History of the Saracens/Omar I
OMAR EBN AL KHATTAB, SECOND CALIPH AFTER MOHAMMED.
Hej. 13-23, a.d. 634-643.
Abubeker having by his last testament taken care of the succession, all that disturbance was prevented which had happened on the death of Mohammed. We do not find in any author, that Ali or his party made any opposition; but the same day that Abubeker died, Omar was invested with the regal and the pontifical dignity, and saluted by universal consent, “The caliph of the caliph of the apostle of God;” that is, “The successor of the successor of Mohammed.” But when they considered that this title was something too long; and that at the coming on of every new caliph, it would grow longer still, they invented another, which should serve for all the caliphs to come, and that was, “Amiro’l Mumenina;” “Imperator Credentium,” “Emperor of the Believers.” And this title was ever afterwards used by all succeeding caliphs, Omar being the first that was ever called by it.
Being thus confirmed in his new dignity, Omar ascended the pulpit to make a speech to the people. He did not say much; but the substance of it was, “That he should not have taken such a troublesome charge upon himself, had it not been for the good opinion that he had of them, and the great hopes which he had conceived of their perseverance in their duty, and doing that which was commendable and praiseworthy.” With this speech the inauguration was concluded, and all men went home well satisfied. The ceremony itself was simple enough, as in a government which was yet in its infancy, and had not as yet attained to that grandeur at which it afterwards arrived.
Omar having taken upon him the government, was desirous of nothing more than to make some conquests in Irak. With this view, he sent Abu Obeidah Ebn Masud with an army, joining to him Al Mothanna, Amrou, and Salit, who marched with their forces till they came to Thaalabiyah, where they pitched their tents near the river. Hereupon, Salit, after duly considering all things, and justly fearing that the forces of the Persians were too great for them to encounter, did what he could to persuade Abu Obeidah Ebn Masud not to cross the river. He reminded him that the Persians were evidently much superior in numbers, and therefore it would be more advisable to reserve themselves for a fairer opportunity, retiring, in the meanwhile, into the deserts, and there secure themselves as well as they could, till they had sent to the caliph for fresh supplies. But Abu Obeidah was so far from being persuaded by what he said, that he called him coward. At this, Mothanna took him up, and told him, that what Salit had said was not the effect of cowardice, but that he had only laid before him what he thought the best and most prudent course. He added that he also was of the same opinion himself, and he bade him therefore have a care how he passed over to the enemies’ side, lest he should plunge himself, and all that were with him, into peril, from which he would find it difficult to extricate them. But Abu Obeidah, deaf to all good counsel, and impatient of delay, commanded a bridge to be immediately made, and marched over his army. Salit and Mothanna, though they did not at all approve of his conduct, yet having offered him their best advice, though in vain, went over after him. The soldiers followed with a heavy heart, grieved at the rashness of their general, which they had, just reason to fear would prove fatal to them.
As soon as they were over the bridge, Abu Obeidah put his men in battle array, as well as the shortness of the time would permit, the Persian archers firing on them all the while, and grievously harassing the Mussulmans. However, Abu Obeidah having got a part of his troops in tolerable order, charged the Persians so furiously, that, being unable to keep their ground, they ran away in disorder. Abu Obeidah pursued them in full assurance of victory. But the Persians rallying, renewed their charge, and having killed Abu Obeidah Ebn Masud, routed the Mussulmans. Those that remained of them made up to the bridge; Mothanna all the while, behaving himself like an experienced captain, fought in the rear, and brought them off with as little loss as could be expected. At last they got over the bridge, and Mothanna after them; who was no sooner over than, to prevent the pursuit of the Persians, he ordered the bridge to be cut down.
Mothanna having now secured himself, sent the caliph an account of the whole matter, acquainting him with Abu Obeidah’s rashness in passing the river, with so small a number, and contrary to the opinion of all his officers, together with the success which had followed so unadvised an undertaking. In the meanwhile he remained quiet on the near side of the river, expecting further orders. The caliph commanded him to secure himself in his camp as well as he could, and not to stir till he should receive the supplies which he would raise for him with all possible expedition. Mothanna obeyed the order; and, without loss of time, the caliph despatched special messengers to the tribes of the Arabs, commanding them to raise men for the service, which they speedily performed. The newly-raised soldiers were mustered at Medina, and Jarir Ebn Abdallah was appointed their general, and sent with orders to join Mothanna and the rest of the forces, and, as opportunity should serve, give battle to the Persians. When Jarir had arrived at Thaalabiyah, where the rest of the army was, the combined forces marched to Dir Hind, where they encamped, and made frequent excursions, plundering and destroying that part of Irak, which lies next the river Euphrates. Arzemidocht, queen of the Persians, perceiving the great damage which she every day received from the Arabian army, thought it high time to look about her, and having chose out of all the cavalry twelve thousand of the best horse, and appointed Mahran their general, she sent them to repress the insolences and outrages of the Arabs. They marched to Hirah; where the Arabians having called back those troops which were gone to forage, met them. The two armies immediately joined battle. Mothanna fought amongst the thickest of the Persians, and was carried into the midst of their army, but bravely recovered himself, and returned to his own men. The Persians behaved themselves so well, that some of the Saracens began to give ground. Mothanna perceiving his Arabs flinch, tore his beard, labouring as much as in him lay, to stay the flight of his men, and to restore the battle, which in a great measure he accomplished. And then began a most furious engagement, which lasted from noon till sunset, neither party giving way or re treating. It is hard to say which side would have prevailed, had not the death of Mahran determined the dreadful issue. Mothanna meeting him in the battle, they fought hand to hand. Mahran first struck at Mothanna, but his sword did not pierce his armour: then immediately Mothanna gave him such a blow upon his shoulder, that he fell down dead. The Persians, having lost their general, were quite disheartened, quitted the field, and fled to Madayen. The Arabs, contented with the victory, did not pursue them far, but returned to take care of their wounded, and to bury their dead.
The Persian nobility, perceiving that the Saracens were every way too strong for them, and had now made themselves masters of the borders of their country, and were very likely to seize more of it, began to be very uneasy, and laid all the blame upon their queen, Arzemidocht. In those eastern countries it is very common to measure things by success; and if things go ill, neither the grand seignior himself, nor the sultan of Persia, nor the emperor of the Moguls is safe from the murmurs, and oftentimes mutinies of their subjects. Though things be managed with all the care and circumspection that human capacity can be master of, yet if the success does not answer the expectations of an Eastern people, they never fail to complain of the mal-administration, and represent their princes as persons unfit for government, either from want of abilities, or from being unfortunate, in which matter the Eastern nations are extremely superstitious. This the queen of Persia experienced. For after this battle was lost, and things went ill on all sides, the next thing the people said, wm, “This we get by suffering a woman to rule over us;” as if all their misfortunes had been owing to her mismanagement; or, as if they might not have met with the same ill success under the government of the wisest prince in the world. However, they considered nothing of this, but resolved to depose the poor queen; which they did, and placed Yezdejird upon the throne in her stead, a young man of the royal family, descended from Cosroes the son of Hormisdas. But they did not much mend the matter, the government of this new king of theirs being even more inauspicious than that of the queen; for, in her reign the confines of the empire were only invaded, but in his, all was entirely lost, and the whole kingdom and country of the Persians fell into the hands of the Mussulmans.
Yezdejird being king, forthwith raised an army out of the several provinces of his kingdom, and made Rustam their general, who was descended of a noble family, and had years and experience sufficient to recommend him to such a post. Yezdejird gave him orders to march to Hirah, where the Arabs lay; and at the same time sent another great army, under the command of Alharzaman, a Persian nobleman, to Ehwas, where Abu Musa Alashari, another of Omar’s captains, was foraging and spoiling the country. But all to no purpose. As if the end of their empire was at hand, the Persians could have no success, but were forced to yield before the rising greatness of the Saracenic power. These two Persian generals were killed, and both their armies entirely routed and defeated.
And now the series of our history requires us to return to the Damascenes, whom we left just at that time when Abu Obeidah Ebn Al Jerath had with the greatest difficulty and most earnest entreaty prevailed on Kaled to ratify the articles which he had made with the besieged. Having at last with much ado succeeded in this, he told them that they were at their liberty to go where they pleased; but reminded them, that when they were out of the bounds of that part of the country which was taken by the Mussulmans, they were also out of their protection, and free from any article or agreement whatsoever. Not content with this, the Christians desired their protection for the space of three days, which way soever they went, and that none of the Saracens should pursue them during that time; after which they must be content to take their fortune. To which proposal Kaled consented, but told them withal, that they should carry nothing with them out of the city but provision; which provoked Abu Obeidah afresh, who answered, that to use them so would still be a breach of promise, he having engaged to give them leave to go out with bag and baggage. “Then,” said Kaled, “if they have that, they shall have no arms.” To which Herbis answered, that they must have arms, it being impossible for them to travel safely without. Abu Obeidah said, “Then let every one of them have something; he that has a lance shall have no sword, and he that takes a bow shall have no lance;” with which they were pretty well contented. Thomas and Herbis were the captains of this unhappy caravan, who had now lost all but what they could carry away; and instead of lofty and stately palaces, pleasant gardens, and delicious fare, must be glad to shift about where they can, and expose themselves to all the difficulties and hazards of a tedious journey, without any regard to age, sex, or degree. The tender and delicate lady, that once scarcely knew how to set her foot upon the ground, must now be forced to go through inhospitable deserts and craggy mountains, deprived not only of her superfluities, but of all the conveniences, and even the very necessaries of life. Thomas pitched a tent on the outside of the city, and ordered his men to bring the best of the things, the plate, jewels, silk, and the like, into it, “in order to pack them up and carry them away. The Emperor Heraclius had then in Damascus a wardrobe., in which there were above three hundred loads of dyed silks and cloths of gold, which were all packed up. The poor miserable wretches took every one what they could any way carry, of the best things they had, and made all possible haste to be gone. Damascus, once their joy and delight, could now no more be thought on without regret. The emperor’s daughter went out among the rest which followed Thomas and Herbis. Derar (who was vexed at the heart because Abu Obeidah had let them come off so well) stood by as they went out, and gnashed his teeth for spite and indignation. The princess thought that the reason of his anger was because of the spoil, and said to him as she passed by, “What is the reason, Derar, that you mutter thus? Do not you know that with God there are more and better things than these are?” Derar swore that it was not the plunder that he valued; but what vexed him was the people’s escaping, and not being all murdered; adding, that Abu Obeidah had done a great injury to the Mussulmans in giving them quarter. Athi Ebn Ammar hearing him say so, answered, “That Abu Obeidah had done for the best in preventing the effusion of the blood of the Mussulmans (the most sacred thing under the sun), and giving them rest from their labours. Besides, God has made the hearts of the true believers the seat of mercy, and those of the infidels the seat of cruelty. And God has said in some of the inspired books, that he was most merciful; and that he would not show mercy but only to the merciful.” Then he quoted a passage in the Koran, to prove that agreement was better. Derar told him, that he talked like an honest man, but he swore that, for his part, he would never have mercy upon any that said that God had a son, and joined a partner with God. Those of the citizens who chose to stay behind, and be tributaries, having remained, the rest, which were by far the greater number, went away, Thomas and Herbis having paid Abu Obeidah what had been covenanted for, as the ransom of their lives and liberties. But we must leave this miserable company on their march for a short time, and prepare our ears for a very remarkable relation.
Kaled (O bloody and insatiable Saracen!), when he saw these poor wretches carry away the small remainder of their plentiful fortunes, felt a great deal of regret. So mortally did he hate the Christians, that to see one of them alive vas death to him. What does he do? Why, he orders his men to keep themselves and their horses in good condition, telling them, that after the three days were expired (for so long only had they a safe conduct) he designed to pursue them. And he said his mind told him that they should still overtake them, and have all the plunder; “and,” says he, “they have left nothing valuable behind them, but have taken along with them all the best of their clothes, and plate, and jewels, and whatever is worth carrying.” Having thus prepared for his journey, another dispute arose between him and the townsmen that stayed behind, concerning a quantity of wheat and barley. The townsmen who had surrendered to Abu Obeidah said that it belonged to them; Kaled said that it was his (and so indeed was everything of the Christians that he could lay his hands upon). Abu Obeidah, who was always more courteous to the Christians than could have been expected from a Saracen, took the citizens’ part. The contention grew so high, that they had like once more to have fallen together by the ears, till at last it was settled that they should write to Abubeker about it, of whose death they had not yet received the news. This disturbance detained Kaled from pursuing the poor Damascenes. And as now four days and as many nights had passed since they went away, he had but little hopes of overtaking them; for he was well assured that they would as soon as possible secure themselves in some walled town. He would, therefore, have quite laid aside the thoughts of following them, had it not been for the following unfortunate circumstance.
The reader may be pleased to remember, that during the siege, Derar Ben Alazwar had two thousand men given him, with whom he was ordered to ride round about and survey the camp, lest they should be surprised, either by any succours from the emperor, or sallies from the town. It chanced one night, as some of these men were upon duty, they heard a horse neigh, which came out of the gate Keisan. They stood still, and let him alone till he came up close to them, and took his rider prisoner. Immediately after there came another horseman out of the same gate, who called the man that was taken prisoner by his name. The Saracens bade him answer him, that he also might come up and be taken by them. But instead of this, the prisoner cried out aloud in Greek, “The bird is taken.” The person he spoke to understood his meaning very well, and returned back into the city, but the Saracens could not tell what he said; all that they knew was, that by his means they had lost another prisoner. Upon which they had like to have killed him, but upon better consideration they resolved to carry him to the general Kaled, for him to dispose of him at his pleasure. Kaled asked him what he was. “I am,” said he, “a nobleman; and I married a young lady, whom I loved as my life; and when I sent for her to be sent home to me; her parents gave me a very contemptuous answer, and said that they had something else to do. Wherefore I took a convenient opportunity of speaking with her, and we agreed to come out together in the evening, and for this purpose I gave a good round sum of money to him that was upon the guard that night. I coming out first, was surprised by your men, and to prevent her falling into your hands, I called out, ‘The bird is taken;’ she, apprehending my meaning, went back with the two servants that were with her; and who can blame me?” “Well,” said Kaled, “and what have you to say to the Mohammedan religion? If you like that, when we take the city you shall have your wife; if not, you are a dead man.” The poor wretch being surprised, and not having faith enough to die a martyr, renounced his Christianity, and made confession of his Mohammedanism in these words, “I testify that there is but one God; he has no partner; and Mohammed is the apostle of God.” Then he was entirely theirs, and used to fight among them valiantly. When the city was surrendered, he went with all speed to find his beloved. Upon inquiry, he received information that she had shut herself up in a nunnery, which was true enough; for she never expected to see him more, after he was once fallen into the hands of the Saracens; and since all her joy and delight in this world was gone, she resolved to spend the rest of her days in the contemplation of a better one. He, however, goes to the church where she was, expecting to be received with abundance of joy; but in this he was very much deceived; for he no sooner made himself known, and acquainted her with the change of his religion, but she treated him with the utmost contempt and aversion, justly thinking that he, who had first renounced his Christianity, ought himself to be renounced by her; nor did the remembrance of former love, nor the consideration of the extremity which had obliged him to it, move her, nor beget in her one softer thought towards him; but she continued firm in her resolution to bid adieu to all the enjoyments of this present life, and never to converse with him any more. Wherefore, when Thomas and Herbis, attended with the rest of the miserable Damascenes, went away, she went along with them. Her departure wounded her husband (Jonas) to the heart; he very much pressed Kaled to detain her by force; who answered, that since they had surrendered themselves, it could not be done; but they must all of them have free liberty to go where they pleased. Here then is the main-spring of this action. As soon as Jonas understood that Kaled had a design of pursuing the Damascenes, he was very forward, and teased him to go, and proffered his service to be their guide. But, as we have said before, Kaled, who was willing to pursue them after three days were expired, was obliged to stay longer upon the account of the controversy concerning the corn; and therefore he thought four days too much advantage on their side, and would most certainly have laid aside all thoughts of it, if it had not been for the incessant importunity of this wretched apostate, who was resolved to gratify his own humour, though it were by betraying into the hands of merciless and unrelenting Saracens thousands of his innocent countrymen, women, and children, who had already suffered so grievously under the calamities and distresses of a consuming war. However, nothing would satisfy him but this woman; and when Kaled told him they were too far gone, he never ceased spurring him forwards, telling him that he knew all the country, and the nearest way to follow them; and whatever else he could think on to encourage the undertaking. Kaled, who of himself was never loath to go about anything that afforded the least prospect of success, yielded to his importunity, and so the journey was concluded upon.
Kaled chose out four thousand of the best horse, which Jonas ordered to be clothed in the habit of Christian Arabs, that, as they had to travel through the enemy’s country, they might pass unsuspected. Then, committing the care of the town and army to Abu Obeidah, they departed. It was no hard matter to follow such a great multitude of people as went out of Damascus, for besides that the footsteps of their mules were visible enough, they scattered things enough in their hasty flight to direct the pursuit of those who came after. The Saracens kept riding night and day, and never stood still, but only in prayer time. For a long time together they could trace them very plainly, but at last there appeared no footsteps at all, nor any signs by which they might form the slightest guess which way they were gone. “What’s the news now?” said Kaled to Jonas. “Oh,” says he, “they are turned out of the great road, for fear of being pursued; you are in a manner as sure of them as if you had already taken them.” So he turns them out of the high road, and leads them among the mountains, where travelling was wretchedly bad. The way was so extremely rough and uneven, that they could not ride without the greatest hazard. The horses struck fire at every step, or beat off their shoes, and battered their hoofs to pieces. It being absolutely unsafe for them to ride, they were forced to alight, and even then they could scarcely proceed on foot, and those who had strong boots on had the soles torn off from the upper leathers. The Saracens, though used to a great many hardships, began to murmur, and to wish themselves again in the right road. In short, every man, except the indefatigable lover, was heartily tired. Kaled himself could not tell what to think, but complained to Jonas, telling him that it was all his doing that they were in this unpleasant situation. At last, perceiving a great many footsteps, they felt confident that they were on the right track. Upon this Kaled called to his men to mend their pace, but they told him they were quite tired and worn out, and must of necessity stay a while and bait, before they proceeded any further. When, therefore, they had refreshed their horses, they went on, being mistaken by the country people wherever they passed for Christian Arabs. When, however, the guide brought them to Jabalah and Laodicea, they were afraid to pass through those towns, lest they should be discovered. At last Jonas inquired of a countryman about the fugitives, and was told that the emperor having heard that they were upon their march towards Antioch, and fearing lest by their coming, and giving a terrible account of the terrors of the siege and the courage of the Saracens, his own soldiers should be disheartened, had sent an express to forbid them to come any nearer to Antioch, and to command them to go to Constantinople. He told him also, that the emperor was raising forces to send to Yermouk. When Jonas had received this intelligence, he was greatly at a loss what to do. Kaled now inquired of him the news; and he told him that there was no hope of overtaking the fugitives, and besides, that there was but one mountain between them and the place where the emperor’s officers were raising forces to send against them. As soon as Kaled heard him mention the forces, he turned as pale as ashes. Derar, who in all his lifetime had never before observed in him any signs of fear, asked him what was the matter. “Alas,” says he, “it is not that I fear death, or anything that may befall myself, but because I am afraid lest the emperor’s forces should get to Damascus in my absence, and do our people some mischief. And I am the more anxious because of a dream which I had not long since, and cannot tell the meaning of.” Upon this one of the men asked him what it was, and when he had told it, Abdarrhaman, soldier like, interpreted it in favour of the Saracens, and accordingly they continued their march. In the next night there fell much rain, which put them to a great deal of inconvenience, but the poor Damascenes to much more. In the morning, however, after a tedious march, the latter came upon a pleasant meadow, and the sun shone cheeringly upon them. Glad of the opportunity, they sat down to rest their weary limbs, and spread out their wet clothes to dry. A great many of them, quite tired and fatigued, lay down to sleep.
In this posture the pursuers found them. And to the Saracens also the sight of the meadow was so pleasant and diverting, especially after they had been so harassed with that dismal journey through the rocks and mountains, that they had like to have forgot what they came about. There they saw the purling streams, the fine flowers, and unspeakable variety of rich silks and all sorts of colours, curiously wrought, spread all over the meadow; all which together afforded them a very entertaining prospect, extremely delightful and refreshing. In preparation for the attack, Kaled divided his four thousand men into four regiments. The first was commanded by Derar Ebn Alazwar, the second by Rafi Ebn Omeirah, the third by Abdarrhaman, Abubeker’s son. Kaled himself brought up the fourth, having first charged the officers that they should not make their appearance all at once, but follow one another at short intervals, as by this way they were most likely to strike terror into the Damascenes. This was a stratagem frequently used by the Saracens, both in their pitched battles and in their sieges. He next bade them not to begin till they had seen him fall on, and not to touch any of the plunder till the fight was over. After a short pause, Kaled, beginning the attack more like a lion or a tiger than a man, bade his men fall upon the enemies of God. The Christians quickly recognised them, but seeing but a few of them at first, they despised the smallness of their numbers, and prepared to fight. Thomas and Herbis having encouraged their men, and put them in as good order as the time would permit, the former engaged Kaled with five thousand men, and after a sharp conflict was killed, and his men routed. As soon as Abdarrhaman saw Thomas fall from his horse, he alighted, and cut off his head, and putting it upon the point of the standard of the cross, called out, “Alas for you, you Grecian dogs, here’s your master’s head.”
Whilst they were thus engaged, it is no hard matter to guess what was become of Jonas. He too was engaged, but after a different manner, being among the women, in search of his lady. As Rafi Ebn Omeirah was riding along, he saw him at a distance fighting with his lady, and at last throw her violently against the ground, and take her prisoner. Whilst Rafi was making up to them, the women stood upon their defence, and assaulted him with a shower of stones. At last a young lady happened to hit his horse in the forehead, and killed it. Rafi ran after her with his sword drawn, and was just about to strike off her head, when she cried “Quarter,” and he took her prisoner. She was a person of no less dignity than the emperor’s daughter, and the wife of Thomas—a princess of incomparable features, richly dressed, and adorned with many jewels. When Rafi had safely disposed of this valuable prize, he came to the place where Jonas was, and found him bathed in tears, and his lady weltering in blood. Upon Rafi inquiring what was the matter, Jonas wrung his hands, and said, “Alas for me, the most miserable man in the world! I came to this woman, whom I loved above all things in this life, and would fain have persuaded her to return with me; but she continuing obstinate because I had changed my religion, and vowing she would go to Constantinople, and there end her days in a nunnery, I resolved therefore, as I could not persuade her by fair means, to make myself master of her by force; so I threw her down, and took her prisoner. When she saw that she was in my power, she sat quietly for a while, but then secretly drawing out a knife, she stabbed herself in the breast before I could be aware of her intention, and fell down dead immediately.” Rafi, hearing this lamentable story, wept too, and said, “God did not design that you should live with her, and therefore has provided better for you.” “What’s that?” said Jonas. “I’ll show you,” answered Rafi, “a prisoner I have taken, a person of admirable beauty, and richly dressed, whom, to recompense you for your loss, I will present to you.” When they came together, Jonas and the princess talked together in Greek, and Rafi freely gave her to him.
In the meantime Kaled was employed in searching for Herbis. At last, seeing a tall and powerful man richly dressed, and taking him at the moment to be the antagonist he was in quest of, he beat him down to the ground with his lance, saying, “Alas for thee, Herbis, didst thou think to escape me?” The man, who could speak Arabic, told him that he was not Herbis, but if he would spare him he would give him more than he was aware of. “No quarter,” says Kaled, “unless you direct me to Herbis, that I may kill him; but if you do this, I will let you go your way without ransom.” “Well,” says the man, “I’ll tell you; but first make a firm agreement with me, that if I show you where he is you will let me go.” “Yes,” says Kaled, “if he falls into my hands.” “This is one of your tricks,” said the Christian, “just as you gave us security and protection, and then afterwards followed us to this place, when we never expected any one should have pursued us; so in the same manner you now tell me that if Herbis falls into your hands, you will let me go. I can tell you where he is, but how can I promise that he shall fall into your hands?” At this Kaled was angry, and said, “Thou Christian dog! dost thou accuse us of breach of promise, who are the companions of the apostle of God? When we promise anything, we are as good as our word. We did not come out after you till the fourth day was expired.” With this explanation the Christian being satisfied, desired him to get off from him, that he might show him where Herbis was, for Kaled, after he had once beaten him down, sat upon him all the while. Being permitted to rise, he looked about a while, and pointing out to Kaled a party of horse at a distance, told him that Herbis was among them. Kaled, upon this, called a Saracen to him, and bade him take care of the Christian, whom he assured that if Herbis was among that company, he should be let go, but if he was caught in a lie, he should lose his head. When Kaled reached the spot which had been pointed out to him, he dismounted, and betook himself to his sword and target; and whilst he was fighting among the thickest of the Christians, Herbis came behind him, and gave him such a blow that he cleaved his helmet through to his turban, but with the violence of the stroke his sword fell out of his hand. At this juncture Kaled’s men came in to his assistance, and falling upon the Christians, cut them all to pieces. When they had thus slaughtered every one of those miserable creatures, who had escaped at the taking of Damascus, Kaled called for the man that had shown him the way to Herbis, and told him, that since he had performed what he had promised, the Saracens, on their part, would do the same to him; only they were obliged first to exhort and admonish him. Accordingly Kaled asked him whether he could find in his heart to become “one of the fasting and praying people, the followers of Mohammed?” Upon his refusing to change his religion, they dismissed him, and he took the road towards Constantinople. Of all the numerous train that followed Thomas and Herbis out of the gates of Damascus, he was the only one, so far as the Saracens knew, that escaped being killed or taken prisoner.
Kaled, when he came back, asked Jonas what was become of his wife; who gave him an account of that dismal story which we have already related. When he heard of the princess who had been taken prisoner, he commanded her to be brought into his presence; and when he beheld her excellent beauty, fair proportion, and agreeable mien, he turned away his head, and said, “Glory be to thee, O God! we praise thee, who createst what thou pleasest.” Then he told Jonas that if the emperor did not redeem her, he should have her. Jonas thankfully accepted his present, and the same time reminded Kaled that they were in a difficult country, and that it was high time to be marching, for they might be sure that what they had done would be noised about the country, and that it would not be long ere they were pursued. And in fact, before they got back to Damascus, they saw a cloud of dust behind them. Upon which Kaled despatches a scout to reconnoitre the party that was following them. The scout having discovered the crosses in the colours, brought him word quickly that it was a body of Christians. Contrary, however, to the expectation of the Saracens, they had no hostile intentions; but an old man, advancing before the rest of his party, requested to be conducted to the general of the Saracens, whom he begged in the emperor’s name to liberate the princess his daughter. Kaled, having advised with Jonas about it, consented to let her go; saying to the old man, “Tell your master that there will never be any peace between him and me till I have gotten every foot of land he has; and though I have sent him his daughter now, I hope one of these days to have himself in her stead.”
Not long after this they reached Damascus, where they were the more welcome; the more their long absence had made their friends there despair of their return. Old Abu Obeidah was surprised at Kaled’s valour. The latter, reserving a fifth part of the spoils to be sent to the caliph, and put into the public treasury, according to the precept in the Koran, distributed the rest among the soldiers. He gave Jonas a good round sum to buy him a wife. But, in a very melancholy tone, Jonas assured him that he would never entertain any such thoughts again in this world, but his next wife should be one of those black-eyed women mentioned in the Koran. He continued among the Saracens, and did them great service on many occasions, till at last, at the battle of Yermouk, he was shot through the breast. Thus fell the apostate. However, for the encouragement of proselytes, my author (for more sorts of people than one will lie for religion) tells us, that after he was dead, he was seen in a vision by Rafi Ebn Omeirah very richly clothed, and with gold shoes upon his feet, walking in a most beautiful verdant meadow; and on being asked by Rafi what God had done for him, he answered, that he had given him seventy young women, so bright and beautiful, that if any one of them should appear in this world, the sun and moon would be dimmed before the resplendency of her beauty. When Kaled heard of this vision, he said, “This it is to be a martyr, happy is he that attains to it.”
