Musaylimah! Recant - do not contend,
For in prophethood you have not been given a share.
You lied about Allah regarding His revelation
And your desires are the whims of a stupid fool.
Your people have indulged you instead of preventing you,
But if Khalid comes to them you will be abandoned.
Then you will have no stairway to the heavens
And no path to travel in the earth."
[Thumamah bin Uthal, a Companion from the tribe of Musaylimah]1
When Abu Bakr organised the Muslim forces into 11 corps at Zhu Qissa, he appointed Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl, as the commander of one of them. Ikrimah's orders were to advance and make contact with the forces of Musailima the Liar at Yamamah, but not to get involved in battle with the impostor. Abu Bakr knew better than most of his generals the power and ability of Musailima, and did not wish to risk fighting him with insufficient forces. Since Khalid was his finest general, the Caliph had made up his mind to use him to deal with Musailima after he had finished with the other enemies of Islam.
Abu Bakr's intention in giving Ikrimah this mission was to tie Musailima down at Yamamah. With Ikrimah on the horizon, the Liar would remain in expectation of a Muslim attack and thus not be able to leave his base. With Musailima so committed, Khalid would be free to deal with the apostate tribes of North-Central Arabia without interference from Yamamah. In selecting Ikrimah for this task Abu Bakr had picked a valiant man. Moreover, Ikrimah was anxious to prove his devotion to Islam and atone for his violent hostility to the Holy Prophet before his entry into the new faith.
Ikrimah advanced with his corps and established a camp somewhere in the region of Yamamah. The location of his camp is not known. From this base he kept the forces of the Bani Hanifa under observation while awaiting instructions from the Caliph, and the presence of Ikrimah had the desired effect of keeping Musailima in Yamamah. However, whether or not he had any intention of ever leaving Yamamah we do not know.
When Ikrimah received reports of the defeat of Tulaiha by Khalid, he began to get impatient for battle. The waiting irked his fiery temperament. Ikrimah was a fearless man and a forceful general, but he lacked Khalid's cool judgement and patience-qualities which distinguish the bold commander from the rash one.
The next development that Ikrimah heard of was that Shurahbil bin Hasanah was marching to join him. Shurahbil too had been given a corps by the Caliph with orders to follow Ikrimah, and await further instructions. In a few days Shurahbil would be with him.
Then came news of how Khalid had routed the forces of Salma the queenly leader of men. Ikrimah could wait no longer. Why let Khalid win all the glory? Why wait for Shurahbil? Why not have a crack at Musailima himself? If he could defeat Musailima single-handed, he would win glory and renown such as would eclipse the achievements of all the others. And what a delightful surprise it would be for the Caliph! Ikrimah set his corps in motion. This happened at the end of October 632 (end of Rajab, 11 Hijri).
A few days later he was back in his camp, having received a sound thrashing from Musailima. Chastened and repentant, he wrote to Abu Bakr and gave him a complete account of his actions, including the inglorious outcome. Shurahbal also heard the bad news and stopped some distance short of Ikrimah's camp.
Abu Bakr was both pained and angered by the rashness of Ikrimah and his disobedience of the orders given to him. He made no attempt to conceal his anger in the letter that he wrote to Ikrimah. "O son of the mother of Ikrimah!" he began. (This was a polite way of expressing doubt regarding the identity of the man's father!) "Do not let me see your face. Your return under these circumstances would only weaken the resolve of the people. Proceed with your force to Oman to assist Hudaifa. Once Hudaifa has completed his task, march to Mahra to help Arfaja and thereafter go to the Yemen to help Muhajir. I shall not speak to you until you have proved yourself in further trials." 2 The three men to be assisted were among the 11 corps commanders.
Smarting under the shame of his ignominious repulse at the hands of Musailima and the harsh words of the Caliph, Ikrimah took his corps and, bypassing Yamamah, marched to Oman.
Shurahbil remained in the region of Yamamah. To ensure that he did not fall into the error of Ikrimah, Abu Bakr wrote to him: "Stay where you are and await further instructions." 1
Having ordered the payment of blood money to the heirs of Malik bin Nuwaira, the Caliph sent for Khalid and gave him the mission of destroying the forces of Musailima the Liar at Yamamah. In addition to his own large corps, Khalid would have under command the corps of Shurahbil. Another body of Ansars and Emigrants was being scraped together by Abu Bakr at Madinah, and this too would be sent to Butah shortly to join the forces of Khalid. Thus Khalid would command the main army of Islam.
Khalid rode to Butah where his old corps awaited him. Meanwhile the Caliph wrote to Shurahbil: "You will come under Khalid's command as he joins you. When the problem of Yamamah has been solved, you will proceed with your men to join Amr bin Al Aas and operate against the Quza'a." 2 This was the apostate tribe, which Usama had punished but not subdued, near the Syrian frontier.
Khalid waited at Butah until the arrival of the Ansars and Emigrants from Madinah, then marched for Yamamah. He was glad to think that the fresh troops of Shurahbil would also be available to him. He did take them under his command, but they were not all that fresh. A few days before Khalid's arrival Shurahbil had given in to the same temptation as Ikrimah, seeking glory, he had advanced and clashed with Musailima. Feeling sorry about the whole affair, Shurahbil expressed his regrets to Khalid, who rebuked him severely.
