17 September 2021
Men of Excellence: Hazrat Umarra ibn al-Khattab
After reciting the tashahud, ta‘awuz and Surah al-Fatihah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa stated:
Accounts from the life of Hazrat Umarra were being narrated. I will mention the Battle of Yarmouk today.
There is a difference of opinion in relation to the dates of when the Battle of Yarmouk took place. One narration states that this battle was fought in 15 AH, whereas according to others, it was fought in 13 AH, prior to the conquest of Damascus. According to another narration, the first news Hazrat Umarra received with regard to a victory in battle was the Battle of Yarmouk and at that time, only 20 days had passed since the demise of Hazrat Abu Bakrra. According to others, Hazrat Umarra was first given the news of the conquest of Damascus. (Tarikh Dimashq Al-Kabir, Ibn Asakir, Vol. 2, pp. 141-143, Dar-ul-Fikr, Beirut, 1995)
Nevertheless, the narration regarding the conquest of Damascus having taken place first seems to be more accurate. The evidence indicates that the Battle of Yarmouk was fought during the time of Hazrat Umarra.
After repeatedly suffering defeats, the Byzantines left Damascus and Homs etc., and they went to Antioch, a town at the border of Syria. They sought help from Heraclius for assistance, saying that the Arabs had conquered all of Syria. Heraclius called some of their wise and respected individuals to his court and said:
“The Arabs are weaker and fewer in number than you and have fewer provisions, how then are you unable to compete against them in battle?”
Upon this, all of them lowered their heads in shame and none of them said a word in reply. However, there was one experienced elderly man, who said:
“The morals of the Arabs are superior to ours. They worship at night, fast during the day, do not wrong anyone and meet and treat each other with equality. We, however, drink alcohol, act immorally, do not honour our oaths and commit injustices to others. As a result of this, their endeavours are filled with passion and steadfastness, whereas ours are devoid of these traits.”
The Byzantine emperor had already decided to leave Syria; however, various Christian delegations from every town and province would arrive seeking his help. The Byzantine Emperor was greatly impassioned by this and agreed to utilise the entire strength of his kingdom in opposition to the Arabs. He sent messages everywhere; to Rome, Constantinople, Antalya, Jazirah and Armenia; that all armies should reach Antioch by a particular date. Moreover, he wrote to the leaders of every province to gather as many men as they could, from anywhere possible and send them.
As soon as these orders were received, a tremendous army had assembled. Swarms of armies were spread in each direction of Antioch as far as the eye could see. The leaders and chiefs of the places conquered by Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra were greatly impressed by his justice and equity, so much so that despite belonging to the opposing religion, they had personally appointed spies to gather information about the enemy. Through them, Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra was informed of all these events. And so, he gathered all the various leaders and chiefs and stood up and delivered an inspiring speech. The gist of this was:
“O Muslims! God has tried you time and again and you have always succeeded. In return, God has always made you victorious and triumphant. Now, your enemy has marched forward to fight you with such provisions that the earth has been shaken. And so, how will you respond now?”
Yazidra bin Abi Sufyan was the brother of Hazrat Amir Muawiyahra. He stood up and said that he was of the opinion that the women and children should be left within the city and they themselves should assemble their forces outside. Along with this, a letter should be sent to Hazrat Khalidra and Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas to come from Damascus and Palestine as reinforcements.
This occurrence also proves that the conquest of Damascus happened prior to this.
Sharahbeelra bin Hasanah stated:
“At this moment, everyone should be free to give their opinion. The suggestion given by Yazidra is of good intention, but I am against it. The city dwellers are all Christian. It is quite possible that out of malice, they will capture our families and hand them over to the Byzantine Emperor, or kill them themselves, or even revolt against them.”
Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra stated that the solution to this was to banish the Christians in order to keep their families safe. Sharahabeel stood up and said:
“O commander-in-chief, you certainly do not have the right to do this. We have given respite to these Christians on the condition that they will live in peace, so how can we breach this agreement?”
They had entered a covenant, so how was it that they could break it and banish them? Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra admitted his error; however, the course of action still remained undecided. The general public suggested that they remain in Homs [Emessa] and await the armed reinforcements. Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra said that there wasn’t enough time for that.
Finally, it was proposed that they would leave Homs for Damascus, where Hazrat Khalidra was positioned and the borders of Arabia were nearby. When this plan of action was decided upon, Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra called for Habib bin Maslamah, who was the officer of the treasury, and told him that because of the dire circumstances, they were unable to uphold the responsibility of safeguarding the Christians. Therefore, whatever tax or jizya that had been collected from them – for their well-being and protection – cannot be fulfilled, and therefore should be returned to them in its entirety. They should also be informed that the relationship established between them remains the same; however, due to being unable to protect them at that time, the jizya which was collected in exchange for protecting them should be returned to them.