Kaled, not having yet received advice of Abubeker’s death, wrote a letter to acquaint him with the taking of Damascus, the controversy between him and Abu Obeidah, and the recovery of the spoil which the Damascenes had carried away. The messenger, being come to Medina, wondered to find Omar in Abubeker’s stead; and Omar, on his part, finding the letter directed to Abubeker, was no less surprised that the Saracens in Syria should be still ignorant of the change in the government, and told the messenger that he had written to Abu Obeidah about it, and, superseding Kaled, had given him the chief command over the Mussulmans in Syria, though he believed that Abu Obeidah was not over anxious for so responsible a post. The truth of it is, Abu Obeidah had received the letter, but kept it private; for being a very modest man, and one that had not the least spark of ambition in him, he was very unwilling to take the commission out of Kaled’s hands. He therefore took no notice of it to Kaled, nor said anything to hinder his writing to the caliph upon his return from the pursuit of the Damascenes. Omar, in short, respected Abu Obeidah for his piety, but had no opinion at all of Kaled.
One day as the caliph was speaking to the people from the pulpit (for at this time it was usual for the caliphs to talk about all public concerns in a very familiar manner to the people), he mentioned his taking away Kaled’s commission, and conferring that charge upon Abu Obeidah. Upon this a young man among those present took the liberty to tell him that he was surprised he should deprive a person like Kaled, who had been the instrument of such signal successes to the Mussulmans; and especially when Abubeker, though many about him urged him to depose Kaled, refused, answering, “That he would not lay aside nor sheath that sword which God had drawn for the assistance of the true religion.” Lastly, the youth told Omar that if he did depose him, he must answer for it to God. Omar made but very little answer, but coming down from the pulpit, considered of it that night. The next day he came again, and told them, that since the care and charge of the Mussulmans was committed to him, he thought himself bound to take the best care of them he could, as one that must one day render account. For that reason he was resolved to dispose of places of trust to such as deserved them, and not to such as did not. Therefore he would give the command of the army to Abu Obeidah, whom he knew to be a man of a tender and gentle disposition, and one that would be kind to the Mussulmans. “He did not approve of Kaled,” he said, “because he was prodigal and extravagant;” adding, “I would not have your enemies think that it is at all the better for them because I have deposed a fierce man, and put a mild one in his place, for God will be with him, to assist and strengthen him.” Upon this he came down from the pulpit, and taking a sheet of parchment, wrote to Abu Obeidah a long letter, full of good advice. He told him that he had given him the chief command of the army, and hoped he would not be too modest, but accept the appointment, and bade him take care not to expose the Mussulmans to danger from any hope of getting plunder. (In these last words he very plainly implied his displeasure with Kaled for following the Damascenes into the enemy’s country.) He then charged him not to be deceived with this present world, and by that means, like a great many before him, lose his soul: and bade him look upon those who had already gone the way of man, and assure himself that he must follow them. Then he went on to add, “As for the wheat and barley, it belongs to the Mussulmans, and so does the gold and silver, but there must be a fifth taken out of it. As for the controversy between you and Kaled concerning the city having been surrendered or taken by the sword, it was surrendered. You must have it your way; you are commander-in-chief, and have the power of determining that matter. If, then, the townsmen did surrender upon condition that they should have the wheat and barley, let them have it. As for Kaled’s pursuing the Damascenes, it was a rash enterprise, and if God had not been very merciful, he would not have come off so well. Then again the taking the emperor’s daughter prisoner, and afterwards letting her go unransomed, was prodigally done. You might have had a large sum of money for her, which would have done much benefit to the poor Mussulmans. Farewell,” &c. Having sealed it up, he called Shaddad Ben Aus, and ordered him to proceed to the army, where, after publicly reading the letter, he was forthwith to cause the Mussulmans to proclaim him caliph in Damascus, upon which occasion he was to be his representative. Shaddad Ben Aus, accompanied by Amrou Ben Abi Wakkas, made all haste to get to Damascus, where he went at once to Kaled’s tent, and having paid his respects, told him how the government was disposed of, and that he had a letter from the new caliph, which was to be read in the hearing of the Mussulmans. Kaled did not like that very well, for he knew that Omar was not well affected towards him. And while they all wept when they heard of Abubeker’s death, Kaled swore “That as there was nothing upon the earth dearer to him than Abubeker, so there was none for whom he had a greater aversion than for Omar. However, since Abubeker was dead, and had appointed Omar his successor, he was quite willing to submit to God and to Omar.” Then the letter was read, and the same day being the first of October, in the year of our Lord 634, Shaddad was proclaimed caliph at Damascus as Omar’s representative. Upon this Kaled resigned his commission, and Abu Obeidah took upon himself the whole charge of the army, and all the affairs of the Mussulmans in Syria. Abu Obeidah was afraid that Kaled would have taken disgust at his removal, and (what is generally the effect of want of encouragement) have been remiss in his duties. But he fully allayed all such suspicion by his great achievements in the action at Dair Abi’l Kodas, or “The Monastery of the Holy Father.”
Dair Abi’l Kodas lies between Tripoli and Harran. In this place there lived a priest eminent to such a degree for his singular learning, piety, and austerity of life, that young and old, rich and poor, used to frequent his house, to ask his blessing, and receive his instructions. There was no person, whatsoever his rank or quality, that thought himself happy if he had not his prayers; and whenever a young couple among the rich and noble were married, they never failed to seek his blessing. Every Easter a great fair was kept at his house, where they sold rich silks and satins, plate and jewels, and costly furniture of all sorts. Now it happened that Abu Obeidah, being in possession of Damascus, was at a loss to decide whither he should go next. One time he had thoughts of turning to Jerusalem; another, to Antioch. Whilst he was thus deliberating, a Christian who was living under the protection of the Saracens, informed him of this great fair, which was held about thirty miles distant from Damascus. When he learned that the fair was usually held without any guards, the hopes of an easy conquest, and large spoil, tempted him. Looking round about upon the Mussulmans, he asked which of them would undertake to command the forces he should send upon such an expedition; and at the same time, cast his eye upon Kaled, but was ashamed to command him that had been so lately his superior officer. Kaled understood his meaning; but having been laid aside was a little envious, so that he would not proffer his service. At last Abdallah Ebn Jaafar (whose mother, after the death of his father Jaafar, who was killed in the wars, was remarried to Abubeker, ) offered himself. Abu Obeidah accepted him cheerfully, and gave him a standard and five hundred horse, of whom there was never a man but had been in several battles. The Christian who had first informed them of this fair was their guide, and whilst they stayed to rest themselves in their march, he went forward to take a view of the fair. He brought back a very discouraging account; for there had never been such a fair seen before, “There,” he told them, “was a most prodigious number of people, abundance of clergy, officers, courtiers, and soldiers.” The occasion which had brought together this unusual concourse was, that the prefect of Tripoli had married his daughter to a great man, and they had brought the young lady to this reverend priest, to receive the communion at his hands. He added, that taking them altogether, Greeks, Armenians, Coptics, Jews, and Christians, there could be no fewer than ten thousand people, besides five thousand horse, which formed the lady’s guard. Abdallah asked his friends what they thought of it? They told him that it was the best way to go back again, and not to rush headlong into certain destruction. To which he answered, “That he was afraid, if he should do so, God would be angry with him, and reckon him amongst the number of those who are back ward in his service; and so he should be miserable. I am not,” said he, “willing to go back before I fight; and if any one will help me, God reward him; if not, I shall not be angry with him.” The rest of the Saracens hearing that were ashamed to flinch from him, and told him he might do as he pleased, they were ready at his command. “Now,” says Abdallah to the guide, “come along with us, and you shall see what the companions of the apostle of God are able to perform.” “Not I,” answered the guide, “go yourselves I have nothing to say to you.” Abdallah persuaded him, with a great many good words, to bear them company till they came within sight of the fair. Having conducted them as far as he thought fit, he bade them stay there, and lie close till morning. In the morning they consulted which way to attack them to the best advantage. Omar Ebn Rebiyah thought it most advisable to wait till the people bad opened their wares and the fair had been begun, and then to fall upon them when they were all employed. This advice was approved by all. Abdallah divided his men into five troops, and ordered them to charge in five different places, and not to regard the spoil, nor the taking of prisoners, but to put all to the sword. When they came near the monastery, they saw the Christians assembled around it in great numbers. The reverend father had begun his sermon, and they thronged on all sides to hear him. The young lady was in the monastery, and her guard stood round about it, with a great many of the nobility and officers richly clothed. When Abdallah saw this number of people, he was not in the least discouraged, but turned himself about to the Saracens, and said, “The apostle of God has said, that paradise is under the shadow of swords; either we shall succeed, and then we shall have all the plunder, or else die, and so, the next way to paradise.” These words were no sooner out of his mouth, than he fell upon the crowd, and made a bloody slaughter. When the Christians heard the shouts of the Saracens, crying, “Allah Acbar,” they were amazed and confounded, imagining that the whole Saracen army had come from Damascus, and fallen upon them; which put them at first into a most terrible consternation. But when they had taken time to consider and look about themselves a little, and saw that there was but a handful of men, they took courage, and hemmed them in round on every side, so that Abdallah and his party were like a little island in the midst of the ocean. As soon as Abdallah Ebn Anis (the reader is desired to observe the distinction of names, for a great many of them are very much alike) perceived that Abdallah Ebn Jaafar was in so great danger, he immediately turned his horse, and rather flew than rode to Abu Obeidah, who asked him what news. Ebn Anis told him, that Abdallah, and all the Mussulmans with him were in imminent hazard of being lost; and if they were not instantly succoured, would infallibly be cut all to pieces. And now it was high time to look out for Kaled, none like him and Derar in a case of extremity. So Abu Obeidah turned to him and said, “I beg of thee, for God’s sake, not to fail me in this exigency, but go and help thy brethren the Mussulmans.” Kaled swore, that if Omar had given the command of the army to a child, he would have obeyed him; adding, that he would not contradict him, but respected him as one that came into the profession of the Mohammedan religion before himself. All that were present were wonderfully pleased with Kaled’s modest answer, which does indeed deserve to be particularly taken notice of, especially considering how lately he had been turned out of his commission, Abu Obeidah exhorted him, to lose no time, and he immediately put on his armour, among which was the coat of mail which he had taken from Moseilama, the false prophet. Then he put on his helmet, and over that a cap, which he called the blessed cap, as it had received Mohammed’s benediction; —on which account he valued it more than all his armour besides, and used frequently to attribute his security and success to it.
Kaled’s men were soon ready, and away they flew with all possible speed: and if we consider the circumstances, they had need make as much haste as they did; for that small number of Saracens which had made the first attack was quite lost and overwhelmed in that great multitude of Christians, and there was scarce any of them but what had more wounds than one. In short, they were at their last gasp, and had nothing left to comfort them but paradise. While they were thus fighting against such fearful odds, they saw about sunset a cloud of dust, and presently discerned a body of horsemen coming towards them at full speed, which at first did rather abate than add to their courage, for they imagined at first that they were Christians. At last Kaled appeared, fierce as a lion, with his colours flying in his hand, and immediately made up to Abdallah, who with much ado had borne up his standard all this while, and was now quite spent. But as soon as they heard Kaled’s voice, and saw the Mohammedan banner, these sinking, drooping Saracens, who were scarcely able to hold their swords, as if they had had new blood and spirits infused into them, took fresh courage, and altogether rent the skies with a shout of Allah Acbar. And then Abdallah, on the one side, charged the guard which was posted round the monastery, and Derar Ben Al Azwar attacked it on the other. The prefect of Tripoli himself engaged with Derar, and got him down. As they struggled together, the prefect being uppermost, Derar secretly drew a knife, which he carried about him against such emergencies, and mortally stabbed him. Then mounting the prefect’s horse, cried out, Allah Acbar. Whilst Derar was lighting with the prefect, Abdallah Ebn Jaafar had taken possession of the monastery, but meddled with nothing in it, till Kaled came back, who was gone in pursuit of those Christians he had beaten, and followed them to a river which was between them and Tripoli. The Greeks, having crossed the river, Kaled pursued them no farther. On his return, he found the Saracens in the monastery. For the spoil they seized all the silks, clothes, household stuff, fruits, and provision, that were in the fair; and all the hangings, money, and plate in the house; and made captives of the young lady the governor’s daughter, and forty maids that waited upon her. So they loaded all their jewels, wealth, and furniture, upon horses, mules, and asses, and returned to Damascus, having left nothing behind them in the house but the old monks.
While the Saracens were thus driving off the spoil, Kaled called out to the old priest in the house, who would not vouchsafe him an answer. When he called a second time; “What would you have?” said the priest, “Get you gone about your business; and assure yourself, that God’s vengeance will light upon your head, for spilling the blood of so many Christians.” “How can that be,” said Kaled, “when God has commanded us to fight with you, and kill you? and if the apostle of God, of blessed memory, had not commanded us to let such men as you are alone, you should not have escaped any more than the rest, but I would have put you to a most cruel death.” The poor monk held his peace at this, and answered him never a word.
Abu Obeidah was all the while waiting with great anxiety for the issue. When they returned, he received them with all imaginable expressions of kindness and affection, taking most particular notice of Kaled and Abdallah. Having reserved a fifth of the spoil; he distributed the rest among the soldiers. He gave the prefect’s horse and saddle to Derar Ebn AL Azwar, who made a present of them to his sister Caulah. She, as soon as she had them, picked out all the precious stones and jewels, of which there was a great number in the trappings and saddle, and divided them among the women of her acquaintance. Then they presented to Abu Obeidah the prisoners, among which was the prefect’s daughter. Abdallah desired to have her for himself; but Abu Obeidah begged of him to stay till he could write to the caliph about it, and have his leave. Omar ordered him to let him have her, and he kept her till the reign of Yezid (which began in the year 679) who begged her of him, and had her. Among the spoil there were a great many rich clothes curiously wrought, and upon one of them was a representation of our blessed Saviour, which was carried with the rest into Arabia Felix, and sold for ten times its weight in gold. Whether the esteem they had for the person it represented, or the fineness of the work, raised it to such a price, my author does not enable us to determine; but I believe it was both. Then Abu Obeidah sent a letter to the caliph, in which be gave him a particular account of this last victory, and praised Kaled extremely; telling him how modestly and obediently he behaved himself, and how bravely he had fought, and desired that he would be so kind as to write to him, in order to encourage him. But I have nowhere found that the caliph paid any attention to this request, for the old gentleman always turned a deaf ear to every thing that was said in praise of Kaled. Whatever the reason was, it is most certain he did not like him. Among other particulars of which Abu Obeidah wrote to the caliph, was a request that he might be permitted to go and besiege either Antioch, (then the seat of the Grecian emperor, who upon the taking of Damascus had removed thither from Hems) or else Jerusalem, which he pleased. He also acquainted him with the fact, that the Mussulmans had learned to drink wine in Syria. The messenger went with the letter to Medina, and found Omar with his friends in the mosque. When Omar had read the letter, and came to that last particular, he showed it to Ali, afterwards caliph, and asked him what he thought of it? Ali gravely answered, that whoever drank wine, should have fourscore stripes upon the soles of their feet. Omar sent word to Abu Obeidah to deal with them accordingly, and swore, “That nothing would suit with those fellows, but poverty and hardship; whereas it would better become them to direct their intentions aright, and observe the commands of their most mighty Lord, and serve him, and believe in him, and give him thanks.” Abu Obeidah, having received the letter, punished the offenders according to order; and he exhorted his men, if any of them were conscious of having been guilty of this fault, to come forward in testimony of the sincerity of their repentance, and voluntarily submit to this penance. Upon which a great many came forward, and freely submitted to the punishment, having no accuser but their own conscience. Then he acquainted them with his design of marching to Antioch, against the Grecian dog, for that was the best compliment they could afford the emperor. The Saracens, according to their custom, encouraged him to fight against the enemies of God, and assured him they were ready at his service. He told them, that he would go to Aleppo first, and then to Antioch. When they were ready to march, he called Kaled, and ordered him to lead the van, and take the flag which Abubeker had given him at first, viz., the black eagle. With him went Derar, Rafi Ebn Omeirah, and several others of note, with a considerable number of men. Then leaving in Damascus a garrison of five hundred horse, under the command of Sefwan Ebn Amir, he himself marched after them. When he came up with them, he ordered Kaled to ravage the country around Hems and Kennisrin, while he himself took the road to Baalbec, formerly called Heliopolis. As he was upon his march towards this place, and came near to Jushiyah, the governor of that town came out to meet him with a present, and made a truce with him for one whole year; stipulating to surrender to the Saracens as soon as they should have conquered Baalbec, Hems, and Labwah. To this Abu Obeidah consented, upon the further condition that he should pay him down four thousand pieces of gold, and fifty silk vests. This being done, he went forward on his route, and presently observed one upon a camel come riding towards him full speed. When he drew near, Abu Obeidah knew him to be Asamah Ebn Zeid; who, making his camel kneel, alighted; and, having paid his respects, delivered him the following letter.
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From the servant of God, Omar Ebn Al Khattab, to his lieutenant, greeting. I praise the only God, besides whom there is no other; and I pray for his prophet Mohammed, upon whom be the blessing of God. There is no turning back the decree and determination of God; and he that is, written an infidel in the secret book, shall have no faith. My speaking thus is occasioned by Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham, of the tribe of Gassan, who came to us with his relations, and the chief men of his tribe, whom I received and entertained kindly. They made profession of the true religion before me; and I was glad that God has strengthened the true religion, and the professors of it, by their coming in, and knowing what was in secret. We went together on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Jabalah went round the temple seven times. As he was going round, it chanced that a man of the tribe of Fezarah trod upon his vest, so that it fell from his shoulders. Jabalah turned himself about, and said, ‘Woe be to thee! Thou hast uncovered my back in the sacred temple of God.’ The man swore that he did not intend it. But Jabalah boxed him, broke his nose, and beat out four of his fore teeth. The poor man hastened to me, and made his complaint, desiring my assistance. I commanded Jabalah to be brought before me, and asked him what moved him to beat his brother Mussulman after this fashion, and knock his teeth out, and break his nose. He told me that the man had trodden upon his vest, and uncovered his back; adding, that if it had not been for the reverence he bore to the holy temple, he would have killed him. I told him he had made a fair confession against himself; and if the injured person would not forgive him, I must proceed with him by way of retaliation. He answered, that he was a king, and the other a peasant. I told him, no matter for that, they were both Mussulmans, and in that respect equal. Upon which he desired that his punishment might be deferred till the next day. I asked the injured person whether he was willing to stay so long. To which he gave his consent. In the night, Jabalah and his friends made their escape, and he is gone to the Grecian dog; but I hope in God that he will give thee the victory over him. Sit down before Hems, and keep close to it; and send thy spies towards Antioch, for fear of the Christian Arabs. Health and happiness, and the blessing of God, be upon thee and all the Mussulmans.”
What might not be expected from a government in which there flourished such impartial administration of justice? Abu Obeidah having read over the letter, first to himself and then to the Mussulmans, went on towards Hems (whither Kaled was gone before with a third part of the army), and sat down before it in November, in the year of our Lord 635. The governor of the town chanced to die that same day that Kaled came before it. The inhabitants had expected that the Saracens would have taken Baalbec in their way, before they came to Hems, and were consequently but ill provided for sustaining a siege. Upon this account, and in hopes of gaining an opportunity to augment their stores, they determined to apply to Abu Obeidah for a truce, telling him, that if the Saracens conquered Haleb (Aleppo), Alhadir, and Kinnasrin, and beat the emperor’s forces, they would then open to him their gates. Abu Obeidah told them he was ready to make a truce with them for the space of one whole year, and no longer, which was to commence on the first day of Dulhagjah of the present year, and expire on the last day of the month Sjewal, in the following year, being the 15th of the Hejirah, upon condition that they paid him down ten thousand pieces of gold, and two hundred silk vests. The cessation of hostilities was no sooner concluded upon, than the Hemessens opened their gates, and came out and held a market in the Saracen camp. The Arabians, enriched with the spoils of the country, gave them whatever they asked, and never stood for a price; so that the citizens made a good thing of it. In the meantime the Arabian horse foraged all about the country, both far and near. Among the rest, Mesab Ebn Moharib brought in abundance of spoil, sheep and oxen, with a great many horses and camels laden with furniture, and four hundred captives, making most piteous lamentation for the calamity which had befallen them. Abu Obeidah, moved with compassion, asked them why they did not come into the profession of the Mohammedan religion, and by that means secure their lives and fortunes, wives and children. They told him that they were altogether surprised, not expecting any hostilities from the Saracens, from whom they were divided by so great a distance. Abu Obeidah, having asked advice of the Mussulmans, and they referring the matter wholly to his decision, set four pieces of gold upon every bead, as Omar had instructed him to do in such cases, and laying tribute upon them, and having bound them, each one in their several respective capacities to assist the Mussulmans, should an opportunity occur, gave them all their cattle, furniture, wives and children back again, having first entered their names, and the places of their habitation, in a book which he kept for that purpose. The poor people were overjoyed to find themselves in such a, happy condition, after having been plunged into the depth of despair; and on their march, and upon their return home, acquainted their neighbours with the unexpected favour which they had received at the hands of the Saracens.
This conduct greatly facilitated the subsequent conquests of the Arabians; for whereas an unrelenting cruelty would have made every one desperate; and driven him to fight it out to the last drop of blood, now, when they saw there was a possibility of enjoying their religion, and a competency, by submitting themselves to those who would otherwise have taken all that they had by force, and either have murdered them every one, or at best made them slaves; a great many chose rather to embrace the former condition while yet it was open to them, than run the risk of incurring the latter. By this means the Saracens were greatly strengthened, for they made use of these people on all occasions. They served them for interpreters, for the guides of their marches, and for several other purposes. It was from them also that they received advice of all the movements of the Christians, and intelligence of whatever was meditated or attempted to their disadvantage. Quickly after the news of Abu Obeidah’s gentle behaviour flew about the country, a great many of the Greeks came in upon the same terms, whose names he also entered in his book, and dismissed peaceably. The inhabitants of Alhadir and Kinnisrin hearing this, entertained some thoughts of following their example; and without the notice of their governor, Luke, who was a warlike man, privately, resolved to make a vigorous resistance. This Luke had an antipathy against the governor of Aleppo, insomuch, that when Heraclius sent for them both to consult which was the best way to manage the war, and both of them had assured him they would do their best, they nevertheless would not join their forces together, but looked each man to the defence of his own province. As soon as Luke understood that his people were disposed to submit themselves to the Saracens, he was very much displeased; but, in hopes of preventing their design by stratagem, he dissembled his anger, and, calling a council, asked their advice. They told him, that they understood that the Arabs were a people that received into their protection such as came to them, and used to stand to their word. Thus, since they had come into Syria, their constant practice had indeed been to kill and make slaves of all who opposed them, but at the same time to protect all such as submitted in the peaceable enjoyment of their possessions: for which reason they thought it most advisable to follow the example of their neighbours. He answered, that they were in the right, and therefore he was ready to make a truce with the Saracens till the emperor’s succours should arrive, and then they might oppress them when they least suspected it. Upon this he despatches Astachar, a priest, a very learned man, master of the Arabic tongue, and thoroughly versed in the Jewish and Christian theology, with a letter to the Saracen general. In this composition he magnified the greatness of the emperor, and the strength of the place; adding, that all attempts upon it would be in vain, not only upon the account of its being well fortified and furnished with plenty of military stores, but because the emperor was now raising a vast army in Europe, which would shortly be transported over the Bosphorus, and mustered at Tyre, for the relief of Syria. Notwithstanding all these advantages, they were nevertheless desirous to live at quiet, and were willing to have a year’s truce, if the general of the Saracens would agree to set a mark at their bounds, that if any of the Saracen horse, in their foraging expeditions, came that way and saw the sign, they should go no further to do any mischief in their country. This truce, however, if agreed upon between them, must remain a secret, and must not be made known to Heraclius the emperor, for fear of his displeasure. With these instructions Astachar goes to Hems, where he found the Mohammedans at prayers. As soon as their orisons were concluded, Abu Obeidah admits him, and when he was about to bow down to the ground, would not suffer him. When Kaled had heard the contents of the letter, he did not like it, but shook his head, and said, that it did not look like the style of a man that desired peace in earnest; and would fain have persuaded Abu Obeidah not to hearken to him. “But,” said he, “let us go to the place, and, by Mohammed, I will make that city a prey to the Mussulmans, if it please God, and a terror to the rest.” “Softly!” said Abu Obeidah, “no man knows the hearts of men, but God only.” “Well then,” answered Kaled, “make no agreement with them, unless it be for good and all; and if they will accept of this, well and good; if not, let them alone. I hope, by the help of God, I shall be a match for them.” Astachar was surprised at Kaled’s roughness, and said, that the character which he had heard of the Arabs was not true; for the Christians had been informed that they were very gentle and courteous to all such persons as came to seek their protection. “But now,” adds he, “I find the contrary; for I come to propose terms of peace, and you are not willing to accept them.” To which Kaled answered, that they had great reason to suspect the sincerity of these overtures, and were not willing to be imposed upon. They feared that if there should come any assistance from the emperor, and the townspeople saw that the advantage was on their own side, they would then be the first to take up arms against the Saracens, notwithstanding their present pretended desire of peace. However, the Saracens were ready to contract a truce with them for a twelvemonth, upon condition, that if the Grecian emperor sent an army into the neighbourhood, the inhabitants of the city should keep themselves within their own walls, and not stir out to their assistance. This being consented to, Astachar asked for a copy of the agreement, which Abu Obeidah having given him, he next desired that his townsmen might be permitted to set up some sign at the limits of their territories, that when the Saracens saw it they might not forage in their country. Abu Obeidah said he would take care to have it done. But Astachar told him, he need not trouble any of his own men, for they intended, with his leave, to do it themselves. Accordingly, the Greeks erected at their boundaries a pillar, upon the top of which was a statue of the Grecian emperor sitting upon his throne.
All things being thus made easy for a while between the Saracens and the governor of Kinnisrin, an unlucky accident had like to have occasioned a misunderstanding between them. Some of the Saracen horse passing that way, and observing the curious workmanship of the pillar, admired it. They spent some time in viewing it, riding past it backward and forward, and exercising themselves round about it. At last, as one of them, javelin in hand, rode by it in full career, the iron which was fastened in the lower end of the javelin, accidentally struck out one of the eyes of the carved emperor. This was no sooner known among the Greeks, than they misconstrued it into flagrant indignity offered to the emperor in effigy, and a manifest breach of the truce, and messengers were forthwith despatched to Abu Obeidah, who clamorously expostulated with him upon the injury, and insisted upon satisfaction. He assured them that it was his intention to keep his word inviolably, and that he was quite confident that whoever did it had no design to show any disrespect to the emperor; and to prove the sincerity of his professions, professed his readiness to make them any reasonable satisfaction in his power. Nothing would satisfy them but retaliation; the affront offered to the emperor must be returned upon the caliph. When in making this demand, their spokesman expressed himself unwarily, and talked of putting out one of Omar’s eyes, the rude Saracens understanding his words literally, were so enraged, that they would have rushed upon them instantly, and killed them upon the spot, had not Abu Obeidah restrained them, by telling them that these people wanted sense, and must be borne with patiently. He then told the messengers that they might set up his own statue if they would, and do what they pleased with it. But nothing would serve but the statue of the caliph. To which, wearied out with their importunity, he at last consented. They having made a statue to represent Omar, and put two glass eyes in the head of it, ordered one of their men to strike out one of them with a lance. And thus, having received what they deemed sufficient reparation for the injury done them, they were pacified.
Abu Obeidah continued at Hems, sending out his horse to forage, and waiting with great impatience for the expiration of the truce, which had tied up his hands from committing any hostility within the territories of Hems, Alhadir, and Kinnisrin. Omar, in the meantime, wondered at Abu Obeidah’s silence, and not having heard of any considerable action a long time, grew very angry. At last he wrote a short, snapping sort of a letter to Abu Obeidah, as follows:—
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- From Omar Ebn Al Khattab, to Abu Obeidah Ebn Al Jerahh, his lieutenant in Syria, greeting.—I praise God, besides whom there is no other: and I pray for his prophet Mohammed, upon whom be the blessing of God. I command thee to put thy trust in God; and I bid thee take heed that thou be not one of those concerning whom God says:—
- “Say, if your parents, or children, or friends, or wives, or families, or the riches you have gained, or the merchandise which you are afraid you should not sell, or the houses which you delight in, be dearer to you than God and his apostle, and the fighting for his service; stay till God shall accomplish what he has decreed. God does not direct those that do wickedly.’”
