The Islamic Openings
THE OPENING OF IRAQ 2
In the beginning of the year 13 A.H., Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah Al-Shaibani came from Hirah to the first caliph in Madinah to ask him to send an expedition to fight the Persians in Iraq. However, Abu Bakr was seriously ill and on his deathbed, so he ordered 'Umar to carry this out later.
Subsequently, the first thing 'Umar did after being chosen caliph was to urge the people before the Fajr Prayer to go to Persia with Al-Muthanna, as was Abu Bakr's will. However, no one responded, for they feared this destination and were reluctant to face them because of their sovereignty, power and oppression of other people.
On the second day, 'Umar repeated the call, but again no one replied. Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah had to talk to the people.. He said, "O people, do not fear this destination of Persia, for we have spread in the Persian countryside and won victory over them in the majority of Iraq, and the Muslims have conquered the Persians on the western side of the Euphrates River. We took half of their land, defeated them, and other people have encroached boldly on them and, Allah willing, we shall resume."
On the fourth day of his caliphate, 'Umar called the people for the fourth time. Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud Al-Thaqafi said, "I will go." He was followed by Sa'd ibn 'Ubaid and Sulait ibn Qais. Then people joined them one after the other. 'Umar dispatched a thousand men from Madinah and its surroundings under the command of Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud, who took the standard. This was the first army mobilized by 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab.
The Battle of Namariq
Al-Muthanna ibn Harith Al-Shaibani returned to Hirah after an absence of one month. During this time, the Persians were distracted from the Muslims by some internal conflicts. One of their princes seized the throne by force, then the princess Boran threw him off by a series of bloodshed, revolts and struggles. Boran then called for Rustom, the famous Persian general, who was in Khurasan, to come to her as soon as possible.
Rustom came to her with an army and reached Mada'in. He defeated every troop of his Persian opponents in their struggle in Mada'in. He defeated Sayawekhsh, Husr and Husr Azermidekht, then he conquered Mada'in, killed Sayawekhsh and crowned Boran. She then ordered him to lead the Persians, complaining to him about their disagreement, disunity and conflicts.
Rustom said, "I am at your service, obedient and submissive, and I do not ask for any compensation or reward."
When Al-Muthanna arrived at Hirah, Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud Al- Thaqafi caught up with him after a month. Al-Muthanna stayed in Hirah for fifteen nights. Rustom sent an army to encounter Al-Muthanna in Hirah. When the news reached him, Al-Muthanna advanced with a company till he camped in Khafan, a place on the western Euphrates, so that he would not be attacked from behind. He stayed there till the army of Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud Al-Thaqafi joined him.
He then arranged the army, putting Waliq ibn Jidarah over the cavalry and right flank, and `Amr ibn Haitham ibn Al-Salit over the left flank.
Rustom assigned Jaban to lead the Persian army and he put over the two flanks Jashans Mah and Mardanashah. The Muslims fiercely attacked Jaban in Namariq. The Persians were beaten by Allah's will and Jaban was captured, but he freed himself by a trick and then had no choice but to run away.
As for Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud Al- Thaqafi, he crossed the Euphrates and took the second Persian general, Narsi, by surprise. He seized his camp and spoiled great quantities of superb dates called Narsyan, which was a special food, reserved for the king, the generals of his army and his attendants. The neighboring tribes came and offered jizyah willingly as proof of their loyalty to Abu 'Ubaid. They also invited him to a glorious banquet, but he refused to go without his army, so the troops all attended with him.
The Battle of the Bridge
Rustom was furious at the defeat of the two armies led by Jaban and Narsi at the hands of Abu 'Ubaid's army. He asked his fellows, "Which Persian do you think is the fiercest on the Arabs?"
They said, "Bahman Jadhweh." He was known as Dhul Hajib, "The One with the Eyebrows" because he used to bind his eyebrows with a bandage as sign of pride and arrogance.
Rustom, at once, ordered him to fight and supplied him with powerful elephants. Bahman Jadhweh marched with his army raising the standard of Khusraw. It was made of tiger skin and was twelve ells tall and eight ells wide. Bahman camped in Qiss Al-Natif, which was near Kufa on the eastern side of the Euphrates. Abu 'Ubaid, meanwhile, camped on the western side in a place called Mirwahah opposing the Persian army.