Thus, an amount numbering in the hundreds of thousands was returned. This incident had such a profound effect on the Christians that it left them in tears and they very passionately prayed to God for their return. The Jews took an even more profound effect from this and swore by the Torah that as long as they lived, they would not let the Byzantine emperor rule over Homs. Upon saying this, they even closed the city’s defensive gates and stationed men everywhere to stand guard.
Abu Ubaidahra did not only treat the people of Homs as such; rather, he sent word to all the conquered regions to return the full amount of the jizya that was collected from them. Thus, Abu Ubaidahra departed for Damascus and informed Hazrat Umarra of the entire situation. When Hazrat Umarra heard that the Muslims had left Homs in fear of the Byzantines, he became extremely sad. However, when he learned that the army in its entirety and its commanders unanimously agreed upon this, he was relieved and said that God must have made the Muslims unanimous on this decision due to some wisdom.
It is also mentioned in some narrations that Hazrat Umarra was first asked about this and he himself gave instructions to return whatever was collected as jizya if they were unable to offer protection. Hazrat Umarra then wrote to Abu Ubaidahra that he would send forces with Saeed bin Amir as reinforcements; however, victory and defeat was not determined by an army’s size.
Upon reaching Damascus, Abu Ubaidahra called a council with all the commanders. Yazidra bin Abi Sufyan, Sharahbeelra bin Hasanah and Mu‘azra bin Jabal all gave different suggestions. In the meantime, an emissary from Amrra bin al-Aas arrived with a letter, which stated that the regions in Jordan had begun to revolt and the arrival of the Byzantines had caused upheaval and hence the decision to leave Homs made it look as if they were weak.
Upon this, Abu Ubaidahra sent a letter in response, saying that the withdrawal from Homs was not out of fear but was intended to draw out the enemy from their shelters and so that all the Muslim armies that were dispersed in every direction would unite. The letter also mentioned that he [Hazrat Amrra bin al-Aas] should not move from his current location and that he would join him there.
The next day, Abu Ubaidahra left Damascus and set up camp on the outskirts of Jordan in Yarmouk. Yarmouk was a steep valley in the peripheries of Syria where the Jordan River flows from. Amrra bin al-Aas also arrived there for the meeting. This place was very suitable for the needs of battle because the border of Arabia was the closest location to this place in comparison to other locations. Also, the area behind them which extended to the borders of Arabia was all a clear expanse which would allow them, if needed, to pull back as much as they wanted.
The reinforcements Hazrat Umarra sent under the command of Saeed bin Amir had not yet arrived when the Muslims began to worry after hearing news of the arrival and considerable equipment of the Byzantines. Abu Ubaidahra sent a messenger to Hazrat Umarra to inform him that the Byzantines were coming from all directions and their ambition was to such a degree that wherever their armies passed through, even the priests and hermits – people who had never taken a step out of solitude – were becoming impassioned and joining their forces.
When this letter arrived, Hazrat Umarra gathered all the Muhajirin and Ansar and read it out to them. The companions began to weep immediately and passionately cried out:
“O leader of the Faithful! For Allah’s sake, permit us to go lay our lives to help our brothers. God forbid, if they are harmed in the slightest, it would render life useless.”
The passion of the Muhajirin and the Ansar continued to increase, so much so that Abdur Rahmanra bin Auf asked Hazrat Umarra to take charge of the army and take them all along with him.
Other companions disagreed with this, and it was decided that more reinforcements would be sent instead. Hazrat Umarra asked the emissary how far along the enemy was. He said that they were a three to four-day journey away from Yarmouk. Hazrat Umarra became very anxious as to what could be done, and that it was not enough time for help to reach there. He wrote a very powerful letter to Abu Ubaidahra and instructed the emissary to read the letter aloud to each and every row of the Muslim army and to tell them:
“Umar conveys his greetings of salaam to you. O Muslims! Fight courageously and pounce on your enemies like lions and attack their skulls with your swords. They should be even lesser than ants next to you. Their large numbers should not frighten you. And as for those who have not yet joined you, do not worry on account of them.”
It was a unique turn of events that the day the emissary reached Abu Ubaidahra the same day Saeed bin Amir arrived with an army of one thousand men. The Muslims received great strength and proceeded to prepare for battle with great resolute and steadfastness. Mu‘azra bin Jabal, a companion of a lofty status, was appointed to lead the right flank of the army, while Qubath bin Ashyam lead the left flank, and Hashim bin Utbah commanded the infantry.
[Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra] split the soldiers under his command into four divisions. One was reserved for the army that was under his command, while the other three were led by Qais bin Huwairah, Maisarah bin Masrooq and Amr bin Tufail. These three men were among the bravest warriors of Arabia and were thus titled Faaris al-Arab. The Byzantines were also well equipped going forward. Their numbers exceeded 200,000. They were standing in 24 rows headed by their religious leaders who were holding crosses in their hand as they incited their people. When the armies came face to face, a “Batreeq” – a word referring to a religious leader of the Christians – came through the rows and challenged for a duel. Maisarah bin Masrooq advanced his horse but Khalidra stopped him because the opponent looked to be young and strong and instead, looked toward Qais bin Huwairah. He went forward while reciting a couplet.
Qais attacked so swiftly that the opponent could hardly even grab hold of his weapon. The sword struck his head, cutting through his helmet all the way to his neck, and he tumbled off of his horse. Upon this, the Muslims raised slogans glorifying God. Khalidra said that this was a good sign and if God willed, then victory would be theirs.
The Christians had appointed separate battalions to attack Khalidra and the other commanders of the Muslim army; however, the enemy was all defeated and by the end of the day, the battle continued to be fought.
At night, when the Byzantines realised that they were losing, the Byzantine commander Bahan gathered the chiefs and told them that Arabs have become accustomed to the riches of Syria, and so, rather than continuing to fight, it would be best to entice them with riches in exchange for leaving.
Everyone agreed with this suggestion, and on the next day, they sent a messenger to Abu Ubaidahra, requesting for a high-ranking leader to be sent to them in order to negotiate the terms of a ceasefire. Abu Ubaidahra appointed Khalidra for this. The messenger who conveyed this message was named George, as recorded by the Urdu historians; however, in Arabic books, his name appears as Jarjah. (I have mentioned this for the Arab speakers.)
When the messenger arrived, it was already evening and the maghrib prayer was offered a short while later. The zeal with which the Muslims glorified God and stood for prayer and the level of devotion, tranquillity, dignity, honour and fervency with which the Muslims offered prayer greatly impressed the messenger and he looked on in awe. When the prayer came to a conclusion, he asked Abu Ubaidahra a few questions, one of which was about his belief regarding Jesusas. Abu Ubaidahra recited the following verses of the Holy Quran:
اِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيۡسٰي عِنۡدَ اللّٰهِ كَمَثَلِ اٰدَمَ ؕ خَلَقَهٗ مِنۡ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهٗ كُنۡ فَيَكُوۡنُ
يٰۤاَهۡلَ الۡكِتٰبِ لَا تَغۡلُوۡا فِيۡ دِيۡنِكُمۡ وَ لَا تَقُوۡلُوۡا عَلَي اللّٰهِ اِلَّا الۡحَقَّ ؕ اِنَّمَا الۡمَسِيۡحُ عِيۡسَي ابۡنُ مَرۡيَمَ رَسُوۡلُ اللّٰهِ وَ كَلِمَتُهٗ ۚ اَلۡقٰهَاۤ اِلٰي مَرۡيَمَ وَ رُوۡحٌ مِّنۡهُ ۫ فَاٰمِنُوۡا بِاللّٰهِ وَ رُسُلِهٖ ۚ۟ وَ لَا تَقُوۡلُوۡا ثَلٰثَةٌ ؕ اِنۡتَهُوۡا خَيۡرًا لَّكُمۡ ؕ اِنَّمَا اللّٰهُ اِلٰهٌ وَّاحِدٌ ؕ سُبۡحٰنَهٗۤ اَنۡ يَّكُوۡنَ لَهٗ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَهٗ مَا فِي السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ مَا فِي الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ وَ كَفٰي بِاللّٰهِ وَكِيۡلًا۔ لَنۡ يَّسۡتَنۡكِفَ الۡمَسِيۡحُ اَنۡ يَّكُوۡنَ عَبۡدًا لِّلّٰهِ وَ لَا الۡمَلٰٓئِكَةُ الۡمُقَرَّبُوۡنَ
Meaning, “Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, ‘Be!,’ and he was.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.60)
“O People of the Book, exceed not the limits in your religion, and say not of Allah anything but the truth. Verily, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of Allah and a fulfilment of His word which He sent down to Mary, and a mercy from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messengers, and say not ‘They are three.’ Desist, it will be better for you. Verily, Allah is the only One God. Far is it from His Holiness that He should have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. And sufficient is Allah as a Guardian. Surely, the Messiah will never disdain to be a servant of Allah, nor will the angels near unto God” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.172-173)
When the interpreter translated these verses, and the messenger, George, immediately proclaimed, “I testify that these were the very qualities of Jesusas and I bear witness that your Prophetsa is truthful”, after this, he recited the Kalima [Islamic creed declaring the unity of God] and became a Muslim. He did not wish to return to his people; however, Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra thought that the Byzantines may see this as a breach of trust and so he told him to return with their mediator the next day.
