Muthanna returned from Madina to Hira in September 634 A D.
The Persians commissioned two forces to fight against the Muslims. One was placed under the command of Narsi and it was stationed at Kaskar. The other army under the command of Jaban was required to march to Hira. Heralds were sent to various parts of Iraq to foment an insurrection against the Muslims by appealing to their sense of religious honor.
Seeing the Persians to be in an offensive mood, Muthanna decided to remain on the defensive. All Muslim outposts in Suwad were pulled back and all Muslim garrisons were withdrawn to the west of the Euphrates. As Jaban marched through Suwad he met no resistance from the Muslims. As Jaban approached Hira, Muthanna evacuated Hira and moved to Khaftan closer to the desert. The strategy was to tempt the Persians come as near the desert as possible.
Abu Ubaid set off from Madina in September 634 with a force of one thousand fighting men. In the way he recruited more fighting men from the tribes, and when he reached Khaftan early in October he had a force of 4,000 fighting men with him.
Jaban crossed the Euphrates and camped at Namaraq near the site of modern day Kufa. Abu Ubaid moved with the Muslim forces from Khaftan, and came to Namaraq. At Namaraq the two armies were deployed for battle. The Persians led the attack, but the Muslim ranks held fast. Then the Muslims led the charge, and the Persians had to fall back. The Muslims redoubled the charge, and the Persians retreated confusion. The battle ended in the defeat of the Persians, who lost heavily. Jaban himself was captured by a Muslim soldier. Jaban did not reveal his identity and he bargained with his captor that if he was released he would offer two Persians in his place. The unsophisticated Muslim warrior agreed to the bargain, and Jaban was set free.
Later it was found that Jaban was the commander of the Persian forces and that he had escaped due to a stratagem. The matter was reported to Abu Ubaid. Abu Ubaid felt satisfied that a Muslim soldier had in fact given the promise to Jaban, and the Muslims could not go back on that promise.
This episode has been versified by Allama Iqbal in his poem.
"The Mysteries of Selflessness" as an illustration of Muslim brotherhood.
The poem reads:
"A certain general of Kind Yazdjird
He kept his captor ignorant of his rank
The Muslim sheathed his sword. "To shed thy blood,"
When Kaveh's banner had been rent to shreds,
Then was his fraud reported,
But Abu Ubaid the Muslim Commander
Ali's voice attunes with Abu Dharr's,
Each one of us is trustee to the whole community
As the Community is the sure base
Though Jaban was a foeman to Islam,
After the battle of Namaraq, the defeated Persian force who survived sought refuge with Narsi at Kaskar. Narsi was a cousin of the Kisra Puran Dukht and Kaskar was his estate. Kaskar was the Tigris downstream of Ctesiphon the capital of Persia. It was about two hundred miles from Namaraq across the entire Doab between the Euphrates and the Tigris.
Narsi had a good concentration of force at Kaskar. With the coming of the Persian forces who had been defeated at Namaraq the strength of the Persian forces at Kaskar further increased. The Persian Commander-in-Chief promised to send some more Persian forces under the command of Jalinus to Kaskar. With these forces at his disposal, Narsi felt secure at Kaskar. Kaskar was so far away from the Muslim camp that Narsi felt that no Muslim attack could be imminent.
Abu Ubaid, the Muslim commander, thought otherwise. He thought that it would have a good psychological effect if in the wake of the battle of Namaraq the Muslims rushed to Kaskar and deal with the Persian forces there before the forces under Jalinus could come to their assistance. Abu Ubaid accordingly ordered a march across the Suwad to Kaskar. Dashing across the Suwad the Muslim forces appeared before Kaskar. The two forces met at Saqatia a few miles from Kaskar. The strategy of the Persians was to defer action till the arrival of the force under Jalinus. The strategy of the Muslims was to press the attack and force immediate decision.
The right wing of the Persian army was commanded by Banduyah and the left wing by Tairuyah. Both of them were the cousins of Kisra. Abu Ubaid launched the attack. The battle was hotly contested. No details about the battle are available. All that we know is that the Persians were defeated, and those who survived retreated to Ctesiphon. Immense booty fell to the Muslims. The most prized possession that the Muslims got was the Narsi garden which was known throughout Persia for its delicious fruit. The fruit of the garden were heretofore reserved for Narsi, and he sent occasional gifts to the Kisra. On getting hold of the garden the Muslims distributed the fruit among all soldiers. Some fruit was also sent to Umar to taste.
Abu Ubaid stayed at Kaskar but he sent Muslim contingents in the adjoining areas to bring the people under Muslim rule. Muthanna was sent with his force to the region of Barosma. Walid was sent against Zawabi Asim was sent against Nahrjubar. No resistance was offered anywhere. The chiefs of these places waited on Abu Ubaid at Kaskar and offered submission. They also offered him some delicious food. He asked whether this food was meant for the entire Muslim army. The chiefs stated that the food was meant for him and his officers and that they would give a feast for the army later. Thereupon Abu Ubaid refused to accept the food and returned it with the remarks that as the General of the Muslim army he could only eat what the common soldiers ate.
In the meantime the Persian force under Jalinus advanced. While the Persian force was still in the territory of Barosma, Abu Ubaid advanced from Kaskar to meet it. The two forces met at Baqsiasa after a hot contest the Persians were defeated and they retreated after leaving many soldiers dead on the battle-field.
Abu Ubaid wrote to Umar a detailed report of the battles of Kaskar and Baqsiasa. Umar in reply advised Abu Ubaid in the following terms:
"You have entered the land of trickery and guile, dishonesty and oppression. You have marched against a people who love evil and know it well and abjure goodness of which they are ignorant. So be on your guard and watch your tongue. Reveal not your secrets for those who guard their secrets are secure against unpleasantness and loss."
The Muslims under the command of Abu Ubaid had won a few initial successes against the Persians. That emboldened Abu Ubaid.
The Persians now sent another force under Bahman. Bahman was a veteran General of considerable standing, and he undertook to drive away the Arabs from the soils of Persia.
Bahman marched with his army towards Hira and camped at Quss Natif on the east bank of the Euphrates some distance north of Hira, and little below the site of Kufa.
When Abu Ubaid came to know of the movements of the Persian army, he marched the Muslim forces from Hira and camped with 9,000 men on the west bank of the Euphrates at the village called Marauha.
Now the river Euphrates lay between the two forces, Bahman sent an emissary to Abu Ubaid with the message "Either you cross and come over to our side; or we will cross and come over to your side."
Abu Ubaid was advised that he should ask the Persiaus to cross. The Persian emissary played on the emotions of Abu Ubaid, and said that in the Persian camp the general belief was that the Muslims were afraid of the might of Persia. Abu Ubaid made him understand that one Arab was equal to ten Persians. The emissary said that if such claim was not an empty boast, the Muslims should substantiate it by taking the initiative and crossing over to the Persian side. In a vainglorious mood Abu Ubaid declared, "We will cross the river; go and tell your Commander accordingly."
As soon as the Persian emissary had left, Abu Ubaid ordered that the Muslim forces should prepare for crossing the river. Saleet bin Qais who had been appointed by Umar as the Adviser to Abu Ubaid told Abu Ubaid that his decision to cross the river was not sound. Abu Ubaid retorted "Saleet, you are frightened Have trust in God."
Muthanna who commanded the cavalry also tried to persuade Abu Ubaid reconsider his decision. Abu Ubaid remained adamant and he removed Muthanna from the commend of the cavalry. In his place he appointed his cousin Abu Mihjan to the command of the cavalry.
Some other veterans in the Muslim army said to Abu Ubaid, "O Commander do not cut your means of escape, and do not make yourself a target of the Persians." Abu Ubaid said that such were the counsels of the chicken-hearted, and I that those who were fighting in the way of God should have the courage and boldness to beard the lion in its den.
The previous night, Dauma the wife of Abu Ubaid who was with him in the camp had a dream. In the dream she had seen a man come down from heaven with a vessel from I which Abu Ubaid drank. Thereafter his brother al-Hakam drank from it. Next his son had a drink from it, and then some other members of the tribe of Abu Ubaid drank from the vessel. After all had drunk the person concerned carried the vessel back to the heaven.
When Dauma related her dream to Abu Ubaid, he interpreted it to mean that he and all the other people who had drunk from the vessel would be blessed with martyrdom. That did not in any way unnerve Abu Ubaid. On the other hand he felt happy at the prospects of martyrdom.
A bridge of boats was thrown across the river, and the Muslim army marched along the bridge on the morning of 28th November 634 A D. The Persians watched the Muslim army cross the river. They, however remained arrayed in battle order in light formation.
As the Muslim army crossed over to the other side of the river they found that the space at their disposal was circumscribed, and there was no room for any maneuvers or out" flanking movements.
Immediately after crossing, the Muslims formed themselves into battle formation and faced the Persian hosts. The Persian army had with them a large number of war elephants. Each elephant carried a howdah in which sat soldiers armed with javelins and bows. To each howdah branches of palm trees were tied to give the illusion of size. Bells were tied round the neck of the elephants, and these appeared to produce an unearthly din.
When the battle began the Muslim cavalry advanced to the charge. At the sight of the monster elephants the Arab horse shied, turned, and bolted. That led to confusion and the Muslim cavalry was disorganized.
Seeing this confusion in the Muslim ranks, Bahman ordered an advance by the Persian forces. As the Persian forces advanced the noise from the bells of the elephants became louder. The Persians seated in the howdahs of the elephants made good use of their bows and arrows and drove several wedges in the Muslim front.
At this stage Abu Ubaid ordered the Muslim cavalry to dismount and attack on foot Abu Ubaid himself led the attack. He exhorted his men to attack the elephants and cut their girths. In the attempt many Muslims were killed, but some Muslims succeeded in cutting the girths of some elephants. Abu Ubaid rushed at the leading elephant, a white monster elephant, with his javelin. The beast was blinded in one eye. Then Abu Ubaid got under the elephant and cut its girth bringing down the howdah and its occupants. In the scuffle that followed the elephant knocked down Abu Ubaid and trampled him under its heavy foot.
Al Hakam the brother of Abu Ubaida rushed to the spot. He shot the animal dead. He picked up the standard and led fighting. After some time he too fell fighting and the command was taken over by Jabr the son of Abu Ubaid. The battle waged with unrelenting fury and one after another all the Muslim commanders were martyred. All those whom Dauma the wife of Abu Ubaid had seen drink from the vessel brought from the heaven tasted martyrdom.
The Persians increased the violence of their attack and the Muslims fell back. At this stage Abdullah bin Marthad who belonged to the clan of Abu Ubaid cut off the boat bridge and to those who sought the bridge he shouted' O people die for what your Commanders have died." Some people turned back to fight and fell dead at the battle-field. Others plunged in the river and were drowned.
The Muslim forces were at this stage without a Commander, and the Persians increased the violence of their assaults. At this critical moment Muihanna took command of the army. He ordered the bridge to be rebuilt and when it was ready he organized a rear guard action. With a select force he faced the Persians, and asked the others to cross calmly without being panicky. Muthanna and his reserves remained at their posts until the entire army had crossed. Muthanna was the last to cross. In guarding the bridge he had received innumerable wounds and as he reach the Muslim camp he fell exhausted.
As the Muslim forces assembled at Marauha on the other side of the Euphrates, only 3,0OO persons assembled out of the total strength of 9,000. Some 2,000 persons fell fighting, some 2000 persons were drowned in the river, and some 2,000 persons fled away to Madina and elsewhere.
The immediate worry of Muthanna was pursuit by the Persians. If in the wake of their victory the Persians had crossed the Euphrates, all that had been left of the Muslim army would not have been able to face the Persians. Bahman felt elated at his victory over the Muslims. He had demonstrated that the Persians were still a mighty force. He had a mind to pursue the Muslims across the Euphrates but at that crucial moment there was a revolt against Rustam at the Persian capital, and Rustam recalled Bahman to al-Madain to help in putting down the revolt.
When the scouts brought the news that the Persians were marching back to al-Madain Muthanna felt relieved. Hira was now unsafe for the Muslims. Muthanna accordingly abandoned Hira and marched with his weary army to Ulleis.
Abdullah bin Zaid carried the news of the tragedy of the Battle of the Bridge to Madina. Umar felt grieved at the reverse of the Muslims, but the disaster did not unnerve him in any way.
In this moment of crisis Umar rose to great heights of leadership. Instead of apportioning blame, he said:
"O Lord every Muslim is in my charge and I am a refuge for all Muslims. May Allah bless Abu Ubaid. Having crossed the river he should have secured his position by the side of a hill. I wish he had not crossed, and sought his death, but had returned to me."
Some persons who had fled from the battle-field and had returned to Madina wept bitterly at the disaster. To them, Umar consoled with the following words:
"Do not weep. I am your refuge, and you have returned to me."
To Muthanna at Ulleis, Umar sent the message:
"Stay at your post. Help will soon come."
After the disaster of the Bridge the Muslim army under Muthanna was stationed at Ulleis. Both Umar and Muthanna sent heralds and emissaries to all parts of Arabia inviting the Arabs to participate in the war against the Persians.
In response to this call volunteers came from all parts of Arabia. Makhnaf b. Salim the chief of the Azd tribe came with 700 horsemen. A contingent of a thousand men of the Banu Tameem came under the command of Hasin b. Mabid. Adi the son of the legendary Hatim Tai came with a large contingent of his tribesmen. Contingents also came from the tribes of Rabab, Banu Kinanah, Khath'am, Banu Hanzalah, and Banu Dabbah. The Christian Arabs of the tribes of Narmr and Taghlab also joined to reinforce the Muslim war effort. To the clan of Bajeela led by Jareer bin Abdullah, Umar offered an additional share of the booty, out of the Khums-the state share.
After having received reinforcements, Muthanna moved to Zu Qar a few miles south of Qadisiyya. When the Persians came to know of the preparations of the Muslims they decided to send a strong force against the Muslims fed by Mihran. Mihran had been in Arabia and was regarded as an expert in the Arabian way of war. The Persian army under .Mihran marched to the Euphrates and camped on the east bank opposite he site of modern Kufa.
Muthanna with the Muslim army advanced from Zu Qar, and arriving on the west bank of the Euphrates camped at Nakheila. At Nakheila a stream Buwaib took off from the Euphrates.
Mihran sent a message to Muthanna whether the Muslims would like to cross the Euphrates, or whether they would like the Persians to cross over to their side. The Muslims have had a bitter experience of crossing the river in the 'Battle of the Bridge', and so Muthanna said to the Persian emissary "You cross."
The following day, the Persians crossed the river, and Mihran arranged his forces in battle order with display of much splendor and pomp.
One wing of the Muslim army was led by Adi b. Hatim, and the other wing was led by Jareer. Masud, a brother of Muthanna held the command of the infantry. Muthanna mounted his horse 'Shams', and rode from one and to the other. Addressing the army he said:
"Brave soldiers! beware, lest, on account of you, the stigma of dishonor should fall to the Arabs."
The Persians dashed forward roaring like thunder. Muthanna shouted to his men not to pay any heed to such noise, as it was mere sound signifying nothing. He asked the wing commanders to stick fast, as he was going to make a rush on the Persian forces.
With the shouts of Allah-o-Akbar the Muslim army rolled forward, and such was the overwhelming impetuosity of their onslaught that they rent asunder the serried ranks of the Persian right flank, and penetrated the Persian center. The Persians reeled before the terrible onset, but they rallied and fought so desperately that the Muslim ranks began to waver.
Seeing some Muslims turn back, Muthanna thundered: "O Muslims' whither are you going. I am here; come to me. Muthanna rallied his forces and ordered a fresh attack. Masud the brother of Muthanna received many wounds, and fell down. That made the Muslims lose heart. Turning to the Muslims, Muthanna said:
"O Muslims, never mind if my brother is killed. Valiants always die like that. See that the standard that you carry is not lowered."
Masud himself while dying cried, "Let not my death make you lose heart; you must forward to your task."
Anas b. Hilal, a Christian commander fighting with the Muslim forces fell fighting heroically. Muthanna took him up in his arms, and laid him alongside his brother Masud. Many Muslim officers of note were killed, but Muthanna wanted his men to persevere. Mihran the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian army fought heroically. Muthanna asked his men to advance, and make Mihran their target. A youthful warrior of the Taghlab tribe rushed forward with great courage and intrepidity, and penetrating the Persian ranks slew Mihran with his sword. The youth proclaimed:
"I am a young men of the Taghlab tribe;
"I have killed Mihran, the Persian Chief."
The death of Mihran turned the tide of the battle. The Persians lost nerve, and fled in disorder. Muthanna at once made a dash for the bridge and captured it. That prevented the Persians from recrossing the river. The Muslims made mincemeat of the Persians. According to the annals, no battle had ever left so many corpses for its sanguinary souvenir as were strewn on the battle-field of Buwaib. For years thereafter the travelers in the region witnessed the grim spectacle of heaps of bones scattered in all directions.
The battle of Buwaib was the reply of the Muslims to the battle of the Bridge. In the battle of the Bridge a greater part of the Muslim army managed to escape; in the battle of Buwaib the entire Persian army was annihilated.
At the conclusion of the battle, Muthanna said:
"I have fought Arabs and Persians. I have fought them in the time of Ignorance and again in the time of Islam. By Allah during the days of Ignorance a hundred Persians were stronger than a thousand Arabs, but to-day a hundred Arabs are stronger than a thousand Persians."
The battle of the Buwaib was fought in April 635.
Uballa on the Persian Gulf was the key of South Iraq. When Khalid bin Walid began his campaigns in Iraq he started with Uballa and occupied it without much resistance. Later as the Muslims won victories after victories in Iraq the focus shifted north west to Hira.
When Khalid bin Walid went to Syria very few Muslim forces were left in Iraq. Consequently the Muslims abandoned many posts in Iraq including Uballa. Uballa was re-occupied by the Persians. A small Muslim force under Qutba bin Qatada, however, continued to be stationed in the neighborhood of Uballa to protect the routes to Arabia.
When Umar sent Abu Ubaid on the main Iraq front, he felt that it was necessary to send some reinforcement to the southern sector as well. Umar accordingly sent a contingent under Shareeh b. Amr to reinforce Qutba. Qutba was instructed to raid deeper into Persia.
Qutba sent Shareeh across the Tigris to raid Ahwaz. In the way at Daris, Shareeh was intercepted by the Persian forces and killed.
After the battle of Buwaib, Qutba wrote to Umar asking for more aid for intensifying activities in the southern sector.
Umar realized the importance of the southern sector. He sent for Utba b Ghazwan an early Companion and offered him the command of the southern sector. Addressing him the Caliph said:
"Allah Most High and Mighty has given Hira and what is around it to your brothers who have subdued the region of Babylon. Many of the Persian nobles have been killed. I feel that the Persians from the south will go to the help of the Persians in the north west. My strategy is to prevent the Persians on one side from helping the Persians on the other. Go to the region of Uballa and keep the people of Ahwaz and Fars and Meisan occupied so that they do not help their comrades in the Suwad.
Fight them in the hope that Allah will give you victory. March with faith in Allah and fear Allah. Be fair in judgment; say your prayers at the appointed times and remember Allah much."
Utba bin Ghazwan set off from Madina with 2,000 men and arrived in the neighborhood of Uballa in June 635. He took over the command of the sector. The Muslims were encamped at a site twelve miles from modern Basra amidst the ruins of an ancient town.
The Commander of the Persian forces of the district of Furat marched to battle. His strategy was to fall upon the, Muslims unawares and thereby crush them. When the Persian forces arrived they found the Muslims ready for war. In the battle that followed the Persians were defeated. The Muslims pursued the defeated Persians to Uballa. No resistance was offered to the Muslims at Uballa which was occupied by the Muslims in September 635 A.D.
With Uballa as the base, Utba sent a force across the Tigris which occupied the district of Furat. The Muslim forces next marched into the district of Meisan. The Persians contested the advance of the Muslims but they were defeated and the entire district of Meisan was occupied by the Muslims. Another Muslim force advanced further afield and occupied the district of Abarqubaz. Another column captured Mazar. After subjugating these areas the Muslim forces returned to Uballa. The southern sector was now under the command of the Muslims, and the Persian supply line from Fars was cut off.
A little later the Governor of Abarqubaz revolted. Utba sent a column under Mugheera b. Shu'ba to deal with the revolt. The two forces met at Marghab. The Persians were defeated, and their Commander Feelhan was killed.
Next, there was a revolt in the district of Meisan. A column under Mugheera marched against the rebels and the revolt was successfully suppressed.
By November 635 A.D. the Muslim hold in the southern sector was quite firm Utba went on a short leave to Madina, where he died. Umar appointed Mugheera b. Shu'ba to the command of the Muslim forces in South Iraq.
Another revolution in Persia brought Yazdjurd to the throne of Persia. He was young and intelligent, and on coming to the throne his principal concern was to take effective steps to drive away the Arabs from the soil of Iraq.
Heretofore some battles had been fought on the soil of Iraq, but these had not been decisive. "The Muslims had occupied some areas, but their hold had not been firm. In the counter movements of the Persians the Muslims were pushed out of such areas. The Muslims retaliated and occupied such areas again. And again they abandoned them either of their own accord for strategically reasons or were pushed back. This to and fro process had been repeated several times, and this had led to political instability in the Suwad, the fertile area between the Euphrates and the Tigris.
Yazdjurd decided to organize things in a big way, and mobilize the resources of his empire for a titanic struggle with the Arabs. The Persians mustered a strong force under the veteran General Rustam. The force fully armed and equipped was cantoned at Sabat near al-Madain.
When these developments were reported to Umar, he realized that the scanty. Muslim forces in Iraq under the command of Muthanna were exposed to great danger. The Caliph ordered Muthanna to abandon Hira and other advanced posts in Iraq and to withdraw to the edge of the desert. Musanna pulled back his forces and stationed them at Sharaf close to the edge of the desert. In the southern sector the Muslims also pulled back and encamped in the hills of Ghuzayy.
The entire Suwad and all the main cities of Iraq were once again under Persian occupation. The war against the Persians, had to start once again from the periphery. Umar gave the call to Jihad. Throughout the Arabian peninsula messages were sent to the Governors and the chiefs of tribes to muster in full strength at Madina. The command of Umar was:
"Leave none who has weapons or a horse or strength or intelligence. Take him and send him to me. Hurry, O hurry!"
The response to the call was encouraging. Volunteers began to pour into Madina. Umar organized the camp at Sirar three miles from Madina on the route to Iraq. In March 636 A D. the first concentration of troops was complete, and Umar moved in person to the camp at Sirar leaving the administration at Madina to the charge of Ali.
Umar addressed the troops mustered at Sirar, apprised them of the situation in Iraq, and invited their reaction. The congregation said with one voice, "Go, and we go with you for the glory of Islam." Umar said, "Prepare for war, and I will go with you unless some better counsel comes forth."
Umar summoned a council of war at Sirar to which leading Companions were invited. The council was required to advise whether the campaign in Iraq should be led personally by Umar, or should some one else be appointed to the command.
Ali said, "Go yourself for that will have a greater psychological effect both upon the Muslims as well as the enemy". Talha endorsed this view.
Abdur Rehman bin Auf said, "Stay, and send the army; and the will of Allah in respect of your wishes will be manifested in the fortunes of your army. If it is defeated, it will not be your defeat; but if you are killed or defeated, it would be a humiliation and a terrible blow to Muslim prestige."
After discussion, and the weighing of the pros and cons the consensus emerged in favor of the view advocated by Abdur Rahman bin Auf.
The Caliph next sought advice to the person who should be appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Iraq Abdur Rahman bin Auf proposed the name of Saad bin Abi Waqas.
Saad bin Abi Waqas was at that time the Governor of Nejd. He was one of the earliest converts to Islam. He was among the 'Ashra Mubashara', the Ten Companions who had been given the news of Paradise in their life time. He was the only man to whom the Holy Prophet had said, "I sacrifice my father and mother to you." He was the maternal uncle of the Holy Prophet.
Umar said, "I know that Sand is a brave man He fought at Badr and Uhud. My only anxiety is that he does not have sufficient knowledge about the strategy of war."
Othman said, Saad should be appointed to the command, and he should be instructed to seek counsel from men of experience and knowledge of war, and not act without their advice." This view was endorsed by all and ultimately agreed to.
The following day Umar ordered a congregation of the army at Sirar, and addressed them as follows:
"Lo! Allah Most High and Mighty has gathered his people to Islam and his joined their hearts and made them brothers one to another. The Muslims are like one body of which the entire body suffers, if any part suffers. It is incumbent upon the Muslims to decide their affairs in a council of men of judgment. The troops must follow the one appointed to command by mutual agreement and consent; and the one appointed to command must accept the decision of men of judgment in the strategy of war. O people, I am just one of you, but men of judgment have dissuaded me from going with you. I have decided to remain here, and send another person in command; and I have consulted all in this matter."
Saad was called from Nejd, and as he appeared before Umar, the Caliph said:
"I have appointed you Commander of the war in Iraq. Remember my words for you are proceeding on a difficult and fearful mission in which right can only prevail."
In May 636 A.D., Saad bin Abi Waqas marched from the Sirar camp with an army of 4,000 men. At the time of departure Umar prayed for the success of the mission they had undertaken. His parting instruction to Saad was:
"Stop when you get to Zarud and disperse in the region. Urge the people there to join you ami take all who have courage, intelligence, strength and weapons."
Umar promised that he would send more and more of help. He said that he would hurl every chief, every noble, and every warrior in Arabia against the Persians.
As the army under the command of Saad marched past Umar, the Caliph raised his hands in prayers and said:
"O Mighty Allah! These people are going to fight in your way. Bless them with victory."
Saad arrived with his force of 4,000 at Zarud and went into camp. The troops were spread in the region, and couriers were sent to all the tribes in Northern Arabia calling the tribesmen to war in the name of Allah. As a result of these efforts about 7,000 warriors were recruited from the tribes particularly the Bani Asad and Bani Tameem. Among those who joined the Muslim forces was Taleaha who had during the apostasy campaigns of the time of Abu Bakr claimed to be a prophet and had fought against the Muslims. He had escaped to Syria where he was converted to Islam. Those who had once apostated were not allowed by Abu Bakr to be recruited to the Muslim forces. Hazrat Umar, because of the large scale campaigns to be undertaken lifted the ban. Availing of this concession Taleaha and his tribesmen joined the Muslim forces in Iraq in large numbers.
Umar sent another force of 4,000 men to join the main army at Zarud. The strength of the army at Zarud now rose to 15,000. Muthanna with 3,000 men was stationed at Sharaf some sixty miles from Zarud on the main route to Iraq.
From Zarud the main Muslim army marched to Sharaf, and they arrived there in July 636 A.D. Before Saad arrived, Muthanna was dead. In his will Musanna had desired that Saad bin Abi Waqas should marry his widow Salma bint Khasfa. He also left a message for Saad which ran as follows:
"The Muslims should not fight the Persians when they are concentrated in their homeland, but should fight them on the boundary near the desert. Thus if Allah should give the Muslims victory, they will have whatever lies behind the Persians, and if the result is otherwise, they can withdraw into a region the routes whereof they know best and of which they are masters-until Allah decides that they should return to battle."
Saad prayed for the soul of Muthanna. He paid rich tributes to his bravery. In fulfillment of the will of Muthanna, Saad married his widow Salma. He was impressed with the parting advice of Muthanna, and decided to follow it. He reported this advice to Umar who approved of it.
Umar instructed Saad as follows:
"Organize the army into tens and let the men know their units.
Saad organized the army in accordance with the instructions of Umar. From the Uballa sector Mugheera bin Shu'ba joined Sad with his cavalry of 800 horse.
Umar next instructed Saad as follows:
"March with the Muslims from Sharaf towards the Persians.
Place your faith in Allah and seek His help, and know that you are advancing against a people whose numbers are vast, whose equipment is superb, whose strength is great and whose land is difficult. Even its plains consist of rivers and heavily-watered land. When you meet them or any of them, attack them fiercely, but beware of facing them if they are all together. Let them not trick you, for they are wily plotters and their ways are not your ways.
When you get to Qadisiyya, remain there and leave not your place. They will find your continued stay intolerable and will come out against you with all their strength of horse and foot. And if you stand fast against them, you shall overcome them, and should they ever assemble again in great numbers, they shall do so without hearts.
And should the result be otherwise, you will have the desert behind you and can withdraw into a region which you know and control and of which they are ignorant and afraid. And there you should stay until Allah decides victory for you and you return to battle."
In July 6.36 A.D. the main Muslim army marched from Sharaf to Qadisiyya. Qadisiyya was on the west bank of the Ateeq, a branch of the Euphrates. It was the last staging camp in Arabia on the route to Iraq. Hira lay about thirty miles ahead.
After establishing the camp, organizing the defenses, and securing the river heads, Saad sent parties inside the Suwad to conduct raids. In one of these raids the Muslims captured the bridal procession of the daughter of Azazbeh the Persian Governor of Hira. A large booty was captured including the bride and other Persian damsels.
From Qadisiyya, Saad wrote to Umar:
"The enemy has sent no one against us and has not appointed, so far we know, anyone to command the campaign. When we get the information, we will report to you and seek Allah's help."
To this Umar replied in the following terms:
"Strengthen your heart and your army with sermons and right intentions and worthiness; and as for those who forget, remind them. Steadfastness and again steadfastness! For help comes from Allah according to one's intentions and His reward according to one's deserts. Caution and again caution! For grave is the matter upon which you are embarked. And pray to Allah for his blessings.
Write to me when you know of the concentration of their army and who commands it, for in the absence of knowledge about their army and its commander I am not able to give you much guidance.
Describe the place where you are and the land between you and Medina. Describe it so clearly that I may see it with my own eyes, and become one of you.
Fear Allah and in Him rest your hopes."
Saad sent the required topographical information. The intelligence reports of the spies were also forwarded to Umar. Saad stated that all the people of the Suwad who had entered into pacts with the Muslims had gone back on their pledges. They were collaborating with the Persians and were preparing for war against the Muslims.
"The Commander of the Persian army is Rustam, and he has some other top-ranking Generals.
They seek to weaken us and pounce upon us and we seek to weaken them and attack them. The command of Allah is as good as bone and His decision will be according to whatever He wishes for us or against us. We beseech Allah for the best of decisions and the best of judgments." In reply, Umar instructed:
"Remain where you are until Allah fixes your enemy for you.
And if Allah should give you victory, pursue them until you fall upon Madain, which Allah willing will be destroyed."
A week later, Umar further instructed:
"My heart tells me that when you meet the enemy you will God willing defeat him. So dispel all doubt from your mind, and if any of you gives a promise of peace to a Persian, with sign or speech, even if he does not understand it, let him fulfill the promise.
Beware of jesting, faithfulness and again faithfulness. Errors committed in good faith are acceptable but deliberate unfaithfulness leads to destruction. In it will lie your weakness and your enemy's strength, the depression of your courage and the elevation of the courage of your enemy.
I caution you not to bring dishonor to the Muslims, nor be a cause of their disgrace."
Saad reported about the large strength of the forces of the Persians. To this Umar replied as follows:
"Let not the information which you get about the enemy distress you. Seek Allah's help, and in Him place your trust."
Umar also desired that a delegation of some intelligent persons should be sent to the emperor of Persia to call him to Islam.
After the battle of Yermuk some forces were released from the Syrian front and sent to Iraq under the command of Ath'ath bin Qais. The strength of Saad's army at Qadisiyya now rose to 29,000.
The Muslim forces intensified their raiding activities. The entire Suwad now became a hunting ground for the Muslim raiders. These raids were undertaken partly to gather supplies for the Muslim army, and partly to demoralize the Persians.
The inhabitants of the Suwad appealed to the Persian emperor to do something urgently to save them from the raids of the Muslims. The emperor Yazdjurd assured them that he was sending a large force under Rustam against the Muslims, and he would crush the Arabs.
Taleaha bin Khuwalid was an adventurer. He was the chief of the Bani Asad. He was a poet and a soothsayer, and commanded respect in Arabia during the days of ignorance.
When the Holy Prophet declared his mission, Taleaha became a vicious enemy of Islam. In the Battle of the Ditch Taleaha sided with the Quraish, and commanded a contingent of the Bani Asad in the coalition of the infidels who fought against the Muslims.
In the battle of Khyber he sided with the Jews but was worsted. In 631 A D. when all other Arabian tribes accepted Islam, he also became a convert to Islam. In 633 A.D. he renounced his allegiance to Islam, and declared himself to be a prophet. He introduced a new way of prayer in which there were no prostrations. Many clans of Central Arabia joined him, and soon he became a powerful enemy of Islam.
In the apostasy campaigns, Taleaha was defeated by Khalid bin Walid in the battle of Buzakha. From Buzakha Taleaha fled to Syria. When Syria was conquered by the Muslims, Taleaha once again became a convert to Islam.
Later he returned to Arabia, and joined the war against the Persians. In the camp at Qadisiyya, Saad bin Abi Waqas deputed Taleaha to go to the Persian camp and gather some intelligence.
Taleaha crossed the Ateeq and proceeded in the direction of Najaf. He had hardly gone four or five miles when he came upon the Persian camp at Kharara.
The men with Taleaha decided to return, but Taleaha moved on and went into the Persian camp. He soon came upon a beautiful white rent, outside which a beautiful horse stood together. Taleaha took the horse. He cut the ropes of the tent, which collapsed upon the sleeping inmate. A little further he came across another good horse and a fine tent. He took that horse as well. Here again he cut the ropes of the tent which fell on the man who slept inside.
A little further there was another horse and a tent. This time again he took the horse, and by cutting the ropes made the tent collapse. It transpired that these tents lodged gladiators, called 'Hazer Mard', each gladiator being deemed equal in strength to a thousand men.
Taleaha now outside the Persian camp mounted his own horse and began his return journey leading the three captured horses. He had not gone far when the three gladiators caught up with him.
Undaunted, Taleaha turned to his pursuers. One of the gladiators challenged him to personal duel, and Taleaha agreed. The gladiator charged at Taleaha with his lance, but Taleaha side stepped and avoided the charge. As the Persian hurled past him, Taleaha swung round in his saddle, and plunged his spear in the back of his adversary who fell down dead.
Next the second Persian champion grappled with Taleaha. He attacked and Taleaha side stepped. Then Taleaha charged and the Persian champion fell dead.
