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Abu Bakr – Campaigns in Western Iraq

Battle of Anbar

After Hirah, what? With the conquest of Hirah, Khalid had achieved the objective that Abu Bakr had set for him. Having succeeded in his objective, a man like Khalid could not be expected to rest on oars. The question before Khalid was: after Hirah, what next? After taking stock of the situation around him, Khalid decided to advance further afield.

Anbar. Khalid chose Anbar as his next objective. It was an important town and commercial center to which caravans came from Syria and Persia. It was towards the end of June 633 C E. that Khalid marched with his army from Hirah to Anbar. The Muslim force marched along the west bank of the Euphrates, and crossed the river somewhere below Anbar.

Anbar was the headquarter town of the district of Sabat. The Governor of the district was Sheerzad, and he decided to defend the town with the help of his Persian garrison and the Arab auxiliaries. The town was protected by walls, and a large deep moat.

The battle. The town of Anbar was situated at a height, and the Muslim army had to camp at the low plain below the town. As the Persians saw the height that intervened between them and the Muslim army, they felt that their position was invulnerable. The Persians stood on the top of the walls of the citadel carelessly in groups looking at the Muslim army as if they were watching a tournament.

Khalid collected the best of his archers, and commanded them to shoot at the eyes of the Persians. The Muslim archers shot several rounds, and as a result thousands of Persians lost their eyes. Because of this action the battle of Anbar came to be called ‘the battle of the eyes’.

The fall of Anbar. As a result of the efforts of the Muslim archers, a panic was created in the ranks of the Persians, and Sheerzad sent an offer to negotiate terms. Khalid rejected the offer and demanded that the surrender should be unconditional. Under the circumstances, Sheerzad decided to continue resistance.

The moat stood between the Persians and the Muslims, and the problem before Khalid was to cross the moat. Khalid selected a point where the moat was the narrowest. Here he placed his archers in position to shoot at the enemy ruthlessly. Under the cover of these archers Khalid pushed his army. The old and weak camels of the army were slaughtered and dumped into the moat. As the pile of carcasses rose, it formed a bridge over which the Muslim army crossed the moat and assaulted the fort.

Finding his position insecure, Sheerzad made another offer to surrender provided the Persian army was allowed to withdraw in safety. Khalid agreed to the offer provided the Persians did not carry any arms or other property with them.

Withdrawal of Sheerzad. Sheerzad accepted the terms given by Khalid. The Persian soldiers and their families evacuated the fort at Anbar, and left for Al Madain. Thereafter the Muslims occupied the town of Anbar. The Christian Arabs, the auxiliaries of the Persians had no option but to lay down arms after the withdrawal of the Persian forces. They agreed to pay Jizya. Khalid stayed at Anbar for a few days, and received the submission of the clans living in the neighborhood.

When Sheerzad reached Al Madain, he was severely rebuked by the Persian military authorities at his failure to defend Anbar. He attributed his failure to the betrayal of the Christian Arabs. He said, “I was among a people whose roots were among the Arabs, and their resistance to the invading Muslim Arabs was half hearted.”

Battle of ‘Ein-at-Tamr

‘Ein-at-Tamr. Khalid left a garrison at Anbar under the command of Zabarqan bin Badr, and himself marched further afield with the main Muslim army. In early August 633 C.E., the Muslim army recrossed the Euphrates, and marched southward. This time his objective was ‘Ein-at-Tamr. ‘Ein-at-Tamr was a large fortified town surrounded by date palms. ‘Ein-at-Tamr in fact meant ‘Spring of dates’. It was a place of strategical importance, and was garrisoned by Persian forces and the Arab auxiliaries.

Christian Arabs. The Persian forces at ‘Ein-at-Tamr were commanded by Mehran bin Bahram Jabeen who was a skillful military commander. The Christian Arabs belonged to the tribe of Namr, and were led by their chief Aqqa bin Abi Aqqa. Aqqa was a man of formidable dimensions and enjoyed great reputation for his prowess. He was a devout Christian and was very hostile to Islam.

Aqqa was proud of his bodily strength and Arab lineage. In a war council with Mehran, Aqqa volunteered to fight against the Muslims with his men. He argued “Diamond cuts diamond, and we Christian Arabs know best as to how to fight against the Muslim Arabs. Let us fight against the Muslims in the first instance”. Mehran accepted the offer and said, “You are right; you are the best men to fight against the Muslims. Go ahead, and give the Muslims a tough fight. We will remain close to you, and will come to your assistance, when you need reinforcement.”

