History of the Saracens/Abubeker
HISTORY OF THE SARACENS
CONQUESTS OF SYRIA, PERSIA, AND EGYPT.
ABUBEKER, FIRST CALIPH AFTER MOHAMMED.
Hejirah 11-13; a.d. 632-634.
Mohammed, the great impostor, and founder of the Saracenic empire, died at Medina, on Monday the 6th of June, a.d. 632, being the twenty-second year of the reign of Heraclius the Grecian emperor. After he was dead, the next care was to appoint a successor; and it was indeed very necessary that one should be provided as soon as possible. Their government and religion being both in their infancy, and a great many of Mohammed’s followers no great bigots, not having yet forgotten their ancient rites and customs, but rather forced to leave them for fear, than upon any conviction, affairs were in such a posture as could by no means admit of an interregnum. Wherefore the same day that he expired the Mussulmans met together in order to elect a caliph or successor. In that assembly there had like to have been such a fray, as might, in all probability, have greatly endangered, if not utterly ruined this new religion and polity, had not Omar and Abubeker timely interposed. For this false prophet of theirs having left no positive directions concerning a successor, or at least none that were known to any but his wives, who, in all probability might conceal them out of their partiality in favour of Omar, a hot dispute arose between the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina. Those of Mecca claimed most right in the prophet, as being his countrymen and relations, and as having embraced his religion first, and accompanied him in his flight to Medina, when persecuted at Mecca he was forced to make his escape with manifest hazard of his life. They urged that nothing could be of so great use to his person and cause, as this service of theirs, and consequently none could pretend to have so great a right of naming a successor. The inhabitants of Medina, with no less vehemency, urged that the prophet and their religion were as much obliged to them as to the others, because they had received him in his flight, and by their help and assistance put him in a capacity of making head against his powerful enemies; and that they had as much right in the prophet as any others whatsoever, for protecting him in the time of his adversity, and upon that score insisted upon the right of electing a caliph. In short, they came to daggers’ drawing, and were just upon falling from words to blows, when one of the Ansars or inhabitants of Medina, a man something more moderate than the rest, fearing the consequences of this disturbance, called out in the midst of the company, that they would have two caliphs, that is, one for each party. But Abubeker and the rest of the Mohajerins or inhabitants of Mecca, by no means approved of such an accommodation, being desirous that the whole government should remain in the hands of their own party. Abubeker then stepped forth and told them, that he would name two persons, and they should choose which of them both parties could agree upon: the one was Omar, the other Abu Obeidah. Upon which motion the company was again divided, and the contention renewed afresh, one party still crying out for the one, and the other for the other. At last Omar being wearied out, and seeing no likelihood of deciding the matter, was willing to give over, and bade Abubeker give him his hand, which he had no sooner done than Omar promised him fealty. The rest followed his example, and by the consent of both parties Abubeker was at last saluted caliph, and being acknowledged the rightful successor of their prophet Mohammed, became the absolute judge of all causes both sacred and civil. Thus after much ado, that difference was at last composed, which had like to have proved fatal to Mohammedanism. And certainly it was a very great oversight in Mohammed, in all the time of his sickness, never to have named a successor positively and publicly. If he had done so, without question, his authority would have determined the business, and prevented that disturbance which had like to have endangered the religion he had planted with so much difficulty and hazard.
One author tells us, that Mohammed, when he was sick, commanded those about him to bid Abubeker say prayers publicly in the congregation. This desire to have Abubeker officiate in his place, looks very much as if he designed he should succeed him. And it was so understood by his wives Ayesha and Hafsa, who were both present when Mohammed gave this order, and tried every means to get it revoked. For as soon as Mohammed had spoken, Ayesha told him that if Abubeker went into his place (meaning the pulpit from which he used to speak to the people) the congregation would not be able to listen to him for weeping, and entreated him to order Omar to go up instead. Upon his refusing, Ayesha spoke to Hafsa to second her. The importunity of both put the prophet into such a violent passion, that he told them they were as bad as Joseph’s mistress, and again commanded them to send to Abubeker. To which Hafsa answered, “O apostle of God, now thou art sick, and hast preferred Abubeker.” He answered, “It is not I that have given him the preference, but God.”
The contest, however, which happened immediately after his decease, makes it evident that these words of the dying prophet had no influence in the election of Abubeker, but that the latter chiefly owed it to Omar’s resignation; for notwithstanding that Omar was the first to propose Abubeker to the assembly, and to acknowledge him as caliph, he did not afterwards approve of that choice which necessity had suggested at that critical juncture. This appears from what he said, namely, “That he prayed to God to avert the ill consequences which it was to be feared would follow upon such an indiscreet choice. That the man who should do such a thing would deserve death; and if any one should ever swear fealty to another without the consent of the rest of the Mussulmans, both he that took the government upon him, and he that swore to him, ought to be put to death.” These and similar expressions were evident signs of his dislike; but the thing being done and past, there was no remedy but to sit down and rest contented.
Now though the government was actually settled upon. Abubeker, all parties were not equally satisfied, for a great many were of opinion that the right of succession belonged to Ali, the son of Abu Taleb. Upon which account the Mohammedans have ever since been divided; some maintaining that Abubeker, and Omar and Othman, that came after him, were the rightful and lawful successors of the prophet; and others disclaiming them altogether as usurpers, and constantly asserting the right of Ali. Of the former opinion are the Turks at this day; of the latter, the Persians. And such consequently is the difference between those two nations, that notwithstanding their agreement in all other points of their superstition, yet upon this account they treat one another as most damnable heretics. Ali had this to recommend him, that he was Mohammed’s cousin-german, and was the first that embraced his religion, except his wife Kadija and his slave Zaid, and was besides Mohammed’s son-in-law, having married his daughter Fatima. Abubeker was Mohammed’s father-in-law, by whom he was so much respected that he received from him the surname of Assiddic, which signifies in Arabic, “a great speaker of truth,” because he resolutely asserted the truth of that story which Mohammed told of his going one night to heaven. On many occasions Mohammed had expressed the liveliest esteem for him. Once as he saw him approaching, he said to those near him: “If any one takes delight in looking upon a man who has escaped from the fire of hell, let him look upon Abubeker. God, whose name be blessed, hath given man his choice of this world or that which is with Him, and his servant (meaning Abubeker) hath chosen that which is with God.” Such marks of esteem as these must needs have procured for their object the respect of those who looked upon Mohammed as a person inspired, and the apostle of God; and without question facilitated his promotion to the dignity of caliph.
Ali was not present at this election, and when he heard the news was not well pleased, having hoped that the choice would have fallen on himself. Abubeker sent Omar to Fatima’s house, where Ali and some of his friends were with orders to compel them by force to come in and do fealty to him, if they would not be persuaded by fair means. Omar was just going to fire the house, when Fatima asked him what he meant. He told her, that he would certainly burn the house down unless they would be content to do as the rest of the people had done. Upon which Ali came forth and went to Abubeker, and acknowledged his sovereignty,  though he did not forget to tell him, that he wondered he should have taken such a step without consulting him. To which Abubeker answered, that the exigency of the mater was such as would by no means admit of deliberation, since in the case of delay there was reason to fear that the government would have been wrung out of their hands by the opposite party. And, to make things slide the more easily, he pretended to be desirous of quitting his charge and resigning the government. Ascending the pulpit openly, and before them all, he begged that they would give him leave to resign, and confer that charge upon some more worthy person. But Ali, fearing the ill will of the people, whose minds he perceived he had estranged by having already stood it out so long, and being loath to make any new disturbance, positively refused to hear of it, and told him that they would neither depose him themselves, nor permit him to resign. Thus things were pretty well accommodated, and the people of Medina, as well as those of Mecca, consented to acknowledge Abubeker as the true and rightful successor of their prophet. But though Ali made no stir, he looked upon himself as injured; and there is a tradition, which is reported to have originated with Ayesha, that Ali did not submit to Abubeker till after the decease of his wife Fatima, who lived six months after the death of her father.
Abubeker being thus settled in his new government, had work enough to maintain it; for the Mohammedan religion had not as yet taken such deep root in the hearts of men but that they would very willingly have shaken it off had they known how. Accordingly the Arabians, a people of a restless and turbulent disposition, did not neglect the opportunity of rebelling, which they thought was fairly offered them by the death of Mohammed. Immediately taking up arms, they refused to pay the usual tribute, tithes, and alms, and no longer observed the rites and customs which had been imposed upon them by Mohammed. Abubeker, and his followers at Medina, took the alarm, and fearing a general revolt, and expecting no less than to be beset on every side, began to consider which way they might best provide for the security of themselves and their families. Accordingly, disposing of their women and children, and such others as were not able to bear arms, in the clefts and cavities of the rocks and mountains, they put themselves in a posture of defence. In the meantime, to oppose the rebels, Abubeker sent Kaled Ebn Walid, with an army of four thousand and five hundred men, who, having routed them in a set battle, brought off a great deal of plunder, and made slaves of their children.
The chief of those who refused to pay the zacat, or that “part of a man’s substance which is consecrated to God, as tithes, alms, and the like, and the payment of which is strictly enjoined by the Mohammedan law, was Malec Ebn Noweirah. He was a person of considerable figure in those days, being the chief of an eminent family among the Arabs, and celebrated for his skill in poetry, as well as his manly qualities and horsemanship. Abubeker having sent Kaled to him to talk with him about it, Malec replied, that he could say his prayers without paying the zacat. Kaled asked him if he did not know that prayers and alms must go together, and that the one would not be accepted without the other. “What! does your master say so?” says Malec. “Then you don’t own him for your master?” said Kaled; and swore that he had a good mind to strike his head off. They disputed the matter for a time, and, at last, Kaled told him he should die. “Did your master say so?” says Malec. “What, again?” says Kaled, and resolved upon his death, though Abdallah Ebn Amer and Kobadah interceded for him in vain. When Malec saw there was no way for him to escape, he turned him about, and looked upon his wife, who was a woman of admirable beauty, and said, “This woman has killed me.” “Nay,” says Kaled; “God has killed thee, because of thy apostacy from the true religion.” “I profess the true religion,” says Malec, meaning the Mohammedan. The word was no sooner out of his mouth, than Kaled ordered Derar Ebn Alazwar, a person we shall see more of hereafter, to strike his head off. His murder greatly displeased Abubeker, who would have put Haled himself to death if Omar had not interceded for him. Indeed, whether from his great zeal, or for some other reason, he certainly had exceeded the limits of his commission: for Mohammed himself would have pardoned an apostate, provided he had been very well assured of his repentance.
Having thus been brought to notice this celebrated man, Kaled, we must not pass him by without some account of his character. He was the best general of his age, and it was chiefly to his courage and conduct that the Saracens owed the subduing of the rebels, the conquest of Syria, and the establishment of their religion and polity. His love and tenderness towards his own soldiers were only equalled by his hatred and aversion to the enemies of the Mohammedan religion. Of both he has given the most signal instances. To those who, having embraced the Mohammedan religion, afterwards apostatized, he was an irreconcilable and implacable foe; nor would he spare them, though they evinced the greatest signs of unfeigned repentance. For his great valour, the Arabs called him “the Sword of God;” which surname of his was known also to his enemies, and is mentioned as well by Greek as Arab authors. If at any time (which was not often) his courage carried him beyond the bounds of discretion, it always brought him off safe again. He never, in the greatest danger, lost his wonted presence of mind, but could as well extricate himself and his men from present difficulties as prevent future ones.
The rebels being subdued by Kaled, the Mohammedans were in some measure eased of their immediate fears. Other difficulties, however, still remained in store for them. About this time several persons, perceiving the success and prosperity of Mohammed and his followers, set up also for prophets too, in hope of meeting the like good fortune, and making themselves eminent in the world. Such were Osud Alabbasi and Tuleihah Ebn Khoweiled, with several others; whose attempts however quickly came to nothing. . But the most considerable of these impostors was Moseilama, who had been the rival of Mohammed even in his life time, and trumped up a book in imitation of the Koran. He had formerly been an associate of Mohammed’s, and professed himself of his religion, and might have been a partner with him in his imposture; but considering that to be beneath him, he renounced all further friendship and correspondence with him, and resolved to set up for himself, which he did the year before Mohammed died. He had now gathered together a very considerable body of men in Yemama, a province of Arabia, and began to be so formidable, that the Mussulmans began to feel alarmed at his growing greatness, and no longer thought it consistent with prudence to neglect him, knowing very well, that as soon as he should be strong enough, they and their religion would quickly come to nothing. They therefore thought it most advisable to begin the attack, and rather to hazard the event of a battle at the beginning, when he was comparatively weak, than by suffering him to go on till he had gathered more strength, and render doubtful the hope of victory. They therefore urged Abubeker to send a sufficient force against Moseilama, under the conduct of some experienced commander. Abubeker forthwith despatched Akramah and Sergil with an army, ordering them to march direct to Yemama, and sent Baled after them, the scourge of rebels, apostates, and false prophets. Upon the junction of these several forces, they had an army of forty thousand Mussulmans. Moseilama, in the meantime, was not idle, and knowing that his life and reputation were now at stake, prepared to give them battle. The Mussulmans encamped at a place called Akreba; and Moseilama with his army, took up a position opposite them. They drew near as fast as they could, and Moseilama charged his enemies with such fury, that, unable to hold their ground against him, they were forced to retire with a loss of twelve hundred men. The Mussulmans, provoked rather than discouraged by this defeat, presently renewed the fight, and then began a most bloody battle. Moseilama, after displaying great bravery in the fight, was at last, by a black slave, thrust through with the same javelin that Hamza, Mohammed’s uncle, was killed with. Upon his death, the victory quickly inclined to the Mussulmans. The latter having slew the false prophet, and ten thousand of his men, obliged the survivors to turn Mohammedans, and returned to Medina, the seat of the caliph, richly laden with spoil.
This same year, being the first of Abubeker’s reign, Al Ola was sent with a considerable army to reduce the rebels in Bahrein. This he accomplished without any great difficulty, killing a great many of them, and seizing their effects, so that numbers chose rather to return to the Mohammedan superstition, which upon the death of Mohammed they had forsaken, than to expose themselves, by obstinately standing out, to all the miseries and calamities of war.
