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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Qaqa marched to Husaid, and Abu Laila followed him out of Ain-ut-Tamr on his way to Khanafis, both proceeding on separate routes to their objectives. As Qaqa neared his objective, Ruzbeh, the Persian commander at Husaid, sent an appeal for help to Zarmahr, the Persian commander at Khanafis. Zarmahr would not send his army to Husaid, because he had to have Bahman's permission before he could move the army from Khanafis. But he went to Husaid in person to see things for himself, and arrived just in time to take part in the Battle of Husaid, which was fought about the middle of October 633 (first week of Shaban, 12 Hijri).

As soon as Qaqa arrived at Husaid, he deployed his corps and launched it against the Persian army, which was much larger in strength. Ruzbeh was slain by Qaqa. Zarmahr also stepped forward with a challenge which was accepted by a Muslim officer who killed him. There was no dearth of courage among the Persians, but they were nevertheless roundly defeated by Qaqa and driven from the battlefield. Leaving behind a large number of dead, the Persians retreated in haste to Khanafis, where they joined the other Persian army, now under the command of another general, named Mahbuzan.

The Persian survivors of Husaid arrived at Khanafis only a short while before the corps of Abu Laila. Reports of the Muslims' approach had been received. Being a sensible general, Mahbuzan drew the right lesson from the defeat at Husaid and decided to avoid battle with the Muslims. Setting off at once from Khanafis, he moved to Muzayyah where he joined the Arab force gathered under the command of Huzail bin Imran. So Abu Laila arrived at Khanafis to find the Persians gone. He occupied Khanafis and informed Khalid of the departure of the Persians for Muzayyah.

At Ain-ut-Tamr Khalid heard of the defeat of the Persian army at Husaid. He next heard of the movement of the second Persian army, along with the remnants of the first, from Khanafis to Muzayyah. This move left Ctesiphon uncovered and vulnerable to attack, though it would no doubt have a garrison for local defence. Muzayyah now contained the strongest concentration of imperial forces. The Arab concentrations at Saniyy and Zumail, on the other hand, ceased to be a threat to Hira, as with the reverses suffered by the Persians at Husaid and Khanafis, these Arabs were not likely to venture out of their camps with aggressive intentions.

Khalid now had a choice of three objectives: the imperial capital, the imperial army at Muzayyah, and the Arab force at Saniyy and Zumail. He considered the possibility of attacking Ctesiphon, but discarded it for two reasons. Firstly, according to Tabari, he feared the displeasure of the Caliph which he would earn by an attack on Ctesiphon. 1 Abu Bakr apparently did not wish it. Secondly, and this was a purely military consideration, by advancing to Ctesiphon he would expose his flank and rear to the strong forces at Muzayyah. These forces could then either attack him in the rear while he was engaged with Ctesiphon, or advance and capture his base at Hira, severing his communications with the desert.

Of the two remaining objectives, Khalid selected Muzayyah. The other was a smaller objective and could be dealt with later without difficulty. By now the exact location of the imperial camp at Muzayyah had been established by Khalid's agents, and to deal with this objective he designed a manoeuvre which, seldom practised in history, is one of the most difficult to control and co-ordinate-a simultaneous converging attack from three directions made at night.

Khalid first issued orders for the move. The three corps would march from their respective locations at Husaid, Khanafis and Ain-ut-Tamr along separate routes he had specified between the Euphrates and the Saniyy-Zumail line, and meet on a given night and at a given hour at a place a few miles short of Muzayyah. This move was carried out as planned, and the three corps concentrated at the appointed place. Here Khalid gave orders for the attack. He laid down the time of the attack and the three separate directions from which the three corps would fall upon the unsuspecting enemy. He was putting his army to a severe test of precision; only a highly efficient military machine could carry out such a finely timed manoeuvre at night.

1. For Khalid's mission is Iraq, see Note 4 on Appendix B.