Khalid was still some distance from Yamamah when his scouts brought word that Musailima was encamped in the plain of Aqraba, on the north bank of the Wadi Hanifa through which, the road led to Yamamah. Not wishing to approach his enemy through the valley, Khalid left the road a few miles west of Aqraba, moved from the south and appeared on the high ground which rose a mile south of the wadi opposite the town of Jubaila. 3 From this high ground Khalid could see the entire plain of Aqraba, on the forward border of which stretched the camp of the Bani Hanifa. Khalid established his camp on the high ground. The strength of his army amounted to 13,000 men.
Khalid had not gone many days from Butah when Musailima's agents informed him of the march of the Muslims and of the fact that this was the main army of Islam. The route from Butah to Yamamah came through the Wadi Hanifa, and on the north bank of this wadi, behind Jubaila, lay the plain of Aqraba which marked the outer limit of the fertile region that stretched from Aqraba to Yamamah and further south-east. It was a region of farms and orchards and cultivated fields. Yamamah itself, to be more accurate, was a province rather than a place, with its capital at Hijr, which was also generally, called Yamamah. The Hijr of old stood where Riyadh stands today. 4
Musailima had no intention of letting the Muslims play havoc with the towns and villages of his people. Consequently he took his army forward to Jubaila, 25 miles north?west of Yamamah, and established his camp near Jubaila, where the plain of Aqraba began. From this location Musailima could not only defend the fertile plains of Yamamah but also threaten Khalid's route of advance, so that should Khalid blunder through the Wadi Hanifa, the Bani Hanifa would fall upon his left flank. And Khalid could not avoid battle here and proceed to Yamamah, because Musailima would then pounce upon his back. (The principle here was the same as applied by the Holy Prophet at Uhud.)
Musailima was ready for battle on the plain of Aqraba with an army of 40,000 warriors, all eager for combat. The two successful actions fought by them against Ikrimah and Shurahbil, both of whom had recoiled from the blows of Musailima, had increased their confidence in themselves and created an aura of invincibility around the Liar. His men were now prepared to sacrifice their very lives in defence of their leader and his cause. And Musailima had no doubt that he would inflict the same punishment upon Khalid as he had inflicted upon his two predecessors.
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 522.
2. Ibid: Vol. 2, p. 509.
3. Jubaila is now a small village. According to local tradition, it was then a large town.
4. The village of Yamamah which exists about 50 miles south-east of Riyadh, near Al Kharj, is not the Yamamah of history; not the Yamamah of this battle.
A few days before the arrival of Khalid, Musailima lost one of his ablest commanders-the chief, Muja'a bin Marara, who has been mentioned as one of the important members of the Bani Hanifa delegation to the Holy Prophet. This man had set off with 40 riders to raid a neighbouring clan with which he had an old feud. On its way back from the raid, the group stopped for the night at a pass called Saniyat-ul-Yamamah, a day's march from Aqraba. Muja'a's men slept soundly, but it was their last sleep, for early in the morning the entire group was captured by one of the mounted detachments which preceded the army of Khalid. The apostates were taken before the Sword of Allah.
Khalid questioned them about their faith. In whom did they believe? In Muhammad or in Musailima? Without exception they remained unrepentant. Some sought to meet Khalid half way by suggesting: "Let there be a prophet from among you and a prophet from among us!" 1 Khalid was not going to waste his time on such trash, he had them all beheaded with the exception of the leader, Muja'a who was kept in chains as a prisoner. He was a prominent chief and might come in useful as a hostage. With this captive chief in tow, the Muslim army arrived near Aqraba and pitched camp as has already been described. Both armies were now ready for battle.
The actual valley of Wadi Hanifa marked the battle front. On the northern side the bank rose to about 100 feet, rising gently at places, steeply at others, and precipitously at yet others. On the southern side it rose more gently and continued to rise up to a height of 200 feet, a mile away from the valley where Khalid had pitched his camp. On the north bank also lay the town of Jubaila and on the western edge of the town a gully ran down to the wadi. The Muslim front ran along the southern bank for a length of about 3 miles, on the northern bank stood the apostates. The town and the gulley marked the centre of Musailima's army. Behind the apostates stretched the plain of Aqraba; and on this plain, about 2 miles from the wadi, stood a vast walled garden known as Abaz. As a result of this battle it was to become known as "The Garden of Death." 2 (See Map 9 below)
On the following morning the two armies deployed for battle. Musailima organised his 40,000 men into a centre, a left wing and a right wing. The left was under the command of Rajjal, the renegade, the right under Muhakim bin Tufail, and the centre directly under the Liar. In order to strengthen the determination of the men, the son of Musailima, also named Shurahbil, rode in front of all the regiments exhorting them to fight with courage. "O Bani Hanifa" he called. "Fight today for your honour. If you are defeated your women will be enslaved and ravished by the enemy. Fight to defend your women!" 3
Musailima decided to await the attack of Khalid. He would fight on the defensive initially, and go on to the offensive when he had blunted the attack of his adversary and thrown him off balance.
