The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 35: Al-Yarmuk

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 11

Early on the fifth day of battle the two armies again formed up on their lines - the same lines which they had adopted before the start of battle. But on this day the soldiers did not stand so erect, nor look so imposing. Next to each unwounded man stood a wounded one. Some could hardly stand, but stand they did. Khalid looked intently at the Roman front for any sign of movement and wondered if the Romans would perhaps attack once again. But there was no movement, not for an hour or two. Then one man emerged from the Roman centre. This was an emissary of Mahan who brought a proposal for a truce for the next few days so that fresh negotiations could be held. Abu Ubaidah nearly accepted the proposal but was restrained by Khalid. On Khalid's insistence he sent the envoy back with a negative reply, adding: "We are in a hurry to finish this business!" 1

Now Khalid knew. He had guessed right. The Romans were no longer eager for battle. The rest of the day passed uneventfully while Khalid remained busy giving orders for the counter-offensive and carrying out some reorganisation. All the cavalry regiments were grouped together into one powerful mounted force with the Mobile Guard acting as its hard core. The total strength of this cavalry group was now about 8,000 horse.

The next day the sword of vengeance would flash over the Plain of Yarmuk.

The sixth day of battle dawned bright and clear. It was the fourth week of August 636 (third week of Rajab, 15 Hijri). The stillness of the morning gave no indication of the holocaust that was to follow. The Muslims were now feeling more refreshed, and knowing of their commander's offensive intentions and something of his plans, were eager for battle. The hopes of this day drowned the grim memories of the Day of Lost Eyes. To their front stretched the anxious ranks of the Roman army - less hopeful but still with plenty of fight in them.

As the sun rose over the dim skyline of the Jabal-ud-Druz, Gregory, the commander of the army of chains, rode forward, but from the centre of the imperial army. He had come with the mission of killing the Muslim army commander in the hope that this would have a demoralising effect on the Muslim rank and file. As he drew near the Muslim centre, he shouted a challenge and asked for "none but the commander of the Arabs". 2

Abu Ubaidah at once prepared to go forth. Khalid and the others tried to dissuade him, for Gregory had the reputation of being a powerful fighter, and looked it too. All felt that it would be better if Khalid went out in response to the challenge, but Abu Ubaidah was adamant. He gave the army standard to Khalid, and with the words, "If I do not return you shall command the army, until the Caliph decides the matter," 3 set out to meet his challenger.

The two generals met on horseback, drew their swords and began to duel. Both were splendid swordsmen and treated the spectators to a thrilling display of swordsmanship with cut, parry and thrust. Romans and Muslims held their breath. Then, after a few minutes of combat, Gregory drew back from his adversary, turned his horse and began to canter away. Shouts of joy rose from the Muslim ranks at what appeared to be the defeat of the Roman, but there was no such reaction from Abu Ubaidah. With his eyes fixed intently on the retreating Roman, he urged his horse forward and followed him.

1. Waqidi: p. 153.
2. Ibid: p. 153.
3. Ibid.