The next day, Hazrat Khalidra went to the Byzantine army’s camp. As a display of grandeur, they arranged for riders to stand on both sides of the path for a long distance, all of them clad in iron from head to toe. However, Hazrat Khalidra did not pay any attention to this and would look at them with disdain as he passed by and looked at them just like a lion who passes through a herd of sheep. As he approached Bahan’s tent, he received him with great honour and seated Khalidra beside him. The conversation started through an interpreter; after having a brief conversation, Bahan began speaking as if he was delivering a lecture. After praising Jesusas, he invoked the name of their emperor and said with great pride, “Our king is the leader of all kings.” The interpreter had not yet finished translating this sentence when Khalidra stopped Bahan and said, “Perhaps your king may be so; however, if the person who has been appointed as our leader were to ever think of himself as a king for even a moment, we would remove him right away.”
Bahan then began his speech and while boasting his status and wealth he said:
“The Arabs, i.e. your people, came and settled in our lands, and we always treated them in a friendly manner. We thought that the entire Arab world would be grateful for our favours, but contrary to our expectation, you have attacked our country and desire to expel us from it. Are you not aware, that many nations have devised numerous plots to do the same, but were never successful? As for you, there is no nation more ignorant than your people; no one is more lowly and deprived. Yet, you have the audacity to attack us; however, we will overlook this act of yours. In fact, if you leave, then as a reward we will give your commanders 10,000 dinars, your officers 1,000 dinars each and each soldier 100 dinars.”
In fact, they were the ones who had assembled such a large army to combat and defeat the Muslims, but when the Byzantines realised that it would not be easy to win this war, they stipulated these conditions. In any case, when Bahan finished his speech, Hazrat Khalidra got up, and after praising God and His Messengersa, he said, “There is no doubt that you are wealthy and powerful. We are also aware of your treatment towards the neighbouring Arabs, but this was no favour on your part; rather, it was a ploy to spread your faith. You desired to propagate your religion as a result of which Arabs converted to Christianity and today they have joined you in fighting against us. It is true that we had limited means and were nomads. The extent of our cruelties and ignorance was that the powerful would crush the weak, tribes would fight and destroy each other. However, God bestowed His mercy upon us and sent us a messenger, who was from among us and who was the noblest, most benevolent and most righteous from of us. He taught us the unity of God and taught that God does not have any partner, He has no wife or children, and is completely Independent and Self-Subsisting. He also commanded us to spread these teachings throughout the world; whoever accepts is a Muslim and our brother. Whoever does not accept but agrees to pay the jizya, we will be their helpers and protectors. Whoever rejects both of these things will be met with the sword.” (If they do not accept and are bent on fighting, then we too are prepared.) As soon as Bahan heard the word jizya, he sighed and pointed towards his army and said, “They will die before they pay the jizya. We do not give the jizya; rather, we take it.”
Thus, no decision was reached and so Hazrat Khalidra stood up and left. Preparations for one final attack were being made and the Byzantines were unable to recover after this attack. After Hazrat Khalidra left, Bahan gathered the Byzantine generals and said, “You have just heard the Arabs claim that unless you become their subjects, you will not remain safe from their attack. Do you accept being subdued by them and their rule?” All the Byzantine generals passionately refused by saying, “We will die, but never accept this humiliation.”
In the morning, fully equipped, the Byzantine forces marched out with such vigour that it took the Muslims by surprise. Witnessing this, Hazrat Khalidra desired to rearrange the army in a manner that was different to the Arab way of arranging the army.
When Hazrat Khalidra saw that the Byzantines had marched out with full force, he decided to use a new method to arrange the army which was something the Arabs had not used previously. His army, which comprised of 30-35,000 men, was split into 36 units and he meticulously arranged the sections of the army; the centre of the army was assigned to Abu Ubaidahra, the right flank was assigned to Amrra bin al-Aas and Sharahbeelra and the left flank was assigned to Yazidra bin Abi Sufyan. Aside from this, the commander appointed to oversee each of these units were those who were renowned for their bravery and skill in war. Eloquent orators, who were able to arouse the zeal of the people were chosen to inspire the army. Among these orators was Abu Sufyanra, who would roam ahead of the army exclaiming:
“By Allah, you are the guardians of all the Arabs and helpers of Islam and they are the Byzantine guardians and helpers of idolatry. O Allah, this day is among Your promised days; O Allah send down your succour upon Your people.”