The Muslims had spent the night in prayer. This was the largest and most fanatical enemy force they had ever faced and its commander was the most vicious and cunning of men. After the prayer of dawn Khalid drew up his 13,000 men for battle on the south bank, and he too organised his army into a centre and two wings. The left was commanded by Abu Hudeifa, the right by Zaid (elder brother of Umar), while the centre was directly under Khalid. For this battle Khalid formed his men not in tribal groups, as had been the custom heretofore, but in regiments and wings as required for battle, with tribal contingents intermingled.
Khalid planned, as was usual with him, to attack at the very outset, throw his opponent on the defensive and keep him that way. Thus Musailima would be robbed of his freedom of manoeuvre and could do no more than react helplessly to the thrusts of the attacker. But Khalid had no illusions about the trial that faced the Muslims. This was going to be a bitter and bloody battle as had never been fought before by the forces of Islam. The rebels had a numerical superiority of three-to-one and were led by a wily and brave general. But Khalid was confident of victory. He had confidence in himself and in the skill and courage of his officers and men. As he rode in front of his army, he looked with pride and satisfaction at his stalwarts. There were famous men in this army, and some who would rise to fame in later years. There was Zaid, brother of Umar, and Abdullah, son of Umar. There was Abu Dujanah, who at Uhud had shielded the Holy Prophet from the arrows of the enemy with his body. There was the Caliph's son, Abdur-Rahman. There was Muawiyah, son of Abu Sufyan, who would become the first caliph of the Umayyid Dynasty. There was Um Ammarah, the lady who had fought beside the Prophet at Uhud, with her son. And there was the Savage with his deadly javelin.
The officers of the Muslim army paced in front of the regiments, reciting verses of the Quran. They reminded the Faithful of the promise of paradise for the martyrs and of the threat of hell for the faint-hearted.
Early on a cold morning in the third week of December 632 (beginning of Shawal, 11 Hijri), began the Battle of Yamamah.
Khalid ordered a general attack, and the entire Muslim front surged forward with cries of Allah-o-Akbar. Khalid led the charge of the centre while Abu Hudaifa and Zaid led the charge of the wings. The two armies clashed and the air was rent by shouts and screams as strong men slashed and thrust at each other. Khalid cut down every man who came before him. The Muslim champions performed prodigies of valour and Khalid felt that his warriors would soon break through the army of disbelief.
But the army of disbelief stood as firm as a rock. Many fell before the onslaught of the Faithful, but there was no break in the infidel front. The apostates fought fanatically, preferring death to giving up an inch of ground; and the Muslims realised with some surprise that they were making no headway. After some time spent in hard slogging, a slight lack of order became apparent in the Muslim ranks as a result of their forward movement and their attempts to pierce the front of the infidels. But this caused no concern. So long as they remained on the offensive and the enemy on the defensive, a certain amount of disorder did not matter.
Then Musailima, realising that if he remained on the defensive much longer the chances of a Muslim break-through would increase, ordered a general counter-attack all along the front. The apostates moved forward like a vast tidal wave, and the Muslims now found to their horror that they were being pressed back. The fighting became more savage as they struggled desperately to stem he advance of the apostates, who paid heavily in blood for every yard of ground that they gained, but strengthened by their belief in the Liar's promise that paradise awaited those who fell, they pressed on relentlessly. Some lack of cohesion was now felt in the Muslim regiments due to the mixture of tribal contingents which were not yet accustomed to fighting side by side.
Gradually the numerical superiority of the apostates began to tell. Fighting in massed, compact bodies against the thinner Muslim ranks, they increased their pressure. The Muslims proceeded to fall back steadily. Then the pace of withdrawal became faster. The apostate assaults became bolder. And the Muslim withdrawal turned into a confused retreat. Some regiments turned and fled, others soon followed their example, causing a general exodus from the battlefield. The officers were unable to stop the retreat and were swept back with the tide of their men. The Muslim army passed through its camp and went on some distance beyond it before it stopped.
As the Muslims left the plain of Aqraba, the apostates followed in hot pursuit. This was not a planned manoeuvre, but an instinctive reaction, like the reaction of the Muslims to the Quraish flight in the first part of the Battle of Uhud. And like those Muslims, the apostates stopped at their opponents' camp and began to plunder it. Again as at Uhud, his opponents' occupation with looting gave Khalid time to prepare and launch a riposte. But more of that later.
In the Muslim camp stood the tent of Khalid and in this tent sat his latest wife, Laila, and the captive chief, Muja'a, still in irons. A few infidels, flushed with success and excited by thoughts of the orgy of plunder that awaited them, entered the tent of Khalid. They saw and recognised Muja'a. They saw Laila and wanted to kill her, but were restrained by the chief. "I am her protector", he warned them. "Go for the men!" 1 In their haste to lay their hands on the booty the infidels did not stop to release their chief.
