The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 28: Deeper into Syria

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


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When the columns sent by Khalid arrived at Sukhna and Qadma, they were received joyfully by the inhabitants, who had heard of the generous terms given the day before to Arak. They were only too willing to make friends. There was no trouble at these places and the columns returned to the army without any bloodshed.

At Tadmur, the garrison locked itself in the fort, but hardly had the Muslims arrived and surrounded the fort, when parleys were started for a peaceful surrender. Soon after a surrender was negotiated in which the inhabitants of Tadmur agreed to pay the Jizya and feed and shelter any Muslim warrior passing by their town. The Arab chief of Tadmur also presented Khalid with a prize horse, which he used in several battles of this campaign.

From Tadmur the army marched to Qaryatain, the inhabitants of which resisted the Muslims. They were fought, defeated and plundered.

The next stop was Huwareen (about 10 miles beyond Qaryatain) which contained large herds of cattle. As the Muslims started gathering in the cattle, they were attacked by thousands of Arabs. These were the local inhabitants reinforced by a contingent of the Ghassan from Busra, which had hastened to help their comrades in Huwareen. They too were defeated and plundered.

The following morning the advance was resumed in the direction of Damascus, and after three days of marching the army arrived at a pass about 20 miles from Damascus. This pass lies between the present Azra and Qutaifa and crosses a gently sloping ridge which rises gradually to a height of over 2,000 feet above the level of the surrounding countryside. The ridge is part of the range known as Jabal-ush-Sharq, which is an offshoot of the Anti-Lebanon Range and runs in a north-easterly direction to Tadmur. The pass itself, not a formidable one, is quite long. Khalid stopped at the highest part of it, and here he planted his standard. As a result of this action the pass became known as Saniyyat-ul-Uqab, i.e. the Pass of the Eagle, after the name of Khalid's standard, but is sometimes referred to as just Al Saniyya. 1 At this pass Khalid stayed an hour with his standard fluttering in the breeze, and gazed at the Ghuta of Damascus. From where he stood, he could not see the city itself, because it was concealed from view by a rise of ground which stretches east?west, north of the city, but he marvelled at the richness and beauty of the Ghuta.2

From the Pass of the Eagle, Khalid moved to Marj Rahit, a large Ghassan town near the present Azra on the road to Damascus. 3 The Muslims arrived in time to participate in a joyous festival of the Ghassan, which participation took the form of a violent raid! At Marj Rahit had gathered a large number of refugees from the region over which Khalid had recently operated, and these refugees mingled with the crowds celebrating the festival. The Ghassan were not unmindful of the danger which Khalid's entry into Syria posed for them. They had positioned a strong screen of warriors on the route from Tadmur, below the pass; but this screen was scattered in a few minutes by a swift charge of the Muslim cavalry. Although some Ghassan resistance continued as the Muslims advanced, it ceased once the town was reached. The Muslims raided Marj Rahit. After a little while having collected a large amount of booty and a certain number of captives, Khalid pulled out of the town and camped outside.

The following morning he sent a strong mounted column towards Damascus with the task of raiding the Ghuta. Then, having sent a messenger to Abu Ubaidah with instructions to report to him at Busra, Khalid himself set off for Busra with the main body of the army, by-passing Damascus. The mounted column sent to Damascus reached the neighbourhood of the city, picked up more booty and captives, and rejoined Khalid while he was still on the march.

The minor operations following Khalid's entry into Syria were now over.

1. Yaqut: (Vol. 1, p. 936) gives the location of this pass as above the Ghuta of Damascus, on the Emessa Road.
2. The Ghuta was, and still is, a green, fertile, well-watered plain, covered with crops, orchards and villages, lying all round Damascus, except to the west and north?west, where stand the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Range. It formed an irregular D with its base on the foothills, and stretched up to about 10 miles from Damascus.
3. Marj Rahit, which was also a meadow, has been placed by Masudi (Muruj, Vol. 3, p.12: he calls it Marj Azra) 12 miles from Damascus. This would be about the centre of the meadow and the location of the town.