Amrra bin al-Aasra would go around saying:
“O people! Lower your gaze, and sit down on your knees, prepare your spears and remain firm in your position and in your ranks. When the enemy launches an attack on you, hold your position until they come within reach of your spears, then pounce on them like lions. I swear by God, Who is pleased with the truth and grants rewards for it, and Who is displeased with falsehood and punishes owing to it, and the One Who rewards goodness, I have received news that Muslims will conquer one settlement after another, and will conquer one palace after another and eventually will conquer the entire land. Do not let their size and numbers overawe you. If you remain steadfast in the battle, then they will be fearful of you like the chicks of a partridge and they will scatter.”
Although the Muslim army numbered between 30-35,000, they were chosen from all of Arabia. Among them were 1,000 individuals who had seen the blessed countenance of the Holy Prophetsa; 100 individuals had fought alongside the Holy Prophetsa in the Battle of Badr; more than 10,000 individuals were from the famous Arab tribe of Azd alone. A large group of the Himyar [tribe] were present and as well as many brave warriors of Hamadan, Khawlan, Lahm and Judham.
One notable feature of this battle was that women also took part in this battle and fought valiantly. Hazrat Hindra, the mother of Amir Muawiyahra and wife of Abu Sufyanra, who later accepted Islam, would launch an attack whilst proclaiming, “Sever the heads of the disbelievers”. Similarly, Juwayriya, the daughter of Abu Sufyanra and sister of Amir Muawiyahra, went out with a contingent and fought the Byzantine army alongside her husband and was martyred in a fierce encounter. Miqdadra, who had a melodious voice would go ahead of the army and recite Surah al-Anfal, which contains verses pertaining to jihad. On the other side, the passion of the Byzantines was such that 30,000 Byzantine soldiers had shackled themselves together, so there would be no thought of retreat – they chained their feet together.
The Byzantine forces launched the first attack. A formidable army of 200,000 strong marched forwards. Thousands of priests and bishops with crosses in their hand would walk ahead and recite the name of Jesus. Upon seeing their vast provisions, someone spontaneously said, “Allah is the Greatest! What a remarkable army!” Hazrat Khalidra replied passionately saying, “Stay quiet! By God, if the hooves of my horse were healthy, I would have said to let the Christians bring double this army!” Nonetheless, the Christians launched a fierce attack and showering down arrows, they marched ahead. The Muslims held their ground for a long time, but the Byzantine attack was so intense that the right flank of the Muslim army broke away from the army and retreated in complete disarray. Having suffered a setback, they retreated up to the women’s camp. Seeing the state of the Muslims, the women became enraged. They pulled out the pegs of their tents and said, “O unfortunate ones! If you come this way, we will strike your heads with these pegs!” Hindra, the wife of Abu Sufyanra, took hold of a staff and marched ahead with the other women behind her. Seeing Abu Sufyanra running away, Hind struck the pointed staff on the front of his horse and said, “Where are you going? Go back to the battlefield!”
According to one narration, Hindra picked up a stick and ran towards Abu Sufyanra, saying:
“By God, you were ruthless in your opposition against the true religion of Islam and in rejecting the truthful Messengersa of God. Today, there is a chance to raise aloft the true religion and attain the pleasure of God and His Messengersa by sacrificing your life, and attaining honour in the sight of Allah.”
With his honour at stake, Abu Sufyanra became impassioned, and with his sword drawn in his hand, he penetrated the enormous army.
Another brave Muslim woman called Khawlah would inspire the people by reciting the following couplets:
يَا هَارِبًا عَنْ نِسْوَةٍ تَقِيَّاتٖ
فَعَنْ قَلِيْلٍ مَا تَرٰى سَبِيَّاتٖ
وَلَا حَظِيَّاتٍ وَلَا رَضِيَّاتٖ
Meaning, “O ye who run away past the righteous women, soon you will find them [women] imprisoned, they will not attain the lofty ranks, nor will they be among the chosen ones.”
Upon witnessing this situation, Mu‘azra bin Jabal, who was the commander of the right flank, leapt from his horse and said, “I will fight on foot. If there is a brave warrior who can do justice to this horse, the horse is his.”
His son said, “Indeed, I shall do justice to this horse as I can fight better on horseback.” Hence, both father and son penetrated the enemy rows and fought with such valour that the Muslims regained their footing. Along with this, Hajjaj, who was the leader of the Zubaidah tribe, took 500 soldiers with him and stopped the Byzantines who were chasing the Muslims. The Azd tribe remained steadfast in the right flank of the army. Despite attacking them with all their military power and weapons, the Muslims stood firm like a mountain. The intensity of the battle was such that heads, hands and legs would be severed, but the Muslims would not be moved.