Then the third champion came forward, and overpowering him, Taleaha rode with him as a captive to the Muslim camp. Before dawn Taleaha was back in the Muslim camp with three Persian horses and a 'Hazer Mard' as a captive.
The Persian captive was presented to Saad bin Abi Waqas, and he gave much useful information about the Persian moves. The Persian champion said on oath that he had seen war ever since he was a boy and had defeated and killed many champions in his lifetime but he had never seen such a fighter as Taleaha.
Taleaha offered the Persian champion Islam, and he accepted the faith of Islam. In the war that followed the Persian 'Hazar Mard' fought valiantly by the side of Taleaha.
In compliance with the instructions of Umar, Saad bin Abi Waqas sent a delegation of twelve Muslims to offer Islam to Yazdjurd the emperor of Persia. The Muslim delegation included Noman b. Muqrin, Muthanna bin Haritha, Asim b. Amr, and Mugheera bin Zurara.
The Muslim delegation rode to Ctesiphon or al-Madsen the capital of Persia. The Muslims dismounted outside the palace of the emperor. A large crowd of the Persians gathered to stare at the shaggy horses and stern faced hard sons of the desert.
The delegation was ushered into the presence of the emperor Yazdjurd surrounded by interpreters and couriers. The Persians used to prognosticate events by omen. In a playful mood Yazdjurd asked the Muslim envoys what a mantle was called in Arabic. They said that it as called "burd". "Burd" in Persian meant to carry away, and the emperor felt; that the Arabs were to carry away Persia.
Then he asked what was the Arabic name for a whip and they said that it was 'Saut'. He construed it as 'Sokht', which in Persian meant "burned". The emperor felt in his heart that the Muslims were going to burn Persia.
Yezdjurd next asked, 'What compels you to invade our land. Is it because we have left you in peace that you have grown so bold?"
Noman b. Muqrin speaking on behalf of the delegation said that. Allah had been kind to them. God had sent a prophet to them who bad shown them the right way. Under the leadership of the Prophet they had been transformed. They were the chosen people of God, and God had entrusted to them a mission, the mission of spreading the true faith.
"In pursuance of our mission, we call you to our faith. If you accept our faith we will leave you with the Book of God, and leave you to your land. If you are not agreeable to join our faith you should accept our overlordship and pay us 'Jizya'. If this alternative is also not acceptable to you, then the sword will decide the issue between us."
"Don't you recollect that you were the most wretched and most miserable people that the world ever saw. Whenever you showed signs of recalcitrance we had only to issue orders to the commanders of our frontier outposts and they crushed your mutinous spirit."
Thereupon Mugheera bin Zurara said that what the emperor said about the Arabs was true in the days of Ignorance; after the advent of the Prophet things had changed and they were no longer wretched or miserable. It was not hunger or misery that had brought them to Persia. They had come carrying the message of the new faith for them. If the message was accepted they would be happy and treat them as brothers. If they were not inclined to accept the new faith or pay Jizya, then there was no option but fight.
The emperor was enraged at these bold words of the Muslims. He shouted, "But for the fact that envoys are not killed, I would surely have killed you. Know that we are a great people whose history extends over ages and such people are proud of their faith which they would not change. And as regards Jizya, I would put dust in your mouth. And as regards the fight know that we are not afraid of you. Tell your Commander that I am sending Rustam against him with a large force, who will teach you a bitter lesson."
Then Yazdjurd asked a court attendant to fetch a basket of earth. When the basket was brought, addressing the Muslim envoys he said, 'Here is the Jizya for you; carry it".
Asim b. Amr stepped forward, and carried the basket on his head. Turning to the emperor he said, "You have of your own accord handed over your land to the Muslims. We accept your gift."
Thereafter the Muslim envoys rode back at great speed to the Muslim camp carrying the basket of the earth of Persia.
Immediately thereafter Rustam saw Yazdjurd, and the emperor told him that he had given the Muslim envoys dust to carry. Rustam said that was a bad omen for it signified that the Muslims had carried away Persia.
Rustam sent off a group of horsemen to pursue the Muslim envoys and get the fateful basket containing the dust of Persia back from them. To these horsemen Rustam said, "Proceed with the speed of lightning and snatch your mother-earth from the Muslims. lf you recover the basket our land will be safe; if you fail then we are doomed."
The Persian party set off at a brisk pace in pursuit of the Muslim envoys, but they could not catch the Muslims. The Muslims crossed the Ateeq bridge to safety long before the Persians could arrive at the bridge head. The Persians returned crest fallen to report to Rustam the failure of their mission.
In the Muslim camp, there was rejoicing. Presenting the basket containing the dust of Persia to Saad b. Abi Waqas Asim b. Amr said:
"Commander Allah has given us the keys of their kingdom. Rejoice for this is a sign that we are going to conquer their land."
In the Persian camp, Rustam sulked and muttered to himself:
"The enemy has snatched away the keys of our kingdom."
At the head of the Persian army Rustam marched against Qadisiyya and encamped on the east bank of the Ateeq. The Muslim forces lay entrenched at Qadisiyya on the west bank of the Ateeq.
Rustam the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian forces sent a message to the Muslim Commander Saad asking him to send on emissary for talks. Saad deputed Rabi bin Amir as the envoy. Rabi crossed the bridge and made for the camp of Rustam. Rabi appeared before Rustam wearing a coat of shining mail over which was wrapped a coarse woolen cloak. Around his head was a veil held by thongs of a camel's girth. His sword hung at his side in a sheath of coarse cloth. In his right hand he carried his spear. Rabi mounted on a shaggy horse arrived at the edge of the carpet at which Rustam and his couriers were seated.
The Persians wanted Rabi to lay aside his arms. Rabi said, "I have not come to you to lay down my weapons. You invited me, and I have come, if you do not wish me to come the way I like, I shall return."
Rustam asked his men to let the Muslim come in the way he wished.
Rustam asked Rabi as to what was their mission. Rabi said that their mission was to spread Islam. He said, "If you accept Islam we are brothers and there is peace between us; if you refuse we fight you and leave things to God."
"What do you expect in return", asked Rustam.
Rabi said, "Victory if we survive, and Paradise if we die fighting in the way of Allah".
Rustam said that he should be allowed some time to think over the matter further.
Rabi said that according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet he could give him a time of three days.
"Are you their chief", asked Rustam.
Rabi said, "No, but the Muslims are like one body, and the lowest is equal to the highest."
The next day Rustam asked again for an emissary. This time Saad deputed Hudhaifa bin Mihsan. He rode over the carpet to Rustam's throne, and remained seated on his horse throughout the talks.
Rustam wanted to know why the envoy of the previous day had not come. Hudhaifa said, 'Our Commander treats us equally in on joying favors and bearing hardships. This time it is my turn."
"What do you expect of us", asked Rustam.
Hudhaifa said, "We would expect you to become Muslims or pay Jizya."
Rustam said, "What if we do not agree to both these alternatives."
Hudhaifa said that in that case the arbitration would rest with the sword. Saying that Hudhaifa rode back from the Persian camp.
For the third time Rustam asked for another envoy. This time Muheera bin Zurara was chosen as the Muslim emissary. Mugheera rode forward and sat on the throne beside Rustam. The Persians wanted to unseat him, but he held fast, and Rustam said, "Let him remain seated."
Looking at the short light arrows which protruded from the quiver of Mugheera, Rustam said, "O Arab what do you do with these spindles?"
Mugheera said, "We shoot them."
"And why is your sword wrapped in rags", asked Rustam.
Mugheera said, "It is clothed in rags but it strikes like steel".
Rustam said that it was perhaps their hardship that had I brought the Arabs to Iraq. He said:
"It shall give your commander a set of clothes, a mule and 1,000 dirhams, and to every man among you two garments and a bag of dates. And you shall go away from us for I have no desire to kill you or take you in captivity."
Mugheera said that times had changed, and because of Islam the Arabs were no longer fighting because they were poor or were subject to any hardship. They were fighting in the way of Allah, and they did not stand in need of any gifts from the Persians.
Rustam thereupon said, "This means that there can be no peace between us. When we go to the battle, we will slay the whole lot of you."
Thereupon Mugheera walked away from the Persian camp.
The following day a delegation consisting of four Muslims namely Busr b. Abi Ruhm; Arfaja b. Harsama, Qirfa b. Zahir and Mazur b. Adi went to see Rustam.
This time Rustam talked in parables. He said:
"We are like the man who had a vineyard and saw a fox in it one day. He said one fox did not matter. But the fox called other foxes to the vineyard. When they had all gathered in it, the owner closed the hole in the wall of the vineyard through which they had entered, and then killed all the foxes.
And you are like the rat who found a jar of grain with a hole in it and went through the hole. His friends called to him to come out but he refused and went on eating the grain until he became fat. Then he felt a desire to show his friends how beautiful he looked, but found that because of his bulk he could no longer get through the hole. So he complained to his friends of his trouble and asked for their assistance. They asked him to starve himself so that he might become as thin as before. The rat starved itself but in the meantime the owner of the jar came to know of it and killed it."
Rustam further said:
"And you are like the fly that saw a bowl of honey and said to his friends, 'Whoever gets me to that honey shall have two dirhams'. The other flies tried to stop him, but he went on to the honey and then into it. As he began to drown in the honey he cried out 'whoever gets me out of the honey shall have 4 dirhams."
Rustam narrated another parable. He said:
"You are like the fox who came into a vineyard, thin and starving and began eating as God wished. The owner of the vineyard saw him and pitying his condition, let him stay. But when the fox had been there for some time and grown big and fat, he turned wicked and started to destroy more grapes than he consumed. This angered the owner, who along with his servants, took a big stick and came after him. The fox dodged them and ran to the hole in the vineyard wall through which he had come, but that hole was big enough for him only when he was thin, and now he was too fat to get through it. So the owner and his servants caught up with him and beat him with sticks until he was dead.
O Arabs you came when you were thin, and now you are fat. See how you get out."
The Arabs said that these parables were idle narrations which carried nowhere. They reiterated their usual demands, Islam, Jizya or sword.
Exasperated Rustam said, "If that is that, let the sword decide."
He asked, "Will you cross the river to our side, or shall we cross to your side."
The Muslims said, "You cross to our side."
When the Muslim envoys returned they apprised Saad of the proceedings. Thereupon the Muslim Commander-in-Chief sent word in the Muslim camp that they should get ready for war.
The Persians crossed the Ateeq on the 16th November, 636 A.D. The previous night Rustam had a dream in which he had seen Umar seal the arms of the Persians. As Rustam woke he said to himself: "This Umar has eaten my heart. May God burn him."
As Rustam saw his warriors cross the river and take up their positions for battle, he felt over-confident. He remarked to an Officer, "With this army we will shatter the Arabs into pieces." The Officer added the words, "If God wills it." Rustam was in a defiant mood and he retorted, "Even if He does not will it."
The Persian army was deployed with five corps holding the front and one corps in reserve, each corps having a depth of 13 ranks. The center was commanded by Rustam himself. The other Commanders were: Left Center: Beerzan; Right Center: Jalinus; Left Wing: Mihran; and Right Wing: Hormuzan. The reserve was commanded by Bahman.
The Persian army had a strength of 60,000 men. There were 33 war elephants in the Persian army each mounted by several men armed with javelins and bows.
At an elevated seat shaded by a canopy near the west bank of the river sat Rustam wearing his Armour. By his side waved the Dirafashe-Kavian the standard of the Persians.
The Muslim Commander-in-Chief Saad b. Abi Waqas was suffering from sciatica, and there were boils all over his body. In Qadisiyya there was an old royal palace which stood at the extremity of the battle-field. Saad took a seat in the upper storey of the palace where he lay propped up by pillows. From this seat he directed the war operations. He appointed Khalid b. Arfatah as his Deputy, who maintained liaison with the army, and carried out whatever instructions were issued by Saad from time to time.
In the center of the Muslim army the infantry was commanded by Hammal b. Malik. The other Commanders were: Left Center: Asim bin Amr; Right Center: Zuhra b. Al-Hawiyya; Left Wing: Shurahbeel b. As-Samt; Right Wing: Abdullah b. Al-Mut'im. The reserve was commanded by Salman bin Rabee'a.
When the Muslim forces were arrayed in the order of battle, poets and orators addressed them, and with their stirring declamations inspired the warriors to action.
One of the orators said;
"O warriors, turn your swords into an impenetrable wall of steel; rush upon your antagonists like so many roaring lions; don the panoply of dust and turn your eyes downwards. When you have done with swords then let the arrows fly, for the swords cannot reach where arrows find their way."
Readers of the Quran recited verses from the Holy Quran on the subject of 'Jihad' with forceful cadence which stirred the hearts of the warriors.
The battle began with personal duels. The first duel was between Ghalib b. Abdullah of the Bani Asad and the Persian General Hormuz. Hormuz was overpowered and brought to the Muslim camp where he was locked as a prisoner of war. From the Persian ranks a Persian officer stepped forward and gave a challenge. This was accepted from the Muslim ranks by Amr b. Mndi Karib. They wrestled for some time when Amr threw his adversary and cut off his head Amr then turned to his men and shouted: " When a Persian has dropped his javelin he is useless". Then another Persian stepped forward. Amr closed up and lifted the Persian off his horse, and then cut his throat. Then he shouted, "When a Persian has lost his bow, he is useless". The Arab champion returned to his ranks, and turning to his companions shouted, "I am Abu Thaur. Do as I do." To this his admiring companions replied: "O Father of the Bull, who can do as you do."
There was another combat between Asim b Amr and a Persian Officer. When the Persian got near Asim, he lost nerves, and galloped back to the Persian army. Asim followed him to the Persian line, but no Persian stepped forward to meet the challenge of Asim. Asim found a mule loaded with two saddle bags. Asim took the reins of the mule and led it to the Muslim camp. The saddle bags were found full of date cakes and honey. Saad gifted this trophy to the men belonging to the contingent of Asim.
After the duels were over, Rustam struck at the Muslims with his elephants and his wings. The Persians attack began with heavy showers of arrows. The Muslim archers shot their arrows in return, but these were light, and the Persians derisively said that the Muslim arrows were mere spindles.
After the Persian archers had gained the upper hand, Rustam ordered an attack on the Muslim right. The elephants led the attack and advanced upon the contingent led by Jareer b. Abdullah. As the elephants advanced, the Muslim horses broke out of control and fled from their position thereby leaving the infantry unsupported. As the elephants advanced the Muslim infantry was thrown into confusion, and began to fall back.
Saad seated upstairs in the Qadisiyya palace saw this confusion. He was writhing in an agony of pain, and was impatiently tossing from side to side. His wife Salma the widow of Muthanna was seated close to him. Seeing the confusion in the Muslim ranks Salma exclaimed, "What a pity, Muthanna is not here to-day." Cut to the quick, Saad slapped her on the face saying, 'What could have Muthanna done even if he were present?" Salma retorted "I wonder the cowards have also a sense of honor". Then she walked away inside the house.
Saad sent orders to Ath'ath b. Qais who commanded the Kinda in the right center, and to Hammal b. Malik who commanded the infantry of the center to attack the Persian corps which were pursuing the Bajeela contingent. Using javelin and sword the Muslims arrested the Persian advance. Then the advancing Persians were attacked from the front as well as the flank. That made the Persians withdraw.
Rustam now ordered his right wing under Jalinus to advance against the Muslims on their front. The elephants of the Persian right and right center moved forward. The Persian archers came into action and let loose a rain of arrows. The Muslim horses on the left and center became unmanageable and fled from their positions. Saad sent word to Asim b. Amr who commanded the Bani Tamim to do something about the elephants.
Asim ordered his men to pick off the Persians on the elephants backs with arrows, to get behind the elephants and then slip in and cut the girths of the howdahs. Bani Tamim rushed forward to their task, and soon the girths of all the howdahs had been cut. Many Persian elephant-riders were killed as they fell, and the rest beat a hasty retreat making the elephants retire to the position behind the front line.
By afternoon the Persian attacks on the Muslim wings were beaten back. Now Saad ordered a counter attack. The Muslim front at once moved forward. The Muslim cavalry charged with full force. That made the Persians reel back. The Muslim infantry then advanced. The javelin-men hurled their javelins, and the swordsmen rushed forward brandishing their swords. About sunset the Muslims were able to create several gaps in the Persian front. Through one of such gaps the Muslim warriors charged and got very near Rustam the Persian Commander-in-Chief. Rustam plunged into the foray personally and repulsed the Muslim attack though he received several wounds on his person.
The fighting ended at dusk. The battle was inconclusive. There was considerable confusion and loss on both the sides. In the Muslim chronicles the first day of the battle of Qadisiyya came to be known as "The Day of Disorder."
As soon as it was day, Saad had all the dead bodies of the Muslims evacuated from the battle-field, and carried on camels to Uzeib where these were buried in a small valley.
The Persians had suffered heavy casualties the previous day. All their elephants were wounded, and on the second day there were no elephants in the Persian fighting force.
The battle began with the usual duels. Jalinus the Persian General threw a challenge for single combat which was accepted by Taleaha from the Muslim side. The two champions grappled with one another. After some time Taleaha struck his sword on the head of the Persian General. The sword hardly cut the helmet of the Persian's General but did him no physical harm. Unnerved Jalinus beat a hasty retreat.
There was a duel between Ilba b Jahash and a Persian Officer. The Persian was killed. Ilba also received some fatal wounds, and his intestines came out of his belly. He put the intestines into his belly and began to crawl to the Persian front. With his last breath he said:
"I look for merit with our Lord
Thereafter he fell dead just in front of the Persian front.
There was another duel between A'war b. Qutba and the Persian noble Shahryar. In this duel both the Muslim and his Persian adversary were killed.
At noon a small cloud of dust rose in the horizon on the way leading to Syria. Out of the cloud emerged a contingent led by Qaqa b. Amr. Umar had written to Abu Ubaida the Commander of the Muslim forces in Syria that whatever forces he could spare from the Syrian front should be sent to Iraq. After the fall of Yermuk Abu Ubaida sent a force of 1,000 men to Iraq under the Command of Hashim b. Utba who was a nephew of Saad b Abi Waqas. When Hashim neared Qadisiyya he sent an advance guard under Qaqa. As Qaqa arrived at the battle-field he gave the cry of 'Allah-o-Akbar', and this cry was taken up by the other Muslims who were thrilled at his arrival. Qaqa was a brother of Asim b. Amr.
Qaqa rushed into the battle-field and gave the challenge for a duel. The challenge was accepted by the Persian General Rahman the man who had commanded the Persians at the battle of the Bridge. In a few rounds Qaqa killed Bahman. Qaqa threw another challenge. This was accepted by the Persian General Beerzan.
In the duel that followed Beerzan was killed by Qaqa. Thereafter Qaqa returned to the Muslim lines. Addressing his men he said:
"O Muslims greet the enemy with the sword. Only with sword do men kill. Do as I do."
Then Saad ordered a general attack. The Muslim forces swept forward, but the Persians stood firm and repulsed every attack. Ultimately the Muslims pulled back to their original position. Qaqa now resorted to an ingenious device. The camels were camouflaged to look like weird monsters. These monsters moved to the Persian front and seeing them the Persian horses turned and bolted. With the disorganization of the Persian cavalry, the Persians became vulnerable. Saad ordered the Muslims to intensify the attack. Some of the Persian units reeled under the Muslim attack and fell back to the river bank. Through the gaps in the Persian army, the Muslims penetrated deep towards the rear of the Persian army. Qaqa led a group of men through the Persian center towards Rustam's headquarters Rustam drew his sword and personally led a counter attack against the Muslims.
Fighting was hard and fierce. It continued till night had set in. Then the two armies pulled back to their camps. The battle of Qadisiyya was not over, but the Muslims had certainly established their supremacy over the Persian forces.
Abu Mihjan belonged to the Saqeef clan. He was a cousin of Abu Ubaid who had commanded the Muslim forces in Iraq and was martyred at the battle of the Bridge.
The home town of Abu Mihjan was Taif. When the Muslims under the Holy Prophet besieged Taif after the fall of Mecca, Abu Mihjan fought against the Muslims. His arrow mortally wounded Abdullah son of Hazrat Abu Bakr.
Later when the Saqeef submitted to the Holy Prophet and accepted Islam, Abu Mihjan also became a Muslim. He was staunch in his faith in Islam, but he had weakness for liquor, and sometimes secretly drank wine.
At the battle of the Bridge, Abu Mihjan was the commander of the cavalry. He drove back the elephant which had crushed Abu Ubaid to death. After the disaster of the battle of the bridge, Abu Mihjan stayed on with Muthanna at Ulleis for some time. Then he returned to Madina.
At Madina, Umar caught him drinking and as a punishment he was exiled to Yemen. Later he was forgiven and was allowed to join the Muslim forces in Iraq under Saad. In camp, Abu Mihjan drank again, and on discovering his offence Saad had him whipped and thrown into a cellar in fetters. His cell was in the palace at Qadisiyya where Saad was lodged and from where he commanded the war operations.
From his cellar, Abu Mihjan saw the battle waging in great fury. Abu Mihjan was a born soldier, and when the other Muslims were locked up in life and death struggle, he pined to be free to wield the sword against the enemy. He approached Saad, and asked for permission to fight. Saad rebuked him and ordered him back to his cellar.
While returning to his cellar, Abu Mihjan met Salma the new wife of Saad. He wanted her to help him, but Salma was not inclined to interfere.
Back in his cellar, Abu Mihjan burst into pathetic verses:
"It is sufficient sorrow when you see a cavalier,
I was once a man with wealth and kinsmen,
By Allah, I give the pledge,
Salma heard the song and was moved. She wanted to know what she could do for him. He said:
"Release me so that I may go and fight. I promise that if I am not killed I will return to the cellar at night. Lend me a horse so that I may ride to the battle-field."
Salma released him. She also got for him the horse of Saad. Fully armed Abu Mihjan rode to the battle-field. He rode through the Muslim ranks and then with the cry of "Allah-o-Akbar" hurled himself at the Persian front killing a man. He galloped back to the Muslim ranks and after a while again lashed at the Persian front killing another man. He thus went to and fro and killed about a dozen Persians.
The Muslims marveled at the sight of Abu Mihjan. "Who this warrior" they asked. Saad saw him from the top storey his palace. He thought that the man was Abu Mihjan but then he knew that Abu Mihjan was in the cellar. He felt that the horse that the unknown warrior rode appeared to be his own horse, but he dismissed the thought as he knew that his horse was in the stable.
At night after his triumph at the battle field, Abu Mihjan turned to his cellar and his fetters. Back in the cellar, Abu Mihjan burst into song:
"Have you ever known the Saqeef without honor?
When the battle of Qadisiyya was over and Salma and Saad were reconciled Salma told Saad how she had released Abu Mihjan and how Abu Mihjan after performing daring exploits at the battle-field had in keeping with his promise returned to the cellar. Now Saad recalled that the unknown warrior whom he had seen performing wondrous exploits and riding Saad's horse was indeed Abu Mihjan.
Saad was in a mood of appreciation. He released Abu Mihjan and said, "By Allah, after seeing what you did at the battlefield I will not whip you again."
And Abu Mihjan said, "I shall never drink again."
On the third day of the battle of Qadisiyya, the elephants were once again in the front of the Persian army. That altered the situation to the advantage of the Persians, and Rustam pressed this advantage into service. He ordered an attack, and the Muslims had to remain on the defensive.
The Persians let loose a rain of arrows against the Muslims, and that led to considerable damage to the Muslims. The Muslim archers shot their arrows in reply, but these ere not very effective.
The Persian elephants moved forward supported by their infantry and cavalry. At the approach of the Persian elephants, the Muslim horse got panicky and that led to confusion in the ranks of the Muslim cavalry. The Persians pressed the attack, and the Muslims fell back.
Through the gaps that had appeared in the Muslim ranks as a result of the Persian advance, some Persian cavalry pressed forward to capture the old palace where Saad the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces was stationed. The strategy of the Persians was that the Muslim Commander-in-Chief should be killed or taken captive with a view to demoralizing the Muslims.
The Muslims realized the danger that beset their Commander-in-Chief. A strong cavalry contingent of the Muslims rushed to the spot, and drove away the Persians.
Saad now directed that the elephants should be overpowered by blinding them and severing their trunks. Qaqa and his brother Asim took with them a strong group of the Bani Tameem, and moved towards the elephant which was causing the greatest havoc among the Muslim ranks. The Bani Tameem charged with cries of Allah-o-Akbar, struck at the Persians who surrounded the elephant, and moved forward through the gap created by their attack. Thereupon the Persians rushed to the flanks and rear of the elephant. There being no Persian in front of the elephant, Qaqa and Asim stole to the front and threw their javelins at the elephant. The javelins pierced the eyes of the elephant. The beast writhed with pain, and the Howdah that it carried came tumbling down. Qaqa and Asim fell on the Persians who had fallen with the Howdah and killed all of them. Then they severed the trunk of the elephant with strokes of their swords. In an agony of pain, the elephant turned and bolted away trampling the Persians under its feet.
Hammal b. Malik and Ribbel b. Amr of the Bani Asad led a similar attack against another elephant. That elephant also lost its eyes and trunk, and retired from the battle-field writhing with pain.
Amr b. Madi Karib with his men rushed at another elephant and the elephant blinded and mutilated galloped away from the battle-field. Other groups of Muslim warriors also rushed at the elephants adopting similar tactics and succeeded in mutilating the monsters. The mutilated beasts rushed through the Persian ranks and made for the river. The other elephants seeing their leaders leave the field, also turned tail and fled to the river. By noon no elephant was left on the battle-field. The flight of the elephants caused considerable confusion in the Persian ranks.
At this stage, Saad ordered an assault. The Muslims moved forward and the two armies clashed. In spite of the Muslim pressure, the Persians held the ground. After some fierce fighting the Muslims pulled back.
After a little break the battle was resumed in the afternoon. In the absence of Persian elephants, the Muslims once again brought camels camouflaged as monsters. The trick did not work and the Persian horse stood their ground.
The Muslims charged again, but though the Persians suffered heavy casualties, they held the ground and refused to yield. When the dusk set in both the armies were locked in life and death struggle.
The third day of the battle of Qadisiyya proved to be the hardest day of the war. There were heavy casualties on both sides, and the battle-field came to be strewn with dead bodies of fallen warriors, both Muslims and non-Muslims. When the battle began and the elephants were brought to the front all advantages lay with the Persians, and Rustam felt that the collapse of the Muslim army was imminent. At one stage the Muslim Commander-in-Chief ran the risk of being killed or captured alive.
Later the Muslims succeeded in driving away the elephants. The Muslims then launched the assault. In spite of the violence of the Muslim attack, the Persians held the ground and refused to yield. Thus at the end of the third day the battle of Qadisiyya was still inconclusive.
On the third day of the battle even at night there was no break in fighting. It was a moon-lit night, and in spite of fatigue after three days' strenuous battle, the armies continued to fight.
It was now a war of stamina. Both sides were on the verge of human endurance, and whosoever could be steadfast for some time more was likely to win. Both the sides hoped that they were likely to win.
In the matter of stamina the refined Persians could be no match for the hardy Arabs. The strategy of Sa'ad was to wear down the Persians, and snatch away the victory from them.
The battle waged all the night long. About midnight, Qaqa shouted:
"We have strangled the enemy,
There were heavy casualties among the Persians, but they stood firm.
At sunrise the fighting ceased, but still the result was inconclusive. That was now the fourth day of the battle, and it was felt that it might be the last day of the battle. Qaqa addressed his men:
"If we fight for an hour or so more, the enemy will be defeated.
Other Chiefs spoke in similar terms to their contingents. The Muslim warriors shouted "If you attack we are with you."
Qaqa hurled his contingent against the Persians with great violence. Seeing the Bani Tameem launch the attack, other Muslim contingents followed suit. The Persians too exhausted after continuous war for twenty-four hours were taken unawares at the resumption of battle. They stood up in battle formation to resist the Muslim charge, but now there were signs of weakness among the Persian ranks. The right wing of the Persians under Harmuzan was pushed back. After withdrawal they reformed and again stood their ground. By noon Qaqa and his men were able to pierce through the Persian center. They dashed towards the Persian Headquarters to get hold of Rustam, the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian forces.
At this time a strong dust storm lashed the battle-field. The storm blew in the faces of the Persians, and aided the onward advance of the Muslims. The canopy and the throne of Rustam were blown away by the dust storm and thrown in the Ateeq. Rustam was alone. He moved back and sought shelter behind a mule which carried in saddle boxes his personal belongings. A Muslim warrior Hilal b. Ullafa saw the mule and struck at the saddle boxes with his sword. Owing to poor visibility, Hilal could not notice Rustam, nor was Rustam able to see Hilal. The saddle box fell on Rustam. He cleared the box and ran towards the river. Hilal now saw Rustam, and ran after him. Rustam plunged in the river. Hilal jumped in the river after him. He dragged him to the bank, where drawing his sword he struck several blows at Rustam and killed him. Then he dragged the corpse of Rustam and threw it under the feet of the mule. Hilal exultant at having killed the Commander-in-Chief of the Persian forces shouted:
"By the Lord of the Kaaba,
The Persians were not aware of the death of Rustam, and they went on fighting doggedly.
When Sa'ad came to know that Rustam had been killed, he ordered the Muslims to make one more attack and drive away the Persians. In the afternoon the Muslims mounted another attack. By this time even the Persians knew that their Commander-in-Chief had been killed. That demoralized the Persians and after putting up a last heroic resistance, the Persian front collapsed. With the collapse, the Persian warriors fled in panic to the river.
The chained Persians arrived at the bank of the Ateeq anxious to fly to safety. The victorious Muslims followed at their heel. Some Persians were picked up by the Muslims with their long spears. Those who plunged in the river, because of the heavy weight of their amours and chains were unable to cross to the other bank and were drowned.
At this stage Jalinus took command of what was left of the Persian army. He got control of the bridge head, and succeeded in getting a section of the Persian army cross the bridge safely.
The battle of Qadisiyya was now over. Out of 60,000 Persians who had taken the field, only 20,000 survived to tell the story of the disaster that they had met at the battle-field of Qadisiyya. 40,000 Persians were killed or drowned. The Muslim casualties numbered 6,000 out of a total force of 30,000. In the case of the Persians, out of every three persons only one survived: in the case of Muslims out of every five Muslims four survived to rejoice at the victory.
Sad sent parties to pursue the fleeing Persians. The main Persian force commanded by Jalinus proceeded to Najaf. The pursuing Muslim party led by Zuhra caught up the Persians half way between Kharara and Seilahun. Brought to bay Jalinus choose to fight. He threw a challenge for a personal duel. The challenge was accepted by Zuhra. In the duel Jalinus was killed. Thereupon the Persians fled. They were pursued upto Najaf and the stragglers that the Muslims met in the way were put to sword. When it was night, Zuhra and his party returned to Qadisiyya.
Other parties sent in various directions also caught up flying Persians. Most of them were killed or taken captives.
The booty that the Muslims captured was vast. After setting aside the State share of one fifth, the rest was distributed among the men who had participated in the battle of Qadisiyya. Each infantry man received 7,000 dirhams, and each cavalryman 14,000 dirhams as his share.
As soon as the battle of Qadisiyya was over, Sa'ad sent a report of the victory of the Muslims to Umar. In the report, Sa'ad observed:
"Allah the Mighty has given us victory over the enemy after prolonged and fierce battle. The enemy was in great number and strength, but Allah in His Mercy has granted victory to the Muslims. For this Allah and His l' Prophet be praised."
The report was accompanied by a list of casualties as well as the immediate spoils that had fallen in the hands of the Muslims.
The report was sent through a special messenger. The courier selected for the mission was Sa'ad b. Umeila of the Bani Fazara, a clan that lived to the north of Madina.
The courier was provided a fast camel. He was also given provisions for the journey. He was commissioned to ride post haste to Madina, and tell the Caliph and the Muslims the happy news of the victory of the Muslims at the historic battle of Qadisiyya.
From Qadisiyya, Madina was about a thousand miles. Riding day and night, with very short spells of rest, Saad b. Umeila covered the distance in a fortnight. The sun had just risen when the courier reached the outskirts of Madina.
When about two miles from Madina, the courier came upon a man sitting by the roadside who stood up at the approach of the camel rider and asked him from where did he come. Sa'ad b. Umeila said that he was coming from Iraq.
The man who accosted the camel driver was Umar. So keen was Umar about getting the news of the result of the battle of Qadisiyya that Umar would every day in the morning walk for a few miles from Madina on the way to Iraq hoping that some courier would come carrying the news. For the last one week this was the usual practice with Umar. When the sun rose high, and no traveler from Iraq appeared the Caliph would return to Madina. At Madina day and night the faithful prayed for the victory of the Muslims in the battle of Qadisiyya.
When Sa'ad b. Umeila said that he was coming from Iraq, Umar did not reveal his identity to him. Excitedly he asked, "What news do you carry about the battle of Qadisiyya." Sa'ad said exultantly, "God has given the Muslims victory. "
Umar's face lit up with joy as he heard the news of the victory of the Muslims. He did not tell the courier that he was the Caliph and that the report that he carried was meant for him.
The courier quickened the pace of the camel so that he might reach Madina as early as possible. Umar started running alongside the camel, and kept on asking the camel rider the details about the Muslim victory, Sa'ad furnished the necessary details. When Saad had related all that he could tell, Umar exclaimed "Glory be to Allah", and Sa'ad also said, "God be praised."
By this time they had reached Madina, and seeing Umar, the Madinites gathered round him and greeted him as "Amir-ul-Mominin." Thereupon the courier felt embarrassed and turning to Umar said, "O Commander of the Faithful, why did you not reveal your identity to me?"
Umar said, "Brother, be at rest. No blame rests on you."
Sa'ad then handed over the report of Sa'ad b. Abi Waqqas. As Umar read the report, tears of joy trickled from his eyes. All the Muslims of Madina gathered in the Prophet's Mosque. There Umar read the report of Saad b. Abi Waqqas to the congregation. Then the Muslims led by Umar offered a special prayer of thanksgiving to God for the victory of the Muslims at the battle of Qadisiyya.
Al-Khansa was the daughter of the great poet Zuheir. She was the distinguished poetess of Arabia during the early Islamic period. Even the Holy Prophet of Islam admired her verses. She accepted Islam along with the other members of her tribe.
