The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 22: The River of Blood

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


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Meanwhile messengers from the surviving Christian Arabs of the Bani Bakr arrived at Ctesiphon and informed the Emperor of their situation. They had sought the help of their fellow-Arabs inhabiting the region between Ullais and Hira; in response thousands of Arabs were even now marching to join the Bani Bakr at Ullais where they would fight a do-or-die battle with Khalid. Would not the Emperor help by sending another army of Persian warriors to join hands with his loyal Arabs subjects and save the Empire?

The Emperor would. He sent orders to Bahman who was still north of the Euphrates. On hearing of Walaja, Bahman had stopped in his tracks and decided not to move until he received further instructions. Now he got the Emperor's order to proceed with his army to Ullais, take under his command the Arab contingents assembled there, and bar Khalid's way to Hira.

But Bahman did not himself go to Ullais. He sent the army under his next senior general, one named Jaban, to whom he passed on the instructions of the Emperor. And Bahman added, "Avoid battle until I join you, unless it is forced upon you." 1 As Jaban set off with the army, Bahman returned to Ctesiphon. We do not know the purpose of his journey to the capital, we only know that he wished to discuss certain matters with the Emperor. He arrived at Ctesiphon to find Emperor Ardsheer very ill and remained in attendance on his master.

Jaban moved with his army to Ullais and found a vast gathering of Christian Arabs who had come from the region of Hira and Amghishiya. All had by now realised that Khalid's mission was to take Hira, and felt that Khalid's success would mean more bloodshed and enslavement. To prevent this, they had come to fight Khalid and, if necessary, die fighting. Jaban assumed command of the entire army, the Christian Arab part of which was commanded by a chieftain named Abdul-Aswad, who had lost two sons at Walaja and was burning for revenge. Persian and Arab camped side by side with the Euphrates to their left, the Khaseef to their right and the river junction behind them.

According to the early historians there was a river here which came into prominence as a result of actions taken on conclusion of the Battle of Ullais, as we shall shortly see. This river may once have been a canal, for it was dammed at its junction with the Euphrates just above Ullais, but at the time of the battle the river was dry, or almost dry, because the dam was closed. The Muslims referred to this river as just the river. I place this river as the Khaseef (which is now a fair-sized river), for there is no space at Ullais for another river or canal. Since, however, the name Khaseef may not have been in use at that time, it is hereafter referred to as The River.

Before the arrival of Jaban and the Persians, Muthanna and his light cavalry had appeared at Ullais and made contact with the Christian Arabs. Muthanna informed Khalid of the enemy position, strength and apparent intention to fight. Khalid increased his pace, hoping to catch the Christian Arabs before they were reinforced by other Persian forces. But Jaban beat him to Ullais, perhaps by a few hours; and again Khalid was faced by an enormous army. Again he determined to kill as many enemy warriors as he could lay his hands on, so that fewer would appear against him in the next battle. He also decided to fight the very same day; for the longer battle was delayed the more time the Persians would have to get organised and co-ordinate their plans. It was now the middle of May 633 (end of Safar, 12 Hijri).

Khalid stopped just long enough on the march to array his army in battle formation, appointing Adi bin Hatim and Asim bin Amr once again as the commanders of his wings, before he started the advance towards Ullais. This time no outflanking movements were possible, and he would rely for victory on the speed and violence of his attack rather than on manoeuvre. The Muslim advance to battle continued for some time before Jaban came to know that he was about to be attacked.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 560.