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Abu Bakr – Apostacy Campaign Against Musailma

Sajjah, the False Prophetess

Sajjah. Among the false prophets who rose in Arabia as a result of the apostasy movement, a lady named Sajjah claimed to be a prophetess. She was the daughter of Al-Haris who belonged to the Bani Yarbu section of the Bani Tamim. On her mother’s side she belonged to the Banu Taghlib tribe who inhabited Iraq. Sajjah and her father lived with Banu Taghlib in Iraq, the tribe of her mother. Sajjah and her tribe were Christians.

Sajjah was beautiful and endowed with an attractive personality. She dabbled in clairvoyance, and professed to predict future. She was a poetess, and mostly talked in verse. She had qualities of leadership, and was popular with her people. When she came to know that after the death of the Holy Prophet, Taleaha and Musailma had declared themselves as prophets, she also declared herself as a prophetess. Soon she succeeded in mustering a good following from among the Banu Taghlib, the clan of her mother.

Malik bin Nuwera. In her attempt to gather some followers from her father’s clan as well, Sajjah contacted Malik bin Nuwera the chief of the Bani Yarbu section of the Bani Tamim the clan of her father. At the invitation of Malik bin Nuwera Sajjah came to Bataha, the headquarters of the clan and entered into a pact with him. Malik was a very handsome man, and Sajjah was physically attracted to him. Malik felt that with the help of Sajjah and her people he could overpower such of the sections of the tribe who were opposed to him. The terms of the pact between Sajjah and Malik are not known. Presumably Malik acknowledged Sajjah as a prophetess, and she undertook to help him in asserting his authority over the section of the Bani Yarbu who were opposed to him. The combined forces of Malik and Sajjah received some initial success. They, however, received a set back at a confrontation that took place at Nibhaj. Peace was won on the condition that Sajjah left the region at once. Sajjah accordingly decided to proceed to Yamama, the stronghold of the false prophet Musailma.

Musailma. Musailma a cunning man did not go to war against Sajjah. Instead he invited Sajjah to visit Yamama as his honored guest. Sajjah accepted the invitation and proceeded to Yamama in Central Arabia. Musailma held a royal reception in her honor. Musailma was a handsome man of attractive personality. Sajjah was beautiful and passionate. Both were mutually attracted. Musailma pattered the vanity of Sajjah. He argued that as the Muslims were their common enemy, it would be to their mutual interest to join forces, and overpower the Muslims by united action. The idea appealed to Sajjah, and she said that she was prepared to make common cause with him. Musailma recited the verses that he claimed to have been revealed to him. Sajjah also recited her verses. Musailma applauded the verses and said, “Sajjah, you are verily a prophetess.” Sajjah complimented him by saying, “I have no doubt that you are indeed a prophet.” Then Musailma took another step forward and suggested that in order to strengthen their alliance it was but meet that they should be physically united as well and become husband and wife. Sajjah fell in line with his way of thinking, and agreed to become his wife. Musailma said that in view of their mutual concurrence, it was necessary that such holy alliance should take place at once without losing any time. Under the spell of the magnetic personality of Musailma, Sajjah agreed that the marriage should take place at once. Musailma took Sajjah to his camp where she remained with him for three days and three nights as his wife.

As a wedding gift, Musailma declared that for their common followers the prayers in the morning and in the evening were no longer obligatory and that henceforward the number of prayers per day was to be reduced from five to three. He also agreed to pay Sajjah a share out of the revenues of Yamama.

The end of the adventure. What happened next is not exactly known, for Sajjah instead of remaining with Musailma at Yamama as his wedded wife decided to return to her people in Iraq. The followers of Sajjah felt frustrated at this turn of events, and they did not like their prophetess becoming mistress of Musailma. Presumably Sajjah also realized that in marrying Musailma she had lost the battle. From some accounts it appears that Sajjah was already married, and she surrendered to Musailma under some hypnotic influence. When this spell was over, and she realized the depth to which she had degraded herself she found safety in returning to Iraq. That presumably explains her strange conduct, for if she had been lawfully wedded to Musailma she would have stayed with him in Yamama. When she returned to her people in Iraq that was the end of the adventure of prophethood. She lived in obscurity for the rest of her life. When the Muslims conquered Iraq she became a Muslim along with the other members of her tribe. During the caliphate of Muawiyiah she resided at Kufa, where she died at a sufficiently advanced age.