For some time the devastation of the camp proceeded at a horrible pace as the infidels snatched what they could carry and smashed what they could not. They cut the tents to shreds. Then, as quickly as it had started, the looting stopped. The apostates hastened back to the plain of Aqraba, for in the south they could see the Muslim army, formed in perfect order with solid ranks, advancing again.
Amazingly, as they stopped to regain their breath and think about what had happened, there was no fear in the hearts of the Muslims. There was only anger at their own disorganisation and the consequent retreat. Just how had this happened? How could it have happened? They had certainly inflicted greater losses on the enemy than they themselves had suffered.
Their courage remained steadfast, but they also felt baffled. Their frustrated anger found an outlet in mutual tribal recrimination-tribe against tribe, clan against clan, city against desert. They blamed each other for the debacle. "We know more about war than you", said the city dwellers. "No", replied the desert Arabs, "we know more." A clamour went up: "Let us separate into our tribal groups. Then we shall see who vindicates his honour." 1
Khalid could see what had gone wrong. The apostate front had not given way under the terrible onslaught of the Muslims, as all fronts had done before this. What is more, the apostates had counter-attacked while the Muslims were somewhat disorganised. The Muslims had lost their balance and under the pressure of the counter-attack were unable to regain it. There had been no lack of bravery.
Khalid saw that forming regiments out of mixed tribal contingents had been a mistake, for the clan feeling was still very strong among the Arabs. It added another pillar of strength to the Islamic zeal and the individual courage and skill which distinguished the Muslim army. In face of the three-to-one superiority of the enemy and the blind, fanatical determination of Musailima's followers, the absence of tribal loyalty had resulted in a weakening of cohesion in the Muslim regiments.
Khalid corrected this mistake and regrouped the army. He deployed it in the same battle formation with the same commanders, but the soldiers were now formed into clan and tribal units. Thus every man would fight not only for Islam but also for the honour of his clan. There would be healthy rivalry among the clans.
Once the reorganisation was complete, Khalid and his senior commanders went about the regiments. They spoke to the men and strengthened their resolve to punish Musailima for the disgrace that they had suffered. The men swore that if necessary they would fight with their teeth.
Khalid also picked a handful of warriors and formed them into a personal bodyguard. It was his intention to set an example for his men by throwing himself into the thick of the fighting. This bodyguard would prove useful. "Stay close behind me", he told these men.
Thus reorganised and reformed into orderly ranks, the Muslims once again advanced to the plain of Aqraba. They returned to battle not like lions, but like hungry lions!
Meanwhile Musailima the Liar had redeployed his army in the same battle formation as before. He awaited the second strike of the Sword of Allah, confident that he would once again send the Muslims reeling from the battlefield.
On the orders of Khalid, the Muslim army again swept forward with cries of Allah-o-Akbar and the war cry of this battle: "Ya Muhammad!"2 The smaller army again engaged the superior massed forces of the apostates. The wings clashed with the wings and the centre with the centre. The commander of the Muslim right, Zaid, confronted Rajjal the renegade who commanded the infidel left. Wishing to save the renegade from the fire of hell, Zaid called, "O Rajjal! You left the true faith. Return to it. That would be more noble and virtuous." 3 The renegade refused, and in the fierce duel that followed Zaid despatched Rajjal to the Fire.
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 513.
2. This is a misunderstanding. The actual slogan, as recorded by Ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Vol. 6 P. 397, was 'Ya Muhammadah! (O for Muhammad!)', rather than 'Ya Muhammad! (O Muhammad!)'; this is like the cry 'Ya Islamah! (O for Islam!)'. The Ya here is for exclamation, not for prayer, as in the Prophet's statement (SAWS), 'Ya tuba lil-Sham! (O joy for Syria!)', and this is further confirmed by the suffix "ah". The Companions understood Islam far too well to pray to the Prophet (SAWS)!
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 511.
The Muslims launched violent assaults all along the front, and the apostates were hard put to hold their ground; yet hold it they did. Their front would not break. Apostates fell in hundreds, and Muslim casualties also began to mount. With the apostates superior in numbers and the Muslims superior in skill and courage, the two sides were evenly matched. Parts of the two fronts, locked in mortal combat, heaved back and forth. The dust from thousands of stamping feet rose and hung like a cloud over the heads of the belligerents. Broken swords and spears littered the wadi and the plain as mangled and torn bodies fell in heaps on the blood-sodden earth. The most dreadful carnage took place in the gulley in which human blood ran in a rivulet down to the wadi. As a result, this gulley became known as the Gulley of Blood-Shueib-ud-Dam-and it is still known by that name. But the battle hung in the balance and gave no promise of a decision.
Khalid now realised that with their fanatical faith in their false prophet the apostates would not give in. It was evident that only the death of Musailima could break the spirit of the infidels, it would be a moral setback, which would lead quickly to physical defeat. But Musailima was not duelling in front like Khalid. He would have to be drawn out of the safety of the apostate ranks in which he stood surrounded by his faithful followers.