Bahman sent to Abu 'Ubaid saying, "Choose whether to cross to us and we will allow you to do so, or let us cross to you."
Some of the Muslim generals said to Abu 'Ubaid, "Don't cross to him, Abu 'Ubaid. We forbid you from crossing."
He replied, "They're not more daring to face death than we are." He crossed with his army on a bridge of boats tied together. The two armies confronted each other in a serious battle.
When the Muslims' horses caught the strange sight of elephants, they were afraid and reluctant to proceed. Therefore, the Persians assaulted the Muslims and distracted their horses, making them terrified and confused. They also shot arrows at them.
The Muslims were suffering so that Abu 'Ubaid dismounted his terrified horse, and so did all his troops. They advanced towards the Persians on foot and there was a fierce battle. Abu 'Ubaid cried to his army, "People! Attack the elephants! Cut their belts and throw off their loads of people and things."
Abu 'Ubaid himself attacked the white elephant and cut its belts so that the people on its back fell down. The Muslims did as their leader did. They did not spare an elephant without attacking its load and killing the men on its back. The elephant knelt down to Abu 'Ubaid, so he struck it with his sword aiming to cut its trunk. Yet, the elephant was quicker and attacked Abu 'Ubaid with its trunk or leg. Abu 'Ubaid fell to the ground and the animal crushed him.
On seeing Abu 'Ubaid under the elephant, the Muslims raged with anger. They rushed to save him from the savage beast, but during their trial seven men of Thaqif were killed. Before their death they handed the standard one to the other among them until finally Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah took it, but the people ran away from him.
When' Abdullah ibn Mirthad Al-Thaqafi realized what had happened to Abu 'Ubaid and what the people were running from, he hurried to the bridge that the Muslims had crossed to face the army of Bahman. He cut the bridge and said, "O people! Die hard as your leaders did or win victory!"
The Persians then forced the Muslims to the bridge. The Muslims jumped into the Euphrates, and those who did not endure were drowned, while some of them reached the other side. Al-Muthanna and some cavalrymen urged the Muslims saying, "I am behind you, so cross slowly and carefully and do not be confused and drown yourselves."
'Urwah ibn Zaid Al-Khair fought hard, and so did Abu Mahjan Al-Thaqafi and Abu Zaid Al-Ta'i. This last fought for the sake of the Arab race, for he was a Christian who had gone to Hirah on business.
Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah called out, "Cross and save yourselves!" He reconnected the bridge and they crossed.
The last one killed at the bridge was Sulait ibn Qais, and Al- Muthanna was injured. However, he crossed the bridge and protected its western end. Dhul Hajib wanted to get them, but he was unable. The people of Madinah who were with the army returned to Madinah, while others resided in the deserts. Al-Muthanna stayed behind with some of his army.
When 'Umar learned about the defeat of the Muslims and that some Muslims were wandering around feeling guilty and ashamed of their defeat, he was sorrowful and said, "O Allah! Every Muslim is not to be blamed by me. I am a party to every Muslim. Be merciful to Abu 'Ubaid, for if he had retreated to me, I would have been his party."
The first to reach Madinah with the unhappy news of this battle was `Abdullah ibn Al-Hasan Al-Khatami. Mu'adh, the reciter of the Qur'an, was one of those who retreated to Madinah. Whenever he recited the verse meaning (And whoever turns away in desertion from them on such a day, unless it be for maneuvering or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of Allah's wrath, and his abode is Hell, and an evil destination it is!) (Al-Anfal 8: 16) he cried. 'Umar, thus, said to him, "Don't cry, Mu'adh, for I am your own party and you retreated to me."
The number of Muslims at the Battle of the Bridge was nine thousand. Four thousand were killed, drowned or injured. Two thousand retreated, and three thousand survived with Al-Muthanna; whereas six thousand Persians were killed.
The Internal Conflicts in Persia
After the war ended, Bahman Jadhweh intended to cross the Euphrates River to resume his victories. However, he had some information that a rebellion had broken out in Mada'in, the Persian capital, with the aim of getting rid of Rustom and violating the pact between him and his party. Thus, they split into two parties.
Therefore, the internal conflicts in Persia were the reason behind their inability to pursue the Muslims. Their engagement in their own affairs gave the Muslims a chance to rest, reunite themselves and restore their energy.
