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1c. Umar

The Early Caliphate

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

pp. 56-125


Early Life
’Umar was the second Caliph of Islam. He is also known by his surname Abu Hafs, while he received the title of Faruq, (i.e., one who separated truth from falsehood) after embracing Islam. He was the son of Khattab. His mother's name was Hantamah, His ancestral lineage joins that of the Prophet with the eighth ancestor. In age, he was thirteen years junior to the Prophet. He came of the clan 'Adiyy which occupied a position of distinction among the Quraish. To this clan was entrusted the important function of providing envoys and arbitrators in cases of dispute. While still young, 'Umar was an expert in the science of genealogy, a highly skilled soldier and wrestler and a great orator. At the famous fair of 'Ukaz, where people came from far and wide to display whatever of art or skill they possessed, 'Umar took part in the wrestling. He had also received education and was one of the few people who at (he advent of Islam could read and write. His father had for some time put him to the work of a camel herdsman. Business, however, was his chief occupation. He had a unique understanding of men and matters which won him a great reputation and he was appointed as an envoy. Thus, before his acceptance of Islam, he enjoyed a position of marked distinction and esteem.

Conversion to Islam

Zaid, a cousin of 'Umar, was one of the few men who had renounced idolatry before the advent of Islam and who were known as Hanif. (1)

(1) Hanif lit.
means one who inclines to a right state.

When the message of Islam came, Sa'id, son of Zaid, embraced Islam together with his wife, Fatimah. A maidservant of 'Umar also joined the fold, for which she received much beating at the hands of her master. 'Umar was bitterly opposed to the Prophet, and one day, under the impulse of this hostility, he took his sword and went out with the resolve to kill him. On the way, he met a man Na'im ibn 'Abd Allah who asked him whither he was going. "To kill Muhammad," came the sharp reply. Na'im asked him if he was not afraid of the Bani Hashim and the Bani Zuhrah, who would certainly avenge the murder of their kinsman. "It seems you, too, have renounced your religion and embraced Islam," retorted 'Umar. Thereupon Na'im said: "Let me tell you something stranger still. Your own sister and your brother-in-law have become Muslims." Hearing this, 'Umar went straight to his brother-in-law's house. At the time a man named Kbabbab was giving a lesson in the Qur'an in the house. When he came to know of 'Umar's arrival, he hid himself in a corner. 'Umar grew suspicious and enquired of his sister and brother-in-law what sort of recitation was going on there which he had just overheard. "It seems you have become Muslims," said 'Umar angrily. "What then?" replied Sa'id, "shall we not accept truth if it is somewhere else than in your religion"? At this 'Umar flew into a fit of rage, and fell upon Sa'id, beating him till he was covered with blood. His sister, Fatimah, stepped forward to the rescue of her husband. She also was wounded but loudly recited the kalimah, (1) the Islamic declaration of faith.


(1) Kalimah lit. means a word, but technically it is applied to the well-known declaration Ia ilaha ill-Allah Muhammad-un Rasul-Allah, i.e., there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It is by this declaration alone that a man enters the fold of Islam.


Her steadfast devotion could not but impress 'Umar. Besides, he was also touched at the sight of his own sister bleeding. He asked what they were reciting from. The leaves were produced on which was written the chapter known as Ta ha. 'Umar began to read it. He had not read very far when the truth sank into his heart. He would go to the Prophet, he said, and embrace Islam. Khabbab also came out. The Prophet had prayed the previous Thursday night, he said, that God might strengthen Islam either with the conversion of 'Umar ibn Khattab or 'Umar ibn Hisham, better known as Abu Jahl. That prayer had been granted in favour of the former. 'Umar went straightway to the Prophet who, in those days, used to live in the house of Arqam at the foot of Mount Safa, There the Muslims used to meet together and say their prayers. At the door the Prophet's companions would not allow him to enter, as he had a sword in his hand. Hamzah, however, said that if God wished him well, he would accept Islam that day. In case he was out with evil intent, it would not be hard for them to deal with him as he deserved. The Prophet was as yet inside the house. Coming out he accosted 'Umar, saying, "Wouldst thou not desist, 'Umar? I am afraid thou mayest be visited with degradation." 'Umar stepped forward and, reciting the kalimah, declared himself for Islam. The small brotherhood was filled with joy and raised a shout of Allah-u-Akbar (i.e., God is Great) till the surrounding hills resounded with the echo. 'Umar requested the Prophet to come out into the open and thenceforward publicly preach his faith. This took place in the month of Dhu-l-Hajj in the 6th year of the Call. 'Umar was at the time 26 years old.

The Flight

'Umar's conversion no doubt added to the strength of Islam. The Muslims now said their prayers in the sacred House of Ka'bah. But it also added to the fury of the opposition, which at length assumed unbearable proportions. After years of suffering, the Muslims were at length forced to seek refuge in emigration. The first emigration, which had taken place before 'Umar's conversion to Islam, was to Abyssinia, and now it was the emigration to Madinah. This time the watch on Muslims was very strict and they slipped out in small groups. The Makkans would not let them emigrate. Nevertheless 'Umar refused to be daunted. He openly started for Madinah with a band of twenty and halted some two or three miles outside Madinah at the quarter known as Quba or 'Awali. About two or three months later when the Prophet arrived in Madinah and founded a fraternity amongst the emigrants and the Madinah Muslims, 'Umar was made the god-brother of 'Urban ibn Malik. They lived at a distance from the Prophet's mosque and therefore arranged to come to the Prophet by turns on alternate days. Each would one day visit the Prophet and the other day attend to his work. When a consultation was held as to the best method to call people to prayer, 'Umar had a vision in which he saw a man reciting the adhan, the Muslim call to prayers. While others mentioned bells and horns in this connection, 'Umar suggested that a man should be appointed to do it. The Holy Prophet ultimately adopted the form under guidance of Divine revelation. On several other occasions, too, Divine revelation concurred with 'Umar's judgment.


Help rendered to the cause of Islam

The Muslims fled to Madinah in the hope that there they would be safe from persecution. The Quraish, however, did not let them alone in this distant asylum. In order to put an end to the movement of Islam, they made repeated incursions on Madinah. The first of these was made in the second year of the Hijrah in the month of Ramadan, and the encounter took place at Badr, which is situated at a distance of three days' journey from Madinah and ten days' from Makkah. 'Umar took part in this battle. Seventy prisoners of war fell into Muslim hands. 'Umar was of opinion that they should be all put to the sword, because they were the relentless enemies of Islam, bent upon the annihilation of the Muslims. The Prophet, however, did not approve of his proposal and ransomed the prisoners. A year later, the Makkans once more marched against the Muslims and this time they came with thrice their previous strength. The Muslims met them at the foot of the hill of Uhud at a distance of three miles from Madinah. 'Umar stood by the Prophet to the last, and when Abu Sufyan, the commander of the enemy army, asked derisively whether Muhammad was alive, whether Abu Bakr was alive, whether 'Umar was alive, the last-named could not remain silent and shouted back saying, "Thou enemy of God, we are all alive." In the battle of the Ditch in the fifth year of the Hijrah, when the Muslims were besieged within the town of Madinah, 'Umar on several occasions displayed feats of bravery. In the sixth year of the Hijrah, the Prophet went on a pilgrimage ('umrah) to Makkah. But he was yet nine miles away from the sacred town when at Hudaibiyah he had to sign a truce, the terms of which were apparently humiliating to the Muslims. 'Umar felt the humiliation most of all, and remonstrated with the Prophet. "Why should we submit to conditions so humiliating," he submitted, "when we are in the right." The Prophet consoled him. On the way back, the Prophet received the Divine revelation known as the chapter of Victory. This gave to the Muslims the happy news that the truce of Hudaibiyah was the harbinger of a great triumph for Islam. The Prophet forthwith sent for 'Umar and gave him the happy news. 'Umar also participated in the battle of Khaibar which was fought against the Jews in the seventh year of the Hijrah. In the eighth year he participated in the march on Makkah. At the battle of Hunain, when the greater part of the Muslim army fled before the enemy archers, 'Umar was amongst the handful who stuck to their ground. The Prophet himself advanced and the enemy was routed. On the occasion of the Tabuk expedition, 'Umar presented half of his life-long savings to the Prophet as a contribution towards the war fund.

The Prophet's death and after

When the Prophet was seized with his last illness, he directed Abu Bakr to act as Imam in his stead and conduct prayers. Twice 'A'ishah pleaded that her father was too tender-hearted and could not conduct prayers without weeping. She implored that 'Umar might be appointed Imam. The Prophet, however, insisted that Abu Bakr must lead the prayers. To these very days of the Prophet's illness relates an incident which has been very much misconstrued. Four days before his death, when the attack of illness was severe, the Prophet asked for writing material. "Let me give you a writing," he said, "so that you may not go astray after me." On this 'Umar said that the Prophet was overwhelmed by a severe attack of illness and that the Book of God was enough of guidance for the Muslims. From this some have drawn the wrong conclusion that 'Umar prevented the Prophet from writing. They forget that after this incident the Prophet remained alive for four days and could have dictated his wish at any other time if he had so desired. The truth of the matter seems to be that whatever the Prophet wanted to leave behind in writing was just what 'Umar had said-viz., that Muslims should hold fast to the Book of God. When 'Umar gave expression to what was in the Prophet's own mind, he did not feel any further necessity of committing the same to writing. At the Prophet's death 'Umar came to the mosque and, thinking that the hypocrites had, out of mischievous motives, spread false news, declined to believe that the Prophet had actually died. PresentIy, however, Abu Bakr arrived, and, on going inside the house 'I found out that the news was only too true. When he came out and announced the fact, 'Umar was silenced. After the Prophet's death, 'Umar came to know that the Ansar had assembled in the Thaqifah Bani Sa'idah, and were holding a consultation as to the election of a Caliph. Forthwith, taking Abu Bakr with him, he hastened towards the meeting and put a stop to the mischief in time. And when the decision was arrived at, he was the first formally to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr. In all the important events that took place during the regime of Abu Bakr, 'Umar's opinion played a special part. Before his death, Abu Bakr appointed 'Umar as his successor, after due consultation with prominent Muslims. And the magnificent work of the consolidation of the power of Islam, of which the foundation-stone was laid by Abu Bakr, was carried to completion by 'Umar.

'Umar pursues the frontier policy of Abu Bakr

It has already been shown that the campaigns undertaken under the orders of the first Caliph of Islam against the Persian and Syrian frontiers were merely defensive measures, inspired neither by ambition for territorial aggrandizement nor by zeal for conversion. They were meant only to suppress the elements of disorder in those quarters which were disturbing the internal peace of Arabia. These campaigns were confined to territories with an exclusive Arab population. On taking the reins of government in hand, 'Umar pursued the frontier policy of his predecessor with his characteristic zeal and vigour, with the result that in the course of a few years, both the mighty neighbouring empires of Persia and Rome crumbled before the armies of Islam.


Objection against early Muslim conquests

The question arises: How did such an eventuality become possible, if the policy was to fortify the frontiers? Why was not war restricted to exclusively Arab-populated parts; why the conquest of foreign lands? Why were Persia and Syria, nay, even Egypt, subjugated and annexed to the empire of Islam? Was it not clearly the passion of conquest that carried the Crescent far and wide? Non-Muslim historians have made much of this circumstance and, without giving a thought to the real cause, have put these expeditions down to the territorial lust of Muslims, supplemented by a fanatic zeal for proselytism. The objection, as we will presently show, is due to ignorance of real facts. It will be seen, on the other hand, that the Muslims did all they could to avert war, and were driven to it only by the repeated attacks of the Persians and the Romans.


To begin with, we must repeat what we pointed out before, that early historians of Islam do not record anything like a detailed narrative of an episode. These works are mostly the productions of a later period, when the empire of Islam had already spread over many countries. Brought up in the lap of national prosperity and splendour, these historians seem to have been engrossed by the dazzling splendour all around. The question of what troubles their forefathers, builders of that empire, experienced at the hands of neighbouring countries was simply barred out of their mental camera by this all-comprehensive national grandeur. Perhaps their mental vision, being the product of the most glorious of environments, was incapable of turning to the other side of the picture. That their forefathers could have been despised and constantly worried by Persians and Syrians they simply could not imagine in the midst of changed conditions when the banner of the Crescent proudly waved over a vast portion of the globe. Hence it is that these historians are silent on the causes that prompted the early Muslims to these wars. All they tell us is that such and such a battle was fought with such and such a result, without saying why and how were these hostilities started. If details of these events had been preserved, they might have helped modern critics in unravelling the mass of narration and tracing the root causes. Nevertheless, here and there, one does come across just a stray clue which serves as a ray of light in an otherwise dark situation. Take, for instance, the words of 'Umar spoken after the conquest of Mesopotamia and recorded by all historians: "I wish between ourselves and Persia there were a mountain of fire." Muir records in The Caliphate that when a certain general, Ziyad, after the conquest of Mesopotamia, asked 'Umar's permission to advance to Khurasan in pursuit of the Persian forces, 'Umar forbade him, saying: "I desire that between Mesopotamia and the countries beyond, the hills shall be a barrier so that the Persians shall not be able to get at us, nor we at them. The plain of al-Iraq sufficeth for our wants. I would prefer the safety of my people to thousands of spoils and further conquest." Commenting on this, the Christian historian observes: "The thought of a world-wide mission was yet in embryo; obligation to enforce Islam by a universal crusade had not yet dawned upon the Muslim mind." This is a clear admission that Islam is free of the charge of being spread at the point of sword till at least the time of 'Umar.