The Mussulmans had no sooner heard the letter, than they perfectly understood that it was intended to rebuke them for their negligence. As for Abu Obeidah, he heartily repented that he had ever granted a truce to the inhabitants of Alhadir and Kinnisrin, and all the Mussulmans wept for sorrow, because they had been so remiss in their duty; and asked Abu Obeidah why he sat still, and did not lead them forth to fight the battles of the Lord? desiring him at the same time to leave Kinnisrin and march either to Aleppo or Antioch, saying that by the time one of these should be taken, the truce would be expired. Upon this he set out for Aleppo, and having left Salmah with a party of horse at Hems, the first considerable place that he came to was Arrestan; from this town he marched to Hamah (afterwards the seat of the famous Abulfeda), and from thence to Shaizar. With all these places he made truce upon conditions. At Shaizar, he received information, that the governor of Kinnisrin, contrary to the articles of truce, had written to the emperor for fresh supplies, who had sent Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham to his assistance. Upon which, Abu Obeidah deferred his intended march to Aleppo, designing to fall upon Kinnisrin, as soon as the truce, which had now quite a month to run, should have expired. The governor of Kinnisrin having gone out to meet Jabalah, was intercepted by Kaled, who having ventured upon that undertaking with an inconsiderable number of men, was in the greatest danger, for the prefect of Ammouriyah having come to the assistance of the governor, he was on every side surrounded with the Christians. Though he had slain the prefect of Kinnisrin, in single combat, upon Rafi Ebn Omeirah saying to him, “Our time is come,” he answered, “That he believed so, because he had forgot his cap, which used to do him such singular service, and which he should not have left behind him, if it had not been so decreed.” Speedy relief, however, arriving from Abu Obeidah, contrary to all expectation, they safely escaped to the main body.
Abu Obeidah having now fully resolved to besiege Kinnisrin, sent forward a party of horse to forage and lay waste all the country round about. All the prisoners they took were sent to the caliph, and he took care to put the boys to the writing school, in obedience to the command of their prophet Mohammed; who, though he could neither write nor read himself, was very well sensible of the use of it. The inhabitants of Kinnisrin having lost their governor, and having no hopes of relief, sued for protection, and submitted to pay tribute, being first polled, according to Omar’s order, at the rate of four ducats a head. Kinnisrin being taken, Abu Obeidah called his Mussulmans together, and said, “Come, now, and God’s blessing be with you: give your advice; for God in the mighty book (meaning the Koran), has said to his prophet Mohammed, ‘Ask their advice in a matter, and trust upon God;’ and the apostle of God has said, ‘He that takes advice is secure.’ Now, then, what think ye; shall we go to Aleppo, or Antioch?” They answered, that as the time of the truce which he had made with the neighbouring places was almost expired, they were of opinion, that it would be most advisable to take them in their way, before they moved any further into the country. Especially they thought it expedient to reduce Baalbec, where they had reason to expect a vigorous opposition. Abu Obeidah hereupon, leaving Kaled to besiege Hems, marched himself to Baalbec. On their arrival before this city, the Saracens found they had not been at all wrong in their expectation; for the place was very well fortified, and stored with warlike provision. On their march to Baalbec, the Saracens having intercepted a caravan with four hundred loads of silks and sugars, Abu Obeidah put none of the merchants to death (as not bearing arms), but allowed them to ransom themselves. Some of them going to Baalbec, acquainted the inhabitants with the loss of the caravan, who, in hopes of recovering it, went out under the conduct of Herbis their governor, to the number of six thousand horse, attended with a multitude of the undisciplined rabble. For they imagined that the main body of the Saracen army still lay at Hems, and that the caravan had been plundered only by a party of foragers. Encountering therefore, Abu Obeidah with his whole force, at so manifest a disadvantage, they were overthrown and routed, Herbis their general receiving no less than seven wounds, and with great difficulty and hazard make good his retreat to the city. When Abu Obeidah came before it, he resolved to be=siege it closely. Mead Ebn Jabal told Abu Obeidah that he knew the town was so crowded, that the people were almost treading one upon another, and he thought it could scarce contain them all; adding, “If we hold on against it, we hope, at last, God will deliver it into the hands of the Mussulmans; for God will not cease to give the earth for an inheritance to his servants the saints; because he has said, ‘We have written in the Psalms, that my servants the saints shall inherit the earth.” The next day Abu Obeidah wrote a letter to the besieged, in which he put them in mind of the victories which God had already granted to the faithful over all their adversaries, and offered to make peace with them, paying tribute as others had done before them. This letter he gave to a countryman that was under their protection, adding a reward of twenty pieces of silver, saying, “That he was not one to make use of a man’s service, and not pay him for it.” The messenger coming to the wall, the townspeople let down a rope, by which, when he had tied it about his middle, they drew him up. The letter being read (for Abu Obeidah, when he wrote to the Greeks, made use of a Greek secretary); the besieged were divided in their opinions, a great many being disposed to surrender, which Herbis the governor was so adverse to, that he tore the letter in pieces, and threw it to the messenger, commanding him to be forthwith sent back to Abu Obeidah, which was all the answer he vouchsafed to give to him.
The Saracens, upon this, attempted to storm the city, but were bravely repulsed by the besieged, who from the walls did them a great deal of damage with their engines. The valour of the citizens, together with the extreme coldness of the weather, made the Saracens glad to draw off from the assault. The next morning, after prayers were over, a crier went round the camp, in the general’s name, forbidding a man of them to stir, or to do anything else, before he got himself ready some hot victuals. The order was no sooner heard than obeyed, and every man went to work for himself. Whilst they were in the midst of their cookery, the besieged sallied. The Saracens were immediately alarmed. In the tumult, Ahmed Ebn Ased was just going to put his hand to his mouth, when Abu Obeidah struck him a good blow with a truncheon, and gave him a hearty curse into the bargain. The poor man started up on a sudden, and like one seared out of his wits, snatched up a tent-pole, and ran and charged the enemy, scarce knowing where he was, till he was got in the midst of them. The Saracens, surprized in this disorder, with much difficulty beat back the besieged, who nevertheless carried off some prisoners and plunder.
In the evening the chief officers of the Saracens met at Abu Obeidah’s tent, and said, “You see the courage of these people, What do you think to do in this case?” To which he answered, “That the damage they had sustained was all decreed by God, in order to fulfil his pleasure of bestowing on those persons who had fallen the honours of martyrdom.” Then he commanded them to remove their tents to a greater distance from the city, that they might have a larger space for their horses to course in. Then he gave to Saïd Ebn Zeid the command of five hundred horse, and three hundred foot, with orders to go into the valley, and keep the Greeks in play at the gate which was opposite the mountains, that their forces might be divided. Derar was placed at the gate which looks towards Damascus, with three hundred horse and two hundred [illegible]. The next morning about break of day, Herbis, the governor, sallied out with a strong body of men, by the gate where Abu Obeidah himself was posted. To encourage his men, he told them that the Saracens were afraid of them, and bade them remember that they were about to fight for their religion, wives, children, and fortunes; in a word, for all that was most dear to them. They answered him cheerfully, that though at first they were afraid of the Arabs, yet they were not so now, being a little better acquainted with their manner of fighting; besides, the Arabs were half naked; some of them fighting without armour, others with scarce clothes enough to cover them; whereas (said they) we have good helmets, breastplates, and coats of mail. On the other side, Abu Obeidah did not fail to tell the Saracens that they must have patience, “For God had promised good success to those that held out to the last.” The Greeks, encouraged with yesterday’s victory, charged the Saracens with great vigour, and the battle was obstinately maintained on both sides, but apparently to the advantage of the Greeks. In the midst of the fight it happened that Sohail Ebn Sabah, having received a wound in his right arm, which disabled him from holding his sword, alighted from his horse, and telling his friends that he could not defend himself any longer, retired from the field to a neighbouring height. Having ascended the hill, not without some pain and difficulty, he had a clear prospect of both the armies. The Greeks, as we said, having sallied out upon Abu Obeidah’s quarters, there was nothing to do at those gates where Derar and Saïd Ebn Zeid were posted. Sohail observing this, and seeing that Abu Obeidah was forced to give ground, without any order from the general, or any person’s knowing it, kindled a fire, and with some green sticks made a great smoke upon the top of the hill. As soon as Saïd and Derar saw the smoke, they imagined it to be a signal from the general for them to come up, for this was the usual signal among the Saracens by day, as fire was by night, when they had a mind to call those together who were posted at any distance. Upon this Derar and Saïd, with their men, rode full speed, and came seasonably to the relief of their brethren. And now the Greeks, who had thought themselves certain of the victory, being surrounded, found the case was quite altered, and they .who a few minutes ago expected to win the field, now despaired of getting back to their own city. However, joining close together, they formed an impenetrable phalanx, and fighting bravely, they bore down all opposition, and gained the top of a hill, on which stood an old deserted monastery, into which Herbis and his men retired, and defended themselves behind its walls. Abu Obeidah, knowing nothing as yet of Saïd and Derar’s having moved from the places where he had posted them, when he saw with what undaunted courage these men fought, imagined their retreat to be feigned, with a design of drawing the Saracens out of their lines. He therefore commanded his own men not to pursue them. But Saïd Ebn Zeid, having heard nothing of the general’s order, followed them to the top of the hill. Thereupon, leaving the troops in command of one of his officers, with orders not to suffer a man to stir out of the house, he hastened with twenty of his men to acquaint Abu Obeidah with the news; who seeing him come with so few, was surprized, and asked him what was become of the rest. Saïd told him they were all safe and sound, and had beseiged the enemies of God (a compliment they very liberally gave to the Christians) in an old house, acquainting him with all the circumstances of the story. Then Abu Obeidah inquired of him and Derar what made them stir from their posts. Saïd swore that he did nothing contrary to order, for he never stirred till he saw the smoke. Abu Obeidah confessed that it was well they came, for he was afraid the Greeks would have seized their camp, and wished for them, but that he knew nothing of any smoke. Upon this Saïd, positively affirming a second time that there was a smoke, Abu Obeidah was astonished, and made proclamation throughout the camp, “Whoever be he that kindled the fire and smoke upon the hill, let him speak;” enforcing it with a solemn adjuration. Upon this Sohail came forward, and confessed it, and told the reason by he did it. Abu Obeidah was very glad it happened so well, but strictly charged them all never to attempt such a thing again, without first obtaining the permission of their general.
Whilst Abu Obeidah was talking to Sohail, a Saracen came with all speed from the mountain, and alarmed the whole camp. For Herbis, perceiving that the party by which he was held besieged in the house was so small, being now fewer than five hundred, took courage, and made a sally, in hopes of regaining the city. They fought bravely, and handled the Saracens so severely, that Mesab Ebn Adi, who had been present in most of the battles fought in Syria, said, that of all the men he ever beheld, none behaved themselves better, or stood closer to it, than those Greeks which were then with the governor. It was he that rode and gave notice to Abu Obeidah, who no sooner heard it, than despatching Saïd at once with an hundred archers, commanded Derar to support him. When they came to the hill, they found their friends in a pitiful condition, for there were no less than seventy Saracens upon the ground killed or wounded, so lustily were the Greeks laying about them. But the latter, overpowered with the fresh numbers of their enemies, were forced once more to retire within their monastery, where they were watched with such a vigilant eye, that not one of them could so much as offer to look out than the Saracens let fly an arrow at him.
Abu Obeidah, leaving Saïd Ebn Zeid to watch the movements of the governor, drew up his men, and ordered them to pitch their tents about the city, “For,” said he, “God has circumvented your enemy, and performed that promise which he made to us, to help us; and this is because God is a protector of those who put trust in him; but as for the infidels, they have no protector.” Herbis, the governor, finding himself straitened, began to repent himself that ever he came into that old house. He considered, with great concern, that in a very short time he and his men must needs be forced to capitulate for want of provision. Nor could any about him, supposing they could have found a possibility of sending, think of any person capable of assisting them in these deplorable circumstances. For the Saracens having taken so many places already, had spread such a terror around the country, that those which remained wean under too great a concern for their own preservation to be at leisure to lend a helping hand to their distressed neighbours. A great many others, by consenting to a truce, had bound themselves not to bear arms at that time against the Saracens. In this miserable state, without hope or prospect of relief, they were compelled by necessity to surrender to their conquerors. Herbis calls out aloud, and asks if there were any person that understood him. Being asked by an interpreter what he wanted, he begged that he might be secured from danger of the archers, and that Saïd would come near and talk with him. Saïd answered, that he owed him no such respect, but that if he had anything to say, he might come to him. Loath to venture himself, by means of the interpreter he got leave to send a messenger, who, coming before Saïd, was about to fall down upon his face by way of respect. Saïd made a sign to him to forbear, and the Saracens coming about him, held him from doing it. When he asked the reason of this, Saïd said to the interpreter, “Because both he and I are servants of God, and it is not lawful to use adoration and worship to any but God, who is the proper object of worship.” Being examined about his errand, he said that he came to desire protection for Herbis and his men, which was accordingly granted, upon condition that they should lay down their arms, and surrender. The messenger asked whether that security was only from himself, or from the general too. Saïd told him, from all the Saracens. When Herbis heard this, he came out, and my author tells us that he has learned from persons worthy of credit, that Herbis, when he came out to surrender himself, put off all his silks, and exchanging with some of his men, dressed himself in woollen apparel, suiting his habit to the meanness of his present condition. Saïd, seeing him come along in this humble mien, fell down and worshipped God, saying, “Praised be God, who hath humbled their great ones before us, and given us dominion over their rulers.” Then going to meet him, he bade him come nearer, and sit down by him, and then asked him whether that which he had on was his proper habit; to which he answered, “That he never had any woollen on before in his life, nor knew what it was to wear anything but silk.” He demanding of Saïd whether he had power, or was willing to grant security, as well for those in the city as those present with him. Saïd told him “That as for those which were with him, he would grant them security upon two conditions, either that they should turn Mohammedans, and so have one common interest with then; or, if they chose rather to continue in the profession of their own religion, they must bind themselves never more to bear arms against the Mussulmans. But as for those in the city, they were at the general’s disposal, to whom, if he was willing to go, he proferred his service to conduct him; and if they could agree upon any terms, well and good, if not he should, if he desired it, have free leave, with as many of his men as were willing to go back with him, to return to his monastery again, there to be besieged till God should determine the matter between them.”
Being brought into the presence of Abu Obeidah, and taking a view of the Saracens about him, considering at the same time what a condition they had brought him and his men into, Herbis did nothing but shake his head, and bite his fingers’ ends for vexation. Being asked the reason of this behaviour? he answered, “that he thought their number had been much greater than he found it was, now he was come among them.” Upon this Abu Obeidah bade his interpreter tell him, that the number of the true believers seemed greater in the eyes of the idolaters than it really was; “because, such is the grace of God towards us, the angels help us as they did at the battle of Beder; and by this means God gives us the victory over your country, and makes your armies flee before us.” For Mohammed, in the Koran, has expressly told the Saracens that the angels helped him in battle; and they therefore believed and depended upon the same assistance themselves, and oftentimes attributed their success to it. Not that any of them ever pretended to have seen these auxiliary troops of militant angels; it being sufficient for their purpose that they were seen by their enemies. As a ransom for the whole city of Baalbec, Herbis offered one thousand ounces of gold, two thousand of silver, and one thousand silk vests. Abu Obeidah told him, “If they would have peace, they must double the sum, and add to it a thousand swords, and all the arms belonging to those men that were shut up in the monastery, and pay tax and tribute the next year, and never bear arms for the time to come, nor write to the emperor, nor attempt either directly or indirectly any thing against the Saracens, nor build any churches or monasteries.” Herbis, complaining of the severity of the articles, as being all in favour of the Saracens, desired that the besieged might at least have this one article on their side; viz. “that whosoever shall be appointed lieutenant over Baalbec, should not come into the city, nor any of his men; but pitching his tents on the outside of the walls, should there receive the tribute imposed upon the inhabitants.” This being granted, all was agreed upon, and nothing was now wanted but the townsmen’s consent. But they, when they heard the articles, refused to ratify them, and said, they would never surrender the strongest city in Syria into the hands of the Saracens upon such terms. But when Herbis had remonstrated with them on the danger to which he and his men must be exposed, if there were not some agreement made, and explained to them the provision he had made for their repose and quiet, in excluding all the Saracens from once entering into the town; adding withal, that he would himself contribute a fourth part of what was imposed upon them, they at last consented. Upon this consent being intimated to him, Abu Obeidah sent Herbis alone into the city to raise the promised sum, and detained the rest of his men as hostages, till it should be paid. In twelve days’ time he brought it; upon which Abu Obeidah dismissed the men, and calling for Rafi Ebn Abdallah, left him to take care of Baalbec with five hundred Saracens, giving him a most strict charge to do nothing but what was right and just, telling him that he had heard the prophet say, that God had given the same command to Moses and David. Particularly he bade him to prevent all disputes between his men and the inhabitants of the city, and to have an eye to the sea-shore, and to pillage all those places in the neighbourhood, which had not entered into articles. Having left him with this charge, he moved towards Hems; and on his road thither, he was met by the prefect of Jushiyah bringing him a present, which he accepted, and renewed the truce with him.
Rafi very punctually executed his charge, and both he and his men behaved themselves so inoffensively, that the citizens and the Saracens grew very well acquainted. As the Saracens, according to their custom, plundered all the neighbourhood, they sold what they got to the citizens of Baalbec, who consequently were very soon in a fair way of growing rich upon the spoils of their countrymen and fellow Christians. Herbis, formerly their governor, perceiving this, began to consider how he might obtain a share of the gains. Accordingly, calling them together, he reminded them of the hazard he had exposed himself to for their preservation, and of the pains he had taken to procure them those articles of peace of which they now reaped the benefit; and moreover, called to their remembrance how he had paid down, out of his own private means, the fourth part of what was imposed upon them all; adding, that he thought it only reasonable, that since they were in a capacity to do it they should reimburse him. This they readily consented to. But upon this he told them, that he had no wish to deprive any of them of their present substance; it would satisfy him if they would agree to pay him the tenth of the profits they made by their trade with the Arabs. At first they were very unwilling to agree to this; but after a short debate, considering his quality, as having been once their governor, though now reduced to the same condition with themselves, and that he had not spared his own private substance, when necessity required it, for the public good, they at last consented. This done, he appoints a collector to gather his tithe, which in a few days amounted to a very considerable sum. The sweetness of this gain, instead of extinguishing, increased his thirst. Whereupon in a second meeting he told them, that at the present rate, it would be a long time before he would be repaid what he had laid out, and proposed, that either they should admit him one of their company, or, instead of a tenth, pay him a fourth part of all their gains. The people, irritated at his grasping, insatiable temper, cried out, “Away with him, and all such unreasonable wretches. We had better be under the Saracens than such governors, for they are better, and more just;” and with a great noise and shout they rushed upon him, and killed him. The Saracens without heard the noise, but did not know what was the matter; neither would Rafi go into the city in violation of the treaty, but said, if there was any difference between them, and they came out to him, he would endeavour to make them friends. Presently after they came thronging out to him, and acquainted him with what they had done, telling him how civil they had been to their prefect, in answering his first demand, and how unreasonable he had been in coveting more, and concluded with desiring Rafi to come into the city, and govern it himself. This, however, he refused at first, till he had written to Abu Obeidah. But upon receiving word from him to the effect that since the people were willing, he need not have any scruples about it; he and his men went into Baalbec, on the 20th day of January, a.d. 636.
Leaving Baalbec, we must now proceed with Abu Obeidah to Hems. Having set down before it with his army, previously to making a general assault upon it, he sent to the governor the following letter:
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From Abu Obeidah Ebn Aljerahh, lieutenant in Syria to the emperor of the faithful Omar, Ebn Al Khattab (whom God bless), and general of his forces. The most mighty God hath conquered several places by our hands; wherefore do not let the greatness of your city, nor the strength of your buildings, nor the plenty of your stores, nor the bigness of your bodies, deceive you: for your city is no more in your hands, when we come to war against it, than if we should set a pot upon a stone in the midst of our camp, and all the army should come round about, to take every one of them a mouthful. In the first place, therefore, I invite you to come in to our religion, and that law which our prophet Mohammed, of blessed memory, brought us. If you receive this, then shall you share with us in all our fortunes, good or bad; and we will send you men to instruct you in our religion, as God has commanded us. If you refuse the Mohammedan religion, we will allow you to continue in your possessions, so long as you pay us tribute. If neither of these conditions please you, come out and fight us, till God, who is the best judge, shall determine between us.”
This proposal being no sooner heard than rejected with the utmost scorn, both sides prepared themselves, the Saracens for an assault, the besieged for their defence. The besieged, sallying out, made so good a day’s work of it, that the Saracens had little reason to boast of their success. Now there happened to be present a great man among the Arabs, who was a person of extraordinary sagacity and penetration, and had himself many times commanded an army with good conduct and success. Having well considered the strength of the place, and the courage and resolution of the inhabitants, he told Abu Obeidah privately, that if he expected to conquer Hems, he must use stratagem, rather than force. On this account he advised him to offer to raise the siege, on condition that the besieged furnished him with five days’ provision for his men and horses. For if they consented, by this means, he said, their stock of provision would be very much diminished, and he might take a fit opportunity of surprizing them. This suggestion being approved of, Abu Obeidah acquainted the besieged with his willingness to raise the siege of Hems, and to try his fortune at other places, (of which there still remained unconquered a great number in Syria very well fortified, ) upon the condition afore-mentioned. The people of Hems, only too glad to get rid of such troublesome neighbours at any rate, and considering withal the many accidents that might prevent their ever returning thither, or at least defer it a long time, gladly assented to his proposal. The governor himself being as willing as any to compound with the Saracens upon these terms, told his people, that the Arabs were like wild beasts, greedy of prey; wherefore he thought it the best way to give them something to fill their bellies, and send them away packing. Upon this he sends some of the chief clergy to Abu Obeidah, to make the treaty, and take a copy of the articles, which being done, the citizens brought out their provisions, according to the agreement. Abu Obeidah told them, that since their intended march was likely to be tedious, he should be very glad to buy the remainder of their provisions. The people were willing to sell, and the Mohammedans bought as long as they had any thing left with which to buy, or to give in exchange for it.
Some spies belonging to the emperor, being at that time in the Saracen camp, and perceiving the Emessens set open their gates, and bring out their provisions, without taking time to inform themselves thoroughly of all the circumstances of it, went and spread a report about the country, that Hems had surrendered. This report proved a great surprise and and discouragement to the rest, who had their hearts daily filled with fresh fears of the Saracens. From Hems Abu Obeidah went to Arrestan, a strong place, well watered, and full of soldiers; where his summons being rejected, he desired the favour of the governor of the castle to be allowed to leave some old lumber, which would be troublesome and cumbersome to them in their march. This was granted without much scruple, all being desirous of their absence upon any terms. Upon this Abu Obeidah takes twenty chests, and shut up in them twenty chosen men. To prevent all suspicion he put strong locks upon the outsides, but the bottoms of the chests were so contrived, as that the man within could slip backward and forward in them as he pleased. These chests being received into the castle, the Saracens marched, leaving baled behind with some forces, by way of ambuscade, to assist those in the chests. Upon the departure of the Saracens, the Christians wont to church to give thanks for their delivery, and were heard singing psalms by Derar, Abdarrhaman, and Abdallah in the chests, who taking this opportunity, came forth, and having seized the governor’s lady, demanded the keys of the gates. From thence they went to the church, where, without difficulty, they mastered the unarmed multitude. Then Abdallah Ebn Jaafar, who commanded the party, sent five of his men with the keys to open the gates, and cry out Allah Acbar. Which being done, Kaled, who was within hearing, came up, and Arrestan was taken after little or no resistance.
This procured for the inhabitants much more easy conditions than they would otherwise have obtained, the Saracens not expecting such an unbloody conquest. As therefore, they resigned themselves without any more to do, they had their liberty granted to go where they pleased. Some of them changed their religion, but the greater number still retained their Christianity, and went to Hems.
Two thousand men being left in garrison at Arrestan, Abu Obeidah moves with his army to Shaizar. He had no sooner sent his summons to this place, than there arose a great dispute between the people and the governor, about surrendering the place. The conquest of Arrestan, Baalbec, Damascus, Bostra, and as they supposed of Hems, gave the inhabitants just reason to fear, that they should not be able to defend Shaizar, which was not superior to the former places, either in strength of situation, or in the number of its garrison. The governor held out obstinately, and gave them a great deal of reproachful language, swearing and cursing at them, and even commanding his guards to strike some of them. The chief men, provoked at this tyrannical usage, drew their swords, and fell upon him and his party. Having made a quick despatch of them, they opened the gates, and surrendered to Abu Obeidah, who gladly received them, and gave them hearty thanks for saving him the trouble of fighting adding, “That since they had behaved themselves so well, and expressed such a desire of living under the government of the Saracens, he would not dismiss them without some distinguishing mark of his favour.” Upon which he told them, “That he would not force any of them to change their religion against their will, nor put them to any extremities; but if any of them would come in of their own accord, they should pay no tax or custom, as other Mohammedans did, for two years. But if they chose to continue in their old religion, they should pay no tribute for the space of one year.”
Shaizar was now taken possession of, and Abu Obeidah reminded his Mussulmans that they were no longer under any obligation of treaty or good faith to the people of Hems, having punctually performed whatever they had promised them. But on this point the governor of Hems was not so well satisfied, for as soon as the Saracen army came to appear before the city, he sent a messenger to expostulate with Abu Obeidah on his perfidy and breach of promise. But the only answer that he gave him was to request that the same clergy who had originally made the agreement with him, should come to him again, and he was content to have them as his judges whether or no he had fulfilled his promise to a tittle. Accordingly when they came, he asked them, “Did not I make an agreement with you to leave Hems till I had conquered some other city of Syria? And was it not left to my liberty after that, either to go to any other place or to return to you?” When this could not be denied, “Well, then,” answered he, “since we have conquered Arrestan and Shaizar, we are under no further covenant to you. Nothing, therefore, remains for you but to surrender at once.”
There being no remedy, nor any one whom they might justly blame but themselves, for not having taken better care at first, the inhabitants prepared to fight. Though not a little disheartened when they reflected upon their scarcity of provisions, to which their unseasonable credulity had exposed them, yet, encouraged by their governor, they resolved to try their fortune in the field. That evening they went to prayers, to implore the divine assistance, the governor himself receiving the communion at the church of St. George, which has since been turned into a mosque. When he came back, he eat for his supper a whole roasted kid, and sat up drinking wine all night. Thus prepared for battle, having put on very rich clothes, he sallied out in the morning at the head of five thousand horse, all completely armed, and men of approved courage, and resolved to die for the defence of their country; and though the Saracens came out against them with a much greater number, they nevertheless firmly stood their ground, without the least expression of fear or concern. The Christian archers galled the Saracens terribly with poisoned arrows, and charged them with such courage that they were forced to give way. Whilst Kaled was labouring to restore the battle, he had himself a very narrow escape. While he was fighting with one of the Greeks, his sword broke in his hand; but closing with his adversary, he squeezed him so hard that he broke his ribs, and then threw him down dead from off his horse. About noon Mirkal and Meisarah made an impression upon the right wing of the Christians, and Kais Ebn Hobeirah upon the left. But among all the Saracens, none signalized himself so much that day as I’krimah, Kaled’s cousin. Thirsting after the imaginary joys of Mohammed’s fools’ paradise, he cried aloud, “Methinks I see the black-eyed girls looking upon me, of whom if but one should appear in this world, all mankind would die for the love of her. And I see in the hand of one of them a handkerchief of green silk, and a cup made of precious stones, and she beckons me, and calls out, ‘Come hither quickly, for I love thee.’” With these words charging the Christians, he made havoc where he went, till at last he was observed by the governor of Hems, who run him through with a javelin. When night .parted the combatants, the Saracens returned to their camp, having had the worst of it all that day. And now Kaled, feeling confident that this success would dispose the Greeks to believe the Saracens were afraid of them, persuaded Abu Obeidah to fly before them the next morning, in the hopes of drawing them into disorder. The stratagem failed not of the desired success, for the Greeks had beaten them too well the day before to entertain the least suspicion that their flight was feigned. Upon this some of them began to plunder the camp, and the rest who pursued observed little order or caution. About noon the Saracens suddenly rallied, and “fell upon them like eagles upon a carcase.” The Greek force being thus scattered, some in the pursuit, others in the spoil, the far greater part of it was surrounded by the Saracens; nor had any of them escaped but for the timely aid of the besieged, who sallied out of the city to their relief. Among those who fell was the governor, easily distinguishable by his red face, large size, and rich apparel, perfumed with musk. This defeat determined the besieged to surrender; but the Saracens, who had heard much and often of the emperor’s preparation against them, and were expecting daily a bloody battle, had no leisure to stay and take possession, nor any men to spare by way of garrison. They therefore took the Christians at their word, and never a man of them went into the city till after the great battle of Yermouk, which determined the fate of Syria, and put the Saracens nut of all fear of further opposition from the emperor. The Saracens departed from Hems, having lost that day two hundred and thirty-five men. The Christians, upon burying their dead, found them to be above one thousand six hundred.
