YEZDEJIRD SUCCEEDS TO TUE THRONE OF PERSIA.
BATTLE OF AL-KADISIYA
14 A.H. / 635 A.D.
WE left Al-Muthanna, after the great battle of Al-Buweib, ravaging at will the terror-stricken coasts of Chaldęa. But another wave of war was about to sweep over the unhappy land. A new movement was taking place at Al-Medain. The Persian nobles, chafing under the weakness of Rustem and the feeble Queen, began to cry out that these were dragging the Empire down to ruin. The ladies of the Court assembled to search whether any king might not yet be discovered of the royal blood. And so Yezdejird was found, saved as a child from the massacre of Siroes, now a youth of twenty-one. He was placed upon the throne.
Around the young King the nobles rallied loyally, and something was rekindled of ancient patriotic fire. Troops were gathered, Mesopotamia reoccupied, and the cities as far as Al-Hira strongly garrisoned.
The people returned to their allegiance; and Al-Muthanna, finding his diminished army unable to cope with the rising which in the Spring assumed such formidable dimensions, again withdrew behind the Euphrates to Dhu Kar. He sent an urgent message to 'Omar of the new perils threatening all around. The danger was met bravely by the Caliph. "I swear by the Lord," was his emphatic word, "that I will smite down the proud princes of Persia with the sword of the princes of Arabia." It was clearly impossible permanently to hold Mesopotamia while it was dominated
by the Capital of Persia so close at hand.
Al-Medain must be taken at any cost, and a great army gathered for the purpose. Orders, more stringent than ever (as already told), went forth for a new and universal levy. "Haste hither," was the command sent everywhere, "hasten speedily!" And forthwith Arabia again resounded with the call to arms. The tribes from the south were to assemble before the Caliph at Medina; those lying northward,the demand being urgent and time precious,were to march straight to Al-Muthanna.
So much arranged, 'Omar set out on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This accomplished, he repaired to the camp outside Medina, where the contingents as they came in were marshalled. There it was debated whether the Caliph, as he proposed, and as the people wished, should in person lead the army to Al-'Irak. The chief Companions were against it. Defeat, if 'Omar were on the field, might be fatal; seated at Medina, even at the worst, he could launch column after column on the enemy. 'Omar yielded; but the readiness he had thus shown to bear in his own person the heat and burden of the day, added new impulse to the movement.
Who now should be the leader of this great army in 'Irak? Al-Muthanna and Jarir were but Bedawi chieftains. None but a Noble could take command of the proud tribes now flocking to the field. The matter was at the moment under discussion, when there came a despatch from Sa'd, the Caliph's lieutenant with the Beni Hawazin, reporting the levy of a thousand good lances from amongst that tribe. "Here is the man!" cried out the assembly. "Who?" asked the Caliph. "None but the Ravening Lion,"1 was the answer,"Sa'd, the son of Malik."2 The choice was sealed by acclamation; and 'Omar at once summoned Sa'd. Converted at Mecca while yet a boy, the new Amir of Al-'Irak was now forty years of age. He is known as "the first who drew blood in Islam," and was a noted archer in the Prophet's wars.3 He took rank also as the nephew of Mohammad's mother. Short and dark, with large head and shaggy hair, Sa'd was brave, but not well-favoured. The Caliph gave him advice on the momentous issues of the
1 A play upon the name Sa'd or "lion."
2 Malik is Abu Wakkas.
3 Life of Mohammad pp. 58, 63.
1 A play upon the name Sa'd or "lion."
2 Malik is Abu Wakkas.
3 Life of Mohammad pp. 58, 63.
campaign, and warned him not to trust in his extraction. "The Lord," he said, "looketh to merit and good works, not to birth; for in His sight all men are equal." Admonished thus, Sa'd set out for Al-'Irak with 4000 men, the first-fruits of the new levy. According to Arab custom, these marched now with their wives and children.
As the levies kept coming in, 'Omar sent them on, one after another, to join Sa'd. The numbers swelling rapidly, embraced the chivalry of all Arabia. Toleiha, the quondam prophet, now an exemplary believer, and 'Amr ibn Ma'dikerib, went in command of their respective tribes; and 'Omar wrote that each alone was worth a thousand men. Al-Ash'ath, also, the apostate rebel of the south, now joined the army with a column of his tribe. In short, 'Omar "left not a single person of any note or dignity in the land, whether warrior, poet, orator, or chieftain, nor any man possessed of horse or weapons, but he sent him off to Al-'Irak." Thus reinforced, Sa'd found himself at the head of 20,000 men, so that, with the column now on its way from Syria, the numbers were over 30,000,by far the largest force yet mustered by the Arabs on the Chaldęan plain. The new levies, with the veterans of Al-Muthanna, drew together at Esh-Shureif on the borders of the desert, fifteen or twenty miles south of Al-Hira.