The safety of Arabia was the sole motive of the Early Caliphate wars

It is noteworthy that the words of 'Umar quoted above pertain to the year 16 A.H. when Syria and Mesopotamia had both been conquered. Thus, at least till the conquest of 'Iraq and Syria, the alleged passion of converting people at the point of the sword had not seized the Muslim mind. This should conclusively establish at least this much, that during the reign of Abu Bakr when these expeditions were launched, and subsequently, for three years during 'Umar's reign, when these countries were subjugated, the causes of warfare were not religious but political. The words of 'Umar leave no room for doubt that national defence was the only motive underlying these conquests. "I would prefer the safety of my people to thousands of spoils and further conquest," he said. Thus the idea was neither the propagation of Islam nor territorial conquest, nor the lust of spoils. "Safety of my people" was the sole motive. 'Umar's words exonerate not only 'Umar himself from the baseless charge, but they also clear Abu Bakr of all base motives that spite has imputed to him. For 'Umar was the chief adviser of Abu Bakr, and nothing of importance was done without his consultation. It is thus obvious that from the very day that these campaigns were started, Muslims were prompted by no other consideration than their own safety.


That the safety of Arabia was the sole consideration of 'Umar is also shown by the words which he uttered after the conquest of Persia. Announcing the happy news of the Persian conquest, the Caliph made an impressive speech in the course of which he observed: "Now the Persians will not be able to injure Islam." Thus the only idea was to protect the infant State of Islam from injury by the neighbouring empires, and this, in fact, furnishes the master-key to find out the causes of all the battles. Self-defence had driven Muslims now as in the lifetime of the Prophet to unsheathe the sword. With this object alone were these wars undertaken by Abu Bakr and with the same purpose were they continued by 'Umar, and no sooner was that object realised than the sword was sheathed. If, as alleged, territorial extension were the end, why did they stop short at Persia? The campaign should rather have been carried on with greater zeal now that the Muslims commanded far greater strength and resources. But that was never the goal. Self-preservation was the only motive and as soon as the forces which wanted to annihilate Islam were crushed, there was an end to these wars.

Defeat enhanced Persia & Rome's passion for revenge

Such relics of those times preserved in the pages of history, though stray and scanty, furnish proof positive of the accuracy of our contention. Even in the absence of these, a mere commonsense view of the working of human nature should have led to the same conclusion. There is no doubt that at the very outset when Islam took a firm footing in the soil of Arabia, Persia and Rome viewed this rising power in their neighbourhood with jealousy and alarm. From that very time, these powers were anxious to crush the young power and subjugate Arabia. Persia openly sent reinforcements to the rebels of Bahrain. From 'Iraq, the country under the sway of Persia, Sajah arose with pretensions to prophethood and marched to attack the capital of Islam. This could not have been done without the instigation of Persia, the ruling power of 'Iraq. These were small beginnings but, later on, when in direct hostilities Persia met with reverses at the hands of the Muslims, it was but natural that there should have been imported into the conflict all the fury of a wounded pride. It was the depth of ignominy for a mighty power, as Persia undoubtedly was, to be defeated by an upstart power on which it looked with contempt. Passion of conquest was thus supplemented by the passion of revenge, and this gained in fury with every fresh defeat the Muslims inflicted. If in the beginning there was any wavering in the mind of Persia as regards the conquest of Arabia, its own successive defeats and the loss of territory now made it a matter of necessity and the whole country was now burning with this one passion-viz., to crush Islam. This is ordinary psychology. In the beginning, Persians and Romans considered it beneath their dignity to come out seriously in battle .array against Muslims. They only instigated and helped the border tribes against them, or sent a battalion just to teach the naughty youngster a lesson. With every fresh defeat, however, their passion for revenge grew in intensity and, in proportion as this passion gained in fury, they put greater numbers into the field. Now they were out in all earnest to turn the Muslims out of their land and to conquer Arabia and crush Islam. And they made no secret of it. In the year 14 A.H., when Rustam, the famous Persian general, came out for battle on the field of Qadisiyah, this is how he loudly swaggered: "The whole of Arabia will I smash." It shows what the ambition of Persia was. Not the expulsion of Muslims from Persia, but the destruction of Arabia - this was the passion that kindled their bosoms. This exactly was the case with the Roman Empire of Syria. As further events will show, a number of times the Muslims sent envoys to the enemy, expressing their anxiety for the cessation of hostilities, the adjustment of frontiers and the restoration of peace. But every time they met with contemptuous refusal. War was thus actually forced on them and there was no running away from it.

A necessity of war

There is yet another consideration that can rightly be urged in justification of subjugating Persia and Syria. When one nation makes an unprovoked attack on another, it at once becomes the latter's duty not merely to repulse the attack, but also to carry the fight to the finish till one of-the combatants should surrender. The Persians, as already shown, struck the first blow. They violated the independence of Arabia by encroaching upon its soil. They made common cause with the rebels and sent troops for the destruction of the power of Islam. Likewise, towards the north, the Romans stirred up Christian tribes against Islam. Consequently, when hostilities formally started and troops met on the battlefield, no canons of warfare bound the Arabs to restrict their operations only to their own territory and content themselves with merely expelling the enemy. Had they been guilty of this blunder, the enemy would certainly have reappeared soon after in greater force. It would have been sheer stupidity to have stopped at that. In all civilized warfare, when once the die is cast, it is open to either party to continue the fight to a finish. Either one of the contending parties must surrender or it must be thoroughly crushed. Such are the rules of the game, and if the Muslims played that game to an issue, where lay the harm? In prosecuting war till Persia and Syria were completely broken down, Muslims had behind them all the sanction of civilized warfare, ancient as well as modern.

Islam, Jizyah or the sword

In this connection we must remove another most gross misunderstanding. The envoys, it is alleged, that were sent during these wars to negotiate with the enemy, were sent with no better terms than the offer of three courses: Islam, jizyah or the sword. This message is apparently worded so as to imply that the Muslims offered their religion at the point of the sword. Now this was never the idea during these Persian and Syrian wars, when this message is said to have been first delivered. One thing that is certain beyond the faintest shadow of doubt is that never was Islam presented in accompaniment to the sword nor thrust upon anyone at the point of the sword. Sir William Muir, as already quoted, admits that at least till the year 16 A.H., when Syria and 'Iraq had already been conquered, no such idea of forcing religion on others had taken birth in the hearts of Muslims. How could they then have given a message the very idea of which had not yet entered their minds? And then, there is another equally well-established fact that shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims and under the standard of Islam there were also Christian soldiers fighting against their common foe and in defence of their common motherland, Arabia. If conversion by force formed any part of the purpose of these wars, it is inconceivable either that Muslims would have invited their Christian fellow-countrymen to make common cause with them or that the latter would have come forward to do so. What is more significant still, there were non-Muslim tribes with whom Muslims concluded peace without either converting them or demanding jizyah, The only condition of peace was that they would fight side by side with Muslims in case of a war. The people of Jarjoma, for instance, during the Syrian conquests, when Antioch was captured and payment of jizyah was commonly accepted by the populace, refused to pay on the plea that they were prepared to fight the Muslims' battles against their enemy. The condition was accepted and peace concluded accordingly. They did not embrace Islam, nor did they pay jizyah. During the Persian conquests as well, twice was peace made on this very condition, once with the Chief of Jurjan and again with that of Bab. At these two places also military service was accepted in lieu of jizyah. These are all clear facts recorded by every historian. Possibly there were others of the kind that were never recorded. Now, on the one hand, the presence of Christian soldiers side by side with Muslims shows beyond all doubt that the wars could not have been religious but were merely in defence of the country; and, on the other hand, the same conclusion is borne out by the fact that peace was concluded with several of the Christian and Magian tribes without either their accepting Islam or paying jizyah. These are all events of authentic history, admitted on all hands, and give the lie direct to the so-called story of "Islam, jizyah or the sword."

Significance of the alleged message

Two things are now' clear. In the first place, war with Persia and the Roman Empire was forced upon Muslims, and the two great powers sought to crush the rising power of Islam. And secondly, that the alleged message "Islam, jizyah or the sword" could never have been conveyed in the form which later writers have given to it because Muslims throughout these wars accepted the alliance of Christian and other non-Muslim tribes, and these tribes fought side by side with them against a non-Muslim foe. What actually happened was, clearly, that the Muslims, finding the Roman Empire and Persia bent upon the subjugation of Arabia and the extirpation of Islam, refused to accept terms of peace which contained no safeguards against a repetition of the aggression. This safeguard was demanded in the form of jizyah or a tribute which would be an admission of defeat on their part. How could a war be terminated without bringing it to a successful issue? If the enemy had been victorious, it would have overrun the peninsula of Arabia. The Muslims were willing to avoid further bloodshed after inflicting defeat on the enemy only if the enemy admitted defeat and agreed to pay a tribute which was at any rate not as excessive as the crushing war indemnities of modern days. The offer of terminating hostilities simply on payment of jizyah was thus an act of merciful dealing with a vanquished foe, and for this it would be senseless to blame the Muslims. If the payment of tribute was unacceptable to the vanquished power, the Muslims could do nothing but push the victory further until the enemy was completely vanquished. This very natural situation that the Caliph 'Umar had to face is generally described as the offering of two alternatives by the Muslim forces, jizyah or the sword. The third alternative, i.e., the offering of Islam, was not really connected with war. Islam was a missionary religion from its very inception, and it had a world-wide message. 'The Holy Prophet himself invited, besides the idolaters of Arabia, Jews, Christians, Magians and the followers of other religions to accept the religion of Islam, and many of these people who lived in the peninsula and whom the message had reached had become Muslims. He had even written letters to all the great potentates living on the borders of Arabia, including Heraclius and the Ruler of Persia, urging acceptance of Islam. This was long before the actual commencement of hostilities with these two powers. And the envoys of Islam, wherever they went, looked upon it as their first duty to offer the message of Islam to every people because they felt that Islam imparted new life and vigour to mankind and lifted humanity from the depths of degradation to the height of civilization. The Arabs themselves experienced the great transformation and, out of sympathy for others, invited them to avail themselves of the wonderful change which Islam worked in man. In writing down the history of the Muslim wars, Muslim chroniclers did not care much for the missionary activities of Muslims and hence it is generally without giving any details that they simply refer to the fact that Islam was offered by such and such an envoy. Occasionally, however, when details are referred to, they show that the Arab envoys always related their own experience, stating how Islam had brought about a wonderful transformation in the Arab nation and that it would work the same transformation in any other nation that accepted it. It is a gross distortion of facts to say that Islam was offered at the point of the sword when there is not a single instance in which Islam was forced upon even one prisoner of war, whether he came from Persia or Syria. Islam was offered no doubt, but never at the point of the sword either to an individual or to a nation. Just as there is not a single instance on record in which an individual was told that he should accept Islam or be killed, there is no instance on record in which a tribe or a nation was told that the Muslims would carry sword and fire into its territory if it did not accept Islam. Muslims had to fight their wars as the most civilized nations of today have to fight theirs, but these wars arose out of other causes, and the one thing beyond the faintest shadow of doubt is that Muslims in their struggle with Persia and the Roman Empire 'were not the aggressors. There is one more consideration. Never was Islam offered at the commencement of hostilities, so not even a doubt should arise that it was offered as an alternative to the opening of hostilities. It was in the later stages of a war which had been carried on for a sufficiently long time that we find that the envoys of peace offered Islam. The war was already there, and every war has to be carried on to the bitter end until one party is completely crushed. Muslims had to carry on their war until either the enemy admitted defeat and agreed to pay tribute or his power was finally crushed. In the middle of the war, Islam was offered only as a message of mercy, for the one peculiarity of Islam was its unrivalled brotherhood. The different tribes of Arabia which had for centuries been the implacable foes of, and carried on war with, each other, had been converted into one solid nation by their acceptance of Islam. The new religion had therefore the miraculous effect of turning inveterate foes into loving brethren who forgot all their rancours. If, therefore, the enemy nation that had sought to crush Islam came to the conclusion that as a religion Islam was acceptable, Persian and Arab would become brethren and fighting would ipso facto cease. No other nation would show such magnanimity to a deadly foe in a deadly fight. As a rule, if one nation makes a wanton attack on another with a view to crushing it, the latter will not rest content until it has inflicted a crushing defeat upon the aggressor. But Islam came as a message of mercy, and that mercy was imported even into the bitter sphere of warfare. As human beings Arabs might be burning with a spirit of vengeance for the wrong done to them by Persians, but the brotherhood of Islam insisted that all ideas of revenge must be given up. Nay, more, erstwhile enemies become as the Qur'an puts it, brethren in faith. It was in this sense, in this spirit, as a message of goodwill and mercy, that Islam was offered to the enemy as one and the best safeguard against the recrudescence of national rancour and bitterness.


Persian force under Hurmuz, A.H. 13 (A.D. 634)

After these introductory remarks to show how Muslims were driven into these wars, we would now resume the thread of the story where we left it. On the Persian frontier, it will be recollected, Khalid left his headquarters at Hirah, leaving Muthanna in charge, and at the head of half the army marched towards Syria, under the orders of Abu Bakr. Mesopotamia was yet in the possession of Persia. Khalid had with the help of Muthanna cleared only the strip of territory to the west of the Euphrates, which formed part of Arabia. Between Muslims and Persians now lay the strong barrier of the river, and if the Persians had only stopped further molestation, the two countries, divided as they were by water, could have remained at peace, confined to their own positions. But Persia, notwithstanding its domestic disputes, was seized with one mania, viz., the smashing of Arabia. After the departure of Khalid, a force of 10,000 strong was despatched under the command of Hurmuz, to fall upon Muthanna. The Muslim army was comparatively very small but the deficiency in numbers was made up by its unflinching intrepidity. It was decided that, rather than wait for the advancing troops, it would be better to take them by surprise. The morale of Muslim soldiers was such that nothing was impossible. The manoeuvre was at once made. The river was crossed and an attack delivered. The Persian army was overawed by this sudden move of the Muslim forces and took to flight in utter confusion. Having thus routed the foe, the Muslims retraced their steps to their original position on the western bank and encamped there.

