The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 27: The Perilous March

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 7

With these words ringing in his ears, Yazeed set off from Madinah. The invasion of Syria had been launched.

Yazeed made good speed on the road to Tabuk. Behind him marched the corps of Shurahbil, and behind that the corps of Abu Ubaidah, each a day's march from the other. Amr bin Al Aas marched with his corps on the western route to Eila. Yazeed had advanced two or three stages beyond Tabuk when he first contacted the enemy-a force of Christian Arabs sent forward by the Romans as a reconnaissance element. These Arabs withdrew hastily after a brush with the Muslim advance guard. Following their withdrawal, Yazeed made for the Valley of Araba where it meets the southern end of the Dead Sea. (See Map 16)

Yazeed arrived at the Valley of Araba at about the same time as Amr bin Al Aas reached Eila. Both corps now made contact with Roman forces of about equal strength which had been sent forward from the main Roman army to prevent the Muslims from entering Palestine. Both Yazeed and Amr bin Al Aas fought the Roman detachments facing them and drove them back with heavy losses. When the Romans defeated by Yazeed withdrew in precipitous haste, Yazeed sent a fast column which overtook the retreating detachment at Dasin, some distance short of Gaza, and caused it considerable damage before rejoining Yazeed at the Valley of Araba. Meanwhile Amr bin Al Aas was moving north along this valley. These engagements took place within a fortnight of the start of the Muslim march from Madinah.

While these actions were being fought by the corps of Yazeed-which had strayed from the objective given by the Caliph-Shurahbil and Abu Ubaidah continued their march northwards on the main route: Ma'an-Mutah-Amman. They were followed a little later by Yazeed. By the end of the month of Safar (early May) Shurahbil and Abu Ubaidah had got to the region between Busra and Jabiya; 1 Yazeed was camped somewhere in North-Eastern Jordan; and Amr waited by the Valley of Araba. It was at this stage that the Muslims came to realise that the Roman eagle was stirring. Indeed the Roman eagle was already on the wing!

The Emperor Heraclius was in Emessa, planning countermeasures against the Muslims. When he first heard of the crushing defeats suffered by the Persian Army at the hands of Khalid, he was not a little surprised, for he had had no higher opinion of the Arabs than did the Persian court once have. But he was not unduly worried. Then came news of the fiasco of Khalid bin Saeed, and Heraclius felt reassured. However, as a precaution, he ordered the positioning of several Roman legions at Ajnadein, whence they could operate against any Muslim force entering Palestine or Jordan.

As the Muslim corps set off from Madinah, the Roman army received intelligence of the move from Christian Arabs. Apprised of the latest situation and the direction of the Muslim movement, Heraclius realized that this was a serious attempt at the invasion of his domain. Soon after this he heard of the defeat of the Roman covering forces sent from Ajnadein at the hands of the leading corps of the Muslim army. He decided to punish these rough intruders and throw them back into the desert whence they had come. On his orders, large detachments of the Roman army began preparations for a move to Ajnadein from garrisons in Palestine and Syria.

By now the Muslim commanders had established contacts with the local population and laid the foundations of an intelligence network. They had already come to know of the existence of a Roman army at Ajnadein. A few days later they received intelligence of the movement of more Roman legions in the direction of Ajnadein; and all corps commanders sent messages to Abu Ubaidah informing him of these moves. Three corps of the Muslim army were in more or less the same region-i.e., Eastern Jordan and Southern Syria-and Abu Ubaidah at once took these corps under his command. Amr bin Al Aas was more isolated from the others and felt that the Roman preparations were being made against his corps. He therefore sought help from Abu Ubaidah.

1. Masudi (Muruj, Vol. 4, p. 66) gives the location of Jabiya as 2 miles from Jasim. It was a little to the west of the present Jasim-Nawa line, and after the arrival of the Muslims, became known as a military cantonment.