Campaign against Bani Tamim

The Bani Tamim. Having reduced the Bani Asad and Bani Fazara, Khalid bin Walid decided to march against the Bani Tamim who lived on a plateau to the east. The Bani Tamim had accepted Islam during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. After the death of the Holy Prophet when the waves of apostasy spread over Arabia, the Bani Tamim were also affected. The tribe came to be divided into two sections. One section remained faithful to Islam, while the other section repudiated their allegiance to Islam. There was however some confusion as to who among the tribe favored Islam and who were against it. When Khalid gave order to march to Bataha the headquarters of the Bani Tamim, the Ansars in the army refused to march to Bataha. Their stand was that the Caliph had not sanctioned any operation against the Bani Tamim. Khalid said that being the Commander of the forces operating in the region, he was in the best position to know which operations should or should not be undertaken in the interests of the mission for re-establishing the supremacy of Islam. He, however, declared that if the Ansars were unwilling to follow him, it was open to them to withdraw. When the main army of Khalid marched forward the Ansars stayed behind. After some time on second thought, the Ansars also decided to accompany Khalid. They accordingly rejoined the main Muslim army at the next stage of their march.

Murder of Malik bin Nuweira. The orders of Abu Bakr were that if any tribe professed faith in Islam, no action should be taken against it. If a tribe did not profess faith in Islam, it was to be invited to repent and be reconverted to Islam. Operations were to be undertaken against a tribe only in the event of its refusal. It was laid down that if on reaching the settlement of a tribe, the Muslim army heard the tribe give Azan it was to be understood that the people of the tribe professed Islam. In the absence of such response it was to be presumed that the people had apostatized. Before the Muslim army reached Bataha, a delegation of Bani Tamim waited on Khalid. They brought with them the amount of the Zakat payable to the Muslims Khalid took the amount, but continued his advance to Bataha. When the Muslim army reached Bataha, there were no forces of the Bani Tamim to oppose the Muslims. The position was confused. Malik bin Nuweira the chief of the Bani Tamim neither came forward to offer his submission, nor did he come forward to oppose the Muslims. On the other hand he went into hiding. That made him the subject of suspicion. Khalid directed his soldiers to forage in the neighborhood. As a result of such operations, Malik and his wife Laila were taken captive and brought before Khalid. Malik’s wife Laila was known far and near for her breath taking beauty. Her long glossy hair flowed up to her knees. She had gorgeous legs, and she carried herself with peculiar grace and charm. What exactly transpired when Malik and his wife were presented before Khalid is not known. According to one account after his talk with Malik, Khalid was satisfied that Malik had repudiated Islam. According to another account, Malik is reported to have said that his wife was his undoing, and that after Khalid had seen her, his death was certain. The prisoners retired for the night. At the dead of night, Malik and his male companions were killed. Here again the accounts differ. According to one account, Khalid had merely ordered that the night being cold, the prisoners should be kept warm, and this order was misunderstood to be an order for murder. The other account is that Khalid in fact ordered the murder of Malik as he had apostatized.

After the Bataha Episode. After the death of Malik, the entire tribe of Bani Tamim surrendered and professed faith in Islam. Khalid immediately married Laila the beautiful widow of Malik b Nuweira. The campaign against the Bani Tamim was a masterstroke from the political point of view. It brought the entire tribe to the fold of Islam. From the military point of view the significance of the action at Bataha was that the rear of Sajjah the false prophetess was cut off and she could no longer count on the support of Bani Tamim. The episode, however, led to considerable scandal. In some quarters it was held that Malik was indeed a Muslim, and that he had been murdered merely because Khalid coveted his beautiful wife. Some of the Ansars in the army of Khalid led by Abu Qatadah refused to fight under the command of Khalid. Abu Qatadah along with Mutamim the brother of Malik set out for Madina to lodge a complaint against Khalid before the Caliph. Mutamim was a distinguished poet, and he composed an elegy mourning the death of his brother, and condemning Khalid as his murderer. These verses became popular in Madina and those who listened to them grieved at the murder of Malik.

Trial of Khalid. Khalid was summoned to Madina and put to explanation. There were two charges against Khalid, firstly, the murdering of a Muslim and secondly marrying his wife. Khalid’s explanation was that if according to the Holy Prophet he was the “Sword of God” such sword could not fall on the neck of a Muslim. Umar was of the view that Khalid was to be blamed, and he should be suitably punished. Abu Bakr felt that a military commander, Khalid was indispensable. His view was that even if it was held that Khalid was guilty of a lapse, such lapse could be passed over in the broader interests of Islam. Musailma in the Yamama valley was posing a great threat to the Muslims. Two Muslim Generals sent against Musailma had suffered defeat the position was critical, and at that stage a General of the caliber of Khalid alone could vindicate the honor of Islam. Abu Bakr decided to overlook the lapse of Khalid, and directed him to undertake operations against Musailma. As there were doubts whether Malik was or was not a Muslim, Abu Bakr decided that blood money should be paid out of the Baitul Mal to the heirs of Malik for his murder.

