The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 35: Al-Yarmuk

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 8

On the orders of Khalid, the two left corps had advanced to attack the Romans on their front and were in contact when Khalid moved the Mobile Guard to deal with the Armenians. Initially these corps enjoyed some success and the Romans were pushed back, but this action had not proceeded far when the Muslims found themselves subjected to a merciless barrage of archery. Thousands of Roman archers opened up on the Muslims, and so rapid and intense was the flight of arrows that according to some accounts, "arrows fell like hailstones and blocked the light of the sun!" 1 Many a Muslim was wounded by these arrows, the wounds varying from light to severe, and each of 700 Muslims lost an eye. From the sectors of Abu Ubaidah and Yazeed rose the lament: "O my eye! O my sight!" 2 Abu Sufyan also is believed to have lost an eye in this action. 3 As a result of this calamity, this fourth day of battle became known as the Day of Lost Eyes, 4 a tribute to Roman marksmanship. And this was undoubtedly the worst day of battle for the Muslim army.

The Muslims of the left now fell back. Their own bows were ineffective against the Roman archers because of their shorter range and fewer numbers; and the only way to avoid further casualties was to withdraw out of range of the Roman archers, which Abu Ubaidah and Yazeed promptly did. As the two sides disengaged, both fronts stood still and the Muslims wisely refrained from advancing again. There was in fact a certain amount of consternation among the Muslims as a result of the arrow wounds and lost eyes.

But Mahan and his army commanders, Gregory and Qureen, had seen how the Muslims had suffered and decided to exploit their advantage. The two armies now advanced to assault the Muslims before they could recover from their repulse and the two bodies of men clashed again. As a result of the Roman assault the Muslims fell back to their own position and here the Romans, knowing that this was the decisive day of battle, attacked with even greater fury. The corps of Abu Ubaidah and Yazeed were again pushed back a short distance, except for the regiment of Ikrimah which stood at the left edge of Abu Ubaidah's sector.

The fearless Ikrimah refused to retreat, and called to his men to take the oath of death with him, i.e. that they would go down fighting and not surrender their position. In response to his call 400 of his men immediately took the oath and fell upon the Romans like hungry wolves. Not only did Ikrimah repulse the Romans on his front but he also lashed out at the Roman regiments passing on his flanks. This position was never lost by the Muslims. Of the 400 dedicated men who had taken the oath of death, everyone was either killed or seriously wounded, but they accounted for many times their number of Romans. Ikrimah and his son, Amr, were mortally wounded.

1. Waqidi: pp. 146, 148.
2. Ibid: p. 149.
3. We have already noted the loss of Abu Sufyan's eye at Taif. However, some sources indicate that this happened at Yarmuk and not at Taif.
4. Waqidi: p. 148.