Muslim General's appeal to Caliph

Every disaster on the battlefield only added to the flame of Persian fury. Theirs was a vast empire, and great were their resources. Muthanna had grave apprehensions that the Persians, freed from their domestic dispute, would invade Arabia again and in far greater force. His own men, a mere handful as they were, would hardly be able to resist the coming attack. He communicated these reasonable fears to Abu Bakr, stating that without fresh troops, he would not be able to maintain that position. He also suggested that to meet this exigency the ban on rebel tribes might be removed and permission given to enlist them in the army. Many days passed but he received no reply from the Capital. In view of the critical situation, therefore, he set out for Madinah in person. On arriving there, he found the Caliph on his death-bed. Nevertheless, the dying Caliph, on seeing Muthanna, sent for 'Umar, and told him not to worry about his own illness or death but to give immediate attention to the Persian frontier and send reinforcements there. Abu Bakr passed away the same day, and the following day the new Caliph made an appeal for volunteers; but at first, owing to the awe in which the Arabs held the Persians, the appeal met with no reply. In the midst of profound silence 'Umar rose and gave a soul-stirring address. Muthanna also encouraged the people by assuring them that the Persian could not withstand them. There was at the time a considerable gathering of people who had come from various parts to take the usual oath of allegiance to the new Caliph. Quite a respectable army was at once raised. Abu 'Ubaid, though he did not possess the distinction of being one of the Prophet's companions, was put in chief command.

Hirah lost and regained. Battle at Namaraq

Meanwhile, the Persians were busy making preparations for a fresh attack. They sank their domestic differences and sent out the famous Rustam at the head of a large army. Rustam's first move was to send emissaries to stir up revolt in the Arabian territory captured by the Muslims. The plan succeeded, and the Muslims lost all their possessions. Muthanna 'was forced to retreat to Hirah, where he waited for Abu 'Ubaid. In the meantime, one division of Rustam's army crossed the river and fell upon the Muslims. A battle thus took place at a place called Namaraq, in which the Persians were defeated. The other division of Rustam's army was yet on the Persian side of the river. Abu 'Ubaid made haste to cross to that side and defeated the division also. Thus did the Muslims regain possession of Hirah.


Battle of Jasr
Rustam was much infuriated at the news of the crushing defeat. He despatched a fresh army under the command of Bahman which encamped on the eastern side of the river, somewhere near Babel. The Muslims, after defeating the Persians, had returned to their old position at Hirah on the ' western bank. Thus the river divided the two hostile armies. Bahman sent word to Abu 'Ubaid, suggesting that one of the armies should cross the river in order to be able to engage in battle. Abu 'Ubaid held a council to decide which course to adopt. His officers were of opinion that the enemy should be left to cross the river. At this the Persian reproached the Muslims for becoming cowardly. Abu 'Ubaid's keen sense of honour could not bear this taunt and he ordered his men to cross the river to meet the Persians on their own ground. The river was crossed, but the space on the other bank was too narrow for action. Besides, there were many elephants in the Persian army. The Arab steeds, unaccustomed to the sight of such huge creatures, took fright and would not face them. The Muslim soldiers jumped down from their horses, and made a dash against the elephants -- men against elephants! This was a most reckless, though a most heroic, attempt. Abu 'Ubaid perished in the struggle, being trampled by an elephant. The tide of elephants could not be checked, and the Muslim army in utter consternation beat a retreat to the riverside. Someone had in the meantime broken the bridge in the hope that the absence of means of escape would infuse the retreating Muslims with the courage of despair. But this only added to the consternation and many threw themselves into the river. When Muthanna beheld this alarming scene he at once had the bridge constructed again and himself rushed to check the enemy. He effected a successful retreat of the whole army over the bridge. But many veterans perished in this heroic struggle, while those recently recruited took to flight. Out of an army of 9,000, only 3,000 remained under the standard of Muthanna. Those, however, who fled were so overwhelmed with shame that for a long time they did not go back to their homes. The history of Islam at this period presents no other event so disastrous. The battle is known as the battle of Jasr or the battle of the Bridge.


Persia again defeated at Buwaib

When the news of this disaster reached Madinah, 'Umar immediately despatched couriers in all directions calling for fresh volunteers. It was now a question of the defence of the homeland all over Arabia, and the chiefs of the Christian tribes also came to Madinah with thousands of men as their quota towards the cause of national defence. Had it not been a question purely of the preservation of national independence, there is no reason why thousands of Christians should have so enthusiastically flocked to the standard of Islam to fight the battles of Muslims against non-Muslims. A considerable army was thus raised and despatched to the help of Muthanna under the command of Jarir. After the battle of Jasr, Bahman, the Persian general, had hastened back to the capital as he had been apprised of an insurrection there. At that time the capital of Persia was Mada’in, situated on the Tigris, some fifteen miles from modern Baghdad and some fifty from the battlefield. The insurrection having been suppressed, the Persians again despatched a large army under Mahran. The two armies met at a place called Buwaib, somewhere near Kufah, The Persians were on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the Muslims on the western. This time it was the Persians who crossed the river, and they were defeated after a hard and bloody contest. Mahran himself was slain by a Christian soldier of the army of Islam. The Persians fled in utter confusion. But, finding the way to the bridge already blocked, they returned to the charge and perished on the field in large numbers.


Sa'd appointed generalissimo A.H. 14 (A.D. 635)

The fire of revenge once more blazed up in Persia. There was at the time a woman on the throne. She was dethroned and Yazdejird, a young prince of 16, was made king. Domestic feuds were all forgotten. Secret machinations were as usual employed to spread anarchy in Muslim possessions. Once more Muthanna had to retreat, this time far back to the old frontier of Arabia. Arabia was also astir as never before. Proclamation of jihad was made all over the land. The Caliph was anxious in person to take the command, but the council of advisers did not approve. Sa'd ibn Abi-Waqqas was chosen for the chief command and given a detailed plan of battle. At the head of a large army he marched to the frontier. At a distance of three days' journey from Kufah, he encamped, surveyed the situation and wrote a detailed account to the Caliph. Muthanna had already succumbed to the wounds he had received at the battle of Jasr before the arrival of Sa'd. Before his death, however, he had left detailed instructions for Sa'd, which his brother now communicated to the general. The total strength of the Muslim army stood at 30,000. The Caliph sent instructions to encamp at Qadisiyah, and there, with the mountain in the rear, to draw up the army in regular martial array. The Caliph also desired that, before opening hostilities, envoys should be sent over to the Court of Persia with the message of Islam. So confident was he of the intrinsic beauties of the teachings of Islam and of its peaceful principles that he did not consider it impossible to vanquish the foe with the sword of truth rather than that of steel even when passions were running high. Mada'in, the capital of Persia, was forty miles from the Muslim encampment. Forthwith envoys galloped on horseback, obtained audience of the king and conveyed to him the message of Islam. They were laughed at, ridiculed and scorned. "You are a contemptible people," retorted Yazdejird. "Undoubtedly we were so," replied the Muslim spokesman, "we were a people of no consequence. But God raised a Prophet in our midst who purged us of all those low and base things and put us on the path of virtue. Should you also accept this message, we are all brothers; otherwise it is not possible for .us at this stage to give up hostilities without your agreeing to pay us tribute." Hearing this Yazdejird could not control himself and very harshly turned the envoys out. One of them was even made to bear a basket full of earth, to impress upon them that they were a mean people and would be made thus to work as slaves for the Persians. The Muslim deputies, however, were not so easily depressed. They took it as a happy augury and brought away the basket with the earth to their own camp, saying that with their own hands the Persians had made over their land to them. What unshakable faith!


Battle of Qa'disiyah 14 A.H. (635 A.D.)
Persia mustered all its strength this time for a decisive blow. An army of one hundred and twenty thousand was raised, and put under the command of their greatest war hero, Rustam. Though this was four times the Muslim numbers, yet there was hesitation in the Persian ranks to take the field against a foe of whom they had by this time had sufficient experience. But an army so stupendous could not long be kept unoccupied without much damage to the country-side where it was encamped. At length, Rustam had to come out. Once more the Muslims tried for peace, the envoy offering Rustam the same terms as were offered to the youthful king. Rustam was much infuriated and boasted that he would smash the whole of Arabia to pieces. The following day, they filled up the canal that separated the two armies, thus preparing a way to cross the enemy's sidle. The Persian army advanced. Sa'd was feeling unwell and was unable to move about. He directed operations from his sick bed. This was a most bloody battle, lasting for three whole days. The first day's battle is known as Yaum al-Armath or the day of confusion; the second day's as Yaum al-A-ghwath or the day of succour; and the third day's as Yaum al-'Imas or the day of distress. On the very first day arrived the Syrian division, originally stationed in Mesopotamia, to reinforce the Muslim army. On the first two days fortune fluctuated, but both sides kept their respective grounds. Losses on the Persian side were heavier. The third day also presented the same appearance. The wall of Persian elephants would not let the Muslim horsemen advance. At length Qa ‘qa’ managed to pull down two of the beasts and as a result all the rest fled in terror. The fury of the battle was, however, unabated and it continued throughout the night. When day broke, Qa’qa’ took a handful of the most daring soldiers and rushed upon Rustam. This was a signal for the whole army to turn that way. Rustam, seeing this jumped down from his high seat, was wounded  and, while running away, was recognised and killed by a Muslim soldier. With the death of the commander-in-chief, the Persian troops took to flight. Thus this most terrible battle of Qadisiyah came to a close. A large quantity of spoil fell into the hands of the Muslims. Casualties on the Muslim side during all three days numbered 8,500, but the Persians suffered a much heavier loss. This took place in the month of Ramadan, 14 A.H., corresponding to October, 635 A.D.


Sa'd's advance on Mada'in. The Western part evacuated by Persians, 15 A.H. (636 A.D.)

The battle of Qadisiyah was a decisive one in the campaign of Mesopotamia. It completely broke the strength of Persia. The defeated army took refuge in Babel. After a short stay at Qadisiyah, Sa'd advanced on Babel and, driving the enemy out, took possession of the whole of that strip of territory. The Persians took shelter within the walls of Bahrasher, the part of the capital on the western bank of the Tigris, the real capital being on the eastern bank. With the sanction of the Caliph, after a few months, in the year 15 A.H., Sa'd marched against the capital. Several skirmishes took place on the way. At some distance from Mada'in, the queen-mother in person came out at the head of the army to stem the Muslim advance but was defeated. The victorious army pushed forward to the capital and, on beholding the palaces of the Chosroes, Sa'd burst out into an exclamation of joy: "Allah-u-Akbar," he shouted, "this day the Prophet's prophecy has been fulfilled," referring to the incident when the Prophet, while engaged in digging a ditch around Madinah before the battle of Ahzab, observed that he had just then been shown in a spiritual phenomenon known as kashf-the palaces of the Chosroes and that the angel Gabriel had informed him that his followers would possess them. At length, Sa'd laid siege to the western part of the capital. The siege lasted for months and at last the Persians could no longer hold out. They evacuated this part of the town, taking refuge in the eastern part. Thus the whole of the territory between the Euphrates and the Tigris, which is Mesopotamia proper, came into the possession of the Muslims.


Fall of Mada'in, 16A.H. (637 A.D.)

Now the situation was that on the western bank of the Tigris were encamped the Muslim troops, whereas the eastern was occupied by the Persians. This state continued for some time when, at last, Sa'd explained to his soldiers the danger of their position. All boats, he said, were in the possession of the enemy who might swoop down on them any time they chose, whereas the Persians were immune from attack. Their own situation was, therefore, unsafe until the enemy were ejected from their stronghold on the eastern bank. There was only one way open to them; somehow they must screw up courage and cross the river. Now the Tigris is a stream of great depth and velocity. The Muslims had no boats. But they possessed one thing-indomitable pluck before which could stand neither mountains nor rivers. Six hundred of the bravest men were picked out and divided into ten detachments of sixty each. The first sixty threw their horses into the river and in the teeth of the swift current gained the opposite bank. Their example was followed by the other detachments. This feat of rare valour was displayed under the very eyes of the Persians, who, beholding this wonderful performance, were seized with unspeakable terror and fled in utter consternation, crying, "Genii! genii have come!" Yazdejird had already removed his treasures and the ladies of his household to Hulwan. Now that he heard this terrible news, he also took to flight. In the month of Safar, 16 A.H., corresponding to March, 637 A.D., Sa'd entered Mada'in and, while thus marching through the town in triumph, he had on his lips that prophetic verse of the Qur'an: "How many the gardens they left, and springs and crops and magnificent mansions and luxuries in which they lived! Even so; and We gave them as a heritage to another people" (44: 25-28). It was without doubt a clear sign of Divine might that a small nation, looked upon with contempt and whose envoy was sent back with a basket of dust on his head  that such an insignificant nation overthrew a most mighty empire with no more than 30,000 men. Silver, gold and diamonds, the spoils of war, when collected, made a considerable heap. One-fifth, including the Chosroes' robes and ornaments and a highly precious carpet inlaid with diamonds, was sent to Madinah. Fifteen- years before, when the Prophet was running away for his life from Makkah to Madinah and a price was set on his head, dead or alive, a certain man named Suraqah had gone out in search of the precious fugitive. It so happened, however, that every time Suraqah came within reach of the Prophet his horse stumbled and fell. Seeing that some hidden Power protected the Prophet, the pursuer repented of his conduct and on bended knees asked for pardon. But he had more than a pardon. "Suraqah," said the Prophet, "I see the gold bracelets of the Chosroes on thy wrists." And lo! the spoils that came to Madinah actually included a pair of the Persian king's gold bracelets. Suraqah was immediately sent for and made to wear them, and the joy of the faithful knew no bounds when they saw the prophecy of their beloved Master come out so literally true. When 'Umar beheld the enormous riches brought as spoils, tears came to his eyes. On being asked what made him weep at that moment of joy, the Caliph said: "I fear lest this wealth and comfort should ultimately cause the ruin of my people." And 'when Ziyad, who had escorted the spoils to the capital, asked the Caliph's permission for the army to extend its conquests towards Khurasan, he positively forbade him: "I would much rather see an insurmountable mountain between Mesopotamia and those lands, so that neither they should be able to approach us nor we should be able to approach them". 