Amr bin Tufail, who was the leader of this tribe would continue striking with his sword and proclaimed, “O Azd! Ensure the Muslims are not tainted because of you.”
He killed nine prominent warriors [from the enemy] and eventually was martyred himself.
Hazrat Khalidra, who had held his contingent back, suddenly struck, penetrating the [enemy] ranks with such force that the Byzantine ranks became scattered. Ikrimahra, the son of Abu Jahl, raced his horse ahead saying, “O Christians! When I was a disbeliever, I fought against the Holy Prophetsa. How could I then retreat today against you?”
Saying this, he turned to the army and said, “Who pledges allegiance to sacrifice their life?”
400 soldiers, which included Zarar bin Azd pledged allegiance to sacrifice their lives and fought with such resolve that almost every single one of them was killed.
The body of Ikrimahra was found among a pile of those killed. He was breathing his last; Hazrat Khalidra placed his head on his lap and sprinkling some water into his throat he said, “By God! Umar’sra viewpoint turned out to be incorrect that we would not be martyred.” Although Ikrimahra and his men went into the jaws of death themselves, they killed thousands of Byzantine soldiers in the process.
The attack launched by Khalidra broke the Byzantine strength even more, to the extent that they had to retreat. Hazrat Khalidra kept forcing them back until they reached the Byzantine commander Darinjar. Darinjar and the other Byzantine officers had put a cloth over their eyes, so that if they were unable to see victory, they also avoid seeing defeat. Just as the battle was intensifying, Ibn Qanatir, the Byzantine commander of the right flank launched an attack on the left flank of the Muslim army.
Unfortunately, this consisted of a large part of the Lahm and Ghassan, who lived towards the Levant and for a long period of time had been giving tax to the Byzantines. Owing to giving tax for such a long time, they were overawed by them which resulted in them losing their footing in the first attack.
Despite being Muslims, the overawing influence of the Byzantines was prevalent and owing to this fear they lost their footing. Nonetheless, the [Muslim] commanders showed great resolve; if they had shown weakness, the battle would have been over. The Byzantines chased those who ran away up until the women’s encampment.
Upon witnessing these scenes, the women came out at once and their bravery prevented the Christians from advancing any further. Even though the army had dispersed, however among the commanders, Qabas bin Ashyam, Saeed bin Zaid, Yazidra bin Abi Sufyan, Amrra bin al-Aas and Sharahbeelra bin Hasana continued to rouse them.
Swords and spears would continue to fall from Qabas’ hand, but he would not show even the slightest expression of despair. As soon as his spear would break and fall to the ground, he would say, “Is there anyone who can give me a weapon for I have vowed to God that if I have to leave the battlefield then it will only be in a state of death.”
Subsequently, a sword or a spear would be given to him and he would immediately pounce at the enemy like a lion. Abul A‘war jumped off his horse and addressing his battalion, stated, “Patience and steadfastness is a mark of respect in this world and a means of mercy in the Hereafter. Do not let this wealth slip from your hands.”
Saeed bin Zaid was stood with his knees on the ground whilst in a state of anger. The Byzantines rushed towards him and he leapt towards them like a lion and attacked the commander of the vanguard and felled him to the ground.
Yazidra bin Abi Sufyan, the brother of Muawiyahra, was fighting with great courage. By chance, his father, Abu Sufyanra, who was encouraging the army came towards him and upon seeing his son, stated:
“O my son! At this moment, each and every soldier is demonstrating their valour. You are a commander, therefore you possess the greatest right amongst them all to demonstrate your bravery. If even one of them excels you in this, then it would be a means of shame for you.”
The state of Sharahbeelra was such that he was surrounded from all directions by the Byzantines and he was stood like a mountain in the middle and was reciting the following verse of the Holy Quran:
اِنَّ اللّٰهَ اشۡتَرٰي مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ اَنۡفُسَهُمۡ وَ اَمۡوَالَهُمۡ بِاَنَّ لَهُمُ الۡجَنَّةَ ؕ يُقَاتِلُوۡنَ فِيۡ سَبِيۡلِ اللّٰهِ فَيَقۡتُلُوۡنَ وَ يُقۡتَلُوۡنَ
“Surely, Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their property in return for the heavenly Garden they shall have; they fight in the cause of Allah, and they slay and are slain.” (Surah al-Taubah, Ch.9: V.111)
He would also raise the slogan, “Where are those who wish to enter into a deal with God and seek the nearness of God?”