As the first violent spasm of combat spent itself, the warriors stopped to regain their breath. There was a lull. Then Khalid stepped out towards the enemy centre and threw a challenge to single combat: "I am the son of Al Waleed! Will anyone duel?" Several champions came out of the apostate ranks to accept the challenge of Khalid and advanced towards him one by one. Khalid took perhaps a minute to dispose of each opponent. After each duel he would recite his own extemporised verses:
I am the son of many chiefs.
My sword is sharp and terrible.
It is the mightiest of things
When the pot of war boils fiercely. 1
Slowly and steadily Khalid advanced towards Musailima, killing champion after champion. Then there were none left brave enough to come forth against him. But by now he was close enough to Musailima to talk to him without shouting. The Liar, however, was surrounded by his guards, and Khalid could not get at him.
Khalid proposed talks. Musailima agreed. He stepped forward cautiously and halted just outside duelling distance of Khalid. "If we agree to come to terms, what terms will you accept?" 2 enquired Khalid.
Musailima cocked his head to one side as if listening to some invisible person who stood beside him and would talk to him. It was in this manner that he 'received revelations'! Seeing him thus reminded Khalid of the words of the Holy Prophet, who had said that Musailima was never alone, that he always had Satan beside him, that he never disobeyed Satan, and that when worked up he foamed at the mouth. Satan forbade Musailima to agree to terms, and the Liar turned his face to Khalid and shook his head.
Khalid had already determined to kill Musailima. The talks were only bait to draw him close enough. He would have to work fast before Musailima withdrew to the safety of his guards. Khalid asked another question. Again Musailima turned his head to one side, intently listening to 'the voice.' At that instant Khalid sprang at him.
Khalid was fast. But Musailima was faster. In a flash he had turned on his heels and was gone!
Musailima was safe once again in the arms of his guards. But in that moment of flight something meaningful happened to the spirit of the two armies, depressing one and exalting the other. The flight of their 'prophet' and commander from Khalid was a disgraceful sight in the eyes of the apostates, the Muslims rejoiced. To exploit the psychological opportunity which now presented itself, Khalid ordered an immediate renewal of the offensive.
With shouts of Allah-o-Akbar the Muslims again went into the attack. They fought with fresh vigour and dash, and at last victory beckoned. The apostates began to fall back as the Muslims struck with sword and dagger. The retrograde movement of the apostates gathered speed. The spirits of the Muslims rose as they redoubled their efforts. Then the infidel front broke into pieces.
Musailima could do nothing. His top commander, Rajjal, was dead. It was now the commander of his right wing, Muhakim, who came to the rescue of the apostates. "Bani Hanifa!" he shouted. "The garden! The garden! Enter the garden and I shall protect your rear."
But the disintegration of the apostates had gone too far to be halted. The bulk of the army broke and fled, scattering in all directions. Only about a fourth of Musailima's army remained in fighting shape, and this part hastened to the walled garden while Muhakim covered its retreat with a small rear-guard. This rear-guard was soon cut to pieces by the Muslims, and Muhakim fell to the arrow of the Caliph's son, Abdur-Rahman.
The Muslims now pursued the fleeing apostates across the plain of Aqraba, striking down the stragglers left and right. Soon they arrived at the walled garden where a little over 7,000 apostates, Musailima among them, had taken shelter. The infidels had closed the gate, and as they looked at the high wall that surrounded the vast garden, they felt safe and secure. Little did they know!
The major portion of the Muslim army assembled in the vicinity of the Garden of Death. It was now afternoon, and the Muslims were anxious to get into the garden and finish the job that they had started early that morning, before darkness intervened. But no way could be found into the garden. The wall stretched on all sides as an impenetrable barrier, with the gate securely bolted from within. There was no siege equipment, nor time to spend on a siege.
While Khalid searched his brain for ideas, an old warrior by the name of Baraa bin Malik, who stood in the group that confronted the gate, said to his comrades "Throw me over the wall into the garden." 1 His comrades refused, for Baraa was a distinguished and much-respected Companion, and they hesitated to do something which would certainly result in his death. But Baraa insisted. At last his comrades agreed to his request and lifted him on their shoulders near the gate. He got his hands onto the edge of the wall, swung himself up and jumped into the garden. In a minute or so he had killed two or three infidels who stood between him and the gate, and before others could intercept him, he had loosened the heavy bolt. The gate was flung open and a flood of Muslims roared through it like water thundering through a breach in a dam. The last and most gory place of the Battle of Yamamah had begun.
Initially the infidels were able to contain the advance of the Muslims, who were confined by the gate to a narrow front and lacked elbow?room. But steadily the Muslims cut their way through the apostates, who began to fall in heaps under the attacker's blows. The apostates stepped back as the Muslims poured into the garden in ever?increasing numbers.
The fighting became more vicious. Since there was no room for manoeuvre, both sides engaged in a straight slogging match. Gradually the ranks of the apostates thinned as they fell in combat. But Musailima was still fighting: he had no intention of giving up. As the front moved closer to him, he drew his sword and joined in the combat, surprising the Muslims by his strength and dexterity. The wily general was also a brave and skilful fighter. He began to foam at the mouth, for desperation had turned the ugly impostor into an awesome demon.