The elegy that she wrote on the death of her brother is regarded as one of the best elegies in Arabic. She said:
"The herald of the dead announced the loss
It wounded me so painfully
Every morning when I awaken,
She was not only a poetess; she was very brave and valiant as well. When the Muslims fought against the Persians in the battle of Qadisiyya she was present at the front with her four sons. On the eve of the battle by a fiery and inspiring speech she exhorted her sons to fight for the glory of Islam. She said:
"My sons, I have borne you with pain and brought you up with great care. I have brought no dishonor to your family and no slur to your tribe. I have wrought no indignity to your father's prestige, and there can be no doubt about the sanctity of the character of your mother. Now, therefore, listen to me. Remember the great merit of fighting for defending your faith; remember the Quranic injunction of adopting patience in the midst of distress. Tomorrow morning, rise from your bed hale and hearty and join the battle with fearless courage. Go into the midst of the thickest of the battle, encounter the boldest enemy and if necessary embrace martyrdom."
The four sons of al-Khansa joined the battle with fearless courage. The words of their mother kept ringing in their ears and they plunged themselves heroically ill. The thick of the battle, and encountered the boldest enemies. They put many Persians to sword and were rewarded with the crown of martyrdom.
The Muslims won the battle of Qadisiyya, but Khansa lost all her sons. When the news of the death of her sons was brought to her, she wanted to know what was the result of the battle. When she was told that the Muslims had won, she thanked God for the martyrdom of her sons, and said, "Who dies, if Islam lives."
When she saw the dead bodies of her sons, she did not weep. She burst into an elegy:
"My sons I bore you with pain
I feel proud to be the mother of martyrs."
When Khansa returned to Madina, Umar went to her house to condole with her over the death of her sons. Khansa merely said:
"Congratulate me, Amirul Mominin,
Umar loaded her with gifts, and as long as she lived, she got the allowances due to her sons. The shares of her sons in the spoils of war arising out of the battle of Qadisiyya were also paid to her.
With the victory at Qadisiyya, the road to Ctesiphon (called Al-Madain by the Muslims) the capital of Persia lay open to the Muslims. Ctesiphon was on the Tigris, a few miles downstream of the present day Baghdad.
The battle of Qadisiyya shook the Persian rule in Iraq to its foundations, but that was not the end of the Persian rude in Iraq. As long as the Persians held their capital Ctesiphon, there was always the danger that at some suitable moment they would make an attempt to recover what they had lost, and drive away the Arabs from Iraq.
Umar accordingly sent instructions to Sa'ad that as a sequel to the battle of Qadisiyya, the Muslims should push forward to Ctesiphon and wrest it from the Persians.
Some time towards the end of November 636, Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas issued orders to the Muslim forces under his command to march to Ctesiphon. Sa'ad reorganized his army into five corps, and each corps was placed under the command of a veteran General. The commanders were:
The entire army consisted of cavalry.
From Qadisiyya, the main stages on the route to Ctesiphon were Najaf; Burs; Babylon; Sura; Deir Kab; Kusa; Sabat; and Ctesiphon.
The corps of Zuhra b. Al-Hawiyya set off as the advance guard. It occupied Najaf and stayed there till the other corps reached Najaf. Then Zuhra with his corps crossed the Euphrates and proceeded on the road to Ctesiphon. He reacted Burs on the western bank of the Hilla branch of the Euphrates.
At Burs the advance of Zuhra was resisted by a Persian force under the command of Busbuhra the Mayor of Burs. The troops on both sides were deployed for action. Busbuhra stepped forward and gave the challenge for a personal duel. Zuhra accepted the challenge. Zuhra inflicted heavy wounds on Busbuhra. Profusely bleeding he retired. There was some fighting but the Persians were no match for the Muslims. The Persian army withdrew and crossing the Hilla branch proceeded to join the main Persian army at Babylon. At Babylon, Busbuhra died of the wounds.
After the withdrawal of the Persian force, the people of Burs approached Zuhra with the offer of peace, which was accepted. Zuhra stayed at Burs for some time to attend to administrative matters. In the meantime other Muslim corps also arrived at Burs.
Babylon was across the other bank of the Euphrates. It was a place of historic importance having been at one time the capital of Iraq. It was also a place of strategic importance and was the gateway of the Suwad, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris.
About two years earlier the Muslims had fought a battle at Babylon under Muthanna when they had occupied Babylon. Later on the eve of the battle of Qadisiyya when the Muslims withdrew from all advance posts in Iraq, they abandoned Babylon Having won the battle of Qadisiyya, the Muslims now advanced to re-conquer Babylon.
Some time in the middle of December 636, the Muslims crossed the Euphrates and camped outside Babylon. There was a big concentration of the Persian forces at Babylon commanded by the veteran Generals, Feerzan, Hormuzan, Mihran and Nakheerzan.
There was a battle at Babylon. The details of the battle have not been recorded in any history. It appears that there was disunity among the Persians, and they could not put up a stiff resistance against the Muslim charge. Hormuzan with his forces withdrew to his home province Ahwaz. On his withdrawal, the other Generals also pulled back their forces and withdrew northward.
After the Persian forces had left, the citizens of Babylon formally surrendered. They were afforded protection under the usual terms. They volunteered to cooperate with the Muslims in their fight against the Persians. They furnished a good deal of useful information about the disposition of the Persian forces. Some Babylonians were employed in the construction of roads and bridges.
While the main Muslim army remained at Babylon, Zuhra was commanded by Sa'ad to pursue the Persians who had retreated from Babylon. The Muslim advance guard under Zuhra followed the Persians, and caught the Persian rear-guard at Sura. The Persian rear-guard deployed themselves for action and after a short clash their resistance broke down and they with drew to Deir Kab.
Zuhra next marched to Deir Kab. There was large concentration of Persian forces at Deir Kab commanded by the General Nakheerzan. The two sides deployed their forces for combat. Then the Persian commander Nakheerzan stepped forward to throw a challenge for a personal duel.
From the Muslim side Zubair bin Salim a lieutenant of Zuhra stepped forward to accept the duel. In an exciting duel, Nakheerzan was overthrown and killed. Then the battle began. For some time the Persians put up a stiff resistance, and all Muslim attacks were repulsed. Then by a flanking movement Jareer bin Abdullah was able to capture the bridge at the rear of the Persians. From there he raised the shout of "Allah-o-Akbar'. At this the Persians lost heart, and they withdrew in great disorder after suffering heavy losses. Deir Kab was occupied by the Muslims, and the people were afforded protection under the usual terms.
Early in January 637, the Muslim advance guard under Zuhra reached Kusa. It was only ten miles from Ctesiphon. There was a sizable detachment of the Persian forces here commanded by Shahryar. He was a huge camel-like man, very haughty and arrogant.
As the two forces were deployed for action, Shahryar stepped out of the Persian ranks, and gave the challenge for a personal duel in very arrogant terms. He said:
"Who can dare come forward to measure strength with me. Verily, whoever comes to fight with me, comes to meet his death."
Zuhra the Commander of the Muslim forces said:
"I would have come to fight with you personally, but in view of your arrogance I am deputing a slave to fight you. "
Under the orders of Zuhra, Nail bin Ju'shan emerged from the Muslim ranks and proceeded to have a duel with Shahryar. As the two antagonists faced each other mounted on horseback, Shahryar saw that Nail was a lean thin man whom he could overthrow in no time.
The duel began. They first fought with lances, then with swords. Thereafter the two champions dismounted from the horses and a hand to hand fighting ensued. In such a fight, Shahryar in view of his bulk appeared to have an upper hand. Shahryar overthrew Nail, and was about to draw his dagger to kill Nail, when the Arab with his strong teeth crushed the thumb of Shahryar. That made Shahryar lose his balance. Nail rose immediately, and thrust his dagger in the body of Shahryar. The camel-like man fell on the ground dead.
Seeing their commander fall, the Persians lost nerve, and choosing discretion as the better part of valour, they withdrew to Ctesiphon. Thereafter the Muslims occupied Kusa. A deputation of the citizens waited on Zuhra, when the usual terms were offered to them, and they accepted them without argument.
After the victory, Zuhra stayed at Kusa for some time. In the meantime all the Muslim forces reached Kusa. Kusa was a place of historic importance. It was the place where Nimrod imprisoned the Prophet Abraham, and where he was thrown in burning fire, out of which he had emerged unharmed. The Muslims visited all these sites and offered prayers for the soul of Abraham Sa'ad wrote of the Muslim victories to Umar, and also about the sanctity of Kusa.
In reply Umar wrote:
"Just as the Prophet Abraham emerged out of the ordeal of fire unharmed, thus I have the faith that in the battle of truth that you are waging against the Persians, you will, with the grace of God, triumph. Now Al-Madain awaits you. Go ahead, and let the Muslim flag flutter over the palace of the Chosroes. May God bless you. Have faith in God, for such faith would give you the courage to fight against heavy odds."
In the second week of January 637, Zuhra advanced with his corps and reached Sabat four miles from Ctesiphon. It was a Persian cantonment, but there was no garrison there. The Mayor of Sabat, Sheerzad waited on Zuhra and offered allegiance to the Muslims. The residents were given protection on the usual terms. Now the entire land upto the very gates of Ctesiphon belonged to the Muslims.
Ctesiphon the capital of Persia was not one city; it was a conglomeration of several cities. Indeed the Arabs called Ctesiphon 'Al-Madain', meaning the cities. The main city I lay on the eastern bank of the Tigris. One of the cities forming part of 'Al-Madain' lay on the western bank of the Tigris and was known as Bahrseer.
Bahrseer had been prepared for defense, and a deep ditch had been dug round the perimeter of the suburb. As the Muslim advance guard approached Bahrseer, the Persian garrison within the fortified city hurled stones at the Muslims through ballistas and catapults. The Muslims pulled back beyond the range of the stones and decided to lay siege to the city.
The siege began in January 637, and dragged on for two months. The supplies from the countryside on which Bahrseer depended were entirely cut off, and the citizens were reduced to eating cats and dogs. Things for the Persian force became still worse, when some of the Persians who had accepted the Muslim rule, built for the Muslims engines which could throw stones. Equipped with these engines, the Muslims were able to answer the Persian military fire, stone for stone. That caused considerable havoc among the besieged citizens.
One day in March 637, cut to sore straits, the Persian garrison called forth from the city in the determined effort to break through the Muslim ranks. The Persian forces were led by a fierce lion which had been specially trained for war. The lion rushed at the Muslim front, and the Muslim horses bolted causing considerable harms. Hashim who was commanding the vanguard of the Muslim forces rushed at the lion with his sword and dealt it such a well directed blow that it fell dead. Saad the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces stepped forward to kiss Hashim bin Utba on the forehead as a mark of admiration for his act of unparalleled heroism.
The Commander of the Persian force gave a challenge for a personal duel. The challenge vies accepted by Zuhra bin Al-Hawiyya. In the exciting duel that followed, Zuhra killed the Persian Commander. Then the two armies clashed, and the fight continued till the night set. In the battle an arrow struck Zuhra, the hero of the march to Ctesiphon, and the great hero died. He was buried with full military honors.
After the break in fighting, a Persian emissary came to the Muslim camp to convey a message from the Persian emperor. The Persian emissary said:
"Our emperor asks if you would be agreeable to peace on the condition that the Tigris should be the boundary between you and us, so that whatever is with us on the eastern side of the Tigris remains ours and whatever you have gained on the western side is yours. And if this does not satisfy your land hunger, then nothing would satisfy you."
Saad the Muslim Commander-in-Chief told the emissary that the Muslims were not hungry for land; and that they were fighting in the name of Allah. He added that if the Persian emperor wanted peace it was open to him to accept Islam, or to pay Jizya. If both the alternatives were not acceptable then peace was out of question, and only the sword could decide the issue between them.
When the day dawned, it was found that the Persians had evacuated Bahrseer. In withdrawing the Persian garrison had destroyed all bridges on the Tigris. They had also taken away all the boats from the western bank of the Tigris, and anchored them on the eastern bank.
The Muslim forces occupied Bahrseer, The town was empty. All the residents had during the night managed to cross over to Ctesiphon on the other bank of the Tigris.
After the occupation of Bahrseer, only the Tigris half a mile wide lay between the Muslims and Ctesiphon. The river was in flood and there were no means with the Muslims to cross it. In their withdrawal from Bahrseer the Persians had taken away all the boats. The approaches to Ctesiphon were heavily guarded by the Persians. It was reported that there was considerable Persian force in Ctesiphon under the command of Generals Mihran and Khurrazad. Khurrazad was a brother of the General Rustam who had been killed in the battle of Qadisiyya.
Some Persians who had accepted the Muslim rule volunteered to show Sa'ad a site downstream where the river could be forded. Sa'ad saw the site, but was not sure whether it was fit for crossing. The Arabs were land warriors and they hesitated to negotiate water. That night Saad had a dream in which another site was indicated to him which the Muslims could cross.
The next morning Sa'ad asked for volunteers who could cross the river on horseback. Asim was the first to volunteer. Then others offered themselves. Sa'ad went to the site which he had seen in the dream, and after invoking the blessings of God asked the six hundred warriors led by Asim to plunge into the river and cross over to the other bank.
The Muslim horses plunged in the river and slowly proceeded to the other bank. When the Persians saw that the Muslims were coming, the Persian horses also plunged in the river to hold back the Muslims from crossing the river. When the Muslims were hardly half way in the river they faced the Persians. A river battle ensued. In the hand to hand fight that followed the Muslims were able to kill many Persians and the rest fled away. As the Muslims landed on the eastern bank of the Tigris, a cry went around the Persian camp, "The Muslims have come: they are not men, they are devils and jinns. Who can fight them?"
After the first band of six hundred volunteers under Asim, other contingents crossed the river, and this process went on till all the Muslim forces had crossed over to the other side of the Tigris. When the Persian Generals came to know that the entire Muslim force had crossed over to Ctesiphon in spite of the flood in the river, they decided that they should evacuate Ctesiphon as further resistance was futile. The Persian army evacuated the city. The Persian emperor Yazdjurd retreated to Hulwan. While withdrawing the Persian emperor carried away as much of the imperial treasure and other valuable possessions as he could carry.
From the river bank the Muslim forces marched to the city of Ctesiphon. The march was led by the column of Asim. Me was immediately followed by the column of Qaqa. Then other columns marched in military order. At one place a few Persian soldiers offered resistance but they were soon cut off. The Muslim columns marched through the heart of Ctesiphon. All business premises were closed. No Persians were seen, and the Muslims met no resistance. The Muslims got to the White Palace the seat of the Persian Government. A small Persian regiment stationed there offered some resistance. Salman the Persian who was with the Muslim troops advised the Persian regiment to submit in its own interest as they could no longer face the Muslims. The garrison surrendered, and the White Palace was occupied by the Muslims.
After occupying the city, Sa'ad announced amnesty to all Persians who were in the city. A delegation of the representatives of the people waited on Saad. They sought terms, and the usual terms being offered they agreed to the imposition of Jizya. A regular peace pact was drawn up, and the citizens were called upon to follow their normal avocations. Without any large scale fighting the Muslims had conquered Ctesiphon, the capital of the once mighty Persian empire.
Sa'ad moved into the White Palace and established his headquarters there. The great courtyard of the palace was converted into a mosque where Sa'ad led a mass victory prayer.
Sa'ad next sent out columns in several directions to deal with the Persian stragglers. One column took the route to Hulwan. They caught up some Persians at Nahrawan and recovered the valuable goods that they were carrying. These included the fabulous crown of Persia, the imperial regalia and several ornaments. The booty comprised enough gold and precious stones to purchase a kingdom. Another column operating in another sector recovered some swords and other valuable armour. Another Muslim column captured some chests which contained a horse of gold studded with sapphires and emeralds.
Within Cteiiphon the Muslims found a pavilion containing a large number of sealed baskets. These baskets contained utensils of gold and silver. From the imperial treasury the Muslims got cash of over a billion dirhams.
When the booty was distributed among the soldiers the share of each man came to 12,000 dirhams. Among the booty was a grogeous carpet found from the White Palace. It was a huge bulky affair 900 meters square. It was worked with gold and gems. It represented a garden with glades, trees and flowers. The branches of the tree were that of gold, the leaves were of silver, and the fruit were of gems. It was one of the wonders of the world. As it could not be distributed among the soldiers, Sa'ad sent it to Madina along with the usual onefifth State share.
After the occupation of Ctesiphon, one-fifth of the booty gathered from Al-Madain was sent to Umar at Madina. These included vast riches comprising rare and priceless heirlooms. These comprised besides cash, the gorgeous carpet; the gem studded crown and royal robes; bangles of the Persian kings, and other curios.
On receiving the news of the subjugation of the capital of the Persian empire, Umar led a thanksgiving prayer. The Holy Prophet had prophesied that the Muslims would one day overpower the mighty empire of Persia and this prophecy had been fulfilled only within six years of the death of the Holy Prophet.
As Umar surveyed the vast riches that had been brought to Madina, he wept. These were tears partly indicative of his joy and partly of his fear lest such wealth might turn the head of the Muslims.
Umar sought the advice of the Companions as to what should be done with the carpet. The general view was that it might be retained by the Caliph. Umar asked for the opinion of Ali. Ali said, "What they say is right, but if you set this precedent to-day, tomorrow there will be those who will claim such trophies without deserving them." Umar said, 'Are you all right; verily, you have given sound advice " The carpet was cut into small pieces and distributed among the people. Ali got one average piece, and he was able to sell it for 20,000 dirhams.
In Madina there was a man Muhallam by name who was cast in royal mould, and was known for his dignity, grace, and symmetry of body. On seeing him the Holy Prophet had said that he would one day wear the robes of the kings of Persia. When in the spoils the robes of the Persian kings came to Madina, Umar called Muhallam and had him dressed in the robes of the kings of Persia. All the people of Madina came to see him thus dressed. In this way the prophecy of the Holy Prophet was fulfilled.
There was another man in Madina Saraqa by name about whom the Holy Prophet had said that one clay he would wear the bangles of Chosroes. There was an interesting background to the story of Saraqa. When the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr escaped from Mecca with a view to migrating to Madina, the hostile Quraish of Mecca announced a reward of one hundred camels to any one who captured the Holy Prophet. Saraqa bin Jusham was a Quraish some one reported to him that he had seen three persons traveling on the road to Madina Thinking that such persons were the Prophet and his party Saraqa decided to pursue them with a view to winning the reward of hundred camels. Saraqa rode on a swift horse and he ultimately came in sight of the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr. As he drew near them his horse stumbled and he fell down. He drew arrows from his quiver to divine the course of action for him. The omens forbade the pursuit. In spite of that Saraqa rode again to pursue the fugitives. This time the horse stuck up in the loose sand and could not come out. Once again he cast the arrows in the process of divination, and once again he received a negative answer. He now felt convinced that some supernatural power protected the Prophet. He shouted to the Holy Prophet and Abu Bakr to stop and listen to him. They stopped and as he came to them Saraqa said that he had come to pursue them but after what had happened to his horse he had changed his mind. He said, "You May go to Madina in peace. I will return to Mecca and I will see that you are not pursued, Give me in writing an assurance that when the time comes my services would be recognized." The Holy Prophet asked Abu Bakr to give a document to that effect to Saraqa.
When Mecca was conquered, Saraqa presented that document and was allowed amnesty. He was converted to Islam and came to Madina. In Madina the Holy Prophet had said, "Saraqa a time will come when you will wear the bangles of Chosroes." Umar called Saraqa and gave him the bangles of Chosroes as a reward for the services that he had rendered to the Holy Prophet. As Saraqa wore the bangles, Umar said, "Thank God, the prophecy of the Holy Prophet stands fulfilled."
When the Muslims occupied Ctesiphon the capital of Persia it did not mean that Persia had completely abandoned Iraq. In the north-east of Ctesiphon, the Persian forces gathered in great strength at Jalaula. Still further upstream the Tigris there was a concentration of the Persian forces at Takreet and Mosul.
When the Persian forces gathered at Jalaula, the Persian Governor of Mosul, Intaq by name collected some Persian forces and marched with them from Mosul to Takreet. He also collected large contingents from the Christian Arab tribes of Iyad, Taghlib and Namr. At Takreet he had a sizable Persian army. He dug a ditch round the city.
Takreet lay north-west of Jalaula, and the strategy was that the contingents from Takreet could be sent to the help of the Persian army at Jalaula. It was also believed that in the event of Persian defeat at Jalaula, the Persians could take a stand at Takreet.
Sa'ad b. Abi Waqqas reported this situation to Umar. Umar issued the following instructions to Sa'ad b. Abi Waqqas:
"Send Abdullah b. Mut'am to deal with Intaq. The Commander of his advance guard will be Ribi b. Al-Afkal, of his right wing Haris b. Hassaan, of his left wing Furat b. Hayan, of his rear-guard Hani b. Qais, and of his cavalry Arafja bin Harsama."
Umar further instructed:
"If Allah defeats the two armies, the army of Mihran and the army of Intaq, send Qaqa b. Amr forward so that he is between the Suwad and the hills, on the boundaries of the Suwad, to act as the guard of the Muslims. May Allah preserve the Suwad for you."
Some time in May 637 A.D., Abdullah b. Mut'am marched from Ctesiphon with a force of 5,000 men, and arriving at Takreet invested the city Abdullah made several attempts to break the defenses but the Persians held the ground.
With the Persians inside the city of Takreet there was a considerable strength of the Christian Arabs. Abdullah sent his agents to contact the Arab tribes in the city, and tried to persuade them not to support the Persians. He suggested that they should join the Muslim Arabs against the Persians. These overtures were successful and the Christian Arabs became lukewarm in their support of the Persians. The Persians soon noticed that the Arab tribe, were not active in the war effort and avoided war. Thereupon the Persians decided to evacuate secretly.
These developments were reported to Abdullah by the agents of the Christian tribes. The Christian Arab tribes offered to join the Muslims in case suitable terms were offered to them. Abdullah said that if the Christian tribes were sincere they should declare that there was no God but Allah and that Muhammad was the Messenger of God. The agents carried this message to their tribes inside the city. These agents returned after some time to tell Abdullah that the Christian Arabs agreed to accept Islam.
Abdullah decided that the main Muslim army would start the attack from the east across the ditch and would announce it with 'Takbeer'. The Arabian tribes within the city were required that as soon as they heard the Takbeer, they should raise the Takbeer and secure the western side of the city on the river front.
At night the Persian soldiers made preparations to embarked in the boats. At that time they heard the call of Allah-o-Akbar. The Persians were frightened and they thought that the Muslims had landed on the west edge of the city and cut their line of retreat. The Persians accordingly rushed eastward to escape from that side. Here they ran into the Muslim army which struck them with violence. The Persians pulled back and in the rear they were attacked by the Christian Arabs who had been converted to Islam. The Persians found themselves entrapped and they were killed in large numbers.
With the annihilation of the Persian army the Muslims occupied Takreet. As all the residents had accepted Islam there was great rejoicing at the occupation of the city by the Muslims.
Two days later, Abdullah sent a strong detachment of the army under Rabi bin Al-Akfal to Mosul. When the Muslims reached Mosul, the Persian garrison came out to fight. The Persians could not stand the Muslim attack and the Persians chose to surrender on the payment of Jizya in return for the safety of their lives and property.
Thereafter Abdullah also moved from Takreet to Mosul, and made arrangements for the administration of the area. After things had settled down Abdullah returned to Ctesiphon and left a garrison at Mosul under the command of Muslim bin Abdullah.
With the victories of Jalaula, Takreet, and Mosul, the Muslim hold on northern Suwad became firm.
After withdrawal from Ctesiphon, the Persian armies gathered at Jalaula north-east of Ctesiphon. Jalaula was situated in the neighborhood of what is modern Baghdad. It lay on the main road to Khurasan. Jalaula was a place of strategically importance from where routes led to Iraq, Khurasan and Azerbaijan.
The Persian forces at Jalaula were commanded by General Mihran. His deputy was General Khurrazad a brother of General Rustam. The Persians made great preparations for a large scale battle against the Muslims. The entire town was converted into a fortress. A deep ditch was dug round the city. Various fortifications were constructed behind the ditch. In front of the ditch caltrops were strewn in large numbers with a view to laming the horses of the advancing enemy. The Persian troops took an oath by the sacred fire that they would die fighting rather than retreat. The town was stocked with provisions, and the Persians prepared themselves with grim determination for a long siege.
When Saad came to know of the preparations that the Persians had mad to defied Jalaula he reported the intelligence to Umar and asked for his orders. With the Persian army quartered at Jalaula the Muslim hold on Ctesiphon could never be firm. The Caliph, therefore, ordered that steps should be taken to capture Jalaula. He directed Sa'ad b. Abi Waqqas that Hashim b. Utbah should be sent on the expedition against lalaula at the head of a force of twelve thousand men. The Caliph further ordered that the vanguard should be commanded by Qaqa; the right wing by Musir b. Malik; the left wing by, Amr b. Malik; and the rear-guard by Amr b. Marrah.
Some time in April 637 A.D., Hashim marched at the head of 12,00O troops from Ctesiphon, and arriving at Jalaula found that the Persians were in a strong position with fortifications, entrenchments, deep ditch, and a belt of caltrops. Hashim established his camp and decided to lay a siege to Jalaula.
The siege dragged on for seven months. There were occasional skirmishes but these led no where. The Persians continued to get reinforcements from Hulwan. Some time in November heavily reinforced the Persians decided to launch an offensive and drive away the Muslims. This suited the Muslims. Hashim pulled back his army so that the entire Persian army might be brought in the field.
The action began with a heavy attack by the Persians all along the front. The Muslims withstood the ground but as the Persians intensified their pressure some Muslim units were pushed back, and they were exposed to the danger of a collapse. Hashim dashed forward to such units, and exhorted them to hold fast. He assured them that the battle of Jalaula was going to be the last battle and it had to be won at all costs. The fight continued with considerable violence. The battle was carried with arrows; then with javelins, spears and lances; and thereafter with swords and maces.
In the afternoon there was a short break in fighting. When the fighting was resumed, the Muslims launched the attack. Qaqa with his reserve made a flanking movement and reached the ditch in the rear of the Persian army. Late in the afternoon a storm began to blow. So severe was the dust storm that the land became dark. The storm blew in the faces of the Persians, and helped the Muslims rush forward with greater momentum. The fighting was savage and each side fought with fanatical fury. When the combat was going on violently, Qaqa raised the cry from behind the Persian forces, "O Muslims I am here. I have captured the ditch. Come to me."
At this call, the Muslim forces attacking the Persians from the front increased the violence of their attack. As the Persians moved back they had to face the attack from the rear by the men of Qaga. The storm also gained in virulence. In the face of these hostile circumstances the Persian resistance broke and they dispersed in all directions. The Muslims pursued them, and the Persians were slaughtered in large numbers. According to Tabari one laku Persians were killed in the battle of Jalaula. Even though this figure might be somewhat exaggerated, the Persian loss was colossal. Mibran found safety in flight to Hulwan.
The Muslims occupied Jalaula. As the Persian army had withdrawn, the residents surrendered on the usual terms of Jizya. The spoils of war collected were valued at 30 million dirhams. After setting aside the usual one-fifth state share, the rest was distributed among the warriors. The share of each warrior came to 9,000 dirhams.
The State share of the booty was sent to Madina through Ziyad. A public assembly was convince and the faithful gathered in the Prophet's mosque to hear an account of the Muslim victory at the battle of Jalaula. Ziyad gave such an eloquent and graphic description of the battle that Umar admiringly said, "This is what an orator should be." Ziyad said that the credit for such narration was due to the heroic, deeds performed by the warriors of Islam.
The property brought in booty was stored in the courtyard of the mosque and Abdur Rahman b. Auf and Ahdullah b. Arqam kept watch over the property during the night. In the morning under the supervision of Umar the mantle that covered the goods was drawn aside, and it was found that besides vast property and goods there were vast sums in gold and silver.
Umar ordered the immediate distribution of the property among the Muslims. As the property was distributed tears trickled from the eyes of Umar. The faithful gathered round Umar enquired as to the reason for his weeping Umar said, "God be praised for showering so much wealth on the Muslims. I weep because I am afraid that where riches appear, envy and jealousy are bound to follow in their wake."
After the conquest of Jalaula, a Muslim force under Qaqaa marched in pursuit of the Persians.
The Persian army that escaped from Jalaula took its position at Khaniqeen fifteen miles from Jalaula on the road to Iran. The Persian force at Khaniqeen was commanded by General Mihran. His deputy was Feerzan. The force at Khaniqeen was joined by some reinforcements from Hulwan.
When Qaqaa arrived at Khaniqeen he deployed for battle. Mihran and Feerzan also arrayed their army for battle on the plain outside Khaniqeen.
The battle began with a duel between Qaqaa and Mihran. In this duel Mihran was killed. With the death of Mihran, the Muslims launched the attack with considerable violence. The Persians put up a defense but it did not last long. Feerzan and the force he commanded found safety in flight.
With the withdrawal of the Persian army Khaniqeen was captured by the Muslims. A good deal of booty was captured by the Muslims which was distributed after setting aside the state share of one fifth. In this battle a large number of Persian women was captured by the Muslims. These were also distributed among the Muslim soldiers.
When Yazdjurd the Persian emperor came to know of the defeat of the Persians at Khaniqeen he left the defense of Hulwan to a general named Khusro Shanum, and himself fled to Qum.
From Khaniqeen Qaqaa marched to Hulwan. At Hulwa the Persian forces under Khusro Shanum offered resistance. On a cold January day in the year 638 AD, the Muslim and the Persian forces clashed on the battle-field. The Muslims fought with great vigor and violence The Persians put up a stiff resistance but they felt that the Muslims were devils and jinns and they could be no match for them. The Persians lost heart as well as the battle. Khusro Shanum and his forces found safety in flight.
With the withdrawal of the Persian forces the citizens of Hulwan formally submitted to Muslim rule and agreed to pay Jizya. Hulwan was a large city and Qaqaa stayed there to restore law and order and administer its affairs.
A considerable booty was captured by the Muslims. It was distributed in the usual way and the one fifth state share was sent to Ctesiphon and Madina.
Qaqaa sent a report of the victory of Hulwan to Saad. He chose to stay at Hulwan pending receipt of further orders. Qaqaa suggested that he should be allowed to continue his advance to North Persia in the pursuit of the defeated Persian army. He also desired that if such advance was to be made further reinforcements should be sent.
Sa'ad transmitted the report to Umar at Madina. He recommended that the Muslim forces should be allowed to march further inland in Persia.
Umar thanked God for the victory of the Muslims at Hulwan. He took counsel with the Companions whether the Muslim forces should continue their advance in the heart of Persia. Umar was of the opinion, and this view was endorsed by the Muslims in Madina, that there should be halt to further advance.
Umar accordingly wrote to Sa'ad bin Abi Waqq as that there should be no further advance. He wrote:
"I wish that between the Suwad and the Persian hills there were a wall which would prevent them from getting to us, and prevent us from getting to them. The fertile Suwad is sufficient for us; and I prefer the safety of the Muslims to the spoils of war."
In view of this policy of no further advance Qaqaa was withdrawn from Hulwan to rejoin the main force at Ctesiphon. Qaqaa left Qubas b. Abdullah as the Commander of the Muslim garrison at Hulwan. The garrison was to guard the frontiers of Islam. Jareer b. Abdullah withdrew from Jalaula leaving a small Muslim force there.
By February 638 there was a lull in fighting on the Persian front. The Suwad, the Tigris valley, and the Euphrates valley were now under the complete control of the Muslims. The Persians had withdrawn to Persia proper. It appeared as if this was going to be the dividing line between the Arabs and the Persians.
After the battle of Jalaula, the Persian forces scattered in various pockets. One of such pockets was Masabzan. As Hashim b. Utba was returning from Jalaula to Madain, he was informed in the way by his army scouts that some of the Persian forces which had escaped from Jalaula had assembled in the territory of Masabzan at the base of the hills under the command of Azeen the son of Hormuzan. When Hashim reached Madain, he communicated this information to Sa'ad. Sa'ad in turn wrote to Umar and sought his instructions, particularly when he had ordered that there should be no further advance in Persia.
Umar wrote to say that while he was against any advance into Persia proper, he was not against the liquidation of Persian pockets in Iraq which might be a threat to Muslim dominions. We accordingly desire that in the interests of the safety of Iraq, an expedition should be led to Masabzan which should be occupied and cleared of the Persian forces. Umar appointed Zarrar b. Khattab of the tribe of Maharab to the chief command of the force to be led against Masabzan, Ibn Hazil Asadi was appointed as the commander of the advance guard. Abdullah bin Wahb Rabbi was appointed to the command of the right wing, and Musarab al-Ajaali was appointed as the commander of the left wing.
Some time in January 638 AD, a Muslim force under the command of Zarrar marched to Masabzan. At Hindaf the two forces clashed. The Persians under Azeen fought desperately, and in spite of heavy pressure of the Muslims held their ground. Azeen directed the operations from an elevated place in the rear of the Persian army Zarrar withdrew the Muslim army to some distance, and the Persians thinking that they had won the day rushed forward The Muslim army counter charged and the Persians could not withstand the charge. In the meantime some Muslim warriors managed to reach the camp of Azeen and captured him alive. With the capture of Azeen the war was over, and whatever remained of the Persian army took to flight.
From Hindaf the Muslim army marched to Sirwan. No resistance was offered. The city had been evacuated and the Persian army as well as the citizens of Sirwan had fled to the hills. Zarrar occupied Sirwan and established his headquarters there.
He announced general amnesty, and asked the people to return to their homes The offer was availed of and the citizens returned to their homes. A peace treaty was drawn up and the inhabitants agreed to pay Jizya. Considerable booty was obtained which was distributed according to the usual formula.
After the restoration of peace, Zarrar stayed in Sirwan as the Governor. He organized the administration, appointed Muslim Officers in the districts, and collected taxes. Later when Kufa was founded as the capital of Iraq, Zarrar moved to Kufa leaving Ibn Hazil Asadi as his successor in Masabzan.
After the conquest of Jalaula in December 637 AD, Hashim sent a contingent under Qaqaa b. Amr to pursue the Persians to Hulwan. Hashim left a garrison of 4,000 men under Jareer b. Abdullah at Jalaula to guard against hostile moves from the north. With the remainder of the army, Hashim returned to Ctesiphon.
