The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 36: The Completion of the Conquest

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 4

At Qinassareen the part of the Roman garrison which had not accompanied Meenas to Hazir shut itself up in the fort. As soon as Khalid arrived, he sent a message to the garrison: "If you were in the clouds, Allah would raise us to you or lower you to us for battle." 1 Without further delay Qinassareen surrendered to Khalid. The Battle of Hazir and the surrender of Qinassareen took place about June 637 (Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 16 Hijri). 2

Abu Ubaidah now joined Khalid at Qinassareen, and the army marched to Aleppo, where a strong garrison under a Roman general named Joachim held the fort. This general, following the same line of thought as the commander of Qinassareen, set out to meet the Muslims in the open and clashed with the Mobile Guard 6 miles south of the city. A bloody engagement took place here, in which the Romans were worsted; and Joachim; now wiser, pulled back in haste and regained the safety of the fort.

Aleppo consisted of a large walled city and a smaller but virtually impregnable fort outside the city atop a hill, a little more than a quarter of a mile across, surrounded by a wide moat. The Muslims moved up and laid siege to the fort. Joachim was a very bold commander and launched several sallies to break the siege, but received heavy punishment every time. After a few days of this, the Romans decided to remain in the fort and await such help as Heraclius might be able to send. Heraclius however, could send none; and four months later, around October 637, the Romans surrendered on terms. The soldiers of the garrison were allowed to depart in peace; but Joachim would not go. He became a Muslim and elected to serve under the banner of Islam. In fact, over the next few weeks, he proved a remarkably able and loyal officer, and fought gallantly under various Muslim generals.

Once Aleppo was taken, Abu Ubaidah sent a column under Malik Ashtar to take Azaz on the route to 'Rome'. The region which the Muslims called Rome included the area which is now Southern Turkey east of the, Taurus Mountains. Malik, assisted by Joachim, captured Azaz and signed a pact with the local inhabitants, whereafter he returned to Aleppo. The capture and clearance of Azaz was essential to ensure that no large Roman forces remained north of Aleppo, whence they could strike at the flank and rear of the Muslims as the next major operation was launched. As soon as Malik rejoined the army, Abu Ubaidah marched westwards to capture Antioch. (See Map 28 below)

map 1 chapter 36

The army moved via Harim and approached Antioch from the east. Some 12 miles from the city, at Mahruba, where a bridge of iron spanned the River Orontes (now known as Nahur-ul-Asi), the Muslims came up against a powerful Roman army-the defenders of Antioch. A major battle was fought here, the details of which are not recorded, and the Romans were soundly thrashed by Abu Ubaidah, Khalid again playing a prominent role with his Mobile Guard. With the exception, of Ajnadein and Yarmuk, the Roman casualties here are believed to have been the highest in the Syrian Campaign, and the remnants of the Roman army went fleeing in disorder to the city. The Muslims moved up and laid siege to Antioch, but not many days had passed before the greatest city of Syria, the capital of the Asian Zone of the Eastern Roman Empire, surrendered to the Muslims. Abu Ubaidah entered Antioch on October 30, 637 (the 5th of Shawwal, 16 Hijri). The defeated Roman soldiers were allowed to depart in peace.

1. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 98.
2. Qinassareen lay in a South-South-Westerly direction from Aleppo, 20 miles by road and about 18 as the crow flies. It was built on a low ridge which runs astride the present Aleppo-Saraqib road, but most of it was on the Southern slope of the Eastern part of the ridge, i.e. on the East side of the road. The ridge is now known as Al Laees, and this is also the name of a small village which stands on that was probably the South-Eastern corner of Qinassareen. The visitor to Qinassareen today imagines that he can see the ruins of the city-ancient ruins such as one sees in many places in Syria. But on closer examination he finds that they are not ruins but immense whitish rocks and caves shaped by nature into semblance of ruins. Actually nothing remains of Qinassareen-not a stone, not a brick.