Whoever heard this would spontaneously return and the army which had become dispersed, once again reassembled. Sharahbeelra once again led them into battle with such bravery that the Byzantines, who were continuously fighting could not make any further ground. On the other hand, the women came out from their camps and stood behind their army and would shout, “If you turn back from the battlefield, then do not ever look at us.”
Up till then, both armies were having an equal share of the battle; in fact, the Byzantines were gaining slightly more ground. However, when Qais bin Huwairah, to whom Khalidra had assigned a part of the army and dispatched them to the left flank of the army, came out from the back and attacked with such intensity that despite the efforts of the Byzantine commanders they could not keep their army intact. All of the enemy rows were scattered and they became overwhelmed and began to retreat.
At the same time, Saeed bin Zaid emerged from the middle and launched an attack. The Byzantines kept moving back until they reached the well that was situated at the extreme end of the battlefield. In a short space of time, the well was filled with corpses and the battlefield was empty, and thus Allah the Almighty granted the Muslims an extraordinary victory in this extremely important battle. A noteworthy incident that took place during this battle was that when the battle was at its peak, Habas bin Qais, who was a courageous soldier, was valiantly fighting and someone struck their sword in his foot, completely severing it. However, Habas was completely unaware of this. After a short while, when he realised and looked down at his foot, he saw that his foot was missing. Later, the people of his tribe would always recall this incident with great pride.
The number of Byzantine soldiers reported to have been killed in the battle differ. Al-Tabari and Azdi have recorded that there were more than 100,000. According to Baladhuri, it was 70,000 while 3,000 Muslims were killed, which included Ikrimah, Zarar bin Azwar, Hisham bin Aasi, Aban bin Saeed, etc.
At the time, the Byzantine emperor was in Antioch. As soon as he heard of their loss, he immediately made preparations to head to Constantinople. Upon departing, he looked into the direction of Syria and stated, “O land of Syria! I bid you farewell!”
Hazrat Abu Ubaidahra wrote a letter to Hazrat Umarra conveying the news of victory and sent a small delegation which included Huzayfara bin Yaman. Hazrat Umarra had not slept in wait for the news from Yarmouk. As soon as he heard the news of victory, he immediately fell into prostration and expressed his gratitude to God.
(Al-Farooq, Shibli Naumani, pp. 119-130, Dar-ul-Isha‘at Karachi, 1991) (Al-Iktifa bima Tadammanahu min Maghazi Rasul Allah wa Al-Thalatha Al-Khulafa, Vol. 2 p. 271,Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut) (Futuh al-Sham, Waqidi, Vol. 1, p. 242, Maktaba Al-Taufiqiyah, Egypt, 2008) (Tarikh Al-Tabari, Ibn Jarir, Vol. 2, p. 338 -374, Dar-ul-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1987) (Tarikh-e-Islam Ki Bahadur Khawatin, p. 116, Maulana Sanaullah Shuja Abadi, Maktabah Umar Farooq, Karachi, 2011) (Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihayat, Vol. 9, p. 560, Dar-e-Hijr, 1998)
The army in Homs had to travel to Yarmouk and remain their temporarily and the tax [jizya] which had been taken from its inhabitants was returned.
Whilst mentioning this, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:
“The Companions fought against the Byzantines and eventually conquered Jerusalem, which was a holy land for the Christians and then began to advance further ahead from there as well. Upon seeing that their religious centre had fallen to the Muslims, the Christians planned to make one final attempt in order to drive the Muslims out from there. They issued announcements in every direction for a religious crusade which greatly impassioned the Christians. They gathered a large army and prepared to attack the Muslims.
“Upon witnessing this, the Muslims who comparatively were very few in number, decided to temporarily retreat from there.
“The commander of the Muslim army wrote to Hazrat Umarra stating, ‘The enemy is in such large numbers whilst we are so few, therefore to fight against them is akin to destroying our own army. Therefore, if you permit, the Muslim army will pull back in order to reorganise our army and reduce the scope of the battle. In this way, we will be able to regroup everyone and then challenge them.’
“He further wrote, ‘If you grant us permission to leave the lands we have occupied and from whom we have taken tax as well, could you then also advise us regarding the tax money?’
“Upon this, Hazrat Umarra replied, ‘It is not against the teachings of Islam to retreat in order to reorganise the army and to reduce the scope of the battle, but let it be known that the tax was taken from the inhabitants of those lands on the condition that the Muslim army will grant them protection. If the Muslim army is to leave from there then it means that they will no longer be able to protect these lands. Therefore, it is imperative that whatever has been taken from them should be returned.’
“When Hazrat Umar’sra instruction reached them, the commander of the Muslim army called the local landowners, traders and others and returned what had been taken from them. He stated to them, ‘This money had been taken from you on the condition that the Muslim army shall protect you in return. However, now, since we consider ourselves weaker in comparison to the enemy and are thus temporarily retreating from here and cannot protect you, therefore it is not permissible for us to keep this money.’