In spite of the fall of Ctesiphon and Jalaula, there were some Persian pockets upstream the Tigris and the Euphrates. After the fall of Jalaula, Saad undertook campaigns in the Tigris valley at Takreet and Mosul.
For the Euphrates valley, Saad organized an expeditionary force and sent it under the command of Amr b. Malik to deal with the Persian pockets at Heet and Qirqassia.
In the last week of December 637 AD, the Muslim forces under Amr b. Malik arrived at Heet. Here they found that the Persians had dug a ditch round the town. Amr pitched his tents beyond the ditch, and decided to lay siege to the town.
The Persians remained shut in the town and remained on the defensive. Further upstream at Qirqassia at the junction of the Khabur and the Euphrates there was another Persian cantonment. The Persians at Heet continued to receive provisions from Qirqassia through the river.
Amr b. Malik waited at Heet for some time, but no engagement took place. Amr thought that in order to force the Persians at Heet into submission, their source of supply from Qirqassia should be cut.
Amr decided to pounce upon Qirqassia, take them unawares and thereby cut the source of supply to Heet. Amr left the Muslim camp at Heet standing occupied by a detachment under Haris b. Yazeed. With the rest of the army Amr marched off at night for Qirqassia. The Muslim force appeared suddenly, at Qirqassia. The Persians offered some feeble resistance, but being no match for the Muslims the Persian garrison surrendered. The representatives of the inhabitants of Qirqassia waited on Amr and sought for terms. The usual alternatives of Islam or Jizya were offered and the inhabitants agreed to pay Jizya.
With the surrender of Qirqassia the source of supply to Heet was completely cut. Amr sent a fast courier to Haris at Heet instructing him to inform the defenders of Heet that Qirqassia had submitted and agreed to pay Jizya. If the people of Heet agreed to submit on similar terms their safety lay in such a course. Amr further instructed Haris that if the people of Heet did not surrender he should construct another ditch outside the ditch of the Persians. In that case he would be returning from Qirqassia to resume the offensive against Hect.
The people of Heet came to know of the fall of Qirqassia from their own resources as well, and they felt that after the fall of Qirqassia they could not hold long against the Muslims. The people of Heet were mostly Christian Arabs, and they felt that the Persian forces were no longer strong enough to protect them.
When Haris called upon the people of Heet to surrender on the usual terms they accepted the offer and agreed to pay Jizya. In the second week of January the Persian forces withdrew from Heet. The inhabitants of the town opened the gates of the town to the Muslims. Thereupon the Muslim forces marched in and occupied the town.
With the occupation of Qirqassia and Heet, the Muslim hold in the Euphrates valley became firm. After restoring order Amr left garrisons at Qirqassia and Heet and himself returned to Saad at Ctesiphon.
In Iraq the Persians had their capital at Al-Madain. Al-Madain was situated across the Euphrates and the Tigris and was situated on the eastern bank of the Tigris. After the occupation of Al-Madain, the city served as the provincial capital for the Muslims. The climate of the city was damp, malarious and unhealthy for the Arabs used to the dry climate of the desert. When the Muslim officers from al-Madain waited on Umar at Madina he was struck by the fact that such persons by residence in Al-Madain had lost in health. Umar looked into the causes for the decline in the health of the people and he came to the conclusion that that was due to the unhealthy climate of Al-Madain. Hadart Umar accordingly desired that another city should be founded as the capital of Iraq. His instructions were:
Salman and Hudaifa were accordingly commissioned to select a new site for the provincial capital. For this purpose they selected the site of Kufa. It was at some distance from the western bank of the Euphrates and the climate was dry. Before Islam, Numan bin Mundhir had his capital here. In the neighborhood there were some buildings of the period of Numan. Arab flowers like Uqehawan, Shaqaiq, Qaisum and Khazami grew here in abundance. The Arabs called the site "Khadd-ul-Azra"-The Beloved's Cheek. The soil was sandy and gravelly and suited the Arab temperament. Umar approved of the site, and because of the sandy and gravely nature of the soil, the place was named Kufa.
Umar ordered that houses should be constructed in the city to accommodate 4O,000 persons. Each Arab tribe to be settled in the city was to have a separate quarter. The town was laid out under the supervision of Hayaj bin Malik Umar gave instructions about the laying out of roads and streets. The main roads were to be 40 cubits wide. The subsidiary roads were to be 30 cubits wide. The streets were to be 2O cubits wide, and the side lanes were to be 7 cubits wide. The Jamia Masjid was constructed in the center. Adjoining the mosque was the central market. Then a few public buildings were provided of public character such as Government House, the Treasury, the Guest House etc. The town was divided into two dozen quarters. Each quarter was inhabited by one tribe. Each quarter had its own mosque. All houses were to be single storeyed and no house was to contain more than three rooms.
Within a year the new town was completed and the Muslim forces moved from Al-Madain to Kufa. Umar called Kufa, 'the Glory of Islam'.
At the time Kufa was built in Central Iraq a new city was built in Southern Iraq near Uballa a port on the Persian Gulf. Utba bin Ghazwan was commissioned to select a site. He selected the site of Karibah where there were some ruins of ancient times. The land was gravelly. Water and pasture were available. The climate was dry. Umar approved the site and the town was named Basrah. According to one version the town was so named because of the gravels that abounded on the site. According to another version 'Basrah' meant 'Bis Rah' i.e. many roads, and was so named because of its strategic importance.
The city was town planned on lines similar to Kufa. The Friday mosque was provided in the center. From the central square roads radiated in all directions dividing the city into various quarters. Each quarter was populated by one tribe and each quarter had a mosque.
Originally most of the houses both in Kufa and Basra were of wood. A year after the foundation of the towns these houses caught fire and were burnt. Umar then ordered that houses of bricks should be constructed. It was laid down that no house should consist of more than one storey and no house was to comprise more than three rooms.
In Upper Iraq a town was laid out outside the fort at Mosul. The town of Mosul was laid out under the supervision of Harthama bin Arfaja. The same design as at Kufa and Basra was adopted. At Mosul there was a considerable population of the Christian Arabs and some quarters were exclusively earmarked for the Christian Arabs.
All the three cities namely Kufa, Basras and Mosul rose to great importance. Kufa became the capital of Iraq. Basra rose to importance as a seat of learning. Mosul rose to importance as a trading center According to a saying that got current at the time while Nishapur was the gateway of the east, and Damascus was the gateway of the west; Mosul was the pathway of the east and the west, for when proceeding from the east to the west or from the west to the cast one had to pass through Mosul.
Ahwaz was a place of strategic importance. It lay on the east bank of Karun river north east of Basra. It was the estate of Hormuzan one of the seven great chiefs of Persia.
Hormuzan had led a Persian contingent at the battle of Qadisiyya. When the Persians were defeated at the battle of Qadisiyya, Hormuzan managed to escape from the battle-field.
When the Muslim army under Sa'ad b. Abi Waqqas advanced to Ctesiphon the capital of Persia, the Muslim advance was resisted by the Persian force stationed at Babylon. One wing of the Persian force at Babylon was commanded by Hormuzan.
When the Persians were defeated at Babylon, the main Persian army withdrew to Ctesiphon, but Hormuzan with his contingent retired to Ahwaz.
When the Muslims captured Ctesiphon and later laid siege to Jalaula, Hormuzan with his base at Ahwaz sent raiding parties to different parts of Iraq occupied by the Muslims. These raids had sufficient nuisance value. One of the raids was led by Azeen the son of Hormuzan. In this raid Azeen was captured by the Muslims and killed.
After the death of Azeen, Hormuzan intensified his raids. These raids were conducted from two bases, namely Ahwaz and Manazir. The raids were conducted in the territory under the charge of Utba b. Ghazwan the Governor of Basra. As the raids were intensified, Utba asked for reinforcement from Ctesiphon. Saad sent a force under Noman b. Muqarrin. Meanwhile Utba recruited more warriors from the local Arabs.
Having received reinforcement, Utba declined to take the offensive against the raiding parties of Hormuzan. Two Muslim contingents advanced to the Persian bases Ahwaz and Manazir. One of these contingents was led by Noman and the other by Salma. The two Muslim forces launched a coordinated plan of attack, and the Persian force pulled back from the forward posts.
The Muslim detachments followed the retreating Persians and secured the right bank of the river Karun. The Persian forces stood on the left bank.
As the two forces faced each other on either bank of the Karun, the usual pre-war parleys began and emissaries went to and fro. The Muslims offered the usual three alternatives, conversion to Islam; payment of Jizya, and settlement through sword.
Hormuzan gave these alternatives due consideration. With his experience of Qadisiyya and Babylon Hormuzan felt that the Persians were no match for the hardy Arabs. Settlement through the sword was likely to result in the defeat of the Persians. Hormuzan was therefore inclined to avoid war. Although Hormuzan believed in his heart of hearts about the truth of Islam, for political and other reasons he felt that at that stage he could not publicly accept Islam. He, therefore, agreed to the alternative of the payment of Jizya.
A treaty was executed between Utba and Hormuzan in November 638 whereby the entire princedom of Ahwaz came under the control of the Muslims. Hormuzan was to continue as the Governor and he was to pay a Jizya to the Muslims. The part of Ahwaz already occupied by the Muslims was to remain under the direct military rule of the Muslims. This area included the district of Manazir.
With the conquest of Ahwaz, the approach of Persian to the north of the Persian Gulf was completely cut off. The Muslims had now their firm hold on the delta area of the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Karun.
According to the treaty of Ahwaz, while some parts of the province of Khuzistan were under the direct rule of the Muslims, Ahwaz proper and the rest of the province were ruled by Hormuzan as a vassal of the Muslims.
Restored to power, Hormuzan tried to build up a force in a bid to have another contest with the Muslims. He recruited a large number of Kurds from his ancestral district of Mihirjanqazuf. He even incited the Persians in the Muslim zone to join him so that another effort might be made to overthrow the Muslims.
The Muslim commander Salma reported of these developments to Abu Musa the Governor of Basra who had taken over after the death of Utba. Abu Musa in turn asked for the instructions of Hazrat Umar. The Caliph ordered that the Muslims should capture Ahwaz.
Abu Musa the Governor of Basra marched with the Muslim forces to Ahwaz. For some time the two opposing forces lay encamped on either side of the Karun, and there was the usual exchange of emissaries. The negotiations broke down, and it was decided that an engagement should be risked.
Hormuzan gave the Muslims the option to cross the Karun and come over to the side of the Persians, or let the Persians cross and come over to the side of the Muslims. Heretofore the Muslims generally refrained from crossing the river, and generally asked the Persians to cross over to their side. That was the stage when by way of abundant caution the Muslims wanted to remain as close to the desert as possible. Now things had changed, and the Muslims had advanced too far inland, and the question of proximity to the desert no longer arose. Abu Musa accordingly decided that the Muslims would cross over to the Persian side of the river. After crossing the river, Abu Musa took special steps to ensure that the bridge by which they had crossed remained heavily guarded.
After the Muslims had crossed, the forces of the two sides were deployed for action. For some time the contest was fierce, and there were casualties on both sides. The Muslims increased their pressure, and the Persians could not hold the ground. They began to fall back and Hormuzan found safety in flight. Hormuzan with his force withdrew to Ram Hormuz.
After the withdrawal of the Persian forces, Ahwaz was occupied by the Muslims. Abu Musa sent a pursuit column under Juzz b. Muawia to follow the retreating Persians. The Muslims caught up with the retreating Persians, but Hormuzan resorted to rearguard action avoiding a decisive engagement.
The Muslims occupied Dauraq the chief city of the district of Surraq. Hormuzan retired east of the river at Arbuk and here he took a stand. The Muslims prepared for battle, but Hormuzan sent an emissary and sued for peace. Juzz reported the developments to Abu Musa and Abu Musa in turn referred the matter to Umar.
Umar gave orders that the offer of peace be accepted. According to the peace terms the districts of Ahwaz and Dauraq were annexed by the Muslims. The rest of the princedom of Hormuzan was left to him and he shifted his capital from Ahwaz to Ram Hormuz. Hormuzan cleared the arrears of Jizya and undertook to pay Jizya regularly in future. At Ahwaz and Dauraq a considerable booty fell to the share of the Muslims. After distributing four-fifth, the rest of the booty was sent to Umar as the state share.
Although peace with Hormuzan had been accepted for the second time, it proved to be short-lived. Hormuzan was smarting under the disgrace of repeated defeats, and the loss of a greater part of his princedom. He had lost Ahwaz which was the main city of his dominions, and he held his court at Ram Hormuz which was a small mofussil town to the east of Ahwaz.
After the conquest of Ctesiphon the capital of Persia by the Muslims, the emperor Yezdjurd shifted to Hulwan. He had hoped that the Persian forces concentrated at Jalaula would hold up further advance of the Muslims in Persia. These hopes were not realized and the Persians suffered another defeat at Jalaula. That made Hulwan unsafe for the emperor and he fled to Qum. Khaniqeen and Hulwan were captured by the Muslims the emperor fled to Kashan and then to Isfahan. The emperor became a fugitive in his own kingdom and the court had to move from town to town. The Persian administration collapsed to such an extent that the Persians had no capital, and very little of governmental organization.
Yazdjurd, however, continued to make strenuous efforts to rally the Persians for another confrontation with the Muslims. He appealed to the Persians in the name of their religion and their country to line up for another major effort to defend their homeland. The Persians assured him that they would stand by him. At this juncture the emperor felt that Hormuzan could, suitably act as the vanguard or Persian resistance against the Muslims. Yazdjurd appealed to the patriotism of Hormuzan and prevailed upon him to spearhead the Persian struggle against the Muslims. The emperor assured him of full support.
Hormuzan accordingly undertook to make another effort to drive away the Muslims from the Persian soil. Hormuzan was thus once again on the war path. He built a strong force. The emperor placed the resources of Persia at his disposal. The Persians took the oath by the sacred fire that they would win or die.
The war preparations in the Persian camp were reported to Abu Musa the Governor of Basra. Abu Musa reported to Umar that trouble could be expected from Hormnzan any moment. Umar ordered that before Hormuzan should gather further strength the Muslim forces should advance against him, and take him to task for breaking his pledges repeatedly. Umar also wrote to the Governor of Kufa that a column should be sent from Kufa to reinforce the Muslim forces in the Basra sector.
The action began with the advance of a Muslim column under Noman bin Muqarrin from Ahwaz to Ram Hormuz. The Muslim force crossed the river near Ram Hormuz at Arbuk and confronted the Persian force arrayed on the east bank. A sharp engagement followed which resulted in the fight of the Persian force from the battle-field. Hormuzan with his army left Ram Hormuz undefended and retired to Tustar north of Ahwaz.
The Muslims occupied Ram Hormuz and the residents surrendered on the usual terms. After leaving a garrison at Ram Hormuz the Muslim force marched northward to Izaj at the base of the Zagros mountain. That was the easternmost district of the province of Khuzistan. No resistance was offered and Izaj was occupied by the Muslims.
Tustar which Hormuzan had occupied lay west of Izaj. Intelligence was brought that Hormuzan had fortified himself at Tustar. Abu Musa felt that the Muslim forces should not march to Tustar unless these were further reinforced. Leaving a garrison at Izaj the main Muslim force returned to Ahwaz. A detailed report was submitted to Umar and his further instructions were sought.
Yazdjurd had sent some forces for the help of Hormuzan. When Hormuzan was defeated at Arbuk and fled to Tustar, a contingent of the Persian force under General Siyah crossed over to the Muslim camp and accepted Islam. That was a welcome addition to the Muslim force.
Umar wrote to Abu Musa that he was sending help and that when he was reinforced he should march to Tustar. Umar asked Ammar bin Yasir the Governor of Kufa to dispatch a detachment from Kufa to augment the strength of Abu Musa's army. Ammar b. Yasir dispatched a force of 1000 men under Jareer b. Abdullah. In compliance with further instructions from Umar, Ammar himself marched with half of his army to the aid of Abu Musa. Ammar left Abdullah b. Masud as his deputy at Kufa.
After having received reinforcements, Abu Musa decided to launch the attack against Tustar. In 610 AD, a Muslim column under Noman bin Muqarrin marched from Ram Hormuz to Tustar. The rest of the Muslim army including the contingents from Kufa met at Ahwaz and from there marched to Tustar.
Tustar lay to the north of Ahwaz upstream the Karun. The Muslim forces marched through the Karun valley and without any encounter reached Tustar.
Tustar was a walled city with battlements in the walls. Inside the city there was a strong citadel. The town had its water supply from a canal from the Karun river. Outside the city, Hormuzan had a deep ditch dug. The town was stocked with provisions adequate to last for a year. A large Persian force was quartered inside the city. As Hormuzan surveyed the arrangements made for the defense of Tustar he felt assured that the city was unassailable and invulnerable. Hormuzan felt strong enough to fight in the open. His strategy was to drive away the Muslims before they could settle to a regular siege.
As soon as the Muslim forces arrived at Tustar, Hormuzan challenged them to action. The two forces met in the plain south east of Tustar. The Persians fought desperately, and for some time they appeared to have the initiative. Then the Muslims charged heavily and the Persians were forced to withdraw to the safety of the ditch.
Thereafter the Muslims besieged the city. Detachments of Muslim forces were stationed at key points, and all routes of access and escape for the Persians were closed.
The siege dragged on for several months. There were skirmishes every now and then, but these were not conclusive, and no side could claim success. After some months the Persians made a desperate sally. In the fierce fight that followed the Persians lost ground and hastily withdrew. The Muslims followed close on their heels and were able to capture the ditch. The Persians having lost the protection of the ditch shut themselves in the walled city.
The Muslims now closed round the walls of the city with the ditch at their command. With the tightening of the siege, the Persians within the city got demoralized. There were dissensions among the Persians. A Persian Seena by name escaped from the city, and waiting upon the Muslim Commander offered to show the Muslims an easy way to capture the city. The offer was accepted and the Persian accepted Islam. One night, Seena led a band of Muslim warriors inside the city through the main sewer. The guards at the main gate of the city were overpowered, and the gate was thrown open for the Muslim force to enter.
The Persians were taken by surprise, but they nevertheless put up a stiff fight. With sword in hand, Hormuzan fought desperately. He killed two eminent companions Baraa bin Malik and Majza'a bin Saur. As the Muslim forces increased heir pressure, the Persians withdrew to the citadel. Now the city was in the hands of the Muslims, but Hormuzan and his forces were in the fort. The Muslims besieged the fort. The residents of the city deprived of the protection of the Persian army surrendered.
The following day Hormuzan hoisted the flag of peace on e citadel. He mounted the roof of the citadel and said that was prepared to surrender on the condition that Umar himself decided the case. The offer was accepted, and the Persians formally surrendered. The Muslims were now the masters of Tustar.
The booty was collected and distributed. Each cavalryman received a share of 3,000 dirhans while a footman had a share of 1,000 dirhams. The usual one fifth state share of the booty was dispatched to Madina. Hormuzan was sent under escort to Madina for the decision of his case by Umar.
After the conquest of Tustar it was found that some Persian soldiers from the army of Hormuzan had escaped to Sus, and there they had collected under the command of Shahryar, a brother of Hormuzan.
After settling the affairs at Tustar, Abu Musa left a garrison there and with the rest of the army marched to Sus. Sus lay to the north west of Tustar. Like Tustar, Sus was also a walled city. When the Muslim forces reached Sus some time in January 641, the Persians shut the gates of the city, and remained on the defensive. The Muslims set up posts around the city and tightened up the arrangements for the siege.
The Persians made occasional sallies to break through the Muslim lines, but they were driven back to the city. The Muslims made attacks to break through the gates of the city, but failed to achieve their object.
One day a Persian priest appeared on the wall of the city , and addressing the Muslims said:
"O Arabs we know from the prophesies in our holy books that Sus will not be taken except by Dajjal, or by a people among whom there is a Dajjal. If you have Dajjal among you, you will conquer us; if not, do not bother to besiege us.
Abu Musa brushed away this prophesy as a superstition. Siyah the Persian General who had crossed over to the Muslim camp at Ahwaz told Abu Musa that as he had abjured the Persian faith, he was the Dajjal in Persian terminology, and as he was in the midst of the Muslims, they were destined to conquer Sus. Siyah said to Abu Musa:
"Leave the capture of Sus to me. I will do so through a stratagem of which Dajjal alone could be capable." Abu Musa let Siyah have his way.
The following day when the Persian priest Once again appeared on the walls of the city, and wanted to know whether any Dajjal was there, Siyah responded to the call and said that Dajjal was very much there and as such the state of Sus was sealed. When the Persians came to know that a Dajjal had appeared outside their city they were demoralized, and felt that under the circumstances any further resistance was futile.
One day as the first light of dawn appeared the Persian sentries on the wall by the main gate saw a Persian officer with his uniform stained with blood lying on the ground near the gate. There had been fighting at this spot the previous night, and the Persian soldiers thought that a wounded Persian officer had lain there all the night. The Persian soldiers rushed to the aid of the wounded Persian officer. They opened the gate and carried a bed to lift the wounded officer.
As the Persian soldiers approached the wounded officer, he sprang to his feet, and falling upon the soldiers with the speed of lightning killed all of them. This hero was Siyah, the Dajjal. The Muslim soldiers lurked near the gate, and as soon as the gate was opened and the sentries had been killed the Muslims led by Siyah rushed forward in the city carrying havoc. Siyah shouted at the top of his voice:
"O ye Persians, surrender, for the Dajjal has come."
The Persians taken by surprise rallied in a desperate bid to measure swords with the advancing Muslims. The Persians, however, fell back. Soon word went from house to house in the city "Dajjal of whom our holy books prophesied has appeared." As the sun rose, more Muslim forces rushed in through the gates, and the Persian resistance broke down. The Persians surrendered. Thanks to the genius of Siyah, the historic city of Sus was conquered by the Muslims. Turning to Siyah, Abu Musa said:
"O one eyed one; you and your comrades are not as we thought you were." Siyah accepted the compliment.
Abu Musa reported the conquest of Sus to Umar. In his dispatch, Abu Musa referred to the prophesy about Dajjal and the role that Siyah had played as Dajjal. Abu Musa also reported that in one of the temples of Sus they had come across the coffin of the Prophet Daniel. Considerable booty was captured at Sus, and the usual one-fifth share of the booty was sent to Madina. The rest was distributed among the soldiers on the spot.
Umar appreciated the services of Siyah and his comrades and desired that their pay should be doubled. Umar also desired that the remains of the Prophet Daniel should be buried with due ceremony. Siyah and his comrades felt happy at the recognition of their services by the Caliph of Islam. In compliance with the orders of Umar, Abu Musa arranged for the burial of the remains of the Prophet Daniel. Abu Musa himself led the funeral prayer, and the remains of the Prophet Daniel who had died some 13,00 years earlier were buried by the side of the river.
After the conquest of Sus, the only place of military importance in Khuzistan still left in the hands of the Persians was Junde Sabur. It lay to the north east of Sus.
Abu Musa wrote to Umar seeking orders whether Junde Sabur should also be captured. Umar approved the proposal for capturing Junde Sabur. He asked Abu Musa to send a column under Aswad bin Rabee'a to Junde Sabur. Aswad bin Rabee'a was a companion of the Holy Prophet and was nicknamed as 'Muqtarib' as he acted as a waiter on the Holy Prophet.
Aswad bin Rabee'a accordingly marched with a Muslim force from Sus to Junde Sabur. Like other Persian cities, Junde Sabur was also a walled city. When the Muslim forces reached Junde Sabur the Persian garrison shut themselves in the city.
The Muslims besieged the city, and set up military posts at all approaches to the city. The Persians made some attempts to sally forth and break through the Muslim lines but they failed. The Muslims also made some attempts to carry the city by assault but the attempts did not succeed.
One day the gates of the city were thrown open. The citizens came out unarmed, and attended to their normal functions as if the hostilities had ended. The Muslims were surprised at this, and enquired from the Persians as to how it was that they had ended hostilities.
The Persians said: "You offered us peace on the payment of Jizya and we have accepted the offer."
The Muslim Commander got in touch with the Persian Commander and said that he had not offered them any terms, and as such the war was not over.
The Persians thereupon brought an arrow along with a message that had been shot from the Muslim camp. The message had been shot with the arrow offering peace if the Persians were to surrender and pay the Jizya.
The Muslim Commander made an enquiry and it was revealed that from among the Muslim ranks a Muslim slave Mukannaf had on his own account shot the arrow offering peace to the Persians on the payment of Jizya.
That was followed by parleys between the Muslim and the Persian Commander. Aswad b Rabee a explained that the arrow with the message had been shot by a slave on his own account and carried no authority. The Persian view was that they had received the message from the Muslim side, and they accepted it. It was not for them to probe whether the message was backed with the necessary authority or not. The Persians said that they had accepted the message in good faith. If for any reason the Muslims wanted to go back on their pledge, it was open to them to do so, and in that case the hostilities could be resumed.
It was an embarrassing situation, and it was decided that the matter should be reported to Umar, and his instructions should be awaited. Till then it was decided to observe truce.
Aswad bin Rabee'a accordingly reported the matter to Umar. In reply Umar said:
"Allah be praised that He has given you the strength that the enemy surrenders even at the instance of a message that lacks authority. As the message was sent from the Muslim camp it has to be honored even if it lacked due authority. Those who seek peace leave them in peace."
On receipt of these orders, peace was formally negotiated with the Persians, and their surrender was accepted on the payment of Jizya.
After the conquest of Sus and Junde Sabur the entire Khuzistan stretching to the foothills of the Zagros mountains now lay in Muslim hands.
Abu Musa forwarded the state share of the spoils of war captured at Sus and Junde Sabur to Madina. He also dispatched Hormuzan to Madina with an escort. The escort included the companions Unas bin Malik and Ashraf bin Qais. Unas was the brother of Braa b. Malik who had been killed by Hormuzan at Sus.
As the party entered Madina, Hormuzan was dressed in the court regalia, robes of velvet and gold. He had on his head his coronet of gold studded with precious stones.
The party waited on Umar who was found sleeping in a corner of the mosque. It was a strange scene-a richly dressed captive, and a poorly dressed Caliph. As Umar woke, and many people gathered in the mosque, Umar turning to the Muslims said:
"Praise be to Allah who has used Islam to debase the prince of Persia. Muslims! hold fast in this faith and be guided by the teachings of your Prophet. Let not this world lead you astray, for it is full of deceit."
Umar ordered that Hormuzan should be stripped of his finery and presented before him in ordinary dress. Hormuzan retired and was presented before Umar again dressed in ordinary clothes.
Addressing the captive, Umar said, "You are Hormuzan, the rebellious Governor of Ahvaz'.
Hormuzan said, "Yes, I am Hormuzan".
The Caliph said, "And you have over and over again broken your pledge with the Muslims."
Hormuzan said, "Unfortunately that is correct, but I was prompted by love for my own country, and I was always hoping that I would drive away the Muslims from my land".
Umar said, "Now that you have been defeated, and your treachery has been established, do you know that the punishment for such crime is death."
Hormuzan said, "Yes, I know that. The law is on the side of the victor". Umar said, "Then I order your death. Be prepared for your death."
Hormuzan said, "I am feeling thirsty, let me have a cup of water before I die."
Umar ordered that a cup of water be brought and handed to the captive.
Taking the cup in his hand, Hormuzan said, "What if I am killed before I have drunk this water."
Umar said, "Rest assured. You will not be killed until you have drunk this water."
Hormuzan laid aside the cup and said. "In that case, I will not drink, and you have given me promise that you will not kill me until I have drunk this water."
Annoyed the Caliph thundered, "O enemy of God, you have tricked me and I will kill you."
Hormuzan retorted, "You may do as you like but I have your promise of safety. You may break your promise if your, religion teaches you to do so."
At this stage, other Muslims intervened and they said, "Promise is promise, and it must be kept."
Umar turned to Unas bin Malik and asked for his view. Unas bin Malik said, "Although this man has killed my brother and I am burning for revenge, but I would not advise the Caliph to break his promise, trick or no trick."
Turning to Hormuzan, Utnar said, "Woe to you O clever Persian, I would allow you safety only on one condition and that is that you accept Islam".
Hormuzan said "I agree."
Thereupon Hormuzan declared the article of faith and became a Muslim.
Welcoming him to the fold of Islam, Umar said, "You may remain with us as our guest a few days, and thereafter you have the option to return to Persia."
Hormuzan said that as a Muslim he would prefer to stay in Madina.
Thereafter Hormuzan settled down as a citizen of Madina, and Umar awarded him an annual allowance of two thousand dihams.
This episode forms the theme of a poem by Richard Chenevix French. The poem reads:
"Now the third and fatal conflict for the Persian throne was done,
Then exclaimed that noble captive, "Lo I perish in my thirst;
Well might then have paused the bravest-for around him angry foes,
'But what fear'st thou' cried the Caliph: Is it, friend a secret blow?
Thou may'st quench thy thirst, securely for thou shall not die before,
Quick, the satrap dashed the goblet down to earth with ready hand,
'Thou best said that mine my life is, till the water of that cup,
For a moment stood the Caliph as by doubtful! passion stirred,
After the conquest of Khuzistan, the Muslims wanted peace. They wanted to leave rest of Persia to the Persians. Umar said:
"I wish there were a mountain of fire between us and the Persians, so that neither could they get to us, nor we to them."
But the Persians thought differently. The pride of the imperial Persians had been hurt by the conquest of their land by the Arabs. They could not acquiesce in the occupation of their lands by the Arabs.
After the battle of Jalaula the Persian emperor Yazdjurd went to Rayy and from there he moved to Khurasan where he set up his capital at Merv. >From Merv, the emperor sent a call to his people to rise to a man to drive away the Muslims from their lands. In response to the call, hardened veterans and young volunteers from all parts of Persia marched in large numbers to join the imperial standard.
The Persian forces were required to assemble at Nihawand south of Hamadan. Mardan Shah the son of Hurmuz was appointed to the chief command of the Persian forces. The banner of Kavah, regarded by the Persians as the harbinger of victory was unfurled and entrusted to Mardan Shah by the emperor.
As the Persian forces assembled at Nihawand their number exceeded 60,000. They were fully equipped, and were fired with the urge to drive away the Muslims from the Persian soil. As Mardan Shah surveyed the Persian forces, he thought that no power on earth could defeat them. He was very bitter against the Muslims. Addressing the Persian forces he said:
"Muhammad who brought the new religion to the Arabs, never troubled us. Then Abu Bakr became their ruler, and he too did not bother us except by taking plunder, and that only in the part of the Suwad which was adjacent to their land. Then after him came Umar, and his rule has become very long. He has taken the Suwad and Ahwaz and ridden rough shod over them. He is very ambitious and war-like, and it appears he will not rest content until he has conquered the whole of Persia and made you slaves. He is coming to you, if you do not go for him. He has already done us considerable damage. We cannot allow him any further liberty. We must take the initiative and drive the Muslims from our lands. We should recapture the entire territory that he has captured from us. I will not be satisfied till our forces drive away the aggressors to the desert and engage them in their own land."
There was great enthusiasm among the forces, and on sacred fire they took the oath to carry on the war against the Muslims to the bitter end.
The news of the Persian resolve to fight, and their preparations on a large scale were communicated by the Muslim scouts to Qubaz the Commander of the Muslim forward troops at the border post on Kirmanshah road. Qubaz reported the matter to Ammar bin Yasir, the Governor of Kufa. Ammar in turn addressed a letter to Umar and sought his instructions. The letter was sent through a special messenger.
When the messenger of Ammar bin Yasir arrived at Madina he immediately waited on Umar. Umar read the letter, looked to the Heaven and then turning to the messenger said, "Well brother, what is your name."
The messenger said, "My name is Qareeb."
And what's your father's name asked Umar.
"Zafar" said, the man.
Umar said, "This is good augury. This means that victory is near."
Umar immediately called a meeting of the faithful, and apprised them of the situation on the Persian front.
Addressing the people Umar said:
"Brothers, we have to consider a matter of great moment. Listen to what I say, and then give me firm advice. Do not indulge in unnecessary controversy for that would weaken your resolve and sap your courage. O Arabs, Allah has helped you with Islam and created amity among you after discord; given you wealth after hunger; and blessed you with victory over your enemies on all fronts, both in the east and the west. Now your enemies are once again in the field and seek to overpower you. But Allah is with us, and no power on earth can extinguish the light of Allah. We have to accept the challenge of our enemy."
Then he read the letter of the Governor of Kufa. He had written of the threat of the Persians to the Muslims at Basra and Kufa. Ammar had suggested that the Muslims should take the initiative, and attack the Persians at Nihawand, before the Persians gathered strength to march to Basra or Kufa. Umar expressed the view that as the war with the Persians was going to be crucial, he might go the field himself to lead the Muslim forces.
Othman suggested that all forces from Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere should assemble at Madina and then march against Persia. He was of the view that as the force thus assembled would be considerable that would demoralize the Persians.
Umar then asked for the opinion of Ali. Ali said that it would be unsafe to remove all forces from Syria and elsewhere. That would provide an opportunity to the Byzintines to attack Syria or the Ethiopians to attack Yemen. He said that the forces at Kufa and Basra should march against the Persians. He also suggested that the reserves throughout the country should be called to arms and they should proceed to the front to reinforce the regular forces. Ali also suggested that it was not necessary for Umar to command the forces in the field. He should remain at Madina and direct the operations from the Headquarters as heretofore, and should nominate a General of his choice to command the forces in the field.
After discussion it was decided to follow the course of action suggested by Ali.
In the campaign against the Persians concentrated at Nihawand, Umar appointed No'man bin Muqarrin as the Commander-in-chief of the Muslim army.
Noman bin Muqarrin was the son of Ubaid bin Aus an Ansar of Madina. Ubaid participated in the battle of Badr, where he captured four infidels and tied them up in one chain. For this act of binding, the Holy Prophet gave him the name of Muqarrin, the Binder.
No'man had several brothers, and all of them were good Muslims and warriors. They played important roles in the apostasy wars under Abu Bakr. They fought under Khalid bin Walid in the wars in Iraq. Later Noman fought under Saad b. Abi Waqqas. After the battle of Kaskar, Noman was appointed as the Administrator of Kaskar district.
Noman was not happy with the civil appointment. He longed for active service. He wrote to Umar that Saad had appointed him to collect taxes, but he would personally prefer active service on some front to carry on the holy war.