Battle of ‘Ein-at-Tamr. The Persian forces remained at ‘Ein-at-Tamr, but the Christian Arab auxiliaries under the command of Aqqa marched on the road to Anbar to intercept the advance of the Muslim force under Khalid. The two forces met at a distance of some ten miles from Ein-at-Tamr. As soon as the two forces came in sight, they went in for action immediately. Khalid deployed the Muslim forces in the usual way, the center and the wings. Khalid had heard of the boastings and vaunts of Aqqa, and the plan of Khalid was to take Aqqa captive alive. Aqqa led the center of his force, and with his heavy body he looked very defiant. When the battle began, the wings of the Muslim army charged with considerable vehemence, but the center under the direct command of Khalid charged in a luke-warm way. That gave Aqqa the impression that the center of the Muslim army was showing signs of exhaustion. He decided to avail of this advantage. He launched an attack at the central wing of the Muslim force with considerable vehemence. Before this attack, the Muslim center withdrew. That made the central wing of Aqqa’s force rush forward. Such impetuous advance cut off the central wing of Aqqa’s force off from the other wings of the army of the Christian Arabs. At this stage the Muslim force turned a somersault, and launched a furious charge enveloping the forces of Aqqa. In the hand to hand fighting that followed, the men surrounding Aqqa were cut to pieces, and Aqqa was captured alive according to plan.

Occupation of ‘Ein-at-Tamr. With the capture of Aqqa, the Christian Arabs lost nerve, and fled to ‘Ein-at-Tamr, hoping to be reinforced by the Persian forces. When the Arab fugitives reached ‘Ein-at-Tamr, they found that the Persian forces under Mehran had already evacuated the town, and left for Al-Madain. Finding themselves abandoned and betrayed the Christian Arabs rushed into the fort, closed the gates and prepared for a siege.

The Muslims soon arrived at ‘Ein-at-Tamr, and laid siege to the fort. Aqqa and other prisoners in the Muslim camp were paraded outside the fort, and that had an unnerving effect on the defenders. The Christian Arabs soon asked for terms, but Khalid said that there would be no terms and that the surrender must be unconditional. After a few days the resistance of the Christian Arabs broke down, and they surrendered unconditionally. Aqqa and the leaders of the Christian Arabs were beheaded. The people agreed to pay Jizya. A huge booty was collected and distributed according to the usual formula.

Monastery at ‘Ein-at-Tamr. At ‘Ein-at-Tamr was a monastery where boys were trained for priesthood. These boys were converted to Islam. Among these boys was one Naseir whose son Musa later became the Governor of Africa, and the Conqueror of Spain.

Battle of Daumatul Jandal

Daumatul Jandal. Daumatul Jandal, the present day Al-Jauf, was in the time of Abu Bakr, a place of great strategic importance. It lay at the border of Iraq and Syria, and was the meeting place of the routes from Central Arabia, Iraq and Syria. In the strategy for the defenses of Arabia, Daumatul Jandal was a key point, and even the Holy Prophet was conscious of the importance of Daumatul Jandal.

Akeider. When in 630 C.E., the Holy Prophet undertook a campaign to Tabuk, Khalid was directed to lead a campaign to Daumatul Jandal. Khalid succeeded in his mission, and Akeider the Christian Arab ruler of Daumatul Jandal was taken captive. Akeider paid a heavy ransom, and on agreeing to pay an annual tribute, he was restored to his principality.

‘Ayad bin Ghanam. After the death of the Holy Prophet, Akeider broke the pact with the Muslims, and defaulted in the payment of the tribute. Abu Bakr sent a column under ‘Ayad bin Ghanam to capture Daumatul Jandal. ‘Ayad laid a siege to Daumatul Jandal, but failed to capture it. The siege lasted for over a year, but still the resistance of the defenders was not broken. Many Christian Arabs driven from Iraq as a result of the operations of Khalid found refuge at Daumatul Jandal, and that created further difficulties for ‘Ayad.

March of Khalid to Daumatul Jandal. At this critical juncture, ‘Ayad wrote to Khalid to come to his help. Abu Bakr also asked Khalid to go to the help of ‘Ayad. Khalid received the call for help when he was at ‘Ein-at-Tamr. Khalid decided to go in for the help of ‘Ayad forthwith. Leaving a garrison at ‘Ein-at-Tamr, Khalid marched on with his main force to the relief of Daumatul Jandal. Khalid covered the journey of three hundred miles to Daumatual Jandal in ten days.