It is strange and surprising to consider from how mean and contemptible beginnings the greatest things have, by the providence of God, been raised in a short time. Of this the Saracenic empire is a remarkable instance. For if we look back but eleven years, we shall see how Mohammed, unable to support his cause, routed and oppressed by the powerful party of the Koreishites at Mecca, fled with a few desponding followers to Medina to preserve his life no less than his imposture. And now, within so short a period, we find the undertakings of his successor prospering beyond expectation, and making him the terror of all his neighbours; and the Saracens in a capacity not only to keep possession of their own peninsula of Arabia, but to extend their arms over larger territories than ever were subject to the Romans themselves. Whilst they were thus employed in Arabia, they were little regarded by the Grecian emperor, who awoke too late to a sense of their formidable power, when he saw them pouring in upon them like a torrent, and driving all before them. The proud Persian, too, who so very lately had been domineering in Syria, and sacked Jerusalem and Damascus, must be forced not only to part with his own dominions, but also to submit his neck to the Saracenic yoke. It may be reasonably supposed, that, had the Grecian empire been in the flourishing condition it formerly was, the Saracens might have been checked at least, if not entirely extinguished. But besides that the western part of the empire had been rent from it by the barbarous Goths, the eastern also had received so many shocks from the Huns on the one side, and the Persians on the other, that it was not in a situation to stem the fury of this powerful invasion. In the reign of the Emperor Maurice the empire was reduced to pay tribute to the chagan or king of the Huns. And after Phocas had murdered his master, such lamentable havoc followed among the legions, that when Heraclius, hardly more than seven years after, came to muster the army, only two soldiers were left alive, of all those who bore arms when Phocas first usurped the empire. Heraclius, indeed, was a prince of admirable courage and conduct, and did all that was possible to restore the discipline of the army, and was very successful against the Persians, not only driving them out of his own dominions, but even wresting from them a part of their own territories. But the empire seemed to labour under an incurable disease, and to be wounded in its very vitals. No time could have been more fatally adverse to its maintenance, nor more favourable to the enterprises of the Saracens, who seem to have been purposely raised up by God to be a scourge to the Christian church, for not living in accordance with their most holy religion.
Abubeker had now set affairs at home in pretty good order. The apostates who upon the death of Mohammed had revolted to the idolatry in which they were born and bred, were again reduced to subjection. The forces of Moseilama, the false prophet, being dispersed and himself killed, there was now little or nothing left to be done in Arabia. For though there were a great many Christian Arabs, as particularly the tribe of Gassan, yet they were generally employed in the service of the Greek emperor. The next business, therefore, that the caliph had to do, pursuant to the tenor of his religion, was to make war upon his neighbours, for the propagation of the truth (for so they call their superstition), and compel them either to become Mohammedans or tributaries. For their prophet Mohammed had given them a commission of a very large, nay, unlimited extent, to fight, viz., till all the people were of his religion. The wars which are entered upon in obedience to this command, they call holy wars, with no greater absurdity than we ourselves give the same title to that which was once undertaken against them by Europeans. With this religious object, Abubeker sent at this time a force under Kaled into Irak or Babylonia; but his greatest longing was after Syria, which delicious, pleasant, and fruitful country being near to Arabia, seemed to lie very conveniently for him. After he had fully resolved to invade it, he called together his friends. Making a formal speech to them, he showed the great success they had already met, and told them that the prophet (Mohammed) had before his decease assured him that their religion should make great progress, and their territories be vastly enlarged, and that he had thoughts himself of invading Syria. However, it had pleased God to prevent the prophet’s designs by taking him away; and, therefore, as he was left his successor, he desired their advice. They answered unanimously that they were all at his service, and ready to obey to the utmost of their power whatever commands he should be pleased to lay upon them. Upon this he sent circular letters to the petty princes of Arabia Felix, and other Mohammedan officers and prefects, and in particular to the inhabitants of Mecca, ordering them to raise the utmost of their forces, and with all possible speed repair to him at Medina. The contents of the letter were as follow:—
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “Abdallah Athik Ebn Abu Kohafa, to the rest of the true believers; health and happiness, and the mercy and blessing of God be upon you. I praise the most high God, and I pray for his prophet Mohammed. This is to acquaint you that I intend to send the true believers into Syria, to take it out of the hands of the infidels, And I would have you know, that the fighting for religion is an act of obedience to God.”
He had sent his letter out but a few days, ere the messenger that carried it returned, and brought him word that no one to whom he had delivered his letter had received it otherwise than with the liveliest expressions of satisfaction, and of readiness to comply with his commands. Accordingly, in a short time after, a very considerable army, raised out of the several provinces of Arabia, assembled at Medina, and pitched their tents round about the city. Here they waited some time without receiving any orders from the caliph. But the weather being extremely hot, and the country barren, they were very hard put to it for provisions both for themselves and horses. In consequence, becoming impatient, they began to complain to their officers, and desired them to speak to Abubeker about it. Upon this one of them made bold to say to him, “You were pleased to send for us, and we obeyed your commands with all possible speed; and now we are come hither, we are kept in such a barren place, that we have nothing on which our army can subsist; therefore, if your mind is altered, and you have no further occasion for us, be pleased to dismiss us.” The rest of the heads of the tribes seconded him. Abubeker told them, that he was far from designing them any injury in detaining them so long, only he wished to have his army as complete as possible. To which they answered, “That they had not left a man behind them that was fit for service.” Then Abubeker went with some of his friends to the top of a hill, to take a view of the army, and prayed to God to endue them with courage, and to assist them, and not to deliver them into the hands of their enemies. Afterwards he walked on foot with them a little way, and the generals rode, who, however, after a while, told him that they were ashamed to ride whilst he was on foot. To which he answered, “I shall find my account with God for these steps, and you ride for the service of God;” meaning that there was no difference in the matter, so long as they were all concerned in the propagation of their religion. Then, taking his leave of them, he addressed himself as follows, to Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, whom he had appointed general of these forces; “Yezid, be sure you do not oppress your own people, nor make them uneasy, but advise with them in all your affairs, and take care to do that which is right and just, for those that do otherwise shall not prosper. When you meet with your enemies, acquit yourselves like men, and do not turn your backs; and if you get the victory, kill no little children, nor old people, nor women. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons that live retired in monasteries, proposing to themselves to serve God that way: let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries. But you will also find another sort of people who belong to the synagogues of Satan, and have shaven crowns; be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter, till they either turn Mohammedans or pay tribute.” When he had given them this charge, he went back to Medina, and the army marched on towards Syria.
The news of this preparation quickly came to the ears of the Emperor Heraclius, who forthwith called a council, in which he inveighed against the wickedness and insincerity of his subjects, telling them that these judgments were come upon them because they had not lived answerably to the rules of the gospel. He represented to them, that whereas in former times, powerful princes, as the Turk and Persian, had not been able to overcome them, they were now insulted by the Arabs, a pitiful, contemptible people. Heraclius despatched a force with all possible speed to check the advance of the Saracens, but with ill success; for the general, with twelve hundred of his men, was killed upon the field of the battle, and the rest routed, the Arabs losing only one hundred and twenty men. A number of skirmishes followed, in most of which the Christians came off the worst. The Arabs, being enriched with spoil, resolved to make the caliph a present of all they had taken, with the exception of arms and ammunition, as the first-fruits of their expedition. Abubeker, on receiving the spoil, sent a letter to the inhabitants of Mecca, and the adjacent territories, in which he acquainted them with the good success of his forces, and called upon them not to be behindhand in fighting for the cause of God. The good success of their brethren gave them such encouragement, that they obeyed the invitation with as much cheerfulness as if their being called to war had been nothing else than being invited to partake of the spoil. Whereupon they quickly raised an army, and waited upon Abubeker at Medina, who forthwith ordered them to join the forces which he had sent before into Syria. Of this army he had made Saïd Ebn Kaled general; but when Omar expressed his dislike of this appointment, the caliph was in a great strait, being loath on the one hand to take away Saïd’s commission as soon as he had given it him; and not wishing, on the other hand, to disoblige Omar. In this difficulty he had recourse to the counsels of Ayesha (Mohammed’s widow), whom, on account of her near relationship to their prophet Mohammed, all parties greatly respected, and after his decease used frequently to consult, supposing that she, as having been his most beloved wife, would be better acquainted than any other with all his thoughts, both of persons and things. When Abubeker propounded his difficulties to her, she replied, that as for Omar, he had acted for the best in giving the advice he had, and that she was sure he was not actuated either by hatred or ill will. Upon this Abubeker sends a messenger to Saëd, to demand from him the standard, which he very patiently resigned, saying, he cared not who had the standard; let whosoever will have it, he was resolved to fight under it for the propagation of religion. So vehement and earnest were those men whom God had raised up to be a scourge to the church, that no affront whatsoever could disoblige them so far as to make them renounce their obedience.
Whilst the caliph was in doubt how to dispose of this commission, Amrou Ebn Al Aas, a very good soldier, who afterwards conquered Egypt, went to Omar, and desired him to use his interest with the caliph, that it might be conferred upon him. But Omar, whether out of any antipathy to his person, or because he thought no man worthy of a charge that sought after it, positively refused to interfere at all in the matter. And when Amrou persisted, and was very urgent with him, Omar bade him not seek the superiority and dominion of this world; telling him, that if he was not a prince to-day, he would be one to-morrow; meaning thereby, in a future state. And now, when Amrou was out of all hopes of ever having a command, the caliph, of his own accord, unexpectedly made him general of this army, and bade him “to take care to live religiously, and to make the enjoyment of the presence of God and a future state the end and aim of all his undertakings; to look upon himself as a dying man, always to have regard to the end of things; remembering that we must in a short time all die, and rise again, and be called to an account. He was not to be inquisitive about men’s private concerns, but take care that his men were diligent in reading the Koran, and not suffer them to talk about those things which were done in the time of ignorance (so they call all the time before Mohammed) because that would be the occasion of dissension among them. Lastly, he ordered him not to go where the other Mussulmans had been before him, ; but to march into Palestine, where, however, he was to take care to inform himself of Abu Obeidah’s circumstances, and if necessary to assist him to the best of his power.”
After he had dismissed Amrou, he sent Abu Obeidah to command the forces in Syria, and told him, that there was no need of saying any thing new to him since he had heard the charge he had given to Amrou. One of the Grecian emperor’s generals having had the good fortune to beat the Mussulmans in Syria, Abu Obeidah, apprehensive of the emperor’s power, durst not act offensively. The caliph was no sooner apprised of this, than he declared him unworthy of the post, and recalled Kaled from Irak to take his place. Kaled for his part had performed great things considering the short time he had been in command. He had taken Hirah by storm (afterwards the imperial seat of Alseffah), and several other places, unable to hold out against a siege, had submitted to him, and paid tribute. Elmakin says, that this was the first tribute that was ever brought to Medina. He had fought several battles with unfailing success, and without doubt would have pushed his conquest still further if he had not been recalled. When he came into Syria, he took very different measures from those which had been adopted by his predecessor; and the soldiers found a great difference between a pious and a warlike general. Abu Obeidah was patient, meek, and religious; Kaled courageous and enterprising. At that time when he came to the army, Abu Obeidah had sent Serjabil with four thousand horse towards Bostra, a city of Syria Damascena, and very populous, in which there were at that time twelve thousand horse. It was a great trading town, and much frequented by the Arabs. The governor’s name was Romanus, who, as soon as he heard that the Saracens were upon their march, went to meet them, and having asked Serjabil the reason of his coming, put to him several questions about Mohammed and his successor. Serjabil told him, that he had come to give them their choice of becoming Mohammedans or tributaries; adding that they had already taken Aracah, Sachnah, Tadmor, and Hawran, and would not be long before they attacked Bostra. The governor, hearing this melancholy story, went back, and would have persuaded the people to pay tribute. They utterly refused it, and prepared themselves for a vigorous defence. Serjabil continued his march till he came before Bostra; upon which the inhabitants sallied out, and gave him battle. Before Serjabil gave the command to advance he offered the following prayer: “O thou eternal Being! O thou Creator of heaven and earth! O thou who art great and munificent! who hast promised us victory by the tongue of thy prophet Mohammed, and the conquest of Syria, Irak, and Persia! O God, confirm our hopes, and help those who assert thy unity against those that deny thee. O God, assist us as thou didst thy prophet Mohammed. O Lord, endue us with patience, and keep our feet sure, and help us against the infidels.” In this engagement the Christians had greatly the advantage, and the Saracens were like to have been totally routed, but for the seasonable appearance of Kaled. His arrival turned the fortune of the day, and the Bostrans were forced to retire into the city. Then Kaled asked Serjabil, what he meant by attacking with such a handful of men a town like Bostra, which as being the market-place of Syria, Irak, and Hejaz, and consequently a place of great resort, was garrisoned with many officers and soldiers? Serjabil told him, that he did not go of his own accord, but by Abu Obeidah’s command. “Abu Obeidah,” said Kaled, “is a very honest man, but understands nothing of military affairs.” Kaled’s first care was to refresh his, men, for they were all extremely fatigued, as well those that had marched that day with him, as those that had fought under Sarjabil. Having ordered them all to rest, he himself took a fresh horse, and rode about all night, sometimes going round the city, and sometimes round the camp, for fear the besieged should make a sally, whilst his men were tired and out of order. In the morning, about break of day, he came into the camp, and the Mussulmans arose, and, according to their custom, purified themselves. For this rite of purification those who could not conveniently furnish themselves with water, rubbed themselves with sand, a substitute which is in cases of necessity allowable, and is frequently used by the Mohammedans when travelling in desert countries, where water is scarce. The morning-prayer having been said by their, general, Kaled, they immediately took horse. For the besieged having taken an oath to be true to one another, and to fight it out to the last man, had set open the gates of the city, and marched out into the plain. When Kaled perceived this, he said,” These villains come out now, because they know we are weary. However, let us go and fight them, and may the blessing of God go along with us.” The two armies being set in battle array, Romanus the governor who thought it best to secure himself and his wealth, even at the expense of honour, soul, and conscience, took an opportunity to let Kaled know, that he had more friends than he was aware of. Riding out of the ranks, with a loud voice he challenged the Saracen general, who quickly advanced to the parley. Romanus told him, that he had for a long time entertained a favourable opinion of the Mohammedan religion, and was quite willing to renounce his own, upon condition of life and property being secured to him. Kaled having readily promised this, he added, that upon Serjabil’s first setting down before the town, he had advised the inhabitants to submit to the Mussulmans, and pay tribute; but that instead of being heard, he had only purchased the ill will of the citizens by his prudent counsel. In short, he said whatever he thought was likely to ingratiate him with the Saracen, and proffered his service to return, and persuade the besieged to surrender. Kaled told him, that it would not be safe for him to go back again, without having first fought with him, because that it would look as if they had a secret understanding together, and might occasion him further danger from his own people, So, to colour the matter the better, they agreed to make a show of fighting, and after a while Romanus, as being beaten, was to run away.
