Islamic Themes

The Muslim Victory over the Byzantines

The Secret to the Victory of the Muslims

over The Byzantine Forces…

Heraclius lost his brother Theodorus in the decisive battle of Yarmuk (634-636)[1] and Ibn Kathir (Allah have mercy on him) recounts the interrogation of Heraclius when he retreated to Antioch after the defeat:

وروى أحمد بن مروان المالكي في “المجالسة” ثنا أبو إسماعيل الترمذي، ثنا معاوية بن عمرو، عن أبي إسحاق: كان أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا يثبت لهم العدو فواق ناقة عند اللقاء. فقال هرقل وهو على أنطاكية لما قدمت منهزمة الروم:

ويلكم! أخبروني عن هؤلاء القوم الذين يقاتلونكم، أليسوا بشرا مثلكم؟! قالوا: بلى. قال: فأنتم أكثر أم هم؟ قالوا: بل نحن أكثر منهم أضعافا في كل موطن. قال: فما بالكم تنهزمون كما لقيتموهم؟ ! فقال شيخ من عظمائهم: من أجل أنهم يقومون الليل، ويصومون النهار، ويوفون بالعهد، ويأمرون بالمعروف، وينهون عن المنكر، ويتناصفون بينهم، ومن أجل أنا نشرب الخمر ونزني ونركب الحرام وننقض العهد ونغصب ونظلم ونأمر بما يسخط الله، وننهى عما يرضي الله، ونفسد في الأرض . فقالأنت صدقتني

“[…] ‘woe to you all! Tell me about those people that you fought against; are they not men like you?’ They replied: ‘Indeed.’ Heraclius then asked: ‘And were you more in number or they?’ They replied: ‘We were more in number than them in all places.’ He then asked: ‘So why then did you lose when you met them in battle?’ Then, one of their notables stood up and said: ‘because they are a people who stand in prayer all night, fast during the day, keep to their covenants, command what is good and forbid what is wrong and they are just amongst themselves. Whereas we drink alcohol, commit illicit sexual behaviour, we commit every sin, we break our covenants, we oppress and commit wrong doing and we call to that which angers God and forbid what pleases Him, spreading corruption in the land. Heraclius said: ‘You are telling the truth’…”[2]

Notes:

  • Yarmuk was a decisive battle under the leadership of Sayyiduna `Umar (Allah be pleased with) him that altered the political trajectory of Islam creating the Caliphate arc of dominance in the entire eastern region.
  • The Byzantine army are reflecting on the causes of their humiliating loss at the hands of the Sahaba (Allah be pleased with them all) upon return.
  • Their emperor Heraclius demands an answer to their colossal loss and one of their senior citizens replies:
  1. It was due to drinking alcohol.
  2. It was due to committing illicit sexual behaviour.
  3. It was due to committing assorted sins.
  4. It was due to breaking their agreements and pacts.
  5. It is due to oppressing others.
  6. It is due to disobeying God.
  7. It is due to spreading corruption in the land.
  • Thus, a combination of iniquitous behaviour and collective corruption as a people revealed no surprise as to why the Byzantine army was defeated. They were uncontrolled, reckless, unfocussed and entirely disunited.
  • In contrast, the Muslim army exhibited the following characteristics evident to the Byzantine army and officials:
  1. Salah during the night, i.e. they were engaged in the worship of Allah (swt) in order to maintain connection with Him.
  2. Sawm during the day, i.e. in order to maintain discipline, control and awareness of their purpose and aim in jihad.
  3. Keeping to the agreements and pacts they had made, i.e. ensure they do not renege on any prior agreements and covenants as this is a serious breach of Islamic law.
  4. Called to the good and forbade the wrong (amr bi ’l-ma`ruf), i.e. ensured any wrong action that contradicted the Quran and sunna was prevented and any good that accords with Islam was upheld.
  5. Just among themselves, i.e. they were bonded, unified and strong together based on Islam.
  • These aspects of the sahaba are a baseline rule for success in any engagement with the enemy.
  • This is why the sahaba are our guiding lights attaining their light from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

s.z.c.

Peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad,

His Companions, Family and all who follow them.

Amin.


[1] al-Baladhuri, Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (Eng. Trans. Ch. X), pp.2017-213. See also D. Nicolle, Yarmuk Ad 636: The Muslim Conquest of Syria, pp.7-90; S. Tucker, Battles that Changed History, pp.92-94 and B. L. Steed, Piercing the Fog of War, pp.133-159 for analysis on the battle and its pivotal place in the spread of Islam as the most dominant political force.

[2] Imam Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa’l-Nihaya, 7:4-16.

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