Before Sa'd reached the appointed rendezvous, Al-Muthanna had passed away. His brother Al-Mo'anna was just returning from a mission to the Beni Bekr, whom the Court of Persia were endeavouring to gain over. He went out to meet Sa'd with intelligence of his having frustrated the attempt, as well as with the sad news of his brother's death. He delivered also Al-Muthanna's dying message to the new Commander, advising that the Arabs should hold to their ground on the confines of the desert. "Fight there the enemy, was his last behest;"Ye will be the victors; and, even if worsted, ye will have the friendly desert wastes behind: there the Persians cannot enter, and from thence ye will again return to the attack." Sa'd, as he received the message, blessed the memory of the great General. He also made the bereaved family his special care; and, the more effectually to discharge the trust, in true Arab fashion, took to wife his widow Selma.
The army was marshalled by Sa'd anew. Companies were formed of ten, each under a selected leader. Warriors of note were appointed to bear the standards. Columns and squadrons were made up by clans and tribes; and thus by clans and tribes they marched, and also went into the field of battle. Departments likewise were established for the several duties incident to military service. The chief commands were given to veterans who had fought under the Prophet's banner; for in this army there were no fewer than 1400 Companions, of whom ninety-nine had fought at Bedr. Following Al-Muthanna's counsel, now confirmed by 'Omar, Sa'd marched slowly to Al-'Odheib, still keeping to the border of the Desert.
There he left the women and children protected by a party of horse, and advanced to Kadisiya, a great plain washed on its farther side by the inland channel of the Euphrates already described, and bounded on the west by the Trench of Sapor (in those days a running stream) with the desert waste beyond. The plain was traversed by the highway from Arabia, which here crossed the river on a bridge of boats leading to Al-Hira, and thence across the Peninsula to Al-Medain. Such was the field of battle which was shortly to settle the fate of Persia. Sa'd, keeping still to the western bank, fixed his headquarters at Kodeis, a small fortress overlooking the stream and a little way below the bridge. Here he encamped and waited patiently the movements of his enemy.
Rustem would have played the same waiting game as Sa'd, had not the King become impatient. The Arabs were making continual raids across the river into Mesopotamia. The castles of the nobles were attacked, and their grounds laid waste. The spring passed away, and the summer came; but with it no relief. Herds were driven from the pasture lands, and frequent forays served at once to furnish the Muslim army with food and punish their faithless allies. The people grew clamorous; and the great landlords at last made it known that if help were delayed, they must go over to the enemy. Moved by their cries, Yezdejird turned a deaf ear to Rustem, and insisted on immediate advance.
Meanwhile, Sa'd kept up constant communication with
'Omar. When asked for a description of the camp,"Al-Kadisiya," he told the Caliph, "lies between the Trench of Sapor and the river; in front is the deep stream, which on the left meanders through a verdant vale downwards from the town of Al-Hira; a canal leads in like direction to the lake of Najaf, and upon its margin stands the palace of the Khawarnak. Our right is guarded by an impassable swamp, and our rear rests on the desert." 'Omar, satisfied with the report, enjoined vigilance and patience. But first, he said, Yezdejird must be summoned to embrace the Faith at the peril of his kingdom. With this commission, twenty warriors of commanding mien crossed the plain and presented themselves at the gates of Al-Medain.