The armies on both sides were witnesses of their conference, but were quite ignorant of its purport, As soon as this mock combat began, Kaled laid on so furiously, that Romanus, being in danger of his life, asked Kaled, whether that was his way of fighting in jest, and if he designed to kill him? Kaled smiled, and told him, no, but that to prevent suspicion, it was necessary for them to show something of a fight. Romanus at last made his escape; and indeed it was high time, for the Saracen had handled him so roughly, that whosoever had seen him after the combat, would have had little reason to suppose it was not really fought in earnest, for he was bruised and wounded in several places. Upon his return, the citizens asked him what news? He told them what a brave soldier Kaled was, and extolled the valour and hardiness of the Saracens, and desired them to be ruled and advised in time, before it was too late; concluding that it would be altogether in vain to make any opposition. But this did but enrage the besieged, who thereupon asked him, if he could not be content with being a coward himself, without trying to make them the same? And but for fear of the emperor’s displeasure, they would certainly have put him to death. However, they confined him to his own house, and charged him at his peril not to meddle nor interpose in their affairs, and told him, that if he would not fight, they would. Romanus, upon this, went home divested of all power and authority; but he still comforted himself with the hopes of being secured and exempted from the common calamity, if as he expected the Saracens should take the town. The townspeople having deprived him of his command, elected in his place the general of troops, which the emperor had sent to their assistance, and desired him to challenge Kaled to single combat. This he did; and when Kaled was preparing himself to accept it, Abdarrhaman, the caliph’s son, a very young man, but of extraordinary hopes, begged to be allowed to answer the challenge. Having obtained permission, he mounted his horse, and took his lance, which he handled with admirable dexterity, and when he came near the governor, he said, “Come, thou Christian dog, come on.” The combat having begun with great fury, the governor after a while finding himself defeated, ran away, and having a better horse than the Saracen, made his escape to the town. Abdarrhaman, greatly annoyed at the escape of his enemy, fell upon the rest, charging now upon the right wing, and now upon the left, making way where he went. He was quickly followed by Kaled and the other officers, and the battle grew hot on all sides. The Saracens fought like lions, and Kaled their general still cried out, “Alhamlah, Alhamlah, Aljannah, Aljannah;” that is “Fight, fight, paradise, paradise.” The miserable inhabitants of Bostra, on their part, fought with the courage of desperation, for they were at their last struggle for their fortunes, their liberty, their religion, and whatsoever was dear to them, having now seen the last day dawn, in which they were ever to call anything their own, without renouncing their baptism. In the town itself all was uproar, the bells ringing, and the priests and monks running about the streets, making exclamations, and calling upon God, but all too late. His afflicting providence had determined to deliver them into the hands of their enemies. Kaled and Serjabil (for the Saracens could pray as well as fight, and England as well as Arabia has had some that could do so too) cried, “O God! these vile wretches pray with idolatrous expressions, and take to themselves another God besides, thee; but we acknowledge thy unity, and affirm, that there is no other God but thee alone; help us, we beseech thee, for the sake of thy prophet Mohammed, against these idolaters.” The battle continued for some time; at last the poor Christians were forced to give way, and leave the field to the victorious Saracens, who lost only two hundred and thirty men. The besieged retired as fast as they could within the gates, and set up their banners and standards, with the sign of the cross upon the walls, intending to write speedily to the Grecian emperor for more assistance.
And now we must leave the poor inhabitants of Bostra in their melancholy circumstances, and come to Romanus, the deposed governor, who was extremely well satisfied with the success of the Saracens, and was now going to act a masterpiece of villainy. As the Saracens, who kept watch in their camp all night, were going their rounds, they saw a man come out of the city, with a camlet coat on, wrought with gold. Abdarrhaman, who happened to be that night upon the watch, was the first that met him, and set his lance to his breast. “Hold,” said the man; “I am Romanus, the governor of Bostra; bring me before Kaled the general.” Upon this, Abdarrhaman went with him to the general’s tent. As soon as Kaled saw him he knew him, and asked him how things went with him. “Sir,” said he, “my people have been disobedient, and mutinied; they have deposed me, and confined me to my house, threatening me with death if I intermeddle with any of their affairs. Wherefore, that I may chastise them according to their deserts, I have ordered my sons and servants to dig a hole in the wall (his house stood upon the wall of the town), and if you please to send such persons as you can trust, I will take care to deliver the town into your hands.” Upon this, Kaled immediately despatched Abdarrhaman with a hundred men, and ordered him, so soon as he had taken possession, to fall upon the Christians, and open the gates. Romanus, having conducted them to the wall, received them into his house; where, after he had entertained them, he brought every one of them a suit of clothes, similar to what the Christian soldiers wore, and disguised them. Upon this, Abdarrhaman having divided his men into four companies, of five-and-twenty each, ordered them to go into different streets of the city, with orders, that as soon as they heard him, and those that were with him, cry out, “Allah Acbar,” they should do so too. Abdarrhaman now asked Romanus where the governor was which fought with him, and ran away from him? Romanus proffered his service to show him, and away they marched together to the castle, attended with five-and-twenty Mussulmans. When they got there, the governor asked Romanus what he wanted. Upon his answering that he had no business of his own, but only came in attendance upon a friend of the governor’s that had a great desire to see him. “Friend of mine!” says the governor, “what friend?” “Only your friend Abdarrhaman,” said Romanus, “who is come to send you to hell.” The unhappy governor, finding himself betrayed, endeavoured to make his escape. “Nay, hold,” says Abdarrhaman;” you ran away from me once in the day-time, but you shall not serve me so again;” and striking him with his sword, killed him at one blow. As he fell, Abdarrhaman cried out “Allah Acbar.” The Saracens which were below hearing it, did the same, as did those also who were dispersed about the streets, till the whole city rung with the cry “Allah Acbar.” Presently, the Saracens, who were disguised, having killed the guards, opened the gates, and let in Kaled with his whole army. The town being now entirely in their hands, the conquering Saracens fell upon the inhabitants, killing or making prisoners of all they met with. At last, the chief men of the city came out of their houses and churches, and cried, “Quarter, quarter.” Upon this Kaled immediately commanded them to kill no more; “for,” said he “the apostle of God used to say, If any one be killed after he has cried out ‘quarter,’ it is none of my fault.”
Thus was the condition of Bostra altered on a sudden, and they which had before been a wealthy and flourishing people, were now brought under the Saracenic yoke, and could enjoy their Christian faith upon no other terms than paying tribute. The next morning, when some of the inhabitants asked Kaled who it was that betrayed the city to him, from unwillingness to expose the person that had done him such signal service, he remained silent; but Romanus, the traitor, with most unparalleled impudence, started up himself and said, “O you enemies of God, and enemies of his apostle, I did it, desiring to please God.” And when in reply to this they demanded in astonishment, “What, are not you one of us?” “No,” said he; “I have nothing to do with you, either in this world or that which is to come. I deny him that was crucified, and whosoever worships him. And I choose God for my Lord, Mohammedanism for my religion, the temple of Mecca for the place of my worship, the Mussulmans for my brethren, and Mohammed for my prophet and apostle. And I witness that there is but one God, and that he has no partner, and that Mohammed is his servant and apostle, whom he sent and directed into the right way and the true religion, that he might exalt it above every religion, in spite of those who join partners with God.” After Romanus had given such an ample testimony, and made so full a confession of his faith, he was received among the Mussulmans; and, as he durst not venture himself any longer in Bostra, after having been guilty of such unexampled villainy, Kaled appointed some men to take care of his effects.
Kaled now wrote to Abu Obeidah, to acquaint him with his success, and withal to command him to bring whatever forces he had with him, that they might march together to the siege of Damascus. He then put a garrison of four hundred horse into Bostra, and sending Abubeker the news of his victory, apprised him of his intention to besiege Damascus.
There were at this time in Palestine seven thousand Saracens with Amrou Ebn Aas; and with Abu Obeidah, thirty-seven thousand, which had been raised at several times out of Hejaz, Yemen, Hadramaut, the sea-coasts of Amman, and the territories of Mecca and Taïf. Kaled’s force consisted only of fifteen hundred horse, which he had brought with him out of Irak. Heraclius, the Grecian emperor, was now at Antioch, and being informed of the havoc which the Saracens had made in his dominions, thought it high time to look about him. He could not endure to think of losing Damascus, but sent five thousand men to defend it, under a general named Calous. Calous came first to Hems, formerly called Emessa, being the chief city of the adjacent territory which is called by the same name. It lies between Aleppo and Damascus, distant five days’ journey from each of them; and is a place of a most healthful and pleasant air, encompassed with beautiful gardens and fruitful orchards, which are plentifully watered by a rivulet drawn from the river Orontes (called by the Arabian geographers Alasi), which passes the city at the distance of about half a mile. This place he found well provided both with soldiers, and with arms and ammunition; for the conquests of the Saracens had struck such a terror into all the country; that every place had fortified itself to the best of its power. At Hems he stayed a day and a night, and from thence passed to Baalbec. As he came near this city, a mixed multitude of men and women came out to meet him, with their hair about their ears, weeping and wringing their hands, and making most pitiful lamentation. Calous asked them what was the matter? “Matter!” said they, “why the Arabs have overrun all the country, and taken Aracah, and Sachnah, and Tadmor, and Hawran, and Bostra, and are now set down before Damascus.” Upon this he demanded of them the name of the general of the Saracens, and the number of his men. They told him that his name was Kaled, and that he had but fifteen hundred horse. Calous, despising so inconsiderable a number of men, bade the people be of good cheer, and swore, that when he came back again he would bring Kaled’s head along with him upon the point of his spear.
As soon as he came to Damascus, he produced the emperor’s letter, and told the people that he expected to have the entire command of the town. Accordingly he required that Israil, the former governor, should be sent out of the city. But the Damascenes by no means approved of that, for they liked their old governor very well, and would not hear of parting with him in such a time of extremity, when they had as great occasion for men of courage as ever they had since they were a people. Upon this they were divided into factions and parties, and continued wrangling and quarrelling one with another, at the very time when there was the greatest need of unity and a good mutual understanding. For the Saracens were expected every moment, and it was not long before they came.
Upon their arrival the Christians went forth to meet them, and both armies were drawn up in order of battle. When both were ready to fight, Kaled called out to Derar Ebn Alazwar, and said, “Now, Derar, quit thyself like a man, and follow the steps of thy father, and others of thy countrymen, who have fought for the cause of God. Help forward religion, and God will help thee.” Derar was mounted upon a fine mare, and Kaled had no sooner spoken than he immediately charged the horse and killed four troopers, and then wheeling off, fell upon the foot and killed six of them, and never left charging them till he had broken their ranks and put them into disorder. At last they assailed him with a shower of stones, and pressed upon him so hard, that he was forced to retire among his own men, where he received due thanks. Then Kaled called out to Abdarrhaman, the caliph’s son, whom we have mentioned before, who did the like. Kaled himself insulted the Christians, and gave them reproachful language, and challenged any of them to fight with him. Upon this, Izrail, calling to Calous, told him that it was proper for him, who was the protector of his country, and whom the emperor had sent on purpose to fight, to answer the challenge. Calous, however, would have stayed behind but for the importunity of the people, who in a manner compelled him to go. At last, then, with much ado, he arms himself and goes forward; and, having a mind to parley with his adversary, takes an interpreter along with him. As they proceeded together, Calous began to shake in his harness for fear of the Saracen, and with large promises would fain have persuaded the interpreter to take his part, if the Saracen should fall upon him. The interpreter begged to be excused, telling him that, as far as words would go, he was at his service, but he did not care for blows; “and therefore,” says he, “look to yourself, sir; for my part I shall not mix myself up with the quarrel. For if I should meddle, and be knocked on the head for my pains, what good, I pray, would all your fair promises do me?” When they came to Kaled, the interpreter began after this manner: “Sir,” said he, “I will tell you a story. There was a man had a flock of sheep, and he put them to a negligent shepherd, and the wild beasts devoured them; which, when the owner perceived, he turned away the shepherd, and got another, who was a man of vigilance and courage. So when the wild beast came again, the good shepherd killed him. Have a care that this does not prove to be your case. You Arabians were a contemptible, vile people, and went about with hungry bellies, naked and barefoot, living upon barley bread, and what you could squeeze out of dates. Now since you are come into our country, and through the negligence of our governors have managed to fare better, you begin to rebel. But now, the emperor has taken care to send to us a man that is a soldier indeed, and therefore it concerns you to look to yourselves. He it is that, out of compassion to you, has brought me along with him to talk with you.” “Prithee,” says Kaled, “tell me none of thy stories. As for what thou sayest of our country, it is true enough. But you shall find that times are amended with us, and that instead of the barley bread and coarse fare you twit us withal, all your wealth and good things, nay, your persons, and wives, and children too, shall soon be ours. And as for this same great man thou speakest of, why dost talk of great men to me, who have taken Tadmor, Hawran, and Bostra? Let him be as great as he will, if he be the support of your kingdom, so am I of our religion.” Calous did not at all like the mien and behaviour of his adversary, and bade the interpreter to ask him to defer the combat till the next day, intending, if he once made his escape, never again to come so near him. But the Saracen did not intend to part with him so easily; but saying that he would not be fooled, immediately got between him and the Christian army, to prevent his running away, and began to lay about him most vehemently with his spear. They both fought bravely for a while, and in the meantime the interpreter perceiving them engaged, moved off, and escaped to the Christian camp. At last Calous, growing weary, began to stand altogether upon the defensive part, and the Saracen perceiving that he stood upon his guard, left off pushing him, and dexterously shifting his spear from his right hand to his left, closed with him, and drawing him to himself, flung him from his saddle to the ground. At this sight the Saracens immediately shouted, “Allah Acbar,” which made the whole camp echo, and the poor Christians tremble. Kaled, having placed his prisoner in safety, and changed his horse for a fresh one, which the governor of Tadmor had presented to him, went into the field again. Derar would have had him stay behind, “For,” says he,” “you have tired yourself with fighting with this dog, therefore rest yourself a little, and let me go.” To which Kaled answered, “O Derar, we shall rest in the world to come; he that labours to-day shall rest to-morrow,” and rode forwards. He was but just gone, when Romanus, the treacherous governor of Bostra, called him back, and told him, that Calous wished to speak with him. When he came back, Calous (who, even in those calamitous circumstances, could not lay aside his resentment), after giving him an account of the difference which had been between him and Izrail, the governor of Damascus, told him, that to overcome him would be of the greatest moment towards taking the city. He advised him therefore to challenge Izrail to single combat, and kill him if he could. Kaled told him, that he might be sure he would not spare any infidel or idolater.
