The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 20: The Battle of the River

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 2

The two armies formed up for battle. Qubaz and Anushjan commanded the wings of the Persian army while Qarin kept the centre under his direct control and stood in front of it. Detachments of Arab auxiliaries were deployed in various parts of the army. Qarin was a brave but wise general. He deployed with the river close behind him, and saw to it that a fleet of boats was kept ready at the near bank ... just in case! Khalid also deployed with a centre and wings, again appointing Asim bin Amr and Adi bin Hatim as the commanders of the wings.

The battle began with three duels. The first to step forward and call out a challenge was Qarin. As Khalid urged his horse forward, another Muslim, one by the name of Maqal bin Al Ashi, rode out of the Muslim front rank and made for Qarin. Maqal reached Qarin before Khalid, and since he was an accomplished swordsman and quite able to fight in the top class of champions, Khalid did not call him back. They fought, and Maqal killed his man. Qarin was the last of the 100,000 dirham men to face Khalid in battle.

As the Persian commander went down before the sword of Maqal, the other two Persian generals, Qubaz and Anushjan, came forward and gave the challenge for single combat. The challenge was accepted by the commanders of the Muslim wings, Asim and Adi. Asim killed Anushjan. Adi killed Qubaz. As these Persian generals fell, Khalid gave the order for a general attack, and the Muslims rushed forward to assault the massed Persian army.

In those days the personal performance of the commander was a particularly important factor in battle. His visible success in combat inspired his men, while his death or flight led to demoralisation and disorganisation. The Persian army here had now lost its three top generals; yet the men fought bravely and were able to hold the Muslim attacks for a while. But because of the absence of able generals, disorder and confusion soon became apparent in the Persian ranks. Eventually, under the violence of continued Muslim attacks, the Persian army lost all cohesion, turned about and made for the river bank.

This disorganised retreat led to disaster. The lightly armed Muslims moved faster than the heavily equipped Persians and caught up with their fleeing adversaries. On the river bank confusion became total as the Persians scrambled into the boats in a blind urge to get away from the horror that pursued them. Thousands of them were slain as other thousands rowed away to safety. Those who survived owed their lives to the caution of Qarin, who had wisely kept the boats ready by the river bank. But for these boats not a single Persian would have got away. The Muslims having no means of crossing the river, were unable to pursue the fugitives.

According to Tabari, 30,000 Persians were killed in this battle. 1 The spoils of the battle exceeded the booty taken at Kazima, and four-fifths of the spoils were again promptly distributed among the men while one-fifth was sent to Madinah.

Khalid now turned more seriously to the administration of the districts conquered by the Muslims and placed this administration on a more permanent footing. Submitting to Khalid, all the local inhabitants agreed to pay the Jizya and come under Muslim protection. They were left unmolested. Khalid organised a team of officials to collect taxes and placed Suwaid bin Muqarrin in command of this team with his headquarters at Hufair.

But while these administrative matters were engaging Khalid's attention, his agents had slipped across the Euphrates to pick up the trial of the vanquished army of Qarin. Yet other agents were moving along the Euphrates towards Hira to discover further movements and concentrations of the imperial army of the Chosroes. 2

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 558.
2. Tabari also calls this battle the Battle of Mazar, which I feel is incorrect. For an explanation see Note 5 in Appendix B.