Heraclius, wearied with a constant and uninterrupted succession of ill news, which like those of Job, came every day treading upon the heels of each other; grieved at the heart to see the Roman empire, once the mistress of the world, now become the scorn and spoil of barbarian insolence, resolved, if possible, to put an end to the outrages of the Saracens once for all. With this view he raised troops in all parts of his dominions, and collected so considerable an army, as, since the first invasion of the Saracens, had never appeared in Syria. Not much unlike one engaged in single combat, who, distrustful of his own abilities, and fearing the worst, summons together his whole strength, in hopes of ending the dispute with one decisive blow. Troops were sent to every tenable place which this inundation of the Saracens had not as yet reached, particularly to Cæsarea, and all the sea-coast of Syria; as Tyre and Sidon, Accah, Joppa, Tripolis, Beyrout, and Tiberias, besides another army to defend Jerusalem. The main body, which was designed to give battle to the whole force of the Saracens, was commanded by one Mahan, an Armenian, whom I take to be the very same that the Greek historians call Manuel. To his generals the emperor gave the best advice, charging them to behave themselves like men, and especially to take care to avoid all differences or dissensions, Afterwards, when he had expressed his astonishment at this extraordinary success of the Arabs, who were inferior to the Greeks, both in number, strength, arms, and discipline, after a short silence, a grave man stood up, and told him, that the reason of it was that the Greeks had walked unworthily of their Christian profession, and changed their religion from what it was when Jesus Christ first delivered it to them, injuring and oppressing one another, taking usury, committing fornication, and fomenting all manner of strife and variance among themselves. And, indeed, the vices of these Christians were at that time so flagrant, as to make them offensive to the very infidels, as confessed by the Greek writers themselves, and exaggerated by the Arabic ones. The emperor answered, “That he was too sensible of it.” He then told them that he had thoughts of continuing no longer in Syria, but leaving his army to their management, he purposed to withdraw to Constantinople. In answer to which, they represented to him how much his departure would reflect upon his honour, what a lessening it would be to him in the eyes of his own subjects, and what occasion of triumph it would afford to his enemies the Saracens. Upon this they took their leave, and prepared for their march. Besides a vast army of Asiatics and Europeans, Mahan was joined by Al Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham, king of the Christian Arabs, who had under him sixty thousand men. These Mahan commanded to march always in the front, saying, that there was nothing like diamond to cut diamond. This great army, raised for the defence of Christian people, was little less insupportable than the Saracens themselves, committing all manner of disorder and outrage as they passed along; especially when they came to any of those places which had made any agreement with the Saracens, or surrendered to them, they swore and cursed, and reviled the inhabitants with reproachful language, and compelled them by force to bear them company. The poor people excused their submission to the Saracens, by their inability to defend themselves, and told the soldiers, that if they did not approve of what they had done, they ought themselves to have come sooner to their relief.
The news of this great army having reached the Saracens whilst they were at Hems, filled them full of apprehensions, and put them to a very great strait as to the best course to pursue in this critical juncture. Some of them would very willingly have shrunk back, and returned to Arabia. This course, they urged, presented a double advantage: on the one hand they would be sure of speedy assistance from their friends; and on the other, in that barren country, the numerous army of the enemy must needs be reduced to great scarcity. But Abu Obeidah, fearing lest such a retreat might by the caliph be interpreted cowardice in him, durst not approve of this advice. Others preferred to die in the defence of those stately buildings, fruitful fields, and pleasant meadows they had won by the sword, than voluntarily to return to their former starving condition. They proposed therefore to remain where they were, and wait the approach of the enemy. But Kaled disapproved of their remaining in their present position, as it was too near Cæsarea, where Constantine, the emperor’s son, lay with forty thousand men; and recommended that they should march to Yermouk, where they might reckon on assistance from the caliph. As soon as Constantine heard of their departure, he sent a chiding letter to Mahan, and bade him mend his pace. Mahan advanced, but made no haste to give the Saracens battle, having received orders from the emperor to make overtures of peace, which were no sooner proposed than rejected by Abu Obeidah. Several messages passed between them. The Saracens, endeavouring to bring their countryman Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham, with his Christian Arabs, to a neutrality, were answered, that they were obliged to serve the emperor, and resolved to fight. Upon this, Kaled, contrary to the general advice, prepared to give him battle before Mahan should come up, although the number of his men, who, however, were the elite of the whole army, were very inconsiderable, urging that the Christians, being the army of the devil, had no advantage by their numbers against the Saracens, the army of God: In choosing his men, Kaled had called out more Ansers than Mohajerins, which, when it was observed, occasioned some grumbling, as it then was doubted whether it was because he respected them most, or because he had a mind to expose them to the greater danger, that he might favour the others. A very impertinent scruple, in my opinion, since he was to go with them himself. Kaled told them that he had chosen them without any such regard, only because they were persons he could depend upon; whose valour he had proved, and who had the faith rooted in their hearts. One Cathib happening to be called after his brother Sahal, and looking upon himself to be the better man, resented it as a high affront, and roundly abused Kaled. The latter, however, gave him very gentle and modest answers, to the great satisfaction of all, especially of Abu Obeidah, who, after a short contention, made them shake hands. Kaled indeed was admirable in this respect, that he knew no less how to govern his, passions than to command the army; through, to most great generals, the latter frequently proves the easier task of the two. In this hazardous enterprise his success was beyond all expectation, for he threw Jabalah’s Arabs into disorder, and killed a great many, losing very few of his own men on the field, besides five prisoners, three of whom were Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, Rafi Ebn Omeira, and Derar Ebn Al Alzwar; all men of great note, and already frequently mentioned. Abu Obeidah sent Abdallah Ebn Kort with an express to Omar, acquainting him with their circumstances, begging his prayers, and some fresh recruits of Unitarians, a title they glory in, as reckoning themselves the only asserters of the unity of the Deity. Omar and the whole court were extremely surprised, but comforted themselves with the promises made to them in the Koran, which seemed now to be all they had left to trust to. To encourage the people, he went into the pulpit, and showed them the excellency of fighting for the cause of God, and afterwards returned an answer to Abu Obeidah, full of such spiritual consolation as the Koran could afford. Omar commanded Abdallah, as soon as ever he came near the camp, and before he delivered the letter, to cry out, “Good news,” in order to comfort the Mussulmans, and ease them in some measure of the perplexing apprehensions they laboured under. As soon as he received this letter and message, together with Omar’s blessing, he prepared to set out on his return to the army; but suddenly he remembered that he had omitted to pay his respects at Mohammed’s tomb, which it was very uncertain whether he should ever see again. Upon this he hastened to Ayesha’s house (the place where Mohammed was buried), and found her sitting by the tomb with Ali and Abbas, and Ali’s two sons, Hasan and Hosein, one sitting upon Ali’s lap, the other upon Abbas’s. Ali was reading the chapter of beasts, being the sixth of the Koran, and Abbas the chapter of Hud, which is the eleventh. Abdallah, having paid his respects to Mohammed, Ali asked him whether he did not think of going? He answered, “Yes,” but he feared he should not get to the army before the battle, which yet he greatly wished to do, if possible. “If you desired a speedy journey,” answered Ali, “why did not you ask Omar to pray for you? Don’t you know, that the prayers of Omar will not be turned back? Because the apostle of God said of him: ‘If there were a prophet to be expected after me, it would be Omar, whose judgment agrees with the book of God.’ The prophet said of him besides, ‘If an [universal] calamity were to come from heaven upon mankind, Omar would escape from it.’ Wherefore, if Omar prayed for thee, thou shalt not stay long for an answer from God.” Abdallah told him, that he had not spoken one word in praise of Omar, but what he was very sensible of before. Only he desired to have not only his prayers but also those of all the Mussulmans, and especially of those who were at the tomb of the prophet. At these words, all present lifted up their hands to heaven, and Ali said, “O God, I beseech thee, for the sake of this chosen apostle, in whose name Adam prayed, and thou answeredst his petition, and forgavest his sins, that thou wouldst grant to Abdallah Ebn Kort a safe and speedy return, and assist the followers of thy prophet with help, O thou who alone art great and munificent!” Abdallah set out immediately, and afterwards returned to the camp with such incredible speed, that the Saracens were surprised. But their admiration ceased, when he informed them of Omar’s blessing, and Ali’s prayers at Mohammed’s tomb.
Recruits were instantly raised in every part of Arabia to send to the army. Saïd Ebn Amir commanded them, having received a flag of red silk at the hands of Omar, who told him that he gave him that commission in hopes of his behaving himself well in it; advising him, among other things, lot to follow his appetites; and not forgetting to put him in hopes of further advancement if he should deserve it. Saïd thanked him for his advice; adding, that if he followed it he should be saved. “And now,” says Saïd, “as you have advised me, so let me advise you.” “Speak on,” says Omar. “I bid you then (added the other) fear God more than men, and not the contrary; and love all the Mussulmans as yourself and your family, as well those at a distance as those near you. And command that which is praiseworthy, and forbid that which is otherwise.” Omar, all the while he spoke, stood looking stedfastly upon the ground, leaning his forehead upon his staff. Then he lifted up his head, and the tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, “Who is able to do this without the divine assistance?” Ali bade Saïd make good use of the caliph’s advice, and dismissed him. Saïd, as he marched towards the army, lost his way, which turned out very unfortunate for the Christians; for by that means he fell in with the prefect of Amman with five thousand men. Saïd having cut all the foot to pieces, the prefect fled with the horse, but was intercepted by a party which had been sent out under Zobeir from the Saracen camp to forage. Saïd at first thought they had fallen together by the ears, and were fighting among themselves, but when he came up, and heard the techir, he was well satisfied. Zobeir ran the prefect through with a lance; of the rest not a single man escaped. The Saracens cut off all their heads, then flayed them, and so carried them upon the points of their lances, presenting a most horrible spectacle to all that part of the country, till they came to the army, which received fresh courage by the accession of this reinforcement, consisting of eight thousand men.
However, their satisfaction was greatly lessened by the loss of the five prisoners whom Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham had taken. Now it happened, that Mahan desired Abu Obeidah to send one of his officers to him for a conference. This being complied with, Kaled proffered his services, and being accepted by Abu Obeidah, by his advice he took along with him a hundred men, chosen out of the best soldiers in the army. Being met and examined by the out-guards, the chief of whom was Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham, they were ordered to wait till the general’s pleasure should be known. Mahan would have had Kaled come to him alone, and leave his men behind him. But as Kaled refused to hear of this, they were commanded, as soon as they came near the general’s tent, to alight from their horses, and deliver their swords; and when they would not submit to this either, they were at last permitted to enter as they pleased. They found Mahan sitting upon a throne, and seats prepared for themselves. But they refused to make use of them, and removing them, sat down upon the ground. Mahan asked them the reason of their doing so, and taxed them with want of breeding. To which Kaled answered, that that was the best breeding which was from God, and what God has prepared for as to sit down upon, is purer than your tapestries; defending their practice from a sentence of their prophet Mohammed, backed with this text of the Koran, “Out of it (meaning the earth) we have created you, and to it we shall return you, and out of it we shall bring you another time.” Mahan began then to expostulate with Kaled concerning their coming into Syria, and all those hostilities which they had committed there. But the whole speech is too tedious to be inserted here, especially as we have already given an account of some conferences much of the same nature. This, however, we may observe, that Mahan seemed satisfied with Kaled’s way of talking, and said, that he had before that time entertained a quite different opinion of the Arabs, having been informed that they were a foolish ignorant people. Kaled confessed that that was the condition of most of them, till God sent their prophet Mohammed to lead them into the right way, and teach them to distinguish good from evil, and truth from error. During this conference they would argue very coolly for a while, and then again fly into a violent passion. At last it happened that Kaled told Mahan, that he should one day see him led with a rope about his neck to Omar, to be beheaded. Upon this Mahan told him, that the received law of all nations secured ambassadors from violence, which he supposed had encouraged him to take that indecent freedom; however, he was resolved to chastise his insolence in the persons of his friends the five prisoners, who should instantly be beheaded. At this threat Kaled, bidding Mahan attend to what he was about to say, swore by God, by Mohammed, and the holy temple of Mecca, that if he killed them he should die by his hands, and that every Saracen present should kill his man, be the consequences what they might; and immediately rose from his place and drew his sword. The same was done by the rest of the Saracens. But when Mahan told him, that he would not meddle with him for the aforesaid reasons, they sheathed their swords, and talked calmly again. And then Mahan made Kaled a present of the prisoners, and begged of him his scarlet tent, which Kaled had brought with him, and pitched hard by. Kaled freely gave it him, and refused to take anything in return (though Mahan gave him his choice of whatever he liked best), thinking his own gift abundantly repaid by the liberation of the prisoners.
Both sides now prepared for that fight which was to determine the fate of Syria. The particulars are too tedious to be related, for they continued fighting for several days. Abu Obeidah resigned the whole command of the army to Kaled, standing himself in the rear, under the yellow flag, which Abubeker had given him at his first setting forth into Syria, being the same which Mohammed himself had fought under at the battle of Khaibar. Kaled judged this the most proper place for Abu Obeidah, not only because he was no extraordinary soldier, but because he hoped that the reverence for him would prevent the flight of the Saracens, who were now like to be as hard put to it as at any time since they first bore arms. For the same reason the women were placed in the rear. The Greeks charged so courageously, and with such vast numbers, that the right wing of the Saracen horse was quite borne down, and cut off from the main body of the army. But no sooner did they turn their backs than they were attacked by the women, who used them so ill, and loaded them with such plenty of reproaches, that they were glad to return every man to his post, and chose rather to face the enemy, than endure the storm of the women. However, they with much difficulty bore up, and were so hard pressed by the Greeks, that occasionally they were fain to forget what their generals had said a little before the fight, who told them that paradise was before them, and the devil and hell-fire behind them. Even Abu Sofian, who had himself used that very expression, was forced to retreat, and was received by one of the women with a hearty blow over the face with a tent-pole. Night at last parted the two armies, at the very time when the victory began to incline to the Saracens, who had been thrice beaten back, and as often forced to return by the women. Then Abu Obeidah said at once those prayers which belonged to two several hours. His reason for this was, I suppose, a wish that his men, of whom he was very tender, should have the more time to rest. Accordingly, walking about the camp he looked after the wounded men, oftentimes binding up their wounds with his own hands; telling them, that their enemies suffered the same pain that they did, but had not that reward to expect from God which they had.
Among other single combats, of which several were fought between the two armies, it chanced that Serjabil Ebn Shahhnah was engaged with an officer of the Christians, who was much too strong for him. The reason which our author assigns for this is, because Serjabil was wholly given up to watching and fasting. Derar, thinking he ought not to stand still and see the prophet’s secretary killed, drew his dagger, and whilst the combatants were over head and ears in dust, came behind the Christian and stabbed him to the heart. The Saracens gave Derar thanks for his service, but he said that he would receive no thanks but from God alone. Upon this a dispute arose between Serjabil and Derar concerning the spoil of this officer. Derar claimed it as being the person that killed him: Serjabil as having engaged him, and tired him out first. The matter being referred to Abu Obeidah, he proposed the case to the caliph, concealing the names of the persons concerned, who sent him word that the spoil of any enemy was due to him that killed him. Upon which Abu Obeidah took it from Serjabil, and adjudged it to Derar.
Another day the Christian archers did such execution, that besides those Saracens which were killed and wounded in other parts, there were seven hundred which lost each of them one or both of their eyes, upon which account the day in which that battle was fought is called Yaumo’ttewir, “The Day of Blinding.” And if any of those who lost their eyes that day were afterwards asked by what mischance he was blinded, he would answer that it was not a mischance, but a token of favour from God; for they gloried as much in those wounds they received in the defence of their superstition, as our enthusiasts do in what they call persecution, and with much the same reason. Abdallah Ebn Kort, who was present in all the wars in Syria, says that he never says so hard a battle as that which was fought on that day at Yermouk; and though the generals fought most desperately, yet after all they would have been beaten if the fight had not been renewed by the women. Caulah, Derar’s sister, being wounded, fell down; but Opheirah revenged her quarrel, and struck off the man’s head that did it. Upon Opheirah asking her how she did, she answered, “Very well with God, but a dying woman.” However, she proved to be mistaken, for in the evening she was able to walk about as if nothing had happened, and to look after the wounded men.
In the night the Greeks had another calamity added to their misfortune of losing the victory in the day. It was drawn upon them by their own inhuman barbarity. There was at Yermouk a gentleman of a very ample fortune, who had removed thither from Hems for the sake of the sweet salubrity of its air. When Mahan’s army came to Yermouk this gentleman used to entertain the officers, and treat them nobly. To requite him for his courtesy, whilst they were this day revelling at his house, they bade him bring out his wife to them, and upon his refusing, they took her by force, and abused her all night; and, to aggravate their barbarity, they seized his little son, and cut his head off. The poor lady took her child’s head, and carried it to Mahan, and having given him an account of the outrages committed by his officers, demanded satisfaction. He took but little notice of the affair, and put her off with a slight answer. Upon which her husband, resolved to take the first opportunity of being revenged, went privately over to the Saracens, and acquainted them with his design. Returning back to the Greeks, he told them it was in his power to do them singular service. He therefore takes a great number of them, and brings them to a great stream, which was very deep, and only fordable at one place. By his instructions, five hundred of the Saracen horse had crossed over where the water was shallow, and after attacking the Greeks, in a very little time returned in excellent order by the same way they came. The injured gentleman calls out, and encourages the Greeks to pursue, who, not at all acquainted with the place, plunge into the water confusedly, and perished in great numbers. In the subsequent engagements before Yermouk (all of which were in November, 636), the Christians invariably were defeated, till at last Mahan’s vast army being broken and dispersed, he was forced to fly, thus leaving the Saracens masters of the field, and wholly delivered from those terrible apprehensions with which the news of his great preparations had filled them.
A short time after Abu Obeidah wrote to the caliph the following letter:
- “In the name of the most merciful God, &c.
- “This is to acquaint thee that I encamped at Yermouk, where Mahan was near us, with such an army as that the Mussulmans never beheld a greater. But God, of his abundant grace and goodness, overthrew this multitude, and gave us the victory over them. We killed of them about a hundred and fifty thousand, and took forty thousand prisoners. Of the Mussulmans were killed four thousand and thirty, to whom God had decreed the honour of martyrdom. Finding some heads cut off, and not knowing whether they belonged to the Mussulmans or Christians, I prayed over them and buried them. Mahan was afterwards killed at Damascus by Nooman Ebn Alkamah. There was one Abu Joaid that before the battle had belonged to them, having come from Hems; he drowned of them a great number unknown to any but God. As for those that fled into the deserts and mountains, we have destroyed them all, and stopped all the roads and passages, and God has made us masters of their country, and wealth, and children. Written after the victory from Damascus, where I stay expecting thy orders concerning the division of the spoil. Fare thee well, and the mercy and blessing of God be upon thee, and all the Mussulmans.”
Omar, in a short letter, expressed his satisfaction, and gave the Saracens thanks for their perseverance and diligence; commanding Abu Obeidah to continue where he was till further orders. As Omar had mentioned nothing concerning the spoil, Abu Obeidah regarded it as left to his own discretion, and divided it without waiting for fresh instructions. To a horseman he gave thrice as much as to a footman, and made a further difference between those horses which were of the right Arabian breed (which they looked upon to be far the best) and those that were not, allowing twice as much to the former as to the latter. And when they were not satisfied with this distribution, Abu Obeidah told them that the prophet had done the same after the battle of Khaibar; which, upon appeal made to Omar, was by him confirmed. Zobeir had at the battle of Yermouk two horses, which he used to ride by turns. He received five lots, three for himself and two for his horses. If any slaves had run away from their masters before the battle, and were afterwards retaken, they were restored to their masters, who nevertheless received an equal share of the spoil with the rest.
The Saracens having rested a month at Damascus, and refreshed themselves, Abu Obeidah sent to Omar to know whether he should go to Caesarea or Jerusalem. Ali being present when Omar was deliberating, said, to Jerusalem first, adding, that he had heard the prophet say as much. This city they had a great longing after, as being the seat and burying place of a great many of the ancient prophets, in whom they reckoned none to have so deep an interest as themselves. Abu Obeidah having received orders to besiege it, sent Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian thither first, with five thousand men; and for five days together sent after him considerable numbers of men, under his most experienced and trustworthy officers. The Ierosolymites expressed no signs of fear, nor would they vouchsafe so much as to send out a messenger to parley; but, planting their engines upon the walls, made preparation for a vigorous defence. Yezid at last went near the walls, with an interpreter, to know their minds, and to propose the usual terms. When these were rejected, the Saracens would willingly have assaulted the town forthwith, had not Yezid told them that the general had not commanded them to make any assault, but only to sit down before the city; and thereupon sent to Abu Obeidah, who forthwith gave them order to fight. The next morning the generals having said the morning prayer, each at the head of their respective divisions, they all, as it were with one consent, quoted this versicle out of the Koran, as being very apposite and pertinent to their present purpose: “O people! enter ye into the holy land which God hath decreed for you;” being the twenty-fourth verse of the fifth chapter of the Koran, where the impostor introduces Moses speaking to the children of Israel, and which words the Saracens dexterously interpreted as belonging no less to themselves than to their predecessors, the Israelites. Nor have our own parts of the world been altogether destitute of such able expositors, who apply to themselves, without limitation or exception, whatever in scripture is graciously expressed in favour of the people of God; while, whatever is said of the wicked and ungodly, and of all the terrors and judgments denounced against them, they bestow with a liberal hand upon their neighbours. After their prayers were over, the Saracens began their assault. The Ierosolymites never flinched, but sent them showers of arrows from the walls, and maintained the fight with undaunted courage till the evening. Thus they continued fighting ten days, and on the eleventh Abu Obeidah came up with the remainder of the army. He had not been there long before he sent the besieged the following letter:—
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From Abu Obeidah Ebn Aljerahh, to the chief commanders of the people of Ælia and the inhabitants thereof, health and happiness to every one that follows the right way, and believes in God and the apostle. We require of you to testify, that there is but one God, and Mohammed is his apostle, and that there shall be a day of judgment, when God shall raise the dead out of their sepulchres; and when you have borne witness to this, it is unlawful for us either to shed your blood, or meddle with your substance or children. If you refuse this, consent to pay tribute, and be under us forthwith; otherwise I shall bring men against you, who love death better than you do the drinking of wine, or eating hogs’ flesh: nor will I ever stir from you, if it please God, till I have destroyed those that fight for you, and made slaves of your children.”
The eating swines’ flesh, and drinking wine, are both forbidden in the Koran, which occasioned that reflection of Abu Obeidah upon the practice of the Christians. The besieged, not a whit daunted, held out four whole months entire, during all which time, not one day passed without fighting; and it being winter time, the Saracens suffered a great deal of hardship through the extremity of the weather. At last, when the besieged had well considered the obstinacy of the Saracens; who, they had good reason to believe, would never raise the siege till they had taken the city, whatever time it took up, or whatever pains it might cost them; Sophronius the patriarch went to the wall, and by an interpreter discoursed with Abu Obeidah, telling him, that Jerusalem was the holy city, and whoever came into the holy land with any hostile intent, would render himself obnoxious to the divine displeasure. To which Abu Obeidah answered, “We know that it is a noble city, and that our prophet Mohammed event from it in one night to heaven, and approached within two bows’ shot of his Lord, or nearer; and that it is the mine of the prophets, and their sepulchres are in it. But we are more worthy to have possession of it than you are; neither will we leave besieging it, till God delivers it up to us, as he hath done other places, before it. At last the patriarch consented that the city should be surrendered, upon condition that the inhabitants received the articles of their security and protection from the caliph’s own hands, and not by proxy. Accordingly, Abu Obeidah wrote to Omar to come, whereupon he advised with his friends. Othman, who afterwards succeeded him in the government, dissuaded him from going, in order that the Ierosolymites might see that they were despised, and beneath his notice. Ali was of a very different opinion, urging that the Mussulmans had endured great hardship in so long a siege, and suffered much from the extremity of the cold; that the presence of the caliph would be a great refreshment and encouragement to them, and adding, that the great respect which the Christians had for Jerusalem, as being the place to which they went on pilgrimage, ought to be considered; that it ought not to be supposed that they would easily part with it, but that it would soon be reinforced with fresh supplies. This advice of Ali being preferred to Othman’s, the caliph resolved upon his journey; which, according to his frugal style of living, required no great expense or equipage. When he had said his prayers in the mosque, and paid his respects at Mohammed’s tomb, he appointed Ali his substitute, and set forward with a small retinue; the greatest part of which, having kept him company a little way, returned back to Medina. He rode upon a red camel, with a couple of sacks; in one of which he carried that sort of provision, which the Arabs call sawik, which is either barley, rice, or wheat, sodden and unhusken; the other was full of fruits. Before him he carried a very great leather bottle (very necessary in those desert countries to put water in), behind him a large wooden platter. Thus furnished and equipped, the caliph travelled, and when he came to any place where he was to rest all night, he never went from it till he had said the morning prayer. After which, turning himself about to those that were with him, he said, “Praise be to God, who has strengthened us with the true religion, and given us his prophet, and led us out of error, and united us (who were at variance) in the confession of the truth, and given us the victory over our enemy, and the possession of his country. O ye servants of God! Praise him for these abundant favours; for God gives increase to those that ask for it, and are desirous of those things which are with him; and fulfils his grace upon those that are thankful.” Then filling his platter with the sawik, he very liberally entertained his fellow-travellers, who, without distinction, ate with him all out of the same dish.
Whilst he was upon this journey, at one of his stages, a complaint was brought before him of a man that had married two wives, that were sisters by the same father and mother also; a thing which the old Arabians, so long as they continued in their idolatry, made no scruple of. This is clear from that passage in the Koran, where it is forbidden for the time to come, and expressed after such a manner as evidently proves it to have been no uncommon practice among them. Omar was very angry, and cited him and his two wives to make their appearance before him forthwith. After the fellow had confessed that they were both his wives, and so nearly related, Omar asked him what religion he might be of, or whether he was a Mussulman? “Yes,” said the fellow. “And did you not know, then,” said Omar, “that it was unlawful for you to have them, when God has said, neither marry two sisters any more?” The fellow swore, that he did not know that it was unlawful; neither was it unlawful. Omar swore he lied, and that he would make him part with one of them, or else strike his head off. The fellow began to grumble, and said, “that he wished he had never been of that religion, for he could have done as well without it, and had never been a whit the better for it since he had first professed it.” Upon which Omar called him a little nearer, and gave him two blows upon the crown with his stick, to teach him better manners, and a more reverent way of speaking of Mohammedanism, saying, “O thou enemy of God, and of thyself, dost thou revile Islamism, which is the religion that God and his angels, and apostles, and the best of the creation have chosen?” And threatened him severely, if he did not make a quick despatch, and take which of them he loved best. The fellow was so fond of them both, that he could not tell which he would rather part with; upon which some of Omar’s attendants cast lots for the two women. The lot falling upon one of them three times, the man took her, and was forced to dismiss the other. Omar called him to him, and said, “Pray mind what I say to you; if any man makes profession of our religion, and then leaves it, we kill him; therefore, see you do not renounce Islamism; and take heed to yourself, for if ever I hear that you lie with your wife’s sister, which you have put away, you shall be stoned.”
Passing on a little further, he happened to see some poor tributaries, whom their hard masters, the Saracens, were punishing for non-payment, by setting them in the sun; a punishment very grievous in that torrid zone. When Omar understood the cause of it, he asked the poor people what they had to say for themselves? They answered, that they were not able. Upon which he said, “Let them alone, and do not compel them to more than they are able to bear; for I heard the apostle of God say, Do not afflict men; for those who afflict men in this world, God shall punish them in hell-fire at the day of judgment.” And immediately commanded them to let them go.
