Uthman ibn Amir (Arabic: عُثْمَان ٱبْن عَامِر, romanizedʿUthmān ibn ʿĀmir; c. 540 – March 635),[1] better known as Abu Quhafa (Arabic: أَبُو قُحَافَة, romanizedʾAbū Quḥāfa) was an Arab merchant and tribal chief who was a leader of the Banu Taym, a clan of the Quraysh. He was also a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Abu Quhafa was the son of Amir ibn Amr, the husband of Umm Khayr and the father of Abu Bakr.

Abu Quhafa
أَبُو قُحَافَة
Abu Quhafa.png
Abū Quhāfa in Islamic calligraphy
Chieftain of the Banu Taym
Preceded byAbd Allah ibn Jud'an
Succeeded byAbu Bakr
Personal details
Uthman ibn Amir

c. 540
Mecca, Hejaz
Diedc. March 635 (aged 96)
Mecca, Rashidun Caliphate
Spouse(s)Umm Khayr
Hind bint Nuqayd
RelationsUbayd Allah (cousin; father of Talha)
Parent(s)Amir ibn Amr (father)
Qila bint Adhat (mother)
Military service

Born in Mecca, Abu Quhafa was a prominent member of the Quraysh. After Islam was founded, his family members accepted Islam, though he himself he didn't accept it and remained a non-Muslim. Twenty years later, Abu Quhafa accepted Islam, after greeting Muhammad and became one of his companions (Sahaba). In 635, Abu Quhafa died in Mecca at the age of 97.

Origins and familyEdit

Abu Quhafa's year of birth is 538 as cited by the early Islamic sources.[1] He was born in Mecca to a wealthy family and his given name was Uthman. Later on, he was given the kunya of Abu Quhafa. His father Amir ibn Amr was a great-grandson of Taym ibn Murrah.[2][3] Abu Quhafa's mother Qila bint Adhat was descended from Ka'b ibn Luayy. She was a member of the Banu Adi clan.[2]

He married his niece Salma bint Sakhar, commonly known as Umm Khayr (Arabic: أُمّ خَيْر lit. 'Mother of Goodness'). She was the daughter of Abu Quhafa's brother Sakhar ibn Amir. The couple had three sons, two of whom did not survive infancy. The three sons were given the titles of Atiq, Utaiq and Mutaq.[4] The title 'Atiq' refers to their youngest son Abu Bakr.[5] The sons named Mutaq and Utayq died in infancy and probably one of them was named Quhafa. The modern historian Khalid Yahya Blankinship (c. 1949) disputes the existence of Mutaq and Utayq, saying that "three sons with similar names would appear to be a fictional genealogical motif".[6] He states that these two sons had no roles in tradition and are not mentioned by the prominent early historian Ibn al-Kalbi (c. 737–819).[6]

Ibn Sa'd reports that Abu Quhafa later married another woman, Hind bint Nuqayd, who bored three daughters: Qurayba, Umm Farwa and Umm Amir.[7]

Opposition to MuslimsEdit

In the pre-Islamic era, Abu Quhafa used to help his cousin Abd Allah ibn Jud'an to invite guests to his huge renewed banquet.[2] The former, along with his son Abu Bakr, also participated in the Hilf al-Fudul (Arabic: حلف الفضول, lit.'Alliance of the Virtuous').[8] In 610, Muhammad announced prophethood and Abu Bakr became a Muslim whereas Abu Quhafa didn't become a Muslim.[9] He opposed his son for supporting Muhammad and after speaking disparagingly of Muhammad, Abu Bakr struck his father's chest and rendered him unconscious.[10] When Abu Bakr ransomed Muslim slaves who were being attacked in 613–614, Abu Quhafa said to him: "My son, I see that you are freeing weak slaves. If you want to do what you are doing, why don't you free powerful men who could defend you and protect you?" Abu Bakr replied: "I am only trying to do what I am attempting for God's sake."[11] In old age, Abu Quhafa lost most of his sight.[12]

In September 622, Abu Bakr emigrated to Medina, taking all his money with him "to the amount of five or six thousand dirhams." Abu Quhafa went to call on the family and said that he thought Abu Bakr "had put them in difficulty by taking off all his money." His granddaughter Asma said that Abu Bakr had left them plenty. "I took some stones and put them in a niche where Abu Bakr kept his money; then I covered them with a cloth and took his hand and said, 'Put your hand on this money, Father.' He did so and said: 'There's nothing to worry about; he has done well in leaving you this, and you will have enough.' In fact he had left us nothing, but I wanted to set the old man's mind at rest."[12] The modern historian Wilferd Madelung (c. 1930) argues that Abu Quhafa might have stood with his grandson Abd al-Rahman, who also remained a non-Muslim until the Treaty of Hudaybiyya in 629.[13]