As they were led to the royal presence, the rabble crowded round, and jeered at the rough habit of the Arabs, clad in striped stuff, and armed with rude weapons of the desert,contrasting strangely with the courtly splendour of the regal city. "Look!" they cried, mocking, "look at the woman's distaff,"a Bedawi bow slung over the shoulder,little thinking of the havoc it was soon to make amongst their crowded ranks. As the chiefs entered the precincts, the prancing and champing of the beautiful steeds, and the wild bearing of the stalwart riders, struck awe into the heart of the King and his effeminate Nobles. Yezdejird demanded through an interpreter, wherefore, thus unprovoked, they dared invade his kingdom. One after another the Arabian spokesmen told him of the Prophet who had wrought a mighty change in their land, and of the blessings and obligations of Islam. "Embrace the Faith," they said, "and thou shalt be even as we; or, if thou wilt, pay tribute, and come under our protection; which things if thou refuse, the days of thy kingdom are numbered." The King replied contemptuously: "Ye are naught, ye are naught! hungry adventurers from a naked land; come, I will give you a morsel, and ye shall depart full and content." The Arabs replied in strong but modest words. "Thou speakest truth; we are but poor and hungry; yet will the Lord enrich and satisfy us; hast thou chosen the sword? then between us shall the sword decide." The King's wrath was kindled. "If it were not that ye are Ambassadors, ye should have
been put to death, all of you. Bring hither a clod of earth, and let the mightiest among them bear it as a burden from out the city gates.1 The Arabs embraced the happy augury. A stalwart horseman forthwith seized the load, mounted his charger, and bearing it, rode away. Rustem coming up just then, the King told him of the affront he had put upon the simple Arabs. "Simple!" cried Rustem, "it is thou that art simple"; and he sent in haste to get the burden back. But the horseman was already out of sight; hurrying back to Al-Kadisiya, he cast the clod before his Chief, and exclaimed, "Rejoice, O Sa'd! for, lo, the Lord hath given thee of the soil of Persia!"
Rustem could no longer delay. Elephants and men had been gathered from every quarter to swell the host, now 120,000 strong. Yet, notwithstanding he marched slowly and unwillingly. The auguries, we are told, boded some great disaster. But he cherished the hope that the Arabs, pinched in their supplies, would break up suddenly and disappear; or that, wearied with suspense, they might be drawn from their strong position across the river. After great delay upon the road, he crossed the Euphrates below Babylon.
Advancing then on Al-Hira, he chid the people for siding with the Arabs; but they replied that, deserted by the King, they had no resource but to bow before the invaders. At last, having whiled away many weeks, he came within sight of the Muslim force and pitched his camp on the opposite bank of the river.
During this long period of inaction, the impatience of the Arabs was checked by the strong hand of Sa'd, to whom, as lieutenant of the Caliph, they were bound to yield implicit obedience. Excepting raids and reconnoitering expeditions nothing was attempted. Some of these, however, were sufficiently exciting. Toleiha, the quondam prophet, entered alone the enemy's camp by night, and carried off three horses. Hotly chased, he slew his pursuers one after another, and single-handed carried off the last, who embraced Islam and thereafter fought faithfully by his captor's side. As the enemy drew near, the Muslim host lay couched like the tiger in its lair, ready for the fatal spring.
The armies at last now face to face, Rustem had no more excuse for putting off the decisive day. On the morning
after his arrival he rode along the river bank to reconnoitre; and, standing on an eminence by the bridge, sent for the Muslim officer guarding the passage. A colloquy ensued; and Sa'd consented that three of his captains should go to the Persian camp, and there explain their demands to Rustem. One after another, these presented themselves. Each held the same language: Islam, Tribute, or the Sword. Rustem, now contemptuous in his abuse, now cowering under the fierce words of the envoys, and scared by dreams and auguries, demanded time to consider. Three days' grace, they replied, was the limit allowed by their Prophet; and that was given.
When the term was over, Rustem sent to inquire whether he or they should cross for battle. Strongly pitched, as we have seen, Sa'd had no thought of moving and bade the Persian cross as best he might. Rustem advanced, but passage was denied. All night the Arabs watched the bridge. But Rustem had another scheme; he meant to cross the river by a dam. During the night his myrmidons cast fascines and earth into the channel, and morning light discovered a causeway over which it was possible to pass.
At early morn, Rustem, clad in helmet and double suit of mail, leaped gaily on his horse. "By the morrow we shall have beaten them small," he cried; but apart with his familiars he confessed that celestial omens were against him. And, indeed, previous mishaps and the brave bearing of the Arab chiefs were sufficient, astrology apart, to inspire grave forebodings. Crossing the dam unopposed, he marshaled his great host on the western bank, with its centre facing the fortress of Kodeis. Of thirty war elephants on the field, eighteen supported the centre, the remainder being divided between the wings1. On a canopied golden throne by the riverside, Rustem watched the issue of the day. Messengers, posted within earshot of each other all the way to Al-Medain, shouted continually the latest news, and kept Yezdejird informed of everything that passed.