Umar did not feel happy at this decision of Abu Bakr. When Umar remonstrated, Abu Bakr observed: “Umar, I cannot sheathe the sword, which God has intended to be wielded against the non-Muslims.”

Campaign Against Musailma

Musailma. Of all the imposters and false prophets who rose in Arabia after the death of the Holy Prophet, the most notorious and dangerous was Musailma who belonged to the Banu Hanifa tribe of Central Arabia. Musailma visited Madina during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, and enjoyed the privilege of his company for some time. On return from Madina, Musailma, however, laid claim to a divine mission and founded a new creed. He relieved his followers from the obligations of fasting, and Zakat. He reduced the number of daily prayers. He legalized adultery and drinking. He forbade his followers to cohabit with their wives, once they had become mothers. In imitation of the Holy Quran he recited rhythmical sentences and bits of doggerel, which he had, himself composed, but gave out as having been revealed by God. He was endowed with a superb physique, and an attractive personality. He was a good speaker, and could sway the masses. He exploited these qualities and succeeded in winning over a considerable following. When asked by the Holy Prophet to abandon his pretensions, Musailma sent an impudent letter demanding the division of the Arabian peninsula into two halves, one part to be earmarked for the Muslims, and the other to be the exclusive reserve for Musailma and his followers. The Holy Prophet addressed him as Musailma, the Liar, and said that all land belonged to God, and He gave its control to such person as He willed. The Holy Prophet deputed Nahr-ar-Rajjal a Muslim convert from the tribe of Banu Hanifa to go back to his people and propagate Islam. On return to his tribe, Nahr-ar-Raijal fell a victim to the blandishments of Musalima. He declared falsely that he was witness to the fact that the Holy Prophet had acknowledged Musailma as co-sharer in the divine mission. That established the credentials of Musailma, and the number of his followers increased considerably,

Campaigns against Musailma. With the death of the Holy Prophet, Musailma gained in strength further. The general argument that prevailed with the people was that Muhammad (peace be on him) was dead while Musailma was alive, a living prophet was to be preferred to a dead prophet. Many tribes who were hostile to Islam joined his ranks. Abu Bakr originally entrusted the operations against Musailma to ‘Ikramah son of Abu Jahl. Shurabbil bin Hasnah was to advance with another column to the assistance of’ Ikramah. Abu Bakr issued strict orders that action against Musailma was to be taken only when the two columns joined together. ‘Ikramah was the first to reach the Yamama valley where Musailma was lodged. Without waiting for Shurabbil, ‘Ikramah launched an attack against Musailma. The Muslims were beaten back with considerable losses. When the news of the defeat reached Madina, Abu Bakr felt much distressed. He asked ‘Ikramah not to return to Madina, but to proceed to light in South Arabia.

Some time later, Shurahbil arrived in the yamama valley with his column. He also opened an attack against Musailma without waiting for help. He was also beaten with considerable loss. Two successive defeats created an embarrassing situation for the Muslims. That raised the morale of the followers of Musailma who proudly declared that Musailma was indeed a prophet and divine help was on their side.

Commission of Khalid bin Walid. It was at this critical juncture that Abu Bakr commissioned Khalid bin Walid to undertake operations against Musailma. Elaborate arrangements were made to reinforce the army of Khalid. Seasoned soldiers were included in the force under his command. Bar’a bin Malik and Thabit bin Qais led the contingents of the Ansar, while Abu Khadhifa bin Utba and Zaid bin Khattab led the contingent of the Muhajreen. Against his declared policy, Abu Bakr permitted the veterans of Badr to join the forces of Khalid. Among others, those who joined the force included: Abdur Rahman son of Abu Bakr; Abdullah son of Umar; Abu Dujana the renowned warrior of Uhud; and Manwiyiah who later founded the Umayyad rule.

From Madina the Muslim army proceeded to Butaha. Here contingents from the Muslim tribes joined the force. From there the Muslim army marched south to Yamama valley under the command of Khalid bin Walid. In the way the Muslim army came across some men of Banu Hanifa led by Maja’a bin Murrah. All of them except Maja’a were put to death under the orders of Khalid. Maja’a was kept in custody to serve as a hostage. He was put in chains, and entrusted to the custody of Laila, the new wife of Khalid who accompanied him to the battlefield.