Persians’ advance on and defeat at Jalula A.H. 16 (A.D. 637)

The eastern part of Mada'in fell in the year 16 A.H. Sa'd encamped here for the summer months which passed off peacefully. Yazdejird took refuge in Hulwan, about a hundred miles to the north of Mada'in, Once more he ordered the Persian forces to advance and a part of his army occupied Jalula, a very strongly fortified place with a rampart and a deep trench around it. Sa'd sent for the Caliph's permission to adopt counter-measures, on receipt of which he despatched a division 12,000 strong under Qa'qa' to meet the Persians. Siege was laid to Jalula but the besieged were in unbroken communication with Hulwan, from where they regularly received all help. The siege dragged on for eighty days, before the Persians were again defeated. Yazdejird shifted his headquarters along with the residue of his forces to Ray. Qa'qa' proceeded to Hulwan, took possession of it and left a garrison there. 

Battle of Takrit 16 A.H. 637 A.D. Christian tribes embrace Islam. Mosul occupied

For the moment all was quiet so far as Persia was concerned. There was no apprehension of another attack. But in the meanwhile war clouds were gathering in the north. At Takrit, about a hundred miles from Mada'in, Roman forces were mustering strong. They had also won over some Christian Beduin tribes. To meet this new danger, the Muslim army marched northward. The two armies met at Takrit. As usual, the Muslims sent envoys to the Christian tribes with the message of Islam with the result that these tribes embraced the faith and joined hands with the Muslim forces. These were the three tribes of Ayad, Taghlib and Namar. The Roman army sustained a crushing defeat. The Muslims advanced further and took possession of Mosul. Takrit and Mosul were both parts of Jazirah, a province of Mesopotamia. It was the concourse of the Roman forces that compelled Muslims to attack these places. They never invaded Jazirah until the people of that part had, with the help of Roman forces, first attacked them. But more of this later on in the course of discussion on the Syrian wars. 

Basrah and Kufah founded, 17 A.H.

While Sa'd was busy fighting in upper Mesopotamia,
was not unmindful of the southern part, to strengthen which he directed 'Utbah to take possession of Ubullah, a sea-port on the Persian Gulf. This 'Utbah did in the year 14 A.H. with the help of a battalion which he took with him from Bahrain, In the vicinity of the place three years later, in the year 17 A.H., was founded the town of Basrah. Towards the north sprang up the town of Kufah. Thus both these towns, which ultimately developed into big centres, were founded during the reign of 'Umar. 

Damascus conquered, 14 A.H. (635 A.D.)
To turn to the Syrian theatre of war. It will be recollected that in a pitched battle at Ajnadain the Muslims had defeated the Roman force, about 250,000 strong, and that news of this brilliant victory arrived at Madinah just at the time when Abu Bakr was on his deathbed. After this disaster, Heraclius took refuge in Antioch, whereas the Muslim general, Khalid, marched on Damascus in the year 14 A.H. Damascus, capital of Syria from ancient days, is situated in a most fertile valley known for the charm of its natural scenery as the paradise of the world. It is also a flourishing centre of commerce. Khalid, keeping in view the importance of the town, laid siege to it after great preparations. The siege lasted for six' full months. Heraclius sent reinforcements to the besieged from Hims but Khalid despatched a detachment to block their way. The cold of Damascus was very trying for the dwellers of the desert but rather than give up the siege, they put up with this hardship. One, night on the occasion of a festival, intelligence was brought to Khalid that the whole town had given itself up to drinking and merry-making. Taking advantage of the situation, he took a handful of his bravest men scaled the rampart, jumped down and, killing the guard, flung the gate open. The Muslims rushed in. The besieged saw that resistance was of no avail and they themselves opened the gate at the other end of the town to the division under Abu 'Ubaidah. For this reason the whole town was granted immunity. Neither prisoners nor spoils were taken. The conquest of Damascus took place in the year 14 A.H., corresponding to 635 A.D. 

Battle of Fihl

It has been noticed above that Heraclius sent reinforcements for the relief of the Roman garrison at Damascus which however, could not find their way to their destination. These forces together with others were therefore directed towards Ardan as the next rallying point. Khalid advanced that way and encamped at Fihl, Impressed by the determination and perseverance of the Muslims, the Christians made advances for peace. Khalid deputed Mu'adh to discuss peace terms. During the discussion, the Christians, trying to overawe the Muslim envoy, referred to their large army and abundance of supplies. Mu'adh in reply quoted the Quranic verse: "How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah's permission" (2: 249). No agreement could be arrived at with regard to the peace terms. The Muslims' demand was the same as in the case of Persia, whereas the Christians were only trying to buy them off. The following day, a Christian envoy came to the Muslim camp with the offer of two dinars per head to the whole army, provided it departed. The matter was at length referred to arbitration by the sword. A bloody battle was fought in which the Romans, 50,000 strong, were defeated. (Muir places this battle before the capture of Damascus). The victory brought the whole of the territory of Ardan into the possession of Muslims. Wherever the people surrendered, the Muslims guaranteed them, as some of the terms of peace, perfect protection of their lives and property and of their churches. The only condition on the Muslim side was that some pieces of land should be utilized for the erection of mosques. 


Battle of Hims

After the capture of Ardan, the Muslim army advanced towards Hims, and after some feeble resistance this town also surrendered. From her Khalid proceeded further but instructions from the Caliph stopped him from pushing on. This also shows that all that the Muslims wanted was to take possession of places which originally formed part of Arabia, and with that to bring warfare to a close. Consequently, the whole army retraced its steps. Abu 'Ubaidah encamped at Hims and 'Amr ibn 'As at Ardan, while Khalid returned to Damascus. 


Battle of Yarmuk, A.H. 15 (A.D. 636)

The Caesar felt greatly crest-fallen at the fall of three important centres like Damascus, Ardan and Hims and with full enthusiasm began to raise a large army. Couriers rushed to all parts of the empire with orders that all available men must at once be sent. A huge army gathered at Antioch. When news of this came to the Muslim camp, Abu 'Ubaidah forthwith held council with his officers. It was unanimously agreed that the situation was extremely critical and that a small army like theirs could not withstand the daily swelling tide of the enemy's ranks. Nor was there any near prospect of reinforcements arriving from Madinah. The territory occupied, it was decided, must be evacuated. This was accordingly done. Abu 'Ubaidah gave up his position at Hims and returned towards Damascus. On leaving Hims, however, he ordered that the whole amount of jizyah realised from the people of Hims should be returned to them. jizyah, he said, was a tax in return for protection. When they could no longer give that protection, they had no right to keep the money. The whole amount was consequently withdrawn from the treasury and made over to the people who were thus being left to the mercy of the enemy and who were all either Christians or Jews. In vain will the critic ransack the dusty pages of history for another such brilliant spot, such scrupulous regard for the rights of citizenship in time of war. The treatment by Muslims of the inhabitants was such that, at their departure, Christians as well as Jews actually shed tears and prayed God to bring them back. Muir, after admiring the leniency of the Arab conquerors towards the conquered and their justice and integrity, quotes a Nestorian Bishop of the time: "These Arabs to whom God has accorded in our days the dominion are become our masters; but they do not combat the Christian religion; much rather they protect our faith; they respect our priests and our holy men, and 'make gifts to our churches and our convents" (p. 128). 

The retreat from Hims had its repercussion in other parts. Some parts of Ardan had also to be evacuated. The armies of Abu 'Ubaidah and 'Amr ibn
'As rallied at Yarmuk, where reinforcement previously despatched from Madinah also arrived. The total strength of the Muslim army was between thirty to forty thousand. The Romans marched down on them with a large force of two hundred thousand. Before the commencement of hostilities, there were negotiations for peace. The Romans again tried to buy off the Muslims who demanded payment of tribute as recognition of defeat. What unwavering fortitude!
Two hundred thousand were ready to fall upon them but their faith was unshaken. Truth, they said, must triumph. At length a bloody battle ensued in which even Muslim women participated. The Muslims were repulsed several times, and once they were thrust back to their encampment from where the women-folk reproached them and urged them on once more against the foe. They fought desperately, none caring for his life, each trying to excel in valour and rushing into the very thick of the enemy. The Romans lost their footing and took to their heels. Three thousand Muslim martyrs fell on the field and the number of Christian casualties was very large. When Heraclius heard of the defeat, he left for Constantinople.

The battle of Yarmuk occupies the same position in the Syrian campaign as that of Qadisiyah in the Persian. Like Qadisiyah it was a decisive battle. Thereafter, all the Syrian towns surrendered one by one - Qinnasrin, Halb, Antioch and so forth. Some of the people joined the faith of Islam but the bulk of the population stuck to Christianity and paid jizyah. The people of one place Jarjoma, neither embraced Islam nor paid jizyah, Peace was concluded with them on the condition that, if needed, they would fight on the Muslim side. This treaty shows that the Muslims wanted nothing but peace and tranquillity; and it was only to establish permanent peace that they were fighting. 


Jerusalem capitulates, 15A.H. (Jan. 637 A.D.)

When Abu Bakr first sent an expedition to Syria, he divided the army into three or four divisions, each to advance to a particular part of the country. The division under the command of 'Amr ibn 'As was detailed for the province of Palestine, but he was repeatedly required to leave his own front and go over to Damascus to reinforce the small Muslim force engaged there. Jerusalem, therefore, had not so far been captured. After the fall of Yarmuk, the Muslim forces were not much in requisition in that area and siege was therefore, laid to Jerusalem. In addition to these forces, Abu 'Ubaidah also, relieved of his campaign in the north, turned to the help of the besiegers. When Artaban (Aretion) heard of this, he slunk off to Egypt with his army. This incident, by the way, is worth noting in connection with the later conquest of Egypt. The inhabitants of Jerusalem offered to capitulate on condition that the Caliph in person came over and signed the treaty. The holy temple at Jerusalem being the sanctuary of the Israelite prophets, the Muslims respected it as they respected those prophets. 'Umar, therefore, held a consultation and it was decided that the condition should be accepted. Consequently, 'Umar left Madinah for Jerusalem. This journey of one who was the King not only of Arabia but also of Mesopotamia and Syria is unique for its simplicity. In the same simple coarse dress as he usually wore, with no large retinue, 'Umar set out with just a few men, entrusting affairs of state to the care of 'Ali. Khalid and other officers received him at Jabiyah. He was, however, much displeased at the rich costumes they were wearing, and when one was brought for him, he refused to put it on, retaining his usual simple dress. The treaty was drawn up and signed, and it is produced below to show the treatment of Muslims towards people of other persuasions: 


Treaty of Jerusalem

"This is the covenant of peace which 'Umar, the servant of God and the commander of the faithful, has made with the people of Jerusalem. This peace which is vouchsafed to them guarantees them protection of life, of property, of churches, of crosses, of those who set up, display and honour these crosses. Their churches shall not be used as dwelling houses, nor shall they be dismantled, nor shall they or their compounds, their crosses and their belongings be in any way damaged. They shall be subjected to no compulsion in matters of faith, nor shall they be in any way molested. No Jews shall reside with them in Jerusalem. It is incumbent on the people of Jerusalem that they should pay the jizyah as people of other towns do. They must also turn out Greeks and robbers. Whoever of the Greeks leaves the town, his life and property shall be protected till he should reach a place of safety, and whoever should stay in Jerusalem, he shall be protected and he must pay jizyah like the rest of the inhabitants. And whoever should wish to go away with the Greeks and leaves behind their churches and crucifixes, there is protection for them as well. Their lives, properties, churches and crosses shall be protected till they reach a place of safety. Whatever is contained in this deed is under the covenant of God and His Messenger and under the guarantee of his successors and the faithful, as long as the inhabitants pay the jizyah. "This treaty was drawn up in the year 15 A.H., and was signed by Khalid ibn Walid, 'Amr ibn 'As, 'Abd al Rahman ibn 'Auf and Mu'awiyah as witnesses. The signature of Khalid on this document may, by the way, be helpful in removing a doubtful point of chronology as to when this renowned general was recalled by 'Umar. This evidence establishes for certain that till the year 15 A.H., at least, he was still holding his exalted position; otherwise, in his stead there should have been the signature of Abu 'Ubaidah. Christian historians have recorded that when the Christian Patriarch was showing the Caliph round the antiquities of the town, the hour for Muslim prayers arrived. At that time they were within a most ancient church, the church of the Resurrection. The Patriarch suggested that the Caliph should say his prayers there. He refused the kindly offer with thanks, saying his prayers neither there nor in the famous church of Constantine, where prayer-carpets had already been spread out. "Should we say our prayers here," he observed, "Muslims might someday claim the right to erect a mosque in this place." With such scrupulousness he protected the sanctity of Christian places of worship from violation even at some future time. This is the example of toleration, it must be remembered, set by the immediate disciples of the Prophet. If during the long history of Islam, any Muslim conqueror may have transgressed the limit, Islam cannot justly be held responsible. 


Greek efforts to expel Muslims from Syria, 17A.H. (638 A.D.)

