The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 16: The Battle of Yamamah

 Part II: The Campaign of the Apostasy

 

Page: 3

A few days before the arrival of Khalid, Musailima lost one of his ablest commanders-the chief, Muja'a bin Marara, who has been mentioned as one of the important members of the Bani Hanifa delegation to the Holy Prophet. This man had set off with 40 riders to raid a neighbouring clan with which he had an old feud. On its way back from the raid, the group stopped for the night at a pass called Saniyat-ul-Yamamah, a day's march from Aqraba. Muja'a's men slept soundly, but it was their last sleep, for early in the morning the entire group was captured by one of the mounted detachments which preceded the army of Khalid. The apostates were taken before the Sword of Allah.

Khalid questioned them about their faith. In whom did they believe? In Muhammad or in Musailima? Without exception they remained unrepentant. Some sought to meet Khalid half way by suggesting: "Let there be a prophet from among you and a prophet from among us!" 1 Khalid was not going to waste his time on such trash, he had them all beheaded with the exception of the leader, Muja'a who was kept in chains as a prisoner. He was a prominent chief and might come in useful as a hostage. With this captive chief in tow, the Muslim army arrived near Aqraba and pitched camp as has already been described. Both armies were now ready for battle.

The actual valley of Wadi Hanifa marked the battle front. On the northern side the bank rose to about 100 feet, rising gently at places, steeply at others, and precipitously at yet others. On the southern side it rose more gently and continued to rise up to a height of 200 feet, a mile away from the valley where Khalid had pitched his camp. On the north bank also lay the town of Jubaila and on the western edge of the town a gully ran down to the wadi. The Muslim front ran along the southern bank for a length of about 3 miles, on the northern bank stood the apostates. The town and the gulley marked the centre of Musailima's army. Behind the apostates stretched the plain of Aqraba; and on this plain, about 2 miles from the wadi, stood a vast walled garden known as Abaz. As a result of this battle it was to become known as "The Garden of Death." 2 (See Map 9 below)

map 1 chap 16

 

On the following morning the two armies deployed for battle. Musailima organised his 40,000 men into a centre, a left wing and a right wing. The left was under the command of Rajjal, the renegade, the right under Muhakim bin Tufail, and the centre directly under the Liar. In order to strengthen the determination of the men, the son of Musailima, also named Shurahbil, rode in front of all the regiments exhorting them to fight with courage. "O Bani Hanifa" he called. "Fight today for your honour. If you are defeated your women will be enslaved and ravished by the enemy. Fight to defend your women!" 3

Musailima decided to await the attack of Khalid. He would fight on the defensive initially, and go on to the offensive when he had blunted the attack of his adversary and thrown him off balance.

The Muslims had spent the night in prayer. This was the largest and most fanatical enemy force they had ever faced and its commander was the most vicious and cunning of men. After the prayer of dawn Khalid drew up his 13,000 men for battle on the south bank, and he too organised his army into a centre and two wings. The left was commanded by Abu Hudeifa, the right by Zaid (elder brother of Umar), while the centre was directly under Khalid. For this battle Khalid formed his men not in tribal groups, as had been the custom heretofore, but in regiments and wings as required for battle, with tribal contingents intermingled.

Khalid planned, as was usual with him, to attack at the very outset, throw his opponent on the defensive and keep him that way. Thus Musailima would be robbed of his freedom of manoeuvre and could do no more than react helplessly to the thrusts of the attacker. But Khalid had no illusions about the trial that faced the Muslims. This was going to be a bitter and bloody battle as had never been fought before by the forces of Islam. The rebels had a numerical superiority of three-to-one and were led by a wily and brave general. But Khalid was confident of victory. He had confidence in himself and in the skill and courage of his officers and men. As he rode in front of his army, he looked with pride and satisfaction at his stalwarts. There were famous men in this army, and some who would rise to fame in later years. There was Zaid, brother of Umar, and Abdullah, son of Umar. There was Abu Dujanah, who at Uhud had shielded the Holy Prophet from the arrows of the enemy with his body. There was the Caliph's son, Abdur-Rahman. There was Muawiyah, son of Abu Sufyan, who would become the first caliph of the Umayyid Dynasty. There was Um Ammarah, the lady who had fought beside the Prophet at Uhud, with her son. And there was the Savage with his deadly javelin.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 510.
2. The exact location of the Garden of Death is not known. I have guessed its location from the course of the battle.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 509.