Before he got to his journey’s end, he was informed of an old man that suffered a young one to go partner with him in his wife; so that one of them was to have her four and twenty hours, and then the other, and so alternately. Omar having sent for them, and upon examination found them to be Mussulmans, wondered at it, and asked the old man, if he did not know that what he had done was forbidden by the law of God? They both swore, that they knew no such thing. Omar asked the old man, what made him consent to such a vile thing? Who answered, that he was in years, and his strength failed him, and he had never a son to look after his business, and this young man was very serviceable to him in watering and feeding his camels, and he had recompensed him that way; but since it was unlawful, he promised that it should be so no more. Omar bid him take his wife by the hand, and told him, “that nobody had any thing to do with her but himself. And for your part, young man,” says he, “if ever I hear that you come near her again, off goes your head.”
Omar, having all the way he went, set things aright that were amiss, and distributed justice impartially, for which he was singularly eminent among the Saracens, came at last into the confines of Syria; and when he drew near Jerusalem he was met by Abu Obeidah, and conducted to the Saracen camp, where he was welcomed with the liveliest demonstrations of joy. In the morning after Abu Obeidah met him, for he did not reach the camp on that day, he said the usual prayers, and if we may take my author’s word for it, preached a good sermon. In the course of his address, as he quoted this text out of the Koran; “He whom God shall direct is led in the right way; but thou shalt not find a friend to direct him aright whom God shall lead into error,” a Christian priest that sat before him stood up, and said, “God leads no man into error;” and repeated it. Omar said nothing to him, but bid those that stood by strike off his head, if he should say so again. The old man understood what he said, and held his peace whilst Omar proceeded in his sermon.
Omar having met with some of the Saracens richly dressed in silks that they had taken by way of plunder after the battle of Yermouk, spoiled all their pride, for he caused them to be dragged along in the dirt with their faces downwards, and their clothes to be rent in pieces. As soon as he came within sight of the city, he cried out, “Allah Acbar: O God, give us an easy conquest.” Pitching his tent, which was made of hair, he sat down in it upon the ground. The Christians hearing that Omar was come, from whose hands they were to receive their articles, desired to confer with him personally. Upon which the Mussulmans would have persuaded him not to expose his person, for fear of some treachery. But Omar resolutely answered, in the words of the Koran; “Say, ‘There shall nothing befall us but what God hath decreed for us; he is our Lord, and in God let all the believers put their trust.’” After a brief parley, the besieged capitulated, and because those articles of agreement made by Omar with the Ierosolymites are, as it were, the pattern which the Mohammedan princes have chiefly imitated, I shall not think it inappropriate to give the sense of them in this place, as I find them in the author of the History of Jerusalem, or the Holy Land, which I have mentioned before.
The articles were these; 1. “The Christians shall build no new churches, either in the city or the adjacent territory. 2. They shall not refuse the Mussulmans entrance into their churches, either by night or day. 3. They should set open the doors of them to all passengers and travellers. 4. If any Mussulman should be upon a journey, they shall be obliged to entertain him gratis for the space of three days. 5. They should not teach their children the Koran, nor talk openly of their religion, nor persuade any one to be of it; neither should they hinder any of their relations from becoming Mohammedans, if they had an inclination to it. 6. They shall pay respect to the Mussulmans, and if they were sitting rise up to them. 7. They should not go like the Mussulmans in their dress; nor wear the same caps, shoes, nor turbans, nor part their hair as they do, nor speak after the same manner, nor be called by the names used by the Mussulmans. 8. They shall not ride upon saddles, nor bear any sort of arms, nor use the Arabic tongue in the inscriptions of their seals. 9. They shall not sell any wine. 10. They shall be obliged to keep to the same sort of habit wheresover they went, and always wear girdles upon their waists. 11. They shall set no crosses upon their churches, nor show their crosses nor their books openly in the streets of the Mussulmans. 12. They shall not ring, but only toll their bells: nor shall they take any servant that had once belonged to the Mussulmans. 13. They shall not overlook the Mussulmans in their houses: and some say, that Omar commanded the inhabitants of Jerusalem to have the foreparts of their heads shaved, and obliged them to ride upon their pannels sideways, and not like the Mussulmans.”
Upon these terms the Christians had liberty of conscience, paying such tribute as their masters thought fit to impose upon them; and Jerusalem, once the glory of the east, was forced to submit to a heavier yoke than ever it had borne before. For though the number of the slain, and the calamities of the besieged were greater when it was taken by the Romans; yet the servitude of those that survived was nothing comparable to this, either in respect of the circumstances or the duration. For however it might seem to be utterly ruined and destroyed by Titus, yet by Hadrian’s time it had greatly recovered itself. Now it fell, as it were, once for all, into the hands of the most mortal enemies of the Christian religion, and has continued so ever since; with the exception of a brief interval of about ninety years, during which it was held by the Christians in the holy war.
The Christians having submitted on these terms, Omar gave them the following writing under his hand.
- “In the name of the most merciful God.
- “From Omar Ebn Al Khattab, to the inhabitants of Ælia. They shall be protected and secured both in their lives and fortunes, and their churches shall neither be pulled down, nor made use of by any but themselves.”
Upon this the gates were immediately opened, and the caliph and those that were with him marched in. The patriarch kept them company, and the caliph talked with him familiarly, and asked him many questions concerning the antiquities of the place. Among other places which they visited, they went into the temple of the resurrection, and Omar sat down in the midst of it. When the time of prayers was come (the Mohammedans have five set times of prayer in a day), Omar told the patriarch, that he had a mind to pray, and desired him to show him a place where he might perform his devotion. The patriarch bade him pray where he was; but this he positively refused. Then taking him out from thence, the patriarch went with him into Constantine’s church, and laid a mat for him to pray there, but he would not. At last he went alone to the steps which were at the east gate of St. Constantine’s church, and kneeled by himself upon one of them. Having ended his prayers, he sat down, and asked the patriarch if he knew why he had refused to pray in the church. The patriarch confessed that he could not tell what were his reasons. “Why, then,” says Omar, “I will tell you. You know I promised you that none of your churches should be taken away from you, but that you should possess them quietly yourselves. Now if I had prayed in any one of these churches, the Mussulmans would infallibly take it away from you as soon as I had departed homeward. And notwithstanding all you might allege, they would say, this is the place where Omar prayed, and we will pray here too. And so you would have been turned out of your church, contrary both to my intention and your expectation. But because my praying even on the steps of one, may perhaps give some occasion to the Mussulmans to cause you disturbance on this account; I shall take what care I can to prevent that.” So calling for pen, ink, and paper, he expressly commanded that none of the Mussulmans should pray upon the steps in any multitudes, but one by one. That they should never meet there to go to prayers. And that the muezzin, or crier, that calls the people to prayers, (for the Mohammedans never use bells) should not stand there. This paper he gave to the patriarch for a security, lest his praying upon the steps of the church should have set such an example to the Mussulmans as might occasion any inconvenience to the Christians. A noble instance of singular fidelity and the religious observance of a promise. This caliph did not think it enough to perform what he engaged himself, but used all possible diligence to oblige others to do so too. And when the unwary patriarch had desired him to pray in the church, little considering what might be the consequence, the caliph, well knowing how apt men are to be superstitious in the imitation of their princes and great men, especially such as they look upon to be successors of a prophet, made the best provision he could, that no pretended imitation of him might lead to the infringement of the security he had already given.
There is a story, that the caliph desired the patriarch to assign him a place where he might build a mosque for the celebration of the Mohammedan service; and that the patriarch showed him the place where Jacob’s stone lay, which he slept upon when he saw the vision. Now the stone was thickly covered with dirt, and the caliph taking up as much as he could of it in his vest, began to remove it. The Mussulmans perceiving what the caliph did, very readily assisted him; some filling their bucklers, some their vests, others baskets; so that in a very short time they had removed all the rubbish and dirt, and cleared the stone. After this the caliph, leaving their churches to the Christians, built a new temple in the place where Solomon’s formerly stood, and consecrated it to the Mohammedan superstition. From thence he went to Bethlehem, and going into the church, prayed there; and when he had done, he gave the patriarch, under his hand, the same security for the church as he had done before at Jerusalem, strictly forbidding any of the Mohammedans to pray there, unless it were a single person at a time; and interdicting the muezzins from ever calling the people to prayers there. But notwithstanding all the caliph’s precaution, the Saracens afterwards seized this church for their own use; as they also did St. Constantine’s at Jerusalem; for they took half the porch, in which were the steps where Omar had prayed, and built a mosque there, enclosing these steps in it. Had Omar said his prayers in the body of the church, they would, without all question, have taken that too.
In the same year that Jerusalem was taken, Saïd Ebn Abi Wakkas, one of Omar’s captains, was making fearful havoc in the territories of Persia. He took Madayen, formerly the treasury and magazine of Cosroes, king of Persia; where he found money and rich furniture of all sorts, inestimable. Elmakin says, that they found there no less than three thousand million of ducats, besides Cosroes’ crown and wardrobe, which was exceedingly rich, his clothes being all adorned with gold and jewels of great value. Then they opened the roof of Cosroes’ porch, where they found another considerable sum. They also plundered his armory, which was well stored with all sorts of weapons. Among other things they brought to Omar a piece of silk hangings, sixty cubits square, all curiously wrought with needle-work. That it was of great value, appears from the price which Ali had for that part of it which fell to his share when Omar divided it; which, though it was none of the best, yielded him twenty thousand pieces of silver. After this, in the same year, the Persians were defeated by the Saracens in a great battle near Jaloulah. And now Yezdejird, perceiving matters grow worse every day, retired to Ferganah, a city of Persia.
We must now proceed with the conquest of Syria. Omar, having taken Jerusalem, continued there about ten days, to put things in order. And here Alwakidi tells us a story of one Kaab, a Jew, who came to him to be received as a proselyte, saying, that his father, who was thoroughly skilled in the law of Moses, had told him about Mohammed’s being the seal of the prophets, and that after him all inspiration was to cease. Among other things, Kaab asked him what was said concerning the Mohammedan religion in the Koran. Omar quoted such texts out of it as were likely to suit his palate, as having been brought up a Jew; namely, “Abraham commanded his sons concerning it; and so did Jacob saying, O children! God has made choice of a religion for you; wherefore do not die before you be Mussulmans.” Again, “Abraham was neither a Jew nor Christian, but a religious Mussulman, and was not of the number of those who join partners with God.” And then, “He that shall desire any other religion but Islamism, it shall not be accepted of him” Again, “Will they desire any other than God’s religion, to whom everything in heaven and earth submits itself.” And then, “The religion of Abraham your father: he gave you the name of Mussulmans.”  The rabbi, convinced with so many pregnant texts, that the Mohammedan religion was no other than that of Abraham and the patriarchs, repeated instantly, “La Ilaha,” &c. “There is but one God, and Mohammed is his apostle.” Omar was very well pleased with his new proselyte, and invited him to go along with him to Medina, to visit the prophet’s tomb, to which he consented.
Omar now thought of returning to Medina, having first disposed his affairs after the following manner. Syria he divided into two parts; and committed all that lies between Hauran and Aleppo to Abu Obeidah, with orders to make war upon it till he had completely subdued it. Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian was to take the charge of all Palestine and the sea-shore. Amrou Ebn Al Aas was sent to invade Egypt, no inconsiderable part of the emperor’s dominions, which were now continually mouldering away. The Saracens at Medina had almost given Omar over, and began to conclude that he would never stir from Jerusalem, but be won to stay there from the richness of the country and the sweetness of the air; but especially, by the thought, that it was the country of the prophets, and the holy land, and the place where we must all be summoned together at the resurrection. At last he came, the more welcome the less he had been expected. Abu Obeidah, in the meantime, reduced Kinnisrin and Ahadir, the inhabitants paying down five thousand ounces of gold, and as many of silver, two thousand suits of clothes of several sorts of silk, and five hundred asses’ loads of figs and olives. Yezid marched against Cæsarea in vain, that place being too well fortified to be taken by his little army, especially since it had been reinforced by the emperor, who had sent a store of all sorts of provision by sea, and a reinforcement to the garrison of two thousand men. The inhabitants of Aleppo were much disheartened by the loss of Kinnisrin and Alhadir, well knowing that it would not be long before their turn would come to experience themselves what, till then, they had known only by report. They had two governors, brothers, who dwelt in the castle (the strongest in all Syria), which was not at that time encompassed by the town, but stood out of it, at a little distance. The name of one of these brethren, if my author mistakes not, was Youkinna, the other John. Their father held of the Emperor Heraclius all the territory between Aleppo and Euphrates, after whose decease Youkinna managed the affairs; John, not troubling himself with secular employments, did not meddle with the government, but led a monkish life, spending his time in retirement, reading, and deeds of charity. He tried to persuade his brother to secure himself, by compounding with the Arabs for a good round sum of money; but he told him that he talked like a monk, and did not understand what belonged to a soldier; that he had provisions and warlike means enough, and was resolved to make the best resistance he could. Accordingly the next day he called his men together, among whom there were several Christian Arabs, and having armed them, and for their encouragement distributed some money among them, told them that he was fully purposed to act offensively, and, if possible, give the Saracens battle before they should come too near Aleppo. He was informed that the Saracen army was divided and weakened; a part being gone to Cæsarea, another to Damascus, and a third into Egypt. Having thus inspirited his men, he marched forwards with twelve thousand. Abu Obeidah had sent before him Kaab Ebn Damarah with one thousand men, but with express orders not to fight till he had received information of the strength of the enemy. Youkinna’s spies found Kaab and his men resting themselves, and watering their horses, quite secure, and free from all apprehension of danger. Upon which Youkinna laid an ambuscade, and then, with the rest of his men, fell upon the Saracens. The engagement was sharp, and the Saracens had the best of it at first; but the ambuscade breaking in upon them, they were in great danger of being overpowered with numbers; one hundred and seventy of them being slain, and most of the rest being grievously wounded, that they were upon the very brink of despair, and cried out, “Ya Mohammed! Ya Mohammed!” “O Mohammed! O Mohammed!” However, with much difficulty, they made shift to hold up till night parted them, earnestly expecting the coming of Abu Obeidah.
In the meantime, whilst Youkinna was going out with his forces to engage the Saracens, the wealthy and trading people of Aleppo, knowing very well how hard it would go with them if they should stand it out obstinately to the last, and be taken by storm, resolved upon debate to go and make terms with Abu Obeidah, that, let Youkinna’s success be what it would, they might be secure. Accordingly, thirty of the chief men of the town went to him, being then at Kinnisrin, and just upon his march; and as soon as they came near cried out, “Legoun, Legoun.” This Abu Obeidah understood meant quarter, and had formerly written to the captains in Syria, that if any of them heard any man use that word, they should not be hasty to kill him, otherwise they must answer it at the day of judgment, and the caliph would be be clear. They were therefore brought before Abu Obeidah, and perceiving that there were fires in the camp, and some were saying their prayers, others reading the Koran, and all very easy and secure, one of them said, “They have most certainly gotten the victory.” An interpreter that stood by told this to Abu Obeidah, who till then knew nothing of the battle. Upon examination they told him, that they were merchants, and the chief traders of Aleppo, and were come to make articles for themselves; that Youkinna was a tyrant; and that he had marched out against the Saracens yesterday. Abu Obeidah hearing this, gave Kaab Ebn Damarah over for lost, which made him at first the more unwilling to treat with the Aleppians; but upon their earnest and repeated intreaty, and being naturally inclined to compassion, and withal considering that these persons (for there were several belonging to the neighbouring villages that had joined themselves with them) might be serviceable in helping the army to provision and provender, he cried out, “God loves those that are inclined to do good;” and turning himself to the Saracens, he represented the advantages which might accrue to them, by receiving these people into their protection. But one that was present told him, that the town was very near the castle, and he did not believe they were in earnest, or ought to be trusted; “for,” says he, “they come to impose on us, and no question but they have trepanned Kaab.” To whom Abu Obeidah answered, “Entertain, man, a better opinion of God, who will not deceive us, nor give them the dominion over us.” Then he proposed to them the same conditions which they of Kinnisrin and Hader had agreed to; but they desired to be excused, alleging, that through the oppression and tyranny of Youkinna, their city of Aleppo was nothing near so well-peopled, nor half so rich as Kinnisrin; but if he pleased to accept of half so much, they would endeavour to raise it. This he accepted, with the further condition, that they should take care to furnish the camp with all things necessary, and give all necessary intelligence that might be of any use to the Mussulmans, and also hinder Youkinna from returning to the castle. They undertook all but the last article, which they said was altogether out of their power. Then he made them swear every one (such an oath as they had been used to), and bade them take care how they broke it, for if they did, there would be no quarter. When they were going away, he proffered them a guard to see them safe home; but they told him they would, if he pleased, save him that trouble, since they could go home the same way they came, without any fear of Youkinna.
As they were going back, they chanced to meet with one of Youkinna’s officers, to whom they gave an account of the whole transaction. Upon this he hastened with all possible speed to his master; who was waiting with impatience for the morning, that he might despatch Kaab and his men, whom the coming of the night had preserved: but hearing this news, he began to fear lest an attempt should be made upon the castle in his absence, and thought it safest to make the best of his way homeward. In the morning the Saracens were surprized to see no enemy, and wondered what was the matter with them. Kaab would have pursued them, but none of his men had any inclination to go with him; so they rested themselves, and in a little time Kaled and Abu Obeidah came up with the rest of the army. Then they went about burying their martyrs, as they call them, and put them into the ground, all bloody as they were, their clothes, arms, and all together. For Abu Obeidah had said, that he had heard the apostle of God say, that “The martyrs and those who are killed in the service of God shall be raised at the day of judgment with their blood upon their throats, which shall have the colour of blood, but the smell of musk, and they shall be led directly into paradise, without being called to an account.”
As soon as they were buried, Abu Obeidah reminded Kaled of the obligation they were under to protect the Aleppians, now their confederates, who were likely to be exposed to the outrage and cruelty of Youkinna, for, in all probability, he would severely resent their defection. They therefore marched as fast as they could, and when they drew near Aleppo, found that they had not been at all wrong in their apprehensions. Youkinna had drawn up his soldiers with a design to fall upon the townsmen, and threatened them with present death, unless they would break their covenant with the Arabs, and go out with him to fight them, and unless they brought out to him the first contriver and proposer of the convention. At last he fell upon them in good earnest, and killed about three hundred of them. His brother John, who was in the castle, hearing a piteous outcry and lamentation, came down from the castle, and entreated his brother to spare the people, representing to him that Jesus Christ had commanded us not to contend with our enemies, much less with those of our own religion. Youkinna told him that they had agreed with the Arabs, and assisted them; which John excused, telling him, “That what they did was only for their own security, because they were no fighting men.” In short, he took their part so long till he provoked his brother to that degree that he charged him with being the chief contriver and manager of the whole business; and at last, in a great passion, cut his head off. My author here says, that John had first made profession of the Mohammedan religion, and went forthwith to paradise. But very likely the reason of his saying so is, because he was a sober man, and of a good character, and he grudged that any such should die a Christian, and therefore made a Mohammedan of him, envying the Christians the credit of having even one good man among them. Whilst he was murdering the unhappy Aleppians, Kaled (better late than never) came to their relief. Youkinna perceiving his arrival, retired with a considerable number of soldiers into the castle. The Saracens killed that day three thousand of his men. However, he prepared himself to sustain a siege, and planted engines upon the castle-walls. The Aleppians brought out forty prisoners, and delivered them to Abu Obeidah, who bade his interpreter ask them why they had made prisoners of them. They answered, “That these men belonged to Youkinna, and had fled to them, but that as they were not included in the articles, they durst not harbour them.” Abu Obeidah commended their fidelity, and told them, “They should find the benefit of it;” and for their further encouragement added, “That as a reward of their good service, whatever plunder they took from any of the Christians should be their own.” Seven of these prisoners turned Mohammedans, the rest were beheaded.
Abu Obeidah next deliberated, in a council of war, what measures were most proper to be taken. Some were of opinion that the best way would be to besiege the castle with some part of the army, and let the rest be sent out to forage. Kaled would not hear of it, but was for attacking the castle at once with their whole force; that, if possible, it might be taken before fresh supplies could arrive from the emperor. This plan being adopted, they made a vigorous assault, in which they had as hard fighting as any in all the wars of Syria. The besieged made a noble defence, and threw stones from the walls in such plenty that a great many of the Saracens were killed, and a great many more maimed. Youkinna, encouraged with his success, determined to act on the offensive, and turn everything to advantage. The Saracens looked upon all the country as their own, and knowing that there was no army of the enemy near them, and fearing nothing less than an attack from the besieged, kept guard negligently. In the dead of night, therefore, Youkinna sent out a party, who, as soon as the fires were out in the camp, fell upon the Saracens, and having killed about sixty, carried off fifty prisoners. Kaled pursued and cut off about a hundred of them, but the rest escaped to the castle with the prisoners, who, by the command of Youkinna, were the next day beheaded in the sight of the Saracen army. Upon this Youkinna ventured once more to send out another party, having received information from one of his spies (most of which were Christian Arabs) that some of the Mussulmans were gone out to forage. They fell upon the Mussulmans, killed a hundred and thirty of them, and seized all their camels, mules, and horses, which they either killed or hamstrung, and then they retired into the mountains, in hopes of lying hid during the day, and returning to the castle in the silence of the night. In the meantime, some that had escaped brought the news to Abu Obeidah, who sent Kaled and Derar to pursue the Christians. Coming to the place of the fight, they found their men and camels dead, and the country people making great lamentation, for they were afraid lest the Saracens should suspect them of treachery, and revenge upon them their loss. Falling down before Kaled, they told him they were altogether innocent, and had not in any way, either directly or indirectly, been instrumental in the attack; but that it was made solely by a party of horse that sallied from the castle. Kaled, having made them swear that they knew nothing more, and taking some of them for guides, closely watched the only passage by which the sallying party could return to the castle. When about a fourth part of the night was passed, they perceived Youkinna’s men approaching, and falling upon them, took three hundred prisoners, and killed the rest. The prisoners begged to be allowed to ransom themselves, but they were all beheaded the next morning in front of the castle.
The Saracens pressed the siege for a while very closely, but perceiving that they made no way, Abu Obeidah removed the camp about a mile’s distance from the castle, hoping by this means to tempt the besieged to security and negligence in their watch, which might eventually afford him an opportunity of taking the castle by surprise. But all would not do, for Youkinna kept a very strict watch, and suffered not a man to stir out. Abu Obeidah thought that there might be some Christian spies in the army, whereupon he and Kaled walked through the camp, to see if they could discover any suspicious persons. At last Kaled observed a man sitting with a vest before him, which he turned first on the one side and then on the other. Kaled stepped to him, and asked him what tribe he was of. The fellow intended to have named another tribe, but being surprised, and having the question suddenly put to him, the truth slipped out of his mouth, and he answered, “Of Gussan.” “Sayest thou so?” answered Kaled, “thou enemy of God, thou art a Christian Arab, and a spy,” and seized him. The fellow said that he was not, but a Mussulman. Kaled carried him to Abu Obeidah, who bade him examine him in the Koran, and made him say his prayers. But the poor fellow had not one word to say for himself, being altogether ignorant of those things. Upon which, without much arguing, he confessed himself a spy, saying that he was not alone, but there were three of them in all, but that two had returned to the castle. Abu Obeidah bade him take his choice between Mohammedanism or death, and he readily embraced the former.
The siege continued four months, and some say five. In the meantime Omar was very much concerned, having heard nothing from the camp in Syria. He wrote, therefore, to Abu Obeidah, letting him know how tender he was over the Mussulmans, and what a great grief it was to him to hear no news of them for so long a time. Abu Obeidah answered, that Kinnisrin, Hader, and Aleppo were surrendered to him, only the castle of Aleppo held out, and that they had lost a considerable number of men before it. That he had some thoughts of raising the siege, and passing forwards into that part of the country which lies between Aleppo and Antioch; but only he stayed for his answer. About the time that Abu Obeidah’s messengers reached Medina, there also arrived a considerable number of men out of the several tribes of the Arabs, to proffer their service to the caliph. Omar ordered seventy camels to help their foot, and despatched them into Syria, with a letter to Abu Obeidah, in which he acquainted him “That he was variously affected, according to the different success they had met, but charged them by no means to raise the siege of the castle, for that would make them look little, and encourage their enemies to fall upon them on all sides. Wherefore,” adds he, “continue besieging it till God shall determine the event, and forage with your horse round about the country.”
Among those fresh supplies which Omar had just sent to the Saracen camp, there was a very remarkable man, whose name was Dames, of a gigantic size, and an admirable soldier. When he had been in the camp forty-seven days, and all the force and cunning of the Saracens availed nothing towards taking the castle, he desired Abu Obeidah to let him have the command of thirty men, and he would try his best against it. Kaled had heard much of the man, and told Abu Obeidah a long story of a wonderful performance of this Dames in Arabia; and that he looked upon him as a very proper person for such an undertaking. Abu Obeidah selected thirty men to go with him, and bade them not to despise their commander because of the meanness of his condition, he being a slave, and swore, that but for the care of the whole army, which lay upon him, he would be the first man that should go under him upon such an enterprise. To which they answered with entire submission and profound respect. Dames, who lay hid at no great distance, went out several times, and brought in with him five or six Greeks, but never a man of them understood one word of Arabic, which made him angry, and say, “God curse these dogs! What a strange barbarous language they use.”
At last he went out again, and seeing a man descend from the wall, he took him prisoner, and by the help of a Christian Arab, whom he captured shortly afterwards, examined him. He learned from him that immediately upon the departure of the Saracens, Youkinna began to ill-use the townsmen who had made the convention with the Arabs, and to exact large sums of money of them; that he being one of them, had endeavoured to make his escape from the oppression and tyranny of Youkinna, by leaping down from the wall. Upon this the Saracens let him go, as being under their protection by virtue of the articles made between Abu Obeidah and the Aleppians, but beheaded all the rest.
In the evening, after having sent two of his men to Abu Obeidah, requesting him to order a body of horse to move forward to his support about sunrise, Dames has recourse to the following stratagem. Taking out of a knapsack a goat’s skin, he covered with it his back and shoulders, and holding a dry crust in his hand, he crept on all fours as near to the castle as he could. When he heard a noise, or suspected any one to be near, to prevent his being discovered, he began to make a noise with his crust, as a dog does when gnawing a bone; the rest of his company came after him, sometimes sculking and creeping along, at other times walking. When they came near to the castle, it appeared almost inaccessible. However Dames was resolved to make an attempt upon it. Having found a place where the walls seemed easier to scale than elsewhere, he sat down upon the ground, and ordered another to sit upon his shoulders; and so on till seven of them had mounted up, each sitting upon the other’s shoulders, and all leaning against the wall, so as to throw as much of their weight as possible upon it. Then he that was uppermost of all stood upright upon the shoulders of the second, nest the second raised himself, and so on, all in order, till at last Dames himself stood up, bearing the weight of all the rest upon his shoulders, who however did all they could to relieve him by bearing against the wall. By this means the uppermost man could just make a shift to reach the top of the wall, while in an under-tone they all cried, “O apostle of God, help us and deliver us!” When this man had got up on the wall, he found a watchman drunk and asleep. Seizing him hand and foot, he threw him down among the Saracens, who immediately cut him to pieces. Two other sentinels, whom he found in the same condition, he stabbed with his dagger, and threw down from the wall. He then let down his turban, and drew up the second, they two the third, till at last Dames was drawn up, who enjoined them to wait there in silence while he went and looked about him. In this expedition he gained a sight of Youkinna, richly dressed, sitting upon a tapestry of scarlet silk flowered with gold, and a large company with him, eating and drinking, and very merry. On his return he told his men that, because of the great inequality of their numbers, he did not think it advisable to fall upon them then, but had rather wait till break of day, at which time they might look for help from the main body. In the meantime he went alone, and privately stabbing the sentinels, and setting open the gates, came back to his men, and bade them hasten to take possession of the gates. This was not done so quietly but they were at last taken notice of, and the castle alarmed. There was no hope of escape for them, but every one expected to perish. Dames behaved himself bravely, but, overpowered by superior numbers, he and his men were no longer able to hold up, when, as the morning began to dawn, Kaled came to their relief. As soon as the besieged perceived the Saracens rushing in upon them, they threw clown their arms, and cried “Quarter!” Abu Obeidah was not far behind with the rest of the army. Having taken the castle, he proposed Mohammedanism to the Christians. The first that embraced it was Youkinna, and his example was followed by some of the chief men with him, who immediately had their wives and children, and all their wealth restored to them. Abu Obeidah set the old and impotent people at liberty, and having set apart the fifth of the spoil (which was of great value), divided the rest among the Mussulmans. Dames was talked of and admired by all, and Abu Obeidah; in order to pay him marked respect, commanded the army to continue in their present quarters till he and his men should be perfectly cured of their wounds.