When Umar appointed Noman as the General to command the Muslim forces against the Persians, he addressed him a letter in the following terms:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From the slave of Allah, Umar, Commander of the Faithful, to Noman bin Muqarrin. Peace be upon you! I render praise unto Allah, and verily apart from Him there is no other god.
I have come to know that a vast army of Persians has gathered at Nihawand to fight against the Muslims. I appoint you the Chief Commander for the campaign. When you get this letter, go by order of Allah and with the help and support of Allah, along with those of the Muslims who are with you march against the enemy. You should halt at some well watered place near Nihawand. I have written to the people of Kufa to join you; and when your army is all together, advance to Nihawand.
In case you fall in battle, the commander of the army will be Hudheifa bin Al Yaman: if the falls, then Jareer bin Abdullah; if he falls, Mugheera bin Shuba; and if he falls, Ath'ath bin Qais.
Do not ill-treat your men or be harsh with them, for then you will come to harm. And do not withhold from them their rights, for then you will be unjust. And do not put them in a position of loss, because every single one of the Muslims is dearer to me than a lac diners.
Seek the help of Allah and repeat often 'There is no power to change and no strength except with Allah'.
And again peace be upon you."
Simultaneously Umar addressed letters to other Commanders who were to participate in the campaign under the chief command of No'man bin Muqarrin. Hudheifa bin Al Yaman was required to march with the bulk of the forces from Kufa. Abu Musa was to proceed with one third of the Muslim army stationed at Basra. A fresh force to be raised at Madina including many Companions and Umar's son Abdullah was to march to the front under the command of Mugheera bin Shu'ba.
Umar also organized an irregular force and this force was required to operate as raiders across the hills to disrupt Persian communications from Fars and Isfahan to Nihawand.
When Noman bin Muqarrin received orders, he moved with his forces towards Nihawand and halted at Tazar. Here all forces from Kufa, Basra, and Madina also joined. All movements of the Muslim army were completed by December 641 when they were poised for an attack on the Persians.
After the troops had settled down at Tazar, Noman bin Muqarrin sent a reconnaissance party to locate the presence of the Persians. The party included Amr bin Maadi Karib and Taleaha. The party returned to report that they had found no Persians between Tazar and Nihawand.
Thereupon Noman ordered the march to Nihawand. After some days of marching the Muslim army arrived at Isbeezahan, eleven miles from Nihawand and here they halted.
The two armies now faced each other well poised for a life and death struggle Mardanshah the Persian General sent words to No'man to depute some emissary to the Persian camp for talks. No'man chose Mugheera bin Shu'ba for the purpose.
When Mugheera appeared before Mardanshah, the Persian General adopted a haughty tone and said:
"You Arabs are a people farthest of all from good, the most wretched, the most foul, and the most filthy. The only thing which prevents me from ordering my warriors to kill all of you is my aversion to the pollution which your corpses would cause, for you are unclean. If you go away, we will be rid of you and we may pay you something. And if you refuse to go, be prepared for your end."
In reply Mugheera after praising Allah said that his description of the Arabs applied to the Arabs before the advent of Islam. With the coming of the Holy Prophet and their conversion to Islam, things had changed. They were now the purest, and the cleanest. He added:
"By Allah, we have not ceased to receive victory and success from our Lord ever since His Prophet came to us. Now we have come to you carrying the message of Allah. You accept Islam, and that will be the end of hostility. If you do not accept Islam, but want to be at peace with us, then pay Jizya. If both these alternatives are not acceptable to you then only the sword will decide the matter between you and us."
That annoyed Mardanshah, and he said:
"If that is that, let the sword arbitrate".
Thereupon Mugheera returned to the Muslim camp. After hearing the account of Mugheera as to what had transpired at the Persian camp, No'man bin Muqarrin asked the Muslim troops to be ready for the fight.
A message was received from Mardanshah enquiring whether the Muslims would like to cross to the Persian side, or should they cross over to their side. Norman keen to take the initiative sent the word that the Muslims would cross over to the Persian side.
It was on a cold day in the third week of December 641 A.D. that the battle of Nihawand began. The Persian army numbered 60,000 while the Muslim army numbered 30,000.
The Persians had the advantage of holding the high ground. They had secured their right and left flanks. In front of their forward line they planted a belt of iron caltrops to lame the horses of the invader. The Persian infantry was bound to each other in chains. These chains held five to ten men together. Equipped with splendid weapons and bound with shining chains, the Persian host looked like a mountain of iron.
The Muslim left was commanded by Noman's brother Naeem, while their right was commanded by Hudheifa bin Al Yaman. Qa'qaa bin Amr commanded the cavalry. The Persian wings were commanded by Zardaq and Bahman. Their reserve were commanded by Anushaq.
After saying the midday prayers, Noman gave the battle cry of 'Allaho-Akbar', and at the third call the Muslim army dashed forward. As the Muslim army advanced they came under withering fire from the Persian archers, and many Muslims leading the attack were wounded. As the Muslim cavalry moved forward many horses were lame by caltrops. In spite of these odds the Muslim army advanced to grapple with the enemy. The battle was severe. On both sides there were heavy casualties. The two armies disengaged themselves when the night set. The day's action proved unproductive. The Muslims did not feel satisfied at their performance.
The next day the battle was resumed. The dispositions of the Persian army left no room for the Muslims for any outflanking movement. There was no option with the Muslims but to launch the frontal attack. In spite of the severity of the Muslim attack, the Persian army remained unshaken. It was a grim battle leading to heavy casualties on both sides. At nightfall the two armies disengaged once again. The Muslims felt unhappy. The death roll on their side was sufficiently heavy, and yet no tangible results had been achieved.
Noman now felt that as the Persians stood secure in their fortifications, a frontal attack against them would not be productive.
The strategy of Noman was that the Persians should come forward outside the security of their fortifications, so that they might be engaged in the open. The Persians were cognizant of their advantageous position, and they did not move beyond their fortifications.
For the next two days there was no action. The Muslims hoped that the Persians would move forward but they chose to remain at their posts. This stalemate also worked to the advantage of the Persians. The weather was intensely cold. The Persians were used to the weather and moreover they were secure in their fortifications. The Muslims on the other hand were not used to such inclement weather. Moreover as they camped in the open they suffered from the inclemency of the weather. The Persians organized raiding parties which caused considerable damage to the Muslims. These parties were highly mobile and they could withdraw hastily to the protection of their fortifications before the Muslims could take any counteraction.
In the meantime the Persian army continued to receive reinforcements almost every day. The Persian base was at Hamadan from where supplies and reinforcements came regularly. The Muslim's base was at Kufa which was considerably away, and that was also a disadvantage for the Muslims.
Thus in the first phase of the battle of Nihawand, the Muslims failed to produce results as all advantages lay with the Persians.
After the unsuccessful attacks against the Persian front, No'man bin Muqarrin called a council of war to decide the future course of action for the Muslim army.
After discussion, it was decided that the following stratagem should be adopted:
For a week there was no Muslim attack. Then the Persians heard reports of the death of the Caliph. The news spread like wild fire, and the Persians felt jubilant. As Mardanshah heard of the news he felt convinced that he would be in a position to take revenge from the Muslims for the previous Persian defeats.
And then the Persian scouts carried the news to Mardanshah that the Muslim army had struck their camps and were withdrawing. Mardanshah gave the call to arms, and dashed forward with his army in pursuit of the withdrawing Muslims.
When Noman came to know of the Persian advance, he quickly ordered the Muslim army into battle formation. Obscured from the Persian view Qaqaa with his cavalry proceeded to outflank the Persian army.
Addressing the soldiers, Noman exhorted them to fight in the way of Allah. He prayed for the victory of the Muslims and for his own martyrdom. He willed that if he was to be martyred, Hudheifa bin Al Yaman was to take over the chief command.
As soon as the Persian army came in sight, the Muslim soldiers became uneasy for an attack. Noman, however, asked them to wait. Mugheera who commanded a wing came to Noman and said, "If I were in chief command I would have ordered action". Noman said that in keeping with the practice of the Holy Prophet he would order the attack after the midday prayers when the winds had begun to blow.
After the midday prayers, Noman give the battle cry, and the Muslim army rushed headlong at the enemy. Under the fury of the Muslim attack the Persian army reeled back. It was a grim and bloody contest and the battlefield was soaked with blood. When the battle was at its climax, in an attempt to advance, the horse of No'man slipped in the blood soaked soil, and fell along with its rider in a pool of blood. Immediately Noman was struck by an arrow shot from the Persian camp. Noman though still alive became unconscious, and with the arrow embedded deep in his side, there was no hope of his survival. Naeem the brother of Noman held the army standard in the place of Noman, and the battle went on without the Muslim army knowing that their Commander had fallen.
Slowly and steadily the Muslim army advanced beating back the Persians. The Persians fought with the courage of desperation. Shortly before sunset, the Persian resistance began to weaken, and the Muslims struck against them with greater violence. The cavalry under Qa'qaa struck against the flanks of the Persian army. Night fell but the Muslims continued the pursuit. In the process of withdrawal the belt of caltrops played havoc with the Persians. An arrow from the Muslim side struck Mardanshah, and covered with blood he fell in the belt of caltrops to die.
In the meantime the news of the death of No'man wag reported to Hudheifa. He took over the command, and in spite of gathering darkness the Muslims pressed on their relentless pursuit of the Persians. The pursuit was carried until the Persians reached a ravine, and here in a frantic effort to escape the pursuing Muslims, the Persians fell down the precipice in thousands.
Out of the 60,000 Persians who had fought at Nihawand, 40,000 were killed. The rest escaped to Hamadan.
The battle of Nihawand was over. The Muslims had once again won an historic victory.
It was midnight when the Muslim army gathered in their camp. The Muslim soldiers gathered around the body of No'man. He still breathed. They washed his face. He stirred and opened his eyes. He asked, "What is the result of the battle".
They said, "Rejoice for God has given us victory".
No'man said, "Praise be to Allah," and with these words he breathed his last.
On the morning following the battle of Nihawand, Hudheifa bin Al Yaman marched with a strong contingent in pursuit of the Persians. Four miles from the battle-field, at Dareezed a small town, the Muslims found a contingent of the Persian army arrayed for battle. The Persian army was commanded by Dinar.
Hudheifa deployed his army for battle and launched the attack. The Persians could not withstand the charge and they beat a retreat.
The battle of Nihawand was fought at a site eleven miles from Nihawand proper. The army of Dinar now found refuge in Nihawand proper. The Muslim army under Hudheifa advanced and invested the city of Nihawand. The Persians made a few sallies, but they were pushed back each time with heavy losses. Seeing that he could not defend the town against the Muslim army, Dinar surrendered. The Persians agreed to pay Jizya, and a peace pact was drawn up accordingly.
At Nihawand town there was only a small contingent of the Persian army. The bulk of the survivors of the Persian force who had fought in the battle of Nihawand withdrew to Hamadan.
Hudheifa deputed a column under Naeem bin Muqarrin and Qa'qaa bin Amr to pursue the Persian army to Hamadan. When the Persian army came to know that they were being pursued by the Muslims they quickened their pace, and got to Hamadan before the Muslim army could catch them. A huge mule train carrying baggage, however, fell into the hands of the Muslims.
Reaching Hamadan, the Muslims invested the city, and set up posts on all sides to block any aid reaching the besieged army at Hamadan. The Persian forces in Hamadan were commanded by Khusrau Shanum. He soon found that the Persians were no match for the victorious Muslims. Khusrau Shanum surrendered and sought terms. The usual terms were offered and the Persians agreed to pay Jizya Khusrau Shanum also undertook the responsibility to administer the region on behalf of the Muslims.
Khusrau Shanum was accordingly appointed as the Governor of Hamadan under Muslim control. After taking over his office, Khusrau Shanum called upon the people of the region to accept the Muslim rule and pay Jizya. They agreed, and peace was restored.
After the conquest of Nihawand and Hamadan, and the signing of peace pact with Khusrau Shanum the battle of Nihawand was over. This war was as important and momentous as the war of Qadisiyya. Qadisiyya acted for the Muslims as the gateway to Iraq; Nihawand served as the gateway to Persia proper. It was at Nihawand that the Persians put up stiff resistance with the hope of reconquest. It was one of the decisive battles of history which sealed the fate of the Persian empire, and paved the way to the rise of the Muslims as a world power.
The booty that the Muslims gathered as a result of the battles of Nihawand and Hamadan was very large. The booty was distributed among the Muslim soldiers by Saib bin Al Aqra. Each cavalryman got 6,000 dirhams, while each infantryman got 2,000 dirhams.
While the booty was being distributed, the Zoroastrian High Priest of Nihawand waited on the Muslim Commander and said that if he was afforded protection, as a token of his goodwill he would offer to the Muslims the Nakheer Jan treasure. He was given the protection asked for and he presented two boxes filled with pearls and other precious stones.
This treasure belonged to Nakheer Jan, a Persian General. He was a close companion of the Persian emperor Parwez, the grandfather of Yazdjurd. He had as his wife a lady who was the most beautiful woman in Persia. On the night of marriage the lady told Nakheer Jan that she loved the emperor, and out of regard for the emperor, Nakheer Jan should not consummate the marriage. Nakheer Jan agreed and he stayed away from the lady.
The news was carried to Parwez that Nakheer Jan had not consummated the marriage. One day the emperor asked Nakheer Jan, "I hear that you have a spring of sweet water and do not drink from it". Nakheer Jan said, "O emperor, I have heard that a lion has his eye on that spring, and for fear of that lion, I keep away from it". The emperor was much pleased with the loyalty of Nakbeer Jan. Nakheer Jan divorced the lady and she was admitted to the royal harem. Parwez bestowed a treasure on the lady, and as a token of her gratitude to Nakheer Jan for falling in with her wishes she named the treasure after Nakheer Jan. The treasure remained with the children of the lady, who deposited it with the Zoroastrian High Priest.
The state share of the booty along with the Nakheer Jan treasure was sent to Umar at Madina through a special messenger. The messenger gave Umar the good news of the victory of the Muslims.
Umar enquired about No'man bin Muqarrin and the messenger said that he had met his martyrdom. Thereupon Umar burst into tears, and prayed for the soul of No'man bin Muqarrin, the Victor of Nihawand.
Umar next asked the names of other Muslims who had been martyred in the battle-field of Nihawand. The messenger named a few persons, and added that there were many others whose names he did not know. Umar said, "Never mind if you or I do not know their names. Allah knows them". Then he prayed for the souls of all the Muslims who had been martyred in the battle of Nihawand.
When Nakheer Jan treasure was presented to the Caliph he said, "Take it back to Iraq, sell it and use the proceeds for the pay and sustenance of the Muslims". The messengers returned to Iraq and handed over the Nakheer Jan treasure to Saib bin Al Aqra. Saib bin Al Aqra sold the treasure at Kufa for two million dirhams and the amount was credited to Baitul Mal.
Before the battle of Nihawand the policy of Umar was that the Muslims should be content with what they had acquired in Iraq, and should leave Persia proper to the Persians and their emperor Yazdjurd. The battle of Nihawand showed that as long as Yazdjurd was there and the Persians smarted under the pain of the loss of their empire, the danger of Persian confrontation was always there. It now came to be felt that in order to ensure the security of the territories that the Muslims had wrested from Persia, it was necessary that the Persian power should be crushed once for all, so that no danger could come to the Muslims from that quarter in the future.
The psychological moment for striking a blow at Persia was immediately after the battle of Nihawand when as a consequence of the defeat the Persians were paralyzed. Under the circumstances Umar agreed to change his policy with respect to Persia. Having adopted the forward policy, the problem before Umar was: where should the Muslims launch the next attack against Persia. There were three alternatives: firstly, an attack against Fars in the south; secondly an attack against Azerbaijan in the north; and thirdly an attack against Isfahan in the center. Umar summoned Hormuzan and sought for his advice as to where the Muslims should launch the attack. Hormuzan said:
"Fars and Azerbaijan are two arms and Isfahan is the head. If you cut off one arm, the head and the other arm will be there. If you cut off the head, the arms will fall by themselves. So better start with the head."
This advice appealed to Umar, and he ordered that the first attack against Persia should be launched against Isfahan. Umar appointed Abdullah bin Abdullah bin Utban to the chief command of the force that was to launch the attack against Isfahan. Abdullah b. Warqah al Asadi was appointed to command the right wing, and the left wing was placed under the command of Asmata bin Abdullah. Abdullah bin Abdullah accordingly set off with an army from Iraq, and marching via Nihawand made straight for Isfahan.
In an outlying district town of Isfahan, the advance of the Muslim force was resisted by a Persian detachment. The Persian force was commanded by Shahr Baraz Jazwiah. He was a man advanced in age. He suggested that instead of a battle between the forces it would be enough if there was a personal duel between a champion from the Persian forces and a champion from the Muslim forces. The Muslim commander agreed to the proposal. Abdullah bin Warqah the right wing commander of the Muslim forces volunteered to fight the duel. Shahr Baraz Jazwiah and Abdullah bin Warqah fought the duel. Shahr Baraz was advanced in age while Abdullah was young. The Persian champion was more experienced and skilful. Ultimately the age factor prevailed and Abdullah bin Warqah succeeded in killing Shahr Baraz Jazwiah. There was a further fight and Astandar the ruler of the district surrendered. A peace pact was drawn "hereunder the Persians agreed to pay Jizya.
Thereafter the Muslim forces marched to Rayy which was a suburb of Isfahan. Here the advance of the Muslims was resisted by a Persian force. The Muslims launched the attack. After some fight the Persians retreated to Isfahan. The Muslims advanced and laid siege to the city of Isfahan.
Here the Muslims received further reinforcement. One large corps came under Ahnaf bin Qais, and another column from Basra came under the command of Abu Musa. The Muslims blocked all points of access to the city of Isfahan. The position of the besieged soon became precarious. At this juncture the Commander of the Persian forces, Fazusfan suggested that instead of involving so many persons in bloodshed it would be advisable if the issue was decided between the two commanders by personal duel, the winner taking all.
Abdullah the Commander of the Muslim forces accepted the proposal. The two generals met on horseback in the plain outside Isfahan to fight a duel. Abdullah enquired of Fazusfan whether he would like to strike first. The Persian General said that he would strike first The Persian General struck. As a result of his stroke the saddle on the horse of Abdullah broke. He slipped off the horse and landed on the ground. He immediately rose up to jump on the bare back of his horse.
Now it was the turn of Abdullah to strike, but before he could strike his adversary surrendered. The usual terms were offered and the Persian General agreed to pay Jizya. A peace pact was drawn accordingly.
From Isfahan, one Muslim contingent proceeded to Kashan and captured it. Another column proceeded to Qum and likewise captured it. Now Isfahan and the region around it was in the occupation of the Muslims. The Muslims had succeeded in severing the head of Persia and that was a great blow.
The Isfahan campaign came to a successful conclusion some time in the early months of 642 A.D.
After the conquest of Hamadan the Muslims had appointed Khusrau Shanum the Governor of the District under the suzerainty of the Muslims. The Governor betrayed his trust, and when the Muslims were campaigning against Isfahan, he acted in a way prejudicial to the interests of the Muslims.
Umar ordered a campaign against Hamadan and Rayy. The command was entrusted to Nuaim bin Muqarrin. Some time in January 642 Nueim bin Muqarrin marched with his forces from Nihawand to Hamadan. The city was invested. The Persians were defeated and the city was recaptured. Khusrau Shanum was deposed and another Governor was appointed in his stead.
Leaving a detachment at Hamadan, Nuaim proceeded to Qaxween. At Waj Ruz a few miles from Qazween the Muslims met a large Persian army led by Isfandiar, a brother of the late Rustam. A bloody battle followed in which the Persians were defeated and driven back. Some Persians fled to Rayy and some to Azerbaijan.
From Waj Ruz the Muslim army marched to Rayy. The city of Rayy was strongly fortified and heavily defended. The Muslims invested the city. The siege proceeded for about a week. One night Muslims discovered an opening in the city walls through which the Muslim forces entered. Taken by surprise the Persian garrison surrendered. Rayy was sacked and a considerable booty was taken. The Persians agreed to pay Jizya and peace was restored.
Nuaim established himself at Rayy and sent columns under his brother Suwaid to subdue the adjoining region. Suweid marched to Demawand where after some show of resistance the Persians surrendered. From Demawand the Muslim army proceeded to Damaghan. There was a confrontation but the Persians were beaten, and they surrendered agreeing to pay Jizya. Then the Muslims marched to Gurgan. Here no resistance was offered, and the Persians surrendered agreeing to pay Jizya.
By April 642 the Rayy campaign had come to a successful close. By the conquest of Isfahan and Rayy the Muslims had succeeded in driving a broad wedge in the center of Persia, severing the north from the south. The Persian empire now lay bleeding.
The province of Tabaristan bordered the south coast of the Caspian Sea. After the conquest of Rayy, Tabaristan was exposed to Muslim attack. From Rayy, Nuaim b. Muqarrin sent an expedition to Tabaristan led by his brother Suwaid bin Muqarrin.
Suwaid proceeded to Qumas. It was a large town in Tabaristan. The people did not choose to fight. On the approach of the Muslim force they opened their gates to them, and surrendered on the usual term of the payment of Jizya, Qumas then fell to the Muslims without a blow.
From Qumas the Muslim forces proceeded to Jurjan. It was an important town on the main highway to Merv. The Persian forces under the command of Rozban offered a feeble resistance, but considering further resistance useless asked for terms. The usual terms were offered and Rozban entered into a peace pact agreeing to pay Jizya.
From Jurjan, the Muslim forces marched to Dehistan. Realizing that Jurjan had already surrendered the people of Dehistan could not have the courage to resist the Muslims. They surrendered and on their accepting the same terms as had been accepted by the people of Jurjan a treaty was drawn and peace was restored.
From Dehistan the Muslim forces marched to Amul. The Persian garrison at Amul was led by Siphedar. He was a seasoned warrior. He had prepared for defense. Amul had strong fortifications, and the first reaction of Siphedar was to close the gates of the city against the Muslims. The Muslims invested the city. The siege dragged on for a few days, and the citizens of Amul came to suffer from the shortage of water and provisions. Siphedar soon realized that a fight against the Muslims would be like dashing against a rock. He opened negotiations with the Muslims. The set terms were offered by the Muslims and agreed by the Persians. With the signing of the treaty the whole of Tabaristan came under the ruzerainty of the Muslims.
As the Muslims advanced in Persia, the Persian emperor Yazdjurd moved from province to province until he came to the outlying province Khurasan. It is related that while fleeing to Khurasan in the way he had a dream. In the dream he saw himself and the Holy Prophet of Islam presented before God. Allah decreed that the Muslims should have Persia for a hundred years. The Holy Prophet of Islam wanted that this period should be increased. Allah raised the period to 120 years. The Prophet of Islam represented again and Allah said "Alright let the Muslims have Persia for as much time as you like." When Yazdjurd was to represent his point of view to God, he was awakened by his servants. Yazdjurd felt disconsolate as the dream signified that he and his dynasty were to lose Persia for ever. In Khurasan the emperor Yazdjurd settled at Merv.
When other provinces had fallen, Umar decided that the Muslims should launch the attack against Khurasan and drive the emperor out of the country. Umar appointed Ahnaf bin Qais to the chief command in the campaign against Khurasan Ahnaf bin Qais accordingly started with his army from Isfahan. From Isfahan two routes led to Khurasan. The main highway was via Rayy and Nishapur. The other route which was less frequented led to Herat by passing Nishapur, and then to Merv. Ahnaf chose to follow the less frequented route.
On the march to Herat the first encounter took place at Tabas. After a feeble resistance the Persian garrison surrendered.
The next encounter took place at Tun. Here too the Persian garrison surrendered.
On reaching Herat, the Muslim army besieged the town. Details of the campaign are not known. It is recorded in contemporary histories that the Persians put up stiff resistance but they were defeated and laid down arms. Herat was occupied by the Muslims and Ahnaf stayed there for some time to reorganize the administration.
From Herat, Ahnaf sent a column against Nishapur. Some resistance was offered but ultimately Nishapur was captured.
From Nishapur the Muslim forces proceeded to Tusk and occupied it after overpowering the Persian garrison.
After clearing these pockets the main Persian town of Merv was made as the target. Merv was the capital of Khurasan and here Yazdjurd held his court. On hearing of the Muslim advance, Yazdjurd left for Balkh. No resistance was offered at Merv, and the Muslims occupied the capital of Khurasan without firing a shot.
Ahnaf stayed at Merv for some time to reorganize the administration and to await further reinforcements from Kufa. In the meantime the Persian forces gathered in considerable strength at Balkh. Yazdjurd sought aid from the neighboring state Farghana and the Khan of Farghana personally led a Turkish contingent to Balkh.
Having received reinforcements, Ahnaf led the Muslim forces to Balkh. The Muslims had experience of fight with the Persians but they had little experience of war with the Turks. Ahnaf wanted to avoid war with the Turks, and in this connection he thought of ways whereby the Turks should abandon the cause of Yazdjurd. It was reported to Ahnaf that the practice with the Turks were that in the morning three heralds blew bugles and then the Turkish force marched to the battle.
One night Ahnaf hid himself in a safe place outside the Turkish camp. As soon as the Turkish herald came out of the Turkish camp to blow the bugle, Ahnaf overpowered him and killed with his sword. When the second herald came he met the same fate. The third herald also met the same fate. That day the bugles did not blow for the Turkish army. When the bugles did not blow the Khan of Farghana came out of the camp to see what had happened to the heralds. When he saw that all of them were dead he regarded this as a bad omen. At the spur of the moment he decided that the Turks should not involve themselves with the Muslims. He ordered his force to withdraw and march back to Farghana.
When the battle began the Persians charged thinking that they would be supported by their allies the Turks. But the Turks were no longer there. The Muslims counter attacked and the Persian forces found safety in flight across the Oxus to Transoxiana. Balkh was occupied by the Muslims, and with this occupation the Persian war was over. The Muslims had now reached the outermost frontiers of Persia. Beyond that lay the lands of the Turks and still further lay China. The old mighty empire of the Sassanids had ceased to exist.
From Balkh, Ahnaf returned to Merv. From Merv, Ahnaf sent a detailed account of his operations to Umar. He stated that the Muslims were now in occupation of the whole of Persia. He further sought the instructions of the Caliph whether the Oxus should be crossed, and operations carried in Transoxiana.
When Umar received the report of the conquest of Khurasan he held a thanksgiving prayer to God for making the Muslims the heirs to the mighty Persian empire. The Holy Prophet had prophesied that the Muslims would occupy Persia. That prophesy stood fulfilled.
Addressing the people, Umar said:
"Praise be to God Who has made the Muslims the heirs to the mighty empire of Persia. Allah has destroyed the Magian imperialism. Where once the fire-cult dominated there today the Muslims have enforced the cult of the unity of God. God has today chosen you as His instrument. You have to prove yourselves to be worthy of such trust. If you follow the injunctions of God you will prosper. If you falter or waver, God will choose some other people in your place. So that you may prosper let there be no wavering in your faith."
To Ahnaf Umar wrote a letter of appreciation. He exhorted him to run the administration in such a way that the people should come to feel that the Muslim administration was more beneficent to them than the Persian imperial administration. As regards carrying campaigns in Transoxiana, Umar observed with great emphasis and vehemence that the Oxus was not to be crossed on any account.
When the Muslims overran Iraq, and won the battles of Qadisiyya, Ctesiphon, Jalaula, and Ahwaz the spirits of the Muslims ran high and they dreamt of conquering distant lands.
At this time Ula b. Al Hadrami was the Governor of Bahrain. He had led the apostasy campaign in Bahrain and had succeeded in restoring law and order. Between Bahrain and Persia lay the Persian Gulf and across the Persian Gulf was the Persian province of Fars which could boast of such cities as Persepolis and Shiraz.
Anxious to win glory in the name of Islam, Ula called the local Arabs to arms. The response was encouraging, and Ula mustered a considerable force. Ula thought that with this force he could easily capture a greater part of Fars.
He was aware of the command of Umar that no further advance in Iran should be undertaken. Ula knew that if he sought permission from Umar to undertake an expedition against Fars such permission would not be forthcoming. He thought that the best course would be to launch the attack, and when the Caliph would hear of his success he would approve the fait accompli.
Thus notwithstanding the ban imposed by Umar, Ula ordered a march to Fars. The force was divided into three columns, and placed under the command of Jarud b. Mualla; Sawwar b. Hamam: and Khuleid b. Mundhir. The Muslim forces were transported by boats across the Persian Gulf, and they landed on the eastern coast of the Persian Gulf.
The Muslim forces then started the march inland towards Shiraz and Persepolis. Half way at Tawoos they found their way barred by a sizable Persian force.
Both the sides deployed their forces for battle. The contest was violent. There were heavy casualties among the Persians, but the Muslims also suffered heavily. The two Muslim commanders Sawwar and Jarud fell fighting. The command was then taken over by Khuleid. He launched a counter attack against the Persians and after putting up a gallant fight, the Persians withdrew.
As Khuleid surveyed the position he felt that unless he was strongly reinforced further advance in Fars was not possible. He accordingly decided to return to the sea shore and await further reinforcements.
When the Muslims came to the shore of the Persian Gulf, they found that by a flanking movement the Persians had already burnt the boats by which the Muslims had crossed the Persian Gulf.
The Muslims now found themselves in a precarious situation. They were not strong enough to march inland to Fars. With the burning of the boats they could not recross to Bahrain. The only alternative was to march along the east coast of the Persian Gulf to Ahwaz and then to Basra.
After a day's march the Muslims reached the town of Jannaveh, and here they found that their way was blocked by a large Persian force led by Shahrak the Governor of Fars. The Persian force was too large for the Muslims to attack. The Muslims accordingly went into camp and prepared for a defensive action.
Shahrak launched several attacks against the Muslims but he was not able to make any headway. He accordingly withheld further attacks, and decided to blockade the Muslims. In the meantime the commander of the stranded Muslim force managed to send a messenger to Umar. When Umar came to know that the campaign had been launched without his permission and that it had failed he felt very angry and unhappy. He, however, decided to take immediate action to relieve the stranded army.
Umar wrote to Utba bin Ghazwan the Governor of Basra to send a force to the relief of the Muslims stranded in Fars. Utba sent a large force led by Asim b. Amr, and Abu Sabra b. Abi Ruhm. It moved along the coastal route. In the meantime Shahrak also got some reinforcement, and he was planning the assault of the Muslim camp. The Muslim relief force arrived at the nick of the time and that turned the balance in favor of the Muslims. In the confrontation that followed the Persians were defeated, and they took to flight after heavy losses. The Muslim forces marched back to Basra. That was the end of the campaign in Fars. It cost Ula b. Hazrami his governorship, from which office he was removed.
After the conquest of Isfahan, when the north of Persia had been cut off from the south, Umar ordered a march against Fars the southern province of Persia.
The operation against Fars was to be undertaken in a series of campaigns. In the first campaign a corps under Mujashe bin Masud advanced in the district of Ardsheer Khurra. There was a confrontation at Tawwaj where the Muslims defeated the Persian force.
From Tawwaj the Muslim army proceeded to the town of Sabur. The town was besieged. Brought to bay the Persians laid down their arms and submitted to Muslim rule.
In the second campaign led by Othman bin Abul Aas, and starting from where Mujashe bin Masud had left off the Muslim army advanced to Jor. It was a city to the south of Shiraz and some distance away from the Persian Gulf. The Persian garrison at Jor offered resistance but they were soon overwhelmed and the city submitted to the Muslim rule.
From Jor the Muslim army struck north and occupied the city of Shiraz. >From Shiraz the Muslim army struck north east and occupied Persepolis the ancient capital of Persia.
The third campaign led by Sariyah bin Zuneim launched from Persepolis was directed against Fasa and Darab. It was a hilly region. At a place near Fasa the Muslim army was stranded and exposed to great danger. That day was Friday and at that time Umar was delivering the Friday sermon in the Prophet's mosque at Madina. Suddenly in the course of the sermon, Umar shouted 'Sariyah to the hill, to the hill'. When the prayer was over the people gathered round Umar and enquired what was the significance of his word 'Sariyah to the hills' in the course of the sermon.
Umar said that while he was delivering the sermon he saw that the Muslim army under Sariyah fighting on the Fasa front, was stranded. He advised them to seek the protection of the hills.
It is related that on the battlefield Sariyah heard the voice of Umar and he took to the hill as desired. That turned the tide of the battle, and the Muslims won the day. When after many days the messenger from Sariyah reached Madina to convey the news of the victory of Fasa, he declared on oath that on the day of the battle at the time of Friday prayers they had actually heard the call of Umar enjoining them to take to the protection of the hill, and that they had acted accordingly.
After Fasa, the Muslims marched to Darab and there too the Persians surrendered after offering feeble resistance.
The fourth campaign in this series was carried by Suhail bin Adi. A column under Suhail marched to Kirman. The Persians offered resistance but when their Commander was killed on the battlefield, they lost heart and submitted to the Muslims. With Kirman as the base, the Muslim force marched against the towns of Jiraft and Sirjan without any difficulty. The entire province of Fars now lay at the feet of the Muslims.
After the conquest of Fars the Muslims turned to the province of Sistan, the home of the legendary hero Rustam of Shahnama fame. The attack on Sistan was led by Asim bin Amr. At the border of Sistan the army of Asim were obstructed by a Persian force. In a violent attack launched by the Muslims the Persian forces were scattered, and the Muslim forces advanced to Zaranj. It was a fortified town, and the Persian garrison shut itself in the fort. The town was besieged by the Muslims and then carried by assault. The Persians surrendered, and the entire province of Sistan came under Muslim occupation.
After the conquest of Rayy and Central Persia, Umar ordered the conquest of Azerbaijan. The province of Azerbaijan lay to the west of the Caspian Sea, and was so called because of large number of fire temples therein.
Umar appointed Hudheifa to the command of the campaign against Azerbaijan. Hudheifa first marched to Zanjan. Here the local garrison put up resistance but they were overpowered and the city was carried by assault.
From Zanjan the Muslim forces proceeded to Ardabeel the capital of the province. The Persians did not offer any resistance and surrendered on the usual terms of Jizya. From Ardabeel the Muslim forces marched northward along the western coast of the Caspian Sea. There was a confrontation at Bab which was an important port on the Caspian Sea. The Muslims scored a victory.