The battle of Aqraba. Musailma intercepted the advance of the Muslim army at the plain of Aqraba. Here the two opposing armies arranged their ranks for the battle. The battle that followed was hotly contested. The forces of Musailma numbered over forty thousand, while the strength of the Muslim army did not exceed fifteen thousand. Besides being outnumbered the Muslim forces suffered from certain disabilities. There were differences between the tribes, the Ansar and the Muhajreen. A dust storm blew across the valley against the faces of the Muslims. Taking advantage of this the forces of Musailma increased their pressure, and the Muslims had to fall back. Some men of the Banu Hanifa even reached the tent of Khalid where Maja’a was in chains guarded by Laila. These men wanted to kill Laila, and rescue Maja’a. Maja’a called upon them to desist from raising their hands against a woman. He wanted them to go and kill some men. These men left the camp, and said that they would return after some time to rescue Maj a’a. In the confusion that followed the party could not come back, and in the meantime the Muslims were able to take precautionary measures.

When the battle for the first day ended there was jubilation in the camp of Musailma. Though Khalid had been forced to withdraw he refused to admit defeat. He regrouped his army in tribal commands and exhorted the various tribes to show their valor on the battlefield. From within the Makkah and Madinite horsemen he created a reserve force of a thousand cavalrymen and kept them under his personal command.

When the battle began on the next day, the forces of Musailma elated by the pride of victory on the first day made the bid to push forward. Bara’a was the commander of one of the Muslim wings. He was a brother of Anas, the personal attendant of the Holy Prophet. There was a strange peculiarity of Bara’a. Whenever he would go to fight his whole body would shake necessitating others to hold him. After some time his body would stop shaking, and he would feel electrified. He would then rush forward against the enemy and fight like a lion. At the battle of Aqraba he had his fit of shivering, and thereafter he plunged into the thick of the battle crying “O Muslims where do you go? Here am I, Bara’a bin Malik; come to me.” Bara’a and his men made a determined charge. Abdur Rahman the son of Abu Bakr shot an arrow from his bow that killed Muhkam bin Tufail who commanded the forces of Musailma. At this stage the two armies faced each other in a headlong combat. As the forces of Musailma were larger in number such state of affairs was advantageous to them. While the front ranks of the two armies grappled with each other in hand to hand fight, Khalid collected his cavalry reserves and carrying out a wide outflanking movement dashed for the mounds where the camp of Musailma was located. The boldness of the move of Khalid took Banu Hanifa completely by surprise. The bodyguard of Musailma fought valiantly, but they could not hold ground for long. As Khalid increased his pressure, Musailma lost his nerves, and retreated to a neighboring fortified garden.

Battle of the Garden. With the withdrawal of Musailma his army lost the will to fight, and they too found safety in seeking refuge in the garden. A huge wall surrounded the garden, and the fugitives closed the gate thus shutting access to the pursuing Muslims. Bara’a bin Malik asked his companions to lift him to the top of the garden wall and from there he jumped into the garden. Some other Muslims did likewise Thus, hazarding their lives, this group of Muslims rushed to the gate and opened it. With the opening of the gate, the Muslim army rushed into the garden, and let lose a reign of slaughter on the Banu Hanifa. The Banu Hanifa fought desperately for sheer survival, but theirs was a losing battle. All advantages now lay with the Muslims. The men of Banu Hanifa were cut to pieces in large numbers, and the garden was virtually drenched with blood. So bloody was the battle of the garden that in the Arab annals it came to be known as the “Battle of the Garden of Death.”

In the Muslim ranks there were some women as well. One of them was Umm ‘Ammarah. She had fought in the battle of Uhud, and when wave after wave of the enemy rushed to attack the Holy Prophet she shielded him in which task she received no less than a dozen wounds. After the death of the Holy Prophet her son Habib while returning from Uman fell into the hands of Musailma, the Liar. Habib was required to disown the Holy Prophet of Islam, and offer allegiance to the false prophet Musailma. Habib refused, and for his faith in Islam he was put to death. Umm ‘Ammarah thereupon vowed vengeance against Musailma. When Abu Bakr ordered operations against Musailma, Umm ‘Ammarah accompanied the Muslim force fired with the urge to take revenge. In the “Garden of Death” penetrating through the ranks of the enemy she reached close to Musailma. At that time Wahshi an Abyssinian fighting in the Muslim ranks threw in a javelin at Musailma. At the battle of Uhud Wahshi had fought on the side of the Quraish against the Muslims, and he had killed Hamza an uncle of the Holy Prophet with his javelin. Later he became a Muslim and he fought in the various battles during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. When Wahshi threw his javelin, Abdullah another son of Umm ‘Ammarah who was with her in the battle rushed forward and fell on Musailma with his sword. Musailma fell dead, and his severed head was hoisted for all to see. Thereupon the Banu Hanifa formally surrendered. With such surrender the valley of Yamama which had so long defied Islam lay prostrate at the feet of the Muslims.