Obeidah’s next thoughts, after the capture of the castle of Aleppo, were to march to Antioch, then the seat of the Grecian emperor. But Youkinna, the late governor of the castle of Aleppo, having, with the changing of his religion, become a deadly enemy of the Christians, persuaded him to defer his march to Antioch, till they had first taken the castle of Aazaz. This fortress was held by his own cousin-german, Theodorus, and was a place of importance; and which, if not taken, would enable the enemy to harass the Saracens on that side the country. Having proffered his services, he proposed to take it by the following stratagem. He required that a hundred Saracens should ride with him to Aazaz, dressed in the Grecian habit, and that these should be pursued at a little interval by a thousand other Saracens in their proper habit. He said, “that he did not at all question a kind reception at the hands of his kinsman Theodorus; whom he should assure, that he had only feigned himself a Mohammedan, till he could find an opportunity of escaping; that he was pursued by the Saracens,” &c. If they were received, of which there was no doubt, then in the night, they would fall upon the inhabitants; and those others who pretended to pursue them, and who were to be ordered to stay at a village called Morah, not far distant from Aazaz, should come to their assistance. Abu Obeidah asked Kaled what he thought of the stratagem, who approved of it, provided they could be well assured of Youkinna’s fidelity in the execution of it. Youkinna used a great many very earnest expressions to satisfy them of his integrity; and after Abu Obeidah had, in a long discourse, set before him the danger of being treacherous on the one hand; and on the other, the benefits that would accrue to him by faithfully serving the Saracens; they resolved to trust him. To make up the hundred men, ten tribes were ordered to furnish ten men apiece, each ten being commanded by a decurion, and all of them committed to Youkinna. When they were gone about a league, Abu Obeidah sent after them a thousand men, under Malec Alashtar, with orders to halt and lie in ambush, as soon as they came near to Aazaz, till night. They found the village void of inhabitants, who, in alarm at the approach of the Saracens, had fled up the country. While Malec was in the village, he captured a Christian Arab, who upon examination told him, “that he and his men must look to themselves, for all their design was discovered that there was a spy in the camp, who had heard all Youkinna’s contrivance, and given the governor of Aazaz secret intelligence of it, by a letter tied under the wing of a tame pigeon (a practice not uncommon in these parts). Upon which he (meaning himself) had been sent to Lucas, governor of Arrawendan, to desire his assistance, who was coming with five hundred horse, and could not be far off.” Youkinna in the meantime coming to Aazaz, found the town and castle in a posture of defence, and his cousin, the governor, at the head of three thousand Greeks, and ten thousand Christian Arabs, besides others that came out of the villages. Theodorus made up to Youkinna, and alighting from his horse, made him a profound reverence, as if he would have kissed Youkinna’s stirrup. In the meantime he slily cut his girth, and with one push threw him flat on his face upon the ground, upon which Youkinna and all his men were immediately taken prisoners. Theodorus spit in his face, and reproached him with his apostatizing from the Christian religion; threatening death to all his Arabs, and declaring that Youkinna should be sent to answer for himself before his master the Grecian emperor. All this while Theodorus knew nothing of Malec’s being so near; Tharik Algassani, the spy in the Saracen’s camp, having only informed him of Youkinna’s intended treachery, and not one word of Malec’s feigned pursuit. The prefect of Arrawendan, in fulfilment of his promise to Theodorus, came in the night, with his five hundred men, but was intercepted by Malec, who had two to his one. Having slain or made prisoners of them all, he disguised his own men in their clothes, and made them take the Christian colours in their hands. Then Malec asked the spy to turn Mohammedan; which he did. He had, indeed, been one before, having made profession of that superstition at the same time with Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham; but when Jabalah, thinking himself affronted by Omar, revolted, the Christian Arabs that depended upon him went off along with him; this spy taken by Malec at Morah had been among the number. He now told Malec, that he had heard how Mohammed had said, “That whosoever changed his religion should be killed.” Malec said it was true, but God had said, “Illa man taba waamana;” “Except he that repents and believes;” adding, that the prophet himself had accepted of Wahshy’s repentance, notwithstanding he had killed his uncle Hamzah. Tharik Algassani, hearing this, repeated the La Ilaha, &c., and Malec said, “May God accept thy repentance, and strengthen thy faith.” After this, Malec bade him go and tell the governor of Aazaz that the prefect of Arrawendan was coming to his assistance. This Tharik undertook to do, and set out, attended only by one companion. When they came near the walls, they heard a very great noise of shouting and trumpets, of which the occasion was as follows.
Theodorus, governor of Aazaz, had a son whose name was Leon, whom he used to send occasionally to spend a month or two with his uncle Youkinna, at Aleppo castle. There he fell in love with his uncle’s daughter, a very beautiful lady. Now, his father had put these prisoners, Youkinna and his hundred disguised Saracens into Leon’s apartment. He, glad of this opportunity of ingratiating himself with his uncle, came and told him, that he had a mind to release him and his friends. Youkinna advised him, that if he had any inclination to turn Mohammedan, he ought not to do it upon any prospect of worldly advantage. To which the young villain, fired with lust, and resolved upon the match, answered, “That his family and relations were dear to him; but the faith was dearer.” In short, he set them all at liberty, gave them their arms, and bade them go in the name of God. whilst he went and killed his father, whom he was sure to find drunk and asleep. The Saracens, now enlarged, immediately fell upon the Greeks, who, however, made a stout resistance. In the meantime Malec’s spies had gone back to him, to acquaint him how things stood, who therefore riding on apace, came time enough to assist their friends, and take the castle. They gave great thanks to Youkimia, who bade them “thank God, and this young man;” meaning his kinsman Leon, and told them all the story; to which Malec answered, “When God will have a thing done, he prepares the causes of it.” Then he asked, “Who killed Theodorus?” Leon answered, “My elder brother Luke.” Malec wondered, and asked him, how that came about, since such a thing was scarce ever heard of among the Greeks, that a child should murder his own father. Luke, it seems, told them, “That it was out of love to them, their prophet, and religion. They had had,” he said, “a priest to bang them up, who had told him long since of Mohammed; and assured them that the Saracens should most certainly conquer the country; which had been further confirmed by several prophecies relating to it (and much more he added to the same purpose): wherefore he was glad of this opportunity of becoming one of them; and had designed to have set his uncle Youkinna and the prisoners at liberty, if his brother Leon had not prevented him.” Hopeful youths who had prevented each other in a masterly piece of villainy; the one in murdering his father; the other in setting at liberty his most mortal enemies, and betraying all his friends! Malec gave them his blessing, and having set Said Ebn Amer over the castle, with the hundred men who had entered it with Youkinna, marched with the spoils to Aleppo. There were in the castle of Aazaz, when the Mussulmans took it, one thousand young men, Greeks, two hundred and forty-five, old men and monks, one thousand young women and girls, and one hundred and eighty old women.
Just as Malec was upon his march, they were alarmed by a tremendous shout from the Saracens upon the castle-wall, who wished to give them notice, that they saw a great dust not far off. When the party who had raised it came near, it turned out to be only a thousand Saracens, whom Abu Obeidah had sent under the command of Alfadl Ebn Al Abbas, to plunder round about Menbigz (formerly Hierapolis) and the adjacent villages; and having done this effectually they were now bringing off the spoil. Malec and Alfadl marched together; but Youkinna having had such bad success, could not be persuaded to accompany them, but chose rather to go to Antioch, being resolved not to appear at the camp, nor show himself to the army, till by some signal service he should have made amends for his miscarriage, and retrieved his credit. And though Alfadl endeavoured to convince him that he was in no fault, neither ought to be concerned for it, and proved it by a text of the Koran; yet he would not be satisfied nor reconciled to himself. Among Alfadl’s men were two hundred renegades, who had, as well as their master Youkinna, renounced their Christianity, and entered into the service of the Saracens, and whose families and effects were all in the castle of Aleppo. These appeared to Youkinna to be the most proper coadjutors, and with these he marches towards Antioch. After the first watch of the night was past, he took four of his relations, and commanded the rest of his men to keep the high road to Antioch used by the caravans, and to pretend that they fled from before the Saracens; telling them, “That they should see him at Antioch, if it pleased God.” He, going another way with his friends, was caught, and examined by some of the emperor’s soldiers, who no sooner understood that he was the late governor of Aleppo, but they sent him with a guard of horse to Antioch. Heraclius wept at the sight of him, and told him, “That he was informed he had changed his religion.” To which he answered, “That what he had done was only in order to reserve himself for his majesty’s further service that he had taken this opportunity of fleeing to him from Aazaz: that the vigorous defence he had made at Aleppo was a sufficient testimony of his zeal for his religion and his fidelity to his majesty.” The emperor received the apostate with great tenderness and respect, and the greatest part of the court were inclined to entertain a charitable opinion of him. Nay, so favourably did the emperor judge of him, that he not only made him commander over the two hundred renegades he had received from Alfadl, and who according to his orders had arrived at Antioch; but when his youngest daughter, who was then in another place, had sent to her father, the emperor, for a guard to conduct her safe to Antioch, Youkinna was entrusted with this charge, at the head of two thousand two hundred men. As he was on his return from this expedition, about midnight, the Greek horses pricked up their ears, and began to neigh, and some of his advanced guards brought him intelligence of a party of Saracens being encamped just by with little or no guard, most of them being asleep, and their horses feeding. Youkinna seemingly encouraged his men; but, that he might secretly do the Saracens what service he could, commanded them not to kill but take them prisoners, in order, as he said, that they might afterwards serve to exchange for the Christians. However, when they came a little nearer, they found themselves mistaken; for those whom they took to be Mohammedans, proved to be one thousand Christian Arabs, under the command of Haim, son of Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham, who had surprised Derar, and taken him and two hundred Saracens prisoners, whom Abu Obeidah had sent out to forage in the northern parts of Syria. Upon this discovery Youkinna alights from his horse, and pays his respects to Haim, hypocritically congratulating him on his good success. The safe arrival of the emperor’s daughter, and Haim’s good success, caused great rejoicing in Antioch. The prisoners were brought before the emperor, and being commanded to fall down in a posture of adoration, they took no notice of those that spoke to them, nor looked that way, nor made any answer. At last being urged to it, Derar answered, “We did not think! adoration is due to any creature; besides our prophet has forbidden us to pay it.” The emperor upon this asked them several questions about their prophet, and they beckoned to Kais Ebn Amer, an old man, and thoroughly acquainted with those matters, to answer him. Among other inquiries, the emperor desired to know in what way the inspiration used to come upon heir prophet, at his first setting forth? Kais told him, that Mohammed himself having been formerly asked that question by an inhabitant of Mecca, answered, “That sometimes it used to be like the sound of a bell, but stronger and sharper; sometimes an angel appeared to me in human shape, and discoursed with me, and I committed to memory what he said.” Ayesha, said that “once the spirit of prophecy descended upon him on a very cold day, and when it left him again, his forehead ran down with sweat.” The first message he received was in a dream; and whenever he saw a vision, it appeared to him like the first breaking of the morning brightness. After receiving the message he shut himself up in a close place alone, where he continued till the ‘truth’ came to him.” Being thus shut up, he was visited by an angel, who said, “Read.” To which he answered, “I cannot read.” Then the angel repeated it, and having instructed him in things to come, sent him forth, and said to him, “Read in the name of the Lord, who created,” &c. With which the apostle of God, Mohammed, returned to his place, trembling in his whole body. Then he went into the house to Kadija, and said, “Zammilouni, Zammilouni,” “Wrap me up, wrap me up.” Upon which they wrapped him up in blankets, till he came to himself, and his fear was gone off: after which he gave an account of the whole matter to Kadija, after this manner.
“As I was walking,” said he, “I heard a voice from heaven; and lifting up my eyes, I saw the same angel which came to me before, sitting upon a throne between heaven and earth. Being afraid of him, I went home, and said, ‘Zammilouni, Datthirouhi,’ ‘Wrap me up in blankets and mats.’ And at that time God sent down to me that chapter which begins with these words, ‘O thou that art wrapped in blankets:” and part of that which begins with these words, ‘O thou that art wrapped in mats,’ to these words, ‘And flee from the punishment;’ which is the fifth verse of that chapter.”
The emperor afterwards asked Kais what he had seen of Mohammed’s miracles. He told him that he was once upon journey with him, and there came an Arabian up to them whom Mohammed immediately asked, if he would make the confession that there was but one God, and that he was his prophet. The Arabian demanded what witness he had that what he said was true? To which Mohammed answered, “This tree.” And calling the tree to him, it came upright, ploughing the ground up with its roots. Mohammed bade it bear witness; which it did: saying, three times, “Thou art the apostle of God.” After which it returned, and stood in its place as before. Presently afterwards, Heraclius said, he had heard that it was a part of their religion to believe, that if any of them did any good, it should be returned to them ten-fold; if evil, only once. Kais owned it was true, and quoted this text out of the Koran: “He that does good shall receive ten times so much; but he that does evil, shall receive only so much.” The emperor asked him, if the prophet was not called the Witness. To which Kais answered, that he was the Witness in this world, and the Witness against men in the world to come; because God says, “O prophet! we have sent thee a Witness, and a preacher of good news, and a Warner.” The emperor next asked him concerning Mohammed’s night-journey to heaven, and his discoursing there with the Most High. This Kais affirmed to be true, and proved it from the first verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Koran. Then Heraclius wished to know if it was true that they fasted in the month Ramadan; in which Mohammed affirmed the Koran came down from heaven: and this also was acknowledged by Kais. A bishop, who was present at this conference, speaking something to the disparagement of Mohammed, provoked Derar Ebn Al Azwar (one of the prisoners) to such a degree, that he gave him the lie, and reviled him in a most reproachful language, affirming that Mohammed was a prophet, but that the veil of infidelity hindered them from the knowledge of him. Upon which some of the Christians drew their swords to chastise his insolence. But it seems he had a most wonderful deliverance; for though they struck at him fourteen times, he escaped safely. However, if Youkinna had not interceded for a reprieve till the next day, he would certainly have been executed by the emperor’s command.
In the meantime Abu Obeidah, who, in obedience to the caliph’s command, had now resolved to attack Antioch, proceeded in his march, receiving by surrender those places which remained, till he came to that bridge which they called the Iron Bridge, and was very near to the city. The emperor upon this committed the care of the army and the city to Youkinna, delivering to him a crucifix out of the church which was never shown publicly, except upon extraordinary occasions. Then he called for the prisoners. But Youkinna told him, that it would be the best way to spare them, because if any of the Christians should be taken, they might be exchanged. Upon which suggestion their execution was deferred, and by the advice of the bishops they were carried into the great church, to see if any of them would embrace the Christian religion, and be baptized. Amer, the son of Refaa turned; but Alwakidi insists that it was the dress and beauty of the Grecian ladies that influenced the young man more than any conviction of conscience. When his father, Refaa, heard of his apostacy, he broke out into this passionate exclamation: “What! turn infidel after having embraced the faith! Alas for thee! Thou art driven from the gate of the Most Merciful. Alas for thee! Thou hast denied the King, the Judge. Alas for thee, thou reprobate How hast thou denied the Lord of might and perfect power! I swear by God, that I weep not for thee, because I must part with thee in this world, but because I must part with thee in the next; when thou must go one way and I another. When thou shalt go to the habitation of devils, and be placed with the priests and deacons in the lowest mansion of hell, I shall go with the followers of Mohammed (upon whom be the blessing of God), to meet those spirits which converse with him. O son! choose not the delights of this present world before that which is to come. Oh! how shall I be astonished and confounded for this that thou hast done, when thou comest to stand in the presence of the Lord of all power and might, the King of this world and the next! And how shall I be ashamed before Mohammed, the elect prophet of God! O son! from whom wilt thou seek intercession another day?” The young man was baptized, and received with great courtesy both by the emperor and the bishops. The emperor gave him a horse, and a young woman, and placed him in Jabalah Ebn Al Ayham’s army, consisting of Christian Arabs. The patriarch asked the rest what hindered them from turning Christians too? To which they answered, “The truth of our religion.” The patriarch represented to them the danger they incurred by displeasing Jesus Christ. To which Refaa replied, that it would one day be determined which party was rejected, and which in the favour of God. Heraclius told them, that he had been informed that their caliph used to wear very mean apparel; adding, that he had gotten enough from the Christians to afford himself a better dress, and asked what should hinder him from going like other princes. Refaa told him, that the consideration of the other world, and the fear of God, hindered him. To the other questions proposed by the emperor, they answered in a cant so very much like what our ears have for some late years been used to, that were it not for the difference of the language, we might justly have suspected them to have been nearer neighbours. The emperor having asked them what sort of a palace their caliph had, they said it was made of mud. “And who,” said the emperor, “are his attendants?” “The beggars and poor people.” “What tapestry does he sit upon?” “Justice and uprightness.” “And what is his throne?” “Abstinence and certain knowledge.” “And what is his treasure?” “Trust in God.” “And who are his guards?” “The stoutest of the Unitarians,” was their reply. They added, “Dost thou know, O king! that several have said unto him, ‘O Omar! lo, thou possessest the treasures of the Cæsars; and kings and great men are subdued unto thee. Now, therefore, why puttest thou not on rich garments?’ He said unto them, ‘Ye seek the outward world, but I seek the favour of him that is Lord both of this world and that which is to come.’”
The emperor, having discoursed with, them as long as he thought fit, remanded them to prison, and went to take a view of his army, which he found drawn up without the city in excellent order. At the head of every regiment there was a little church made of wood, for the soldiers to go to prayers in. On a sudden he was informed that the Arabs were masters of the Iron Bridge. He was very much surprised to hear that they had taken two towers, in which there were no fewer than three hundred officers, in so short a time; but it seems they were betrayed. The following was the origin of this foul treachery:—A great officer at court used to go every day to see that these towers were well guarded, and not neglected. One day he found those whose business it was to take care of these towers drinking and revelling, and no one upon duty. Provoked at this intolerable negligence, he ordered them fifty lashes apiece. This severe discipline made them study revenge; and accordingly, when Abu Obeidah and his army drew near, they made articles for themselves, and delivered the towers into the hands of the Saracens.
The emperor having now no hopes left, assembled the bishops and principal officers together in the great church, and there bewailed the unhappy fate of Syria. Jabalah told him, that if the death of the caliph could be compassed, the affairs of the Saracens would be embroiled, and it would greatly facilitate the recovery of what the emperor had lost. Having obtained leave to attempt it, he sent one of his Christian Arabs, whose name was Wathek Ebn Mosafer, a resolute young man, with orders to take a convenient opportunity of killing the caliph. Now it was Omar’s daily custom to go out of the city after prayers to take a walk. Wathek went out before him, and got upon a tree, where he remained hidden, till at last he observed Omar lie down to sleep very near him. Having this fair opportunity, he drew his dagger, and was just coming down, when casting his eyes about he saw, it is said, a lion walking round about Omar, and licking his feet, who guarded him till he awoke, and then went away. Surprised at this, and struck with a profound reverence for the caliph, whom he now looked upon as the peculiar care of heaven, he came down and kissed his hand, and having told him his errand, made profession of the Mohammedan religion immediately, being strangely affected with this wonderful deliverance.
In the meantime the armies before Antioch were drawn out in battle array in front of each other. The Christian general, whose name was Nestorius, went forward and challenged any Saracen to single combat. Dames was the first to answer him; but in the engagement his horse stumbling, he was seized before he could recover himself, and being taken prisoner, was conveyed by Nestorius to his tent, and there bound. Nestorius returning to the army, and offering himself a second time, was answered by one Dehac. The combatants behaved themselves bravely, and the victory being doubtful, the soldiers were desirous of being spectators, and pressed eagerly forward. In the justling and thronging both of horse and foot to see this engagement, the tent of Nestorius, with his chair of state, was thrown down. Three servants had been left in the tent, who fearing they should be beaten when their master came back, and having nobody else to help them, told Dames that if he would lend them a hand to set up the tent, and put things in order, they would unbind him, upon condition that he should voluntarily return to his bonds again till their master came home, at which time they promised to speak a good word for him. He readily accepted the terms; but as soon as he was at liberty, he immediately seized two of them, one in his right hand, the other in his left, and dashed their two heads so violently against the third man’s, that they all three fell down dead upon the spot. Then opening a chest, and taking out a rich suit of clothes, he mounted a good horse of Nestorius’s, and having wrapped up his face as well as he could, he made towards the Christian Arabs, where Jabalah, with the chief of his tribe, stood on the left hand of Heraclius. In the meantime, Dehac and Nestorius, being equally matched, continued fighting till both their horses were quite tired out, and they were obliged to part by consent, to rest themselves. Nestorius, returning to his tent, and finding things in such confusion, easily guessed that Dames must be the cause of it. The news flew instantly through all the army, and every one was surprised at the strangeness of the action. Dames, in the meantime, had gotten among the Christian Arabs, and striking off at one blow the man’s head that stood next him, made a speedy escape to the Saracens.
All this while Youkinua was contriving which way to do the Saracens service. Accordingly when Derar and his companions, who had bean prisoners eight months, were just about being beheaded, he interceded with the emperor to spare them, assuring him that if he put them to death the Saracens would never more give quarter to any Christian that should fall into their hands. The emperor, not suspecting any treachery, committed them to his care, who, watching a convenient opportunity, set them at liberty, and gave them their arms, assuring them that there were a great many persons of the highest quality in the emperor’s service who were fully resolved to go over to the Saracens. The emperor, being disheartened with a constant course of ill success, and terrified with a dream which he had of one thrusting him out of his throne, and of his crown falling from his head, took some of his domestics and escaping privately to the sea-shore, embarked for Constantinople.
Here one author tells us a strange story of the emperor’s turning Mohammedan, which runs somewhat as follows. Having been afflicted with a great pain in his head, for which he could get no help, he applied to Omar, who sent him a cap, which so long as he wore he was well, but when he took it off the pain returned again. The emperor, wondering at this strange effect, ordered the cap to be ripped open, but found nothing in it but a little piece of paper; on which was written “Bismillah, Arrahmani ‘rrahhimi,” “In the name of the most merciful God.” This cap, it seems, was possessed by the Christians till the reign of Al Motasem (which began in the year of our Lord 833), who, besieging Ammoytriyah, was grievously afflicted with the headache; upon which the governor of the town promised him the cap, upon condition that he should raise the siege. The caliph, Al Motasem, consented to it, provided the cap should produce the desired effect, which it instantly did, and the siege was accordingly raised. The same curiosity which moved the emperor Heraclius to have the cap opened, made this caliph do so too, but he found nothing in it but the above-mentioned scrip of paper, whose virtue was not in the least impaired or diminished in the space of two hundred years, a period of time which, in all probability, would have made some alteration in an ordinary medicine. But the case is quite different here, for we have been told by other hands that the relics of holy men are never the worse for wearing. What is there that men will not believe and write when once bigoted to, superstition!
To return to the army. Antioch was not lost without a set battle; but through the treachery of Youkinna and several other persons of note, together with the assistance of Derar and his company, who were mixed with Youkinna’s men, the Christians were beaten entirely. The people of the town, perceiving the battle lost, made agreement and surrendered, paying down three hundred thousand ducats. Upon which Abu Obeidah entered into Antioch on Tuesday, being the twenty-first day of August, a.d. 638.
Thus did that ancient and famous city, the seat of so many kings and princes, fall into the hands of the infidels. The beauty of the site, and abundance of all things contributing to delight and luxury were so great, that Abu Obeidah, fearing his Saracens should be effeminated with the delicacies of that place, and remit their wonted vigour and bravery, durst not let them continue there long. After a short halt of three days to refresh his men, he again marched out of it.
Then he wrote a letter to the caliph, in which he gave him an account of his great success in taking the metropolis of Syria, and of the flight of Heraclius to Constantinople; telling him withal, what was the reason why he stayed no longer there, adding, that the Saracens were desirous of marrying the Grecian women, which he had forbidden. He was afraid, he said, lest the love of the things of this world should take possession of their hearts, and draw them off from their obedience to God. That he stayed expecting further orders, &c.
Having written this letter, he asked who would carry it. Zeid Ebn Waheb, who was Omar Ebn Auf’s slave, proffered his service. Abu Obeidah told him, that since he was a slave, he could not in any case dispose of himself, and must therefore first ask his master’s leave. Zeid hereupon went to his master, and, according to the manner of prostration in the eastern countries, bowed himself down to the ground so as to touch it with his forehead. But he was checked by his master, who was a man altogether abstracted from the love of the things of this life, and did not desire any such token of respect, being wholly intent and fixed upon the other world. He was abstinent to such a degree, that his whole inventory consisted of only these few necessaries—a sword, a lance, a horse, a camel, a knapsack, a platter, and a Koran. When any part of the spoil fell to his share, he never laid it up in store for himself, but always divided it amongst his friends, and if after this there was anything left, he sent it to the caliph, to be distributed among the poor. Zeid having asked his master’s leave to carry the letter, the latter was so well pleased to see so becoming a readiness in his slave to be a messenger of good news to the caliph, that he immediately gave him his freedom. When Zeid came near to Medina, he was surprised with an unusual noise, but upon inquiry he was informed that the caliph was going on pilgrimage to Mecca, and the prophet’s wives along with him. And now Omar, having heard the news from Zeid, fell down and worshipped, saying, “O God! praise and thanks be to thee, for thine abundant grace.” As soon as he had read the letter, he wept, and said that Abu Obeidah had been too hard upon the Mussulmans. Then sitting down upon the ground, he wrote an answer to Abu Obeidah, in which, after having expressed the satisfaction with which he had received the news of his success, he blamed him for not having been more indulgent to his followers, adding, “That God did not forbid the use of the good things of this life to faithful men, and such as performed good works; wherefore he ought to have given them leave to rest themselves, and partake freely of those good things which the country afforded. That if any of the Saracens had no family in Arabia, they might marry in Syria, and whosoever of them wanted any female slaves, might purchase as many as he had occasion for.” He concluded with ordering him to pursue the enemy, and to enter into the mountainous part of the country.
Zeid, returning to the army with the caliph’s letter, found the Saracens full of joy, occasioned by Kaled’s good success, who had gone through the country as far as the Euphrates, and taken Menbigz, and some other neighbouring towns, as Beraa and Bales, the inhabitants paying down one hundred thousand ducats for their present security, and for the time to come submitting to tribute.
Abu Obeidah, having received the caliph’s letter, asked the Mussulmans which of them would undertake to make an attempt upon the mountainous part of the country. Whether the difficulty of the service, or other reason discouraged them, is uncertain, but nobody answered him the first two times. At last Meisarah Ebn Mesrouk proffered his service, and received at the hands of the general a black flag, with this inscription upon it in white letters, “There is but one God Mohammed is the apostle of God.” He took along with him three hundred chosen Arabs, besides a thousand black slaves, commanded by Dames. They found their expedition anything but easy and agreeable; for though the summer came on apace, yet it was so cold that though they made use of all the clothes they had, they would have been very glad of more; for they met with nothing amongst the mountains but frost and snow, of which their bodies, habituated to the warmth of a torrid zone, were extremely sensitive. After marching a long way, they came to a village, but finding nobody in it (for everywhere the inhabitants fled before them), they seized whatever there was in it worth taking, and moved forwards. At last they took a prisoner, who informed them that not more than three leagues off there was a body of the emperor’s troops thirty thousand strong, which had been sent to guard that part of the country. They asked him whether it was most advisable to advance towards them, or to stand their ground where they then were. To which he replied, “That it was better for them to stay where they were, than to hazard themselves by going any further among the mountains.” The Saracens, having examined him on this head as long as they thought fit, offered him the Mohammedan religion, and when he refused it, cut off his head. In a short time the Greeks came within sight, and the battle was joined. Meisarah, overpowered with multitudes, was soon surrounded. However he sent to Abu Obeidah a messenger, who made such haste, that when he came into the general’s presence he was not able to speak a word, but fell down in a swoon. Abu Obeidah having caused some water to be sprinkled or his face, and refreshed him with meat and drink, he came to himself, and delivered his errand. Upon which Abu Obeidah sent Kaled to Meisarah’s assistance, with three thousand horse, and after him Ayad Ebn Ganam with two thousand more. But before they came up, Abdallah Ebn Hodafa, a Saracen of note, and much beloved by the caliph, was taken prisoner, and sent away towards Constantinople. The Greeks, being aware of the arrival of this fresh reinforcement to the Saracens, did not think it prudent to hazard another battle the next day, but withdrew in the night, leaving their tents to their enemies. The Saracens too, deeming it imprudent to pursue the enemy any further in that mountainous country, returned to Abu Obeidah, who, writing an account of the whole business to Medina, the caliph was extremely concerned at the loss of Abdallah Ebn Hodafa, which occasioned his writing the following letter to the Emperor Heraclius.