1 These were distinct from the riding elephants
of the Court and nobles, and must all have been imported from India. The
elephant was not used by the Assyrians in war. It rarely appears in their
mural representations, and only under peaceful associations.
1 These were distinct from the riding elephants of the Court and nobles, and must all have been imported from India. The elephant was not used by the Assyrians in war. It rarely appears in their mural representations, and only under peaceful associations.
As the Persians began to cross, the advanced guard of the Arabs fell back upon Kodeis, beneath which the main body was drawn up. On its ramparts, Sa'd, disabled by blains and boils stretched upon a litter; from whence casting down his orders inscribed on scraps of paper, he guided thus the movements of the day. The troops, unused to see their leader in a place of safety, murmured; and verses lampooning him passed round the camp. That he, the archer of renown, the "first to shed blood in Islam," should be thus aspersed was insupportable, and Sa'd had the ringleaders imprisoned in the fortress. He then descended, and discovered to the troops the grievous malady which rendered it impossible for him even to sit upright, much less to mount his horse. They accepted his excuse; for no man could doubt his bravery; but still a certain feeling of discontent survived. Resuming his couch, he harangued the army from the battlements, and then sent his Generals, with the Orators and Poets of the force, along the ranks with stirring words to rouse their martial zeal.
At the head of every column was recited the revelation of the thousand angels fighting on the Prophet's side, together with such texts as these:Stir up the Faithful unto battle. If there be twenty stedfast among you, they shall put to flight two hundred, and a hundred shall put to flight a thousand. The Lord will cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Beware that ye turn not your back in battle; verily he that turneth his back shall draw down upon him the wrath of God. His abode shall be Hellfire1. The mention of "The day of Decision" at Bedr, with the Divine command to fight, never failed to fire the souls of the Muslim host; and here we are told, that upon its recital "the heart of the people was refreshed, and their eyes lightened, and they realised the Divine peace2 that followeth thereupon."
The word passed round that, till midday prayer, no one should stir. The Commander-in-chief would give the first signal by the Tekbir, or war-cry, ALLAHU AKBAR, God is most great! and the host would
1 Sura viii. 66, etc.
1 Same word as Shechina, divine
influence overshadowing the heart: Suras ix. and xlviii. The practice
of reciting such Suras or portions of them before battle, has been handed
down to the present day.
1 Sura viii. 66, etc.
1 Same word as Shechina, divine influence overshadowing the heart: Suras ix. and xlviii. The practice of reciting such Suras or portions of them before battle, has been handed down to the present day.
then take up the shout three successive times from him.
At the second and third shout, they were to gird their weapons on and make their horses ready. At the fourth, the ranks were to rush in one body forward with the watchword, Our help is from the Lord! The order was deranged by the enemy, who, hearing the first shout, advanced at once; whereupon impatient warriors from the Muslim front stepped out and, challenging to single combat, did prodigies of valour. The heroic feats of Bedr were re-enacted on this field, and the spoil, stripped from the fallen champions, was beyond description rich. Thus 'Amr ibn Ma'dikerib carried off triumphantly the bracelets and jewelled girdle of a princely victim. Another, shouting gaily the praises of his mistress1, closed with Hormuz, "a prince of the Gate," and bore him with his diadem captive to Sa'd. A leader of the Beni Temim, singing like verses, pursued his adversary through the enemy's ranks; there he seized a mule-driver, and carried him with his laden beast to the Muslim lines; it was the King's baker with a load of royal viands. More remarkable still is the story of Abu Mihjan2.
A ringleader in the detraction of Sa'd, his offence was aggravated by drunkenness. Bound a prisoner in the fortress, under charge of Selma the General's wife, he was seized by an irrepressible ardour to join the battle. At his earnest entreaty, and under pledge of early return, the lady set him free, and mounted him on her husband's white mare. An unknown figure, he dashed now in the enemy's host, and now in circuits round it, performing marvels of bravery. Some thought it might be the chief of the Syrian contingent expected that day. Others opined that it was Al-Khidr, precursor of the angelic band. But Sa'd himself said, "If it were not that Abu Mihjan is safe in durance under Selma's care, I could swear it were he, and the mare my own." According to promise, the hero, satisfied with his exploits, returned to Selma, who reimposed his fetters as before,
1 His song, of the ordinary type, ran thus:
"The maid, with hanging tresses, milk-white breast and fingers tapering, 2 Tab. i. 2312 ff. Another account, 2354 f.