The battle of Daumatul Jandal. The Christian Arab forces at Daumatul Jandal were led by two chiefs, namely Akeider and Judi bin Rabee’a. Akeider, who had personal experience of the prowess of Khalid, was unnerved when he came to know that Khalid had arrived for the help of ‘Ayad. He advised the Christian Arabs to make peace with Khalid. His advice was, however, not accepted by his people, who decided to fight. Thereupon ‘Akeider withdrew from Daumatul Jandal, and set off on the road to Jordan. He was soon overtaken by a detachment of Khalid’s cavalry. Accounts differ as to the fade of Ukeider. According to one account, when Ukeider was presented before Khalid, he ordered his execution, as he had broken his oath of allegiance. According to another account, Ukeider was sent to Madina, where he repented and was granted amnesty by Abu Bakr.

Thereafter, Khalid pressed the siege of Daumatul Jandal. The Christian Arabs under Judi bin Rabee’a offered resistance, but they could not hold on for long. Daumatui Jandal fell in the last week of August 633 C E. Over two thousand Christian Arabs were killed in the battle of Daumatul Jandal. Judi bin Rabaceia was captured alive. The people of Daumatul Jandal were offered amnesty on their agreeing to pay Jizya. Immense booty fell to the share of the Muslims. Judi bin Rabee’a had a beautiful daughter who was among the captives. She was a typical beauty. When Khalid saw her, he felt attracted and married.

Reaction of Yadrat Abu Bakr. When the news of the fall of Daumatul Jandal were communicated to Abu Bakr at Madina, he felt very happy. He felt proud of the exploits of Khalid, who had succeeded where others had failed. When the Caliph was told that Khalid had married Bint Judi, he merely smiled and said: “Great men have their eccentricities and Khalid, a great General, has a soft corner in his heart for beautiful women. He is the victor of Daumatul Jandal, and he may very well have Bint Judi as his prize, if that is his pleasure.”

Campaigns in Western Iraq

Persian forces. After the victory of Daumatul Jandal, Khalid returned to the Iraq front in September 633 C.E. By this time, the Persians had raised more forces and they were once again on the war path. One force of the Persians commanded by Ruzbeh was quartered at Huseid, northeast of ‘Ein-at-Tarur. Another Persian force under Zarmahr was cantoned at Khanafis northwest of Huseid.

Plan of the campaign of Khalid. Khalid had his headquarters at ‘Ein-at-Tarur. From there he sent one column under Qa’qa’ to Huseid, and another column under Abu Leila to Khanafis. The instructions of Khalid were that the operations at Huseid and Khanafis should take place simultaneously.

The battle of Huseid. Qa’qa’ reached Huseid before Abu Leila could reach Khanafis, and thus the original plan of simultaneous action could not be followed. The battle at Huseid began with a personal duel between Qa’qa’ and Ruzbeh. In the duel, Ruzbeh was overpowered and killed. Then Zarmahr, the Commander of the forces at Khanafis, who was also at Huseid, stepped to give the challenge. Qa’qa’ accepted the challenge and in the duel that followed, Zarmahr was also killed. Thereafter the Muslims charged. After some resistance, the Persians lost nerve, and withdrew from the battlefield leaving a large number of the dead at the site of the battle.

Confrontation at Khanafis. The survivors of the Persian army from Huseid fled to Khanafis. When the Persian garrison at Khanafis came to know of the Persian defeat at Huseid and of the death of their own Commander Zarmahr, they felt that any stand at Khanafis against the superior Muslim forces would be futile. Mabhuzab the new Commander considered discretion to be the better part of valor. He abandoned Khanafis and with his forces moved to Muzayyah further north where more forces were available and defenses were stronger. When the Muslim forces under Abu Leila arrived at Khanafis, they found that there were no Persian forces to meet them. The Muslims accordingly occupied Khanafis without firing any shot. Khalid, however, was not happy with the operations for the entire Persian garrison at Khanafis had escaped slaughter at the hands of the Muslims.

March to Muzayyah. When Khalid came to know that the Persian garrison from Khanafis had escaped to Muzayyah, he directed that the Persians should be pursued to Muzayyah. Three Muslim columns started separately for Muzayyah from ‘Ein-at-Tamr, Huseid and Khanafis. They had to follow different routes, but they were required to reach a point close to Muzayyah at the same time.

The battle of Muzayyah. The movements of the Muslim forces were carried out according to plan, and the three corps mustered at the appointed place according to schedule. In the Persian camp there was a large concentration of the Persian forces and the Christian Arab auxiliaries at Muzayyah. Muzayyah was at considerable distance from Huseid and Khanafis, and the Persians were under the impression that the Muslim forces would take considerable time to reach Muzayyah.