In the year 17 A.H., the Caesar, at the instigation of the people of Jazirah made another attempt to regain possession of Syria. Jazirah is the territory situated to the north of Mesopotamia. The Muslim armies, after the subjugation of Mesopotamia, never advanced beyond, either to the north or to the east. The Caliph did not want to take one step beyond what was indispensable in the interest of the defence of Arabia. Syria was conquered; but not a soldier was marched into the neighbouring province of Asia Minor-a country in no way inferior to Syria in point of natural wealth and beauty. And, what is more, the power of Islam had by now immensely increased and money was abundant. But territorial extension was never the object of Muslims. They were fighting for the protection of their homeland and, now that this object was achieved and the dismembered Arab tribes were re-amalgamated with the motherland, all warfare was stopped. But their enemies would not let them rest. After every defeat, they at once set to planning another attack. Consequently at the invitation of the people of Jazirah, the Caesar once more landed his troops on the soil of Syria by the sea-route. Antakiyah (Antioch) opened its gates to the invaders. Qinnasrin, Halb and other northern towns also rose in open revolt. The people of Jazirah advanced with an army 30,000 strong. It was a critical situation. Abu 'Ubaidah rallied whatever troops he could at Hims, at the same time sending urgent word to the Caliph. Couriers were hurried in all directions with instructions that all available forces must at once proceed to the help of Abu'Ubaidah. The situation was so serious that the Caliph in person .set out for Syria. In the meantime, however, the tables were turned. Under orders from Madinah, a division of the Muslim army advanced on Jazirah. These people were now alarmed at the safety of their own home. The Arab tribes that had mustered to the help of the Greeks also repented and secretly sent word to Khalid, promising to withdraw their forces. The Muslims wasted no time in taking advantage of the weakened position of the foe. Without waiting for reinforcements from Mesopotamia or Madinah, Abu 'Ubaidah led the attack. The enemy forces were once more routed.

Conquest of Jazirah

It was necessary to punish this transgression on the part of the people of Jazirah. 'Umar consequently ordered Sa'd to invade that territory. The Muslim army was small but the people of Jazirah having suffered a reverse with Caesar's army, did not consider it worthwhile to offer serious resistance. A few skirmishes here and there were all that took place and thus in the year 17 A.H. Jazirah was added to the territory of Islam. 

Removal of Khalid, 17A.H.
It is not out of place, while narrating the events of the year 17 A.H., to touch upon two other important incidents of the same year. One of these is the removal of Khalid from command. There is no doubt about the fact that 'Umar did not like the war policy of Khalid, As early as the Arab rising after the Prophet's death, Khalid's treatment of
Malik ibn Nuwairah had given cause for offence, and though Khalid's explanation was accepted by Abu Bakr, 'Umar was not satisfied. Oftentimes Khalid was unduly severe on the field of battle, which 'Umar positively disliked. Nevertheless, on assuming the reins of government, he adopted as mild an attitude towards that general as possible and did not in any way interfere with him. His signature as witness to the treaty of Jerusalem shows that up to the conquest of that town, Khalid was in chief command of the Syrian army. It was after this that, in consequence of his refusal to 'render account for an item of expenditure, he was removed from command and put under Abu 'Ubaidah. In the year 17 A.H., Khalid gave an award of a thousand dinars to a certain poet. 'Umar disliked this extravagance and called for an explanation. At first, Khalid refused to give it, on which the Caliph ordered Bilal to handcuff him with his own turban-a mark that he was adjudged guilty. Then Khalid explained that he had given the money out of his private purse and, as a mark of acquittal, his hands were untied. Such strong handling of a renowned general whose exploits were the wonder of the world shows what spirit Islam had breathed into its votaries. The man at the top was as liable to answer for his conduct as the man at the bottom. This spectacle of human equality as displayed by Islam stands unrivalled in the annals of man. Later, Khalid returned to Madinah and personally pleaded his innocence before 'Umar. The Caliph assured him that he still loved and respected him, at the same time writing to the officers concerned that Khalid had been removed not in consequence of any displeasure incurred by him or of any misappropriation of funds. The only reason of his removal, 'Umar explained, was that he was afraid lest people should attribute the conquests of Islam to Khalid's skill and prowess; these were all from God. 


Plague of 'Amwas, 17-18 A.H.

The other incident worth mentioning is the epidemic of plague which broke out at 'Amwas in Syria in 17 A.H., and infected even Mesopotamia, continuing till 18 A.H. To devise preventive measures, 'Umar again set out for Syria. Abu 'Ubaidah and others came out some distance to receive the Caliph. On hearing details of the epidemic from the commander-in-chief, 'Umar called a council of the companions to consider the situation. A saying of the Prophet was also brought to his notice, forbidding a new-comer to visit a place stricken with plague as well as one already there to leave that place for another. Acting on this the Caliph gave up the idea of proceeding any further. "Art thou running away from the decree of God?" objected Abu 'Ubaidah. "Yes," replied the Caliph, "from one decree I am running away to another decree," meaning that if one place is plague-stricken according to the decree of God, another is safe by the same decree: Abu 'Ubaidah was instructed to shift his troops from the low land where they were encamped and scatter them on the hill tops. He gave immediate effect to the orders, but for himself it was too late. He had already caught the infection to which he succumbed while yet on the way. His death was followed by that of another illustrious companion, Mu’adh ibn Jabal. At length, 'Amr ibn 'As had the troops scattered over mountains and thus the epidemic was checked, but only after it had taken a toll of 25,000 lives from among the Muslims. 'Umar's order to remove the troops from the infected area throws light on the true significance of the Prophet's words. All that the Prophet meant was that people in infected area must not carry the infection to other inhabited places. The idea was to check its spread. It was by no means intended that those infected with plague must perish where they were. To remedy the ravages of plague, 'Umar undertook a journey to Syria for the third time. On the way he stopped at Ayla at the head of the Gulf of 'Aqabah as the guest of the bishop of the place. The Caliph's shirt, torn on the journey, was stitched by the bishop with his own hands. This shows what friendly relations existed at that time between Muslims and Christians. In this very year, i.e. A.H. 18, Arabia was visited with the calamity of a terrible famine, in which the Caliph in person did relief work like a common labourer. 


Egypt invaded, 19 A.H. (640 A.D.)

The third time when ‘Umar visited Syria in connection with the plague, 'Amr ibn 'As, who was in command of the army at the time, asked permission to invade Egypt. History does not record the circumstances that called for such an expedition. But the silence of history must by no means be misconstrued to imply that there were no weighty reasons for such a measure, that it was just a passion for territorial extension, or (as some Christian historians have put it) the army's idleness called for some occupation. It has been noticed that a most virulent epidemic had wrought havoc in the Muslim army, having thinned its ranks by no less than 25,000. The danger of an invasion by the Caesar had not as yet disappeared. Under these circumstances, the Muslims could ill-afford to quit Syria. It was, as Sir William Muir puts it, after much hesitation that the Caliph gave his consent. And what was the army with which 'Amr ibn 'A~ set out to invade Egypt? Just 5,000 strong! No sane general would, with such a force and under such circumstances venture out on an expedition of such magnitude without urgent reasons. The apprehension, it seems, was that the Caesar was about to march on Syria through Egypt and it was to check this advance that 'Umar permitted his Syrian commander to proceed to Egypt. The last invasion of the Caesar at the invitation of the people of Jazirah, in which the Muslims lost Antioch, had also been made from Alexandria, the famous sea-port of Egypt. And it is likely that this time .invasion was again contemplated by that route. It must be recollected in this connection that while 'Amr was advancing on Jerusalem in the year A.H. 15, Artaban had withdrawn his troops to Egypt. These troops were still there, for the name of this same Artaban is mentioned in connection with the siege of Fustat. It is recorded that when Muqauqis concluded a truce for five days, Artaban was against it. Thus the permission for invasion was neither asked for, nor given light-heartedly. Dark clouds of danger were gathering in Egypt. Artaban with his troops was there. The Caesar had previously invaded Syria through Egypt. He might have been planning another invasion from that quarter.

Fall of Fustat, 19 A.H. (640 A.D.)

In fine, 'Amr marched out against Egypt towards the close of the year 18 A.H. with only 5,000 men under his command. The army being so small, the Caliph contemplated recalling 'Amr, but he had already reached Egypt. Consequently, reinforcements were despatched to his help under the command of Zubair. 'Amr reached the Egyptian frontier by the route of Wadi'al-Arish on Dhi-l-Hijjah 10, 18 A.H., corresponding to December 12, 639. After encounters at a few towns on the way, such as Farama and Bilbeis, siege was at last laid to Fustat. This was a most strongly fortified fort on the bank of the Nile- with the royal army for its garrison. The siege lasted for seven months. At last Zubair with a handful of men scaled the wall of the fort by means of a ladder and fell on the besieged with shouts of Allahu Akbar. The Christians were seized with terror and laid down their arms. The entire garrison was granted amnesty. Thus in the year 19 A.H., the lower part of Egypt was dismembered from the Roman Empire and came into Muslim possession.

Fall of Alexandria, 20 A.H. (641 A.D.)
Hearing of the fall of Fustat, the Caesar landed another division of troops at Alexandria. 'Amr obtained the Caliph's permission to advance on that port. On the way, the combined Roman and Egyptian forces opposed the Muslim advance but were repulsed. Siege was at length laid to Alexandria. Communication by sea was, however, maintained unbroken by the enemy, and the besieged received regular supplies. The siege consequently dragged on for a considerable length of time. But at last the town was captured in 20 A.H., corresponding to 641 A.D., and the whole of Egypt thus came into the possession of Muslims. On instructions from the Caliph, Fustat was .made the capital. Alexandria, however, had been left without a strong garrison and, finding it thus exposed, the Caesar, during the reign of 'Uthman, once more captured it with his fleet. In the year 25 A.H., 'Amr ibn 'As wrested it from the Romans once more. .


Library of Alexandria

In connection with the conquest of Alexandria, one is naturally reminded of its famous library and the common allegation that it was burnt to ashes at the instance of 'Umar. Gibbon's conclusions are positive on the point. This famous historian has proved that the library was burnt long before the Muslim conquest of the town. Muir also exonerates the Muslim conquerors from this charge. "The story of the burning of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs," says he, "is a late invention."


The Suez Canal

Besides his most brilliant exploits in the field of arms, one of the great achievements of 'Amr ibn 'As was in the field of engineering. At the instance of 'Umar, he had a canal dug, connecting the waters of the Nile with the Red Sea. This canal was very useful in transporting the corn of Egypt to Yanbu ', the Arabian seaport on the Red Sea. It remained navigable for eighty years, after which, getting filled up with sand, it became unserviceable.


Campaign in Khuzistan, 16-19 A.H. (637-641 A.D.)

"Turning once more to the eastern provinces of the Caliphate we find the cautious policy of 'Umar still tending to restrain the Muslim arms within the limits of the Arabian 'Iraq, or the country bounded by the Western slopes of the Persian range. But they were soon, by the force of events, to burst the barrier." In these words does Muir admit that the Muslims were averse to carrying their arms beyond the limits of Arab settlements but were actually dragged out by sheer force of circumstances. This is how a new development took place. The Governor of Bahrain, who occupied the Western coast of the Persian Gulf, was alarmed at the enemy's movements on the opposite coast. In the face of danger brewing in such proximity, he could not sit still. To nip the hostile movement in the bud, he crossed the Gulf and landed his forces on the opposite coast in the year 16 A.H. He, however, found himself caught in the enemy's snare and was not able even to beat a retreat. The Caliph sent a division of army under 'Utbah to his rescue. The rescue was effected but the moral effect of the retreat on the neighbouring provinces was disastrous. Hurmuzan, the Governor of Ahwaz, a province near Basrah, who had fought against the Muslims in the battle of Qadisiyah and fled back to his own place, now began to give fresh trouble. "He began now to make raids upon the Arab outposts, and 'Utbah resolved to attack him," says Muir. This was in the year 17 A.H. With the help of a Beduin tribe, 'Utbah succeeded in ejecting the enemy from Ahwaz. According to the treaty that was concluded, the province was ceded to the Muslims and entrusted by 'Utbah to the same Beduin tribe. Soon after, however, 'Utbah died, and Mughirah was appointed Governor of Basrah in his place. Hurmuzan again picked a quarrel with the Beduin tribe on some frontier dispute and, violating the treaty, waged war against the Muslims. He was again defeated and Ahwaz once more fell into Muslim hands. The victorious Muslim army wanted to push their victory forward beyond Ahwaz, but the Caliph again withheld permission.

Hurmuzan had fled eastward but was again granted immunity by the Muslims. This happened in the year 18 A.H. Shortly after this the defeated Persian monarch, Yazdejird, who had taken refuge in Merv, sent his emissaries into Persia, rousing the populace to insurrection. The attitude of Hurmuzan again became dubious and consequently, in the year 19 A.H., the Caliph sent orders to the forces of Kufah and Basrah to march against him under the command of Nu'man, With a large Persian army, Hurmuzan gave battle at Ram Hurmuz but was once again defeated, taking refuge in the castle of Shustar, some fifty miles to the north of Ahwaz. The castle remained besieged for several months. At last, discovering a secret entrance, Muslim soldiers entered the castle and captured it. Hurmuzan gave himself up on condition that he would be guaranteed a safe conduct to the presence of the Caliph, who might deal with him as he pleased.


Hurmuzan becomes a Muslim

When brought before 'Umar, Hurmuzan was dressed in the most gorgeous regal robes, followed by a long train of courtiers and attendants. The triumphant king, on the other hand, was at the time lying stretched on the ground wearing a coarse shirt. Fairly long contact with Muslims had already acquainted Hurmuzan with the virtues of Islam. Now, beholding with his own eyes the sublime simplicity of the Caliph, the truth of Islam instantaneously sank into his heart. How wonderful must be the force, he said to himself, which thus makes man indifferent to worldly attractions, which had thus transformed the master of many kingdoms and countless treasures into a hermit to whom gold and diamonds were no more than dust. The wealthiest king, yet leading the life of an indigent recluse! Thus musing within himself his heart had already fallen prey to the fascinating force of Islam but he would not as yet declare his faith, fearing lest this might be suspected as a subterfuge to save his skin. The king seated on the throne of dust was revolving in his mind the repeated treachery of the vanquished foe of the gorgeous costume and he did so in a mood of deep anguish. At last he spoke: "To pardon a man who has been the cause of shedding so much Muslim blood! Impossible!" Hurmuzan thereupon begged for a cup of water, which was given him. He hesitated. "How I can drink this water," he said, "unless I am assured that l will not be slain even before I drink it." "You are safe," rejoined the Caliph, "till you have drunk the cup." Forthwith he let the cup drop to the ground, saying that according to the pledged word of the Caliph, he could not be killed. 'Umar was surprised at the trick. Now that he was safe and his position secure against the suspicion of subterfuge, he recited aloud the Kalimah, saying that he was already a Muslim.