The last phase of the battle now entered its climax. The Muslim army pressed the apostates everywhere and it was only the endeavours of Musailima which prevented a general collapse. The Muslims cut, slashed and stabbed with wild fury. Maimed and mutilated bodies covered the ground. Those who fell suffered a painful death under the trampling feet of those who would not give in. The carnage was frightful and the dust on the ground turned into red mud.
Many apostates ran in despair to Musailima. "Where is the victory that you promised?" they asked. "Fight on, O Bani Hanifa!" was the impostor's set answer. "Fight on till the end!" 1
Musailima knew that he would get no quarter from Khalid, that he was doomed, and evil genius that he was, he decided to take his tribe down with him. The blood of several Muslims dripped from his sword, and his guards, as fanatical as ever, fought around him. Then he came under the hawk-like gaze of the Savage. The Savage was one of the 'war criminals' whose names had been announced by the Holy Prophet on the eve of the conquest of Makkah. Fearing the worst, he had fled Makkah and gone to Taif, where he lived among the Thaqeef for some time. In 9 Hijri, when the Thaqeef submitted to the Prophet, he too embraced Islam and went personally to swear allegiance to the Prophet.
The Prophet had not seen him for many years, and was not certain if he was the man. "Are you the Savage?" he asked.
"Yes, O Messenger of Allah!"
"Tell me how you killed Hamza." 2
The Savage recounted the whole story from beginning to end. It never occurred to him that there was an ethical angle too to this episode, that he had killed one of the noblest and most gallant of the Faithful. He narrated the story as a proud veteran would regale his audience with tales of his daring exploits. And the killing of a matchless warrior like Hamza was undoubtedly a military achievement. The Savage excelled himself as a story-teller.
But there was no applause. On the face of the Prophet was a look of deep sorrow as he said "Never let me see you again." 3 Something inside him warned the Savage that to remain in Madinah, where the memory of Hamza was deeply cherished, might be unhealthy for him. He left at once.
For the next two years he lived in various settlements around Taif, seeking obscurity and avoiding travellers. He was troubled by his conscience and feared for his life. It was a wretched existence. Then came the apostasy. The Savage remained loyal to his new faith and elected to fight for Islam against the unbelievers. Now he was serving under the banner of the Sword of Allah.
The Savage tightened his grip on his javelin when he saw Musailima-the javelin that had sent so many men to their death. The Liar was fighting ferociously. In beating off the assaults of Muslims who strove to get to him, he would fight now in front of his guards, now amongst them. At times he was covered by his guards, but he was never lost to the unblinking gaze of the black killer. The Savage had chosen his next victim-one whose death might ease the gnawing pain in his heart.
From his position some distance behind the Muslim front, the Savage stealthily moved forward to get within javelin range of his target. The throng of swearing, sweating, blood-covered warriors around Musailima seemed to disappear from his sight. In the terrible mind of the Savage only his victim remained.
The Savage saw Um Ammarah, the grand lady of Uhud (though at this moment there was nothing ladylike about her appearance or actions), struggle to get to Musailima. She was duelling with an infidel who barred her way. Suddenly the infidel struck at her and cut off her hand. Her son, who stood next to her, felled the infidel with one mortal blow and helped his mother away. She was heart-broken at being unable to get to Musailima.
The Savage moved closer. In his mind appeared a vision of the noble martyr of Uhud, Hamza, whose killing had been the cause of all his troubles. He could picture the fine, strong, handsome features of Hamza. With an effort he drove the memory of that painful episode from his mind and looked again at Musailima. He was shocked at the contrast. The ugly, yellow, flat-nosed face of the impostor, distorted with rage and hate, with foam discolouring his mouth, was a frightening sight. All the evil in this demoniac man seemed to have come out on his face.
With a practised eye the Savage measured the distance. The range was just right. As he poised for the throw and aimed his javelin, he noticed Abu Dujanah (the human shield of the Prophet at Uhud) slashing away with his sword to get to Musailima. Abu Dujanah was a superb swordsman and would soon reach his objective. With a grunt the Savage hurled his weapon.
The javelin struck Musailima in the belly. The false prophet fell, his face twisted with pain, his hands clawing at the shaft. The next moment Abu Dujanah was upon him. With one neat stroke of his sword he severed the evil head of the Liar. As Abu Dujanah straightened up to announce the good news, a flashing infidel sword struck him down. One apostate, looking at the Liar, shouted, "A black slave has killed him." The cry was taken up by Muslim and infidel and rang across the garden: "Musailima is dead!" 1
The Savage later served in the Syrian Campaign under Khalid. When Syria had been conquered and established as a province of the Muslim State, the Savage settled down at Emessa and lived to a ripe old age. But he spent most of his days in a drunken stupor. He was even awarded 80 stripes by Umar for drinking (he was the first Muslim to be punished for this offence in Syria), 2 but refused to stay away from the bottle. Umar gave up, with the philosophical remark, "Perhaps the curse of Allah rests on the Savage for the blood of Hamza." 3
In Emessa, in later years, the Savage became a famous figure and a tourist attraction. Visitors would go to his house, hoping to find him sober, and ask him about Hamza and Musailima. If sober, he would recount in detail first the killing of Hamza and then the killing of Musailima. Coming to the end of his story, he would raise his javelin with fierce pride and say, "With this javelin, in my days of unbelief I killed the best of men, and in my days of belief I killed the worst!" 4
The news of the death of Musailima the Liar brought about a rapid collapse of the apostates. Some turned in suicidal desperation to greater violence, but they could only prolong their agony, not save their lives. Most of the apostates ceased to struggle, and in total despair waited for a Muslim sword to end their suffering. With one last superhuman effort the Muslims charged into the confused, helpless mass of apostates, and with their swords fulfilled the promise of the wrath of Allah against the unbelievers. Now it was no longer a battle, it was plain slaughter.