When the Muslim forces reached unexpectedly at Muzayyah, it was night and the Persians and the Christian Arabs slept peacefully. Roaring masses of Muslim warriors hurled themselves on the Persian camp. So sudden was the Muslim attack that Persian army was unable to take any firm stand. There was confusion and panic in the ranks of the Persian army, and the Persians were slaughtered in thousands. The disaster that met the Persians at Muzayyah was more or less of the same order as they had suffered at Walaja. Helped by the darkness of the night many Persians and their auxiliaries found safety in withdrawing from the battlefield.

When the sun rose the following day, not a single Persian soldier could be seen at Muzayyah. Most of them lay dead at the battlefield, and the rest had found safety in flight. Among the Arabs who had lost their lives at Muzayyah were two persons, Abdullah and Labid who were Muslims and had certificates to that effect from Abu Bakr himself. Some of the critics of Khalid held him guilty of killing Muslims. Abu Bakr held that such things were likely to occur when Muslims chose to live in the midst of non-Muslims, against whom military operations were undertaken. Abu Bakr, however, paid blood money to the heirs of the two persons from the Muslim Baitul Mall.

Battle of Saniyy. The victory of the Muslims at Muzayyah exposed the Christian Arab pockets of Saniyy, Zumeil, and Ruzab to Muslim attack. Saniyy being close to Muzayyah become the first objective of the attack of the Muslim forces. From Muzayyah three Muslim columns marched through separate routes and arrived at Saniyy according to plan on pre-determined time and date. A three pronged attack was launched on the Christian Arab camp at Saniyy. The Christian Arabs were no match for the trained forces of Khalid and were slaughtered in thousands. The Christian Arab Commander Rabee a bin Bujeir was slain on the battlefield. Among the captives was the beautiful daughter of Rabee’a. She was sent to Madina, where Ali married her.

Battle of Zumeil. From Saniyy the Muslim forces marched to Zumeil. Here again a three pronged attack was launched by three columns according to a pre-determined plan. The Christian Arab forces at Zumeil met with disaster and were annihilated. The Muslims won considerable booty both at Saniyy and Zumeil.

Battle of Ruzeb. From Zumeil, the Muslim forces proceeded to Ruzab. Here Hilal the son of the Christian Arab chief Aqqa who had fallen at ‘Ein-at-Tamr had collected a large force of the Christian Arabs to give a fight to the Muslims and avenge his father’s death. When Hilal came to know of the fate of the Christian Arabs at Saniyy and Zumeil, he lost heart. When the Muslim forces arrived at Ruzab, there was no enemy to oppose them, and they occupied Ruzab without any resistance. Hilal and his forces withdrew before the arrival of the Muslims.

Muslim domination. With the completion of these operations, the entire region to the west of the Euphrates from Uballa to Anbar came under the complete domination of the Muslims; all pockets of the Persians of the Christian Arabs in this region were completely liquidated.

Battle of Firaz

Firaz. By the end of 633 C.E., the Muslims were the masters of the Euphrates valley. In this valley, Firaz at the outermost edge of the Persian Empire still had a Persian garrison. Khalid decided to drive away the Persians from this outpost as well. Khalid marched to Firaz with a Muslim force and arrived there in the first week of December 633 C.E. Firaz was the frontier between the empires of Persia and Byzantium, and the garrisons of the Persians as well as the Byzantines were cantoned there. In the face of the Muslims, the Byzantine garrison decided to come to the aid of the Persian garrison. The united forces of the Persians, the Byzantines, and the Christian Arab auxiliary, were ten times the number of the Muslim force. Impressed by the imposing array of the coalition, the Byzantine General sent a haughty message to Khalid, demanding an unconditional surrender. Khalid replied that he would give reply on the battlefield.

The battle of Firaz. Khalid gave the enemy the option to cross the Euphrates. As soon as the enemy had crossed the Euphrates, Khalid commanded the Muslim force to go into action. The united forces of the Persians and the Byzantines had the river at their back, and the position was similar to that at the battle of Mazar. At Firaz, Khalid adopted the same tactics as he had adopted at Mazar. As the front ranks of both the forces committed themselves in the fighting, Khalid fixed his enemy on either flank with the help of his rear wings. Making a swift lighting movement, the Muslims dashed for the bridge on the river, and succeeded in occupying it. The enemy was thus held in a pincer movement. The Muslims intensified the attack and closed the noose round the neck of the enemy. In the mortal conflict that ensued, the enemy soon lost the ground. The withdrawing forces of the Persians and the Byzantines either jumped into the river in a state of horror or confusion or allowed themselves to be squeezed to death. It was a bloody battle, and over fifty thousand men of the enemy fell on the battleground. The battle was soon over and Firaz, the last stronghold of the Persians, fell to the Muslims. The battle of Firaz added further luster to the Muslim arms.