“The example demonstrated here is such that no other king in history has ever acted like this. Generally, when any king withdraws from an area, instead of returning the tax money, they further plunder the land. They feel that since the land is going to be occupied by others, therefore they ought to derive as much benefit as they possibly can. Furthermore, since they are not going to live there anymore, therefore they have no fear of bringing any dishonour to their reputation. And even if there is a very highly organised government, the most they will do is they will discreetly withdraw their troops and will not allow any large scale looting and violence.
“However, the Muslim army demonstrated such an example that since the creation of the world, never has anyone witnessed such an example as demonstrated in the era of Hazrat Umarra. In fact, it is a pity that even if we were to include the history after this event, we still cannot find an example whereby a ruler has withdrawn from an area and returned the tax and wealth taken from its people.
“This had such a profound impact upon the Christians that despite the fact that the opposing army consisted of people of their own faith, despite the fact that generals, colonels and commanders who were advancing forth were from among their own people, including their soldiers, and despite the fact that this battle was now made into a religious war for the Christians, and despite the fact that their religious centre had fallen into the hands of the Muslims and to regain it was now a distant dream, yet the Christian men and women came out of their homes and began to cry and prayed that the Muslims would one day return again.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 24, pp. 15-17)
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra had a very firm grasp in his knowledge of history and according to him, the Muslims sought permission from Hazrat Umarra to retreat and the tax money was also returned upon his directive.
With regard to Hazrat Ikrimahra, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:
“During the era of Hazrat Umar’sra Khilafat, during the Battle of Yarmouk, when the lives of the Companions of the Holy Prophetsa were in great danger and the Muslims were being killed in great numbers, the commander and chief of the Islamic army, Hazrat Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrrahra stated, ‘I desire for some courageous men to come forth, who though may be small in number, but they go all out in battle and overawe the Byzantine forces.’
“Hazrat Ikrimahra came forth and requested Hazrat Ubaidahra, ‘Let me select some men of my choice and I will take them and attack the centre of the enemy forces and will try and kill their general.’
“At the time, the general of the Byzantine army was fighting with great intensity and the king had promised him that if he gained victory over the Muslims, he would give his daughter’s hand in marriage to him and would hand over half of his kingdom to him. In desire of this, he was filled with passion and took his personal army and the official army to the battlefield. He had also promised large sums of money to his soldiers, hence the Byzantine soldiers were also fighting with great intensity.
“When the Byzantine army attacked the Muslims, this general was stood right in the heart of the army. Hazrat Ikrimahra took 400 soldiers along with him and attacked right at the heart of the enemy forces and one of his men attacked the general and threw him to the ground. They were just 400 Muslim soldiers and were up against an army of hundreds of thousands, therefore this was no easy challenge. Even though they killed this general and as a result of his death, the army became scattered, the enemy forces attacked them and except for a few, they were all martyred. Among these men, 12 were severely injured.
“When the Muslim army gained victory, they went in search of these men [who launched the attack] and among these 12 wounded men was also Hazrat Ikrimahra. One of the Muslim soldiers came to him and upon seeing the grave condition of Ikrimahra, he said to him, ‘O Ikrimah! I have a water bag with me, drink some water from it.’
“Ikrimahra turned his head and saw that Fazl, the son of Hazrat Abbasra, was lying near him and was severely injured. Ikrimahra said to the Muslim soldier, ‘My honour would not permit me to quench my thirst and live, whilst those people and their progeny die of thirst, who assisted the Holy Prophetsa at a time when I was his staunch enemy, therefore give him water first. If there is any left then bring it to me.’
“The Muslim soldier then went to Fazl, but he indicated that another injured Muslim ought to be given water first, as he was more in need than he was. The Muslim soldier then went to him, but he also stated that another injured Muslim was more in need of water, therefore he ought to go to him first. Accordingly, whichever injured soldier he would go to, they would send him to the next person and none would drink the water.
“When the Muslim soldier went to the last of the injured soldiers, he had already passed away. He then returned to Ikrimahra, but he had also passed away and when he went to the other injured soldiers they too had passed away.” (Har Ahmadi Aurat Ahmadiyyat Ki Sadaqat Ka Eik Zinda Nishan Hai, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 26, pp. 229-231)
This was the outcome of this battle and Allah the Almighty granted them victory.
In any case, these accounts will continue to be related in future insha-Allah.
(Original Urdu transcript published in Al Fazl International, 8 October 2021, pp. 5-9. Translated by The Review of Religions.)