Knoweth full well the hero who will lay the warriors low."
1 His song, of the ordinary type, ran thus:
"The maid, with hanging tresses, milk-white breast and fingers tapering,
2 Tab. i. 2312 ff. Another account, 2354 f.
and shortly after secured his release1.
Now the elephants bore down upon the Bedawi lines. The brunt of the onset fell upon the Beni Bajila. The huge beasts swaying to and fro,"their howdas, manned with warriors and banners, like moving castles,"affrighted the Arab horses, which broke away at the horrid sight. The Beni Asad diverted the attack upon themselves, and in the heroic act left four hundred dead upon the field. Then the elephants attacked the wings, spreading consternation all around; and the enemy, profiting by the confusion, pressed forward. The position was critical; and Sa'd, as a last resource, bade 'Asim rid them from the danger at whatever cost. At once that gallant chief chose a band of archers and of agile skirmishers, who, drawing near, picked their riders from off the elephants, and boldly cut the girths. The howdas fell, and the great beasts, with none to guide them, fled. Thus relieved, the Arabs regained their ground. But the shades of darkness were falling, and both armies retired for the night.
The Muslim force was downcast. The uncertain issue added point to the invectives against Sa'd and, what was still harder for him to bear, the taunts of Selma. During the day, as seated by her lord, they watched together from the ramparts the deadly conflict, she exclaimed, "O for an hour of Al-Muthanna! Alas, alas, there is no Muthanna this day!" Stung by the words, Sa'd struck her on the face, and pointing to 'Asim and his band, said, "What of Al-Muthanna? Was he anything at all compared with these?" "Jealousy and cowardice!" cried the high-spirited dame, faithful to her first husband's memory. "Not so," said Sa'd, somewhat softened; "I swear that no man will this day excuse me if thou dost not, who seest in what
1 He confessed to Selma that in his cups he
had been singing these verses:
"Bury me when I die by the roots of the vine;
But he pledged his word to her that he would not again indulge in drinking,
nor abuse the Amir. Selma then obtained his release, and he joined his
comrades on the last great day.
The moisture thereof Will distill into my bones;
Bury me not in the open plain for then I much fear
That no more shall I taste again the sweet grape."
1 He confessed to Selma that in his cups he had been singing these verses:
"Bury me when I die by the roots of the vine;
But he pledged his word to her that he would not again indulge in drinking, nor abuse the Amir. Selma then obtained his release, and he joined his comrades on the last great day.
plight I lie." The people sided with the lady; but Sa'd was no coward, and he lived the contumely down.
The morning was occupied with the wounded and the dead; and the day drew on before fighting recommenced. Just then the first column of the Contingent sent back from Syria came in view. It was led by Al-Ka'ka', who, leaving Hashim to bring up the main body of five thousand on the following day, hurried forward with a thousand men. By skillful disposition Al-Ka'ka' magnified his force, in the eyes of both friend and foe. He arranged his men in squadrons of a hundred, each a little distance behind the other. Advancing, he saluted Sa'd and his comrades, and bade them joy of the coming help. Then calling on the rest to follow, he at once rode forth to defy the enemy. The "hero of the Bridge"1 accepted the challenge. Al-Ka'ka' recognised his royal foe; and crying out, "Now will I avenge Abu 'Obeid and those that perished at the Bridge," rushed on his man and cut him to the ground. As each squadron came up, it charged with all the appearance of a fresh and independent force across the plain in sight of both armies, and shouted the Tekbir, which was answered by the same ringing cheer, Allahu Akbar, from the Muslim line. The spirits of the Arabs rose. They forgot the disasters of yesterday; and by so much the heart of the Persians sank, who saw their heroes slain, one after another, at the hands of Al-Ka'ka' and his fellows. They had no elephants this day, for the gear was not yet repaired. Pressed on all sides, their horse gave way, and Rustem was only saved by a desperate rally. But the Persian infantry stood their ground, and the day closed, the issue still trembling in the balance. The fighting was severe and the carnage great. Two thousand Muslims lay dead or wounded on the field, and ten thousand Persians. All night through the Arabs kept shouting the names and lineage of their several tribes. There was shouting, too, in the Persian camp. And so, encouraging themselves, each side awaited the final struggle.
