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: 6

The Christian Arabs arrived at Emessa to find the Muslims safely fortified, and not knowing what else to do, laid siege to the city. But hardly had the siege begun when messengers came galloping from the Jazeera to inform them that three Muslim columns were marching from Iraq towards the Jazeera. The Christian Arabs now realised the absurdity of their situation: while they were fighting the Muslims in Syria, pulling Heraclius' chestnuts out of the fire for him, their own land was about to fall to the Muslims coming from another direction. They abandoned the siege and hastened back to the Jazeera, which was the only sensible thing to do. Qaqa arrived at Emessa three days after the departure of the Christian Arabs.

As soon as the three Muslim columns from Iraq heard of the return of the Christian Arabs, they halted on their route to await further instructions from Sad. Their mission had been accomplished. With this neat, indirect manoeuvre Umar had repulsed the invading army of the Jazeera, without shooting an arrow!

The abortive attempt of the Arabs of the Jazeera to fight the Muslims did no damage to the Muslims in Syria. It did, however, arouse the anger of the Muslims and made them conscious of the fact that they could not regard Syria as being safely in their possession until neighbouring lands were cleared of all hostile elements. These elements existed in the Jazeera and in the region east of the Taurus Mountains; and they would have to be destroyed or subdued in order to create a zone of security beyond the borders of Syria.

Umar decided to deal with the Jazeera first. He ordered Sad to arrange for its capture, and appointed Ayadh bin Ghanam as the commander of this theatre of operations. Sad instructed Ayadh to continue the invasion of the Jazeera with the forces under his command, and the Muslims from Iraq resumed their forward march late in the summer of 638. Ayadh operated with three columns, and over a period of a few weeks overran the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates up to Nuseibeen and Ruha (now Urfa). (See Map 29) It was a bloodless operation. 1

As soon as this part of the Jazeera was occupied, Abu Ubaidah wrote to Umar and asked for Ayadh to be put under his command, so that he could use him for raids across the northern border. Umar agreed to this request, and Ayadh moved to Emessa with part of the Muslim force sent from Iraq to the Jazeera.

In the autumn of 638, Abu Ubaidah launched several columns, including two commanded by Khalid and Ayadh, to raid Roman territory north of Syria up to as far west as Tarsus. Khalid's objective was Marash, and he arrived here and laid siege to the city which contained a Roman garrison. By now the presence of Khalid was sufficient to strike terror in the hearts of the Romans; and a few days later Marash surrendered on condition that the garrison and the populace be spared. As for material wealth, the Muslim could take all they wished. And the Muslims did. Khalid returned to Qinassareen laden with spoils such as had seldom been seen before. Just the spoils of Marash were sufficient to make the soldiers of this expedition rich for life.

Had Khalid acquired the quality of thrift in his youth, he would have been one of the richest men of his time. It was the custom in those days that a warrior who won a duel took all the possessions of his vanquished foe, and this reward was apart from his normal share of the spoils taken in battle. Khalid had fought more duels than anyone else in the Muslim army and won each one of them. Moreover, his adversaries were usually generals, more richly equipped than others, especially the Persian and Roman generals who wore jewels and gold ornaments with their dress. Thus more wealth came into the hands of Khalid than of others; but it slipped through his fingers like sand. He would live well and give generously. Whatever wealth was gained in one battle lasted only till the next. Khalid had acquired a large retinue of slaves. He had married many times and had dozens of children; and the upkeep of his household took a good deal of money. Then there were the soldiers. After every battle Khalid would pick out warriors who had done better than others and give them extra gifts from his own pocket.

1. Some narrators have described a considerable amount of fighting in the Jazeera; but most early historians agree that it was a peaceful occupation.