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: 5

Steadily and systematically the Muslims closed in from all sides, striking with spears and swords. Heaps of Roman bodies began to accumulate on the bloody earth. At first the Romans fought with the courage of wild animals at bay, but as more and more of them fell, their mood turned to dismay and hopelessness. Khalid, striking left and right with his sword, got through with a small group to the centre of the Roman army; and here he saw Harbees still fighting, still refusing to give up. Khalid made for Harbees, but was intercepted by a huge Roman general. The Romans did not know that even if they escaped from this trap they would have nowhere to go. At the time when the Muslims started their attack on the encircled Romans, a group of 500 horsemen under Muadh bin Jabal had galloped back to Emessa to see to it that no escaping Roman got into the fort. As these horsemen neared Emessa, the terrified inhabitants and the remnants of the Roman garrison which had not joined the pursuit hastily withdrew into the fort and closed the gates. Muadh deployed his men in front of the gates to prevent the Romans in Emessa from coming out and the Romans outside Emessa from getting in. The Muslim camp was now safe.

Khalid and the Roman general squared off. This general has been described by eye-witnesses as a man 'roaring like a lion'. 1 Khalid was the first to strike, and brought down his sword with all his strength on the heavily-armoured head of the Roman; but instead of piercing the helmet, the sword broke and Khalid was left with the hilt in his hand. Before the Roman could strike, Khalid closed in and grappled with him. The two giants held each other in a pitiless embrace; and then Khalid did something that he had never done before: he began to crush the chest of the Roman in his arms. The Roman turned red in the face and was unable to breathe as Khalid's grip tightened. Gasping for breath, the Roman struggled frantically to break the steel-like grip of the Muslim, but the terrible grip only grew tighter. Then the Roman's ribs splintered and the jagged ends plunged into his own flesh. When all movement had ceased in the body of the Roman, Khalid relaxed his grip, and what fell to the ground was a lifeless corps. Khalid had literally crushed his adversary to death in his arms! 2 He now took the Roman general's sword and again his battle cry rang out over the battlefield.

When offering his plan for this feigned withdrawal, Khalid had promised Abu Ubaidah that the Muslims would "tear the Romans apart and break their backs". In this they were eminently successful. It is recorded that only about a hundred Romans got away. 3 The Muslims, on the other hand, lost only 235 dead in the entire operation against Emessa, from the beginning of the siege to the end of this last action.

As soon as this action was over the Muslims returned to Emessa and resumed the siege, but those who were in Emessa had now no stomach for fighting. The local inhabitants offered to surrender on terms, and Abu Ubaidah accepted the offer. This happened around the middle of March, 636 (beginning of Safar, 15 Hijri). The inhabitants paid the Jizya at the rate of one dinar per man, and peace returned to Emessa. No damage was done to the city and nothing was taken by the Muslims as plunder.

Soon after the surrender of Emessa, the Muslims set out once again for the north, intending to take the whole of Northern Syria this time, including Aleppo and Antioch. They went past Hama and arrived at Shaizer. Here a Roman convoy taking provisions to Qinassareen and escorted by a small body of soldiers was intercepted and captured by Khalid. The prisoners were interrogated, and the information they provided stopped the Muslims in their tracks!

The Muslims had fought and defeated every force that Heraclius had thrown against them-all the armies, all the relief columns, all the fortress garrisons. All had bowed before the superior military quality of the Muslim army. But what Heraclius now evidently planned was to unleash a veritable tornado against them, which, if they were not careful, would hurl them in pieces into the Arabian desert.

1. Waqidi: p. 102.
2. Ibid.
3. Waqidi: p. 104.