was honoured in all Islamic cities more than every other companion of the prophet.
How did Uthman behave towards this distinguished companion? Ibn Mas`ud was one of those distinguished companions who openly disapproved and fearlessly criticized the policies and the modus operandi of Bani Umayyah.
On every Friday he used to say in Kufa: "The most correct word is the Book of God and the best guidance is that provided by prophet Muhammad and the worst things are innovations. Every innovation is deviation and every deviation leads one to Hell".
The above statement of lbn Mas`ud contained clear criticism of Uthman and the actions which he took for the benefit of only Bani Umayyah and the wealthy and influential persons ignoring the welfare of the common man.
He said many things criticizing Uthman, for example, he said: "In the eyes of God Uthman does not have even as much value as the feather of a fly".
Walid bin Uqbah, the Governor of Kufa, resented very much the remarks of Ibn Mas`ud about Uthman. This Walid was a brother of Uthman from his mother's side and was a great drunkard and a licentious person. Uthman had appointed him as the Governor of Kufa notwithstanding the displeasure of the residents of that city.
Walid wrote to Uthman informing him that Ibn Mas`ud criticized and abused him (Uthman). Uthman asked him to send Abdullah to him. It has been narrated that when Abdullah left Kufa for Madina many persons came to bid him farewell. Everyone of them requested him not to leave Kufa and assured him that they could not let him suffer any harm. He, however, replied: "There is something which must happen soon".
Abdullah bin Mas`ud reached Madina on Friday night. When Uthman came to know about his arrival he made the people gather in the masjid and said to them: "Just see a mean animal is coming towards you who tramples on his food, vomits and excretes". lbn Mas`ud said: "I am not like that. Of course, I am a companion of the prophet.
I was with him in the Battle of Badr and also participated in Bai`at al-Rizwan (the oath of allegiance taken under a tree at Hudaibiya).
Ayesha said loudly from her house: "Uthman! You are saying these words about a companion of the prophet!"
Others also disliked these remarks and expressed their resentment. As ordered by Uthman his officials and slaves turned Ibn Mas`ud out from the masjid in a very rude manner. They dragged him to the gate of the masjid and there they threw him down on the ground. Then they beat him so mercilessly that he broke his bones and from there he was carried home like a dead body.
Uthman was not satisfied with the beating and insulting to which this great companion of the prophet was subjected. He stopped the stipend which he used to get from the Public Treasury and deprived him of all his sources of livelihood. He also ordered the people not to visit him to enquire about his health. Eventually Ibn Mas`ud passed away and Ammar Yasir offered his funeral prayers and buried him secretly. When Uthman was informed about it he became very furious.