Treaty of Yamama

Consequences of the Yamama. The battle of Yamama was the bloodiest battle so far fought by the Muslims. It was a decisive battle that established the supremacy of Islam in Central Arabia. It proved to be a great trial of strength, and though the Muslims won the victory, this was achieved at a heavy cost. The casualties of Banu Hanifa were staggering. As many as 7,000 followers of Musailma died in the battle of Aqraba, and equal number fell in the Garden of Death. Twelve hundred Muslims met their martyrdom in this action, and although the number was very much less than the number of the dead of Banu Hanifa, the loss was nevertheless colossal. Almost every family in Makkah and Madina suffered the loss of some dear one. Most of the Muslims who had memorized the Holy Quran died in this battle, and their loss was most acute. Among the martyrs were Abu Hudhaifa, Zaid bin Khattab, Abu Dujana, Yazid bin Aus,Yazid bin Thabit, Abu Hababa bin Ghazia: Zarara bin Qais; Saib bin Awwam; Salma bin Masud, and many other distinguished persons from among the Ansars and the Muhajreen.

Release of Maja’a. All the important leaders of the Banu Hanifa were killed, and there was no leader to negotiate terms of surrender. Maja’a who had won the confidence of Khalid by saving the wife of Khalid, Laila, undertook to make negotiations with the Banu Hanifa. Maja’a was released on parole, and he went to negotiate terms with the Banu Hanifa. He returned to say that the major portion of the army was still in the fort of Yamama, and that they were poised for another action Khalid decided that he would himself go to the city to assess the situation. Maja’a sent a secret message to the Banu Hanifa that all women, old men and children should mount the battlements and display their arms. When Khalid went to the city he saw that the battlements were crowded. That set Khalid thinking. After the disastrous war of Aqraba, the Muslim forces though victorious, were too exhausted to risk another action. Khalid was under the circumstances keen to avoid another war. Maja’a played upon the feelings Or Khalid and said that if lenient terms were offered he might be able to arrive at some settlement with the Banu Hanifa. Khalid allowed him to go to his people again. Maja’a returned to say that if the Muslims were to be content with taking only one fourth of the property of the Banu Hanifa, peace could be negotiated. Khalid agreed and the peace treaty was signed “hereunder the Banu Hanifa were to surrender one fourth of their property.

Khalid’s marriage with Bint Maja’a. After the treaty, Maja’a was allowed freedom and he returned to his people The gates of the city were thereafter thrown open. When Khalid rode into the city, the Banu Hanifa army was no where to be seen. “Where are your warriors” asked Khalid of Maja’a and Maja’a pointing to the women and children said, “These women and children were the warriors. I had them dressed as warriors, and made them parade on the battlements”. Khalid turned furiously to Maja’a and said, “This means that you deceived me”. Maja’a merely shrugged his shoulders and said, “You may kill me, if you like, but I had to resort to this ruse to save my people.” Khalid felt very bitter, but as he had given his promise to the people of Banu Hanifa, he was not in favor of withdrawing from the terms of the treaty. Khalid had heard of the beauty of the daughter of Maja’a, and he asked Maja’a to marry his daughter to him in case he wanted to escape his wrath. Ma a’a said, “I am at your disposal, but you know what happened when you married Laila. The Caliph did not approve of that marriage, and he will not approve of your marriage with my daughter.” Khalid retorted, “You need not bother about the approval of the Caliph. I wed your daughter tonight. You may go and make your arrangements accordingly.” That night Khalid married the beautiful daughter of Maja’a. Laila merely sulked in her tent.

Abu Bakr’s reactions. As the Muslims had suffered heavily at the hands of Banu Hanifa, Abu Bakr sent instructions to Khalid that no mercy should be shown to the Banu Hanifa and all the male adults should be killed. Before these instructions reached Khalid, he had given these people general amnesty and they had accepted Islam. Under the circumstances the instructions of Abu Bakr could not be complied with. Khalid sent a delegation of the people of Abu Hanifa along with the booty to Madina. The delegates expressed regrets and said that Musailma had deceived them. They assured Abu Bakr that they were sincere in their profession of Islam. Abu Bakr treated them with due courtesy and let things rest at that. He was, however, very bitter at Khalid’s marriage with Bint Maja’a. He addressed the following letter to Khalid: “O son of the mother of Khalid. What has gone wrong with you? You are out to wed women when the land around your camp is still drenched with blood of over a thousand martyrs.”

Apart from this mild censure, Abu Bakr chose to take no further action against the Victor of Aqraba.





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