By the time the sun set, peace and quiet had returned to the Garden of Death. The Muslims were too tired to raise their swords. And there was no one left to kill.
For the night the Muslims dropped where they stood, and escaped from the nightmare of the battle into the sleep of the victorious.
Next morning Khalid walked about the battlefield. Everywhere he saw the wreckage of battle. Broken, twisted bodies, lying in grotesque shapes, littered the wadi and the plain of Aqraba and the Garden of Death. In places he picked his way over blood-soaked earth.
All the important leaders of the apostasy in Yamamah had been killed-all save the captive Muja'a who now, still in irons, dragged his feet beside the victor. Khalid had taken him along so that he could identify some of the dead leaders and also feel the full impact of the defeat of the Bani Hanifa.
The state of the Muslims too was appalling. The battle had taken a heavy toll, and right now they were in no condition even to defend themselves, let alone fight a battle. Exhausted and worn-out, they lay where they had dropped the night before, resting their weary limbs. But Khalid had reason to be satisfied with the outcome of the battle: Musailima was dead and his army had been torn to pieces. A glow of pleasure warmed the heart of Khalid. But Muja'a soon dispelled it.
"Yes, you have won a victory", he conceded. "But you should know that you have fought only a small portion of the Bani Hanifa-all that Musailima could hastily gather. The major portion of the army is still in the fort at Yamamah."
Khalid stared at him incredulously, "May Allah curse you! What are you saying?"
"Yes, that is so", Muja'a went on. "I suggest that you accept a peaceful surrender. If you will state your terms, I shall go into the fort and try to persuade the army to lay down its arms."
It did not take Khalid long to realise the impossibility of fighting, with his exhausted men, an even larger army than the one he had just tackled. "Yes", he replied, accepting Muja'a's proposal. "Let there be peace."
The terms of surrender were worked out by the two leaders. The Muslims would take all the gold, the swords, the armour and the horses in Yamamah, but only half its population would be enslaved. Muja'a was released from his fetters and, on giving his word to return, allowed to proceed to the fortified city. After some time he returned, shaking his head sadly. "They do not agree. They are all set to fight. In fact they turned against me. You can attack now if you wish."
Khalid decided to take a look at the city himself. Leaving the bulk of his weary army to bury the martyrs and gather the spoils, he took a mounted detachment and rode to Yamamah, accompanied by Muja'a. As he got near the northern wall of the fortified city he stopped in amazement, for the battlements were crowded with warriors whose armour and weapons glinted ominously in the sun. How on earth would he deal with this fresh army in an impregnable fort? His men were in no state to fight, they wanted nothing but rest.
The voice of Muja'a broke the silence. "They might be prepared to surrender the fort if you do not enslave any of them. You could have all the gold, the swords, the armour, the horses."
"Have they agreed to this?" asked Khalid.
"I have discussed the matter, but they gave no decision."
Khalid was prepared to go so far and no further. He looked at Muja'a sternly. "I will give you three days", he said. "If the gates are not opened on these revised terms, I shall attack. And then there shall be no terms of any kind."
Muja'a again went into the fort. This time he returned smiling. "They have agreed." 1 he announced.
The pact was drawn up accordingly. It was signed on behalf of the Muslims by Khalid and on behalf of the Bani Hanifa by Muja'a bin Marara. 1
When the pact had been signed, Muja'a returned to the fort, and soon after the gates of the fort were thrown open. Khalid, accompanied by his mounted warriors and Muja'a, rode into the city, expecting to see hordes of armed warriors, but wherever he looked, he saw nothing but women and old men and children. He turned in amazement to Muja'a. "Where are the warriors I saw?"
Muja'a pointed at the women. "Those are the warriors you saw", he explained. "When I came into the fort I dressed these women in armour, gave them weapons, and made them parade on the battlements. There are no warriors!"
Furious at being tricked, Khalid swore at Muja'a, "You deceived me, O Muja'a!"
Muja'a merely shrugged his shoulders. "They are my people. I could do nothing else."
But for the pact, Khalid would have torn Muja'a apart with his bare hands. However, the pact had been signed and its terms had to be respected. The Bani Hanifa, those of them who were in the city, were safe. Soon they had come out of their city roamed freely in the neighbourhood.