Reasons for the Muslim Defeat in the Battle of the Bridge
The Muslims were defeated in the Battle of the Bridge because they crossed to where the Persians were, although the generals had warned Abu 'Ubaid against the serious consequences of crossing. Yet, he thought crossing to them displayed courage and power. Also, it was a fatal mistake on the part of 'Abdullah ibn Mirthad Al-Thaqafi to cut the bridge because the Muslims were encircled and perplexed, and many of them were drowned.
The death of the commander, Abu 'Ubaid ibn Mas'ud Al-Thaqafi, under the elephant had a bad effect on his army. For undoubtedly the death of the leader frustrates the souls of his army because the soldiers consider it a death for them all, and his defeat is a public dilemma.
The Battle of Buwaib
Buwaib was a river in Iraq. This battle took place in Ramadan 13 A.H.
The Commander of the Faithful received the news of the Muslims' defeat in the Battle of the Bridge calmly, in spite of his grief at their rout. He did not blame them for the retreat but asked them to reinforce Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah in Iraq. Bujailah was in the company, and they were led by Jarir ibn 'Abdullah and 'Ismah ibn 'Abdullah Al-Dabbi and his fellows. They marched to join Al-Muthanna.
'Umar sent all the generals and armies who came from fighting against the apostates to Al-Muthanna as well. Al-Muthanna, on his part, sent to all the surrounding Arab tribes asking for their help. They advanced to assist him in huge numbers, including Anas ibn Hilal Al-Nair, who came with a large number of his Christian tribe, the Namir, who said, "We will fight with Our Arab people."
Rustom and Al-Fairuzan's spies told them about the arrangements and reinforcements of Al-Muthanna, so they schemed to send Mahran Al-Hamadhani with some cavalry to Hirah. While Al-Muthanna was in a place between Qadisiyah and Khafan, a place near Kufa, one of his spies brought him the news of the Persian march. The spy also told him that the internal affairs in Mada'in had stabilized and that a huge army was sent to encounter him.
Al-Muthanna camped in the bottom of a valley in Furat Badiqli and then wrote to Jarir ibn 'Abdullah Al-Bajli, 'lsmah ibn 'Abdullah Al-Dabbi, and all the reinforcements telling them to head for Buwaib on the western side of the Euphrates, where they were to meet.
Mahran Al-Hamadhani was camping opposite to Al-Muthanna on the eastern side of the Euphrates. He sent to Al-Muthanna "Cross to us!" but he refused because 'Umar had warned him beforehand against such action. So, Mahran crossed with his army and camped on the river.
Al- Muthanna ordered his troops to break their fast so that they would be able to fight and endure the struggle against their enemies, as the Prophet ~ had done in the Battle of Badr. They obeyed the order.
The Persians advanced in three rows, each with an elephant. The infantry were leading and making noise. Al-Muthanna said to the Muslims, "What you hear is nothing, so keep silent."
Al-Muthanna was assuring his army, riding his obstinate horse that he only rode when he intended to fight. He stood by the standard bearers heartening and encouraging them by saying, "I hope that the Muslims will not be attacked through your positions. By Allah, nothing will please me today except what pleases me for the sake of your rank and file."
They answered in agreement to his words, for they loved him.
He said, "I will cry, 'Allahu Akbar!' three times, so be ready and attack on hearing it for the fourth time."
However, no sooner did he cry, "Allahu Akbar!" than the Persians attacked, confusing their horses. Al-Muthanna noticed some disturbance among the people of the tribe of 'Ijl so he sent a message to them, "The commander salutes you and says, 'Don't embarrass the Muslims today.'" They said, "All right," and organized themselves. He was satisfied and smiled.
When the fight was getting more serious and longer, Al-Muthanna said to Anas ibn Hilal Al-Namiri, "You are an Arab though you are not of our religion. When I attack Mahran Al-Hamadhani, attack with me."
