The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 19: The Battle of Chains

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


Page: 2

Hormuz was the military governor of Dast Meisan. An experienced veteran and a trusted servant of the Empire. Hormuz was given this district to govern and protect because of its vital importance, which was both political and economic. It was a frontier district and lately had had a good deal of trouble with the Arab raiders of Muthanna. It was also a wealthy district in natural produce and commerce. Its chief city, Uballa, was the main port of the Persian Empire and thus vital to its commercial prosperity. Uballa was also a junction of many land routes-from Bahrain, from Arabia, from Western and Central Iraq, from Persia proper, which gave it a decisive strategical importance. It was a gateway, which it was the job of Hormuz to govern as an administrator and defend as a general.

The Persian society of the time had an imperial and aristocratic character. As is inevitable in such societies, it had an elaborate system of ranks to indicate a man's social and official position at the court. The outward symbol of rank was the cap; as a man rose in rank, his cap became more costly. The highest rank below the Emperor carried a cap worth 100,000 dirhams, which was studded with diamonds and pearls and other precious stones. Hormuz was a 100,000 dirham-man! 1

A true imperialist, he was of a proud and arrogant nature and held the local Arabs in contempt, which he did nothing to conceal. He was harsh and highhanded in his treatment of the Arabs, who in return hated and feared him. In fact his heavy hand became the cause of a saying amongst the Arabs: More hateful than Hormuz. 2

Soon after receiving the letter of Khalid, which he knew came from Yamamah, Hormuz informed the Emperor of the imminent invasion of Iraq by Khalid and prepared to fight this insolent upstart! He gathered his army and set out from Uballa, preceded by a cavalry screen.

The direct route from Yamamah to Uballa lay through Kazima (in modern Kuwait) and thither went Hormuz, expecting Khalid to take this route. (See Map 11 below) On arrival at Kazima, he deployed his army facing south-west, with a centre and two wings, and ordered that men should be linked together with chains. So deployed, he awaited the arrival of Khalid. But of Khalid there was no sign. And the following morning his scouts brought word that Khalid was not moving towards Kazima; he was making for Hufair. 3

map 1 chapter 19

Khalid had, already before he left Yamamah, arrived at a broad conception of how he would deal with the army of Hormuz. He had been given the mission of fighting the Persians, and a defeat of the Persian army was essential if the invasion of Iraq was to proceed as intended by the Caliph. With the Persian army intact at Uballa, Khalid could not get far. The direction given to him by the Caliph, i.e. Uballa, was by itself certain to bring the Persians to battle, for no Persian general could let Uballa fall.

Khalid knew the fine quality and the numerical strength of the Persian army and the courage, skill and armament of the Persian soldier. Heavily armed and equipped, he was the ideal man for the set-piece frontal clash. The only weakness of the Persian soldier and army lay in their lack of mobility; the Persian was not able to move fast, and any prolonged movement would tire him. On the other hand, Khalid's troops were mobile, mounted on camels with horses at the ready for cavalry attacks; and they were not only brave and skilful fighters, but also adept at fast movement across any terrain, especially the desert. Moreover, thousands of them were veterans of the Campaign of the Apostasy.

Khalid decided to use his own mobility to exploit its lack in the Persian army. He would force the Persians to carry out march and counter-march till he had worn them out. Then he would strike when the Persians were exhausted. Geography would help him. There were two routes to Uballa, via Kazima and Hufair, whose existence would facilitate his manoeuvre. (See Map 11)

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 556.
2. Ibid: Vol. 2, p. 555.
3. Kazima was on the northern coast of the Kuwait Bay, as shown on Map 11, 5 miles from the present Basra-Kuwait road. It was a fairly large city, over a mile in diameter, of which nothing remains but some castle-like ruins on a tongue of land jutting into the sea. These ruins may, however, be of a later period than Khalid's. No trace remains of Hufair nor is there any local tradition regarding its location. According to Ibn Rusta (p. 180) it was 18 miles from Basra on the road to Madinah. Since the old Arab mile was a little longer than the current mile, I place it at present-day Rumaila, which is 21 miles from old Basra. (Some later writers have confused this Hufair with Hafar-ul-Batin, which is in Arabia, 120 miles south-west of Kazima.)