The conquest of 'Iraq
The purposes of the conquest:
the wars of apostasy had come to an end, Abu Bakr wanted to be sure
that the vanquished1tribes
would not think of retaliation. The best way to ensure this was
to direct their thoughts towards conquests outside the Arabian peninsula 2.
the borders between Arabia and 'Iraq there were numerous Arab tribes
leading a nomad life and forming a sort of buffer3
state between the Persians and the Romans. Abu Bakr hoped that these
tribesmight accept Islam and help their brethren4
in spreading it.
of these northern tribes had replaced their nomad 5
society with a rural 6one.
The Persian taxation laws were arbitrary 8
and oppressive; Abu Bakr believed that they might be persuaded to
help the Muslims, who sought to release them from injustice.
Arabia was surrounded by two gigantic 9
empires, and it was unsafe to remain passive with these two for
midable powers on its borders. Abu Bakr hoped that by attacking `Iraq and
Syria he might remove10the
danger from his borders.
the heavy defeat which the Romans inflicted on the Persians, the latter
were in a state of confusion. In four years, nine kings ascended 11
the throne. By starting with Iraq, Abu Bakr hoped that the conquest of
Persia might be possible and even easy.
and Syria were rich in resources12
and had moderate climates.' Iraq was called "the paradise of the earth",
and this worked like a charm on the minds of the Bedouins, whose pre-Islamic
was merely a series of raids13.
have already heard something of the Bahraini leader Muthanna, who helped
Al-Hadhrami to subdue his own native apostates. Muthanna was not satisfied
with what he had done, but marched northwards along the coast of the Gulf
until he reached the borders of `Iraq. In order to invade the Persian Empire
he needed Abu Bakr's consent. So, he travelled to Madina where, after taking
his counsellors' advice, particularly that of Khalid bin AI-Waleed, Abu
Bakr officially appointed Muthanna commander in the Arabian Gulf area.
1. The Battle of the Chains
No sooner had Muthanna left Madina than he was joined by Khalid
bin AI-Waleed at the head of an army 10,000 strong. When the two joined
forces at the borders near the delta. Khalid sent a letter to Hormuz, the
Persian governor and leader, offering him three options:
- to embrace Islam;
- to pay tribute;
- to fight.
Hormuz was an intolerable man. He was disliked by the 'Iraqis who
used to say of him: "There is no infidel more wicked than Hormuz ." Yet
in Persia he was regarded as a nobleman of the highest rank. This was shown
by his beret14which
was evaluated 15at
Getting no reply, Khalid divided his army into three regiments16
of 6,000 men each. The first day Muthanna marched to Hafeer; the second
day 'Adiyy bin Hatim followed; and the third day Khalid found Hormuz occupying
the water springs.
Hormuz wanted to cut the fight short by murdering17Khalid
treacherously. So, no sooner were the two armies engaged in battle than
he challenged Khalid to fight a duel. Khalid at once dismounted18
and before long his foe19was
killed and Khalid cut off his head and held it by the forelock20.
The Persians dashed up at full gallop21
to prevent their captain's death, but the Muslims were ready for them.
The Persians took to their heels and a massacre followed. Among the spoils
sent to Madina were Hormoz's beret and an elephant. The huge animal was
publicly admired by old and young, and then returned to 'Iraq to be made
use of in the forthcoming war. As for the warriors' booty, each gained
about 1000 dirhems as well as the plundered22
The Battle of the Chains was so called because the Persian troops
were tied together by chains. The heap23
of chains which was collected from the battlefield amounted to a
camel load weighing 1000 pounds.
2. The battle of Mathar
Muthanna pursued the retreating24
Persians for a long way, when suddenly he saw reinforcements coming to
Hormuz from Mada'in, the capital. He sent news of the situation to Khalid
and halted opposite the Persians at Mathar. Qarun, the Persian leader,
wanted to fight Muthanna alone before the Muslims could come to his aid,
but he was too late. As soon as Khalid was informed, he hastened to Mathar
and engaged the enemy although he was ill-prepared .25
Qarun, Qabath and Anoshjan, the three enemy leaders, were all killed. Anything
that the Muslim fighters could plunder in battle was kept by them and one
fifth of the spoils was sent to Madina.
3. The battle of Walajah
Being weakened by two successive defeats, Ardasheer, the Persian
king, asked for the help of his Arab allies. A huge army was collected
from the tribe of Bakr bin Wa'il, and in order to further restore the Persian
forces, another army was also recruited26
The commander-in-chief this time was Bahman and the site of the battle
Khalid weighed up27
the situation and worked out his strategy28.