At this stage Hudheifa was recalled. The Persians launched a counter attack, and the Muslims abandoned their forward posts in Azerbaijan Umar now sent the expeditionary forces to Azerbaijan, one led by Bukair bin Abdullah and the other by Utba bin Farqad.
The contingent under Bukair had their first confrontation with the Persians at Jurmizan. The Persians were commanded by Isandiar. In the battle which was quite severe, the Persians were defeated and their commander Isandiar was captured alive. Isandiar asked Bukair, "Do you prefer war or peace." Bukair said that the Muslims preferred peace. Isandiar thereupon said, "Then keep me with you till I can help you in negotiating peace with the people of Azerbaijan". There were many forts in the hills. The Persians went to these hills and shut themselves in the forts. The Muslims captured the entire area in the plains.
The other Muslim forces under Utba bin Farqad had their confrontation with a Persian force commanded by Bahram a brother of Isandiar. The Persians were defeated with heavy loss and Bahram fled away.
When Isandiar came to know that Bahram had beer defeated, he waited on Utba and negotiated for peace. In the peace pact that was drawn up, the people of the region agreed to accept the Muslim rule and to pay Jizya.
The Muslims amassed considerable booty. That was distributed among the soldiers. Utba b. Farqad carried the state share to Madina. Along with the other gifts that he carried were loads of 'Halwa', a specialty of Azerbaijan. When Umar tasted the Halwa, he said that it was most delicious and sweet. He had the 'Halwa' distributed among all persons in Madina. All those who ate it felt that it was a sweet from the Heaven.
Armenia lay to the north of Azerbaijan and Jazira. It was bounded in the east by the Caspian Sea, and in the west by the Black Sea.
After the conquest of Azerbaijan, Umar gave the call for a march to Armenia. From Azerbaijan, Bukair bin Abdullah moved at the head of a Muslim column along the west coast of the Caspian Sea.
Crossing the border the Muslim forces reached Bab. It was ruled by Shahrbaz, a Magian. The majority of the people were Armenians but Shahrbaz was a Persian and he owed allegiance to Persia. Having come to know of the conquests of the Muslims Shahrbaz was not in a mood to resist the Muslims. He waited on the Muslim commander Bukair and told him that he had little sympathy for the Armenians. He was a Persian and owed allegiance to Persia, but as Persia itself had submitted to the Muslims he was prepared to do the likewise and submit to Muslim rule. He was offered the usual alternative. He said that he had warlike people with him who would be an asset to the Muslims in their wars against other people. He pleaded that as they would be prepared to fight along with the Muslims, they should not be subjected the stigma of Jizya. The matter was referred to Umar, and he agreed to the suggestion subject to the provisos that if in any year there was no war they would pay Jizya and also that those who did not participate in the war would pay Jizya. This was agreed to by Shahrbaz, and the peace treaty was drawn up accordingly.
Thereafter the Muslims continued their triumphant march forward. A column under Bukair conquered Qan, an important frontier town. A column under Habib b. Maslamah marched on Tiflis. A column under Hudheifa marched to the Al-Lan mountains. Another column under Abdul Rahman bin Rabih reduced Baida.
This multi-pronged advance into Armenia came to a halt with the assassination of Umar towards the fall of the year 644 A.D.
From Persia the conquering Muslim forces crossed over into Makran district of Baluchistan. That was the first contact of the Muslims with the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent in 644 A.D.
Makran was then a part of the dominions of Raja Rasil. Raja Rasil is referred to in contemporary histories as the Raja of the Sind. When Rasil came to know of the advance of the Muslims he rushed his forces to Makran. He is reported to have crossed a river in Makran, and took his position on the western bank thereof. The name of the river or the exact site of the battle have not been mentioned in contemporary histories.
The Muslim forces were commanded by Hakim bin Amr Aghlabi. He was assisted by Suhail bin Adi. The details of the battle are not known. It is, however, related that the fighting was severe, and that ultimately Raja Rasil was defeated with considerable loss. He crossed the river in his rear, and withdrew to Sind.
Makran was annexed after the people surrendered on the usual terms. Considerable booty was gained and this included a number of war elephants. The state share of the spoils of war along with all the elephants captured were sent to Umar. Suhar Abdi, a man of a poetic bent of mind carried the news of victory to Umar.
When the messenger waited on Umar, he was asked to describe the country. Suhar Abdi broke into rhyme:
"O Commander of the faithful!
Umar looked at Suhar Abdi and said:
"Are you a messenger or a poet."
He said that he was a messenger, and that he had merely described the things as they were.
Thereupon Umar said, "If what you say is true, it would be futile to advance in such a land."
Umar instructed Hakim bin Amr al Taghlabi that for the time being Makran should be the easternmost frontier of the Muslim dominions, and that no further attempt should be made to extend the conquests.
In Syria, the siege of Damascus began on 21st August 634, and on 23rd August Abu Bakr was dead and Umar had become the Caliph though the army in Syria did not know of this change Khalid bin Walid was the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Syria.
When the siege of Damascus began, the effort of Khalid was to isolate Damascus' so that no relief could reach it from any side. The road to Emessa lay open, and there was the danger that a relief force might come from Emessa. Khalid sent a detachment to take up its position at Bait Lihya ten miles from Damascus on the road to Emessa. The Commander of the detachment was instructed by Khalid to send out scouts to look for the approach of the Byzantine relief columns.
On the 9th of September 634, news was brought to Khalid that a large Byzantine army was marching from Emessa and was likely to reach Damascus within a couple of days. Khalid organized a mounted force of 5,000 men under the command of Zarrar. Zarrar was instructed to intercept the Byzantine force at Bait Lihya. Reaching Bait Lihya, Zarrar organized an ambush near "Thaniyyat-ul-Uqab"-the pass of the Eagle.
When the Byzantine army reached the pass, Zarrar ordered the attack. The Byzantines were prepared for the attack, and they deployed themselves in battle formation almost immediately. In the battle that ensued many Byzantines were killed, and the rest of the Byzantine army fled from the battlefield. The Byzantines were, however, able to capture Zarrar alive. The loss of Zarrar had a depressing effect on the Muslim forces. The command was taken over by Rafie, and word was sent to Khalid for further help.
Leaving the command of Damascus to Abu Ubaida, Khalid set off to Bait Lihya with his mobile guard of 4,000 horse. As Khalid approached the battle-field, he saw a Muslim rider with a masked face gallop off towards the Byzantine front. This warrior would kill a number of the soldiers of the enemy, and then withdraw. He would after some time pounce upon the enemy once again and kill every one who came his way. Khalid wanted this warrior to tell him who he was. The warrior, however, dashed to the front again. As he returned from the attack after killing a number of the enemy, Khalid wanted the warrior to halt and identify himself. The warrior said "I am Khaula, sister of Zarrar. My brother has been captured by the Byzantines, and I am dashing against the enemy with a view to liberating Zarrar". Khalid praised the young girl for her bravery, and assured her that he would have her brother rescued.
Khalid launched the attack against the Byzantines with full force and by mid-day the Byzantines began to withdraw under the pressure of the Muslims. The scouts brought the news that they had seen a contingent of 100 Byzantines riding to Emessa with a half-naked man in their midst tied to his horse. Khalid ordered Raf'e to take one hundred picked horsemen, move forward along the flank of the Byzantines, get to the Emessa road, and intercept the escort taking Zarrar to Emessa. Raf'e set off at once on the mission with one hundred horsemen. Khaula accompanied the party.
Raf'e and his party got to the Emessa road at a point where the Byzantine escort had not yet reached, and there lay in ambush. When the Byzantines arrived at the spot, the Muslims fell on the Byzantines, killed most of them, and set Zarrar free.
Under the unrelenting pressure of the Muslims the force sent for the relief of Damascus was forced to retreat to Emessa in a state of disorder. As Zarrar came back to the camp of Bait Lihya, Khalid was much pleased to meet him. Khalid thanked Raf'e and Khaula for their services in freeing Zarrar. Khalid had a mind to pursue the fleeing force of the Byzantines, but he could not do so as his presence was required at Damascus. Khalid left a detachment at Bait Libya, and himself along with his mobile guard returned to Damascus.
The Muslim army besieging Damascus was divided into five corps each under a Commander. Each corps was required to guard one or two gates of the city. In the north there were two gates, namely the Thomas gate, and Paradees gate. The corps commanded by Shurahbil was stationed outside Thomas gate, while the corps commanded by Amr bin Al Aas was posted outside Paradees gate. In the east there was one gate. Here corps commanded by Khalid himself was posted. In the south there were two gates. Here the corps commanded by Yazid was posted to look after both the gates. In the west there was one gate, namely the Jabiya gate. Here the corps commanded by Abu Ubaida was posted. The Byzantine force within the fort was commanded by Thomas who was a son-in-law of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius.
Thomas counted on the arrival of a relief force to be sent by Heraclius. When Thomas came to know that the relief force had been battered at Bait Lihya, he decided to sally forth from the fort and break through the besieging Muslim forces. On a September day mustering a strong force, Thomas broke out through the Thomas gate in the north. Here he was opposed by the force led by Shurahbil. There was an exchange of shots leading to casualties on both sides. On the Muslim side, one of the soldiers killed was Aban bin Saeed bin Al Aas. He had only been married a few days ago. As soon as his widow came to know of his death, she donned his uniform, took a bow and joined the Muslim archers, determined to seek revenge for the death of her husband.
The Byzantine soldiers rushed out of the Thomas gate and launched an attack on the Muslims. There was heavy fighting. Shurahbil's corps was outnumbered, but the Muslims held their ground. Thomas commanded the Byzantine forces personally. In order to demoralize the Muslim forces, Thomas rushed forward to overpower the Muslim Commander Shurahbil. Before Thomas could reach Shurahbil, an arrow shot by the widow of Aban struck him. That made the Byzantines fall back to the fort leaving behind a large number of the dead.
The following night, the Byzantines sallied forth from all the gates simultaneously. There was hard fighting. The Byzantines tried their best to break through the Muslim forces. The Muslim forces withstood their ground seeing that there was no weakening in the Muslim front, the Byzantines returned to the fort, leaving hundreds of their soldiers dead on the battle-field.
The following day a young Greek Jonah by name slipped from the fort, and coming to the Muslim camp sought an audience of Khalid. He said that he was madly in love with a girl with whom he had been married, but the ceremony of handing over the bride had not taken place. He had asked his father-in-law to perform the ceremony but he wanted him to wait till the war was over Jonah stipulated that if the Muslims could help him in getting his bride, he would help the Muslims in winning the fort. Khalid promised to help, and Jonah the Greek youth pointed a place on the city walls which the Muslims could scale. That night Khalid and a picked band of his soldiers scaled the wall and entered the fort. Then they made for the gate and broke it open. Through the gate the Muslim army rushed in, and began to massacre the Byzantines .
When Thomas came to know of the entry of Khalid through the eastern gate, he waited on Abu Ubaida at the western gate, and offered surrender on the usual terms of paying Jizya. Abu Ubaida accepted the surrender and offered amnesty to the Byzantines. When the forces of Abu Ubaida entered the city from the western gate they soon found that Khalid had already entered it from the eastern gate. Khalid and Abu Ubaida met in the heart of the town. Abu Ubaida told Khalid that the Byzantine Commander had surrendered and that he had offered the Byzantines amnesty. Khalid said that he had won Damascus and there was no question of allowing amnesty. A council of war of the Muslim Generals met, and it was ultimately decide that the guarantee given by Abu Ubaida should be respected.
The Byzantines were allowed to move out of the fort. They were allowed to carry their belongings. It was further stipulated that there would be no pursuit for three days.
Jonah met his girl, and wanted her to come to him. She wanted him to accompany them on their flight from Damascus. He told her that he had become a Muslim and that he would stay in Damascus. Thereupon she refused to have any deal with him.
All the Byzantines left the fort, which was thereafter occupied by the Muslims. The Muslims conquered Damascus some time towards the end of September 634 A.D.
Khalid felt very bitter that while he had taken the city of Damascus by sword, the fruit of his labor had been snatched away by clever diplomacy of Thomas and the large heartedness of Abu Ubaida. He was also sad that the Commander of the Byzantine forces. Thomas and his Deputy Harbees had escaped. Khalid had wanted to kill them. The Muslim soldiers were also dissatisfied that the Byzantines had carried away all valuable property leaving no booty for the Muslim soldiers.
Jonah highly grieved at his rejection by his bride waited on Khalid in a state of desperation. He suggested that if the Muslims could help him in getting his bride, he could lead them by some short cuts where they could intercept the Byzantine convoy after three days, the period of grace allowed to the Byzantines. The idea appealed to Khalid. He mustered his mobile guard, and decided to follow the convoy.
When the truce allowed for three days was over, the Muslims caught up with the Byzantine convoy at Al Abrash, a short distance from Antioch. Here rain had fallen, and the convoy had dispersed on the plateau seeking shelter from the inclement weather. Their goods lay in the open. So many bundles of brocade lay scattered on the ground that the plain came to be known as 'Marj-ud-Deebaj' the Meadow of Brocade.
The Muslim forces attacked the convoy from all the four sides. There was much slaughter and bloodshed. Khalid dueled with Thomas and Harbees, and killed both of them. After some fighting the Byzantine resistance collapsed.
Jonah found his beloved, and wanted her to accompany him. She refused. She took out a dagger from the folds of her dress, and stabbed herself with it. She expired in the hands of Jonah. Jonah took the oath that he would remain faithful to the memory of his beloved, and would not marry any other girl.
Some ladies in the convoy were captured. Khalid offered the most beautiful lady out of these to Jonah to make his wife. Seeing the lady chosen for him by Khalid, Jonah said that the lady was the widow of Thomas, and the daughter of Heraclius, and he could not have her.
The Muslims marched back with their spoils and captives. When they were a day's march from Damascus, they met a small party of riders. From this party a Byzantine noble stepped forward and said:
"I am the ambassador of Heraclius the Byzantine emperor. You have killed his son-in-law and captured his daughter. He requests you to return his daughter to him, either on the payment of ransom, or as a gift."
At this address, Khalid was touched. He said:
"Take her as a gift; there will be no ransom."
The ambassador took the daughter of Heraclius, offering profuse thanks. Thereafter the Byzantines marched back to Antioch.
The following day Khalid and his force reached Damascus loaded with spoils. The booty was distributed to the Muslim soldiers.
Thereafter Khalid sat to write a detailed report to the Caliph about the conquest of Damascus. The letter was addressed to Abu Bakr, and therein Khalid reported as to how Damascus had been conquered, how Abu Ubaida had been deceived by the Byzantines; and how he had taken the revenge by pouncing upon the convoy after three days, the period stipulated by the truce. When Khalid was about to hand this letter to a messenger to carry it to Madina, Abu Ubaida waited on Khalid to say that Abu Bakr was dead, and that the new Caliph Umar had passed orders deposing Khalid from the high command and vesting the command in him (Abu Ubaida).
On assuming office as Caliph, the first official order that Umar passed as the Caliph was to depose Khalid from the chief command of the Muslim forces in Syria.
Umar addressed his order to Abu Ubaida as follows:
"I urge upon you the fear of Allah Who lives eternally while everything else perishes, Who has guided us away from wrong doing and taken us out of darkness into light. I appoint you Commander of the army instead of Khalid bin Waleed. So take charge from him as is your duty.
Send not the Muslims to their destruction for the sake of plunder; and place not the Muslims in a camp without reconnoitering it and knowing what is there.
Send not expeditions except in properly organized units. And beware of taking any steps which may lead to the annihilation of the Muslims.
Allah has tried me with you, and tried you with me. Guard against the temptations of this world lest they destroy you as they have destroyed others before you; and you have seen how they fell."
The Caliph instructed the messenger to carry the letter to Syria and hand it over personally to Abu Ubaida.
The messenger arrived with the letter at Damascus in the first week of September 634, and handed over the letter to Abu Ubaida. Abu Ubaida read the letter, but he felt that with the siege of Damascus in progress, that was not the opportune time for making a change in the command. He kept the letter with him as a closely guarded secret, and proceeded to act as if no orders had been received from Madina.
When Damascus fell, the pact with the Byzantines was signed by Khalid, Abu Ubaida had offered amnesty to the Byzantines over the head of Khalid, but even when Khalid felt annoyed, Abu Ubaida merely argued in conciliatory terms, and did not drop a hint that he had indeed acted with due authority.
After Khalid had returned from his campaign of the 'Meadow of the Brocade', and written a report addressed to Abu Bakr, Abu Ubaida could no longer keep the letter of the Caliph as a secret. Reluctantly he handed over the letter of Umar to Khalid. Khalid read the letter, and was shocked at its contents.
Turning to Abu Ubaida, Khalid said, "This letter must have reached you about a month ago: why did you conceal it from me?" Abu Ubaida said that he did not wish to sheaken his authority while he was engaged with the enemy.
Khalid gave the charge of the command to Abu Ubaida. The options before Khalid were to retire, or to seek transfer to some other front Khalid did not avail of these options, and he chose to serve in Syria under the command of Abu Uhaida. Khalid said that he was fighting in the name of Allah and it made no difference to him whether he held the command or fought under the command of someone else.
A week after Abu Ubaida had assumed command of the Muslim army, a Christian Arab came to inform the new Commander that a fair was being held at Abul Quds, which if raided would promise the prospect of a great booty for the Muslims. Abu Ubaida was attracted, and he asked for volunteers who would like to go to raid Abul Quds.
Abdullah a son of Jafar a cousin of the Holy Prophet of Islam offered to command the raid. The offer was accepted and Abdullah with a contingent of five hundred soldiers marched to Abul Quds. Abul Quds was at the eastern foothills of the Lebanon range, 40 miles from Damascus on the road to Baalbeck. The fair was guarded by a force of 5,000 Byzantine men. In a fit of vainglory, Abdullah ordered a charge on the Byzantines. After some heroic fighting the Muslims came to be surrounded by the Byzantine forces. A Muslim soldier escaped from the battle-field and brought news to Abu Ubaida that the entire contingent of the Muslims at Abul Quds was faced with the danger of annihilation, and that help should be rushed for their relief immediately.
Abu Ubaida felt much worried. Umar had instructed that the Muslims should not be sent for mere plunder, and here he had transgressed such instructions. He had taken over the command recently, and if the Muslim contingent at Abul Quds was not saved that would very much prejudice the Muslim interests in Syria. The only person who could help him in that crisis was Khalid, but he felt that it would be embarrassing to request Khalid to come to his relief so soon after his deposition. But Abu Ubaida had no option but to request Khalid. Hesitatingly Abu Ubaida approached Khalid and requested him to come to the rescue of the Muslims at that critical juncture. Khalid agreed to rush to the relief of the contingent at Abul Quds.
Khalid rushed to Abul Quds with his mobile guard. He broke through the ranks of the Byzantines and saved the trapped Muslims. Some bitter fighting followed in which Khalid received many wounds. He, however, stood firm and ultimately the Byzantine garrison fled the field. That enabled Khalid attack the stalls at the fair and amass considerable booty.
Khalid returned to Damascus along with the liberated Muslims and the booty from the fair. Abu Ubaida thanked Khalid profusely. That showed that in the mind of Khalid there was no bitterness about his deposition. Abu Ubaida reported the matter to Umar at Madina, and in the report he lavished most generous praise on Khalid. He wrote that but for Khalid the raid of Abul Quds would have ended in disaster for the Muslims. Umar merely noted the contents, and had no word of praise for Khalid. On the other hand, he reprimanded Abu Ubaida for having sent a raid party to Abul Quds contrary to his instructions. He observed in strong terms that such acts of foolhardiness should not be repeated.
After the Byzantines had lost Damascus, the emperor Heraclius planned a large scale action against the Muslims. His strategy was to cut off the Muslim forces in Syria from communication with Arabia. With this object, he ordered a large concentration of the Byzantine force at Beisan to the west of the Jordan river to the south of Damascus.
The Muslims had only a small garrison at Fahl to the east of Jordan at some distance from Beisan. When Abu Ubaida came to know of the concentration of the Byzantine force at Beisan, he held a council of war. The consensus of opinion was that all the forces that the Muslims could muster should march to Fahl, and meet the Byzantine force before it could gather further strength. Abu Ubaida left a corps under the command of Yazeed at Damascus, and the rest of the Muslim forces marched to Fahl.
When the Byzantines came to know that the Muslims were marching southward they dammed the Jordan river, and thereby flooded the countryside around Fahl. The Muslim forces cantoned at Fahl. The Byzantine forces were led by Saqlar bin Makhraq. He asked the Commander of the Muslim forces to depute some representative for the purposes of negotiation Abu Ubaida deputed Muadh b. Jabal as the Muslim representative.
The Byzantines had a cloth of gold laid for Muadh to sit. Muadh, however, sat on the bare ground. When asked to explain his conduct he said:
"It is the wont of slaves to sit on bare ground. I am the slave of God, and therefore I sit on the bare ground."
Addressing Muadh Saqlar advised the Muslims to attack Persia and Abyssinia where the chances of their success were greater. He said that in the case of the Byzantines, the Muslims were ill advised to wage war, for the Byzantine could muster forces as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Muadh said that they would launch a campaign against Persia in due course. He said that the Muslims were in no way afraid of the large strength of the Byzantine forces. They were fighting in the way of Allah and they were fortified with the faith that God would help them. Saqlar said that the Muslims could have Baqla and some other districts adjoining Arabia provided they withdrew from Syria. Muadh turned down the offer. He offered the Byzantines the usual three alternatives. Muadh then returned to the Muslim camp.
The following day a Byzantine representative came to the Muslim camp. He found the Muslim Commander-in-Chief Abu Ubaida dressed as an ordinary soldier sitting on the bare ground examining arrows. He gave Abu Ubaida a message from Saqlar that if the Muslims withdrew from Syria he would pay them a good deal of money. Abu Ubaida rejected the offer, and said that the issue between the Muslims and the Byzantines would be decided on the battle-field.
The following day the Muslims decided to cross the river, and attack Beisan. Khalid led the advance guard. The Muslim forces had not proceeded very far when they got stuck in the mud, and had great difficulty in extricating themselves. They accordingly returned to Fahl and decided to wait.
The Byzantines were happy that their stratagem of flooding countryside had paid dividends. Byzantine had guides who assured them that they could negotiate the marsh. The Byzantine forces commanded by Saqlar crossed the Jordan river and proceeded to Fahl. They hoped to catch the Muslims unaware.
The Byzantines launched the attack on 23rd January 635. As the Byzantines advanced, all advantages lay with them. They were larger in strength and they were better equipped. The topography was also in their favor. They could negotiate the marsh. They opened the attack with a rain of arrows. The Muslim cavalry was led by Khalid and they formed the Muslim vanguard. Due to the rain of arrows from the Byzantine side the Muslim forces had to fall back. They steadily withdrew until they were on firm ground beyond the flooded area. Then the Muslims charged. In the hand to hand fight that ensued the Muslims were superior to the Byzantines. The Commander-in-chief of the Byzantine forces Saqlar and many other commanders were killed. That demoralized the Byzantines. Overpowered the Byzantine forces pulled back and decided to withdraw to Beisan. The Muslims increased their pressure. Under the pressure of the Muslim assault the retreat of the Byzantines soon became a rout. The Muslims played havoc with the forces. The retreating Byzantine got bogged up in the mud, and the pursuing Muslims made mince meat of them. The marsh which the Byzantines had created to trap the Muslims became a death trap for the Byzantines themselves. Over ten thousand Byzantines perished in the battle of Fahl. The marsh came to be studded with the dead bodies of the Byzantine soldiers. The battle ended in victory for the Muslims. Because of the mud, the battle of Fahl came to be known in the Arab chronicles as the Battle of the Mud.
After the battle of Fahl, the main Muslim army under Abu Ubaida and Khalid returned to Damascus. One contingent was left to conquer Beisan. Another contingent proceeded to capture Tabariyya.
The Muslims crossing the Jordan proceeded to Beisan. The Persians shut the gates of the city in the face of the Muslims, and the Muslims laid siege to the city. After a few days finding resistance futile the Byzantines surrendered and agreed to pay Jizya.
Tabariyya was eighteen miles from Beisan. It was the chief town of Jordan. The town was fortified and at the approach of the Muslims, the gates of the city were shut against them. The Muslims laid siege to the town, and blocked all routes to the town. After the fall of Beisan, the citizens of Tabariyya also found that any further resistance was useless. They, therefore, surrendered and agreed to pay Jizya. They vacated fifty per cent of the houses in the city which were occupied by the Muslims. With the fall of Tabariyya, the whole of Jordan came under the occupation of the Muslims. The campaigns in Jordan ended in February 635 and the Muslims settled down to administer the land.
When the Muslims were busy operating in the Jordan sector, Heraclius thought that it was a good opportunity to attack Damascus and recapture it. Heraclius accordingly sent from Antioch a strong Byzantine force under a General named Theodorus to recapture Damascus.
When Abu Ubaida came to know that a Byzantine force was marching to Damascus, the Muslim contingents led by Abu Ubaida and Khalid left Fahl and moved northward to Damascus. When Heraclius came to know of the movements of the Muslim force, he ordered a detachment of the Byzantine forces stationed at Emessa north of Damascus to be sent to Damascus to reinforce the Byzantine forces under Theodorus.
The Muslim and Byzantine forces met in the plain of Marj-ur-Rum to the west of Damascus. As the two armies stood in battle formation, the Byzantine contingent from Emessa under the command of Shans faced the corps of Abu Ubaida, while the corps of Khalid faced the main army commanded by Theodorus. The two armies remained in their battle positions, each waiting for the other to make the first move. No side made the move.
As night fell, leaving Shans to face the Muslims, Theodorus pulled back his corps under the cover of darkness, and by dawn the following day arrived at Damascus. The movement was carried out with great skill and it was only about dawn that the Muslims came to know that the bulk of the Byzantine army had left for Damascus.
The Muslim garrison at Damascus was under the command of Yazeed. On coming to know that a Byzantine force had arrived under the command of Theodorus, Yazeed immediately deployed his force outside the fort. Just after sunrise the battle began between the Muslims and the Byzantines. The Byzantines vastly outnumbered the Muslims, and in spite of the strong pressure of the Byzantines the Muslims held fast till noon. Thereafter the Byzantines increased their pressure and the force under Yazeed began to fall back.
At that juncture Byzantines were struck in their rear by a furious mass of Muslim horsemen. This was the mobile guard led by Khalid. When Khalid came to know that the force under Theodorus facing him was no longer at Marj-ur-Rum he guessed that the force must have proceeded to Damascus. Khalid accordingly rushed with his mobile guard to the relief of Damascus. So great was the onslaught of the Muslim cavalry that the Byzantine forces wedged in between the forces of Yazeed and Khalid were cut to pieces.
Khalid killed Theodorus. With his death the Byzantine forces lost nerve. They retired from the battle-field in great confusion. Thousands of them were killed. Only a few escaped to tell the tale of disaster. The battle of Damascus ended in a victory for the Muslims.
At Marj-ur-Rum the Muslims under Abu Ubaida faced the Byzantines under Shans. The battle began with a personal duel between Abu Ubaida and Shans. In this duel, Abu Ubaida killed Shans. Thereafter the battle began, and both the sides appeared to be balanced. By afternoon news was received that in Damascus the Byzantine force had been shattered. That unnerved the Byzantine force fighting at Marj-ur-Rum. As night fell, the Byzantines fell back and retreated to Emessa. The battle of Marj-ur-Rum was fought in March 635 A.D.
After the battle of Marj-ur-Rum, the Muslim forces under Khalid advanced to Emessa in the north and laid siege to the city. After some time, Abu Ubaida also arrived at Emessa along with the rest of the Muslim army. The citizens of Emessa thereupon felt that they were no match for the Muslim forces. They asked for a truce which was allowed. The people of Emessa paid 10,000 diners and 100 robes of brocade. The truce was stipulated for a period of one year during which period the Muslims were not to attack them. If Emessa received any reinforcement during this period, the citizens of Emessa could resume hostilities. After the truce was agreed upon the gates of the city of Emessa were thrown open, and the Muslims were free to move in the city.
After the truce with Emessa, the Muslims attacked the neighboring cities, and these cities also sought truce on the lines of the truce of Emessa. In the meantime the winter set in. Heraclius sent considerable force to reinforce the garrison of Emessa. With the arrival of reinforcement the truce ended and the hostilities were resumed.
The military Governor of Emessa was Harbees, and to him Heraclius wrote, "The Muslims cannot stand the cold of Syria. Fight them on every cold day so that none of them is left till the spring."
For some time the siege of Emessa continued with unbroken monotony. Every day there was an exchange of archery, but there was no major action. The Byzantines hoped that the severe cold of Syria would be enough to destroy the desert dwellers and drive them away. The Muslims, however, withstood the cold with great resoluteness. By March 636 the severity of the cold was over, and the hopes of the Byzantines that the cold would drive away the Muslims were dashed to the ground. The Byzantines now became desperate. One morning a gate of the city was flung open, and Harbees the Byzantine Commander led a surprise attack against the unsuspecting Muslims. In the momentum of the surprise attack the Byzantines moved forward and the Muslims were forced to fall back.
At this juncture, Abu Ubaida commissioned Khalid to go to the relief of the Muslims. Khalid regrouped the Muslim army, and launched a counter attack. By sunset the Byzantines were forced back inside the city. The Byzantines had fought hard, and the Muslims felt that Harbees was no ordinary Commander; he was a force to be reckoned with.
The following morning, Abu Ubaida held a council of war. Most of the Muslim soldiers were in a restrained mood. Khalid advised that they should stage a withdrawal. When the sun rose, the Muslims had packed their belongings, struck the tents and had begun the withdrawal. Harbees thought that his action during the previous day had unnerved the Muslims, and they had accordingly raised the siege.
Harbees felt elated and he thought of giving a beating to the retreating Muslims. Harbees launched his mounted force into a fast pursuit to catch up with the retreating Muslims. The Muslims increased their pace, and the Byzantines also quickened the pursuit. When they were sufficiently away from Emessa, Khalid gave the signal, and the Muslim forces rushed from all sides to surround the Byzantines. Steadily closing in from all sides, the Muslims struck the Byzantines with spears and swords. The Byzantines fought desperately but were slaughtered down in large numbers. Breaking through the Byzantine force, Khalid reached Harbees, and then a duel began between the two Generals. In this duel the sword of Khalid broke and for some time Khalid was at the mercy of Harbees. Khalid held Harbees tight in his grip and then with his steel like grip splintered his ribs. Harbees fell lifeless in the hands of Khalid. The death of Harbees was the signal for the end of the Byzantine resistance.
The Muslims marched back to Emessa triumphant. There was no further resistance at Emessa. The citizens surrendered on the usual terms and the city of Emessa was occupied by the Muslims towards the closing days of March 636.
When Emessa was still under siege, Heraclius the Byzantine emperor made another bid to muster strength and drive away the Muslims from the land of Syria. This time he planned action on a massive scale. By May 636 A.D., a Byzantine army of 150,000 men had been put in arms and concentrated at Antioch.
At this time the Muslims were operating in four pockets. Amr b. Al Aas was operating with his corps in Palestine; Shurahbil was in Jordan; Yazeed was in Caesara, while Abu Ubaida and Khalid were at Emessa.
The plan of the Byzantines was that one Byzantine force was to march from Damascus from the west, and cut off the Muslim force at Emessa. Another force was to attack the Muslims at Emessa from the north. One force was to attack Emessa from the east and still another from the west. The plan was to recapture Emessa and Damascus.
When the Muslims came to know of the Byzantine plan they held a council of war. The Muslims decided that instead of being divided into four pockets, they should consolidate their forces at one point and face the Byzantines as a united force.
The next point for consideration was where should the Muslim forces concentrate? If the Muslims concentrated their forces in North Syria, they were apt to be surrounded by the Byzantine forces and their contact with the Arabian desert was likely to be cut off. The only strategy under the circumstances was that the Muslims should concentrate their forces in southern Syria where they could always maintain contact with Arabia. In accordance with this decision, the Muslims vacated Emessa, Damascus and other posts in North Syria, and concentrated their forces at Jabiya in Yermuk valley to the south of Damascus.
When the Byzantine force reached Emessa they found that the Muslims had left. They found that Damascus had also been evacuated. The Byzantines marched to the south and reached the Yermuk valley some time in the third week of July 636. Here they settled down in camps, and began their preparations for a confrontation with the Muslims. The Byzantine camp was 18 miles long, and between the Byzantine camp and the Muslim camp lay the central parts of the plain of Yermuk. The Byzantine forces comprised of 2 lakh men fully equipped.
The Muslim army consisted of 40,000 men. Against every five Byzantine soldiers there was only one Muslim soldier. When the Byzantine Generals surveyed their army, they felt sure of their victory.
The Muslims were fired with their faith, and hoped that God would grant them victory in spite of the odds against them. Abu Ubaida felt that it was going to be a tough battle. He thought that at that critical stage it was necessary to avail of the military skill of Khalid. Abu Ubaida accordingly decided to remain the nominal Commander-in-Chief. He delegated his powers of field operations to Khalid.
For some time there were negotiations between the two parties. The Byzantines offered to pay the Muslims some money in case they left Syria and returned to Arabia. The Muslims spurned the offer. In return the Muslims offered the Byzantines the usual three alternatives, Islam, Jizya or the sword.
After the failure of negotiations, the arbitration was left to the sword. The battle began in the third week of August 636.
Both the armies faced each other across the plain of Yermuk, about a mile apart.
Before the two armies clashed, a Byzantine General George emerged from the Byzantine center and rode towards the Muslims. Approaching the Muslim center he asked for Khalid. Khalid rode out thinking that Geerge wanted to have a duel with him. But George had no intention to duel. Instead George asked a few questions about Islam, and the Holy Prophet. He also enquired as to why Khalid was called 'The Sword of Allah'. Khalid answered these questions, and George said that he was satisfied. Khalid thereupon invited George to accept Islam and declare the article of faith Surprisingly enough, George accepted the invitation and was converted to Islam at the hands of Khalid. Then George rode to the Muslim side where he was welcomed with great enthusiasm.
The Commander-in-chief of the Byzantine force felt much annoyed at the walk over of his General George to the Muslim camp. He vowed vengeance against the Muslims as well as George. In a fit of fury he chose a few selected warriors from the Byzantine side, and they challenged the Muslims to duel Scores of duels were fought on the plain of Yermuk. Practically all the Byzantine champions were killed in the combat. On the Muslim side honors went to Abdur Rahman the son of Abu Bakr who killed five Byzantine champions one after the other.