Calous being now a prisoner, his five thousand men; whom he had brought to the relief of Damascus, were very urgent with Izrail to go out, and answer Kaled’s challenge. For a long time he refused to listen to them. Afterwards, however, when they threatened him with death if he persisted in his refusal, he told them that the reason why he refused at first was not because he was afraid, but because he had a mind to let their master, Calous, try his valour first. Then having armed himself, and mounted upon a good horse, he rode up to the Saracen, who, amongst other discourse, asked him his name. When he answered, “My name is Izrail” (which is the name of the angel who the Mohammedans suppose takes care of the departed souls), Kaled laughed, and said, “Well, your namesake Izrail is just ready at your service, to convey your soul to hell.” Izrail, on his part, having asked Kaled what he had done with his prisoner, Calous, he told him that he had him safe bound. “Why did you not kill him?” said Izrail. “Because,” said the Saracen, “I intend to kill you both together.” Then the combat began, and was managed on both sides with great dexterity and vigour. Izrail behaved himself so well, that Kaled admired him. At last the victory inclined to Kaled, when Izrail finding that he was overmatched, but that he had the better horse of the two, turned his back, and rode away. Kaled pursued him as fast as he could, but could not overtake him. Whereupon Izrail, perceiving that his adversary kept at a distance, and imagining that this slackness of his proceeded from an unwillingness to fight, resumed his courage, and faced about, hoping to take him prisoner. Kaled perceiving this, alighted from his horse, preferring to fight on foot; and striking at the legs of Izrail’s horse as he rushed upon him, brought him to the ground, and took him prisoner. Having now in his possession both the general and the governor, he asked them if they were willing to renounce their Christianity, and turn Mohammedans; which they firmly refusing to do, were both beheaded instantly. Kaled having ordered the heads to be brought to him, took them, and threw them over the walls into the town.
Several battles were fought before Damascus, in which the Christians for the most part were beaten. At last, when they saw that by sallying out they had many men killed and taken prisoners, they determined to save the remainder for the defence of the walls, and expose themselves no more to the hazard of a field-fight. They therefore shut up themselves within the town, and Kaled pitched his tents over against the east gate, and Abu Obeidah set down before the gate which they call Aljabiyab. The city being thus closely besieged, and the inhabitants not daring to depend altogether upon the forces which they had at present, resolved to despatch a messenger with all haste to the Grecian emperor, Heraclius, who was then at Antioch. So they wrote a letter to him, in which they acquainted him with all that had passed, detailing the deaths of Calous and Izrail, and the conquests which the Saracens had made on that side of the country. When they had closed the letter, they delivered it into the hands of a fit trustworthy messenger, whom they let down on the outside of the wall in the night. The messenger managed his business so well, that although the Saracens were very far from negligent in their watch, he contrived to pass through their lines. When he came to Antioch, and delivered his letter, the emperor was extremely concerned, and sent Werdan with a hundred thousand men, to relieve Damascus.
Werdan refused at first to accept of this commission, as thinking himself slighted, because the emperor had not employed him at the beginning of the war. But at length he undertook the command of that army, the emperor having given him particular charge to take care to cut off all supplies from the Saracen army, which was with Kaled and Abu Obeidah; and after the emperor and some of the nobility, who went part of the way with him, had taken their leave, he marched with all possible speed towards Damascus.
Within a short time after, the Saracens heard that the emperor’s army was upon its march against them, and had reached Ajnadin. Kaled immediately went to Abu Obeidah, to advise with him what was proper to be done in this case. Kaled was for raising the siege, and advancing in full force against the Grecian army; and then, if they got the victory, they might, he said, return again to the siege. But Abu Obeidah told him that he was by no means of that opinion, because the inhabitants of Damascus were already in a very great strait, and if they now went away they would only give them an opportunity of getting into the town a fresh supply both of arms and provisions, and enable them to prolong the siege. With this answer the general was very well satisfied.
Werdan’s army was very slow upon their march, and the poor besieged Christians were now in great distress. Finding no assistance arrive from the emperor, they proposed terms to the general, offering him a thousand ounces of gold, and two hundred suits of silk, if he would raise the siege. To which he answered, that he would not raise the siege unless they would either become tributaries or Mohammedans. If neither of these conditions pleased them, they must be content to fight it out. About six weeks after this, the Saracens heard an unusual noise in the city, and great exclamations and expressions of joy. They could not imagine what should be the meaning of it, but in a very short time they were satisfied, for their scouts brought them word that the emperor’s army was at hand. Kaled again wished to go to meet them, but Abu Obeidah would by no means consent that the siege should be raised. At last they agreed to choose some good soldier, and send him with part of their forces to create a diversion, and to keep the emperor’s army employed, that it might not come and disturb the operations of the siege. The officer that Kaled pitched upon to have the management of this expedition, was Derar Ebn Alazwar, an excellent soldier, and the mortal enemy of the Christians, as indeed, with the single exception of Abu Obeidah, all of them were. Derar very cheerfully accepted of this post, and cared not how many or how few men he had with him, provided he might be employed in some glorious action against the Christians. But Kaled told him, that though they were obliged to fight for their religion, yet God had commanded no man to throw himself away, and therefore bade him to accept willingly of such assistance as his superiors should think fit to send along with him; and ordered him, in case of danger, to retire upon the main body of the army. Derar immediately prepared to go; and as they were upon their march, the emperor’s vast army drew near. When the Saracens saw such a multitude, they were afraid, and would willingly have retired; but Derar swore, “That he would not fall back a single step without fighting.” And Rafi Ebn Omeirah told them, “That it was a common thing for the Mussulmans to rout a great army with a handful of men.” The armies drew near, and notwithstanding the vast disproportion of numbers, Derar advanced, without showing the least token of fear or concern, and when they closed, he always fought most where Werdan the general was. And first of all he killed his right-hand man, and then the standard-bearer. The standard had in it the sign of the cross, and was richly adorned with precious stones. As soon as Derar saw it fall, he commanded the Saracens to alight, and take it up, whilst he defended them. They obeyed immediately, he, in the meantime, laying about him so furiously, that none durst come within his reach to save the standard. Werdan, the emperor’s general, had a son that was his father’s lieutenant in Hems, who, when he heard that his father was going against the Mussulmans, marched with ten thousand men to join him, and had the fortune to come up whilst the two armies were engaged. Observing Derar’s activity, and what execution he did among the Greeks, he watched his opportunity, and wounded him in the left arm with a javelin. Derar turned himself about, and struck him so violently with his lance, that on drawing it back again, he left the point of it sticking in the bones. Notwithstanding which, he made as vigorous a defence as could be expected from a man disarmed; but the Greeks pressed hard upon him, and succeeded, though with great difficulty, in taking him prisoner. When the Saracens saw that their captain was taken, they fought as long and as fiercely as they could, in hopes of recovering him, but all in vain. Upon this they were so much discouraged that they had like to have run away. But Rafi Ebn Omeirah perceiving this, called out to them with a loud voice, and said, “What! don’t you know, that whosoever turns his back upon his enemies, offends God and his prophet? Has not the prophet declared that the gates of paradise should be open to none but such as fought for religion? Come on! I’ll go before you. If your captain be dead or taken prisoner, yet your God is alive, and sees what you do.” With these words he restored the battle. In the meantime news came to Kaled that Derar was taken. Upon which he immediately consulted Abu Obeidah as to what was best to be done. Abu Obeidah sent him word, that he should leave some one in his own place, and go himself to rescue Derar. Upon this, leaving Meisarah Ebn Mesrouk with a thousand horse to defend his post, and taking a considerable force along with him, he marched with all possible speed to relieve the Saracens. When those that were engaged saw this reinforcement come up, they fell on like lions; and Kaled charged in the thickest part of the enemy, where there were most banners and standards, in hopes of finding Derar prisoner there, but all in vain. At last a party of those that had come with Werdan’s son from Hems deserted to Kaled, and begged of him protection and security for themselves and their families. Kaled told them that he would consider that when he came to Hems, and not in this place. Then he asked them, if they knew what was become of Derar? They replied that as soon as he was taken prisoner, he had been sent by Werdan, with a guard of a hundred horse, to Hems, as a present to Heraclius the emperor. Kaled was glad to hear this news, and immediately despatched Rafi Ebn Omeirah with a hundred horse, to retake Derar. Taking the direct road to Hems, they made all possible haste, and at last they overtook the escort, and having killed or routed the men, they recovered their friend Derar, and then hastened back to join Kaled, who by this time had entirely defeated the Grecian army. The Saracens pursued the Greeks as far as Wadil Hayat, and after carrying off what plunder, and horses, and arms they could, returned to the siege of Damascus, which had now but little hopes of holding out much longer.
The emperor Heraclius, not willing to part with Syria without another effort, sent to Werdan again, and gave him the command of seventy thousand men at Ajnadin, with orders to go and give the Saracens battle, and, if possible, raise the siege of Damascus. When the news of this preparation came to Kaled’s ears, he again went to consult Abu Obeidah on the measures to be taken in this emergency, who told him, that as most of their great men were absent, it would be best to send for them as soon as he could, calling upon them to unite their armies, so that they might with their combined force give the emperor’s army battle. Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian was then in Balka, a territory upon the confines of Syria, Serjabil Ebn Hasanah in Palestine, Mead in Harran, Noman Ebn Al Mundir at Tadmor, and Amrou Ebn Al Aas in Irak. Upon this Kaled wrote the following letter:—
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From Kaled Ebn Al Walid to Amrou Ebn Al Aas, health and happiness. Know that thy brethren the Mussulmans design to march to Ajuadin, where there is an army consisting of seventy thousand Greeks, who are come against us, that they may extinguish the light of God with their months; but God preserveth his light in spite of the infidels. As soon therefore as this letter of mine shall come to thy hands, come with those that are with thee to Ajnadin, where, if it pleases the Most High God, thou shalt find us.”
Having sent copies of this letter to the rest of the generals, he immediately gave orders for the whole army to march with bag and baggage. Kaled himself led the van, and Abu Obeidah brought up the rear. The Damascenes, perceiving the siege raised, and their enemies upon their march, took courage, and ventured out upon them with an army of six thousand horse, and ten thousand foot; the horse under the command of Paul; the foot, of Peter. As soon as Paul came up, he fell upon Abu Obeidah, and kept him employed whilst Peter went to seize the spoil; for all their baggage, and wealth, and women, and children were in the rear. Peter brought off a good part of it, and some of the women; and taking a guard both of horse and foot, returned towards Damascus, leaving his brother Paul with the rest of the army to engage the Mussulmans. Paul behaved himself so well that he beat Abu Obeidah, and those that were in the rear, who now wished at his heart that he had taken Kaled’s advice, when he urged him to march in the front, and leave Kaled to bring up the rear himself. The women and children made grievous lamentation, and all things went ill on that side, upon this, Saïd Ebn Sabahh, being well mounted, rode as hard as he could to the front of the army, where Kaled was, and gave him an account how matters went; and desired him with all possible speed to succour Abu Obeidah. “Well,” said Kaled, “God’s will be done; I would have been in the rear at first, but he would not let me; and now you see what is come on it.” Immediately he despatches Rafi with two thousand horse, to relieve the Saracens in the rear, and after him Kais Ebn Hobeirah with two thousand more; then Abdarrhaman with two thousand more; then Derar Ebn Al Azwar with two thousand more; the rest of the army, he brought up himself. When Rafi, Derar, and Abdarrhaman came up, the state of the matter was quite altered; and the Christians, who previously had the better of it, were now driven back on all sides, and their standards and colours beaten down. Derar pursued Paul the general, who was afraid to encounter him; for he had seen how he behaved himself at the siege of Damascus, and heard how he had fought against Werdan. Derar, after turning himself about to say to Obeidah, “Did not I tell you that this devil would not stand me?” followed closely upon him. Paul being thus hard pressed, flung himself off from his horse, and endeavoured to get away on foot. Derar alighted too, and having overtaken him, was just going to despatch him; when Paul cried out, “Hold! for in saving me you save your wives and children which we have taken.” Derar upon this forbore, and took him prisoner. The Christians were all routed; of the six thousand horse which came out of Damascus, only one hundred escaped, as the Saracens were afterwards informed, when the city was taken.