Conversion to IslamEdit

In January 630, Abu Quhafa heard that Muhammad's army was on the way to Mecca. He asked his young daughter Qurayba to lead him to Mount Abu Qubays, and there he asked her what she could see. She told him, "A mass of black." He said they were the cavalry. His daughter added that she could see a man running up and down in front of them, and he said that this was the army adjutant. Then his daughter announced that "the black mass had spread." Abu Quhafa told her that the cavalry had been released so they must go home quickly. However, they met the army before they could reach their house, and a mounted warrior tore off his daughter's silver necklace.[14] No other violence was done to them, for the conquest of Mecca was almost bloodless.[15]

Abu Bakr sought out his father and led him to the mosque. Muhammad greeted them with the words: "Why did you not leave the old man in his house so that I could come to him there?" Abu Bakr replied that this way was more fitting. Muhammad sat Abu Quhafa down, and asked him to accept Islam, and he did so. Abu Quhafa had white hair, so Muhammad told them to dye it. After this, Abu Quhafa reportedly became the first Muslim to dye his hair.[2] Abu Bakr then appealed to the army for the return of his sister's necklace, but nobody admitted to taking it, so the family had to accept that, "There is not much honesty among people nowadays."[9]

Later life and deathEdit

In Shia Islamic sources, following Abu Bakr's selection as caliph, Abu Quhafa is reported to have rejected his son as the rightful successor to Muhammad.[16] In August 634, Abu Bakr died in Medina, and Mecca was reportedly convulsed by an earthquake. Abu Quhafa asked, "What is that?" and was told that his son was dead. He replied, "It is a terrible calamity. Who has arisen in authority after him?" On being advised that Umar was now Caliph, he said, "He was his companion," implying approval. Abu Quhafa returned his inheritance from his son to his grandson.[1]

Abu Quhafa died a few months later, in March 635 (Muharram 14 AH), at the age of 97.[1] This age was calculated in lunar years; by the solar calendar, he would have been only 94 or 95.


Abu Quhafa is honored by both Shia and Sunni Muslims. He was reportedly the first Muslim to dye his hair.[2] Four generations of Abu Quhafa's family had the distinction of being the Sahaba, namely Abu Quhafa, his son Abu Bakr, his grandson Abd al-Rahman, and his great-grandson Abu Atiq. No other family held this distinction.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d Suyuti 1881, p. 87.
  2. ^ a b c d e Farghal 2017.
  3. ^ Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 115.
  4. ^ Suyuti 1881, p. 27.
  5. ^ Suyuti 1881, p. 29.
  6. ^ a b Blankinship 1993, p. 140.
  7. ^ Ibn Sa'd 1995, p. 175–176.
  8. ^ Akhtar 2008, p. 65.
  9. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 549.
  10. ^ Richmond 1992, p. 142.
  11. ^ Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 145.
  12. ^ a b Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 225.
  13. ^ Madelung 1997, p. 42.
  14. ^ Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 548–549.
  15. ^ Ibn Ishaq 1955, p. 548–554.
  16. ^ Hawa 2017, p. 50.
  17. ^ Hassan 2018.

External linksEdit

  • Mukarram Ahmed, Mufti Muhammed (2005). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 978-81-261-2339-1.


  • Blankinship, Khalid Yahya, ed. (1993). The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XI: The Challenge to the Empires. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-0851-3.
  • Suyuti, Jalal al-Din (1881). Jarrett, H. S. (ed.). Tarikh al-Khulafa [The History of the Caliphs]. Translated by Jarrett. The Asiatic Society.
  • Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad (1955). Sirat Rasul Allah – The Life of Muhammad. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780196360331.
  • Ibn Sa'd, Muhammad (1995). Bewley, Aisha (ed.). Tabaqat. Ta-Ha Publishers.
  • Madelung, Wilferd (1997). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64696-0.
  • Farghal, Ahmad (2017). Kitab al-Sulala al-Bakria As-Siddiqia. Sjadda Bakria.
  • Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī, Muḥammad ibn ʻAlī, active (1996). The concept of sainthood in early Islamic mysticism : two works by al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī ; an annotated translation with introduction. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press. ISBN 9780700704521.
  • Hassan, Masud (2018). Siddiq-e-Akbar Hazrat Abu Bakr. Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Lahore: Ferozsons.
  • Akhtar, Mohsin (2008). Oracle of the Last and Final Message: History and the Philosophical Deductions of the Life of Prophet Muhammad. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 9781462819300.
  • Hawa, Salam (2017). The Erasure of Arab Political Identity: Colonialism and Violence. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781317390060.