Ban against advance on Persia withdrawn, (641 A.D.)

'Umar had issued strict orders to stop all advance towards Persia. A deputation of Muslims waited upon him to implore him to withdraw the prohibition. Thus Muir writes: "The deputation which, along with the spoil of Tostar, carried al-Hurmuzan a prisoner to Madinah, throws light upon reasons that weighed with the Caliph to withdraw his long-standing embargo on a forward movement " "What is the cause," inquired 'Umar of the deputation, "that these Persian persistently break faith and rebel against us? May be, ye treat them harshly." "Not so," they answered; "but thou hast forbidden us to enlarge our boundary, and the king is in their midst to stir them up. Two kings can in no wise exist together until the one expels the other. It is not our harshness, but their king, that has incited them to rise against us after having made submission. And so it will go on until thou shalt remove the barrier and leave us to go forward and expel their king. Not till then will their hopes and machinations cease." The demand, continues the historian, was supported even by Hurmuzan and at last the Caliph was convinced that the restriction ought to be removed. To quote Muir again: "The truth began to dawn on 'Umar that necessity was laid upon him to withdraw the ban against advance. In self defence, nothing was left but to crush the Chosroes and to take entire possession of his realm." And yet again: "He was compelled at last by the warlike attitude of the Persian court to bid his armies take the field with the avowed object of dealing the empire a final blow." These last words from the pen of a Christian historian are clear and yet, in the face of this positive admission, 'Umar is accused, for his subjugation and annexation of Persia, of lust of loot and territorial extension. He was by no means inclined to resort to such a measure but, if allowed any longer lease, Persia would certainly have gathered strength and crushed Arabia. Circumstances thus forced the Caliph's reluctant hand.


Battle of Nihawand and conquest of Persia, 22 A.H. (643 A.D.)

As already stated, Yazdejird was fanning, from his refuge at Merv through his agents, the fire of another war against the Muslims over the length and breadth of Persia. He succeeded in enlisting the co-operation even of some independent kingdoms. A huge army, 150,000 strong, was rallied at Hamdan, with Firozan in chief command. Sa'd kept the Caliph informed of this general mobilization. The advance of this army would have been most dangerous to the Muslims. A counter-army was immediately raised and marched to Hulwan under the command of Nu'man, A little ahead at a place called Nihawand, the two armies met in the year 22 A.H. Nu'man was killed in the action but the laurels of victory fell to the Muslims. Most of the enemy's army perished. From Nihawand, the Muslim army advanced on Ray. In the meanwhile, Yazdejird fled to Ispahan and thence on to Kirman, finally taking refuge in Balkh. At Ray, the Persian army gave another battle under Isfandyar but was as usual defeated. Yazdejird was still active. With the help of Tartars and Chinese he kept up some show of fighting, but all to no purpose. In the meantime, Muslim forces had spread over the whole of Persia. Faris, Makran, Sajistan, Khurasan, Azarbaijan, all these provinces were one by one occupied. Thus the whole of Persia came completely under the rule of Islam. It is worthy of note that on this occasion while the tax known as jizyah was imposed in some parts, there were other adjacent parts where the people neither embraced Islam nor paid jizyah. They only agreed to render military assistance in time of need. The peace with Jurjan, for instance, was concluded on this very condition, viz., that the people who agreed to assist the Muslims in withstanding a foreign invasion would be exempt from jizyah. Likewise Shahr Baraz, an Armenian chief, concluded peace on the condition of military assistance and exemption from jizyah. Kirman and Sistan were conquered in the year 23 A.H.

Death of 'Umar, 23 A.H. (644 A.D.)

'Umar met his death at the hands of a Persian slave, Abu Lu'lu' (Firoz) by name, who had, under the influence of his Roman masters, turned Christian. He fell into the hands of Mughirah in Mesopotamia who, on his return home, took him along. Here he one day came with a complaint to the Caliph that his master realized from him two dirhams a day. He was told that this was not too much for a carpenter, which greatly incensed him. The following day at early dawn when the Caliph was conducting prayers, Abu Lu'lu' slipped forward and stabbed him. With unruffled composure 'Umar made 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Auf the Imam in his own place and went on with .his prayers. The assassin, after stabbing some other persons, committed suicide. When after prayers the Caliph was informed that the assailant was a Christian, he thanked God that he had not met his death at the hands of a Muslim. The wound was deep and the bowels had been cut. There was no hope of recovery. The first thing he did was to ask 'A'ishah's permission to be buried by the Prophet's side. Then for the election of his successor, he selected six most prominent men-'Uthman, 'Ali, Zubair,
Talhah, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, and 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Auf, and left the decision in their hands. Whoever from among themselves, he said, these six men, elected by a majority of votes should be made Caliph. Then he had the account of his debts brought to him. This, he said, should be paid out of his legacy. Wounded on Dhi-I-Hijjah 26, 23 A.H., he passed away four days later on Muharram 1,24A.H.


Reasons underlying the great conquests of 'Umar's reign

Of the glorious achievements of 'Umar, what strikes one as the most conspicuous, is the great conquests of Islam. That such vast territory should have been subjugated within the brief space of ten years is by itself a wonderful phenomenon, the more so when it is borne in mind that hostilities were started at one and the same time against two most mighty empires, each apparently possessed of power enough to trample Arabia under foot in days. But one's wonder knows no bounds when one beholds that on no field did the Muslim army exceed 40,000 whereas the enemy at times put into the field as large an army as 250,000. Of equipment, the Arabs had not a hundredth part of that possessed by those empires. The enemy, long used to warfare, had a good military organization, whereas the Arabs had never before seen rallies so vast nor had they ever experienced warfare abroad. In military training, the Arabs were as deficient as their opponents were skilled. Then the battles were fought not in Arabia but on the enemy's ground, where they had, besides abundant supplies, well-fortified strongholds. Notwithstanding all the odds favouring the enemy, what a wonder that, except at Jasr, not once were the Muslims defeated! European historians have assigned only two reasons for this: firstly, that the Persian and Roman Empires had considerably degenerated; and, secondly, that the prospect of spoils, rather of loot as they put it, had roused the martial spirit of the Muslims. Weakening of the Roman and Persian Empires That the empires of Persia and Rome were at the time undergoing a process of decay, though true to a certain extent, does in no way explain the conquests of Islam. They had undoubtedly lost much of their original power and glory. Their civilizations were things of the past and by "mutual warfare they had greatly undermined each other's power. But when all this has been said, the question still remains: Were .they too weak for Arabia? Certainly not. The Arabs were utterly insignificant compared to them even in this fallen state. Parts of Arabia were actually under their sway the northern part under the Caesar and the eastern under the Chosroes. The Arabs had such terror of them that even in parts other than their possessions, they did just as they pleased. Furthermore, the war was caused by the transgression of these two powers on the frontier. They were obviously conscious of their strength. If they had really been weak, as is alleged, their weakness should have manifested itself in some outward sign. They should have been unable to put enough forces into the field or the soldiers should have been ill-equipped. But history tells a different tale. They brought twice, thrice, nay even five times as large armies as the Muslims did. Of equipment too, their soldiers had abundance, offensive as well as defensive. Their common soldiers were from head to foot clad in iron. Thus, notwithstanding their comparative downfall from their original glory, either of these two empires was .still far too formidable for Arabia, and before their combined forces Arabia was absolutely insignificant. The hostilities were, in a way, against their combined forces, inasmuch as they were carried on simultaneously against both.

False charge of love of loot

In their second explanation of these conquests of Islam, European historians seem to reflect the modern mentality of their own lands but they have overlooked one most important factor in all expeditions for purposes of loot. Such expeditions are invariably undertaken by the strong against the weak, and not vice versa. It is a law of physical nature and as such insusceptible of change. Does it not work just the same in this twentieth century? Do not the strong nations of Europe dominate the weaker nations of the world under our own eyes, exploiting all the resources of their soil for their own aggrandizement? What is this but a more refined and, hence, less palpable form of loot? Such is this immutable law of physical nature. But, on the contrary, the history of mankind presents not one instance where a weak nation has assailed a strong one with a view to robbing it. All robbers take good care to see that their victim is not their superior in strength. No robbers would run the risk of waylaying a well-equipped army, knowing it to be so. There is yet another consideration which makes this explanation untenable. Love of money invariably begets love of life. People out for loot are incapable of feats of valour such as were displayed by the Muslims. Their foremost consideration is their own safety. The reckless courage with which Muslims fought the foe in these wars, regardless of life and death, should convince any fair-minded man that sordid love of loot could not inspire such invincible bravery. These men must have been inspired by a far nobler passion which made them oblivious of all personal considerations. To take up arms against Persia and Rome was, humanly speaking, to run into the very jaws of death, and no band of mere robbers could possibly think of doing so. It must have been something far higher that banished all fear of death from the hearts of Muslims. It was their high sense of duty.  Glorious deeds of Muslim soldiers A brief summary such as this is hardly the place to sketch in any great detail the most remarkable feats of valour, determination and self-sacrifice that Muslim soldiers displayed in these battles. The chapter they added to the history of warfare is resplendent with the most glorious deeds. To point to just a few, let us take the reader to the field of Jasr, where the Muslims suffered a defeat. Crossing the bridge, they find the enemy in battle array in a narrow space. In the forefront is the wall of elephants wearing loudly ringing bells. The Arab steeds take fright at so strange a scene and wheel round. Forthwith Abu 'Ubaidah, the commander, leaps to the ground sabre in hand. His example is followed by others. But for poor mortals to push back this moving wall is no easy task. Nevertheless the reckless daring with which they charged these giants is a sight for the gods to behold and admire. Sword in hand, Abu 'Ubaidah dashes against this wall and grapples with one of the beasts. The elephant pulls him down and with his stupendous weight crushes his body to pulp. A sight that would have unmanned even the strongest nerve only inspires greater courage in his followers. The dead commander's brother rushes to the scene, takes hold of the standard and dashes against the same animal. He meets with the same fate. Another follows and likewise falls. Another and yet another till seven most valiant men were crushed underneath that one beast. At the battle of Qadisiyah, Tulaihah rushed singlehanded into the ranks of enemy, 60,000 strong, in the dark of the night and, dealing death right and left, came back with a prisoner of war. At this very field, Abu Mihjan, the famous poet and a brave man, was one day found drunk and consequently put in the camp prison. As the battle raged hot, he saw from his dungeon that the Persians by numerical superiority were pushing the Muslims back. He could not bear the sight. His blood boiled within him and he implored Salma, the commander's wife, to unfetter him, promising to be back and put the same fetters on if he survived. No sooner was he released than, like a lion uncaged, he rushed upon the foe, sweeping rank after rank before him. In the evening when the battle stopped, he returned to the camp and with his own hands put on his fetters. When Sa'd, the commander, who had seen his daring deeds, came to know of it, he at once ordered his fetters to be taken off. A man of such daring and such spirit of self sacrifice, he observed, could not be kept a prisoner. Abu Mihjan's response was equally noble; he took an oath that never again would he touch a drop of wine. Mada'in was the scene of similar feats of fearless valour. The first man to throw his horse into the deep and rapid stream of the Tigris was the commander, Sa'd himself. Others followed, one by one, as if it were no more than a gallop on a level race-course, and this under the very eyes of the enemy watching from the opposite bank. At Fihl, in one of the Syrian battles, the centre of the enemy's army was repeatedly attacked by the Muslims but would not budge an inch from its position. Hisham Ibn 'Utbah, commander of a detachment, jumped from his horse and darted into the centre, swearing that he would either fix the standard of Islam there or perish in the attempt. At Hims, Shurahbil advanced alone towards the town. He was attacked by a troop of cavalry but he fought stubbornly, killed eleven men and put the whole troop to flight. At Yarmuk, when 'Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl saw the Muslims hard-pressed, his spirits were aroused. In his former days, he said, he had been fighting even against the Prophet. How could that day his steps recede before the infidels? Four hundred men fired with his enthusiasm also pledged their lives to repulse the foe.


They dashed against the enemy and it was the fiercest dash ever made. They fought a desperate fight and fell to the last man, but the enemy was repulsed. On another occasion Shurahbil, while surrounded by the enemy and fighting single-handed, was heard, while thus fighting, reciting the Quranic verse: "Allah has purchased of the faithful their lives and their property in return for this that they shall have paradise." And while thus reciting the verse he was calling aloud: "Let those who will have this Divine bargain come forward!" The Muslims had been pressed as far back as the female camp, but this supernatural call rallied them once more to the onslaught and the advancing enemy was hurled back. Too numerous to mention are the deeds of daring and devotion to duty shown by Muslim soldiers in these wars; the few examples quoted above will suffice to show that the Prophet had breathed an invincible spirit into them.


