The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 22: The River of Blood

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 3

This information reached Jaban a little before midday, when it was mealtime for the Persian army. The cooks had prepared the soldiers' food, and the Persian soldier, like soldiers of all races and all ages, preferred a hot meal to a cold one and was reluctant to fight on any empty stomach. The Arab auxiliaries, however, were ready for battle.
Jaban looked at his soldiers and the tempting pots of food being brought from the kitchens. Then he looked in the direction from which the Muslims were rapidly approaching in battle array. The soldiers also saw the Muslim army. They were brave men; but they were also hungry men. "Let us eat now", they said to Jaban. "We will fight later."

"I fear", replied Jaban, "that the enemy will not let you eat in peace." 1

"No!" said the Persians, disobeying their commander. "Eat now; fight later!" The meal-cloths were spread on the ground and steaming dishes were laid out upon them. The soldiers sat down to eat. They thought they had time. Meanwhile the Arab auxiliaries, less sophisticated in their eating habits, had formed up for action.

The Persians had eaten but one or two mouthfuls when it became evident that the Muslims were about to assault. If they delayed battle any longer, a full belly would be of no use to them, for they would be slaughtered anyway. Hurriedly they left their dishes; and as hurriedly Jaban deployed them on the battlefield along with the Arabs. He was not a minute too soon. He used the Christian Arabs to form the wings of his army, under the chiefs Abdul-Aswad and Abjar, and massed his Persian troops in the centre.

The battlefield ran south-east of Ullais between the Euphrates and The River. The Persian army was deployed with its back to Ullais, while in front of it was arrayed the army of Islam. The northern flank of both armies rested on the Euphrates and their southern flank on the river. The battle front was about 2 miles from river to river.

It was a very hard battle. The Battle of Walaja had been the fiercest battle of the campaign so far, but his was fiercer still. This became a battle that Khalid would never forget.

We do not know the details of the manoeuvres and other actions which took place in the battle. We know that Khalid killed the Arab commander, Abdul-Aswad, in personal combat. We know that the imperial army, though losing heavily in men, would not yield before the assaults of the Muslims. If ever an army meant to fight it out to the last, it was the imperial army of Ullais. The Arab auxiliaries were indeed fighting a do-or-die for if this battle were lost then nothing could save Hira. The Persians fought to vindicate the honour of Persian arms.

For a couple of hours the slogging continued. The fighting was heaviest on the bank of the river, where a large number of Persians fell in combat. The Muslims-tired, angry, frustrated-could see no opening, no weakening of the Persian and Arab resistance. Then Khalid raised his hands in supplication and prayed to Allah:

"O Lord! If You give us victory, I shall see that
no enemy warrior is left alive until their river runs with
their blood!"
2

The Muslims renewed their assaults with greater fury; and Allah gave them victory. Early in the afternoon the imperial army was shattered and its soldiers fled from the battlefield. Thousands lay dead, especially in, and on the bank of, the river whose sandy bed was red with their blood.

As the Persian army fled from the battlefield, Khalid launched his cavalry after it. "Do not kill them", he ordered the cavalry. "Bring them back alive." 3 The bed of the river was soaked with blood ... but the river was not "running with blood" as Khalid had pledged!

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 561.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 561.
3. Ibid.