The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 29: The Battle of Ajnadein

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


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As part of his preparations for battle, which in fact did not take place until some days later, Khalid decided to send a brave scout to carry out a close reconnaissance of the Roman camp. Dhiraar volunteered for the job and was sent forward accordingly. The youth stripped to the waist and rode up to a little hillock not far from the centre of the Roman camp. Here he was seen, and a body of 30 Romans rode out to catch him. As they approached, Dhiraar began to canter back to the Muslim camp; and when they drew nearer, Dhiraar increased his pace. His purpose was to draw these Romans away from their camp, so that others should not be able to come to their assistance. When he had reached a spot between the two armies, Dhiraar turned on his pursuers and attacked the one nearest him with his lance. After bringing him down, Dhiraar assaulted a second and a third and a fourth and so he continued, throughout the combat manoeuvring his horse in such a way that he should not have to tackle more than one man at a time. Against some he used his sword also; and it is believed that he killed 19 of the Romans before the remainder turned and galloped back to their camp. That night the Roman camp was full of stories of the dreaded Naked Champion.

On his return Dhiraar was greeted with joy by the Muslims; but Khalid looked at him sternly and rebuked him for engaging in combat when the task given to him was reconnaissance. To this Dhiraar replied that he was conscious of the possible disapproval of his commander, and that but for this he would have pursued the fleeing Romans to kill every one of them!

Following this incident, Qubuqlar, the Roman deputy commander, sent a Christian Arab to enter the Muslim camp, spend a day and a night with the Muslims and gather all possible information about the strength and quality of the Muslim army. This Christian Arab had no difficulty in entering the Muslim camp, as he was taken for a Muslim. The following day he slipped out and returned to Qubuqlar, who questioned him about the Muslims, "By night they are like monks, by day like warriors", said the spy. "If the son of their ruler were to commit theft, they would cut off his hand; and if he were to commit adultery, they would stone him to death. Thus they establish righteousness among themselves."

"If what you say be true", remarked Qubuqlar, "it would be better to be in the belly of the earth than to meet such a people upon its surface. I wish it were my portion from Allah to stay away from them, so that He would not have to help either me against them or them against me." 1

Wardan, the Commander-in-Chief, was full of fight; but Qubuqlar had lost his nerve.

Early in the morning of July 30, 634 (the 28th of Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 13 Hijri), as the men finished their morning prayers, Khalid ordered the move to battle positions, detailed instructions for which had been given the day before. The Muslims moved forward and formed up for battle on the plain a few hundred yards ahead of the camp. Khalid deployed his army facing west on a front of about 5 miles, stretched sufficiently to prevent the more numerous Roman army from overlapping his flanks. The army was deployed with a centre and two strong wings. On either side of the army, next to the wing, as an extension of the front, was positioned a flank guard to counter any Roman attempt to envelop the Muslim flanks or to outflank their position entirely.

The centre was placed under Muadh bin Jabal, the left wing under Saeed bin Amir and the right wing under Abdur-Rahman, the Caliph's son. We also know that the left flank guard was commanded by Shurahbil, but the name of the commander of the right flank guard is not recorded. Behind the centre, Khalid placed 4,000 men under Yazeed, as a reserve and for the close protection of the Muslim camp in which the women and children stayed. Khalid's place was near the centre, where he kept a number of officers near him to be used as champions or as commanders of groups needed for any specific task in battle. These included Amr bin Al Aas, Dhiraar, Raafe and Umar's son, Abdullah.

When the Romans saw the Muslims moving, they also rushed out and began to form up in their battle positions about half a mile from the Muslim front line. They formed up on about the same frontage, but had much greater depth in their dispositions, the detailed layout of which is not known. Wardan and Qubuqlar stood surrounded by their bodyguards in the centre. The massive formations of the Romans, carrying large crosses and banners, were an awe-inspiring sight.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 610.