The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 12: Abu Bakr Strikes

 Part II: The Campaign of the Apostasy


Page: 2

The following day Abu Bakr set out from Madinah with a long string of pack camels, for the riding camels had all gone with Usama and these inferior camels were the best that Abu Bakr could muster in the way of transportation. As the convoy got to the abandoned apostate camp, the Muslims who had driven the apostates away mounted these camels and the force advanced towards Zhu Hussa-the apostate base.

Here the enemy waited, and Hibal, the brother of Tulaiha, showed his military cunning. He kept his men behind the crest of a slope, some distance ahead of the base towards which the Muslims were advancing.

The Muslims, mounted on their pack camels, rode up the slope unaware of the enemy who waited just beyond the crest. When the unsuspecting Muslims got near the crest, the apostates stood up and hurled upon the forward slope a countless number of goatskins filled with water. As these goatskins rolled down the crest towards the Muslims, a wild din arose from the apostate ranks as they hammered on drums and screamed at the top of their voices. The pack camels, untrained for battle and not used to sudden loud noises or the sight of unfamiliar objects rolling towards them in large numbers, turned and bolted. The Muslims did their utmost to control their panic-stricken mounts but failed, and very soon the entire Muslim force was home again!

Hibal had reason to feel pleased with himself. He had pulled a fast one on the Muslims and driven them back to Madinah without, so to speak, firing a shot. In view of this clever trick which Hibal pulled off, it is possible that the preceding apostate withdrawal had been a feint, planned by Hibal, to draw the Muslims out of the security of their town towards Zhu Hussa. We do not know. But Hibal now made the mistake of assuming that the Muslims were frightened, and that their hasty move back to Madinah was a sign of weakness. He did not know that the Muslims were mounted on pack camels, and that it was these animals that had panicked and not the men who rode them. The part of his force that had remained at Zhu Qissa was informed of this success and called forward. The same evening the full force of the apostates advanced and re?established the camp near Madinah, from which they had withdrawn only the day before. The spirits of the apostates were high.

The Muslims, on the other hand, were very angry, and every man was determined to set the record straight in a return engagement. Abu Bakr knew that the apostates had returned to their camp near Madinah, and decided to assail them before they could complete their preparations for battle. Under his instructions, the Muslims spent most of the night reorganising their small army and preparing for battle.

During the latter part of the night Abu Bakr led his army out of Madinah and formed up for the assault. He deployed the army with a centre, two wings and a rear guard. Keeping the centre under his direct command, he placed the right wing under Numan, the left wing under Abdullah and the rearguard under Suwaid-all three of whom were sons of Muqaran. Before dawn the army was set in motion towards the enemy camp where the apostates, confident of an easy victory on the morrow, slept soundly.

This time it was Hibal who was surprised. The first glow of dawn had not yet appeared when a furious, screaming mass of Muslims fell upon the camp with drawn swords. The apostates did not stand upon the order of their going. Many were killed, but most of them found safety in flight, and did not stop until they had got to Zhu Qissa, where they paused to rest and reorganise. Their spirits were no longer so high.

This round had been won by Abu Bakr, and his was no empty success. It was a bloody tactical action in which the enemy had been driven back by the sword and not by deception alone. Abu Bakr had decided to catch the enemy unawares and thus get the benefit of surprise to offset his numerical inferiority, and in this he had succeeded. He needed quick tactical victory and he had got it. As a matter of interest it may be noted that this is the first instance in Muslim history of a night attack-a tactical method which did not achieve popularity until the First World War.

Having won this round, Abu Bakr decided to give no respite to his opponents. He would catch them before the effect of the shock wore off and while alarm and confusion kept them disorganised. As the sun rose, he marched to Zhu Qissa.

On arrival at Zhu Qissa, he formed up for battle as he had done the night before, and then launched his attack. The apostates put up a fight, but their morale was low and after some resistance they broke contact and retreated to Abraq where more clansmen of the Ghatfan, the Hawazin and the Tayy were gathered. Abu Bakr, on capturing Zhu Qissa, sent a small force under Talha bin Ubaidullah to pursue the enemy. Talha advanced a short distance and killed some stragglers, but the small size of his force prevented him from doing any great damage to the retreating apostates.