After the dueling was over, Mahan the Commander-in-Chief of the Byzantine forces asked his forces to launch the assault. The Muslims withstood their ground. At sunset when the action ended there were more casualties on the Byzantine side than on the side of the Muslims.
On the second day, the Muslims were still at morning prayer when the Byzantines launched the attack. The Muslims got into position immediately and the two armies clashed. The Byzantines did not press at the Muslim center; they directed their pressure on the Muslim flanks. The Muslim right was led by Amr bin Aas. The Muslim corps on the right withstood two attacks, but at the third attack which was very severe they fell back in some disorder. The Muslim cavalry held up the Byzantine advance for some time, but they were unable to hold it for long. Repulsed by the Byzantines the Muslims fell back on their camp. Here they were greeted by Muslim women with stinging rebukes. That made the Muslim warriors turn back from the camp. The Muslims launched a counter attack and the Byzantines were pushed back.
The Muslim left flank was led by Yazeed. The corps under Yazeed withstood the first attack but fell back under the severity of the second attack. The Muslim cavalry launched the counter attack but it was repulsed, and the Muslims fell back to their camp. Here the Muslim women put the Muslim warriors to shame. They exhorted them to return to battle and show their courage. They returned to the battle and launched a coupler attack.
Seeing the pressure on the flanks, Khalid decided to come to their help. First he turned to the right wing and struck at the flank of the Byzantine army. The Byzantines reeled under the pressure of these blows and beat a retreat. Thereupon the corps of Amr regained all the ground they had lost.
Khalid next turned to the left wing, and attacked the Byzantine corps. Here again the Byzantines withdrew under the force of the counter attacks launched by the Muslims from the front as well as the flank. The attack on the Muslim side was led by Zarrar. He killed Derjan, the Commander of the Byzantine corps.
By sunset the two flanking armies of the Byzantines had been pushed back. The Muslims had faced a critical situation, but they had managed to regain the lost ground. When the battle ended on the second day the result was still indecisive.
On the third day, the Byzantines again launched the attack. The initial attacks were repulsed by the corps of Amr and Shurahbil. But when the Byzantines increased their pressure, the Muslims fell back. The Byzantines broke through in several places, and the Muslims fell back to their camp. The corps of Shurahbil was similarly pushed back to the camp. The Muslim women in the camp once again came into action with sharp tongues and tent poles. The Muslim warriors felt that it was easier to face the enemy than their women. That made the Muslim warriors return to the battle. Khalid again came to the rescue of these corps. The Byzantine opposition to the Muslim counter attack was very stiff but by dusk the Byzantines had been pushed back to the original position.
On the third day also the battle remained indecisive. The losses of the Byzantines outnumbered those of the Muslims. The Byzantine attacks had been beaten back by the Muslims. The Muslims were satisfied with their performance, but in the Byzantine camp, Mahan the Commander-in-chief was not satisfied with the performance of the Byzantines.
On the fourth day the Byzantines again started the battle with an attack on the corps of Amr bin Al Aas and Shurahbil. The corps of Amr was pushed back, but there they held up with drawn swords. In the sector of Shurahbil the Byzantines broke through and pushed the Muslims to their camp. Seeing the predicament of Shurahbil, Khalid came to his assistance with his reserve. At the same time Abu Ubaida and Yazeed launched a frontal attack in their sector to prevent the increase of further pressure in the sector of Shurahbil. As the Byzantines advanced in the sector of Shurahbil, by a counter flank movement. Khalid attacked the Byzantines from two sides. The Byzantines broke under the blows of the Muslim cavalry and fell back to their original position, losing heavily in the process. The Byzantine archers now let loose a rain of arrows on the Muslim forces. Over 700 Muslims were hit in their eyes.
The fourth day's battle because of these arrows came to be known as "The Day of Lost Eyes". That was the worst day of the battle for the Muslims. Seeing the consternation in the Muslim ranks the Byzantines increased their pressure. Even the corps of Abu Ubaida and Yazeed were pushed back. At this critical hour, Ikramah and his contingent refused to retreat. They took the oath of death, and fell upon the Byzantines with the fury and violence of desperate men. Under their blows the Byzantines pulled back. Of the four hundred dedicated men who took the oath of death almost all including Ikramah died, but they saved the day for the Muslims. Seeing the plight of the Muslims the Muslim women rushed forward with tent poles to fight against the Byzantines. That inspired the Muslims to heroic effort, and when the day's action was over, both the armies stood once again on their original lines.
On the fifth day the two armies again lined up for action, but there was no assault. Then an emissary came forward from the Byzantine side proposing a truce for the next few days so that fresh negotiations could be held. The Muslims did not accept the proposal. They said that they were in a hurry to finish the business. That day there was no battle.
On the sixth day before the battle began' Gregory a General of the Byzantine army stepped forward and challenged the Muslim Commander-in-chief to a duel. Abu Ubaida accepted the challenge. In the duel, Abu Ubaida killed Gregory.
Thereafter Abu Ubaida gave the signal for a Muslim attack, and the Muslim front surged forward. The Muslim cavalry led by Khalid intensified their blows against the Byzantine cavalry, and after a hard struggle the Byzantine cavalry was driven away from the field. The Byzantine infantry was now left without the support of the cavalry. By a flanking movement, Khalid attacked the Byzantines both from the front as well as the rear, and so no sectors of the Byzantine army collapsed. The Byzantine infantry was now in full retreat, and the Muslims suffered it to retire.
The Byzantines retreated towards Qadi-ur-Raqqad. Here a Muslim contingent under Zarrar lay ambushed and they made mince meat of the flying Byzantines.
By the afternoon of the sixth day of the battle only a third of the Byzantine army remained in the battle-field; the rest had fled away. The Muslim army now fell on the Byzantines.
In the meantime a storm began to blow. It blew against the faces of the Byzantines, and provided a greater momentum to the Muslims to rush forward. In the confusion that followed the Byzantines lost their bearings. Panic stricken they fled, and the pursuing Muslims killed thousands of Byzantines right and left. The battle of Yermuk ended in a great victory for the Muslims.
The Byzantine Commander-in-chief, Mahan with the remnants of his army fled towards Damascus. The Muslims pursued them, and overtook them a few miles short of Damascus. The Muslims attacked the Byzantine rearguard with great violence. In the scuffle that followed Mahan was killed. Many Byzantines were slaughtered, but some managed to escape to tell Heraclius the story of the disaster that the Byzantines had met at the battle-field of Yermuk.
The battle of Yermuk was the greatest battle that the Muslims had fought so far. That spelled the end of the Byzantine rule in Syria, and ushered in the Muslim rule.
Some episodes of the battle of Yermuk highlighting the courage, and heroism of the Muslim warriors have passed into legend, and have come down to us. Some of these episodes are noticed hereunder.
It was the last day of the battle of Yermuk. The Byzantine soldiers furiously attacked the right wing of the Muslim army. The wing was commanded by Salama. He bravely defended his position and in his heroic effort to stem the advance of the enemy he received numerous wounds on his person.
Suddenly the horse of Salama was found running in the battle-field without its rider. Hodhaifa, a friend of Salama, set out to seek Salama. He ran here and there, and at last found the wounded warrior fallen on the ground in a state of utter exhaustion caused by profuse bleeding.
Salama parted his lips with great difficulty and asked Hodhaifa about the condition of the battle. Hozaifa said that the Byzantine attack had been beaten and the Muslims were now on the offensive and there were already marks of confusion among the Byzantines.
On hearing this the pale face of the dying General flashed with joy. He collected his vanishing strength and shouted to his men "Comrades forward and forward. Victory is yours. Turning to Hodhaifa he said, "I wish to hear the news of victory before I die".
Utterly exhausted, Salama sank back on the ground and gasped for water. Hodhaifa went to the camp and brought a tumbler of water. Salama took up the tumbler and was to drink it when a wounded soldier Hisham by name who lay on the ground at some distance was heard crying for water. Salama said to Hodhaifa, "Take this water to that wounded soldier. His need is more than mine."
Hodhaifa went up to the wounded soldier Hisham and handed him the cup of water. He was about to drink it when from some distance a cry came for water. Hisham said to Hodhaifa, "Give it to him over there."
Hozaifa ran to the third man with the cup in his hand but when he reached there the man was dead. Hodhaifa returned to Hisham, but he was dead. Hodhaifa next ran to Salama but in the meantime Salama had breathed his last.
Hodihaifa threw the tumbler of water and lifted his hands in prayers for the souls of the departed warriors who had preferred the needs of others to their own needs.
When the war was raging at its highest, Habash bin Qais a noted warrior fought most bravely in the thickest part. Some one from the enemy ranks struck him a blow with a scimitar on one of his feet which was severed clean away. Habash continued fighting unconscious of the fact that he had lost a foot. When the war was over he found that one of his feet was missing and he asked of the people around him whether they had seen his missing foot. Habash belonged to the Attab clan and this episode became a matter of pride for the tribe. A poet sang:
"Habash comes of us,
In 'Bang-i-Dare' in one of his poems, Iqbal has dramatized an episode of the battle of Yermuk. In this battle the total strength of the Muslim army was 40,000 while the forces of the enemy numbered two lakh. In spite of the smallness of their number, the Muslims were in no way overawed by the superior strength of the enemy. Each Muslim warrior was fired with the urge to win or die, to live as a Ghazi or die as a martyr.
As the Muslim forces stood ready for battle awaiting the signal of their General, a young Arab warrior stepped forward and addressing the General Abu Ubaida said:
"O Commander of the forces of the faithful, I am impatient for the martyrdom and I cannot afford to await your orders for advance. Kindly have pity on me, and allow me to fall on the enemy. The Holy Prophet is calling me, and I want to rush to him after seeking martyrdom. O Amir, if you have any message for the Holy Prophet, give me such message and I will convey it to him when I meet him after my martyrdom. But O Amir do not hesitate to give me the permission. I see the Holy Prophet yonder calling me and any delay will be sacrilegious."
On hearing these words, tears trickled from the eyes of Abu Ubaida. He embraced the young soldier and said:
"Young man, your love for the Holy Prophet is so intense that it puts me to shame. I wish each one of us could burn in the flame of the love of the Holy Prophet in the same way as you do. I do not want to stay between you and the Holy Prophet. You have my permission to fall on the enemy and seek martyrdom. And when you meet the Holy Prophet offer my respectful greetings and say 'God has been very kind to your followers; and all the promises that God made about conquests for the Muslims have been fulfilled."
The battle of Yermuk was a historic battle which changed the course of history. When the news of the disaster of Yermuk were conveyed to the Byzantine emperor Heraclius at Antioch the capital of Syria, he at once decided to abandon Syria and withdraw to Constantinople. His parting words were "Farewell Syria! It is with great pain that I part from you. My salutations to thee O beautiful land."
From Yermuk, Abu Ubaida sent a detailed report of the victory of the Muslims to Umar along with the state share of the spoils of war. The message was carried by a high-powered delegation led by Hudheifa b. Al-Yaman. Umar had not slept for many nights anxiously awaiting news from Yermuk. As the news of the victory of the Muslims at Yermuk was intimated to Umar he had all the Muslims in Madina assemble at the Prophet's mosque, and a special thanks giving prayer was offered.
Umar in a letter addressed to Abu Ubaida congratulated him for the victory. He instructed that the cities in Syria like Damascus and Emessa which the Muslims had abandoned on the eve of the battle of Yermuk should be reoccupied. He further desired that after the withdrawal of the Byzantine emperor from Syria, the whole of Syria should be brought under Muslim control.
When the instructions of Umar were received, Abu Ubaidah left a few contingents in Jordan and Palestine and with the rest of the army marched northward. The city of Damascus opened its gates to the Muslims, and their return was enthusiastically welcomed.
From Damascus the Muslim army proceeded to Emessa. The people of Emessa also welcomed the return of the Muslims.
From Emessa a column under Khalid marched to Qinnissrin. Here a Byzantine force under Minas offered resistance to the Muslims. Khalid defeated the Byzantine army with great slaughter, and demolished all defensive works. There were many Arab tribes in the city. Khalid offered them Islam and they became Muslims. The other citizens agreed to pay Jizya. When the exploits of Khalid were reported to Umar, he acknowledged the services of Khalid in generous terms. He wrote "God bless Abu Bakr. He singled out Khalid for his favors and he was a better judge of men than me."
The victory of Qinnissrin cleared the way to Aleppo. Abu Ubaida accordingly marched to Aleppo at the head of the Muslim army. In the outskirts of Aleppo there were many settle ments of Arab tribes. They were offered Islam and accepting the offer they were converted to Islam. There was a Byzantine garrison at Aleppo which chose to shut itself in the fortifications. The city was besieged, and the Byzantines were forced to capitulate on the usual term of paying the Jizya.
From Aleppo the Muslim army marched to Antioch. It was the capital of the Byzantines in Syria. Although the emperor Heraclius had left for Constantinople, there was a sizable Byzantine garrison at Antioch. There was a large concentration of the Christians in the city. On the approach of the Muslim army the citizens of Antioch and the Byzantine garrison shut themselves within the fortified city. The Muslims besieged the city and blocked all approaches to the city. Within a few days the citizens suffered from the shortage of foodgrains and other provisions, and they capitulated agreeing to pay Jizya. With the capitulation of Antioch the Muslims were the masters of Syria. So great was the awe of the Muslim forces that wherever a few Muslim soldiers appeared the Christians waited on them and sued for peace.
After reducing Antioch, Abu Ubaida spread the Muslim forces in all directions. The neighboring towns of Buqa, Jumah, Surmin, Tuzi, Quras, Tilghraz, Daluk and Ruban were captured one after the other without firing a shot. There was some show of resistance at Balis and Qasrin but such resistance was overcome by the Muslims without any difficulty. At Bughras a town on the border of Asia Minor there was a fierce conflict. The Muslim force under Habib b. Maslamah ultimately carried the town by assault. The people were killed in thousands and those who survived fled to seek shelter in Constantinople. Khalid led a campaign against Mara'sh. Here too there was a sanguinary battle. Brought to bay the Christians said that they were prepared to leave the city to the Muslims provided they were allowed to depart in safety. Khalid accepted the offer, and the Christians were allowed to escape to Constantinople without taking any property.
As a result of these campaigns, the Byzantines completely disappeared and Syria became a province of the Muslim dominions.
Abu Ubaida sent a detailed report to Umar about the conquest of Syria. Writing about Antioch, Abu Ubaida said:
"O Commander of the faithful, Antioch is a very beautiful and attractive place. Our soldiers were so much enamored of the place that they insisted on staying there. I was afraid lest by staying there the Muslims might be involved in a luxurious way of living. I have accordingly come back to Emessa along with the army. The Byzantine women are very handsome and the Muslim soldiers are very much attracted by them. They long to marry such women and that is a matter of headache for me".
In reply Umar congratulated Abu Ubaida for the victories that God had bestowed on the Muslims Umar appreciated Abu Ubaida's views about Antioch and his anxiety to pull out the Muslim soldiers from such a beautiful place lest they might be involved in a luxurious way of life. Umar, however, pointed out that God had not declared good things unlawful for the Muslims. God had said, "Avail of fine things, and do fine deeds. He also says, O ye faithful, out of the sustenance provided by Us eat delicious things, and offer thanks to Allah Who has provided you such delicacies." Umar added that it would have been advisable if he had allowed his soldiers to rest at Antioch for some time, but as he had pulled the Muslims from the attractive surroundings of Antioch with good intentions whatever he did was good. As regards the Byzantine women Umar said:
"Those who are unmarried let them marry Byzantine women provided they accept Islam. If any Muslim wishes to purchase a Byzantine woman as a slave let him do that for that is permissible."
After the battle of Yermuk, when the main Muslim army under Abu Ubaida and Khalid left for the north of Syria, some Muslim contingents under Amr bin Al Ass and Shurahbil remained stationed in the southern sector comprising Jordan and Palestine.
Finding that the bulk of the Muslim army had left, Artabun the Byzantine Governor assembled a large force at Ajnadin in another bid to drive away the Muslims from the soil of Syria. The battle at Ajnadin fought towards the close of 636 was very bloody and gruesome. Both sides fought bravely but ultimately the Byzantines were defeated, Artabun defeated with heavy loss fled to Jerusalem with the remnant of his army.
After the victory of Ajnadin the Muslim forces spread in all directions in Jordan and Palestine. The towns of Sabtah, Gaza, Nablus, Bait-Jibrin and many other towns were captured one after the other. That cleared the way to Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem sacred to the Jews and the Christians was strongly fortified. It was protected on every side by deep valleys and steep ascents. Military engines were mounted on the walls which were intended for playing havoc with the advancing invader. It was the winter season, and the severity of the winter added to the difficulties of the besieging Muslim force. The siege dragged on and the Byzantines offered very stiff resistance.
Amr b Al Aas the Muslim Commander in the southern sector wrote to Abu Ubaida for reinforcement. By this time, northern Syria had fallen to the Muslims and Abu Ubaida was able to spare many contingents which rushed to the aid of the Muslims fighting in the southern sector. When the citizens of Jerusalem came to know that the besieging Muslim forces had been considerably strengthened they lost heart. Finding further resistance futile the Patriarch of Jerusalem sued for peace. He said that it was written in their holy books that the city would surrender to the man who was the best among the Muslims. He accordingly desired that the Caliph Umar should come to Jerusalem personally to receive the surrender of the city.
Abu Ubaida referred the matter to Umar at Madina. Umar called a meeting of his Consultative Council, and asked for their advice, Othman expressed the view that it was not necessary for the Caliph to go, and that the defeated Byzantines would themselves surrender. Ali said that Jerusalem was as much sacred to the Muslims as the Jews or the Christians, and that in view of the sanctity of the place it was desirable that its surrender should be received by the Caliph personally. Umar decided to accept the advice of Ali.
Leaving Ali as his deputy at Madina, Umar proceeded to Jerusalem. No retinue accompanied the Caliph. Umar was accompanied by one slave only, and between these two persons they had only one camel which they rode turn by turn. As they neared Jabia where the Muslim Commanders were to meet Umar, it was the turn of the slave to ride. The slave wanted Umar to ride the animal, but Umar refused. As they came to Jabia the people saw the strange spectacle of the slave riding the camel and the Caliph walking on foot.
At Jabia the Muslim Commanders met Umar. Abu Ubaida was dressed in coarse garments, and Umar was much pleased to meet him. Yazid b. Abu Sufiyan, Khalid bin Walid and some other commanders were dressed in fine clothes and Umar expressed his displeasure at their gaudy dress. Abu Ubaida explained in detail the situation in Syria. He elaborated how with the grace of God the Muslims had been able to overthrow the mighty Byzantine power in Syria. As Umar saw the green fields, orchards and lofty buildings of Syria he was greatly moved and he recited from the Holy Quran:
"They have left many a garden, fountain, park, arbor, and riches which they used to enjoy. Thus it is that We put another community in possession thereof."
A deputation from Jerusalem waited on Umar at Jabia and a treaty was drawn up. According to the treaty security of life and property were guaranteed to all citizens of Jerusalem. The safety of churches and other religious buildings and places was provided for. The citizens were required to pay Jizya. Any one not agreeable to owe allegiance to the Muslims was given the option to leave the city.
After the treaty had been drawn up, Umar decided to travel to Jerusalem. Again he traveled in a simple way as an ordinary traveler. No guard was suffered to accompany him. He rode on a poor horse, and refused to change it for a better charger.
At the gate of Jerusalem, Umar was greeted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the elite of the city and the Muslim Commanders. While those who had come to receive him wore costly dress, Umar was dressed in a garment of coarse cloth ordinarily worn by an average Arab. When some one advised him to wear a better dress befitting the state occasion, Umar turned down the suggestion saying that he derived his strength and status from his faith in Islam, and not from any dress. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem saw the ascetic simplicity of the Caliph of Islam, and then looked to his own costly dress, he said, "Verily Islam has excelled all other religions".
The Patriarch of Jerusalem handed over the keys of the city of Jerusalem to Umar. The Muslims were now the masters of Jerusalem. That was a special divine favor of God to the Muslims. As Umar entered the city he was greeted by the citizens with great enthusiasm. Umar said that he wanted to be led to some place where he could offer thanksgiving prayer to God. He was led to a Church but he refused to pray there, on the ground that that would set a precedent for the Muslims of the following generations to forcibly convert churches into mosques. He was thereafter led to a place where the prophet David used to pray. Here Umar offered special prayers of thanksgiving and all the Muslims joined him. As the Byzantines watched the Muslims at pray, they felt that such people so obedient to God were bound to command. The Patriarch said that he was not sorry for surrendering the city for he had surrendered it to a better people.
Umar stayed in Jerusalem for a few days. He reorganized the administration, and made the necessary arrangements to look after the needs of the citizens. He founded a mosque at an elevated place in the city. This mosque came to be known as Umar's Mosque. On the inaugural occasion Bilal was requested to give the call to prayer as he used to do in the time of the Holy Prophet. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Bilal had ceased to give the 'Adhan.' At the request of Umar he agreed to give the Adhan to mark the foundation of Umar's mosque. As Bilal gave the call to pray in his stentorian voice. Umar and the Muslims wept recalling the days when the Holy Prophet used to be in their midst. As the inspiring words of the Adhan resounded in the hills and dales, the people stood in awe realizing that a new era had dawned in Syria.
After receiving the surrender of Jerusalem and completing the tour of Syria when Umar was returning to Madina he led the prayer at Jabiah. On this occasion he delivered an address which is preserved in history.
In the course of the address, Umar said:
"O ye people I counsel you to read the Quran. Try to understand it and ponder over it. Imbibe the teachings of the Quran. Then practice what the Quran teaches. The Quran is not theoretical; it is a practical code of life. The Quran does not bring you the message of the Hereafter only; it is primarily intended to guide you in this life. Would your life in accordance with the teachings of Islam for that is the way of your well being. By following any other way you will be inviting destruction.
Fear Allah, and whatever you want seek from Him. All men are equal. Do not flatter those in authority. Do not seek favors from others. By such acts you demean yourself. And remember that you will get only that is ordained for you, and no one can give you anything against the will of God. Then why seek things from others over which they have no control? Only supplicate God for He alone is the sovereign.
And speak the truth. Do not hesitate to say what you consider to be the truth. Say what you feel. Let your conscience be your guide. Let your intentions be good, for verily God is aware of your intentions. In your deeds your intentions count. Fear God, and fear no one else. Why fear others when you know that whatever sustenance is ordained for you by God you will get under all circumstances? And again why fear when you know that death is ordained by God alone and will come only when He wills?
Allah has for the time being made me your ruler. But I am one of you. No special privileges belong to me as a ruler. I have some responsibilities to discharge, and in this I seek your cooperation. Government is a sacred trust, and it is my endeavor not to betray the trust in any way. For the fulfillment of the trust I have to be a watchman. I have to be strict. I have to enforce discipline. I have to run the administration not on the basis of any personal idiosyncrasies; I have to run it in public interest and for promoting the public good. For this we have the guidance in the Book of God. Whatever orders I issue in the course of day to day administration have to conform to the Quran. God has favored us with Islam, He sent to us His Messenger. He has chosen us for a mission, Let us fulfill that mission. That mission is the promotion of Islam. In Islam lies our safety; if we err we are doomed."
In the winter of 638-639 virulent plague broke out in Syria, Egypt and Iraq. The plague exacted its heaviest toll in Syria, particularly Amwas, and the plague came to be known as the Amwas plague.
When Umar heard of the outbreak of plague he decided to proceed to Syria personally to watch the measures to be adopted to suppress the epidemic.
When Umar reached Surgh a few stages from Madina, he met Abu Ubaida and other officers of the Muslim army in Syria. He was told that the virulence of the plague was increasing and that people were dying in thousands.
Many persons advised Umar that he should not proceed to the infected area. Umar held a counsel. Abu Ubaida suggested that Umar should visit the infected areas. Abdur Rahman bin Auf quoted a tradition of the Holy Prophet according to which the Holy Prophet had enjoined that when plague was raging one should not go from the non-infected to infected area or vice versa. That settled the issue and Umar decided to return to Madina.
Abu Ubaida did not feel happy at the decision of Umar. He said:
"O Amir-ul-Mumnin, why are you flying from God's will." Umar replied that he merely moved from one will of God to another will.
On return to Madina, Umar addressed a letter to Abu Ubaida asking him to come to Madina as he wanted to consult him on some important matters. Abu Ubaida guessed the purpose of the call and wrote back saying that Fate ruled everything, and that he could not move away from Syria to save his own life leaving others in danger.
Umar thereupon asked him to move the troops to a healthier place. Abu Ubaida accordingly moved the troops to Jabiah which was noted for its good climate. A few days after the arrival of the troops at Jabia, Abu Ubaida caught plague and died. Before death he appointed Muadh b. Jabal as his successor.
Some Muslims held that the plague was a calamity. Addressing the troops on the occasion of the Friday prayer, Muadh said that the plague was not a calamity; it was a mercy of God. The son of Muadh caught plague. While his son lay on his death bed, Muadh addressing him said, "My son this is a visitation from God. Let there be no doubt in your heart on this account." The boy said, "You will find me resigned to the will of God" and with these words he breathed his last.
When Muadh returned after burying his son, he fell a prey to plague, and died a few days later. Amr bin Al-Aas succeeded him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Syria. Amr bin Al-Aas shifted the troops to the hills. This measure proved satisfactory, and plague no longer menaced the troops.
When the fury of the plague was over, leaving Ali in charge of Madina, Umar traveled to Syria accompanied by his slave Yarfa. He first went to Ella in Palestine. A story is told that at Ella, he gave his shirt to the local priest to have it mended. The priest had the shirt mended. He also presented a new shirt to Umar, but he did not accept the gift.
From Ella he proceeded to Damascus. He disbursed the salaries of the troops personally. Calling for the heirs of those who had died in the plague, he put them in possession of their inheritance. He established military outposts at strategic points and had the fortifications strengthened.
Caesarea was an important town and port on the Mediterranean sea coast. Caesarea is now in ruins, but at the time of the invasion of Syria by the Muslims in the seventh century, it was a large city with three hundred busy streets. The city was populated by the Christians who were completely, hellenised.
As Caesarea was a large port and had communications through sea with Constantinople as well as Alexandria, it continued to receive help from the Byzantines. As the Muslims had no navy they were unable to intercept such aid. As help could come to Caesarea through the sea, and mustered there as a menace to the Muslims, it was even at the early stages of campaigning in Syria felt by the Muslim high command that Caesarea should be captured by the Muslims.
The city was first invaded in 635 A.D. under the command of Amr bin Al Aas. The siege dragged on for several months without producing any result to the advantage of the Muslims. On the eve of the battle of Yermuk, the siege was lifted to enable all the Muslim forces concentrate at Yermak.
After the conquest of Jerusalem, Umar issued orders that as Caesarea was the only Byzantine pocket left in Palestine it should be conquered. Yazid bin Abu Sufyan was appointed to the command. He marched with an army 17,000 strong and invested the city. A few days later he caught plague and withdrew to Damascus where he died.
After the virulence of the plague was over, Umar ordered that another campaign should be launched against Caesarea. This time Muawiyah bin Sufyan the brother of the former commander Yazid was appointed to the command. Muawiyah pressed the siege. There were occasional skirmishes but thanks to the help that could come to the besieged through the sea, the city held out.
The city was populated by the Christians but there was a sizable minority of the Jews in the city as well. Some disputes arose between the Christians and the Jews, and in order to seek vengeance from the Christians the Jews decided to help the Muslims in their fight against the Christians.
One day, a Jew Yusuf by name came to the Muslim commander Muawiyah and told him that if the Muslims granted amnesty to the Jews they would help the Muslims win the city. Muawiyah gave the Jews the amnesty they asked for. Yusuf accordingly told the Muslim commander of a subterranean passage that led to the citadel. At night a Muslim contingent crept into the city through the subterranean passage and overpowering the guards opened the gates of the city for the main Muslim army to enter.
The Christians fought to the last and they were killed in thousands. Brought to bay the Christians surrendered on the usual terms of paying the Jizya. Caesarea fell in 640 A.D., and that was the last Muslim campaign in Syria. With the fall of Caesarea the entire Syria came under the control of the Muslims.
With the capture of Caesarea and other towns in Syria which were also ports, the Muslims stood on the shore of the Mediterranean. The capture of Alexandria in Egypt brought the Muslims still closer to the sea.
With the sea stretching before them, some of the Muslim warriors and administrators came to feel that the Muslims should become the masters of the sea as they had become the masters of the land.
After the conquest of Syria, the country was divided into three provinces. These were Northern Syria; Central Syria; and Southern Syria, with capitals at Emessa, Damascus, and Jerusalem respectively. Muawiyah was the Governor of Central Syria. He was an ambitious man, and he thought that the sea should be no barrier to the westward march of Islam. He also felt that even for the protection of Syria which was a coastal country, it was necessary that the Muslims should become a naval power. In order to protect the maritime frontiers of the Muslim dominions, Muawiyah was strongly of the view that the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean should be captured by the Muslims so as to serve as a base for naval operations.
After a good deal of thinking, Muawiyah wrote to Umar explaining his project, and seeking permission to lead an expedition to conquer Cyprus. Umar was not as ambitious as Muawiyah. Umar stood more for consolidation than expansion. He had his own prejudices against water. In all his instructions to his Generals Umar repeatedly emphasized 'let there be no expanse of water between you and me'. Umar had no idea of conquering any lands beyond the sea.
On receipt of the letter of Muawiyah, Umar thought fit to obtain the advice of Amr bin Al-Aas, the Conqueror of Egypt whose province was also washed by the Mediterranean. Amr bin Al-Aas expressed his views in the following terms:
"O Commander of the Faithful. I have seen a numerous people, going upon the sea, overpowered by a few. When it is calm it tends the heart, and when it is in motion it twists the brain. It weakens confidence and strengthens doubt. There is nothing there but sky and water. People at sea are like a worm in a log of wood. If their boat inclines they sink, and if they survive they are dazed."
Amr bin Al-Aas assessed the matter in a poetic vein, and not as a military commander of a nation commissioned by Allah to carry His message to all corners of the world. In view of Umar's own aversion to the sea this reply of Amr b. Al-Aas appealed to the Caliph, and on the basis of this letter, Umar wrote to Mauwiyah as follows:
"We have heard that the Syrian Sea rises higher than the highest thing on earth; and that it seeks Allah's permission day and night to spread over the earth and drown it. So how can I send forces over this terrible infidel. By Him who sent Muhammad with the truth, I shall never send any Muslim upon it. The Muslim is dearer to me than the Roman whale. Beware of asking me again."
Jazira was the land in upper reaches of the Tigris and the Euphrates. It was populated by tribes professing the Christian faith. When Syria was lost to the Christian Byzantines, the Christian tribes of Jazira persuaded Heraclius the Byzantine emperor to make another attempt to drive away the Muslims from Syrian soil. In this task the Christian tribes of Jazira offered to come to the assistance of the Byzantine forces.
Heraclius welcomed the offer. A large Byzantine army was assembled and it was led to Syria to have another confrontation with the Muslims. Large contingents of Christian tribes crossed over to Syria from Jazira. All these armies headed towards Emessa. The strategy of the Christians was to occupy Emessa which was the key to North Syria.
In view of the Christian pressure, Abu Ubaida mustered all Muslim forces in North Syria at Emessa, and decided to play the defensive role. When the Christian forces came to Emessa they found the gates of the city of Emessa shut against them.
Abu Ubaida wrote to Umar and asked for reinforcements. Umar had established military cantonments in important cities where reserves were available for mobilization in the case of emergency. Umar dispatched fleet couriers to selected cantonments requiring the commanders of the stations to dispatch reinforcements to Emessa immediately.
Qaqaa b. Amr was stationed at Kufah. Umar directed him to hasten with 4,000 cavalry to Emessa. Umar himself proceeded with some force from Madina. The Caliph himself stayed at Damascus, but he sent the force to Emessa.
As the Christian tribes from Jazira were the main component of the invading army, Umar decided to launch an attack against Jazira. Suhail b. Adi was directed to dash to Jazira and attack the Christian tribes at Emessa from the rear. Abdullah b. Utban was asked to lead a contingent to Nisibin and launch an attack at the heart of Jazira. Walid bin Uqbah was deputed on a diplomatic mission to Jazira to negotiate with the Arab tribes in Jazira, and persuade them to withdraw their support from the Byzantines.
At Emessa, Abu Ubaida held a council of war. The point for consideration was whether the Muslims should sally forth from the city and give the enemy a fight, or whether they should remain locked up in the city and watch further develop" meets. Khalid bin Walid was in favor of an offensive and giving the enemy a fight. The contrary view was that for the time being the Muslims should remain on the defensive, and an attack should be launched when an adequate reinforcement had been received Abu Ubaida decided to await further aid.
When Jazira itself was attacked by Muslim contingents under Suhail b. Adi and Abdullah b. Utban the warriors of the Christian tribes at Emessa decided to return to Jazira to protect their own homes and hearths. Negotiations with the Arab tribes at Jazira also bore fruit and they agreed to support their Arab brethren instead of the Byzantines.
At this stage the Muslim forces in the city of Emessa sallied forth from their fortification and dashed against the Christian forces that were still there. The Christians could not withstand the attack, and they beat retreat after suffering heavy losses. The Christian army was routed and they took to flight. That was the last battle of the Byzantines on the Syrian soil. Syria was now completely under the domination of the Muslims.
Abu Ubaida the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Syria died of plague in 639 A.D. Other Muslim Generals who fell victims to plague included Shuhrabil b. Hasana and Yazeed bin Abi Sufyan. On the death of the senior Generals, Amr bin Al-Aas was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Syria.
Amr bin Al-Aas belonged to the Bani Sahm clan of the Quraish. Like the other Quraish chiefs, Amr opposed Islam in the early days. He commanded a Quraish contingent at the battle of Uhud. In 630 A.D. in the company of Khalid bin Waleed, Amr bin Al-Aas rode from Mecca to Madina and there both of them were converted to Islam. Thereafter Amr took part in all the campaigns fought by the Muslims.
