The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 26: The Last Opposition

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

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"We attacked them with mounted troops, and they saw
The darkness of death around those leafy gardens.
By morning they said we were a people who had swarmed
Over the fertile country from rugged Arabia."

[ Al-Qa'qa' bin Amr, commander in Khalid's army]1

Khalid had not gone from Ain-ut-Tamr many days when word of his departure arrived at the Persian court. It was believed that Khalid had returned to Arabia with a large part of his army; and Ctesiphon breathed more easily. After a few days, this mood of relief passed and was replaced by an angry desire to throw the Muslims back into the desert and regain the territories and the prestige which the Empire had lost. The Persians had resolved not to fight Khalid again; but they were quite prepared to fight the Muslims without Khalid.

Bahman set to work. By now he had organised a new army, made up partly of the survivors of Ullais, partly of veterans drawn from garrisons in other parts of the Empire, and partly of fresh recruits. This army was now ready for battle. With its numerous raw recruits, however, it was not of the same quality as the armies which had fought Khalid south of the Euphrates. Bahman decided not to commit this army to battle until its strength had been augmented by the large forces of Christian Arabs who remained loyal to the Empire. He therefore initiated parleys with the Arabs.

The Christian Arabs responded willingly and eagerly to the overtures of the Persian court. Apart from the defeat at Ain?ut-Tamr, the incensed Arabs of this area also sought revenge for the killing of their great chief, Aqqa. They were anxious, too, to regain the lands which they had lost to the Muslims, and to free the comrades who had been captured by the invaders. A large number of clans began to prepare for war.

Bahman divided the Persian forces into two field armies and sent them off from Ctesiphon. One, under Ruzbeh, moved to Husaid, and the other, under Zarmahr, moved to Khanafis. For the moment these two armies were located in separate areas for ease of movement and administration, but they were not to proceed beyond these locations until the Christian Arabs were ready for battle. Bahman planned to concentrate the entire imperial army to either await a Muslim attack or march south to fight the Muslims at Hira.

But the Christian Arabs were not yet ready. They were forming into two groups: the first, under a chief named Huzail bin Imran, was concentrating at Muzayyah; the second, under the chief Rabi'a bin Bujair, was gathering at two places close to each other-Saniyy and Zumail (which was also known as Bashar). These two groups, when ready, would join the Persians and form one large, powerful army. (See Map 14 below)

map 1 chapter 26

 

It was while these preparations were in progress that Qaqa, commanding the Iraq front in the absence of Khalid, took counter-measures. He pulled back some of the detachments which Khalid had sent across the Euphrates and concentrated them at Hira. And he sent two regiments forward-one to Husaid and the other to Khanafis. The commanders of these regiments were ordered to remain in contact with the Persian forces at these places, to delay the advance of the Persians, should they decide to push forward, and to keep Qaqa informed of Persian strengths and movements. These regiments moved to their respective objectives and made contact with the Persians. In the mean time, Qaqa kept the rest of the army in readiness to take the field.

This was the situation that greeted Khalid on his arrival at Hira in the fourth week of September 633 (middle of Rajab, 12 Hijri). The situation could assume dangerous proportions, but only if the four imperial forces succeeded in uniting and took offensive action against Hira. Any plan that the Muslims adopted would have to cater for two strategical requirements: (a) to prevent the concentration of the imperial forces into one great, invincible army, and (b) to guard Hira against the enemy in one sector while the Muslims operated against the enemy in the other.

Khalid decided to fight the operation in a way which had now become typical of him. He would take the offensive and destroy each imperial force separately in situ. With this strategy in mind, he divided the Muslim garrison of Hira into two corps, one of which he placed under Qaqa and the other under Abu Laila. Khalid sent them both to Ain-ut-Tamr, where he would join them a little later, after the troops who had fought at Daumat-ul-Jandal had been rested.

A few days later the entire Muslim army was concentrated at Ain-ut-Tamr, except for a small garrison left under Ayadh bin Ghanam to look after Hira. The army was now organised in three corps of about 5,000 men each, one of which was kept in reserve. Khalid sent Qaqa to Husaid and Abu Laila to Khanafis with orders to destroy the Persian armies at those places. The two generals were to take command of the Muslim regiments already deployed in their respective sectors. It was Khalid's intention to fight both Persian armies speedily as well as simultaneously, so that neither could get away while the other was being slashed to pieces. But this was not to be; for the march to Khanafis was longer than to Husaid, and Abu Laila failed to move his forces with sufficient speed to make up for this difference. Meanwhile Khalid remained with his reserve corps at Ain-ut-Tamr to guard against any offensive movement from Saniyy and Zumail towards Hira.

1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, vol. 6 p. 426.