Muslims' sense of duty

The rank and file of Muslims, as these few events illustrate, were imbued with a feeling which made them accomplish such prodigies of valour and which removed from their hearts all fear of the overwhelming odds against them the feeling of confidence that in the eye of God it was their foremost duty to fight. They were swayed by one passion to do what God wanted them to do. Called upon in the name of God, they cared not for their lives nor could love for wives and children swerve them from the path of duty. Worldly riches were insignificant in their eyes. At that moment they were under the spell of one all consuming passion-the love of God. Every other consideration sank into insignificance. The Nation brought into being by the master-hand of the Prophet was characterised by two outstanding qualities. He had firmly implanted into their hearts faith in the existence of God and he had infused into them a high sense of duty, which to them, meant no more nor less than obedience to the will of the Lord. Their faith in God, deep rooted as it was, served as a never failing battery of power which electrified the whole of their beings. They were certainly not a nation who would cause so much as a pinprick to another for nothing. Far from it. They even put up with much at the hands of others with forgiving generosity. When, however, things were carried to an extreme and attempts were made to wipe truth out of existence, they behaved as lions. This exactly was the life drama of the Prophet himself. Personal persecution, ridicule, molestation, hardship-he submitted to all with patience and fortitude without ever thinking of striking back. But when the enemy, not content with that, actually unsheathed the sword to extirpate Islam, he was not the man to stand aside. With might and main-limited though it was he came out to defend the Truth. Three hundred against 1,000, 700 against 3,000, 1,500 against 15,000,-in spite of such disparity in numerical strength, it was not for him to shirk or shrink. These two words had no place in Islam. A tower of moral strength, though physically weak, he triumphed in spite of the odds against him. In the early Caliphate wars the same drama was being re-enacted. Muslims never offered molestation to their powerful neighbours. When, however, these neighbours, puffed up with the pride of their vast physical resources, rose to destroy the independence of Arabia, the Muslims, undaunted by either their numbers or their resources, made short work of them, and in the course of a few years the whole face of the map was changed. Their lives were a practical commentary on the Quranic verse: "How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah's permission" (2: 249). They demonstrated that success depends neither on numbers nor on armaments, but on the strength of heart born of a firm faith in God. As a matter of fact, they were a living proof of His existence. Humanity refuses to believe what a tremendous force is true faith in God. It is generally dismissed as superstition. These early sons of Islam,

however, demonstrated for all the world to see that, though  God is invisible, the great miracles that were wrought through connection 'with Him revealed Him too obviously for denial. Thus the true secret of the success of Muslims during the reigns of Abu Bakr and 'Umar lay in their force of conviction. It is true they had, in this respect, a great advantage over later generations of Islam. They had with their own eyes seen the whole drama of the Prophet's life. They had seen how one lone man arose to proclaim the name of the Lord, how not only his immediate relations but the whole of the country - idolaters, Jews and Christians - made common cause against him, how all their opposition melted away, how all that had been said in a state of helplessness ultimately proved true. They had watched this drama with their own eyes, and small wonder that a spark of the same faith kindled their own hearts. Moreover, through the same prophetic lips, they had also heard that, just as the opposition of the Arabs had, rather than injure Islam, served to help forward its growth and development, in like manner; the aggressions of the Caesar and the Chosroes would only bring about the downfall of their own empires. They had this happy prophecy from the Prophet's own lips and, filled with the conviction of its truth, what did they care for the vast numbers of the Persians and the Romans or their abundance of material strength?

Strength of character of the Muslim soldiers

It is undoubtedly true that these conquests brought Muslims immense wealth; and of this wealth they gladly availed themselves. But the fact remains that their hearts were free of all attachment to riches. The one dominating passion of the love of God had elevated them far above worldly attractions. Not that they were a race of hermits who would have nothing to do with the world and all the good things of this life. They lived this life and lived it in the fullest measure. They looked upon wealth as one of the gifts of God and appreciated it. But they never allowed it to capture their hearts. They knew too well that a nation devoted to the worship of Mammon in the long run becomes bankrupt of high morals. Many a time the Caliph 'Umar, when war-spoils were brought before him, expressed sorrow. In the wake of these worldly riches, he was afraid, might come their concomitants, ease and jealousy. Neither the fabulous wealth of the two richest empires nor the heaps of other things that fell into the hands of Muslims as fair spoil of war made the faintest impression on 'Umar. In the midst of all these appurtenances of luxury, dazzling to mortal eyes, he had within his bosom the same heart which the Prophet had filled with the love of God; even as on his person he had the same coarse patched costume of the days of need and poverty. Such was this Caliph, Emperor of Islam, 'Umar the Great, conqueror of three kingdoms. In fact, this rigid simplicity and detachment from worldly splendour characterised all those who had sat at the feet of the Prophet and learnt the true meaning of life from his lips. When these pupils of the Prophet found themselves transplanted, on diplomatic missions as ambassadors or envoys, from the stark simplicity of Arabia to the gorgeous splendours of the courts of the Caesar and the Chosroes, their equanimity was not disturbed by the faintest ripple. To them it was no more than a huge farce, dazzling yet hollow. Clad in garments worn and torn and with swords having no better scabbards than a few rags slung across their shoulders, they would walk across these magnificent halls as calm and composed as if moving about in one of the dusty streets of Madinah. Far from their being in any way impressed with the imposing spectacles of the courts of the Caesar and the Chosroes, it was the gay courtiers of those emperors who were struck, as these Muslims entered, with awe at their sublime simplicity. Before the battle of Qadisiyah, a Muslim deputation waited on Yazdejird, King of Persia. The King in a contemptuous tone reminded them that they were a low race and that, whenever they gave any trouble, a handful of border peasants were sent to put them right. On this Mughirah ibn Zararah sprang to his feet and replied that the King was right, that they had indeed been a fallen and misguided people, ever quarrelling among themselves and plunged in vice, but since God had raised a Prophet in their midst they were purged of all those evils and elevated to high position.


Rabi ibn 'Amir was sent to negotiate with Rustam, the Persian Commander-in-Chief. And what was the uniform of this Muslim envoy? For a belt he had a common rope of camel's hair tied around his waist, and from this belt hung his sabre, the scabbard of which was bandaged in rags. And an attendant? What need had he of any such luxury? All alone he entered the court, leading the steed that had brought him and as he entered he slung the bridle of the animal across a gorgeous reclining pillow and walked straight to the throne at the other end, without heeding in the least all the splendour around him. Again, when Mughirah was deputed on the same mission he found the court in perfect array. He walked straight on and took his seat by the side of Rustam himself. When the courtiers objected, he administered a sound rebuke. "It is not the custom among us," he said, "that one man should be seated on a throne as if he were an object of worship while all the rest should sit below with their heads bowed down." Mu'adh was sent to the court of Syria. When shown to a seat on the magnificent carpet, he bluntly refused to sit there. "I do not want to sit on a carpet," he said, "that has been prepared by robbing the poor." Thus saying, the envoy seated himself on the bare ground. The Romans remonstrated, saying that they wanted to do him honour and that that was the place for slaves. "If it is a sign of slavery," he replied, "to sit on the ground, who can be a greater slave of God than myself 1" Surprised at this, the courtiers asked him if amongst the Muslims there was anyone superior to him.  "Is it not enough for me," he replied, "that I am not the worst of them all?" The Romans reminded him of their numerical superiority and he replied: "Our God says: "How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host with Allah's permission." Such were these disciples of the Prophet, far above terrestrial pomp and glory. Likewise, when foreign ambassadors came to the Muslims they were wonder-struck at their austere simplicity. When the Roman envoy was ushered into the presence of Abu 'Ubaidah, the Muslim Commander-in- Chief was seated on the ground, examining some specimens of arrows. The officer was dumbfounded when told that the man who was the terror of the Roman army was no other than the one seated before him on the ground. There are hundreds of such incidents recorded which show that, from the Commander of the Faithful down to the common soldier, every Muslim was imbued with this humility of spirit, this indifference to worldly pomp. Their sole greatness lay in their firm faith and high character. Apparently, they were busy wielding the sword; but within their bosoms were hearts met with not even in the solitude of hermitages. They were saints in communion with God, though with swords and spears in hand. They knew how to bow to the glory of God and to the right of man. On one occasion the women-folk accompanying the Muslim army were in danger of being attacked by the Christian population, the army itself being engaged with enemy troops. Abu 'Ubaidah, the Commander, suggested that to meet the exigency the Christian population should be driven out of the town. A subordinate officer objected, saying they had no right to do so for they had once pledged them safe residence within the town. Heraclius himself once asked his Christian advisers the reason why Muslims had the upper hand in spite of the fact that they were inferior to the Romans in numbers, in strength and in equipment. After many explanations, a hoary-headed man spoke out: "The Muslims," he said, "are superior to us in morals. They worship God by night and keep fast by day. They do not oppress anyone and consider themselves equals: We, on the other hand, are given to drinking and to sexual corruption. We care not for our word and we oppress others. The Muslims possess great pluck and perseverance which they bring to bear upon anything they undertake." Even in the estimation of the enemy it was the strength of character of the Muslim that brought about his triumph on the battlefield.


Solidarity of Islam

One more characteristic of these pioneer Muslims which needs to be mentioned is the unique unity and solidarity of Islam. Only a few years earlier, Arabia was the battle ground of internecine feuds. A house so divided hardly existed on the face of the earth. Tribe against tribe, clan against clan, rushing at one another's throat on mere trifles and continuing the blood feuds for generations. The most sanguine optimist saw no prospect of any interfusion between these warring and jarring elements. It was, indeed, nothing short of a miracle that the Prophet out of such discordant and chaotic conditions evolved, in the course of a few years, a well-knit and well-organised society. Deadly enemies were transformed into close friends and centuries old grudges were transmuted into mutual affection - one of the greatest miracles of the world, admitted by historians, Muslims and non-Muslims, alike. The same tribes and clans that had sought the lives of one another now sacrificed their lives for one another. If the life of one was in danger, another came forward to save him at the sacrifice of his own. If one tribe was in straits, another extricated it by involving itself. The blow aimed at one head was received by another. Soldiers laid down their lives for officers and officers for soldiers.  There was no such thing as jealousy between two officers or two soldiers over the laurels of victory. Even if a subordinate officer pledged his word with the enemy it was considered a national pledge and as such inviolate. Nay, the obligations accepted by a common soldier were redeemed by all Muslims. This high sense of national solidarity was one of the chief factors contributing to the triumph of the Muslim army against overwhelming odds.

Democratic spirit
The democracy of Islam, first planted when Abu Bakr took the reins of government into his hands, found growth and development during the caliphate of 'Umar, The seed of democracy lay, of course, in the very principles and teachings of Islam. The Qur'an had explicitly laid it down as the fundamental law of Muslim polity that affairs of state should be conducted by consultation and counsel.

*"And their government is
by counsel among themselves" (43: 38).

The Prophet himself decided momentous affairs by conferring with his followers. Abu Bakr's very election was the result of a deliberative council of Muslims, and this was throughout the principle also of his rule. During the reign of 'Umar there were two such consultative bodies. One was a general assembly which was convened by making a general announcement; and in this only affairs of special national importance were discussed. For the conduct of daily business there was a separate committee on a smaller scale. Even matters pertaining to the appointment and dismissal of public servants were brought before this working committee. In addition to the deputies from the capital, there were also invited to these deliberations representatives from outlying parts of the empire. Non-Muslims were also invited to take part in these consultations. For instance, in connection with the management of Mesopotamia, the native Parsi chiefs were consulted; the Muqauqis was consulted on the administration of Egypt, and a Copt was invited to the Capital as a deputy to represent that country. This principle was extended down to the masses, who were consulted on certain state matters. As a rule, provincial governors were appointed after consulting the population. In case of a complaint against a governor by the public, an inquiry commission was duly appointed and the governor dismissed if found guilty. Among those thus removed were some most prominent companions, Sa'd, the conqueror of Persia, was recalled from the governorship of Kufah on one such complaint from the people, although there was no serious charge against him. The Caliph's principle was that the governor was the servant of the people and as such he must have the confidence of those he governed. It seems that civilisation) at least in this respect, is yet to reach the high mark attained in that golden age thirteen centuries ago. On occasion the Caliph would even write to the people to choose their own governor and intimate their choice to him. The people of Kufah, Syria and Basrah, for instance were given this high privilege. Every individual citizen of the state of Islam enjoyed the right to give his opinion and was perfectly free to do so. From the districts came deputations to enlighten the Caliph on local conditions. In his lectures and sermons, the Caliph laid special emphasis on the point that the people must avail themselves of the right of free expression of opinion. This was considered the birthright not only of a Muslim, but of every human being. Every possible measure available under existing conditions was adopted to ascertain public opinion. Above all, the position of the Caliph, or the King, was exactly that of a common subject. The emoluments granted to the Caliph were on the same scale with others. If sued, the Caliph appeared to defend himself in the public court of justice just as any other defendant. Once in a dispute with Ubayy ibn Ka'b, the Caliph appeared as a defendant in the court of Zaid ibn Thabit. Zaid wanted to show him respect but 'Umar was displeased, saying this amounted to partiality.  Thus under 'Umar the principle of democracy was carried to a point to which it will yet take the world time to attain.


Simple life and concern for the ruled

To the early Caliphs of Islam, their kingly position was not an opportunity to have a. good time to eat, drink and be merry. To them it was an office of service to the people, involving great sacrifice of personal comfort. In the discharge of his duties as king or, more appropriately, as the greatest servant of the people, 'Umar displayed extraordinary devotion. It may be said that in this respect as well 'Umar was a mirror reflecting the high sense of duty of his illustrious Master. Just as the Prophet considered no piece of work too low for him or beneath his dignity, even so did his most devoted disciple attend in person to the meanest offices of the state. If camels belonging to the state were sick, there was the Caliph with his own hands applying treatment. If one such camel was lost, there was the Caliph again searching for it in person. During the Persian wars, when times were critical and news from the theatre of war was anxiously looked forward to, he would in person go out for miles to see if a courier was coming. On one occasion when one such courier came with the news of victory, the venerable old Caliph came running back to the capital, keeping pace with the courier's camel and asking him all sorts of questions. It was only when he arrived at his destination that the perplexed courier came to know that the man running on foot by the side of his camel was no other than the Caliph himself. Hurmuzan, a Persian chief, when brought as a captive, was wonder-struck on finding the great Caliph stretched in the mosque on bare ground. On the important occasion of signing the treaty of Jerusalem, he was clad in his usual coarse and patched clothes and officers who implored him to put on a stately costume met with a sound rebuff. Tae Muslim's dignity, he told them, lay elsewhere than in his dress.  When Arabia was stricken by famine, on his own back the Caliph carried sacks of corn to distribute among the famishing people. At night he visited the dwellings of the famine-stricken, brought them flour and even helped them in preparing food. On one such nocturnal visit, he found a woman with nothing to eat. Her children were crying for bread but she had nothing to give them. Just to console them, she had put a kettle on the fire with nothing but water in it. Touched to the quick, the Caliph ran back to Madinah, some three miles away and shortly after returned with a sack of flour on his back. When someone offered to carry the load for him, he simply replied: "In this life you might carry my burden for me, but who will carry my burden on the day of Judgment?" He was ever accessible to the public and in person listened to the meanest troubles of the people. His door was ever open for such complainants. Even the governors had instructions to have no guard at their gates, lest people coming with their complaints should be kept back. For such people they must be at all times accessible. Many a time 'Umar was harshly treated by others but he kept quiet. When a certain man repeatedly said to him, "Fear God, 0 'Umar," some people wanted to stop him. "Let him say so," said the Caliph, "of what use are these people if they should not tell me such things?" At the dismissal of Khalid, someone stood up and thus addressed him: "O 'Umar! Thou hast not done justice. Thou hast removed a worker of the Prophet and sheathed the sword which the Prophet himself had unsheathed. Thou hast cut asunder the tie of relationship and hast acted jealously towards the son of thy uncle." In reply the Caliph simply said: "Thou hast been carried away by passion in support of thy brother."


