The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 33: The Conquest of Emessa

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


Page: 2

Late in the preceding night, when he discovered that half the Roman army had left Marj-ur-Rum, Khalid had correctly guessed that it had gone to Damascus to fight Yazeed. Fearing that Yazeed might not be able to hold out for long, he proposed to Abu Ubaidah that he take his corps to Damascus to help Yazeed while Abu Ubaidah dealt with the remaining Romans under Shans. Abu Ubaidah agreed and early in the morning, Khalid left Marj-ur-Rum to save Damascus, as has just been described. While Khalid was liquidating the corps of Theodorus, Abu Ubaidah attacked the Romans on the Meadow of Rome. Abu Ubaidah killed Shans in a duel, and the plain was littered with Roman dead, but the bulk of the Roman corps got away and withdrew in haste to Emessa.

This action was fought some time in March 635 (Muharram 14 Hijri), and is known as the Battle of Marj-ur-Rum.

Some time was spent at Marj-ur-Rum and Damascus, dealing with the captives and spoils of war and making arrangements for the wounded Muslims. Once these matters had been attended to, Abu Ubaidah sent Khalid with his corps on the direct route to Emessa, while he himself advanced to Baalbeck. The garrison of Baalbeck surrendered peacefully, and Abu Ubaidah proceeded to Emessa to join Khalid, who had laid siege to the fort. 1

Within a few days of the commencement of the siege a truce was agreed upon. Emessa would pay 10,000 dinars and deliver 100 robes of brocade, and in return the Muslims would not attack Emessa for one year. If, however, any Roman reinforcements arrived to strengthen Emessa, the truce would become invalid. The gates of Emessa were opened as soon as the truce was signed, and thereafter there was free movement of Muslims in and out of the market of Emessa, the inhabitants of which were pleasantly surprised to find that the Muslims paid for whatever they took!

The people of Qinassareen (the ancient Calchis) now heard of the peaceful way in which the citizens of Emessa had avoided battle with the Muslims, and decided to do the same. A truce was not as dishonourable as a surrender and was a convenient way of postponing a difficult decision. Consequently an envoy was sent to Emessa by the governor of Qinassareen, who made a similar truce with Abu Ubaidah for one year. But both governors, of Emessa and Qinassareen, made the truce for reasons of expediency. Both hoped that their garrisons would before long be reinforced by Heraclius, and as soon as that happened they would resume hostilities against the Muslims. The common man in the region, however, was completely won over by the kindness and fair dealing of the Muslims and the absence in them of the arrogance and cruelty which had characterised Roman rule over Syria.

Having temporarily solved the problems of Emessa and Qinassareen, Abu Ubaidah despatched the bulk of his army, in groups, to raid Northern Syria. Muslim columns travelled as far north as Aleppo, and leaving the District of Qinassareen unmolested, raided any locality through which they passed and brought in captives and booty to the Muslim camp near Emessa. Thousands of these captives, however, begged for their freedom and all who agreed to pay the Jizya and pledge loyalty to the Muslims were freed, with their families and goods, and allowed to return to their homes with a guarantee of safety from Muslim raiding columns.

This went on for some months and most of the summer was spent in this manner. Meanwhile Umar was getting impatient at Madinah. The campaign was progressing satisfactorily in Palestine, but in Northern Syria, i.e. in Abu Ubaidah's sector, there seemed to be a lull. Consequently, some time in the autumn of 635, Umar wrote a letter to Abu Ubaidah in which he hinted that the general should get on with the conquest of Syria. On receipt of this letter Abu Ubaidah held a council of war, at which it was agreed that the Muslim army should proceed north and conquer more territory. Emessa and Qinassareen could not be touched as they were secure under the terms of the truce; but for other places there was no such truce, and they could be attacked and taken.

1. There are other versions of how Baalbeck was taken, including Waqidi's, according to which a great battle was fought by Abu Ubaidah before Baalbeck surrendered to the Muslims. Other historians, however, have said that Baalbeck surrendered peacefully, and I too feel that this is, what happened.