- “In, the name of the most merciful God.
- “Praise be to God, Lord of this and the other world; who has neither female consort nor son. And the blessing of God be upon Mohammed, his prophet and apostle divinely assisted. From the servant of God, Omar Ebn Al Khattab to Heraclius king of Greece. As soon as this letter of mine shall come to thy hands, send to me the prisoner that is with thee, whose name is Abdallah Ebn Hodafa: which if thou shalt do, I shall hope that God will direct thee into the right way. But if thou refusest, I shall send thee men whom trade and merchandize shall not divert from the remembrance of God. Health and happiness be upon every one that follows the right way.”
We do not question but the reader will think this letter written in a very odd style; but it is no other than was to be expected from those most inveterate and mortal enemies of Christianity, who always made it their business to treat its professors with the utmost contempt and aversion. This prisoner, Abdallah Ebn Hodafa was Mohammed’s cousin-german. Our author tells us, that the emperor held out to him great inducements to renounce Mohammedanism; but all in vain. Nor were his threats more influential than his promises. It seems he offered him his liberty, if he would but have made one single adoration before a crucifix. The emperor tried to persuade him to drink wine, and eat hog’s flesh; and when he refused, he was shut up in a room with no other food. Upon the fourth day they visited him, and found all untouched. The emperor asked him, what hindered him from eating and drinking? To which he answered, “The fear of God and his apostle. Notwithstanding,” added he, “I might lawfully have eaten it after three days’ abstinence, yet I abstained because I would not be reproached by the Mussulmans.” Heraclius, having received Omar’s letter, not only dismissed the prisoner, but gave both him and the messenger that brought the letter several presents and rich clothes, and appointed them a sufficient guard to conduct them in safety through his territories. Moreover, he made a present of a costly jewel to Omar, who offered it to the jewellers at Medina; but they were ignorant of the worth of it. The Mussulmans would have persuaded him to keep it for his own use; but he said, that would be more than he could answer for to the public. Wherefore it was afterwards sold, and the price of it put into the public treasury; of which, in these days, the caliph was only the steward or manager. For though it was all at his disposal, yet he very seldom applied any of it to his own private use, much less to extravagance and luxury; but took care to lay it out so as to do most service to the public.
We have before acquainted the reader, that after Omar had taken Jerusalem, he divided the army, and having sent one part of it under Abu Obeidah, towards Aleppo, despatched the other under Amrou Ebn Al Aas to Egypt. Amrou did not march directly to Egypt, but continued a while in Palestine, in order to reduce some places there which as yet held out. As he was marching towards Cæsarea, the Saracens found the weather extremely cold. Sobeih Ebn Hamzah, eating some grapes at that time, was so chilled, that he was scarce able to endure it. An old Christian who happened to be present, told him, that if he found himself cold with eating the grapes, the best remedy would be to drink some of the juice of them, and withal produced a large vessel of wine. Sobeih and some of his friends took the old man’s advice, and drank so freely of his liquor, that they went staggering to the army. Amrou, understanding their condition, wrote about it to Abu Obeidah; by whose order they all received a certain number of stripes upon the soles of their feet. The refreshment they received by drinking the wine, was, in their opinion, so far from counter-balancing the severity of the punishment, that Sobeih swore he would kill the fellow that led him to it. And he would have been as good as his word, if one that was present had not told him, that the man was under the protection of the Saracens.
Constantine, the emperor Heraclius’s son, guarded that part of the country where Amrou lay, with a considerable army; and frequently sent spies (Christian Arabs) into his camp. One of them went one time and sat down amongst some Arabs of Ayaman, or Arabia Felix, who had made them a fire, and conversed with them as long as suited his purpose, without being suspected. However, as he was rising to go away, he trod upon his vest and stumbled; upon which he swore, “by Christ,” unawares. The oath was no sooner out of his mouth, than they immediately knew him to be a Christian spy, and cut him to pieces in an instant. Amrou was angry when he heard it, because he would have wished to examine him first. Besides, he told them, “That it oftentimes happened, that a spy, when put to it, came over to them, and embraced the Mohammedan religion.” He therefore issued a strict order throughout the camp, that if hereafter a stranger or spy should be seized, he should be forthwith conveyed to him.
The armies drawing near, a Christian priest came to the Saracens, who desired that an emir, or principal officer, might be sent to Constantine, to discourse with him. Upon this a huge, monstrous fellow, a black, whose name was Belal Ebn Rebah, proffered his service. But Amrou told him, that it would be better to send an Arabian, who could talk more politely than an Ethiopian. Belal, resolving, if possible, to take no denial, adjured him by God to let him go. To which Amrou answered, “That since he had adjured him by the Most Mighty, it should be so.” This Belal had formerly been Mohammed’s crier; that is, the person that calls the people together to prayers. After Mohammed’s death (as the author of the History of Jerusalem says) he never but once exercised his office, and that was, when Omar commanded him to perform that service at the taking of Jerusalem. On any other occasion, it would, I suppose, have been beneath him, after being employed by the prophet, to serve any other person; but the taking of Jerusalem, which had been the seat of the ancient prophets, and was a place very much reverenced by the Mohammedans, was an extraordinary occasion. When he came to the priest, he expressed his indignation that the Ethiopian had been sent, and bade him go back again, telling him, that his master Constantine had not sent for a slave, but an officer. Belal, who valued himself very much upon his office, and expected every one should do so too, thought himself affronted; and let him know, that he had been no less a person than the muezzin of the apostle of God, and that he was able to give his master an answer. But this not being thought sufficient, he was forced to go back again; and at last Amrou resolved to go himself. And here, a short account of their conference, as delivered by our author, will not be out of place, as it will enable the reader to see what sort of a notion the Mohammedans have of ancient history.
When Amrou came into Constantine’s presence, he was offered a seat by the prince; but, according to the practice of the Saracens, he refused to make use of it; choosing rather to sit cross-legged upon the ground, with his sword upon his thigh, and his lance laid across before him. Constantine told him that the Arabs and Greeks were near kindred, and that it was a pity they should make war one upon the other. Amrou answered, “That their religion was different; upon which score it was lawful for brothers to quarrel. However,” he said, “he desired to know which way the Koreishites came to be so near akin to the Greeks?” Constantine answered (according to our author), “Was not our father Adam, then Noah, then Abraham, then Esau, then Isaac, which were both sons of Abraham (the blessing of God be upon them all).” Now, one brother ought not to do injustice to another, and quarrel about that division which was made for them by their forefathers.” “Thus far you say true,” answered Amrou, “That Esau begot Isaac, and Ishmael is Esau’s uncle; and so we are the sons of one father, and Noah was our father. Now Noah divided the land into parts when he was angry with his son Ham; with which division they were not pleased, but quarrelled about it: and this land in which you are, is not yours properly, but belongs to the Amalekites, who had it before you. For Noah divided it among his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet; and gave his son Shem, Syria, and what lies round it, from Arabia Felix and Hadramaut to Amau; and all the Arabs are the offspring of Shem and Kaftan, and Tesm, and Jodias, and Amalek, who is the father of the Amalekites. To his son Ham he gave the west and sea-shore; and he left Japhet between the east and west. For the earth is the Lord’s, he gives it an inheritance to which of his servants he pleases, and the latter end is to the faithful. We, therefore,” added Amrou, “desire to have this ancient division restored, and make things equal after this manner. We will take what is in your hands, and you shall take the stones and thorns and barren grounds which we possess, in lieu of these pleasant rivers, rich pastures, and stately buildings.” Constantine told him, that the division was already made, and that it would be great injustice in them not to be content with what had fallen to their share. To which Amrou answered, “That they liked the provision and manner of living in Syria so much better than their own coarse fare at home, that they could never think of leaving the country till they had conquered it, and could sit down quiet under those shady trees.” A little while after, he told those that were present, “That it would be no hard matter for them to continue in the possession of what they had; for it was only changing their religion, and the business was done.” But both that and payment of tribute being refused, Amrou told them, “That there was then nothing left but to determine it by the sword. God knows,” said he, “that I have told you the means by which you may save yourselves, but you are rebellious, just as your father Esau was disobedient to his mother. You reckon yourselves akin to us; but we have no desire to acknowledge the affinity, so long as you continue infidels. Besides you are the offspring of Esau, we of Ishmael: and God chose our prophet Mohammed from Adam, to the time that he came out of the loins of his father; and made him the best of the sons of Ishmael (and his father Ishmael was the first that spoke Arabic), and he made the tribe of Kenanah the best of the Arabs; and the family of Koreishites the best of Kenanah; and the offspring of Hashem, the best of the Koreishites; and the best of the sons of Hashem, Abdal Motaleb, the prophet’s grandfather; and sent the angel Gabriel down to him [Mohammed] with inspiration.”
The conference ending without any hopes of accommodation, Amrou returned to his army, and both sides prepared for battle, awaiting only a favourable opportunity. One day, there came forth out of Constantine’s army, an officer very richly dressed, which made many of the Saracens desirous of accepting his challenge, and fighting with him, in hopes of carrying off his spoil. Amrou used to say, “That he would have no man to go to fight out of greediness; for the reward which was to be expected from God was much better than the spoil of the enemy.” He added, “That whosoever was killed in battle, lost his life either for the sake of God, or else for some other end which he proposed to himself. If the former, then God would be his reward; but if he proposed any temporal thing, he was to expect nothing else, and that he had heard the prophet speak to the same purpose.” To meet this officer there came forth a beardless stripling, whose forward zeal had prompted him to leave Arabia Felix, and venture himself in the wars. His mother and sister had hitherto borne him company in his travels. To them this youth used to say, “That it was not the delights of Syria that moved him to go thither (because the delights of this world were fleeting; but those of the other durable). His only desire was to fight for the service of heaven, and gain the favour of God and his apostle. For he had heard some one say, that the martyrs shall be maintained with their Lord.” “How can that be,” answered his sister, “how can they be maintained when dead?” He answered, “That he had heard one that was acquainted with the apostle of God say, that the spirits of the martyrs shall be put into the crops of green birds that live in paradise, which birds shall eat the fruits of paradise, and drink the rivers; this is the maintenance which God has provided for them.” After he had taken his last leave of his mother and sister, and told them that they should meet again at that large water which belongs to the apostle of God in paradise, he went out to fight with the Christian, who killed not only this youth, but two or three more. At last Serjabil Ebn Hasanah came forth to him; but he was so emaciated with watching and fasting, that he was not able to stand before him. The Christian at last got him down, sat upon him, and was just going to cut his throat; when, on a sudden, there came a horseman out of the Grecian army, who immediately kicked the Christian off, and taking him at advantage, struck his head off. Serjabil, surprised at this unexpected deliverance, asked him who he was, and from whence he came? “I am,” said he, “the unhappy Tuleiha Ebn Khowailed, who pretended to prophesy like the apostle of God; and lied against God, saying, that inspiration came down to me from heaven.” Serjabil answered, “O brother, God’s mercy is infinite; and he that repents, and forsakes, and turns himself to God, God will accept of his repentance, and forgive him what he has done; for the prophet says, ‘Repentance takes away what was done before it.’ And dost thou not know, O Ebn Khowailed, that God said to our prophet, ‘My mercy is extended to every creature that desires it?’” adding moreover whatever he could to comfort him. Notwithstanding which, conscious to himself of the grossness of his crime, he could not find in his heart to return to the Saracens; but being pressed by Serjabil, he at last told him in plain terms, that he was afraid of Kaled (the scourge of false prophets, who broke them to pieces at first, and killed Moseilama, the chief of them) Serjabil assured him, that Kaled was not present, but stayed at Aleppo with Abu Obeidah. At last, with much ado, he persuaded him to go with him to the army. This Tuleiha, after the death of Moseilama, withdrew out of Arabia, which would soon have been too hot for him, and went and lived privately with a Mohammedan in Syria, who maintained him for a time. At last, when they were become very familiar, and thoroughly acquainted, Tuleiha made himself known, and told him his whole story. His landlord, as soon as he understood his character, treated him with the utmost aversion, and refused to entertain him longer, but turned him out of doors. Reduced to this extremity, he was almost at his wits’ end, and had some thoughts of taking ship, and retiring into some distant island. But Constantine’s army coming into those parts before he could put his design into execution, he chose rather to enlist under him, in hopes of ingratiating himself with the Mussulmans by some signal act of treachery.
Being at last prevailed upon to go back to the Saracens, he was very courteously received by Amrou; who not only gave him thanks for the great service he had done the faith, but upon his expressing his apprehensions of Kaled, promised to secure him, and wrote a commendatory letter in his behalf to Omar, acquainting him with the signal proof which Tuleiha had given of his sincere and unfeigned repentance. Tuleiha found the caliph at Mecca: delivering the letter, and withal telling him that he repented, Omar asked who he was? and had no sooner heard his name mentioned, but he made off as fast as he could, saying, “Alas for thee! If I forgive thee, how shall I give an account to God of the murder of Ocasah?” Tuleiha answered, “Ocasah indeed suffered martyrdom by my hands, which I am very sorry for, and I hope that God will forgive me what I have done.” Omar desired to know what proof he could give of his sincerity; but having perused Amrou’s letter, he was abundantly satisfied, and kept him with him till he returned to Medina, after which he employed him in his wars against the Persians.
To return to Constantine’s army. The weather was very cold, and the Christians were quite disheartened, having been frequently beaten and discouraged with the daily increasing power of the Saracens; so that a great many grew weary of the service, and withdrew from the army. Constantine, having no hopes of victory, and fearing lest the Saracens should seize Cæsarea, took the opportunity of a tempestuous night to move off; and left his camp to the Saracens: Amrou, acquainting Abu Obeidah with all that had happened, received express orders to march directly to Caesarea, where he promised to join him speedily, in order to go against Tripoli, Acre, and Tyre. A short time after this, Tripoli was surprised by the treachery of Youkinna, who succeeded in getting possession of it on a sudden, and without any noise. Within a few days of its capture there arrived in the harbour about fifty ships from Cyprus and Crete, with provisions and arms which were to go to Constantine. The officers, not knowing that Tripoli was fallen into the hands of new masters, made no scruple of landing there, where they were courteously received by Youkinna, who proffered the utmost of his service, and promised to go along with them. But immediately seized both them and their ships, and delivered the town into the hands of Kaled, who was just come.
With these ships the traitor Youkinna sailed to Tyre, where he told the inhabitants, that he had brought arms and provisions for Constantine’s army. Upon which he was kindly received, and, landing, he was liberally entertained, with nine hundred of his men. But being betrayed by one of his own soldiers, he and his crew were seized and bound; receiving all the while such treatment from the soldiers, as their villainous practices well deserved. In the meantime Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, being detached by Abu Obeidah from the camp before Cæsarea, came within sight of Tyre. The governor upon this, caused Youkinna and his men to be conveyed to the castle, and there secured, and prepared for the defence of the town. Perceiving that Yezid had with him but two thousand men in all, he resolved to make a sally. In the meantime, the rest of the inhabitants ran up to the walls, to see the engagement. Whilst they were fighting, Youkinna and his men were set at liberty by one Basil, of whom they give the following account: viz., That this Basil going one day to pay a visit to Bahira the monk, the caravan of the Koreishites came by, with which were Kadija’s camels, under the care of Mohammed. As he looked towards the caravan, he beheld Mohammed in the middle of it, and above him there was a cloud to keep him from the sun. Then the caravan having halted, as Mohammed leaned against an old withered tree, it immediately brought forth leaves. Bahira perceiving this, made an entertainment for the caravan, and invited them into the monastery. They all went, leaving Mohammed behind with the camels. Bahira missing him, asked if they were all present. “Yes,” they said; “all but a little boy we have left to look after their things, and feed the camels.” “What is his name;” says Bahirah. They told him, “Mohammed Ebn Abdallah.” Bahira asked, if his father and mother were not both dead, and if he was not brought up by his grandfather and his uncle. Being informed that it was so, he said, “O Koreish! Set a high value upon him, for he is your Lord, and by him will your power be great both in this world, and that to come; for he is your ornament and glory.” When they asked him how he knew that? Bahira answered “Because as you were coming, there was never a tree, nor stone, nor clod, but bowed itself and worshipped God.” Moreover Bahira told this Basil, that a great many prophets had leaned against this tree, and sat under it since it was first withered, but that it never bore any leaves before. And I heard him say, says this same Basil, “This is the prophet, concerning whom Isa (Jesus) spake, happy is he that believes in him, and follows him, and gives credit to his mission.” This Basil, after the visit to Bahira, had gone to Constantinople, and other parts of the Greek emperor’s territories, and upon information of the great success of the followers of this prophet, was abundantly convinced of the truth of his mission. This inclined him, having so fair an opportunity offered, to release Youkinna and his men; who sending word to the ships, the rest of their forces landed and joined them. In the meantime, a messenger in disguise was sent to acquaint Yezid with what was done. As soon as he returned, Youkinna was for falling upon the townsmen upon the wall; but Basil said, “Perhaps God might lead some of them into the right way;” and persuaded him to place the men so as to prevent their coming down from the wall. This done, they cry out “La Ilaha,” &c. The people perceiving themselves betrayed, and the prisoners at liberty, were in the utmost confusion; none of them being able to stir a step, or lift up a hand. The Saracens in the camp, hearing the noise in the city, knew what it meant, and, marching up, Youkinna opened the gates and let them in. Those that were in the city, fled; some one way, and some another; and were pursued by the Saracens, and put to the sword. Those upon the wall cried, “Quarter:” but Yezid told them, “That since they had not surrendered, but the city was taken by force, they were all slaves. However,” said he, “we of our own accord set you free, upon condition you pay tribute; and if any of you has a mind to change his religion, he shall fare as well as we do.” The greatest part of them turned Mohammedans. When Constantine heard of the loss of Tripoli and Tyre, his heart failed him, and taking shipping with his family and the greater part of his wealth, he departed for Constantinople. All this while Amrou Abn Al Aas lay before Cæsarea. In the morning, when the people came to inquire after Constantine, and could hear no tidings of him nor his family; they consulted together, and with one consent surrendered the city to Amrou, paying down for their security two thousand pieces of silver, and delivering into his hands all that Constantine had been obliged to leave behind him of his property. Thus was Cæsarea lost, in the year of our lord six hundred and thirty-eight, being the seventeenth year of the Hejirah, and the fifth of Omar’s reign; which answers to the twenty-ninth year of the emperor Heraclius. After the taking of Cæsarea all the other places in Syria, which as yet held out, namely, Ramlah, Acre, Joppa, Ascalon, Gaza, Sichem, (or Nablos) and Tiberias surrendered, and in a little time after, the people of Beiro Zidon, Jabalah, and Laodicea, followed their example; so that there remained nothing more for the Saracens to do in Syria, who, in little more than six years from the time of their first expedition in Abubeker’s reign, had succeeded in subduing the whole of that large, wealthy, and populous country.
Syria did not remain long in the possesion of those persons who had the chief hand in subduing it; for in the eighteenth year of the Hejirah, the mortality in Syria, both among men and beasts, was so terrible, particularly at Emaus and the adjacent territory, that the Arabs called that year the year of destruction. By that pestilence the Saracens lost five and twenty thousand men, among .whom were Abu Obeidah (who was then fifty-eight years old), Serjabil Ebn Hasanah, formerly Mohammed’s secretary, and Yezid Ebn Abu Sofian, with several other officers of note. Kaled survived them about three years, and then died; but the place of his burial (consequently of his death, for they did not use in those days to carry them far) is uncertain; some say at Hems, others at Medina.
Amrou Ebn Al Aas, having stayed as long in Syria as was necessary, prepared, in obedience to the caliph’s command, for his expedition into Egypt. But whilst he was on his route thither he was superseded; whether it proceeded from envy, which always attends great men, or whether Othman Ebn Affam did not think him qualified for so important a service, certain it is, that Omar was persuaded by some of those about him to recall him. That Omar himself entertained a good opinion of him, and that he superseded him rather to gratify the importunate humour of his friends, than out of any dislike, seems plain from the contents of the letter. For whereas he could have commanded him positively to return, he only wrote thus: “If this letter comes to you before you get into Egypt, return. But if you be entered into Egypt when the messenger comes to you, go on with the blessing of God; and assure yourself, that if you want any supplies, I will take care to send them.” The messenger overtook Amrou before he was out of Syria; but the general, either suspecting, or having received secret information of its purport, ordered him to wait upon him, till he should be at leisure to read the letter. In the meantime he hastens his march, fully resolved not to open it till he should be within the confines of Egypt. When he arrived at Arish he assembled the officers in his tent, and calling for the messenger, opened the letter with as much gravity and formality as if he had been altogether ignorant of the contents of it. Having read it, he told the company what was in it, and inquired of them whether the place where they had arrived belonged to Syria or Egypt. They answered, “To Egypt.” “Then,” said Amrou, “we will go on.” From thence he went to Farma, called by some Farama and Faramia, which he took after a month’s siege: from thence to Misrah (formerly Memphis, now Cairo), situate on the western bank of the river Nilus, and which had been the seat of the ancient Egyptian kings. This place the Greeks had fortified, as being, after Alexandria, the most considerable in all that kingdom. The castle, though old, was of great strength. About it the Greeks had dug a large moat or trench, into which they threw great quantities of nails and iron spikes, to make it more difficult for the Mussulmans to pass. Amrou, with four thousand men, laid hard siege to it; but after closely investing it for about seven months without effect, he was obliged to send to the caliph for fresh supplies; who, with all speed, reinforced him with four thousand more. The prefect, or lieutenant of Misrah, who held it for the emperor Heraclius, was one Mokaukas, of the sect of the Jacobites, and a mortal enemy to the Greeks. He had no design at all to serve the emperor, but to provide for himself; having behaved himself so ill that he durst not come into the emperor’s presence. For when Cosroes, the Persian, had besieged Constantinople, Mokaukas, perceiving the emperor in distress, and daily expecting his ruin, thought he had a fair opportunity offered him of making his own fortune, and retained the tribute of Egypt in his own hand, without giving account to the emperor of one penny. From that time, being conscious of his deserts, he took every means to prejudice and hinder the emperor; so natural is it for men to hate those whom they have injured. The chief care of Mokaukas was not to defend the castle in good earnest, but to manage the surrender of it so as to procure good terms for himself, and secure that vast treasure which he had so ill gotten, without any regard to what might become of the Greeks and the orthodox Christians, whom he mortally hated. Now there was in the river, between the besieged castle and the opposite bank, a little island. Mokaukas persuaded the Greeks to go with him out of the castle into that island; telling them, that since Amrou had fresh supplies sent him, it would be impossible for them to defend the castle much longer; and that if they went into that island, the river would be a much better protection for them than the castle. This he did on purpose to strip the castle of its defenders, that the Saracens might take it the more easily, and upon that account grant him the better terms. At last be prevailed, and they went out of the south gate, and going aboard some little vessels which they had there, they quickly landed on the island, having left only a few Greeks to defend the castle, for all the Copts went out with Mokaukas. Then Mokaukas sent messengers to Amrou with orders to this effect: “You Arabians have invaded our country, and given us a great deal of trouble and disturbance, without any provocation on our side. And now assure yourselves, that the Nile will quickly surround your camp, and you will all fall into our hands. However, send somebody to treat with as, and let us know your business, and what you demand; perhaps, when we come to talk about the matter, things may be settled to the satisfaction of both parties, and a peace concluded.” His messengers had no sooner delivered their errand, than Amrou despatched Abadah Ebn Al Samet, a black, to Mokaukas with full instructions. As soon as Abadah came into his presence, he bade him sit down, and asked him what the Arabs meant, and what they would have. Abadah gave him the same answer as the Saracens always used to do to such questions; telling him, that he had three things to propose to him in the name of Amrou, who had received the same order from his master Omar, the caliph; viz. that they should either change their religion, and become Mohammedans, and so have a right and title to all privileges in common with the Saracens; or else pay a yearly tribute for ever, and so come under their protection. If they disliked this alternative, then they must fight it out till the sword decided the controversy between them. These, as we have already observed, were the conditions which they proposed to all people wherever they came; the propagating their religion being to them a just occasion of making war upon all nations. To these hard terms Mokaukas made answer, that as to the first of them they would never submit; but he and his fiends the Copts would willingly pay tribute. The Greeks obstinately refused to become tributaries, and were resolved to fight it out to the last; but Mokaukas cared not what became of them, so long as he saved himself and his money. Abadah, having finished this business, returned from the castle to the camp; and when he had acquainted Amrou with all that had passed, and that there were only a few Greeks in the castle, the Saracens renewed their assault, and Zobeir scaled the walls, crying out, “Allah Acbar.” The Greeks, perceiving that the castle was lost, went into their boats as fast as they could, and escaped to the island. The Saracens, as soon as they got possession of the castle, killed and took prisoners those few that remained. The Greeks, upon plainly seeing through the villainy of Mokaukas, were afraid to trust themselves any longer so near him. Embarking, therefore; in their ships, they got to shore, and marched to Keram’l Shoraik, a place between Cairo and Alexandria, and put themselves into as good a posture of defence as they could. In the meantime, Mokaukas discussed with Amrou the conditions of peace; and it was settled between them, that all the Copts who lived both above and below Cairo, rich or poor, without any difference or distinction, should pay yearly two ducats; boys under sixteen years of age, decrepid old men, and all women, being exempt. The number of the Copts, as they were then polled, was six millions; according to which account, the yearly tribute of Cairo, and the neighbouring territory, amounted to twelve millions of ducats. Mokaukas begged of Amrou that he might be reckoned among the Copts, and taxed as they were; declaring, that he desired to have nothing in common with the Greeks, for he was none of them, nor of their religion, but that he had only for a while dissembled for fear of his life; and entreated him never to make peace with the Greeks, but to persecute them to death; and, lastly, desiring that when he died he might be buried in St. John’s church in Alexandria. All this Amrou promised to perform, upon condition that the Copts should entertain for three days, gratis, any Mussulman whatsoever who had occasion to pass through the country; and also repair two bridges which were broken, and provide quarters for himself and his army, and take care that the country people should bring in provisions to the camp, and open the road from Cairo to Alexandria (which he was then going to besiege), by building such bridges as were necessary for the march of the army. These terms were readily accepted by the Copts, who assisted them with everything they wanted. Amrou marched on without interruption till he came to Keram’l Shoraik, where the Greeks that fled from Cairo were posted. Here they fought three days successively; but at last the Greeks were forced to give way. He had also some other battles to fight before he came to Alexandria, but in all of them the Saracens were invariably victors. Those Greeks who escaped retired to Alexandria, where they made the best preparation they could for a siege.