Among the captives whom Peter had taken, was Caulah, Derar’s sister, a brave virago, and a very beautiful woman. Derar was extremely concerned for the loss of his sister, and made his complaint to Kaled, who bade him be of good cheer; “For,” says he, “we have taken their general, and some other prisoners, which we shall exchange for our own; and there is no question but we shall find them all at Damascus.” However, they resolved to go and try if they could recover them before they got thither. Kaled, Rafi, Meisarah, and Derar, went in search of the captives; and ordered Abu Obeidah to march on slowly with the army. Peter, when he had got his prisoners and plunder at some convenient distance, did not make haste to convey them to Damascus, but stayed by the way, being desirous, if possible, to hear of his brother Paul’s success before he went home. Whilst they rested, they took an account of the women, and what else they had gotten; and Peter chose Caulah, Derar’s sister, for himself, and told his men, that she and no other should be his, and nobody’s else. The rest chose each of them one as long as the number lasted. The Greeks went into their tents to refresh themselves, and in the meantime the women got altogether. Among them were some of the Hamyarites (a tribe so called amongst the Arabs), whom the Arabians suppose to be descended from the ancient Amalekites. These women are used to ride on horseback, and fight as the Amazons did of old. Caulah now addressed them: “What! will you suffer yourselves to be abused by these barbarians, and become handmaids and slaves to those idolaters? Where is your courage? For my part, I will sooner die than suffer any of these idolatrous slaves to touch me.” Opheirah, who was one of them, replied, that their patience was not the effect of cowardice, but necessity. “For,” says she, “we are defenceless; we have neither sword nor spear, nor bow, nor any thing else.” “But cannot we,” says Caulah, “take each of us a tent-pole, and stand upon our guard? Who knows but that it may please God to give us the victory, or deliver us by some means or other? If not, we shall die, and be at rest, and preserve the honour of our country.” Opheirah swore that Caulah was in the right, and the rest instantly resolved to follow her counsel, and providing themselves with staves, appointed Caulah commander-in-chief. “Come,” says she, “stand round in a circle, and be sure you leave no space between you for any of them to come in and do us mischief. Strike their spears with your staves, and break their swords and their sculls.” Having giving these orders she moved forwards a step, and striking one of the guards that stood within her reach, shattered his scull. Immediately there was a great uproar, which brought the Greeks running out of their tents to see what was the matter. When they came in they found the women all up in arms. Peter called out to Caulah, “What is the meaning of this, my dear?” “Woe be to thee,” said she, “and to all of you, thou Christian dog. The meaning of it is, that we design to preserve our honour, and to beat your brains out with these staves: come, why don’t you come to your sweetheart now, for which you reserved yourself? It may be you may receive something at her hands, which may prove worth your while.” Peter only laughed at her, and ordered his men to compass them round, and not do them any harm, but only take them prisoners, giving them an especial charge to be careful of his mistress. They endeavoured to obey his commands, but with very ill success; for when any horseman came near the women, they struck at the horse’s legs, and if they brought him down, his rider was sure to rise no more. When Peter perceived that they were in earnest, he grew very angry, and alighting from his horse, bid his men do so too, and fall upon them with their scimitars. The women stood close together, and said one to another, “Come, let us die honourably, rather than live scandalously.” Peter looked with a great deal of concern upon his mistress, and when he viewed her beauty and comely proportion and stature, felt loath to part with her, and coming near, gave her good words, and would fain have persuaded her to desist from her enterprize. He told her, that he was rich and honourable, that he had a great many fine seats, and the like, which should all be at her service, and desired her to take pity on herself, and not to be accessary to her own death. To which she answered, “Thou infidel, scoundrel, vile rascal, why dost not come a little nearer, that I may beat thy brains out?” This effectually nettled him; so he drew his sword, and bid his men fall upon them; telling them, that it would prove a scandal to them, in all the neighbourhood of Syria and Arabia, if they should be beaten by these women. The women, who held out with great bravery, were now reduced to the last extremity, when, fortunately for them, Kaled and his party came up. When as they approached they saw the dust flying and the swords glittering, they wondered what was the matter. Kaled having sent Rafi to reconnoitre; who riding forward in great haste, quickly returned, and gave him an account how things stood; Kaled said, he was not at all surprised, for the women of those tribes were used to it. As soon as Derar heard the news, clapping spurs to his horse, he pushed on in all haste to help the women. “Softly, Derar, softly,” said Kaled; “not so fast: a man that goes leisurely about his business, will more surely gain his point, than he that goes to work rashly.” Derar answered, “This is not a matter for patience, I must go and help my sister.” Kaled upon this set his men in order, and commanded them, as soon as they came up; to encompass their enemies. As soon as Caulah saw the Saracens appear, she cried out, “Look ye, my girls, God has sent us help now.” But the Greeks, when they saw the Saracens approaching, gave themselves up for lost, and began to look upon one another very sorrowfully. ???Peter now thought of nothing but how he should secure his own safety, and called out to the women, “Hearken ye,” said he, “I pity your condition, for we have sisters and mothers, and wives of our own; therefore for Christ’s sake I let you go freely: wherefore, when your people come up, let them know how civil I have been to you.”
Having thus spoken, he turned towards the Saracens, and saw two horsemen coming apace before the rest. One of them, Kaled, was completely armed, the other, Derar: naked, with a lance in his hand, and riding upon a horse without a saddle. As soon as Caulah saw her brother, she called out, “Come hither, brother, though God is sufficient without thy help.” Hereupon Peter called out to her, saying, “Get thee to thy brother, I give thee to him,” and turned away to get off as fast as he could. But Caulah mocked at him, and said, “This ficklenes of yours is not like the manner of us Arabians sometimes you are wonderfully fond of me, and express a great deal of love, and then again you are as cold and indifferent as may be.” To this taunt Peter could only reply, “Away with thee; I am not so fond of thee now as I was before.” “Well,” says she, “I am fond of you, and must have you by all means.” Then she ran up to him, closely followed by Kaled and Derar. As soon as Peter saw Derar, he called out to him, and said, “There’s your sister, take her, and much good may she do you; I make a present of her to you.” Derar answered, “I thank you, sir, I accept of your kind present; but I have nothing to return you in lieu of it, but only the point of this spear, therefore be pleased to accept of it.” At the same time, Caulah struck the legs of his horse, and brought him down. Derar rushed upon him as he fell, and having run him through, cut off his head, and put it upon his lance. The attack now became general, and the Saracens fought ill they had killed three thousand men. The rest ran away, and were pursued to the gates of Damascus by the Saracens, who returned laden with plunder, horses, and armour. Kaled now thought it high time to return to Abu Obeidah, fearing that Werdan might have attacked him in his absence. They marched forthwith, and as soon as the army saw Kaled and his company, they shouted out Allah Acbar, which Kaled returned. When they came up with the main body, they gave them a particular account of their whole adventure, especially of the battle of the women, with which they made themselves very merry. Then Kaled called for Paul, who was taken prisoner before, and told him to turn Mohammedan, or else he would serve him as he had done his brother. “How is that?” said Paul. “Why,” says Kaled, “I have killed him, and here is his head.” When Paul saw his brother’s head he wept, and said, that he had no wish to survive him, upon which Kaled commanded him to be beheaded.
The captains of the Saracens to whom Kaled had written, bidding them meet him at Ajnadin, as soon as they had received the letter, made immediate preparations to comply with it; and what was very remarkable, though they were at different distances from the place of meeting, they nevertheless all happened to reach it on the same day, Friday, the 13th of July, a.d. 633. This coincidence they all interpreted as a singular providence. The two armies presently afterwards came within sight of one another, and the confidence of the Saracens was somewhat checked, when they perceived the strength of the emperor’s forces, which amounted to no less than seventy thousand. Those who had been in Persia, and seen the vast armies of Cosroes, confessed that they had never beheld an enemy equal to the present, either in number or military preparation. They sat down in sight of one another that night, and early the next morning prepared for battle. Before they engaged, Kaled rode through the ranks encouraging his men, and telling them, “That they now saw before them the largest army of the Greeks that they were ever likely to be opposed to. That if they now came off conquerors, all was their own, and nothing would be able to stand against them for the time to come. Therefore,” said he, “fight in good earnest, and take religion’s part; and be sure that you do not turn your backs, and so be damned for your pains. Stand close together, and do not charge till you hear the word of command, and then go to work steadily; and have your wits and your hearts about you.” Nor was Werdan, on the other side, negligent in encouraging his men to do their best. Calling his officers together, he thus addressed them:-” You know that the emperor has entrusted the greatest interests to your courage and bravery, and if you should shrink, now you come to face your enemies, and lose the field, such a blow will be struck as can never be recovered, and these Arabs will take possession of all, and make slaves of your wives and children. All is now at stake; therefore be firm, and give no ground, but fight unanimously and courageously. Besides, for your comfort, we are three to one; and if we call upon Christ, he will help us.” Kaled was naturally alarmed at the superior force of the enemy, and therefore was determined to omit no precaution that prudence might suggest. Being anxious, therefore, to get an account of their order and number, he publicly invited his men to volunteer to go and reconnoitre the Christian army; upon this, Derar, who was never backward in anything that belonged to a soldier, proffered his service. “Well, then,” says Kaled, “thou shalt go, and God go along with thee; but I charge thee, Derar, not to assault them, nor strike a stroke without my order, and so be accessary to thy own destruction.” Away he went and viewed their order, their arms and standards, their banners displayed and colours flying. Werdan, having perceived him, and suspecting him to be a scout, sent a party of thirty horse to seize him. When they advanced, Derar ran away, and they after him. When he had drawn them some distance from the lines, he faced about, and fell upon them like a lion. First, he ran one through with his lance, and then another, and fought desperately, till of thirty he had unhorsed seventeen. Then the rest being seized with fear, fled before him, till they came pretty near the Grecian camp, when he turned off, and came back to Kaled. And when that general asked of him, “Did not I warn you not to fight without order?” he replied, “Nay, I did not begin first, but they came out to take me, and I was afraid that God should see me turn my back. Had I not disobeyed your order, I should not have come away as I did. Then, indeed, I fought in good earnest, and without doubt God assisted me against them, and I perceive already, that by his help, they will fall into our hands.”
Then Kaled set his army in order of battle, giving to Mead Ebn Jabal and Naman Ebn Al Mokarren the command of the right wing, and to Saïd Ebn Amer and Serjabil Ebn Hasanah that of the left. Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, with four thousand horse, guarded the baggage, women; and children. Caulah and Opheirah, and several other women of the highest rank and chief families of the Arabian tribes, with a great many more of inferior note, also prepared themselves for the battle. Kaled turned about to them, and said, “Noble girls, assure yourselves, that what you do is very acceptable to God and his apostle, and the Mussulmans; you will hereby purchase to yourselves a lasting memory, and the gates of paradise will be open to you. And assure yourselves, that I repose the greatest confidence in you. If any party of the Greeks fall upon you, fight for yourselves; and if you see any of the Mussulmans turn his back, stay him, and ask him whether he runs from his family and children; for by this means you will encourage the Mussulmans to fight.” Opheirah told him that they were all ready to fight till they died.
Then he rode about, encouraging his men, and bidding them fight for the sake of their wives and children and religion, and to stand their ground: for if they were beaten, they had no place to escape to, nor anything left in which they could trust. After this he went into the centre of the army, and took his post there, together with Amrou Ebn Al Aas, Abdarrhaman, The caliph’s son, Kais Ebn Hobeirah, Rafi Ebn Omeirah, and several other Saracens of note. The two armies covered all the plains. The Christians raised a great shout; and the Saracens repeated as fast as they could, “La I’laha illa Allah, Mohammed resoul Allah:” that is, “There is but one God; Mohammed is the apostle of God.” Just before the battle began, there came out a grave old man from the Christian army, who went towards the Saracens, and inquired for the general. Kaled came forth to him, and the old man asked him if he was the general. “They look upon me as such,” said Kaled, “so long as I continue in my duty towards God, and the observance of what he has left us by his prophet Mohammed, of blessed memory, otherwise I have no command or authority over them.” The old man told him that they were come to invade a land which had been attacked oftentimes before, but with very ill success. That those who had attempted the conquest of it, had found their sepultures in that very place where they designed to establish their empire; that though they had lately obtained a victory over the Christians, yet they must not expect that the advantage would long continue on their side; that the emperor had sent against them a very numerous army; that although confident of victory, the Christian general had sent him to tell them, that if they would depart without any further acts of hostility, he would present every Saracen in the army with a suit of clothes, a turban, and a piece of money, while the general himself should receive ten suits, and a hundred pieces; and their master, Abubeker, the caliph, a hundred suits, and a thousand pieces. “No,” said the Saracen, “no peace, unless you forthwith become tributaries, or else Mohammedans; otherwise the sword must determine the controversy betwixt us. And as for your great army that you speak of, we are promised the victory by our prophet Mohammed, in the book which was sent down to him. And then as to your vests, turbans, and money, which you offer us, we shall in a short time be masters of all your clothes, and all the good things you have about you.”
When Mead was encouraging the Saracens with the hopes of paradise and the enjoyment of everlasting life, if they fought far the cause of God and religion. “Softly,” said Kaled, “let me get them all into good order, before you set them upon fighting.” And then when he had formed his men in order of battle, he said, “Look to it, for your enemies are two to one, and there is no breaking them, but by out winding them. Hold out till the evening, for that is the time in which the prophet obtained the victory. Take care not to turn your backs, for God sees you.”
The two armies being now come very near, the Armenian archers let fly their arrows, and killed and wounded a great many of the Saracens; but Kaled would not let a man stir, Derar, at last, impatient of delay, said, “What do we stand still for? The enemy will think we are afraid of him; prithee, give us the word of command, and let us go.” Upon this Kaled gave him leave, and he began the battle. And now in a little time a great part of both the armies was engaged, and numbers fell on both sides, but more Christians than Saracens. Werdan, perceiving the great disadvantage his men laboured under, was in great perplexity, and advised with his officers what was best to be done; for no art of a general, nor any terms he could propose, were sufficient to encourage the Christians to fight as desperately as the Saracens, who cared not for their lives, being all of them fully persuaded, that whosoever was killed in fighting for the propagation of their religion, would certainly receive a crown of martyrdom. And it is most true, that nothing is like a spirit of enthusiasm to make men expose themselves undauntedly to the greatest dangers. It was agreed that the best thing they could do, would be to circumvent the general of the Saracens by some stratagem, which would extremely discourage the rest and facilitate the victory. This they attempted after the following manner:—A messenger was to be sent to Kaled, to desire him to sound a retreat, and let the battle cease for that day, and meet Werdan the next morning at a certain place within view of both the armies, where they, the two generals alone, might treat, in order to find out some expedient for the preventing the effusion of so much blood as must of necessity be lost on both sides, if the war continued. If he consented to come to the parley, an ambuscade of ten men was to be conveniently placed, so as to seize the Saracen. The delivery of this message was entrusted to one David, who was privy to the secret. When he had received his instructions he went forward and inquired for Kaled, who rode to him, and with a stern look, presented his lance. “Sir,” said David, “I am no soldier, but have only a message to deliver to you; pray, therefore, turn your lance away whilst I am talking with you.” Upon which Kaled laid his lance across upon the pommel of his saddle, and said, “Speak to the purpose then, and tell no lies.” “So I will,” says David, “If you will promise me security for myself and my family.” Which Kaled had no sooner done, but he acquainted him with the whole plot. “Well,” said Kaled, “go and tell him it shall be so.” Presently after Abu Obeidah met Kaled, and observing an unusual briskness and gaiety in his countenance, asked him what was the matter? Kaled told him of the contrivance, and added, “I shall venture to go alone, and I engage to bring thee back all their heads with me.” Abu Obeidah told him that he knew he was a person likely enough to do so; yet as the prophet had no where commanded them to expose themselves to unnecessary danger, he required him to take ten men with him to match his enemies.
Derar thought it the best way not to defer the matter till the morning, but was for going that evening to surprise that ambuscade. Having obtained leave, he went as soon as it was dark, to the place where Werdan had posted his ambuscade. When he came near, he ordered his men to stand still whilst he went to observe their posture. Then he put off his clothes (which he frequently used to go without) and, taking only his sword, crept along, till he came so near them that he could hear them snore, for they were all drunk and asleep, and their arms lay under their heads. Having so fair an opportunity, he could scarcely forbear killing them himself; but considering that one of them might possibly awaken the rest, he came back, and fetched his comrades, who took each of them his man, and despatched the ambuscade with all imaginable silence and secrecy. The next thing to be done, was to strip these men, and put their clothes on his own men, who were to take their places, for fear any of the Greeks should chance to come by the place, and seeing them in their Arabian habit, should make a discovery. Their success in this enterprise Derar told his men was a good omen, and that he did not at all question but that God would fulfil his promise to them.