Al-Muthanna attacked Mahran and forced him to leave his position and he got into the right flank of his troops. They mingled together and the two armies were thoroughly engaged in the fight. The dust was raised high and the two parties fought desperately, neither able to end the combat in its favor. Mas'ud, the brother of Al-Muthanna, and his troops were injured. Mas'ud yelled, "O Banu Bakr! Raise your banner! May Allah raise your status and do not be moved by my death." Al-Muthanna said also, "If you see that we are wounded or dead, do not leave what you are doing. Keep your positions and save us the trouble of these who are opposite to you." The centers of the two armies fought vigorously. A Christian youth belonging to the tribe of Taghlib killed Mahran Al-Hamadhani and captured his horse.
Al-Muthanna ibn Harithah fought boldly till he defeated the center of the Persian army. When the Muslims on both flanks perceived this, they attacked the right and left flanks of the Persian army till they overcame them.
Al-Muthanna preceded them to the bridge and blocked the way of the Persians. The Muslim cavalry attacked and killed them. That day was called the Day of the Tens, for every Muslim killed ten Persians on that day. Nearly a hundred thousand Persians were slain.
Al-Muthanna regretted blocking the bridge and said, "I made a mistake, but Allah saved us from its consequences. It was my preceding the Persians to the bridge till I forced them out. Do not do such a thing again, for it was an error, and one should not expel the one who was unable to refuse." He meant that holding the bridge resulted in losing his men.
Some of the wounded Muslims died, including Mas'ud ibn Harithah Al-Shaibani and Khalid ibn Hilal. Al-Muthanna prayed for them and said, "What relieves my grief is that they endured and witnessed Buwaib and did not retreat."
The war spoils were great, and there were many types of loot consisting of cereals, flour, cows and sheep.
Al-Muthanna divided the spoils among the soldiers of his army and those sent by 'Umar from Madinah as reinforcements.
After that, the Muslim generals `Assim, 'Ismah and Jarir wrote to Al-Muthanna, "Allah the Almighty has granted us victory and safety, and nothing prevents us from the Persians, so allow us to advance." He gave them permission. They marched till they reached Sabat. Its people fortified themselves and the Muslims overcame the towns surrounding it. Then they returned to Al-Muthanna.
The Market of Khanafis
Al-Muthanna ibn Harith advanced through the greater part of Iraq and left Bashir ibn Al-Khasasiyah behind to rule Hirah. He sent Jarir ibn 'Abdullah Al-Bajli to Misan while he himself camped in Alis, a village of Anbar. This battle was called the Last Battle of Alis or the Last Battle of Anbar.
Two men came to Al- Muthanna, one belonging to Anbar and the other to Hirah. Each of them told him about a market. The man from Anbar spoke of the market of Khanafis, while the man from Hirah told him about the market of Baghdad.
Al-Muthanna asked, "Which market is nearer?"
They said, "The market of Khanafis."
"What is the distance between them?"
"A distance of a few days' travel."
They told him that the market of Khanafis had many people who came to it and people from the tribes of Rabi'ah and Quda'ah assembled to guard them. Al-Muthanna prepared to raid the city. He marched and attacked Khanafis on the market day. It had two groups of cavalry present from Rabi'ah and Quda'ah. Rumans ibn Wabarah led Quda'ah and Al-Salil ibn Qais led Rabi'ah and they were called the Verdant Ones.
Al-Muthanna scattered the market and those in it, plundered the Verdant Ones, then retreated to his former position. On that day, the chiefs of Anbar strengthened themselves against him, but later on they came to him and brought fodder and food. They also brought guides to lead him to Baghdad, so he raided it on the morning of the market day and killed many and took what Allah wanted them to take.
Al-Muthanna said to them, "Don't take anything but gold and silver. Don't take baggage except what one can load unto his animal." The people in the market ran away and the Muslims filled their hands with gold and silver.
Al-Muthanna said to his people, "People!
Depart and fulfill your desires, then be ready to leave thanking Allah and asking Him for His grace."
He heard them whispering to each other, "They will pursue us quickly."
Al-Muthanna said, "Whisper good words and don't whisper bad speech among yourselves. Think about things and estimate them, then talk."
He then added, "If the guards chase you from eyesight they could not seize you till you reach your camps and people. If they seize you, I would fight them for two reasons: to be rewarded by Allah and to win victory. Trust and think good of Allah, for He has granted you victory several times, though they were more than you in number.
He then returned with his army to stay on the Silhin River in Anbar. Then he resumed his march till he reached the north of Tikrit. He wrote to 'Umar telling him about his raids.