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: 13

Soon after dawn Abu Ubaidah, followed by his officers and the rest of his corps, entered Damascus in peace from the Jabiya Gate, and marched towards the centre of the city. He was accompanied by Thomas and Harbees and several dignitaries and bishops of Damascus. Now Abu Ubaidah, walking like an angel of peace, and Khalid advancing like a tornado, arrived simultaneously at the centre of Damascus, at the Church of Mary. Khalid had just broken through the last Roman resistance. The other corps commanders had also entered the city and were moving peacefully towards the centre.

Abu Ubaidah and Khalid stared at each other in amazement. Abu Ubaidah noted that Khalid and his men held dripping swords in their hands, and he guessed that something had happened of which he was not aware. Khalid noticed the peaceful air surrounding Abu Ubaidah and his officers, whose swords were in their sheaths and who were accompanied by Roman nobles and bishops.

For some time there was no movement. Then Abu Ubaidah broke the tense silence. "O Father of Sulaiman," he said, "Allah has given us this city in peace at my hand, and made it unnecessary for the Muslims to fight for it."

"What peace!" Khalid bristled. "I have captured the city by force. Our swords are red with their blood, and we have taken spoils and slaves."

It was clear that there was now going to be a terrible row between these two generals, which could have serious consequences. Khalid was the commander and had to be obeyed; what is more, he was not a man who would take any nonsense from his subordinates. Furthermore, his towering personality and his unquestioned judgement in military matters made him difficult to argue with, especially on this occasion, when he was determined to regard the conquest of Damascus as a consequence of the use of force and not of peaceful negotiation. Abu Ubaidah, on the other hand, had none of the military stature or operational genius of Khalid, and would be the last person to assert otherwise. But as a Muslim he was in the topmost class, one of the Blessed Ten, the Trusted One of the Nation. He was the Al Asram, the One without the Incisors-and no one could forget how he had lost his front teeth.

Abu Ubaidah was wrong in making peace without Khalid's knowledge and permission, but he was determined to see that the word of a Muslim was honoured and unnecessary bloodshed avoided. He respected Khalid's leadership and knew that he would have to be handled with great care. Abu Ubaidah was in fact the only man in Syria with high enough standing to question any decision of Khalid. Even Khalid would not raise his voice when speaking to Abu Ubaidah, no matter how great his anger. What made the situation less dangerous was the fact that these two men held each other in genuine affection and respect for the various qualities which made them great. Abu Ubaidah also knew that he could silence Khalid with a few words, for he was armed with an authority of which Khalid was unaware. But he decided not to use this authority except as a last resort, when all manner of persuasion had failed. In this he was being kind to Khalid, but more of that later.

"O Commander," said Abu Ubaidah, "know that I have entered the city peacefully."

Khalid's eyes flashed with anger, but he restrained himself; in a voice which was not without respect, he replied, "You continue to be heedless. How can they have peace from you when I have entered the city by force and their resistance is broken?"

"Fear Allah, O Commander! I have given them a guarantee of peace, and the matter is settled."

"You have no authority to give them peace without my orders. I am commander over you. I shall not sheathe my sword until I have destroyed them to the last man."

"I never believed," pleaded Abu Ubaidah, "that you would oppose me when I gave a guarantee of peace for every single one of them. I have given them peace in the name of Allah, exalted be He, and of the Prophet, on whom be the blessings of Allah and peace. The Muslims who were with me agreed to this peace, and the breaking of pacts is not one of our traits."

At this stage some of Khalid's soldiers, tiring of listening to the argument and seeing some Romans standing on one side, began to wave their swords and moved towards the Romans to kill them. Abu Ubaidah saw this movement and rushing past Khalid, ordered the men to desist until the discussion between him and Khalid was over. The men obeyed. Only Abu Ubaidah could have done this; and Khalid could do nothing but try and control his rising anger.