The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 28: Deeper into Syria

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


Page: 3

Abu Ubaidah had already occupied the District of Hauran which lay north-east of the river Yarmuk. Under his command he had three corps of the Muslim army-his own, Yazeed's and Shurahbil's, but he had fought no battles and captured no towns. One place which worried him a great deal was Busra, a large town which was the capital of the Ghassan Kingdom. It was garrisoned by a strong force of Romans and Christian Arabs under the command of Roman officers.

While Khalid was clearing the region of Eastern Syria, Abu Ubaidah came to know that he would come under Khalid's command upon the latter's arrival. He decided to take Busra quickly, so that Khalid would not have to worry about this problem. He therefore sent Shurahbil with 4,000 men to capture Busra. Shurahbil marched to Busra, the garrison of which withdrew into the fortified town as soon as the Muslims appeared in sight. This garrison consisted of 12,000 soldiers, but expecting that more Muslim forces would soon arrive and that Shurahbil's detachment was only an advance guard, it remained within the walls of the fort. Shurahbil camped on the western side of the town, and positioned groups of his men all round the fort.

For two days nothing happened. The following day, as Khalid set out on the last day of his march to Busra, the garrison of the town came out to give battle to the Muslims outside the city. Both forces formed up for battle; but first there were talks between Shurahbil and the Roman commander, at which the Muslim offered the usual alternatives, Islam, the Jizya, or the sword. The Romans chose the sword, and in the middle of the morning the battle began.

For the first two hours or so the fighting continued at a steady pace with neither side making any headway; but soon after midday, the superior strength of the Romans began to tell and the battle turned in their favour. The Romans were able to move forces around both Muslim flanks, and the fighting increased in intensity. The temper of the Muslims became suicidal as the real danger of their position became evident and they fought ferociously to avoid encirclement, which appeared to be the Roman design. By early afternoon the Roman wings had moved further forward, and the encirclement of Shurahbil's force became a virtual certainty. Then suddenly the combatants became aware of a powerful force of cavalry galloping in mass towards the battlefield from the northwest.

Khalid was about a mile from Busra when the wind carried the sounds of battle to him. He immediately ordered the men to horse, and as soon as the cavalry was ready, led it a gallop towards the battlefield. Beside him rode Abdur-Rahman bin Abi Bakr. But Khalid and the Romans never met. As soon as the Romans discovered the arrival of the Muslim cavalry, they broke contact from Shurahbil and withdrew hastily into the fort. The Muslims under Shurahbil came to regard this occurrence as a miracle: the Sword of Allah had been sent to save them from destruction!

Shurahbil was a brave and pious Muslim in his mid-sixties. A close Companion of the Prophet, he was one of those who used to write down the revelations of the Prophet, and consequently became know as a scribe of the Messenger of Allah. As often as not, he was addressed by this title. As a general, he was competent and sound, having learnt a great deal about the art of war from Khalid, under whom he had fought at Yamamah and in the Iraq Campaign.

It took only a glance for Khalid to assess the relative strengths of the Muslims and the Romans and he wondered why Shurahbil had not awaited his arrival before engaging the garrison at Busra. As soon as the two met and greeted each other, Khalid said, "O Shurahbil! Do you not know that this is an important frontier town of the Romans and contains a large garrison commanded by a distinguished general? Why did you go into battle with such a small force?"

"By the order of Abu Ubaidah", replied Shurahbil. Thereupon, Khalid remarked, "Abu Ubaidah is a man of the purest character, but he does not know the stratagems of war." 1