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: 11

Shortly after midnight Thomas, who was himself fighting in the front rank, singled out Shurahbil. The Muslim commander could be easily identified by the orders that he was shouting to his warriors. The two commanders paired off and began to duel with sword and shield.

For some time while the rest of the soldiers were locked in wild, frenzied combat, the duel of the two champions continued with no success to either. Then Shurahbil, seeing an opening, struck with all his might at the shoulder of Thomas; but his sword landing on the hard metal shoulder-pad of the Roman's breastplate, broke into pieces. Shurahbil was now at the mercy of Thomas. Luckily for him, at that very moment two Muslims, came up beside him and engaged Thomas. Shurahbil pulled back, picked up the sword of a fallen Muslim and again returned to combat. But Thomas was no longer there.

By now the Romans had had enough of battle. Seeing that there was no weakening in the Muslim front, Thomas decided that to continue the attack would be fruitless and would lead to even heavier casualties among his men. He ordered a withdrawal, and the Romans moved back at a steady pace. The Muslims made no attempt to follow, though their archers did a certain amount of damage. Again the young widow used her bow with deadly effect.
This was the last attempt by Thomas to break the siege. The attempt had failed. He had lost thousands of men in these sallies, and could no longer afford to fight outside the walls of the city. His soldiers shared his disillusionment. They would fight to defend the city, but would not venture to engage the Muslims outside the fort. Thomas now gave more authority to his deputy, Harbees, delegating to him several of the functions of command which hitherto he had himself exercised.

After the failure of the nocturnal sally, the despair of the Damascenes knew no bounds. The dark clouds which threatened the great city had no silver lining. There was widespread grumbling among the people who now wished for nothing but peace; and in this desire they were joined by Thomas, who had fought gallantly in defence of the city and answered the call of honour. He was prepared to make peace and surrender the fort on terms, but was Khalid prepared to make peace? He was known as a man of violence who looked upon battle as a sport; and since he undoubtedly knew the internal conditions prevailing in Damascus, would he accept anything less than an unconditional surrender, by which they would all be placed at his mercy?

By now the Romans had come to know the Muslim generals very well. They knew that Abu Ubaidah was next in command after Khalid, and wished he were the first in command. The Son of the Surgeon was essentially a man of peace-gentle, kind, benevolent-and looked upon war as a sacred duty rather than a source of pleasure and excitement. With him they could make peace, and he would doubtless be generous in his terms. But Abu Ubaidah was not the army commander. For two or three days this dilemma continued; and then the matter was taken out of their hands by Jonah the Lover.

Jonah, son of Marcus, was a Greek who was madly in love with a girl, also Greek. Actually she was his wife. Just before the arrival of the Muslims they had been married, but the ceremony of handing over the bride to the husband had not been completed when the Muslims arrived and laid siege to Damascus. Thereafter Jonah asked her people several times to hand over his bride to him but they refused, saying that they were too busy fighting and that this was a matter of survival; and how could Jonah think of such things at a time like this? Actually Jonah could think of little else!

Just after dusk, on or about September 18, 634 (the 19th of Rajab, 13 Hijri), Jonah lowered himself with the aid of a rope near the East Gate, and approaching the nearest Muslim guard, asked to see Khalid. As soon as he was ushered into the presence of the commander, he narrated his sad story and explained the purpose of his visit. Would Khalid help him get his bride if he gave intelligence which would lead quickly to the capture of Damascus? Khalid would. He then informed Khalid that in the city this night the people were celebrating a festival in consequence of which there was revelry and drunkenness everywhere, and few sentries would be found at the gates. If Khalid could scale the wall, he would have no difficulty in opening any gate he chose and forcing an entry into the city.

Khalid felt that he could trust the man. He appeared sincere in what he said. Khalid offered him Islam, and Jonah accepted it. During the past few years he had heard much about Islam and was favourably inclined. At the hands of Khalid, Jonah now accepted the new faith, whereafter Khalid instructed him to return to the city and wait, which Jonah did.