There is a story that in the days of ignorance when Amr was young he traveled once to Palestine with a caravan. One day it was the duty of Amr to shepherd the camels of the caravan in the plain outside Jerusalem. It was a hot day, and as Amr sat under the shade of a tree, he saw a weary traveler come that way. The traveler appeared to be in a bad state because of thirst. Amr placed his water skin at the disposal of the traveler who drank to his fill. Having quenched his thirst the traveler lay to rest under a nearby tree and soon he was sleep.
A little later Amr saw a snake crawl out from a hole and proceed to the sleeping traveler. Amr took out his bow and shot an arrow at the snake which fell dead. After some time the traveler woke to find that a dead snake lay near him. He asked Amr as to what had happened, and Amr told him that he had shot at the snake.
Turning to Amr, the traveler said, "You have saved my life twice firstly when I was dying of thirst, and secondly when I was exposed to the danger of the snake". He said that he would pay him an amount equivalent to the blood money for two lives. He stated that he had come to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage from Egypt. He was a priest in Egypt. He wanted Amr to accompany him to Egypt where he would pay the blood money. Amr hesitated to visit Egypt but the Egyptian priest painted such a rosy picture of Egypt that the curiosity of Amr was excited and he ultimately agreed to accompany the Egyptian priest.
Amr and the Egyptian priest traveled to Egypt. Throughout the journey the priest looked after all the needs of Amr. When they reached Alexandria Amr was lodged in a magnificent mansion and treated as a royal guest. The host of Amr took him to attend the festival at the Hippodrome. One of the rites performed at the festival was the Golden Ball rite. A high priest struck a golden ball and sent it flying in the air. The belief was that he in whose sleeve the golden ball landed would be the ruler of Egypt. When the high priest struck the garden ball every one followed the path of the golden ball with tense expectation. As the ball curved in the air, it landed in the sleeve of Amr. The spectators were dumbstruck. They could not believe that an uncouth Arab from the desert could rule over Egypt. They thought that there had been some mistake somewhere in the shooting of the golden ball.
The host of Amr said to him, "Congratulations for one day you will rule over Egypt. How you will come to rule over Egypt I cannot say, but this omen from the gods on high can never be false. Strange are the ways of destiny and who knows some day you may come here as the ruler of Egypt."
Amr returned from Egypt loaded with gifts and money. The episode of the golden ball always remained fresh in the memory of Amr. He often tried to dismiss it as an idle dream, but in his heart of hearts there was a strong conviction that some day he would march to Egypt as its victor.
When Amr became the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces in Syria, he incessantly thought of Egypt and his destiny to conquer it. Umar visited Syria in 639. On this occasion Amr waited on Umar and said:
"O Commander of the Faithful, permit me to march on Egypt. It will be a source of strength and sustenance for the Muslims. It is the richest of lands on earth".
Umar was not favorably inclined to the proposal, but Amr persisted. Ultimately Umar gave way and he said:
"Go and I shall seek Allah's guidance in the matter of your going. If on your march you receive a letter from me and I wish you to turn back then turn back if you have not entered Egypt by that time. If you have crossed the frontier when you receive my letter, then you may proceed and may God help you."
Having wrung this conditional permission from Umar Amr bin Al-Aas took a contingent of 4,000 picked soldiers and immediately took the road to Egypt.
After Amr b. Al-Aas had left for Egypt with 4,000 soldiers only, Umar on second thought considered that it was idle to expect to conquer such a large country as Egypt with vast manpower and resources with a meager force of 4,000. Umar accordingly wrote a letter to Amr b. Al-Aas asking him to come back. A post script was however added:
"If you receive this letter when you have already crossed into Egypt then you may proceed. Allah will help you and I will also send such reinforcement as may be needed."
The letter was sent through a special messenger Uqba bin Amr.
Uqba caught up Amr at Rafat a little short of the frontier. Guessing what might be in the letter, Amr ordered the army to quicken up its speed. Turning to Uqba, Amr said that he would receive the Caliph's letter from him when the army had halted after the day's journey. Uqba being not aware of the contents of the letter agreed and marched along with the army.
The Muslim army halted for the night at Shajratein. This was a place well within the Egyptian territory. Now the Caliph's letter was received and read. Amr consulted his companions as to the course of action to be adopted. The unanimous view was that as they had received the letter on the Egyptian soil, they had the permission to proceed. To the Caliph, Amr wrote:
"We have received your letter when we have reached Egypt. Therefore in the fulfillment of destiny we proceed seeking Allah's blessing."
When Umar received the reply, he decided to watch further developments.
From Shajratein, the Muslim army marched to Areesh. It was a small town where there was no garrison. No resistance was offered and the citizens offered allegiance on the usual terms. That was the Eid-uz-Zuha day. The Muslims celebrated the Eid festival at Areesh and offered the usual sacrifices.
In the later part of December 639 the Muslim army reached Farma. It was a fortified town manned by a Byzantine garrison. The Muslims besieged the town. There were sallies and counter sallies with no decisive result. The siege dragged on for two months. Towards the fall of February 640 an assault group led by Useifa b. Wala assaulted the fort and captured the gate through which the rest of the Muslim army entered. Thereupon the Byzantine resistance collapsed and the city was captured by the Muslims.
After the fall of Farma the Muslims marched to Bilbeis 40 miles from Memphis. It was a fortified town, and the Muslims besieged it. The siege lasted for a month, and towards the end of March 640 the city surrendered to the Muslims.
From Bilbeis the Muslims marched to Babylon. Amr had visualized that the conquest of Egypt would be a walk over. This expectation was belied. Even at the outposts of Farma and Bilbeis the Muslims had to meet stiff resistance. The siege of Farma had lasted for two months and that of Bilbeis for one month.
Babylon was a larger and more important city and here resistance on a larger scale was expected. Amr nevertheless persevered and pushed on to Babylon.
After the fall of Bilbeis the Muslims advanced to Babylon. It was the key city of Egypt. Close to it was Memphis the ancient capital of the Pharaohs. Modern Cairo is not far from what at one time was known as Babylon. The Muslims arrived before Babylon some time in May 640 A.D.
Babylon was a fortified city, and the Byzantines had prepared it for a siege. Outside the city, a ditch had been dug, and a large force was positioned in the area between the ditch and the city walls. The fort of Babylon was a massive structure 60 ft. high with walls more than 6 ft. thick. The fort was studded with numerous towers and bastions.
As soon as Amr arrived at Babylon he formed up his force of 4,000 men in assault formation and attacked the Byzantine positions in front of him it led to some hard fighting, and the attack was repulsed by the Byzantines. Amr pulled his men back and went into camp near the east bank of the Nile. The Byzantine force in Babylon was six times the strength of the Muslim force.
The Muslims launched attacks every now and then, but these were repulsed. For two months the confrontation wore on with the Byzantines sitting tight in their defenses and repulsing the frequent Muslim attacks against the crossings of the ditch.
In July, Amr wrote to Umar asking for reinforcement. In August a reinforcement 4,000 strong came from Syria. Thus reinforced the Muslims renewed their attacks with greater force, but their attacks were not able to make any headway against Byzantine resistance. In these desultory fighting's, a good number of Byzantine soldiers was killed, but no dents were made in the defenses of the city. The attacks were called offend Amr again wrote to Umar for more help.
Umar raised a force in Madina for dispatch to Egypt. Among those who volunteered to fight on the Egyptian front was Zubeir bin Al-Awwam, a cousin of the Holy Prophet. Umar indeed offered Zubeir the chief command of Egypt. Zubeir did not accept the chief command, but he agreed to go to the help of Amr bin Al-Aas.
Reinforcement, 4000 strong was thus dispatched from Madina to Egypt. It comprised four columns each column one thousand strong. These columns were commanded by Zubeir b. Al-Awwam; Miqdad bin Al-Aswad; Ubaida bin As-Samit, and Kharija bin Huzafa. Each Commander was in military prowess equal to a thousand men, and was the counterpart of Persian 'Hazer Mard' or gladiators.
This reinforcement arrived at Babylon sometime in September 640. The total strength of the Muslim force now rose to 12,000 and this was quite a modest strength. The Muslims now renewed their attacks against the Byzantines. In the attack launched by the Muslims some hard fighting followed, and some Byzantine detachments posted in front of the ditch were driven behind the ditch. The Byzantine defenses, however, remained unshaken.
Ten miles from Babylon was Heliopolis. It was the city of the Sun Temple of the Pharaohs. There was the danger that some Byzantine force from Heliopolis might attack the Muslims from the flank while it was engaged with the Byzantine army at Babylon. With some detachments Amr and Zubeir marched to Heliopolis. There was a cavalry clash outside Heliopolis, and though many Byzantines were killed, the engagement was not decisive. At an unguarded point, Zubeir and some of his picked soldiers scaled the wall of the city, and after overpowering the guards opened the gates for the Muslim army to enter. Thereupon the local Byzantine garrison laid down their arms, and the city was occupied by the Muslims.
From Heliopolis Amr and Zubeir with their force returned to Babylon to press the siege against the Byzantines with greater force. The Byzantines now began to sally forth across the ditch and attack the Muslims. The Muslims invariably repulsed such attacks. The sallies increased in intensity and the Muslim counter charge also gained in intensity. It was a see-saw affair leading to a condition of stalemate with no side gaining a positive advantage.
To break this stalemate the Muslim high command approved a stratagem. The following day when the Byzantines launched the attack the Muslims fell back according to a determined plan. The Byzantines thought that they had overpowered the Muslims. They pressed the attack, and the Muslims continued to withdraw till the entire Byzantine army had crossed the ditch. At a signal of Amr, five hundred Muslim horsemen led by Kharija bin Huzafa broke cover and rode out in rear of the Byzantine army. The main Muslim army now turned back and charged the Byzantines with great violence. Reeling from Muslim blows the Byzantines moved back to be attacked in the rear by Kharija and his men.
The Byzantine forces were now thrown into confusion. Many Byzantines were killed, but the main Byzantine army managed to cross the ditch and seek shelter in the walled city. The Byzantines entered the city and shut the gates. The area between the ditch and the city came to be occupied by the Muslims and that was a tactical advantage. The Muslims brought some catapults into action and started hurling boulders inside the city. That caused considerable distress to the Byzantines locked up in the city. Maqauqas the Viceroy of Egypt and the High Priest of the Copts who had his headquarter in Babylon shifted his headquarter to the Isle of Rauda in the Nile which was a much safer place. The Byzantine General Theodorus remained in Babylon to conduct the operations.
From the Isle of Rauda, Maqauqas sent emissaries to the Muslim camp inviting negotiations. These emissaries remained in the Muslim camp for two days, and when they returned they were accompanied by some Muslim emissaries. The Muslim envoys saw Maqauqas, and they offered the Byzantines the usual three alternatives? Islam, Jizya? or arbitration by sword, Maqauqas wanted some time to consider the matter and the Muslim envoys returned.
Turning to his emissaries, Maqauqas asked as to what they had seen in the Muslim camp. The emissaries said: "We found a people to each of whom death is dearer than life, and humility dearer than pride. None of them has a desire or greed for this world." On hearing this Maqauqas thought that the Egyptians could not fight against such a people, and that the best course for them was to negotiate peace. He accordingly asked Amr to send another delegation for negotiating peace.
Amr accordingly sent a delegation of ten picked warriors led by Ubada bin As Samit. All of them were over six feet tall and Ubada was the giant of a man being about seven feet tall. Maqauqas talked long of the might of the Byzantine empire. He said that Heraclius would be sending a very large force, and the Muslims could not be a match for the Byzantine force. He stressed that the best course for the Muslims was to withdraw from Egypt. He said that he would give as a gift an amount of two diners to each soldier, an amount of 100 diners to each Commander, and one thousand diners to the Caliph.
Ubada made Maqauqas understand that the Muslims could not be frightened by the strength of the enemy, nor could they be bought with gold. They were fighting in the name of Allah, and if they won they would have all they wanted; if they died they would get paradise. Ubada offered the usual three alternatives, Islam, Jizya, and sword. Maqauqas enquired whether a fourth alternative was possible, and Ubada said "No". Maqauqas consulted his men. He wanted them to accept the offer of Jizya, but they did not agree. Under the advice of his counselors, Maqauqas repeated his offer of diners, and doubled the amount. The Muslims rejected the offer contemptuously. Thereupon the negotiations broke down and the Muslim envoys returned from the Isle of Rauda.
In Babylon itself there was a round of negotiations between Theodorus the Byzantine Commander and Amr b. Al-Aas. Amr himself went to Theodorus to have the matter talked over. Theodorus adopted a patronizing attitude and wanted the Muslims to retire after receiving a few diners each. The offer was brushed aside by Amr, and when the usual three alternatives were offered to Theodorus he said that the Byzantines knew how to wield their swords. When the negotiations broke down, and Amr was to return, Theodorus said in a boastful mood: "You have entered, now see how you get out." Theodorus sent word to the guard at the gate that as Amr would cross the gate, something should fall on him to crush him. Amr shrewd as he was sensed the danger. At the time of parting handshake with Theodorus Amr said, "I go but I will return with some of my senior colleagues so that you may talk to them as you have talked to me, and let us hope we may reach a decision acceptable to both the parties." Theodorus look these words at their face value and he came personally to the gate to see off the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim forces.
Theodor us waited in vain for another visit of Amr and his companions. Amr said that he would visit Babylon again but that would be as a victor after the city had been conquered. The siege of Babylon had begun in May and it had dragged on till December. The Muslims now became very much concerned at the delay in capturing the city. Zubeir had a reconnaissance of the city and he came across a point which was unguarded. On the 20th of December when it was a moonless night, Zubeir and some soldiers accompanying him managed to scale the wall. Then they rushed to the gate and killing the guards opened the gate for the Muslim army to enter. The Muslim army rushed inside the city. Some resistance was offered which was soon overcome. When it was day it was found that Theodorus and his army had slipped away to the Isle of Rauda by the river route. The city of Babylon was captured by the Muslims on 21st December 640.
On the 22nd December, Maqauqas entered into a treaty with the Muslims. By the treaty, Muslim suzerainty over the whole of Egypt was recognized, and the Egyptians agreed to pay Jizya at the rate of 2 diners per male adult. The treaty was subject to the approval of the emperor Heraclius, but Maqauqas stipulated that even if the emperor repudiated the treaty, he and the Copts of whom he was the High Priest would honor the terms of the treaty, recognize the supremacy of the Muslims and pay them Jizya.
Maqauqas submitted a report to Heraclius and asked for his approval to the terms of the treaty. He also offered reasons in justification of the acceptance of the terms of the treaty.
Amr b. Al-Aas submitted a detailed report to Umar and asked for his further instructions.
When Umar received the report of Amr bin Al-Aas about the conquest of Babylon and the treaty with Maqauqas, he wrote back to say that he approved of the terms provided Heraclius agreed to submit to them. He desired that as soon as the reactions of Heraclius were known, he should be informed so that further necessary instructions might be issued.
Heraclius's reaction to the report of Maqauqas was violent. He remarked sarcastically that the Muslim force hardly numbered 12,000 while the Byzantine force in Egypt was five times as large leaving aside the Copts. Maqauqas was removed from the Viceroyship of Egypt, but he remained the Head of the Coptic Church. This was a matter in which the emperor could not interfere. Heraclius sent strict orders to the Commander-in-chief of the Byzantine forces in Egypt that the Muslims should be driven from the soil of Egypt.
Maqauqas waited on Amr and told him that Heraclius had repudiated the treaty of Babylon. Maqauqas assured Amr that so far as the Copts were concerned the terms of the treaty would be followed, but they were not responsible for the Byzantines. That was now an issue which the Muslims and the Byzantines might settle among themselves.
Maqauqas asked for three favors from the Muslims, namely:
This position was to the advantage of the Muslims. The Copts were the real natives of the land of Egypt. Both the Byzantines and the Muslims were strangers. Though some Copts from personal considerations continued to support the Byzantines, the sympathies of the Copts were now by and large with the Muslims. The Copts were not supposed to fight against the Byzantines on behalf of the Muslims but they undertook to help the Muslims in the promotion of war effort, help them in the provision of stores; build roads and bridges for them; and provide them moral support.
Under the circumstances the Muslim fight in Egypt was not against the Egyptians; it was against the Byzantines who were really intruders.
The Generals of the emperor mustered at Alexandria the capital of Egypt, and decided to wage a relentless war against the Muslims and drive them from Egypt.
Amr reported these developments to Umar, and Umar desired that before the Byzantines could gather further strength the Muslims should strike at them and drive them from Alexandria.
In February 641, Amr set off with his army from Babylon and the destination was Alexandria. On the third day of their march from Babylon the Muslims encountered a Byzantine detachment at Tarnut on the west bank of the Nile. Light action followed. The Byzantines could not hold the ground, and withdrew northwards to Alexandria.
While the main Muslim army halted at Tarnut, an advance guard under Shareek bin Sumayy was required to proceed forward. Twenty miles from Tarnut, Shareek came across a Byzantine detachment. The Byzantine force was very large, and it launched an attack on the Muslim advance guard thinking that they would be able to annihilate it. The Muslim advance guard fell back. The next day the Byzantine fell on the Muslim advance guard again, but in the meantime the main Muslim army had arrived and the Byzantines found safety in withdrawal.
The following day the Muslims resumed their march and reached Sulteis where they encountered a Byzantine detachment. Some hard fighting followed, but the Byzantine resistance soon broke down and they withdrew to Alexandria. The Muslims halted at Sulteis for a day and then resumed the march to Alexandria. Alexandria was still two day march from Sulteis.
After one day's march the Muslim forces arrived at Kirayun twelve miles from Alexandria. Here the Muslim advance to Alexandria was blocked up by a Byzantine detachment 20,000 strong. The strategy of the Byzantines was that the Muslims should be driven away before they actually arrived at Alexandria.
The two forces were deployed for action, and some hard fighting followed but the action remained indecisive. This state of affairs persisted for ten days. On the last day the Muslims launched a vigorous assault. The Byzantine resistance broke down, and they withdrew to Alexandria. The way to Alexandria having been cleared, the Muslim forces resumed the march from Kirayun and reached the outskirts of Alexandria some time in March 641 A D.
The Muslims appeared before Alexandria in March 641. Alexandria was heavily fortified. There were walls behind walls, and forts within forts. The Byzantine force within the city numbered 50,000 while the strength of the invading Muslim force was 1,000 only. There was no dearth of provisions and food supply in the city. The city had direct access to the sea, and through the sea route help from Constantinople in men and material could come any time.
As Amr surveyed the military situation, he felt that Alexandria would be a hard nut to crack. The Byzantines had high stakes in Alexandria, and they were determined to offer stiff resistance to the Muslims Amr, however, felt that in spite of the heavy odds the Muslims would be able to conquer the city. The Muslims accordingly decided to lay siege to the city. The Byzantines mounted catapults on the walls of the city, and these engines pounded the Muslims with boulders. This caused considerable damage to the Muslims and Amr ordered his men back from the advance position so that they might be beyond the range of these missiles.
A see-saw war followed. When the Muslims tried to go close to the city they were pounded with missiles. When the Byzantines sallied from the fort, they were invariably beaten back by the Muslims.
Heraclius the Byzantine emperor collected a large reinforcement at Constantinople. He intended to march at the head of this reinforcement personally to Alexandria. Before he could finalize the arrangements he died. The reinforcement mustered at Constantinople dispersed, and no help came to Alexandria.
When the Muslims came to know that the Byzantine emperor had died and that no reinforcement was likely to come to Alexandria they intensified their attacks. In one of the assaults the Muslims got into one of the towers. On the Byzantine counter attack the Muslims withdrew. As the Byzantines closed the outer gate four Muslims were trapped inside. These four Muslims descended to an underground chamber. Because of the narrowness of the passage it was not possible for the Byzantines to descend to the chamber to capture these Muslims alive. Left to themselves these Muslims would have been starved to death within a few days. Among these four trapped Muslims were Amr b. Al-Aas the Commander in-Chief of the Muslim force; Masalma bin Mukhallad a young stalwart, and two others. The Byzantines were not aware of the identity of these four Muslims. They took them to be ordinary soldiers of no particular significance.
In a playful mood the Byzantines asked these trapped Muslims to surrender for if they did not do so they would automatically die in the underground cellar within a few days. The Muslims refused to surrender. Thereupon the Byzantines said that they could be exchanged with Byzantine prisoners in the Muslim camp. This was also not agreed to by the trapped Muslims. Thereupon in a chivalrous mood the Byzantines said, "Let us have a duel, one man out of you and one man from us. If your man kills our man, all of you can depart. If your man is killed the rest of you will be our captives". To this the Muslims agreed.
Amr wanted to offer himself for the duel, but Masalma a young man of great sinews prevailed upon him that he should let Masalma fight the duel Amr ultimately agreed. The Byzantines gave a solemn undertaking in the terms of the agreement arrived at and the trapped Muslims came out of the cellar into the chamber where the duel was to be held.
The Byzantine champion stepped forward and he was met by Masalma from the Muslim side. The contest was hard and stiff, and it appeared as if the Byzantine champion would score. But ultimately Masalma scored and the Byzantine champion was killed. The Byzantines kept their word. After the duel was over they opened the gate of the tower and let the Muslims go in peace. Little did they know that these four included the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim force.
The state of stalemate continued. The Muslims intensified their attacks but there was no slackening of the Byzantine resistance. The siege dragged on for six months, and in Madina Umar got impatient. In a letter addressed to Amr the Caliph expressed his concern at the inordinate delay in the conquest of Egypt. Umar wrote:
"When you get this letter address the people and urge them to fight. Launch the attack in the early afternoon of a Friday for that is the hour of God's blessing."
Amr bin Al-Aas assembled his men, and read to them the letter of Umar. Fiery speeches were held to inspire the Muslims to violent action. It was decided that after the ensuring Friday prayers an all-out assault would be launched on the enemy. Ubada was chosen to carry the standard and launch the assault.
The following Friday after the noon prayers, the Muslims marched to the battle-field with the coffins tied on their heads. They moved forward with the fury of a torrent, and all resistance was swept aside. Before the sun set the city was carried by the Muslims by storm. Over 20,000 Byzantines were killed or taken captive. The rest of the Byzantine army found safety in flight to Constantinople through ships that stood anchored in the port. Some wealthy traders also left.
On behalf of the Egyptians, Maqauqas sued for peace, and peace was allowed. In his report to the Caliph, Amr reported:
"We have conquered Alexandria. In this city there are 4,000 palaces, 400 places of entertainment, and untold wealth."
The Muslim soldiers were keen to collect the war spoils and distribute them among themselves. Maqauqas pleaded that in pursuance of the terms of the treaty those Egyptians who had chosen to remain in the city could not be deprived of their belongings or property. Most of the Muslim soldiers were of the view that as Alexandria had been taken by sword the Muslims had the right to the spoils of war. The matter was referred to Umar, and he decided that while the Muslims could appropriate all the property and assets of the former Government, the private property should not be touched if the owners were there.
With the fall of Alexandria the Muslims were the masters of Egypt.
After the fall of Alexandria, Amr bin Al-Aas deputed a fast rider Muawiyah bin Khudaij to carry the news of the victory of the Muslims to Umar at Madina. When Muawiyah reached Madina it was noon. Muawiyah thought that Umar would be resting at the time and it was inadvisable to disturb him. He accordingly went to the Prophet's mosque to await the arrival of the Caliph there to lead the afternoon prayers. A slave girl of Umar who was passing that way happened to see the traveler. Her curiosity having been awakened she enquired from the traveler from where he had come and he said that he was coming from Alexandria. The slave girl knew how Umar had been anxiously awaiting news from Alexandria. She accordingly rushed home and told Umar that a man had come from Alexandria. Umar asked the slave girl to go to the mosque to fetch the messenger from Alexandria.
As Muawiyah presented himself, Umar anxiously enquired what news he had brought. Muawiyah said that he carried good news and that God in His mercy had given victory to the Muslims. Umar then enquired from Muawiyah why did he not come straight to him. Muawiyiah said that he thought the Caliph would be resting and it was inadvisable to disturb him at that hour of the day. Thereupon Umar said, "I am sorry that you have such a poor opinion of me. Who would bear the burden of the Caliphate, if I were to sleep during the days?"
It was an ancient custom with the Egyptians that some time in July a virgin decked in bridal clothes was thrown in the river as an offering to propitiate the God of the river Nile. Even when the Egyptians became Christians they continued to follow the ancient custom of sacrificing a virgin.
When Egypt came under Muslim rule, the Egyptian elders waited on Amr in July, and wanted his permission for continuing the old custom of throwing a virgin in the river to seek the pleasure of the God of the Nile.
Amr said that such a practice was repugnant to Islam and could not be permitted in an Islamic State. He argued that Islam knew of no God of the Nile and the question of any propitiation did not arise. Islam knew of only one God Allah and Allah did not stand in need of any propitiation.
The Egyptian elders listened to the argument but they did not feel satisfied. They warned Amr that unless the sacrifice was offered as heretofore the Nile would not rise in flood and the entire countryside would get arid.
Amr was however adamant that floods or no floods human sacrifice could not be permitted. The Egyptian leaders retired in a sullen mood.
The month of July passed away. No sacrifice was offered, and there was no rise in the level of the river. It was the month of August and still the river did not rise. The Egyptians shuddered at what would happen if the river did not rise. The month of August passed away and still there was no flood in the river. The Egyptian leaders sighed and said, "That is all due to Islam. The Muslims have brought this fate on us."
And even during September there was no sign of any rise in the level of the river. The Egyptians gave themselves to despair and most of them thought of migrating elsewhere.
That made Amr anxious. He reported the facts of the case to Umar and wanted his instructions. Umar approved of the action of Amr in not permitting the human sacrifice. Along with the letter, Umar sent a card on which it was written:
"In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful. From the slave of Allah, Umar Commander of the Faithful to the Nile of Egypt.
Everything in the Universe is subject to the will of Allah. The rise in your level is subject to the will of Allah, and we pray to Allah to command you to rise in level."
Umar asked Amr that the card should be thrown in the middle of the river. On the eve of the Feast of the Christian Day of the Cross, Amr had the Christians assemble on the river bank and after reciting some verses from the Holy Quran and taking the name of God he threw the card of Umar in the middle of the river. Then the Muslims assembled on the river bank lifted their hands in prayers seeking the blessings of God in making the river rise in level. The card of Umar floated on the surface of the Nile for some distance and then it disappeared.
The next morning the river rose to its full flood height. Verily Allah had commanded the river to flow, and that was the end of the evil custom of sacrificing a virgin to secure a rise in the level of the river. That was the vindication of Islam. Many Egyptians now came to believe that Islam was a blessing and a true religion. They hastened to the Muslim camp and were converted to Islam.
When the Muslims conquered Egypt, Alexandria was the capital of the country. When the Muslims conquered Alexandria, most of the Byzantine population evacuated the city. The vacant houses were occupied by the Muslims. Alexandria was the queen of cities. Amr bin Al-Aas and the other Muslims with him were much attracted by the city. Amr wanted to make Alexandria the capital of Muslim Egypt.
Amr wrote to Umar seeking his permission to make Alexandria the capital of the province. Umar was of the view that Alexandria being a maritime city would not be suitable for the Arabs. He did not give the permission asked for. He suggested that the capital should be established further inland at a central place, where no mass of water intervened between it and Arabia.
Amr accordingly proceeded to choose a suitable site for the capital of Egypt. His choice fell on the site where he had pitched his tent at the time of the battle of Babylon. His tent had been fixed about a quarter of a mile north east of the fort. After the battle was over, and the army was to march to Alexandria when the men began to pull down the tent and pack it for the journey it was found that a dove had nested on top of the tent and fail eggs. Amr ordered that the tent should remain standing where it was. The army marched away but the tent remained standing in the plain of Babylon.
In this unusual episode of the dove and its nest, Amr saw a sign from the Heaven. He decided " Where the dove laid its nest, let the people build their city". As Amr's tent was to be the focal point of the city, the city was called Fustat, which in Arabic means the tent.
The first structure to be built was the mosque which later became famous as Mosque of Amr bin Al-Aas. The plot for the mosque was so chosen that the Mihrab and the pulpit came to be located on the exact spot where the tent had stood. The mosque was completed in 642 A.D. The mosque had a pulpit from where Amr as the leader addressed the congregation. Umar did not appreciate the idea of a pulpit. He wrote to Amr:
"It has come to my notice that you have built a pulpit by means of which you stand above the shoulders of the Muslims, which is the same as your standing with the Muslims under your heel. I command you to dismantle the pulpit."
Amr complied with the order.
Amr built a house for himself next to the gate of the mosque. Adjoining this house were the houses of Companions including Zubair, Ubaida, Abu Zar, Abu Ayub Ansari, Abdullah the son of Umar and Abdullah the son of Amr bin Al-Aas. Amr reserved a plot for the construction of a house for Umar. Umar wrote that he had no idea of residing in Egypt. Under his orders the plot was utilized for the construction of a market.
All houses were of one storey. No one was allowed to construct' a palatial building. Kharija bin Huzafa, however, constructed a two storeyed house. When this was brought to the notice of Umar, he wrote to Amr:
"It has come to my notice that Kharija bin Huzafa has built an upper storey. Perhaps Kharija wishes to see into the private apartments of his neighbors. When you get this letter demolish the upper storey".
The order was complied with.
The city of Fustat was built east of Babylon. In due course Fustat extended to include the old town of Babylon.
The land of Nubia lay to the south of Egypt. It stretched from Aswan to Khartoum and from the Red Sea to the Libyan desert. The Nubians were Christians and were ruled by a king. The capital of the kingdom was Dumqula.
In the summer of 642, Amr bin Al-Aas sent an expedition to Nubia under the command of his cousin Uqba bin Nafe. The expedition was ordered by Amr bin Aas on his own account, and it appears that the approval of Umar to the undertaking of the expedition was not sought. Amr bin Al-Aas thought that the victory over the Nubians would be an easy affair and that he would inform the Caliph after he had conquered another land.
Uqba bin Nafe who later made a great name for himself as the Conqueror of Africa, and led his horse to the Atlantic complaining that there were no lands left for him to conquer in the way of Allah came in for an unhappy experience in Nubia.
In Nubia, no pitched battle was fought. There were only skirmishes and haphazard engagements and in such type of warfare the Nubians excelled the Muslims. The Nubians were skilful archers. We have it on the strength of Balazuri that they would shout to the Muslims where would they like to be hit by the arrow, and where the Muslims mockingly named some part of the body, the arrow invariably struck there to the great grief of the Muslims.
One day Uqba came across a concentration of the Nubians. Before the Muslims could attack the Nubians, the Nubians subjected the Muslims to a merciless barrage of arrows. The arrows were aimed at the eyes and in the encounter 250 Muslims lost their eyes.
The Nubians were very fast in their movements. The Muslim cavalry was known for its speed and mobility, but it was no match for the Nubian horse riders. The Nubians would strike hard against the Muslims, and then vanish before the Muslims could recover their balance and take counter action. The hit-and-run raids by the Nubians caused considerable damage to the Muslims.
Uqba wrote to Amr bin Al-Aas of the state of affairs. He said that the Nubians avoided pitched battle, and in the guerilla tactics that they followed the Muslims were the sufferers Uqba further propheted out that Nubia was a poor land, and there was nothing therein worth fighting for or to tempt by way of booty.
Thereupon Amr bin Al-Aas asked Uqba to withdraw from Nubia. Uqba accordingly pulled out of Nubia with his forces. The Muslims were not defeated, but it was a fact that their expedition had not succeeded. It was a drawn battle.
After the failure of the campaign of Nubia in the south Amr bin Al-Aas decided to undertake campaigns in the west. Some time in September 642, Amr led his troops to the west. After one month of marching the Muslim forces reached the city of Pentapolis. The country was nominally under the suzerainty of the Byzantines, but they had made no arrangements for the defense of the city. The Muslims accordingly occupied it without any resistance. The citizens sued for peace, and Amr gave them peace on the usual terms. A peace pact was drawn up "hereunder the people agreed to pay Jizya. Two unusual conditions were at the instance of the people inserted in the treaty. The first was that in lieu of Jizya, it was open to the citizens to sell their children. The second was that no tax collector was to enter the city; they would themselves pay the Jizya at the appointed time. Amr stayed in the city for some time to reorganize the administration. The Muslims renamed the city of Pentapolis as Burqa.
From Burqa, Uqba bin Nafe was sent at the head of a column to undertake a campaign against Fezzan. Uqba marched to Zaweela the capital of Fezzan. No resistance was offered, and the entire district of Fezzan submitted to the Muslims. They agreed to pay Jizya, but they got a clause inserted in the treaty to the effect that a part of the Jizya coming in from the district was to be spent for the relief of the poor of the area.
After the conquest of Fezzan, Uqba returned to Burqa, Soon after the Muslim army marched westward from Burqa. They arrived at Tripoli in the spring of 643 A.D. there was a Byzantine garrison here and they refused to surrender. The Muslims accordingly laid siege to the city. Amr put his camp on a high ground and blocked all land routes to the city. The city however had free access to the sea, and the passage to the sea could not be blocked by the Muslims.
The Muslim army did not have siege equipment with them. The Byzantine garrison remained locked up within the fortifications and did not come out into the open. The siege accordingly dragged on for two months. One day a party of the Muslims accidentally discovered the passage that provided the city access to the sea. This party rushed into the city through this passage raising the shouts of 'Allah-o-Akbar.' The Byzantine garrison thought that the entire Muslim army had entered the city. There was panic in the city, and the Byzantine garrison sought refuge on board the ships that lay anchored in the harbor.
Hearing the shouts of 'Allah-o-Akbar' from inside the city, the Muslim army pressed the attack from outside, and after having scaled the walls got into the city. The Byzantine garrison fled to the ships and sailed away. The Muslims captured the city without resistance. The citizens surrendered on the usual terms.
From Tripoli, Amr sent a column to Sabrata a city forty miles from Tripoli. A feeble resistance was put up, and thereafter the city surrendered and agreed to pay Jizya.
From Tripoli Amr bin Al-Aas wrote to the Caliph, "We have conquered Burqa, Tripoli and Sabrata. The way to the west is clear, and if the Commander of the Faithful wishes to conquer more lands, we could do so with the grace of God."
Umar replied, "It is not Afriqa, it is Mafriqa. Any further advance would be divisive and treacherous, Consolidate your position in Egypt, and there should be no further campaigning."
Amr bin Al-Aas accordingly abandoned Tripoli and Burqa and returned to Fustat This was towards the close of the year 643 A.D.