A day or two later a message arrived from the Caliph, who was not yet aware of the end of the Battle of Yamamah, instructing Khalid to kill all the apostates of the Bani Hanifa. Khalid wrote back explaining that the Caliph's order could not be implemented because of the pact that he had signed. Abu Bakr agreed to the observance of the terms of the pact.
But the pact only applied to those who had been in the fort. The rest of the vast tribe of Bani Hanifa-tens of thousands of people living in the region around Yamamah-were not covered by the pact. The most important element of the Bani Hanifa now was the remnants of the army of Musailima which had fled from the plain of Aqraba. These warriors, amounting to more than 20,000 men, were moving at random in clans and groups. After Musailima's death they posed no great danger to Islam, but they could nevertheless cause considerable mischief. They had to be crushed. Under the harsh laws of war, they had no claim to immunity from attack until they had fully submitted.
Khalid was determined to wipe out all resistance among the Bani Hanifa so that undisturbed peace might prevail in the region. He allowed his army a couple of day's rest: then he divided it into several columns which he despatched to subdue the region around Yamamah and to kill or capture all who resisted. These columns fanned out in the countryside.
The fugitives were sought out wherever they had taken shelter. Thousands remained unrepentant and defiant, these were attacked and wiped out, and their women and children taken captive. But other thousands submitted and were spared. Eventually all the survivors re-entered Islam.
Khalid set up his headquarters near Yamamah, where he was to stay about two months before receiving his next military task from the Caliph.
With the successful conclusion of the Battle of Yamamah, most of Arabia was freed of the mischief of the apostasy. Some of it still remained on the fringes of the peninsula, but this posed no serious threat. Some battles were still to be fought, but they were minor affairs compared with the great clashes which have been described in this and the preceding chapters.
The Battle of Yamamah was the fiercest and bloodiest battle so far fought in the history of Islam. Never before had the Muslims been faced with such a trial of strength, and they rose gloriously to the occasion under the leadership of the Sword of Allah. By crushing the vastly superior forces of the Bani Hanifa led by the redoubtable Musailima, the Muslims proved themselves to be men of steel. Half a century later old men would describe this battle in vivid detail to their grandchildren and end the account with the proud boast: "I was at Yamamah!"
The casualties were staggering. Of the apostates 21,000 were killed-7,000 in the plain of Aqraba, 7,000 in the Garden of Death, and 7,000 in the mopping up operations of the columns sent out by Khalid.
The Muslims suffered lightly in comparison with the apostates, but compared with their own past battle losses, their casualties were heavy indeed. Twelve hundred Muslims fell as martyrs-most of them in or near the wadi. 1 Half this loss was suffered by the Ansars and the Emigrants-the closest and most revered Companions of the Prophet. It is also said that the martyrs included 300 of those who knew the whole Quran by heart. Some of the finest of Muslims fell in this battle-Abu Dujanah, Abu Hudaifa (the commander of the left wing), Zaid (brother of Umar and commander of the right wing). While Zaid fell, Umar's son, Abdullah, survived.
When Abdullah returned to Madinah he went to pay his respects to his father, but there was no welcome in the eyes of Umar as he looked at his son. "Why were you not killed beside Zaid? Zaid is dead and you live! Let me not see your face again!"
"Father", pleaded this brave young man, "my uncle asked for martyrdom and Allah honoured him with it. I also sought martyrdom but did not attain it." 2
In the Battle of Yamamah, Abu Bakr's campaign against the apostates reached its high-water mark. This was the climax. Abu Bakr's strategy of using Khalid as his right arm to fight the main apostate chiefs in turn, going from nearer to farther objectives, had met with admirable success. Henceforth things would be easier.
One episode remains to be narrated before we finish with the Battle of Yamamah. On the day that the city of Yamamah opened its gates, Khalid sat outside his tent in the evening. Beside him sat Muja'a. They were alone.
Suddenly Khalid turned to Muja'a. "I want to marry your daughter!"
Muja'a stared in amazement at Khalid. He could not possibly have heard aright!
Khalid, his tone more insistent, repeated, "I want to marry your daughter!"
Muja'a now realised that Khalid was not mad, that he knew what he wanted. Yet in view of the occasion, the whole idea seemed utterly ridiculous. "Steady, O Khalid!" he replied. "Do you want the Caliph to break your back and mine also?"
"I want to marry your daughter", repeated Khalid. And that very evening he married the beautiful daughter of Muja'a bin Marara.
A few days later Khalid received an angry letter from Abu Bakr. "O son of the mother of Khalid!" wrote the Caliph. "You have time to marry women while in your courtyard the blood of 1,200 Muslims is not yet dry!" When he had read the letter Khalid muttered, "This must be the work of that left-handed one!" 3
However he continued to enjoy his new bride. It seems that he had discarded the glamorous widow of Malik bin Nuwaira. We do not know what happened to that lady, for history makes no further mention of the beautiful Laila with the gorgeous eyes and the lovely legs.
1. The visitor to Jubaila today is shown a graveyard on the southern bank of the wadi where the Muslim martyrs lie buried, and on the northern bank he is shown a low mound between the village and the gully, where the apostate dead were buried.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, pp. 512-3.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 519.