He left two battalions in ambush29,
so as to attack the enemy from the rear 30at
the right moment. The battle was furious and at the start it was doubtful
if the Muslims would Win; but when the two battalions appeared, the fight
was decided and the booty was unbelievable. Khalid's remark was: "Behold
the incredible heap of spoils! We have attained two goals! Victory in God's
cause, and amazing wealth."
4. The battle of Ollays
This was the fiercest battle Khalid fought in 'Iraq. As the Banu
Bakr wanted to avenge their defeat at Walajah,
they invited all the Christians of' Iraq to oppose Khalid at Ollays. Also,
Ardasheer gave orders to Bahman to lend them full support. However, because
the king was ill, Bahman left his forces to visit him, leaving Jaban as
leader in his place. Jaban was given strict orders not to engage the Muslims
unless he was obliged to do so. The battle flared up and both sides fought
patiently and bravely. When Banu Bakr's line began to waver Jaban was forced
Expecting help from Bahman, the Persians proved stubborn
and persistent. But because of the king's death, Bahman was unable to leave
and no aid arrived at Ollays. The fight was so fierce that Khalid vowed
if ever he won the battle, he would kill as many of his enemies as would
make the nearby river flow32
with blood. So, when in the end, the Muslims got the upper hand, Khalid
gave his men orders to take prisoners and send them to him. The river was
diverted from its course, and some historians say that 70,000 non Muslims
were put to the sword; but the blood did not flow. It was then suggested
that the river revert to its normal course and this made the blood flow
so Khalid's vow was fulfilled.
Maneeshya, a neighbouring town whose inhabitants took an active
part in the fight, was pulled down and all the people's possessions were
taken as booty. Each knight's share on that day amounted to 1500 dirhems.
When Abu Bakr heard the details from Jandal, who was sent to Madina with
the spoils, he said: All the women of the world are too barren 33
give birth to a man like Khalid!"
5. The surrender of Al-Heerah
Al-Heerah had been
the capital of the `Iraqi Arabs since the second century of the Christian
era. After the battle of Ollays all the rebels took refuge there. Its Persian
governor, Azathba, awaited Khalid's arrival anxiously outside the city,
and his son diverted34
the course of the river in an attempt to prevent the Muslims from attacking
the city by using Maneeshyan ships. Khalid
actually tried to convey 35his
men by ship but failed because the water was too shallow. So, at the head
of a cavalry detachment, he surprised the governor's son and reverted the
water to its normal course. Seeing what had happened to his son, Azathba
ran away leaving the city to its fate36.
Refusing to accept Islam or to pay tribute, the inhabitants resisted attack,
but the fortresses were stormed37.
Five delegates met Khalid to negotiate peace terms. According to the terms
of the agreement, they had to pay the Muslims 190,000 dirhems every year.
However Khalid refused to sign the agreement unless Karamah, the sister
of one of the delegates, was delivered to Shuwayl, an obscure Muslim warrior
to whom the Prophet had promised the woman if AI-Heerah was ever taken
by the Muslims. It was a very difficult condition because Karamah was then
80 years old. However, Karamah said: "Never mind! I will go to him! He
is a fool who saw me when I was a beautiful girl. He thinks that beauty
is permanent. Now I am old and he will accept a ransom instead."
When Shuwayl saw Karamah he agreed to take a ransom, but he refused
to accept less than 1000 dirhems, which
he was willingly38given.
Later he regretted his decision because his friends made fun of him for
accepting such a small ransom. Then he asked Khalid for a larger sum, explaining
that he had not known a number greater than a thousand. Khalid laughed
and said: "That is OK ! You meant one thing but God meant something else!"
After the peace treaty was concluded, similar treaties were signed
between Khalid and other dignitaries39;
and before long all the regions between the Arabian Gulf and Al-Heerah,
which extended as far as the Tigris, passed under Muslim control.
6. The surrender of Al-Anbar
Al-Heerah was a convenient place for Khalid's headquarters. He
remained there for a whole year without attempting to conquer Mada'in.
In fact, he was following the instructions of Abu Bakr, who for bade him
to leave Al-Heerah unless his comrade, `lyadh bin Ghanm, arrived after
subduing Doomah, which was a long way to the south.
