The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 26: The Last Opposition

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 5

If Khalid had hoped that he would not be recognised in Makkah, he was mistaken. He had hardly got back from the raid on Baghdad when he received a letter from Abu Bakr warning him "not to do it again!" The warning was accompanied by another great mission: Khalid was to proceed to Syria. The Campaign in Iraq was over. 1

The invasion of Iraq was a splendid success. The Muslims had fought several bloody battles with Persian armies much larger in size, and they not only won every battle but also inflicted crushing defeats on the Persians and their Arab auxiliaries. And the Persian Army was the most fearsome military machine of the time!

Khalid's strategy in this campaign, and it was one from which he never deviated, was to fight his battles close to the desert, with his routes to the desert open in case he should suffer a reverse. The desert was not only a haven of security into which the Persians would not venture but also a region of free, fast movement in which he could move easily and rapidly to any objective that he chose. He did not enter deep into Iraq until the Persian Army had lost its ability to threaten his routes to the desert.

The Persian military strategy was conditioned by the political necessity of defending the imperial borders, and this led to their fighting their battles with the Muslims on the boundary between the desert and the sown, as Khalid wished. But within this political limitation, they followed a sound course and planned a massive concentration of strength for battle. Qarin should have joined Hormuz; Bahman should have joined Andarzaghar; and Ruzbeh and Zarmahr should have joined the Arab forces at Muzayyah and Saniyy-Zurmail. Had these combinations taken place, the campaign may have taken an altogether different course. But they did not take place, thanks to Khalid's fast movement and his deliberate design to bring the various armies to battle one by one, separating them from each other in time and space.

The main instruments that Khalid used to make his ambitious manoeuvres successful were the fighting quality of the Muslims and the mobility of the army. These he exploited to the limits of human and animal endurance. Though only part of his army was actual cavalry, the entire army was camel mounted for movement and could strike at the decisive place and the decisive time as its commander wished. It could move fast enough to fight a battle at A, and then be present at B for another battle before the enemy could react.

There is no record of the strength of the Persian forces which faced Khalid in the various battles, or of the casualties suffered by either side. Certain casualty figures given for the Persians are probably exaggerated. What is certain is that they were very large armies and suffered staggering losses, especially at Walaja, Ullais, Muzayyah and Saniyy-Zumail, where they ceased to exist as effective fighting forces. The Persian armies that faced Khalid at Kazima, MaqiI, Walaja and Ullais probably numbered between 30,000 and 50,000 men. An enemy force up to two or three times their strength would not worry Khalid and his stalwarts. They would take it in their stride. Nor would armies of this size be too large by Persian standards. (At the Battle of Qadissiyah, fought three years later, the Persians fielded an army of 60,000 men!) As for Muslim casualties, considering that the army remained at a high level of effectiveness throughout the campaign, they must have been light.

Above all, it was the personality of Khalid that made the invasion of Iraq possible and successful against such staggering odds. He was the first of the illustrious Muslim commanders who set out to conquer foreign lands and redraw the political and religious map of the world. He imposed no hardship upon his men which he did not bear himself. It was the limitless faith which his warriors had in the Sword of Allah that made it possible for them to brave such dangers.

Khalid swept across Iraq like a violent storm. Like a violent storm he would now dash to Syria and strike the armies of another proud empire-Eastern Rome.

1. For an explanation of the dates of the battles in this campaign see Note 7 in Appendix B.