The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 35: Al-Yarmuk

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 14

The sun had not yet reached its zenith when the Roman infantry was in full retreat- part of it fleeing in panic and part withdrawing in good order. It made for the Wadi-ur-Raqqad. After the retreating Romans came the Muslim corps, now reformed into orderly lines with shorter fronts. The Muslim cavalry moved to the north of the Roman army so that none may escape in that direction, though before this escape route could be fully sealed, thousands of Slavs and Armenians did manage to get away. In this manner the Muslims closed in on the already defeated Army of Caesar. 1

As the Romans fled the field of battle, their only desire was to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Muslims. They knew that the northern escape route was closed by the Muslim cavalry; but another channel of escape was available where the Raqqad was crossed, at a ford, by a good road. Towards this ford the officers guided their men. As the leading regiment arrived at the ford, it rushed down the eastern slope of the ravine and began to cross the stream. The eastern slope was not so bad here as in other parts of the ravine; but the western slope was much steeper, and near the top it became precipitous on either side of the road, creating a bottleneck where a few brave men could hold up an army.

Overjoyed at their escape from the Plain of Yarmuk, the men in the lead laboured up the road on the western bank of the ravine. It was only when they got near the top that they noticed a group of Muslims standing above them with drawn swords. At their head stood a lean, young warrior, naked above the waist!

During the night Khalid had sent Dhiraar with 500 horsemen from the Mobile Guard to make a wide detour of the Roman left, get behind the Wadi-ur-Raqqad, and occupy a blocking position on the far bank of the ravine. Dhiraar, guided by a Christian Arab named Abu Jueid, 2 had carried out the move with admirable efficiency. Unknown to the Romans-who had considered the crossing of the Raqqad too far back to be of tactical significance - he had secured the western bank of the ravine and concealed his men near the ford. Now Dhiraar stood with his men on top of the western bank, looking down at the tired, panting Romans (See Map 26 below)

map 6 chapter 35

Soon a volley of stones hit the Romans. A few of them managed to get to the top, but were cut down instantly, Finding themselves under a hail of stones, the leading elements fell back on those behind them, these on those behind them, and these again on those behind them. As Dhiraar charged at the Romans, they went sliding down-a screaming, twisting, rolling avalanche-to the bottom of the ravine.

The Romans still on the eastern bank stopped when they saw the horror that had befallen the leading regiment. It was clear that this escape route was also closed. Nothing could be done to dislodge Dhiraar because of the narrowness of the crossing which allowed no room for manoeuvre; so the Roman army turned to defend itself against the impending attack from the east. The generals who still remained with the army hastily deployed the regiments for defence with their backs to the Wadi-ur-Raqqad and their right flank resting on the Yarmuk River. They were caught between two calamities-the ravine and the Muslims-and could not decide which was worse!

1. The statement made by some later Western writers that the Roman defeat was due to Khalid's exploitation of a violent sand storm which blew in the faces of the Romans is utterly incorrect. No Muslim historian has mentioned such a storm. Gibbon (Vol. 5, p. 327) states that there was "a cloud of dust and adverse wind", but only a child would imagine that the Muslim army, which still numbered about 30,000 fit soldiers, deployed on an 11 mile front, could be thrown into action so quickly, in such a superbly conceived manoeuvre, merely to exploit a dust storm. And this in the days when communication was by horse-rider! This is nothing but a proud Western historian's attempt by to find an excuse for the Roman defeat.
2. Waqidi: p. 152.