About break of day, Kaled, having first said the morning prayer in the camp, drew up his army in order of battle. Then he put on a yellow silk vest and a green turban. As soon as the Christians saw the Saracens in order, Werdan sent a horseman, who rode up to the front of the Saracen army, and cried out, “Hark ye, you Arabians! is this fair play? Have you forgot your agreement you made with us yesterday?” “How!” said Kaled, “what! charge us with breach of promise?” “The general,” answered the messenger, “expects you should be as good as your word, and meet him, in order to treat of a peace.” “Go and tell him,” says Kaled, “that I am just coming.” Quickly after, Kaled saw Werdan go out upon a mule, very richly dressed, and adorned with gold chains and precious stones. “Ha!” says he, “this will be all ours by and by, if it please God.” He then went to meet him; and when they came very near to each other they both alighted. When Werdan had drawn Kaled towards the place where the ambush lay, they sat down opposite to one another to discourse, but Werdan still kept his hand upon the hilt of his sword, for fear the Saracen should chance to fall upon him on a sudden. “Come,” says Kaled, “now let us hear what you have to say; but be sure you deal fairly, and like a man, and tell no lies; for it does not at all become men in eminent stations to deal deceitfully, and use tricks.” “Well, then,” said Werdan, “what I desire of you is, that you would let us know what you would have, and come to some reasonable terms, that we may have peace, and live in quiet on both sides; and whatsoever you desire of us, we will give you freely, for we know that you are a poor sort of people, and live in a barren country, and in great scantiness and scarcity; therefore if a small matter will content you, we will give it you willingly.” “Alas, for thee! thou Christian dog,” said Kaled, “we bless God that he has provided a great deal better for us than to leave us to live upon your charity, and what you please to spare; for he has freely given to us all that you have; nay, even your wives and your children to be divided amongst us, unless you can say, ‘La Ilalah,’ &c. ‘There is but one God, Mohammed is the apostle of God.’ Or if you do not like that, pay tribute. But if neither will do for you, then let the sword determine between us, and let God give the victory to which side he pleases. No other terms are to be had of us. And as for your talking to us of peace, we for our parts take more delight in war; and as for you saying that we are such a contemptible people, I would have you know that we reckon you no better than dogs. You see I do not talk like a man that is much inclined to peace; and if the meaning of your calling me hither was that you might have me alone, here we are in a place by ourselves, far enough both from my army and yours. Come and fight with me, if you dare.” Immediately upon this, Werdan rose up, but trusting to the ambuscade, made no haste to draw his sword. Kaled seized him forthwith, and shaking him, turned him about every way. Then Werdan shouted, “Come out, my men, come hither; this Arab has seized me.” As soon as the Saracens heard the cry, they came forth, and Werdan, at first sight, took them to be his own men; but when they came nearer, and he saw Derar at their head, shaking his sword at him, he began to be extremely uneasy, and said to Kaled, “I beg of you not to deliver me into the hands of that devil; I hate the sight of him, it was he that killed my son.” Kaled swore by God, that when he came up he would kill him too. By this time Derar had approached them, and said, “Now, thou cursed wretch, what is become of thy deceit, with which thou wouldest have ensnared the companions of the apostle of God?” and was just going to kill him. “Hold,” said Kaled, “let him alone till I give you the word.” When he saw himself in the midst of his enemies, he fell upon the ground, and began to cry “quarter.” But Kaled answered, “La Aman illa Beiman:’ No quarter (or security) where there is no faith kept. You pretended peace, and at the same time treacherously designed to murder me.” The word was no sooner out of his mouth, but Derar struck his head off. Then they stripped him, and put his head upon the point of Kaled’s lance, and marched towards the army. As soon as the Christians espied them, they thought they had been their own men, and that Werdan had brought the Saracen’s head along with him. The Saracens thought so too, and were under great concern for Kaled. But as soon as they came near, they charged the Christians, and Abu Obeidah (who commanded in Kaled’s absence) recognized them, and told his men. Then they moved forward, and engaged in all parts with all imaginable vigour. The fight, or rather the slaughter, continued till evening. The Christian army was entirely routed and defeated. The Saracens killed that day fifty thousand men. Those that escaped fled, some of them to Cæsarea, others to Damascus, and some to Antioch. The Saracens took plunder of inestimable value, and a great many banners, and crosses made of gold and silver, precious stones, silver and gold chains, rich clothes, and arms without number; which Kaled said he would not divide until Damascus was taken.
Upon this victory, Kaled sends a messenger with the following letter to Abubeker the caliph:—
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From the servant of God, Kaled Ebn Walid, to the successor of the apostle of God, upon whom be the blessing of God. I praise God, who is the only God, and there is none other besides him; and I pray for his prophet Mohammed, upon whom be the blessing of God. I praise him, and give thanks to him still more, for his delivering the true believers, and destroying the idolaters, and extinguishing the light of those that err. I acquaint thee, O emperor of the faithful, that we met with the Grecian army at Ajnadin, with Werdan the prefect of Hems; and they swore by Christ that they would not run away, nor turn their backs, though they were killed to the last man. So we fell upon them, calling upon God, and trusting in him, and God supported us, and gave us the victory, and our enemies were decreed to be overcome, and we slew them on all sides, killing to the number of fifty thousand men. In the two battles we lost of the Mussulmans four hundred and seventy-four men. This letter is written on the fifth day of the week, being the thirtieth of the first Jomadah; and we are now returning to Damascus, if it please God. Pray for our success and prosperity. Farewell. The peace and blessing of God be upon thee [illegible] all the Mussulmans.”
As soon as the messenger told the caliph the news, he fell down and worshipped God. Then he opened the letter, and read it over first to himself, and then to those that were about him. The news immediately flew through all the country; and the hungry Arabians came thronging to Medina, to beg leave of the caliph to go into Syria, all of them expecting great places and large possessions, and willing enough to exchange the uncultivated deserts of Arabia Petræa, for the delicacies of Damascus. Omar by no means approved of their motion, but said to Abubeker, “You know what sort of fellows these were to us formerly. When they were able to oppose us, and we were but few in number, they endeavoured, to the utmost of their power, to ruin our religion, and put out the light of God; and when they did turn, it was only to save themselves. And now that they see God has been pleased to bless our armies with victory, they are ready to share the spoil; but if they are allowed to go they will only make a disturbance among those who have got it with their swords. Therefore I pray let none of them go; but let those that have won it wear it.” Abubeker was of the same mind.
As soon as the inhabitants of Mecca heard it, they were very indignant, and thought themselves very greatly injured. Some of the Koreishites (a noble tribe among the Arabs, which had violently opposed Mohammed at his first setting out, and drove him from Mecca to Medina) came in a body to make their complaint to Abubeker the caliph, whom they found sitting with some Mussulmans, with Ali on the right hand, and Omar on his left. When they had paid due reverence to the caliph, Abu Sofian accosted Omar after this manner: “It is true, in the times of ignorance, there used to be clashing and difference amongst us; and we did what we could against you, and you the like to us; but now, since it has pleased God to direct us both into the true religion, all hatred and animosities ought to cease between us. For the faith destroys hatred and variance, as well as idolatry. And yet you still continue your hatred, notwithstanding we are your brethren in religion, and your near relations besides. What is the meaning of this spite both formerly and now? Is it not time to purify your hearts from envy? That you made the profession of the true religion before us we confess, and are willing, upon that ground, to pay you all the respect which is due.” Having said thus, he held his peace, and Arak commended him, and seconded him. Then Abu Sofian desired the caliph and all the Mussulmans to bear witness that he freely took upon himself to fight for the cause of God. And the like was done by all the chiefs of Mecca that were present. This satisfied the caliph, and he was content to let them go. Upon which he prayed to God to confirm them in their good resolutions, and bless them with answerable success. He then wrote a letter to Kaled; in which he acquainted him, that he had received his with great satisfaction, and that he had sent to him some of the chief men of Mecca, and the adjacent country; particularly Amrou Ebn Maadi, and Malec Alashtar. In the next place he ordered him, as soon as he had conquered Damascus, to go on to Hems, Mearrah, and Antioch. After this he bid him be kind to the Mussulmans, and to think upon mortality, and so concluded. When he had finished the letter, he sealed it with Mohammed’s seal, and delivered it to Abdarrhaman, who also had brought him the letter from Kaled.
When Kaled sent the letter to Abubeker, he was upon his march from Ajnadin to Damascus. The poor inhabitants had heard the lamentable news of the loss of the emperor’s general and army. In the meantime, whilst the Saracens were absent, a great many of the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, to secure themselves, had retired into Damascus. The return of the Saracens was daily expected, and all manner of warlike preparation was made for sustaining a siege. Their engines were planted everywhere upon the walls, and banners displayed. In a little time their hearts ached, when they saw the Saracens appear with a formidable army, flushed with success, and enriched with the spoils of their countrymen and neighbours. Amrou Ebn Al Aas led the van, consisting of above nine thousand horse. After him came Abu Sofian with two thousand; then Serjabil Ebn Hasanah (who was one of Mohammed’s secretaries when he wrote the Koran): after him arrived Omar Ebn Rebiyah. Kaled marched in the rear, and brought up the rest of the army under the standard of the black eagle.
When the whole body was within a mile of the city, Kaled called all the generals together, and gave them their respective charges, and said to Abu Obeidah, “You know very well the villainy and deceit of these people, and how they came and fell upon our rear, as we were m our march to Ajnadin. Be on your guard, therefore, and be not too confiding in them, nor agree too easily to give them security, for they will certainly play you some trick. Go and sit down before the gate Jabiyah, at a good distance, and assault them frequently, and let not the length of the time make you uneasy, for victory is the reward of patience.” Abu Obeidah, following this advice, went there, and pitched his tent, which was made of hair; for he would by no means suffer them to set up one of those rich tents which they had taken from the Greeks at Ajnadin: “which,” one author says, “proceeded from his great humility to God, and the shortness of his hope, having no wish to please himself with the gay things of this world, and the possessions of it. For they did not fight for dominion, but in hopes of receiving a reward from God, and having their portion in a future state. And they used to set those tents and spoil which they had taken, at a great distance from them; and if at any time they found any victuals of the Christians, they would not eat it, because the name of God was not mentioned over it when it was killed.” Abu Sofian was placed over against the Little Gate, Serjabil Ebn Hasanah at St. Thomas’s Gate, with 2000 horse; Amrou Ebn Al Aas at Paradise Gate; Kais Ebn Hobeirah sat down before the gate Kaisan. There was another, which was called St. Mark’s Gate, where there never was any fighting (whether because of the incommodiousness of the place, or for what other reason, I know not), which upon that account was called Baobsalamah, “The Gate of Peace.” After he had given his orders, he went himself and sat down before the East Gate. Then he called Derar to him, and gave him the command of two thousand horse, and ordered him to keep riding round about the camp, and never stand still long in one place, for fear any succours should come from the emperor, and surprise the camp. “And,” says he, “if they be too hard for thee, send to me, and I will help thee.” “I suppose then,” said Derar, “that I am to stand still the meanwhile!” “No, no;” said Baled, “I do not mean that.” None of the Saracens were mounted besides those which were with Derar, whose business it was to ride round the camp, and guard it: for the Saracens fought for the most part on foot. Kaled having thus formed his plan of the siege, early on the next morning the besieged sallied out, and the fight continued till the evening. That same day Kaled received Abubeker’s letter, and after the fight was over, sent it to the generals, who were posted at the several gates.
The poor inhabitants perceiving themselves now besieged in good earnest, began to think of coming to terms, and were ready to submit to pay tribute and secure their lives and fortunes, rather than by standing it out, to expose themselves to inevitable death. Their chief men having met to deliberate, a considerable part of them were very much inclined to surrender. But it happened that Thomas, the emperors son-in-law, lived then in Damascus, as a private man, not in any public commission or authority; for though the emperor had offered him honourable posts, he refused to accept of any employment; notwithstanding that he was a person of great courage, and an excellent soldier. Out of respect to his quality and abilities, the citizens thought it advisable to do nothing hastily, and without having first consulted him. When they came to his palace, he appeared to wonder, “That these vile Arabs, poor wretches, naked and barefoot, and far from completely armed, should be able to put them in such a consternation.” He told them, “That the Arabs were masters of no courage, but what was wholly owing to their own fears; that there was the greatest deal of difference between them and the Damascenes in every respect, whether in number, .or in arms, or in anything else that made an army considerable.” Adding, “That the Damascenes had no reason to despair of the victory.” The citizens told him, with submission, that he was under a great mistake;” For the late victories of the Arabs had furnished them very well with arms. Besides,” said they, “they all fight like mad men; for they are ready to encounter us naked, or any way, and under ever such great disadvantages; for they stedfastly believe that every one of their own men that is killed passes immediately to Paradise, and every one of ours to hell; and this makes them invincible.” To which Thomas answered, “That it was plain from thence that they had no true courage, who were forced to make use of such an artifice to encourage themselves to fight.” “Well, sir,” said they, “if you will be pleased to help us, and put us in a way to make a defence, we shall be at your service, otherwise we must surrender.” Thomas, being fearful lest they should be in earnest, promised, after a short pause, to go out with them the next morning.
