The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 21: The Hell of Walaja

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 3

For the whole of the next day the two armies remained in their respective camps, keeping each other under observation, while commanders and other officers carried out reconnaissances and made preparations for the morrow. The following morning the armies deployed for battle, each with a centre and wings. The Muslims armies were again commanded by Asim bin Amr and Adi bin Hatim.

The battlefield consisted of an even plain stretching between two low, flat ridges which were about 2 miles apart and 20 to 30 feet in height. The north-eastern part of the plain ran into a barren desert. A short distance beyond the north-eastern ridge flowed a branch of the Euphrates now known as the River Khasif. The Persians deployed in the centre of this plain, facing east-south-east, with the western ridge behind them and their left resting on the north-eastern ridge. Khalid formed up his army just forward of the north-eastern ridge, facing the Persians. The centre of the battlefield, i.e. the mid-point between the two armies, was about 2 miles south-east of the present Ain-ul-Muhari and 6 miles south of the present Shinafiya.

Andarzaghar was surprised at the strength of the Muslim army. Only about 10,000 he guessed. From what he had heard, Andarzaghar had expected Khalid's army to be much larger. And where was the dreaded Muslim cavalry? Most of these men were on foot! Perhaps the Persian survivors of Kazima and the River had exaggerated the enemy's strength, as defeated soldiers are wont to do. Or perhaps the cavalry was fighting dismounted. Andarzaghar did not know that the Muslims who faced him were also surprised at their numbers, for they did not seem to be as many as they had been the day before. But the matter did not worry them. The Sword of Allah knew best!

The situation put Andarzaghar in high spirits. He would make mincemeat of this small force and clear the land of Iraq of these insolent desert-dwellers. He would at first await the Muslim attack. He would hold the attack and wear down the Muslims; then he would launch a counter-attack and crush the enemy.

When Khalid's army advanced for a general attack, Andarzaghar was overjoyed. This was just what he wanted. The two armies met with a clash of steel, and the men lost all count of time as they struggled mightily in combat.

For some time the battle raged with unabated fury. The agile, skilful Muslims struck at the heavily armed Persians, but the Persians stood their ground, repulsing all attacks. After an hour or so both sides began to feel tired-the Muslims more so because they were fewer in number and each of them faced several Persians in combat. The Persians had reserves which they employed to replace their men in the front line. However, the example of Khalid kept Muslim spirits undaunted. He was fighting in the front rank.

In particular, during this first phase of the battle, the Muslims gained further confidence from the thrilling spectacle of Khalid's duel with a Persian champion of gigantic proportions known as Hazar Mard, who was said to have been the equal of a thousand warriors. 1 This giant of a man stepped forward and extended a general challenge which was accepted by Khalid. After a few minutes of duelling, Khalid found an opening and felled the man with his sword. When the Persian's body lay quite still, Khalid sat down on his great chest and called out to his slave to bring him his food. Then, seated on this grisly bench, Khalid ate a hearty lunch! 2

The first phase was over. The second phase of the battle began with the counter-attack of the Persians. The experienced eye of Andarzaghar could see clear signs of fatigue on the faces of the Muslims. He judged that this was the right moment for his counter-stroke; and in this he was right. At this command the Persians surged forward and struck at the Muslims. The Muslims were able to hold them for some time, but the Herculean efforts that they were called upon to make placed an almost unbearable strain on their nerves and limbs. Slowly they fell back, though in good order. The Persians launched furious charges, and the Muslims looked to Khalid for any sign of a change in plan or anything to relieve the tension. But from Khalid they got no such sign. He was fighting like a lion and urged his men to do likewise. And his men did likewise.

1. In Persian, Hazar Mard means a thousand men, and this was an appellation given to especially formidable warriors in recognition of their prowess and strength.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 560. Abu Yusuf: p. 142.