The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 29: The Battle of Ajnadein

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 8

The Roman army had been torn to pieces.

It was a complete victory. The Romans had been fought in a set-piece battle after the regular imperial fashion, and were not only defeated tactically but also slaughtered mercilessly. The Roman army assembled at Ajnadein had ceased to exist as an army, although a sizable Portion of it managed to get away, especially the part that fled to Jerusalem and found safety within its walls. In the first great encounter between Islam and Byzantium, the followers of Muhammad had conquered.

It had been a full and fierce battle, but without any fine manoeuvres. The Roman army had not attempted any outflanking movement, since it was too large and too cumbersome to do so. The Muslims had not because their army was comparatively small, and manoeuvres against the flanks and rear of the enemy could only have been carried out by weakening the centre-a clearly unjustifiable risk. Hence this had been a frontal clash of massed bodies of men in which Muslim leadership and the courage and skill of the warriors prevailed over the great size of the Roman legions. The only choice of manoeuvre available to Khalid had been to time his assaults to get the maximum benefit from the prevailing situation, which he did as has been described. And of course, when the Roman army broke, Khalid showed his typical drive by organising the pursuit to ensure that as many Romans as possible were brought down before the rest reached a place of safety.

Victory in the Battle of Ajnadein opened the way for the conquest of Syria. This land could not, of course, be conquered with a single battle; for large imperial forces remained in the cities of Syria and Palestine, and the Roman Emperor could draw on the resources of the whole Empire, which stretched from Armenia to the Balkans. But the first great clash With the Romans was over; and the Muslims could now continue their campaign with the confidence that they would have no less success in the mighty battles that undoubtedly lay ahead.

Three days after the battle, according to Waqidi, Khalid wrote to Abu Bakr and informed him of the battle, giving the Roman casualties as 50,000 dead at the cost of only 450 Muslims. 1 The Roman Commander-in-Chief, his deputy, and several top generals of the Roman army had been killed. Khalid also informed the Caliph that he would shortly march on Damascus. At Madinah the news of this victory was received with joy and shouts of Allah-o-Akbar, and more volunteers came forward to join the holy war in Syria. These included Abu Sufyan, who, along with his wife, the redoubtable Hind, journeyed to Syria to join the corps of his son, Yazeed. In reply to Khalid's letter, Abu Bakr wrote to him to besiege Damascus until it was conquered, and thereafter attack Emessa and Antioch. Khalid was not, however, to advance beyond the northern frontier of Syria.

Heraclius was at Emessa when the news of the crushing defeat of the Roman army struck him like a bolt from the sky. Heraclius felt devastated. He journeyed to Antioch; and expecting the Muslims to advance on Damascus, ordered the remnants of the Roman army at Jerusalem (but not its local garrison) to intercept the Muslims at Yaqusa and delay their advance. (See Map 16) At the same time he ordered more forces into motion towards Damascus to strengthen that city and prepare for a siege.

A week after the Battle of Ajnadein, Khalid marched with the Muslim army and, again by-passing Jerusalem from the south, moved towards Damascus. At Fahl, which held a strong Roman garrison, he left a mounted detachment under Abul A'war to keep the garrison tied down in the fort; with the rest of the army he moved on and reached the bank of the River Yarmuk at Yaqusa, 2 where he was again faced by Roman forces on the north bank. The Romans were not in a position to offer serious resistance, as they were still shaken by their defeat at Ajnadein; their main purpose here was only a rear-guard action to gain more time for the reinforcement of Damascus. Nevertheless a battle did take place at Yaqusa in mid-August 634 (mid-Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 13 Hijri), and the Romans were again defeated. 3

The Romans fell back in haste; and Khalid advanced upon Damascus.

1. Waqidi: p. 42.
2. Also known as Waqusa.
3. Some early writers, including Tabari, appear to have confused this action at Yaqusa with the Battle of Yarmuk, which was fought in the same general area, and have given the year of Yarmuk as 13 Hijri, which is incorrect.