Treatment of non-Muslims

The human sympathies of 'Umar were not confined to Muslims. He showed just the same charity of heart to Christians and other non-Muslims that came in contact with him.  On his death-bed, he enjoined his successor to take particular care of the rights of non-Muslim subjects and not to burden them beyond their capacity. The life and property of a non Muslim were made as inviolate as those of a Muslim. A Muslim assassin of a Christian was condemned to capital punishment. In affairs of state, non-Muslims were duly consulted. On one occasion while on a journey, the Caliph saw that some non-Muslims were worried for non-payment of jizyah. On enquiry they were found to be indigent. The Caliph ordered them to be let off. Non-Muslims enjoyed perfect freedom of religion. Even on grave charges of conspiracy and sedition he gave them but light punishment. When the Jews of Khaibar and the Christians of Najran were, on some such charges, ordered to settle elsewhere, they were at the same time paid the full value of their properties from the public treasury. Orders were also issued to allow them special concessions on the journey as well as to exempt them from jizyah for some time. Out of the zakat money raised from Muslims, the Caliph also helped poor Christians. Once, the Caliph saw an old Christian begging for alms. He was not only exempted from jizyah but was also awarded a subsistence allowance from the public treasury. General orders were then issued that old age pensions must be granted to all the old people among non-Muslim subjects, who must also be exempt from jizyah. Poor-houses for the weak and the disabled were open to Christians just as to Muslims. To consider jizyah a hardship is to betray ignorance. The Muslim subjects had to pay a higher rate of tax, zakat, and at the same time they were required to render military service, from which non-Muslims were exempt. Is there a government anywhere today in this twentieth century that levies no taxes on its subjects for the maintenance of peace and order? Notwithstanding their being a ruling race, Muslims put up with grave insults from Christians. Once a Christian openly used a foul word of the Prophet in the face of Muslims. A Muslim merely gave him a slap on the face. The case was brought before 'Amr ibn ‘As, the Governor. The Muslim pleaded that in their own churches they might say whatever they liked, but in public they had no right to use such harsh words about the Prophet. This shows the extent of Muslim toleration at the time. Of course, things that were likely to disturb public tranquillity were forbidden. For instance, it was forbidden to carry the cross in procession through Muslim crowds, to blow the church bugle at Muslim prayer hours, to carry pigs towards Muslim quarters and so forth. Those who have generalized these prohibitions to mean that the Christians were absolutely forbidden these things are mistaken. One such prohibition was that the children of Christians who embraced Islam must not be baptized until they attained the age of puberty. To generalize this to mean that baptism as such was absolutely forbidden is wrong.


Condition of Women in the time of 'Umar

Women in Arabia were the subject of much harsh treatment, and 'Umar had a special reputation for this failing of his race. Long before the revelation of the Quranic verse enjoining the seclusion of women, he urged that the females of the Prophet's household must observe seclusion. But it was not the seclusion that is in vogue now. 'Umar's own example shows that women did all necessary work. Once, it is recorded, a certain friend was putting up as a guest at his house and 'Umar's wife in person served the food. It was 'Umar again who placed the supervision of the market in the hands of a woman. Nay, during his reign, women actually enlisted and went to the theatre of war to tend the wounded, dress their wounds and do similar relief work. Some even participated in fighting. Women were also free to attend lectures, sermons and similar functions. Once when 'Umar delivered a sermon against the practice of settling large sums as dower-money, it was a woman who stood up and objected, saying: “O son of Khattab! How dare thou deprive us when God says in the Qur'an that even a heap of gold may be settled on the wife as dower?" Far from resenting this, 'Umar appreciated this courage of conviction and complimented the objector, saying: "The women of Madinah have more understanding than 'Umar." When as a Caliph he made education compulsory in Arabia, it was made so for both boys and girls. In short, consistently with the requirements of their household functions, women were seen side by side with men in almost every walk of life.


Gradual abolition of slavery

It must be recorded as one of the greatest achievements of the Caliph that he took a very long step towards the abolition of slavery. With regard to Arabia, a definite order was issued that no Arab should be made a slave. This, in fact, was the first step towards total abolition. If later generations of Muslim kings had carried on this gradual reform, as originally intended in the Qur'an itself the institution would have been eradicated from among the Muslims twelve centuries ago. As a rule, only prisoners of war* were considered slaves, and the civil population was in no way interfered with. But the Caliph granted a great deal of freedom even to prisoners of war. For instance, the war prisoners of Egypt were all restored to their homeland and those of Manadhir were also set at large. In various treaties, whenever mention was made of security of life and property, it implied that the vanquished foe would not be converted into slaves. Notwithstanding these reforms, whatever number of slaves still existed, they were treated by Muslim soldiers as brothers.

* It must be borne in mind that prisoners of war were distributed among the soldiers as there were no other arrangements for keeping them. But they were set free either as a matter of favour or on receipt of ransom. To this effect there is a plain injunction in the Holy Qur'an: "When you have overcome them make them prisoners and afterwards (set them free) as a favour or ransom" (47:4). (47: 4). 


Equality of man

Equality of man was another great virtue of Islam which stands out conspicuously in the caliphate of 'Umar. He himself was a living example of this principle, and through him his spirit was diffused among the rank and file of state officials and down into the general public. Elected a king, he yet gave no preference to himself over others. When subsistence allowances were fixed, he refused to accept more than was allowed to all those who had taken part in the battle of Badr. This was five thousand dirhams a year. When 'Abd Allah, the Caliph's son, grumbled that he had got a smaller allowance than Usamah, the son of Zaid, he was curtly told that Usamah's father was much dearer to the Prophet than his own. Bilal, 'Ammar, and others who were, originally slaves but were among the first to embrace Islam, were shown preference over the great chiefs of the Quraish. In the appointment of governors, the Caliph never showed partiality in favour of his own or of the Prophet's tribe. High officials, if guilty of transgressing upon others' rights, were called to account and subjected to similar treatment at the hands of the aggrieved. Jabalah, a Syrian chief, when performing tawaf, i.e., circumambulation around the Ka'bah, dealt a slap to a man whose foot had chanced to touch his flowing robe. The man returned the blow. Complaint was brought to the Caliph, who ruled that all Muslims were equal and difference in social status made no difference in' rights as citizens. Offended at this, Jabalah recanted the faith. 'Amr ibn 'A~, governor of Egypt, had a pulpit set up in the mosque. The Caliph disallowed it, saying it was not Islamic for one man to sit above the rest. The Caliph's own son, Abu Shahmah, was found guilty of drinking and was given the usual punishment of eighty stripes. All distinctions of heredity were abolished and society was ordered on the Quranic principle: "The most honourable among you is the one who has the greatest regard for his duty." What could show a greater sense of human equality than pledges taken from high state officials that they would not wear fine clothes, that they would not use sieved flour, that they would ever keep their doors open to the needy, that they would never keep any guard at their doors? When such behaviour was demanded from governors and high state dignitaries, the equality pervading the general public may well be imagined.


Works of public good

Works of public good and charity received special attention at the hands of 'Umar. The weak and disabled were granted allowances from the public treasury, and in this there was no discrimination between Muslim and non Muslim. The system of old-age pensions now prevailing in many countries in Europe was first introduced by 'Umar. For wayfarers, large caravansarais were erected in all big centres. Children without guardians were brought up at the expense of the state. During famine the Caliph worked day and night to render succour to the starving and even gave up the luxury of meat. He never squandered public money on poets. When in the great plague of Syria, thousands of Muslims died, in person did he attend to the needs of bereaved families, making every arrangement as regards their property and children. To ascertain the weal and woe of his subjects, he would go out at night on tours of investigation. On one such round, he came upon a solitary tent. As he was seated there on the ground with the Beduin, from inside the tent were heard the cries of a woman. On inquiring, he was informed that the Beduin's wife was all alone and these cries were the travails of child-birth. Forthwith the Caliph hurried back to his house and took' his wife, Umm Kulthum, to the tent to nurse the lonely woman.


Spreading of Islam and the knowledge of Qur'an

During the reign of 'Umar there was no separate organization to push forward the propagation of Islam. Nevertheless, on unorganized lines, every opportunity was availed of for its spread. Generally speaking, the commanders of the army were selected from among the learned so that they might, in addition to their military duties, disseminate the light of Islam, wherever they went. Every Muslim soldier was also supposed to be a preacher of Islam, which fact has given rise to the common misunderstanding that a Muslim carried his sword in one hand and the Qur'an in the other. This they did, but not in the sense implied. They were there to fight in defence of their liberties. It was zeal for their faith that would not let opportunity slip, and they availed themselves of it for the promulgation of truth. It was thus that the sword and the faith appeared side by side -not in the sense that the Muslims were out to spread their faith by the sword, and offered the choice between the sword and faith; but in the sense that even the soldier who had to fight the battles of the nation was animated with a zeal for spreading the truth. Side by side with preaching, the practical example of Muslim was a great force to attract the hearts of others. The northern part of Arabia, and most of the Arab tribes of Syria that had embraced Christianity under the influence of Christian rule, were soon attracted by the beauties of Islam. Likewise Mesopotamia also joined the faith. In Persia, the great Magian chiefs were the first to join and through their example created an inclination for the acceptance of Islam among the masses as well. In Egypt, too, Islam spread· by leaps and bounds. The simplicity, sincerity and righteousness of each individual worked as a charm as no sermon could do and, as a result, group after group came pouring into the fold. In certain places, two to four thousand came in together. In the army of Islam there was quite a large proportion of these new converts. In the city of Fustat, ward afterward were inhabited by these newcomers. Not only were the people converted but they were also instructed in the faith of their adoption. In the conquered territories teachers were appointed for this purpose and were paid out of state treasury. This system  of paid teachers is also one of the noteworthy institutions of 'Umar. Instruction in the Qur'an was compulsory for all Beduin tribes, and an inspector was appointed to tour round and report those who neglected to avail themselves of these arrangements. Such distinguished companions as Abu Ayyub, Abu Darda' and 'Ubadah were deputed to Syria for the purpose of organizing Muslim education in that country. They spent some time in Hims, Damascus and Palestine and popularized Quranic instruction in those parts. Soldiers had instructions to learn the Qur'an, and even while fighting their country's battles, in their leisure hours they acquired knowledge of the Qur'an. Every division of the army had several hundreds of those who had the Qur'an by heart.

Soldier and administrator

'Umar was not merely a great soldier. He was an equally great administrator. Side by side with his conquests, he displayed unique genius in organizing the civil administration of subjugated territories. Had he neglected this part of his duties, his conquests would have been but a passing phase, and in a short time those countries would have been lost to Islam. But he did not do things by half-measures. Islam went to these countries and was going to stay there by the beneficent administration and the general good treatment that it extended. With the advent of Islam, people grew in prosperity. Every country was divided into provinces; measurement of land was made; census was taken; offices were established; a police force was organized; jails were built; cantonments were set up; canals were dug; public treasuries were started, and the Muslim era of Hijrah, which has been a great help in the preservation of history, was introduced.

A true successor of the Prophet

'Umar was a great conqueror. He was a great administrator. Yet, it must be remembered, he was in no sense a king.  In the truest sense of the word he was the Caliph i.e., a successor of the Prophet. To walk faithfully in his Master's footsteps, was his sole anxiety. Just as in the Prophet, so in his Caliph, worldly power or wealth produced not the slightest change. Just as the Prophet, even so his Caliph, lived the plain simple life of a humble man. At his table there were never any dainty dishes. During famine he gave up even such small luxuries as meat and olive oil. His dress was spotted with many patches. Worldly riches were of little consequence in his sight. He often feared that wealth might become the ruin of Muslims. For his residence he had no palaces built, nor was any magnificent council-hall erected. The business of government was conducted in the same old mosque where the Prophet used to sit and teach and conduct other business. There in the mosque met the councils, there on the floor of the mosque were received the ambassadors and grandees of the Persian and Roman empires. Like the Prophet, he performed all little offices for others, and in person would he carry to the families various letters received from the battlefield. A sense of accountability for the great national trust always caused him anxiety. The most glorious of conquests produced not the faintest air of pride in him. Master of four kingdoms, he walked on God's earth with the meekness of the humblest man. He did not touch a single thing belonging to the Bait al-Mal except the fixed amount sanctioned by the council for his subsistence. Once when, as a cure for some ailment he wanted honey, he refused to take it from the Bait al-Mal until the council had sanctioned it. Once the Caliph enquired of Salman, one of the great companions, whether he was Caliph or King. "If you extort money from people," replied the wise man, "if you misappropriate money from the public treasury, then you are a king: otherwise, a Caliph." Thus, most scrupulously fulfilling the trust of the Prophet's successorship, the great Caliph 'Umar showed that, though a king in name, his true office was that of the Caliph of the Prophet.