But Khalid grew impatient and began to call it "a womanly year"
as he was anxious to continue his conquests. He wanted to spread Islam
everywhere. So he looked westwards
along the banks of the Euphrates and saw Al-Anbar. Leaving Qa'qa' in Al-Heerah,
he marched quickly to the city and lay siege to it. But, as it was surrounded
by a ditch 40,
it could not be stormed. What could he do? He checked the ditch, and across
the narrowest 41part
of it he killed some lean camels and made a bridge of them. Soon the walls
were scaled and the gates were broken open. To avoid another massacre,
the Persian governor, Sheerzad, negotiated peace. He had to forfeit all
his possessions but was allowed to leave at the head of a cohort42
7. The surrender of `Ayn Al-Tamr
It took Khalid three days to cover the distance between Al-Anbar
and `Ayn AI-Tamr. There were Arabs and Persians waiting for him. The Arabs
advised the Persians not to take part in the war as the Persians were not
experienced at fighting Arabs - a piece of advice which the Persians thankfully
As soon as Khalid arrived, 'Oqqah, the Arab chief, challenged him
to a duel - a challenge which Khalid readily accepted. It took Khalid
only a few minutes to overpower43
`Oqqah, who was then taken captive. Seeing the consequences of the Arabs'
obstinacy 44, the
Persians fled and the city gates were opened.
8. The surrender of Doomat AI-Jandal
Doomat Al-Jandal is a strategically important place which lies about
300 miles to the south of 'Ayn Al -Tamr. It forms a juncture45
between Arabia,'Iraq and Syria. This is why Abu Bakr sent'Iyadh bin Ghanm
at the head of an army to subjugate it. If it were not in the hands of
the Muslims, their rear might be threatened at any time by the insurgents.
`Iyadh spent a whole year trying unsuccessfully to subdue Doomat Al Jandal.
Then he sent a message to Khalid asking for help. Khalid was overjoyed 46to
receive the message, and the next day he set off southwards. He covered
the distance in ten days, only to find 'Iyadh besieging the fortified city
and at the same time besieged by his enemies.
As soon as 'Okaydir, the governor of the city, heard of Khalid's
arrival, he advised his allies to negotiate peace. His advice being rejected,
he went to Khalid and disgracefully surrendered himself. He still remembered
the lesson which Khalid had taught him during the life of the Prophet.
There are two accounts of'Okaydir's end. One of them says that he was killed,
and the other that he was sent to Abu Bakr, who kept him in jail until
the caliphate of 'Omar set him free.
As for the allies, a large number of them remained outside
the city walls because there was no room for them inside. When Khalid attacked
them, he killed Judi, their chieftain, first. Then he brought the captives
to the city gate and killed them. They were so numerous that the gate was
blocked by their bodies. Then he gave orders for the gate to be broken
down. All the warriors inside were put to the sword, and the women were
auctioned. He chose for himself the pretty daughter of the murdered Judi,
with whom he stayed in Doomaat AI-Jandal for some time.
9. The Battle of Foradh
Though the Arab tribes were defeated many times, they did not stop
plotting against Khalid. This forced him to march northwards to deal with
their incessant plots and intrigues. The Banu Taghlib were dealt their
severest blow when they were surrounded from three sides and their army
completely annihilated.Having finished with the rebel tribes, Khalid marched on till he
reached the border between Syria and 'Iraq. He camped there for a whole
month while the Roman army was just opposite him across the border. Eventually
the Romans felt they could no longer sit
passively while the Muslims challenged them to their faces. They sent a
message to Khalid inquiring whether he or they should cross the Euphrates.
Khalid invited the Romans to cross, and then surprised them by his onslaught47
before they could finish crossing and take rest. Three well-known Muslim
historians, Al-Tabari, Ibn AI-Atheer and Ibn Khaldun, agree that about
100,000 enemy soldiers fell in this battle.
10. Khalid performs the pilgrimage secretly
the battle of Foradh, which took place in 12 A.H, Khalid decided to take
some rest before at tacking Mada'in. During this time he felt a great desire
to perform the pilgrimage. Yet he was afraid that during his absence from
`Iraq, the malicious tribes would seize the opportunity and rise against
So, he let the army march slowly back to Al-Heerah and, pretending all
the time that he was in the rear, departed secretly to Mecca accompanied
by a few of his attendants. It is not certain whether the Emir of the Pilgrimage
that year was Abu Bakr or `Omar. Anyhow, Khalid managed to perform the
pilgrimage, and to go back to 'Iraq and enter Al-Heerah with the returning
army, without being noticed by anyone.