They kept watch all the night, and supplied the absence of the sun with numberless lights placed in the turrets. The Saracens in the meantime were encouraging one another to do their utmost against the enemies of God, as they used to call all but themselves. In the morning the besieged prepared early for battle, and the Saracens got ready to make a general assault. All the generals said their prayers among their men, and Kaled bade them be firm, “for they should rest after death;” adding, “That is the best rest which shall never be succeeded by any labour.” Thomas was ready in the morning, and just before he went out a crucifix was raised at the gate, and the bishop, attended with some of the clergy, brought the New Testament, and placed it at a little distance from the crucifix. As Thomas went out of the city, he laid his hand upon the cover of the Testament, and said, “O God! if our religion be true, help us, and deliver us not into the hand of our enemies; but overthrow the oppressor, for thou knowest him. O God, help those which profess the truth, and are in the right way.” Serjabil heard him say something, but could not tell what; and when Romanus (who was the treacherous governor of Bostra, and used to be their interpreter) had explained it to him, he was very angry, and cried out, “Thou liest, thou enemy of God; for Jesus is of no more account with God than Adam. He created him out of the dust, and made him a living man, walking upon the earth, and afterwards raised him to heaven.” The two armies having joined battle, Thomas fought bravely. Being an incomparable archer, he shot a great many of the Saracens, and among the rest he wounded Aban Ebn Saïd with a poisoned arrow. Aban drew out the arrow, and unfolding his turban, bound up the wound. But he quickly felt the effects of the poison in his body, and finding his strength fail him, was carried into the camp, where his friends being very urgent to unbind the wound, and to dress it, he told them, if they did, he should die instantly. Which accordingly happened, for they had no sooner opened it than he immediately fainted; and when he could speak no longer, continued testifying, by signs, the stedfastness of his belief in God and Mohammed. He was newly married, having no longer ago than when the Saracens were at Ajnadin, taken to wife a brave virago, one of the fighting sort, who could use a bow and arrows very well. As soon as she heard the news of his death, she came running in great haste; and when she saw his corpse, she evinced admirable patience, exclaiming, “Happy art thou, my dear: thou art gone to thy Lord, who first joined us together, and has now parted us asunder. I will revenge thy death, and endeavour to the utmost of my power to come to the place where then art, because I love thee. Henceforth shall no man ever touch me more, for I have dedicated myself to the service of God.” Then they washed him (as is their custom), and buried him forthwith, with the usual solemnities. His widow never wept nor wailed, but with a courage above what could be expected from the weakness of her sex, armed herself with his weapons, and unknown to Baled went into the battle. When she came into the field, she asked where it was that Aban was wounded. They told her, over against St. Thomas’s Gate, and that Thomas, the emperor’s son-in-law, was the man that shot him. Away she went towards the place, and with the first arrow shot the standard-bearer in the hand. The standard fell down, and the Saracens instantly snatched it up, and carried it off. Thomas was grievously concerned at the loss of the standard, and laid about him furiously, and ordered his men to look about them narrowly, to see if they could find it any where, and retake it, if possible. When the Saracens that had it saw themselves hard beset, they shifted it from one to another, till it came to Serjabil’s hands. As the Damascenes followed Thomas with great courage and vigour, the engines all the while playing upon the Saracens from the walls, and throwing stones and arrows as thick as hail, the battle soon began to be fierce and bloody. They plied the engines so well from the walls, that the Saracens were forced to retreat, and fight out of the reach of their fire. Thomas having at last discovered the standard in Serjabil’s hand, made up to him, and fell upon him like a lion. Upon which Serjabil threw the standard away, and engaged his adversary. Whilst they were fighting hand to hand, and every one admired Thomas’s valour, Aban’s wife saw him, and being told that it was he who had killed her husband, she aimed an arrow at him, and shot him in the eye, so that he was forced to retire into the city. The Saracens followed him close, and killed three hundred in the pursuit, which they would have carried further, but were afraid to come within range of the engines.
Thomas had his eye dressed, but would by no means be persuaded to go to his house, though the inhabitants of the town pressingly entreated him, telling him, that no good would be gained by fighting against these Arabs, but that the best way would be to surrender the town. But, being a man of undaunted courage and resolution, he said, they should not come off so; that they should not take his standard, and put his eye out, unrevenged. He considered what a reflection it would be upon his honour, and how the emperor would look upon it, if he should suffer himself to be disheartened and daunted by the Arabs. The battle continued till night parted them; Thomas all the while continued in the gate, meditating revenge. When it was dark, he sent for the chief men of the city, and not at all daunted, said to them, “Look ye, you have to do with a people who have neither good manners, nor religion, nor any faith or honesty belonging to them; and if they should make any agreement with you, and give you security, they will never stand to their word, but lay the whole country waste. And can you bear to see what is dearest to you invaded, and your poor children made slaves, and yourselves turned out of house and harbour, and deprived of all the conveniences of life?” To this appeal they replied, “That they were ready at his service, either to fight upon the walls, or to sally.” Upon this he ordered them every man to make ready with all possible speed and all the silence imaginable, that they might not give the least alarm to the Saracens. All the armed men were drawn up at the several gates, and upon a signal given by one single stroke upon a bell, the gates were all opened at the same instant; the Christians (some few only excepted, who were left to secure the gates and the walls) sallied out altogether, and poured in upon the Saracen camp like a torrent, in hopes of finding them wounded and tired, and altogether unprovided to receive so vigorous an attack. The whole camp was immediately alarmed; and as soon as Kaled knew it, he said, “O God, who never sleepest, look upon thy servants, and do not deliver them into the hands of their enemies.” Then he ordered Feljan Ebn Zeyad to supply his place, and rode with four hundred men as fast as he could, for the tears lay upon his cheeks for the concern he had upon him for his dear Saracens. The care of Serjabil and Abu Obeidah made him very anxious, being well aware of Thomas’s valour. When he came near the gate, he found how things stood; Thomas had fallen violently upon the Saracens, and before he came out, commanded his men to give quarter to none but the general; the engines playing all the while upon the camp, , being worked by the Jews in Damascus. Thomas was again engaged with his former adversary Serjabil. Aban’s wife was among Serjabil’s men, and did great execution with her bow and arrows, till she had spent them all but one, which she kept to make signs with as she saw occasion: presently one of the Christians advanced up towards her; she shot him in the throat, and killed him, and was then taken prisoner. Serjabil at last struck a violent stroke, which Thomas,??? receiving upon his buckler, Serjabil’s sword broke. Thomas thought himself sure of him, and had certainly either killed him, or taken him prisoner, but Abdarrhaman, and Aban, the son of Othman, who was afterwards caliph, came up at that instant with a regiment of fresh horse, and rescued both him and Aban’s wife. Thomas, perceiving the Saracens came in so fast upon him, retired into the city. Abu Obeidah, as we said before, was posted at the gate Jabiyah; he was in his tent when the Christians first sallied out, and immediately went to prayers. Afterwards, whilst his men were engaged, he took a party, and got between the Christians and the city; so that they were surrounded, and charged on both sides. They made a quick despatch of them, for never a man that went out at that gate, returned again. And though those that sallied at the other gates escaped something better, yet the Christians had no reason to boast of any advantage, having lost that night several thousand men.
The Christians, being now quite disheartened, came about Thomas, with repeated entreaties to surrender; they told him, they had lost above half their men, and what were left were not sufficient for the defence of the town. At last they told him in plain terms, that he might manage as he pleased for himself, but for their parts they were resolved to get as good terms for themselves as they could. Thomas, however, endeavoured to persuade them to wait till he should write to the Grecian emperor, which accordingly he did without delay. The Saracens continued vigorously to press the siege, and reduced the inhabitants to very great straits, who every day made a worse defence. For a while at last, they begged of Kaled to stay the assault, that they might have a little time to deliberate. But he turned a deaf ear to them, for he had rather take the town by force, and put the inhabitants to the sword, and let his Saracens have the plunder, than that they should surrender, and have security for their lives and their property. But Abu Obeidah was of a quite different disposition, a well-meaning, merciful man, who had rather at all times that they should surrender, and become tributaries, than be exposed to any extremity; and this the besieged knew very well. One night, therefore, they sent out a messenger that understood Arabic, through the gate where Abu Obeidah was posted, who, calling to the sentinels, desired safe conduct for some of the inhabitants of Damascus to come to their master Abu Obeidah, in order to confer upon a capitulation. As soon as Abu Obeidah was informed of this, he was very much pleased, and sent Abu Hobeirah to the Damascenes, to assure them that they should have free liberty to go where they pleased. They asked him whether or no he was one of Mohammed’s companions, that they might depend upon him? He told them that he was, but that made no difference; for if the meanest slave among those of his religion had given them security, it would have been all one, for he would have performed it, because God had said, in the book which he sent to their prophet Mohammed, “Perform your covenant, for that shall be called to an account.” Upon this, about a hundred of the chief of the citizens and clergy went out, and when they came near the camp, some of the Saracens met them, and, taking off their girdles, conducted them to Abu Obeidah’s tent; who used them very civilly, and bid them sit down, and told them that his prophet Mohammed had commanded them to pay respect to persons of rank and quality. They were very glad to find him so courteous, and when they came to talk of terms, they first desired that their churches might be, secured to them, and not in any way alienated. He granted them seven churches, and gave them a writing, but did not set his own name to it, nor any witnesses, because he was not general. Then he went, attended with about a hundred men, to take possession. When he came to the gates he demanded hostages; which being delivered, he entered into the city.
Kaled was altogether ignorant of this transaction, and was, at the very same time when this business was concluded, making a sharp assault at the east gate, being especially provoked at the loss of Kaled Ebn Saïd (the brother of Amrou Ebn Al Aas, by the mother’s side), whom one of the besieged had shot with a poisoned arrow. In the meantime, there came to Kaled from the town one Josias a priest, who told him, that having been long conversant with ancient writings and prophecies, and especially the prophet Daniel, he was abundantly satisfied of the future greatness of the Saracenic empire; and proffered his service to introduce him and his army into the town, upon condition that Kaled would grant him security for him and his. Whether any conviction that he had met with in reading that prophet, or the desire he had to preserve himself, was the prevailing motive with him, I shall not determine. Neither did Kaled much trouble himself on this head, but gave him his hand as a pledge that he would perform the required condition, and sent with him an hundred men, most of them Homerites, (a warlike tribe of the Arabs) whom he ordered as soon as they had entered the city to cry out as loud as they could Allah Acbar, and make themselves masters of the gates, and break the bolts, and remove the chains, that he with the rest of the army might march into the city without any difficulty. This was accordingly performed. The poor Christians, as soon as ever they heard the Tecbir (so the Arabs call the exclamation, Allah Achar), knew at once that the city was lost; and were seized with such an astonishment, that their very weapons fell out of their hands. Kaled entered at the east gate with his Saracens, putting all to the sword, and Christian blood streamed down the streets of Damascus. Thus they went on murdering all they found, till they came to St. Mary’s church, where they met with Abu Obeidah and his company. When Kaled saw Abu Obeidah and his men in their march, and the priests and monks before them, and all the Saracens with their swords by their sides, not so much as one drawn, he wondered what was the matter. Abu Obeidah perceived in him tokens of dislike, and said, “God has delivered the city into my hands by way of surrender, and saved the believers the trouble of fighting.” At which Kaled was very angry, and said, that he had taken it by the sword, and they should have no security. Abu Obeidah told him, that he had given them an article in writing, which they had here to show: “And how,” said Kaled, “came you to agree with them, without acquainting me first? Did not you know me? Did not-you know that I am your general, and master of your counsels? And therefore I will put them every one to the sword.” But Abu Obeidah remonstrated with him saying, “I did not think, that when I had made an agreement, or designed to do anything, you would ever have contradicted me, or have gone about to make it void. But you shall not make it void, for I have given all these people my protection, and that in the name of God and his prophet; and all the Mussulmans that were with me liked it, and approved it, and we are not accustomed to be worse than our word.”
There was a great noise made on both sides, and Kaled would not abate his fury. The greedy Arabs that were with him were eager to fall on, and thirsted after blood and plunder. The poor inhabitants were now in a very calamitous condition, and all of them would have been murdered or made slaves, if Abu Obeidah had not stood their friend; who, seeing the Arabs fall on, killing some and taking others prisoners, was extremely concerned, and called out in a passion, “By Allah, my word is looked upon as nothing, the covenant which I make is broken.” Then he turned his horse, and rode about among the soldiers, and said, “I adjure you, by the apostle of God, that you meddle with none of them, till you see how Kaled and I can adjust this matter.” With much difficulty he made them forbear. At last, the other generals came up, and they all went together into the church to debate this affair. Several inclined to the most merciful side, for which they gave this very weighty reason, viz. That there were a great many cities still to be taken, and if it should once be reported about the country, that the Saracens had broken their engagement, after they had given security, they could never expect any other place to surrender, but all would make the most obstinate defence imaginable. At last, some advised that Kaled should have the disposal of that part of the town which he had taken by the sword, and Abu Obeidah of that which he had taken upon articles; at least till such time as they could appeal to the caliph, and be determined by his sentence. This was so reasonable a proposal, that Kaled could not refuse it; so at last he consented that the people should have their protection, but that no quarter should be given to Thomas and Herbis, nor any of their soldiers. Abu Obeidah told him, that they were all included, and begged of him not to make any further disturbance about it.
And now we have seen Damascus, the most noble and ancient city of Syria, taken by the Saracens. We must now leave a while the conquerors in possession, and the miserable inhabitants in their deplorable circumstances, and take a view of affairs at Medina. Abubeker the caliph died the same day that Damascus was taken, which was on Friday the 23d of August, in a.d. 634, and of the Hejirah the 13th. There are various reports concerning his death; some say that he was poisoned by the Jews, eating rice with Hareth Ebn Caldah, and that they both died of it within a twelve-month after. But Ayesha says, that he bathed himself upon a cold day, which threw him into a fever, of which he died within fifteen days.
During Abubeker’s sickness he appointed Omar to say prayers publicly in his place; and when he perceived himself near his departure, he called his secretary, and gave him directions to write as follows:
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “This is the testament of Abubeker Ebn Abu Kohafa, which he made at that time when he was just going out of this world, and entering into the other; a time in which the infidel shall believe, and the wicked person shall be assured, and the liar shall speak truth;
I appoint Omar Ebn Al Khattab my successor over you; therefore hearken to him, and obey him. If he does that which is right and just, it is what I think and know of him. If he does otherwise, every man must be rewarded according to his works. I intend to do for the best, but I do not know hidden things; but those who do evil shall find the consequences of it. Fare ye well, and the mercy and blessing of God be upon you.”
When he designed to make Omar his successor, Omar desired to be excused, and said he had no need of that place. To which Abubeker answered, that “The place had need of him,” and so appointed him caliph against his will. Then he gave him such instructions as he thought proper; and when Omar was gone out of his presence, he lifted up his hand, and said, “O God! I intend nothing by this but the people’s good. I have set over them the best man among them; and yet I fear lest there should be a difference among them. They are thy servants: unite them with thy hand, and make their affairs prosperous, and make him a good governor; and spread abroad the doctrine of the prophet of mercy, and make his followers good men.”
Elmakin says, that Abubeker was the first that gathered together the scattered chapters of the Koran, and digested it into one volume: for in Mohammed’s time they were only in loose and dispersed writings. But when in the war which they had with Moseilama, of which we have already given an account, a great many of those who could read and repeat the Koran were killed, Abubeker began to be afraid lest any part of it should be lost. He therefore gathered together what was extant in writing, or what any of, the Mussulmans could repeat, and making one volume of it, called it Mushaph, which in the Arabic tongue signifies a book, or volume. This book was committed to the custody of Hafsa, Omar’s daughter, and one of Mohammed’s wives. But Joannes Andreas, who was himself a Moor by birth, and alfaqui, or chief doctor of the Mussulmans in Sciatinia, in the kingdom of Valencia in Spain, and afterwards converted to the Christian religion in the year of our Lord 1487, says, that this collection was not made till the time of Othman, the third caliph after Mohammed. Eutychius, in his annals, says the same. I believe them both to be mistaken, because I find in Abulfeda, that Othman, when he came to be caliph, observing the variety of different readings which had grown into the text, copied this book which had been delivered to Hafsa, and abolished and destroyed all other copies which differed from it; obliging all the Mohammedans to receive this copy as the only authentic Koran. And it was this action of his, I am fully persuaded, that gave occasion to the report, that Othman was the first who gathered the chapters into one volume: a work of so much importance, that it can scarcely be believed to have escaped the zeal and diligence of Abubeker and Omar. [See reign of Othman.]
