The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 24: Anbar and Ain-ut-Tamr

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


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For the assault he selected a point where the moat was, narrowest, near the main gate of the fort. He placed his archers in a position from which they could shoot at enemy archers on that part of the wall which overlooked the crossing site, and gave them the task of preventing the enemy archers from shooting at the moat.

Khalid then ordered the collection of all the old and weak camels of the army. These jaded animals were led forward to the edge of the moat and under the covering fire provided by the Muslim archers, were slaughtered in twos and threes and thrown into the moat. Rapidly the pile of carcasses rose until it formed a firm though uneven bridge above the level of the water. Then a group of Khalid's warriors, on receiving his command, rushed on to the bridge of flesh and bone and crossed over to the far side of the moat.

As these warriors prepared to scale the wall, the gate of the fort opened and a body of Persians sallied out to drive the Muslims into the moat. There was some vicious fighting between the two groups, but the Muslims succeeded in repulsing this counterattack; and the Persians, fearing that the Muslims might get into the fort by the gate, withdrew hastily and closed the gate behind them. All this while the Muslim archers kept shooting at the Persian and Arab archers on the wall, making it impossible for them to interfere with the bridge-building and the crossing operation.
Khalid was about to order the scaling of the wall when an emissary of Sheerzad appeared on the gate and delivered another offer from the governor: he would surrender the fort if the Muslims would let him and the Persians depart in safety. Khalid took another look at the wall. He could see that it's scaling and the subsequent fighting inside the fort would not be easy. So he told the envoy that he would agree to the terms provided the Persians left all their possessions behind.

Sheerzad was only too glad to be allowed to get away, and accepted Khalid's terms with relief. The next day the Persian soldiers and their families departed for Ctesiphon and the Muslims entered the fort. The Christian Arabs laid down their arms and agreed to pay the Jizya. This happened in the second week of July 633 (end of Rabi-ul-Akhir, 12 Hijri). Over the next few days, Khalid received the submission of all the clans living in the neighbourhood of Anbar.

Sheerzad journeyed with the Persian garrison to Ctesiphon, where he was severely rebuked by Bahman. Like any ineffective commander, Sheerzad blamed his troops-in this case the Christian Arabs. "I was among a people who have no sense," he lamented, "and whose roots are among the Arabs." 1

Khalid appointed an administrator over Anbar, and then once again set out with the army. He recrossed the Euphrates and marched south. As he neared Ain-ut-Tamr, he found a purely Arab army deployed across his path in battle array.

Ain-ut-Tamr was a large town surrounded by date plantations, and is believed to have been named after its dates: Ain-ut-Tamr means Spring of Dates. 2 Garrisoned by Persian soldiers and Arab auxiliaries, this town was in a much stronger position than Anbar to oppose the advance of Khalid. The Persian commander of Ain-ut-Tamr was Mahran bin Bahram Jabeen who was not only an able general but also a wily politician. The Persian garrison of Ain-ut-Tamr was larger, and the Arabs here belonged to the proud, fierce tribe of Namr which considered itself second to none. And there were Christian Arab clans which joined the Namr to put up a united front against the Muslims. The commander of all the Arabs was a renowned chief, Aqqa bin Abi Aqqa.

When Arab scouts brought word of the Muslims marching from Anbar in the direction of Ain-ut-Tamr, Aqqa went to the Persian commander. "Arabs know best how to fight Arabs." he said. "Let me deal with Khalid."

Mahran nodded agreement. "True", he observed wisely. "You know better how to fight Arabs. And when it comes to fighting non-Arabs you are like us." 3

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 575.
2. Ain-ut-Tamr, of which nothing remains but a spring, was located 10 miles west-north-west of the present Shisasa. Shisasa is also called Ain-ut-Tamr these days, but the original Spring of Dates was situated as indicated above.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 576.