Khalid’s pilgrimage to Makkah. In the beginning of the battle of Firaz when the odds appeared to be against the Muslims, Khalid undertook an oath that if he was victorious, he would undertake pilgrimage to Makkah, the House of God. After the victory of Firaz, Khalid stayed at Firaz for some days and made the necessary arrangements for the administration of the territory. In January 634 C.E., while a garrison was kept at Firaz, orders were issued to the main Muslim army to return to Al Hirah. Khalid stayed behind with the rear of the army. As the army moved forward on the road to Al Hirah, Khalid separated himself from the army, and took an unfrequented route to Makkah with a small escort. Khalid reached Makkah in time to perform the ‘Hajj’. After performing the pilgrimage secretly and fulfilling his vow, Khalid and his party rode back to Al Hirah. Before the last contingent of the main army from Firaz had entered Hirah, Khalid was also there, as if he had been ail the time with the rear guard. Although Khalid had taken pains to ensure that he was not recognized at Makkah, news was nevertheless carried to Abu Bakr that leaving his charge in Iraq, Khalid had visited Makkah incognito. When Khalid reached Al Hirah, he got a letter from Abu Bakr asking him not to indulge in such adventure again.

 

Battle of Babylon

Muthanna’s command of the Iraq front. After the transfer of Khalid bin Walid to the Syrian front, Muthanna became the commander of the Muslim forces in Iraq. Khalid had taken one half of the troops with him to Syria, and left the other half with Muthanna in Iraq. With the reduction in the strength of the troops in Iraq, Muthanna was not in a position to take the offensive. He accordingly withdrew from the advanced posts, and cantoned the troops at Hirah.

Shahr Iran. For long the affairs in Persia had been in a state of disarray because of succession disputes. With the accession of Shahr Iran, stability was restored to Persia. The new king was ambitious and on assuming authority, he decided to take action against the Muslims and drive them from the soil of Iraq. Khalid who was a terror for the Persians was no longer in Iraq. The Muslim forces on the Iraq front had been considerably reduced. The Persian Kisra, therefore, felt that it was the ideal time to take action against the Muslims. A large Persian force was mustered, and placed under the command of a veteran General Hormuz.

Letter to Muthanna. Shahr Iran sent an insulting letter to Muthanna demanding immediate withdrawal of the Muslim forces from Iraq. The Kisra observed that the Muslims were so despicable before him that he was not sending the main Persian army against them. He was sending an army of “fowl men and swine herdmen.” Muthanna replied that the Muslim forces were not there to withdraw, they were there to fight and they would give a good account of themselves. Commenting on the Kisra’s letter, Muthanna said that it appeared that he was either a braggart or a liar, and in any case unless he chose to see the light of reason, his army of “fowlmen and swine herdmen”, God willing, would be destroyed.

Battle of Babylon. In spite of the heavy odds against him, Muthanna did not lose nerve. He decided to give the battle away from Hirah. He accordingly marched with his troops from Hirah, crossed the Euphrates, and arrived at the site of Babylon where the Persian forces under Hormuz were already camped. When the battle began, the Persians had all the advantages in their favor. The Persians had a fierce war elephant in front of their ranks, and the beast threw the Muslim ranks in confusion and paralyzed their action. At this stage, Muthanna directed his archers to aim every arrow at the beast. Soon the beast was pierced with innumerable wounds. It groaned, staggered and fell. With the fall of the beast, the offensive of the Persians lagged Muthanna ordered his men to fall at the Persians. In the hand to hand fight that followed the Persians were routed. Hormuz fell on the battlefield. With his death the Persian resistance was over, and the Persians retreated post haste leaving thousands of their soldiers on the battlefield.

Muthanna’s visit to Madina. Muthanna felt that the battle of Babylon was not the end of the matter. The Persians had considerable resources at their disposal, and they were likely to raise a still larger army against the Muslims. Muthanna wrote to Abu Bakr for reinforcement. There was some delay in reply from Madina and Muthanna dashed to Madina to apprise the Caliph personally of the situation in Iraq. When Muthanna arrived in Madina, Abu Bakr lay on deathbed. He, however, saw Muthanna, and listened to his account attentively. Thereafter Abu Bakr summoned Umar, and directed him to command levy for Muthanna. He said: “If I die this day wait not till the evening; if I linger till night wait not till the morning. Let not sorrow for me divert you from the service of Allah”. This direction was the last official act of Abu Bakr as the Caliph.

 

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