As to the person and character of this caliph, he was a tall, lean man, of a ruddy complexion, and a thin beard, which to make it look more graceful, he used to tinge with such colours as are frequently used in the eastern countries for this purpose. He never hoarded any money in the public treasury; but every Friday at night he distributed all that there was among persons of merit; to the soldiers first, and after them to those that were any other way deserving. His chastity, temperance, and neglect of the things of this life, were exemplary. He desired Ayesha to take an account of all that he had gotten since he was caliph, and distribute it among the Mussulmans; being resolved not to be enriched by his preferment, but serve the public gratis. And this resolution he kept to, never having taken out of the public treasury, in return for all his services, more than three drachmas (a piece of gold in use among the Arabs at that time, the true value of which is now unknown to us). The value of his whole inventory amounted to no more than five of those drachmas; which, when Omar heard, he said, that Abubeker had left his successor a hard pattern.
It is usual with some authors, when they give characters of great men, to mention some of their sentences, or wise sayings; the Arabs have not been deficient in this particular. Nisaburiensis (called so from Nisabour, the metropolis of Khorassan, as it is most common for Arabic authors to be distinguished by the place of their birth as much as by their names) has collected in a little book the grave and witty sayings of Mohammed and his successors, and some of the kings of Persia. Among some others which he has recorded of Abubeker, there are these two very remarkable ones: “Good actions are a guard against the blows of adversity.” And this: “Death is the easiest (or least considerable) of all things after it, and the hardest of all things before it.”
He was sixty-three years old when he died, having reigned two (lunar) years three months and nine days.
- Elmakin, chap. i. In Milman’s Gibbon, this date is shown to be a mistake of Ockley’s. The 6th of June of this year fell on a Saturday, and not on a Monday; we should therefore read the 8th of June. Ockley appears to have confounded the lunar with the solar year in his calculations.
- Elmakin. Abulfaragius.
- Caliph, or properly khalifah, signifies a successor or vicar, and was originally given to the universal sovereigns of the Mussulman Arabs, as signifying “successor of the prophets,” but afterwards, in a more exalted sense, as “vicar of God.” This title has since been used for Mohammedan sovereigns, as the caliphs of Spain, of Africa, and Egypt, and the caliphs of Bagdad.—See Lane’s Arab. Nights.
- Arabic, “The helpers,” because they helped Mohammed when he fled to Medina.
- Ahmed Ebn Mohammed Ebn Abdi Rabbihi, M. S. Arab. Huntington. No. 554.
- “This account of Ayesha’s opposing the substitution of her father in the place of the apostle seems improbable in itself, and is unnoticed by Abulfeda, Al Jannabi, and Al Bochari.” —Gibbon.
- Those who assert the rights of Ali are called Shiites or Sectaries, whilst those who consider the caliphs preceding Ali as the rightful successors of Mohammed, are called Sonnites or Traditionists.
- Koran, chap. xvii. 1.
- Ibrahim Ebn Mohammed Ebn Dokmak, Arab. M.S. Laud. No. 806. ii.
- Ismael Abulfeda Kitab Almoctaser phi Acharilbashar. M.S. Arab. Pocock, No. 330.
- Elmakin, chap. ii.
- “There are some writers, however, who have accused Ali of a precipitancy in his demonstrations of submission to Abubeker almost too ludicrous to repeat; of so much eagerness and anxiety to do him homage, that he forgot one of the most necessary appurtenances of dress.” —Price. According to Dr. Weil, Abu Sofian, and other relations of Ali, offered to assist him in maintaining his rights by the sword; but Omar’s threats seem to have been more powerful. Abu Sofian, however, continued his opposition till his son Yezid was created general of a division of Abubeker’s forces, and then he became one of the warmest adherents of this caliph.
- Dr. Weil quotes an account by Oman, in which he relates that “the Arabians offered to say their prayers, but refused to pay the tax. Omar went to Abubeker, and said, ‘Oh, caliph! deal gently with these people, for they are on the brink of becoming wild animals.’ To which Abubeker answered, ‘Thou hero in heathenism but coward in Islamism, I expect thy assistance, and now thou givest me false counsel! How shall I win these people? By means of lying verses, or inventions of magic? Far be this from me; the prophet is dead, and revelation has ceased. By heaven! I will war with them as long as my hand can hold the sword, even though they refuse to pay me a camel a year!’ ‘On this occasion,” continues Omar, “I found Abubeker more decided than I was myself.”
- Major Price gives a different account of this transaction, He says, that immediately after this execution of Malec, Haled espoused the beautiful widow of his murdered prisoner; he also adds, that Omar was a friend of Malec’s, and instead of interceeding for Haled, was so indignant at his conduct, that he complained of it to Abubeker in terms of the severest censure; and called upon him, by every consideration of justice and policy, to remove the general from his command. Abubeker, however, was deaf to any complaints against the conduct of the “Sword of God,” and it was only at the urgent and repeated entreaties of Omar that he was at length induced to send messengers requiring his presence at Medina. In obedience to the summons Kaled set off without loss of time; and, when within a short distance of the city, forwarded a present of two golden dinars to the caliph’s porter, requesting that when he applied for admission no one else should be permitted to enter. The bribe was accepted, and Haled was hastening to the palace, when Omar suddenly met him; and, after reviling him in the most reproachful terms, broke to pieces the two arrows, which, as was the custom of Arabian warriors, Kaled wore in his turban. To all this he made not the smallest reply, but hurried on to the mansion of the caliph, where the porter gave him immediate admittance, but informed Omar that he had received orders to admit no one but the general. On entering the presence of Abubeker, Kaled was asked if he was not the murderer of one of the faithful, and a violator of his harem; a question which he evaded by asking if the caliph was not present when the prophet bestowed on him the appellation of the “Sword of God;” and upon being answered in the affirmative, desired to know if the sword of the Almighty was destined to fall lightly on the necks of the infidel and hypocrite. On a further explanation, Abubeker indicated his satisfaction, and Kaled withdrew from his presence highly elated at the result of his visit. Upon his return, observing Omar seated at the entrance of a neighbouring mosque, he called to him in a voice of contempt and defiance, and by the name of left-handed dotard dared him to come near. From the same authority we learn, that Kaled still further incensed Omar by the following act. At the destruction of Yemana, the seat of Moseilama and his followers, amongst other prisoners was a distinguished inhabitant of the place named Mujaia. Immediately after the surrender, Kaled, unaffected by the scenes of blood, returned to the indulgence of his appetites, and with as little ceremony as feeling demanded of Mujaia his daughter in marriage. The reluctant father endeavoured to elude the request by delineating the extreme indecency of insulting the memory of so many slaughtered victims by the introduction of festivity and mirth; but Kaled was inexorable. Mujaia then fixed the sum of one million of dirhems as the price of his daughter’s hand, equivalent to about £23,000, but then considered an enormous dowry. The sum, however, was paid on the spot, and the marriage consummated without further delay. These no doubt were some of the causes which induced Omar, when he became caliph, to deprive Kaled of his commission.
- Theophanes, p. 278. edit. Paris.
- Sale, however, states that Moseilama, having formed a considerable party, began to think himself upon equal terms with Mohammed, and sent him a letter offering to go halves with him, in these words: “From Moseilama, the apostle of God, to Mohammed the apostle of God. Now, let the earth behalf mine and half thine,” But Mohammed, believing himself too well established to need a partner, wrote him this answer: “From Mohammed the apostle of God, to Moseilama the liar. The earth is God’s: he giveth the same for inheritance unto such of his servants as he pleaseth; and the happy issue shall attend those who fear him.”
- Or rather Serjabil.
- Another of the false prophets of this period was a woman named Sejaj, of whom the following amusing particulars are recorded by Major Price. “Sejaj was a Christian with extraordinary talents and eloquence, and being prompted by an aspiring ambition, she announced herself a prophetess, and uttering her string of rhapsodies in rhyme, declared that they came inspired from above. Struck by her success, and alarmed at the approach of Kaled, Moseilama thought it advisable to temporize with her, and accordingly sent agents intimating his consent to a division of the earth, and inviting her to a private conference. She gave the messengers a very courteous reception, and after some preliminary arrangements, Moseilama and Sejaj came to an interview in a garden where he had caused some tents to be pitched for her reception. Here he soon discovered that the virtue of the prophetess was not proof against voluptuous advances. Perceiving that she was sufficiently softened by some glowing representations, which he thought fit to delineate, of the enjoyments to be derived from a tender intercourse of the sexes, he adventured to ask, since they were already united in the sacred functions of the prophecy, what should impede their coalescing in other respects? And without further apology, proposed, that, by entering into conjugal engagements with him, she should resign her person and pretensions to his disposal. Already fascinated by the charms of an engaging exterior, for he is said to have been one of the handsomest men in Arabia, she could only entreat his forbearance until the descent of divine inspiration. To remove her scruples in this respect required no extraordinary compass of invention on the part of Moseilama. Immediately throwing himself into a violent fit of agitation, under pretence that it was the inspired moment, he found no great difficulty in persuading Sejaj on his recovery, by such ambiguous phrases as he had composed on the spot; that they had the dispensation of heaven to consecrate their impure and unhallowed indulgence. She attempted no longer to defend the approaches of female modesty, and the triumph of the artful Moseilama was complete. Having thus forfeited all pretensions to that purity, which is the highest attribute of her sex, the prophetess fell from her proud pre-eminence, and became a mere debased, contaminated woman. Three days and as many nights had been consumed in this licentious intercourse, in what the Arabs tell us was at this time denominated the garden of mercy, but at a subsequent period, the garden of death, when Sejaj thought proper to return to her camp. Moseilama, however, refused to make her his wife, and the Arab chiefs of her party, finding it impossible to reconcile the scandal of her interview with her exalted professions of sanctity, embraced the first opportunity of separating to their several homes. On perceiving the dispersion of her followers, she made the best of her way from Arabia, and escaped to Mossule, accompanied by about four hundred of the natives, who continued faithful to the last; and at a subsequent period she found it convenient to enrol herself among the proselytes of the Koran.”
- Theophylactus Simocatta, Hist. Mauritian.
- Theophanes, in the Life of Heraclius.
- Prideaux’s Life of Mohammed, p. vii.
- Koran, chap. ix.
- Ib. chap. viii. 40.
- Photouhoshon, i. e. The Conquests of Syria, written by Abu Abdallah Mohammed Ben Omar Alwakidi. M.S. Arab. Laud. No. A. 118. And there is another copy of it among Dr. Pocock’s MSS. No. 326. Whatever relates to Syria has, for the most part, been taken out of this author.
- These were Abubeker’s surnames.
- “Even in the seventh century the monks were generally laymen; they wore their hair long and dishevelled, and shaved their heads when they were ordained priests. The circular tonsure was sacred and mysterious; it was the crown of thorns; but it was likewise a royal diadem, and every priest was a king,” &c.—Gibbon.
- The following note on the Saracenic laws of war is quoted by Mills:—Before a declaration of hostility, the Mussulmans invited the infidels to a, confession of the true faith. But there appears to have been no necessity to make this invitation, for the faithful might exercise their pious trade of butchery without it. The male captives were put to death; the female ones sold for slaves. Children and old men were spared. The releasing of infidel captives in exchange for Mussulman captives was not lawful. Ambassadors were accounted sacred. The wells and springs of water were not to be poisoned until the last extremity. It is a singular fact in the history of the human mind, that community of possession was never thought of by the Saracenic enthusiasts. The gold and silver, the prisoners and cattle, the moveables and immoveables taken in war, were divided into five portions. One of them was applied by the caliphs to religious and charitable purposes; the sentinel of the camp, the soldier who fought, the retired veteran, and the widows and orphans of the slain, were entitled to an equal participation of the remainder; but the horseman always received a double portion. The Saracens had two very singular laws: one was, that death in an enemy’s country was a preclusion of any right to a share in the plunder. The other was, that a man who received pay was neither entitled to plunder nor martyrdom.—Hedayaa, b 9, chap. 2, 4. Mischat. vol. ii. p. 244.
- Koran, iii. 141.
- “God is most mighty.”
- Arab. Kebla, which signifies the place towards which they turn themselves when they say their prayers. For as the Jews, though in captivity, used to turn their faces towards the temple of Jerusalem when they prayed, so do the Mohammedans towards the temple at Mecca. And there are books in Arabic (one of which I have seen in the Bodleian library) teaching how to determine mathematically the zenith or vertical point of the Kebla, or temple of Mecca; in order that, let a Mussulman be where he will, he may know which way to set his face when he says his prayers.
- Arab. Kobarao Ashhab Resoul Allah, i. e. “The great men of the companions of the apostle of God.
- These words are a text of the Koran. See Koran, chap. ix. 32, and lxi. 8.
- Koran, chap. viii. 15, 16.
- So they call all the time before Mohammed.
- “Vanity Prompted the Arabs to believe that Thomas was the son-in-law of the emperor. We know the children of Heraclius by his two Wives; and his august daughter would not have married in exile at Damascus. Had he been less religious, I might only suspect the legitimacy of the damsel.” —Gibbon.
- “Al Wakidi says, ‘with poisoned arrows;’ but this savage invention is so repugnant to the practice of the Greeks and Romans, that I must suspect, on this occasion, the malevolent credulity of the Saracens.” —Gibbon.
- Koran, chap. xvii. 36.
- Arab. “Wallah,” an oath frequently used by the Arabs, who do not account it any profanation of the divine name to swear by it; but rather an acknowledgment of his omnipotence and omnipresence: and therefore we find it used by the most religious among them.
- Elmakin. Respecting the date of the capture of Damascus, authorities differ, some placing it in a.d. 634, and others in a.d. 635. The duration of the siege, too, is equally uncertain, Elmakin stating it to be six months, while Abulfeda gives seventy days.
- Ahmod Ebn Mohammed Ebn Abdi Rabbini and Abulfeda.
- Dr. Weil, on the authority of the Zaban, says, that this latter account is the most probable, it being related by Ayesha and Abdarrhaman, the son and daughter of Abubeker.
- Author of the History of the Holy Land, MS. Arab. Pocock. No. 362.
- That is, the infidel and the wicked shall then be assured of the reality of those things relating to a future state, which they disbelieved and ridiculed in their lifetime.
- Kitab Almoctaser phi Abbari’l bashar.