On the third morning, the army was engaged in the mournful task of removing their fallen comrades from the field. The space of a mile between the two lines was
1 Bahman; see p.84.
1 Bahman; see p.84.
strewn with them. The wounded were made over to the women to nurse, if perchance they might survive, or ratherin the language of Islam"until the Lord should decide whether to grant, or to withhold, the crown of Martyrdom." The dead were borne to 'Odheib, a valley in the rear, where the women and children hastily dug graves for them in the sandy soil. The wounded, too, were carried thither. For the suffering sick it was a weary way under the burning sun. A solitary palm-tree stood on the road, and under its welcome shade they were for a moment laid. Its memory is consecrated in such plaintive verse as this:
A day and night of unceasing conflict was still before the combatants. The spirit of the Persians, whose dead lay unburied on the field, flagged at the disasters of the preceding day, but much was looked for from the elephants, which, now refitted, appeared upon the field, each protected by a company of horse and foot. The battle was about to open, when suddenly Hashim came in sight with the main body of his Syrian contingent. Sweeping across the plain, he charged right into the enemy, pierced their ranks, and reaching the river bank, turned and rode triumphantly back, amid shouts of welcome. The fighting was again severe, and the day balanced by alternate victory and repulse. Yezdejird, alive to the crisis, sent his bodyguard into the field. The elephants were the terror of the Arabs, and again threatened to paralyse their efforts. In this emergency, Sa'd had recourse to Al-Ka'ka', who was achieving marvels, and had already slain thirty Persians in single combat; so that the annalists gratefully acknowledge that "had it not been for what the Lord put it into the heart of Al-Ka'ka' to do, we surely had been that day worsted." Sa'd now learned that the eye and trunk were the only vulnerable parts of the elephant: "Aim at these," he said, "and we shall be rid of this calamity." So Al-Ka'ka' with his brother Asim and a band of followers issued on the perilous
enterprise. There were two huge elephants, the leaders of the herd. Dismounting, Al-Ka'ka' boldly advanced, and into the eye of one, the "great white elephant" it was called, he thrust his lance.
Smarting at the pain, it shook fearfully its head, threw the Mahout to the ground, and swaying its trunk to and fro, hurled Al-Ka'ka' to a distance. The other fared still worse, for they pierced both its eyes, and slashed its trunk. Uttering a shrill scream of agony, the blinded, maddened creature darted forward on the Arab ranks. Shouts and lances drove it back upon the Persians. Thus kept rushing wildly to and fro between the armies, and followed at last by the other elephants, it charged right into the Persian line; and so the whole herd of huge animals,their trunks aloft, trumpeting as they rushed, and trampling all before them,plunged into the river and disappeared on the farther shore. For the moment the din of war was hushed as both lines gazed at the portentous sight. But soon the battle was resumed, and they fought on till darkness again closed on the combatants with the issue still in doubt.
The third night brought rest to neither side. It was a struggle for life. At first there was a pause, as the light faded away; and Sa'd, fearing lest the vast host should overlap his rear, sent parties to watch the fords. There had as yet been hardly time for even momentary repose when, early in the night, it occurred to some of the Arab leaders to rally their tribes with the view of harassing the enemy. The movement, made at the first without Sa'd's cognisance, drew on a general engagement in the dark. The screams of the combatants and din of arms made The Night of Clangour1, as it is called, without parallel in the annals of Islam. It could only be compared to "the clang of the blacksmith's forge." Sa'd betook himself to prayer, for no sure tidings reached him all night through. Morning broke
1 Harir. Tab. calls the fourth
day simply the day of Al-Kadisiya. Each day had its name, as given
in margin. The first and third (reading with some MSS. Ghimas instead
of 'Imas or 'Amas ; the last means a "hard fight") have no apparent
meaning, perhaps names of places. The second may refer to the "succour"
brought by the Syrian contingent. See C. de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 481.
Gibbon (chap. iii.) ignores the first day, and names the other three as
Succour, Concussion, and Barking.
1 Harir. Tab. calls the fourth day simply the day of Al-Kadisiya. Each day had its name, as given in margin. The first and third (reading with some MSS. Ghimas instead of 'Imas or 'Amas ; the last means a "hard fight") have no apparent meaning, perhaps names of places. The second may refer to the "succour" brought by the Syrian contingent. See C. de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 481. Gibbon (chap. iii.) ignores the first day, and names the other three as Succour, Concussion, and Barking.
on the two hosts, worn and weary. Then arose Al-Ka'ka', crying out that one more vigorous charge must turn the tide, "for victory is ever his that persevereth to the end." Four-and-twenty hours long the Arabs had fought unceasingly, and now they issued forth with all the freshness and alacrity of a new attack.
