The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 30: The Conquest of Damascus

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


Page: 7

The loss of Dhiraar had a depressing effect on the Muslims, but Raafe was a worthy successor to the dashing Dhiraar. Taking command, he launched several attacks to get through to Dhiraar and rescue him; but his efforts proved fruitless, and the action turned into a stalemate. Raafe realised that there was nothing that he could do to break the Roman force deployed in front of him; and in the afternoon he sent a message to Khalid telling him about the engagement, about the enemy strength and about the loss of Dhiraar-probably still alive as a prisoner.

The sun was still well above the horizon when Khalid received news of this engagement. He realised that the Roman strength at Bait Lihya was too large for Raafe to tackle on his own. And this placed Khalid in a serious dilemma. The Roman relief column had to be defeated and driven back towards Emessa, and this could be done quickly only if Khalid himself took command at Bait Lihya with a sizable reinforcement from Damascus. Failing this, the Roman relief column would have every chance of breaking through the Muslim blocking force, and this could have a disastrous effect on the Muslim siege of Damascus. But there was also the problem of timing. If an immediate move were made to reinforce Raafe, the Roman garrison would observe the move and sally out to break the grip of the weakened besieging force. The relieving Romans at Bait Lihya had to be beaten; yet the besieged Romans in Damascus had to be kept in the dark about the movement of Muslim reinforcements from Damascus. Khalid decided to risk a delay and carry out on move till the latter part of the night, by when the beleaguered garrison would be less likely to discover the move.

Preparations wore made accordingly. The command at Damascus was taken over by Abu Ubaidah who would see to the siege operations during Khalid's absence. After midnight a detachment of 1,000 Muslim warriors under Maisara bin Masruq took up positions at the East Gate and some other readjustments were made at the other gates. Then, some time between midnight and dawn, Khalid set off with his Mobile Guard of 4,000 horses. The Guard moved swiftly through the remainder of the night and early the following morning arrived at the scene of battle between Raafe and the Romans. The fighting was continuing on this second day of battle with no decision in sight. Indeed the Muslims were now tired of attacking the Romans who stood like a rock against the Muslim assaults.

As Khalid approached the battlefield he suddenly saw a Muslim rider flash past him from behind and gallop off towards the Roman front. Before Khalid could stop him, he was gone. A slim, lightly-built person, dressed in black, this rider wore a breastplate and was armed with a sword and a long lance. He sported a green turban and had a scarf wrapped around his face, acting as a mask, with only his eyes visible. Khalid arrived on the battlefield in time to see this rider throw himself at the Romans with such fury that everyone present thought that he and his horse must both be mad. Raafe saw this rider before he saw Khalid and remarked, "He attacks like Khalid, but he is clearly not Khalid." 1 Then Khalid joined Raafe.

Khalid took a little time to organize Raafe's group and his own Mobile Guard into one and deploy it as a combined force for battle. Meanwhile the masked rider treated the Muslims to a thrilling display of horsemanship and attacks with the lance. He would go charging on his own, strike the Roman front atone point and kill a man; then go galloping away to another part of the front, again strike someone in the Roman front line and so on. A few Romans came forward to tackle him but all went down before his terrible lance. Marvelling at this wondrous sight, the Muslims could still see nothing more of the warrior than a youthful figure and a pair of bright eyes shining above the mask. The rider appeared bent on suicide as with his clothes and lance covered with blood, he struck again and again at the Romans. The example of this warrior put fresh courage into the men of Raafe, who forgot their fatigue and went into battle with renewed high spirits as Khalid gave the order to attack.

The masked rider, now joined by many others, continued his personal war against the Romans as the entire Muslim force attacked the Roman front. Soon after the general attack had begun, Khalid got near this rider and called, "O warrior, show us your face." A pair of dark eyes flashed at Khalid before the rider turned away and galloped off into another assault at the Romans. Next, a few of Khalid's men caught up with him and said, "O noble warrior, your commander calls you and you turn away from him! Show us your face and tell us your name so that you may be properly honoured." Again the rider turned away as if deliberately trying to keep his identity a secret.

1. Waqidi: p. 27.