The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 17: The Collapse of the Apostasy

 Part II: The Campaign of the Apostasy


Page: 4

Reinforcements were on the way. Muhajir bin Abi Umayyah, the last of the corps commanders to be despatched by Abu Bakr, had just subdued some rebels in Najran and was to go on to the Yemen. Abu Bakr directed him to proceed instead to Hadhramaut to join Ziyad and deal with the apostasy of the Kinda. Similar instructions reached Ikrimah, who was now at Abyan.

The forces of Muhajir and Ziyad combined at Zafar, under the overall command of the former, and set out to fight Ash'as.

Ash'as bin Qais was one of the most remarkable men of his time. Coming from a princely family of the Kinda, he was a man of many parts. An able general, a clever chief, a bold warrior and an accomplished poet, he had a fertile imagination and a smooth tongue. A man of charm and wit, he was the most colourful of the many colourful personalities thrown up by the apostasy. But he had one big flaw; he was treacherous! Historians have noted that his was the only family that produced four breakers of pacts in an unbroken line, Ash'as, his father, his son, and his grandson.

Ash'as lived close to the borderline between virtue and evil, between faith and unbelief, but never quite crossed that fine. Practising a kind of moral and spiritual brinkmanship, he was clever enough to get away with it. And now, in late January 633 (the second week of Dhul Qad, 11 Hijri), he faced the Muslim army in battle.

The battle did not last long. Ash'as was defeated, though the defeat was not decisive. He speedily withdrew his army from the battlefield and retreated to the fort of Nujair, where he was joined by other dissident clans. Here Ash'as prepared for a siege.

Just after this battle the corps of Ikrimah also arrived. The three Muslim corps, under the over-all command of Muhajir, advanced on Nujair and laid siege to the fortified city. There were three routes leading into the city. The generals deployed their forces on all three of these routes, completely surrounding and isolating the city. Reinforcements and provisions coming to Ash'as were either captured or driven back.

The siege continued for several days. A number of sallies were made by the beleaguered garrison, but all were repulsed with losses. Yet the Kinda remained firm in their determination to fight on.

Some time in mid-February 633 (early Dhul Hajj, 11 Hijri) Ash'as realised that the situation was hopeless. There was no possibility of success. It was only a matter of time before the fort fell to the Muslims, and then there would be a blood?bath. The next action of Ash'as was characteristic of the man: he decided to sell his tribe to save himself!

He sent a message to Ikrimah proposing talks. Ash'as knew Ikrimah well, for in their days of unbelief they had been good friends. As a result of the proposal talks were arranged with Ikrimah and Muhajir on one side and Ash'as on the other. Accompanied by a few men, Ash'as came out of the fort secretly to the rendezvous.

"I shall open the gates of the fort to you if you will spare the lives of 10 men and their families", Ash'as offered. To this the Muslims agreed. "Write down the names of the 10 men," said Muhajir, "and we shall seal the document."

Ash'as went aside with his men and began to write down the names. It was his intention first to write the name of nine favoured ones and then add his own as the tenth, but he did not notice that one of his men was looking over his shoulder and reading the names as he wrote. This man, named Jahdam, was not one of the favoured nine. As Asha's wrote the ninth name, Jahdam drew his dagger. "Write my name," he hissed, "or I kill you." Hoping to save himself later by his wits, Ash'as wrote down Jahdam as the tenth name. The list was complete. Muhajir sealed the document.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 547.