The Persian wings began to waver. A fierce onslaught shook their centre, which opened and laid bare the bank with Rustem on his throne. Tempestuous wind arose, and the canopy, no longer guarded, was blown into the river. The wretched Prince had barely time to fly and crouch beneath a sumpter mule, when the chance blow of a passer-by brought down its load upon his back. He crawled into the river and attempted there to hide himself. But a soldier saw and recognised his royal foe, and drawing him out, slew him on the spot; then mounting on his throne, he loudly proclaimed the conquered Prince's end1.
No sooner was their leader slain, than rout and slaughter of the Persian host began. Some of the columns succeeded in passing the dam; but it was soon cut (probably by themselves to prevent pursuit), and swept away with a multitude upon it, by the pent-up stream. To the right and left, up the river bank and down, the Muslims chased the fugitives relentlessly. The plain, far and wide, was strewn with dead. The fugitive multitude, hunted into the fens and marshes, were everywhere put mercilessly to the sword. But the army was too exhausted to carry on the pursuit.
The Muslim loss far exceeded that of any previous engagement. In the final conflict 6000 fell, besides 2500 in the days before. No sooner was the battle ended, than the women and children, with clubs and pitchers of water, issued forth on a double mission of mercy and of vengeance. Every fallen Muslim, still warm and breathing, they gently raised and wetted his lips with water. But towards the wounded Persians they knew no mercy; for them they had another errandto raise their clubs and give the coup de grāce. Thus had Islam for the moment extinguished pity and implanted in the breasts of women, and even of little children, cold-blooded cruelty.
The spoil was great beyond all parallel, both in amount and costliness. Each soldier had six thousand pieces,
1 Tab. i. 2336-7; the accounts vary
slightly as to details.
1 Tab. i. 2336-7; the accounts vary slightly as to details.
besides the special gifts for veterans and such as showed extraordinary valour. The jewels stripped from Rustem's body were worth 70,000 pieces, although its most costly portion, the tiara, had been swept away. The great banner of the Empire was captured on the field, made of panthers' skins, and so richly garnished with gems as to be valued at 100,000 pieces. Thus did the needy Arabs revel in the treasures of the East, the preciousness of which exceeded their power to comprehend.
For the enemy the defeat was fateful and decisive. Little more than thirty months had passed since Khalid set foot in Al-'Irak,; and already that Empire,which fifteen years before had humbled the Byzantine arms, ravaged Syria, and encamped triumphantly on the Bosphorus,was crumbling under the blows of an enemy whose strength never exceeded thirty or forty thousand Arabs rudely armed. The battle of Al-Kadisiya reveals the secret. On one side there was lukewarm, servile following; on the other, an indomitable spirit, which after long and weary hours of fighting nerved the Muslims for the final charge. The vast host, on which the last efforts of Persia had been lavished, was totally discomfited; and, though broken columns escaped across the river, the military power of Persia never again gathered into formidable and dangerous shape. The country far and wide was terror-struck. The Bedawin on either side of the Euphrates hesitated no longer. Many of them, though Christian, had fought in the Muslim ranks. These came to Sa'd and said: "The tribes which at the first embraced Islam were wiser than we. Now that Rustem hath been slain, we will accept the new belief." And so, many of them came over and made profession of the Faith.
The battle (which De Goeje dates the end of 637) had been so long impending, and the preparations on so grand scale, that the issue was watched everywhere, "from Al-'Odheib away south to Aden, and from Ubulla across to Jerusalem," as about to decide the fate of Islam. The Caliph used to issue forth alone from the gates of Medina early in the morning, if perchance he might meet some messenger from the field. At last a camel-rider arrived outside the city, who 'Omar's question replied shortly, "The Lord bath discomfited the Persian host." Unrecognised, 'Omar followed
him on foot, and gleaned the outline of the great battle. Entering Medina, the people crowded round the Caliph, and, saluting, wished him joy of the triumph. The courier, abashed, cried out, "O Commander of the Faithful, why didst thou not tell me?" "It is well, my brother," was the Caliph's simple answer. Such was the unpretending mien of one who at that moment was greater than either the Kaiser or the Chosroes.
The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
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