Amrou was not long after them, but quickly came up, and laid siege to the city. However, the Greeks made a stout resistance, and made frequent sallies, so that there was a great slaughter on both sides. The Saracens at last made a vigorous assault upon one of the towers, and succeeded in entering it, the Greeks all the while defending it with the utmost bravery. In the tower itself the fight was sustained so long and stoutly, that the Saracens were at last hard pressed, and forced to retire. In this attempt Amrou, the general, Muselmah Ebn Al Mochalled, and Werdan, Amrou’s slave, were taken prisoners. Being brought before the governor, he asked them what they meant by running about the world in this manner, and disturbing their neighbours? Amrou answered according to the usual form, and told him that they designed to make them either Mussulmans or tributaries before they had done. But this bold answer had like to have cost him his life, for the governor taking notice of his behaviour, concluded that he was no ordinary person, and bade those that stood near to cut off his head. But Werdan, his slave, who understood Greek, as soon as he heard what the governor said, took his master, Amrou, by the collar, and gave him a box on the ear, telling him “That he was always putting himself forward, and prating, when it would better become him to hold his tongue; that he was a mean contemptible fellow, and that he would advise him to learn manners, and let his betters speak before him.” By this time Muslemah Ebn Al Mochalled had bethought himself, and told the governor, “That their general had thoughts of raising the siege; that Omar, the caliph, had written to him touching the matter, and designed to send an honourable ambassy, consisting of several worthy persons and men of note, to treat with him about matters; and if he pleased to let them go, they would acquaint their general how courteously they had been used, and employ the utmost of their endeavours to promote an accommodation.” He added, “That he did not in the least question but when the caliph’s ambassadors had treated with him, things would be made very easy on both sides, and the siege speedily raised.” Our historian tells us, that this impolitic governor, observing how Werdan treated his master, concluded him to have been as mean as Werdan represented him, and believed the story that Muslemah had told him concerning Omar’s sending some of the chief Arabs to treat with him. Wherefore, thinking it would be of greater consequence to kill six or ten considerable men than three or four of the vulgar, he dismissed these in hopes of catching the others. They were no sooner out of danger than the whole army of the Saracens shouted as loud as they could, “Allah Acbar.” When the Greeks upon the walls heard those great tokens of joy, which were shown in the camp for the return of these men, they were convinced that they were not such persons as the governor had taken them for, and repented too late of having let them go. Presently after this the Saracens renewed their assault, and so straitened the Alexandrians, that they were not able to hold out any longer. At last the city was taken, and the Greeks who were in it dispersed, a considerable party of them going further up into the country, and the others putting off to sea. Its possession, however, was dearly purchased by the Saracens, by a siege of fourteen months, and a loss of twenty-three thousand men before it.
To secure his conquest, and to prevent any alarm or disturbance which might follow, Amrou thought it advisable to reduce those Greeks who had escaped from the siege of Alexandria, and gone further up into the country. For he reasonably concluded that so long as any considerable number of them should be in arms, the Saracens would not be allowed to enjoy their new possessions in peace and security. With this design, therefore, he marched out of Alexandria, leaving but a few of his Saracens behind him in the town, as apprehending no danger on that side. During his absence, the Greeks who at the taking of the town had gone aboard their ships, and of whose return there was not the least fear or suspicion, came back on a sudden, and surprising the town, killed all the Saracens that were in it. The news of this event quickly came to Amrou’s ear, and he immediately returned to Alexandria with the greatest speed, and found there the Greeks who had put back from sea in possession of the castle. They gave him a warm reception, and fought bravely. At last, unable to hold out any longer against his superior numbers, they were obliged to retire to their ships again, and try their fortune at sea once more, leaving Amrou and his Saracens in full and quiet possession. This done, Amrou acquainted the caliph with his success, letting him know that the Mussulmans were desirous of plundering the city. Omar, having received his letter, gave him thanks for his service, but blamed him for ever entertaining for one moment the idea of plundering so rich a city, and strictly charged him by no means to suffer the soldiers to make any waste, or spoil anything in it, but carefully to treasure up whatever was valuable, in order to defray charges in the time of war. And lastly, ordering that the tribute which was to be raised in that part of the country should be laid up in the treasury at Alexandria, to supply the necessities of the Mussulmans.
The inhabitants of Alexandria were then polled, and upon this the whole of Egypt followed the fortune and example of its metropolis, and the inhabitants compounded for their lives, fortunes, and free exercise of their religion, at the price of two ducats a head yearly. This head-money was to be paid by all without distinction, except in the case of a man holding land, farms, or vineyards, for in such cases he paid proportionably to the yearly value of what he held. This tax brought in a most prodigious revenue to the caliph, After the Saracens were once arrived to this pitch, it is no wonder if they went further, for what would not such a revenue do in such hands? For they knew very well how to husband their money, being at that time sumptuous in nothing but their places of public worship. Their diet was plain and simple. Upon their tables appeared neither wine, nor any of those dainties, the products of modern luxury, which pall the stomach and enfeeble the constitution. . Their chief drink was water; their food principally milk, rice, or the fruits of the earth.
The Arabians had as yet applied themselves to no manner of learning, nor the study of anything but their vernacular poetry, which, long before Mohammed’s time, they understood very well, after their way, and prided themselves upon. They were altogether ignorant of the sciences, and of every language but their own. Amrou, however, though no scholar, was a man of quick parts and of good capacity, and one who in the intervals of business was more delighted with the conversation of the learned, and with rational and philosophical discourses, than it is usual for men of his education to be. There was at that time in Alexandria, one John, sirnamed “The grammarian,” an Alexandrian by birth, of the sect of the Jacobites, and was the same that afterwards denied the Trinity, and being admonished by the bishops of Egypt to renounce his erroneous opinions, he was, upon his refusal, excommunicated. He was, however, a man eminent for learning, and Amrou was greatly pleased with his conversation; not only taking delight in frequently hearing him discourse on several sciences, but also occasionally asking him questions. This person, perceiving the great respect shown him by Amrou, ventured one day to petition him for the books in the Alexandrian Library, telling him “That he perceived he had taken an account of all things which he thought valuable in the city, and sealed up all the repositories and treasuries, but had taken no notice of the books; that, if they would have been any way useful to him, he would not have been so bold as to ask for them, but since they were not, he desired he might have them.” Amrou told him, “That he had asked a thing which was altogether out of his power to grant, and that he could by no means dispose of the books without first asking the caliph’s leave. However,” he said, “he would write, and see what might be done in the matter.” Accordingly he performed his promise, and having given a due character of the abilities of this learned man, and acquainted Omar with his petition, the caliph returned this answer, “What is contained in these books you mention is either agreeable to what is written in the book of God (meaning the Koran) or it is not: if it be, then the Koran is sufficient without them; if otherwise, it is fit they should be destroyed.” Amrou, in obedience to the caliph’s command, distributed the books throughout all the city, amongst those that kept warm baths (of which there was at that time no fewer than four thousand in Alexandria), to heat the baths with. And notwithstanding the great havoc that must needs be made of them at this rate, yet the number of books which the diligence of former princes had collected was so great, that it was six months before they were consumed. A loss never to be made up to the learned world!
Amrou being now possessed of Egypt, began to look a little further towards the western part of Africa; and in a short time made himself master of all that country which lies between Barcah and Zeweilah; the inhabitants of Barcah bringing in the tribute imposed upon them punctually at the time prefixed, without any collectors going among them to gather it. While these things were doing in Egypt, there was a dearth in Arabia; so that the inhabitants of Medina and the neighbouring country, were reduced to the greatest scarcity and want. Upon this Omar wrote to Amrou, and acquainting him with their extremity, ordered him to supply the Arabs with corn out of Egypt. This Amrou did so abundantly, that the train of camels which were loaden with it, reached in a continued line from Egypt to Medina; the foremost of them entering Medina, before the last of the caravans was yet out of the bounds of Egypt. But this way of conveying the provision being both tedious and expensive, the caliph commanded Amrou to dig a passage from the Nile to the Red Sea, for the more speedy and easy conveyance of their provision to the Arabian shore. Shortly after this Amrou took Tripoli. If we consider the extent of his success it alone is great enough to command our admiration even though nothing else had been accomplished in any other part. But in the east, also, their victorious arms made no less progress, and the Mohammedan crescent now began to shed its malignant influence upon as large and considerable dominions, as the Roman eagle ever soared over. About this time, Aderbijan, Ainwerdah, Harran, Roha, Rakkah, Nisibin, Ehwaz, Siwas, and Chorassan, were all brought under subjection to the Saracens. In all these conquests, many noble actions, and well worth the relating, were without doubt performed; but the particular history of that part of their conquests not having reached my hands, the reader is desired to excuse my passing over them in silence.
About two years after this, Omar, the caliph, was killed. The account of his death is as follows:—One Firuz, a Persian, of the sect of the Magi, or Persees; as being of a different religion from the Mussulmans, had a daily tribute of two pieces of silver imposed upon him by his master, and made his complaint to Omar, demanding to have a part of it remitted. Omar told him, he did not think it at all unreasonable, considering he could well afford it out of what he earned. With this answer Firuz was so provoked, that he did as good as threaten the caliph to his face, who, however, took little notice of his passion. Firuz watched his opportunity; and not long after, whilst Omar was saying the morning prayer in the mosque, stabbed him thrice in the belly with a dagger. The Saracens in the mosque rushing upon him immediately, he made a desperate defence, and stabbed thirteen of them, of whom seven died. At last, one that stood by, threw his vest over him, and seized him; when perceiving himself caught, he stabbed himself. Omar lived three days after the wound, and then died, in the month of Du’lhagjah, in the twenty-third year of the Hejirah, a.d. 643, -??? after he had reigned ten years, six months, and eight days, and was sixty-three years old; which is the same age, at which according to some authors, Mohammed, Abubeker, and Ayesha, Mohammed’s wife, died.
He was of a dark complexion, very tall, and had a bald head. As to his behaviour in the government, the Arabic authors give him an extraordinary character. His abstinence and self-denial, his piety and gravity of behaviour, procured him more reverence than his successors could command by their grandeur. His walking-stick, says Alwakidi, struck more terror into those that were present, than another man’s sword. His diet was barley-bread; his sauce, salt; and oftentimes, by way of abstinence and mortification, he ate his bread without salt: his drink was water. He was a constant observer of all his religious duties; and in the course of the ten years he reigned, went nine times on pilgrimage to Medina. His administration of justice was very impartial, his ears being always open to the complaints of the meanest; nor could the greatness of any offender exempt him from punishment. In his decisions he always kept punctually to the sense of the Koran and the traditions of Mohammed, in whose life-time Omar gave a signal proof of the sense he had of the duty of inferiors to their governors, on the following occasion:—
An obstinate Mussulman had a suit at law with a Jew before Mohammed. The Jew being in the right, Mohammed pronounced sentence against the Mussulman; who said, “That he would not be satisfied, unless Omar, who was then only a private man, had the, rehearing and examining the cause.” The plaintiff and defendant went both together to Omar, whom they found at his own door, and opening their case, and acquainting him with Mohammed’s decision of it, desired him to examine it again. Omar going into his own house, bade them stay a moment, and told them he would despatch their business in a trice. Coming back, he brings his scimitar along with him, and at one single stroke, cuts off the head of the Mussulman, who had refused to be ruled by Mohammed’s decision; saying, with a loud voice, “See what they deserve, who will not acquiesce in the determination of their judges.” It was upon this occasion that Mohammed gave him the title or surname of Farouk; intimating thereby, that Omar knew as well how to distinguish truth from falsehood, and justice from injustice, as be did to separate the head of that knave from his body.
The conquests gained by the Saracens in his reign were so considerable, that though they had never been extended, the countries they had subdued would have made a very formidable empire. He drove all the Jews and Christians out of Arabia; subdued Syria, Egypt, and other territories in Africa, besides the greater part of Persia. And yet all this greatness, which would have been too weighty for an ordinary man to bear, especially if, as in Omar’s case, it did not descend to him as an hereditary possession, for which he had been prepared by a suitable education, but was gotten on a sudden by men who had been acquainted with, and used to nothing great before, had no effect upon the caliph. He still retained his old way of living; nor did the growth of his riches ever show itself by the increase of his retinue or expenses. He built a wall about Cafa, and repaired or rather rebuilt the temples of Jerusalem and Medina. He was the first of the Saracens that made rolls to enter the names of all that were in the military service, or that received pay from the public. He also was the first to employ the date of the Hejirah, concerning which the reader may see more in the Life of Mohammed, p. 31; moreover, he was author of the law forbidding a woman, who had ever borne a child, to be sold for a slave. The author of the History of Jerusalem, already mentioned, adds, “That if he had nothing else to recommend him besides his taking Jerusalem, and purging it from idolatry, that alone were sufficient.”
He never used to hoard up any money in the treasury, but divided it every Friday, at night, amongst his men, according to their several necessities. In which particular, his practice was preferable to Abubeker’s; for Abubeker used to proportion his dividends to the merit of the persons that were to receive it, but Omar had regard only to their necessities; saying, “That the things of this world were given to us by God for the relief of our necessities, and not for the reward of virtue; because the proper reward of that belonged to another world.”
- Major Price informs us, that on the death of Abubeker, the Persian government commenced formidable preparations for attacking the force under Mothanna, who at that time presided over the interests of the new religion in Irak. About the same time an unknown person appeared to this commander in a dream, and presenting him with a standard, announced the dissolution of the Persian empire, and required him to proceed immediately to Medina, to demand the assistance of Omar. Accordingly Mothanna repaired to the caliph for reinforcement; and as a proof that his fortunes were become the peculiar care of providence, we are told, that whilst he and his followers were on a journey through the desert, they lost their way; but in the midst of their perplexity and alarm, were suddenly and miraculously relieved by the voice of an invisible guide, which chanting in a melodious measure the triumph of Islamism, and the prostration of the standard of infidelity, re-conducted them to their proper road.
- Price relates an account of a victory obtained by Abu Obeidah over a body of the enemy stationed on the frontiers of Persia, under the command of Jaban, a general of distinction. During the battle Jaban was the foremost in the ranks, killing several of the Mussulmans with his own hands; till suddenly, an Arabian warrior brought him to the earth, and bestriding his bosom, prepared to sever his head from his body. The fatal blow was suspended by a sudden cry of “La Illah,” &c., “There is no God but God,” from the lips of Jaban, who seized the awful pause to offer his victor a male and female slave of surpassing excellence, if he would spare his life: the Arab assented, and, accompanied by Jaban, joined his companions who made him acquainted with the rank and importance of his captive, and observed, that if he had demanded two hundred slaves for a ransom, they would have been freely granted. The gallant Saracen declared his determination of being faithful to his engagement, whilst the Persian general rewarded his generosity, by doubling his ransom, and presenting him with the addition of two thousand dirhems. Jaban then became an immediate convert to Islamism, and subsequently arose to a distinguished eminence amongst the believers in the prophet.
- Price gives the following account of the death of Abu Obeidah. In the conflict, the Mussulmans appear to have been thrown into confusion by the elephants disposed along the front of the Persian line, and particularly by one which was conspicuous for its singular whiteness and enormous bulk. Abu Obeidah, after making himself acquainted with the most vulnerable parts, resolved to attack this noble animal. On its back was seated a Persian of rank, in a rich and splendid amhaurah, and accompanied by several attendants, who, however, offered no obstacle to the intrepid Mussulman. His first object was to cut the ropes that secured the amhaurah, which brought the riders headlong to the earth; and the animal now directing its fury against the daring assailant, the latter with a dexterous sweep of his scimitar, struck off the proboscis or trunk of the elephant; but while endeavouring to withdraw, the foot of Abu Obeidah slipping, he came to the ground, and the animal thus mortally wounded falling on the same spot, crushed trim to death with the weight of his enormous carcase.” See also Malcolm’s History of Persia, vol. i, p. 171.
- Sir John Malcolm places the accession of Yezdejird in Hej. 11. a.d. 632. But Major Price, whose chronology we have followed where Ockley is not explicit, fixes it in Hej. 14. a.d. 635.
- Malcolm, in his History of Persia, relates that one of the first acts of Yezdejird on coming to the throne, was to send an envoy to Saad Ebn Wakass, who was at that time the general of the caliph’s forces, employed against Persia. Saad, in compliance with a request communicated by the envoy, sent a deputation in return, consisting of three old Arab chiefs. When these were seated in the presence of Yezdejird, that monarch addressed himself to the principal person among them in the following words:— “We have always,” said he, “held you in the lowest estimation. Arabs have hitherto been only known in Persia as merchants and beggars. Your food is green lizards, your drink salt water, and your covering garments made of coarse hair. But of late you have come in numbers to Persia; you have eaten of good food, you have drank of sweet water, and have enjoyed the luxury of soft raiment. You have reported these enjoyments to your brethren, and they are flocking to partake of them. But, not satisfied with all the good things you have thus obtained, you desire to impose a new religion upon us, who are unwilling to receive it. You appear to me,” continued the monarch, “like the fox of our fable, who went into a garden where he found plenty of grapes. The generous gardener would not disturb him. The produce of his abundant vineyard would, he thought, be little diminished by a poor hungry fox enjoying himself: but the animal, not content with his good fortune, went and informed all his tribe of the excellence of the grapes, and the good nature of the gardener. The garden was filled with foxes; and its indulgent master was forced to bar the gates, and put to death all the intruders, to save himself from ruin. However,” said Yezdejird, “as I am satisfied you have been compelled to the line of conduct which you have pursued, from absolute want. I will not only pardon you, but load your camels with wheat and dates, that when you return to your native land you may feast your countrymen. But be assured, if you are insensible to my generosity, and remain in Persia, you shall not escape my just vengeance.” The firm and pious envoy heard, unmoved, a speech that at once displayed the extreme of pride and weakness in the monarch by whom it was made. “Whatever thou hast said,” he replied, “regarding the former condition of the Arabs is true. Their food was green lizards; they buried their infant daughters alive; nay, some of them feasted on dead carcases, and drank blood; while others slew their relations, and thought themselves great and valiant when, by such an act, they became possessed of more property. They were clothed with hair garments, knew not good from evil, and made no distinction between that which is lawful and that which is unlawful. Such was our state; but God in his mercy has sent us, by a holy prophet, a sacred volume, which teaches us the true faith. By it we are commanded to war with infidels, and to exchange our poor and miserable condition for that of wealth and power. We now solemnly desire you to receive our religion. If you consent to this, not an Arab shall enter Persia without your permission; and our leaders will only demand the established taxes which all believers are bound to pay. If you do not accept our religion, you are required to pay the tribute fixed upon infidels; and should you reject both these propositions, you must prepare for war” Yezdejird was still too proud to attend to such degrading conditions of peace. The embassy was dismissed, and the war renewed with all the vigour of which the declining empire was capable; and, after various vicissitudes, ended fatally for the Persians.
- The battle of Cadesia, in which the death of Rustam tools place, is too important to be passed over unnoticed. Price informs us, that the Persian army amounted to 120,000 men, whilst the Arabs under Saad Ebn Wakass only numbered 30,000. For three days the victory remained undecided; the first was called the day of concussion; the second was styled the day of succours, as on that day the Arabs were unexpectedly reinforced; and the third, in allusion to the carnage, was called the day of cormorants; and such was the desperate obstinacy with which the conflict was maintained through this last day, that it was continued on both sides by the light of flambeaux, through the whole of the ensuing night. This nocturnal conflict received the whimsical, though descriptive name of the night of barking, from the discordant clamours of the troops, resembling the inarticulate sounds of ferocious animals. On the fourth morning, the battle was again renewed with a fury and animosity which neither fatigue nor want of rest seemed sufficient to abate; but, at the hour of meridian prayer, an impetuous whirlwind broke away the canopy under which Rustam, on a throne of state, was viewing the action. The Persian general, unable to endure the heat of the sun, and clouds of sand and dust, withdrew to his baggage mules, and seated himself on the ground for shelter behind one of the animals. At this moment the empty throne attracted the attention of Kaukia the son of Amrou; and at the same time one of his followers named Hullaul approached the mule, and cutting the fastenings which secured his load, let fall one of the bags of treasure on the loins of the ill-fated Rustam, who compelled by pain and imminence of danger, threw himself into a neighbouring rivulet. Attracted by his rich coat of mail and splendid tiara, Hullaul immediately pursued him, plunged into the stream, seized him by the heels, and striking off his head, fixed it on the point of his lance; then mounting the throne, he from thence proclaimed the defeat of the Persians and victory of the caliph. The booty was immense. But what gave its chief importance to the action, was the capture of the famous Darufsh-e-Kawanee, or the royal standard of the Persian empire; an event which was deemed both by Persians and Arabians a certain presage of the result of the war. It consisted of a leathern apron of a blacksmith, who, in ancient times had arisen to be the deliverer of Persia; but this badge of heroic poverty had, in the course of time, become enlarged to the almost incredible dimensions of twenty-two feet in length, and fifteen in breadth, and was disguised and almost concealed by a profusion of precious gems. See also Malcolm’s Persia, vol. i. Price places the date of this battle in Hej. 15. a.d. 636. He further records that such was Omar’s anxiety respecting the issue of the contest, that he was accustomed to walk several leagues every day on the road towards Arabian Irak. On one of these excursions he met the messenger riding on a camel with extraordinary expedition towards Medina, from whom he learned that the believers were triumphant, and their adversaries in the dust. In the exultation of his heart, the caliph ran by the side of the courier till he entered the town, when discovering the name and quality of his inquisitive fellow traveller, the messenger delivered the letters to Omar, who immediately read them aloud to the people to their infinite joy and gratification.
- Amongst the Mussulmans that distinguished themselves at the battle of Cadesia, Abu Midjan is particularly mentioned. While his associates were engaged in the conflict, this chieftain was imprisoned in the house of Saad for singing a wine song; and as he was seated on a terrace, with fetters on his legs, he could view the battle from the distance, but of course without being able to participate in the achievements of his fellow soldiers. At length his ardour could be restrained no longer, and he succeeded in persuading the wife of Saad to procure him the horse and armour of her husband, he promising at the same time to resume his fetters if he lived till the evening. He was soon engaged on the field, where his singular valour, and impetuous and irresistible career, excited the admiration and astonishment of all parties. Saad, the general, was soon attracted by his extraordinary prowess, and began to think it must be the immortal Enoch, or St. John the Evangelist himself, whilst his astonishment was not a little increased by noticing that the unknown warrior was arrayed in his armour, and riding his horse. At the end of the conflict Abu Midjan went back to his prison, and resumed his fetters; whilst Saad, returning to his wife, told her how the battle would have been lost if an intrepid stranger, either a man or angel, had not been sent by the Almighty to their assistance, who had changed the fortune of the day. The wife of Saad then ventured to disclose to him the whole of the mystery, and the general rushing to the fettered chieftain, immediately released him, and presenting him with his horse and armour, promised never more to punish him for enjoying wine; whereupon Abu Midjan replied thus, “I drank as long as I knew that the scourge of an earthly magistrate could cleanse me of my sin, but now that I am consigned to the tribunal of God, I drink no more.” It seems that a short time previously Omar had ordered Abu Midjan to be scourged for drinking wine, and banished him to an island, but he escaped from them, and fled to the army in Irak. Musudi has preserved the song of Abu Midjan, which we thus translate from the German version of Dr. Weil:— Several years afterwards a son of Abu Midjan’s once went to the caliph Moawyah, who said to him, “Art thou the son of that man who wished to be buried in a vineyard?” repeating the above verses. “If you will allow me,” the son replied, “I will read to you some very different verses of my father.” Accordingly, with Moawyah’s permission, he recited a poem in which he estimates virtue and courage above riches. It is related that upon Abu Midjan’s grave three vine-trees were planted, which bore beautiful fruit.—See Price’s Mohammedan History; and Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, &c.
- Koran, chap. iv. 27.
- Chap. viii. 15.
- Chap. lii. 19, lvi. 22.
- Koran, chap. viii. 15.
- Major Price, who fixes the date of the capture of Damascus in Hej. 14. a.d. 635, informs us that the siege was proceeding at the time of Abubeker’s death. The original authorities from whom he quotes also state, that in the heat of action with a very superior force of the enemy, a messenger from Medina privately announced to Kaled that Abubeker was no more. With that presence of mind which in the crisis of danger never forsook this daring and intrepid chief, he seized the opportunity of deriving from the incident the only advantage of which it was capable. He proclaimed to his followers, that the messenger announced the approach of a powerful reinforcement of twelve thousand of their gallant brethren; and whilst the intelligence circulated, and inspired fresh confidence through the army, he secretly demanded from the messenger who it was that had succeeded to the sovereignty of the Mussulmans, and was told that Omar was now caliph. “Then am I superseded,” said Kaled; to which the messenger replied in the affirmative, and told him that the command of the army had devolved on Abu Obeidah. Notwithstanding; however, these unfavourable considerations, Kaled urged his troops with fresh ardour against the Greeks, and obtained a complete victory; after which he repaired to Abu Obeidah, apprized him of the succession of Omar and his own degradation, and quietly resigned his authority.”
- Arabic, “Were like a white spot in a black camel’s skin.” A camel being a creature very frequent and very serviceable in the Eastern countries, they often mention and allude to it in their proverbs.
- Koran, chap. viii. 40.
- Id. chap. viii. 42.
- See ante. p. 86, note.
- Though some writers say his residence was Antioch before the Saracens came into Syria.
- The Mohammedans believe that there is kept in heaven a register of all persons and things, which they call “Allauh ho’hnehphoud,” “the table which is kept secret.” In this book all the decrees of God, and whatsoever shall come to pass, are supposed to be written.
- Retaliation, or “lex talionis,” according to which the offending person is to suffer the same hurt which he doth to another, was commanded the Jews, Exod. xxi. 24. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” It is also expressly enjoined by Mohammed, Koran ii. 173, who probably borrowed it, as he did a great many other things, from the Jews. The modern Rabbins interpret this command of the Mosaical law as inflicting nothing more than a pecuniary mulct. Don Isaac Abarbanel has a great many arguments to prove that it ought not to be understood in a literal sense. To instance in one or two: He asks, suppose the offending person should have but one eye, or one hand, ought be to be deprived of the one, because he had struck out an eye or cut off another man’s hand that had two? Again, how would it be possible for a judge to inflict a punishment, which should be exactly the same with the injury, since that stroke might prove mortal to one man, which was not so to another; and so a man might pay for a wound which was not mortal, with the loss of his life? Thus far Abarbanel. But the practice of the Mohammedans is contrary. The injured person, however, may if he pleases accept of any other satisfaction; but if he comes to a judge, and demands retaliation, he is obliged to let him have it.
- Some Arabic authors call him Matthias.
- This same story is in Eutychius’s Annals.
- So they quote the Koran, but when they mention any of Mohammed’s sayings, they set down, his name.
- This is the twenty-fourth verse of the ninth chapter of the Koran, in which, as also in a multitude of other places, Mohammed introduces God speaking to him thus, “Say” [to the people], “if your parents;” &c.
- Koran, chap. xxi. 105.
- Chap. ix. 26, 40.
- Hej. 15. a.d. 636-7.
- Those of Medina are called by that name, because they helped Mohammed in his flight from Mecca.
- Those that fled with him are called Mohajerins; by these names the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina are often distinguished, as has been observed in the beginning of this book.
- Koran, chap. xx. 57.
- Teoph. p. 280,
- Koran, chap. v. 24.
- Ib., chap. xx. 49. They use these words almost always when they write to Christians; and so the king of Fez wrote to our Prince Regent.
- Koran, chap. ii. 68.
- Ib., chap. v. 92, 93.
- Ib., chap. xvii. l-liii. 10.
- See Life of Mohammed, an account of his night-journey to heaven.
- Price says, that Abu Obeidah had sent Amrou to commence the siege of Jerusalem, but the governor of the city announced to the latter that the prosecution of the siege, on his part, was labour entirely lost; because there existed a well-known prediction that the sacred city was destined to yield to a person distinguished by certain marks, of which not one was to be recognised in the person of Amrou, or in any part of his character. Amrou subsequently obtained a description of these marks, one of which was that the name of the conqueror would only consist of three letters, and though the name of Amrou is composed of four, yet in Arabic, that of Omar contains only three; and this, with some other apparent coincidences, is said to have been the principal motive for his coming.
- Koran, chap. iv. 27.
- Koran, chap. xviii. 16
- Ib. ix. 51.
- MS. Arab. Pocock. No. 362.
- Year of the Hej. 16. a.d. 637.
- Elmakin, Golius’s notes upon Alferganus, p. 137.
- Gen. xxviii.
- Theoph. p. 281.
- Major Price estimates the booty at £300,000,000 sterling. Gibbon says, “The naked robbers of the desert were suddenly enriched beyond the measure of their hope or knowledge. Each chamber revealed a new treasure secreted with art, or ostentatiously displayed; the gold and silver, the various wardrobes and precious furniture, surpassed the estimate of fancy or members.” But the Arabs were yet ignorant of the value of their booty; some of them offered to exchange gold for silver; and others, mistaking camphor for salt, mingled it with their bread, and were surprised at the bitterness of its taste.
- At Jaloulah, another immense booty was the reward of successful enterprise. Price mentions one article in particular, a golden camel, enriched with all sorts of jewels, and surmounted by a figure of a man, also of gold, which was found in one of the tents by an Arab soldier, and faithfully delivered to the person whose charge it was to collect the spoil.
- “It would be tedious and unprofitable to detail the different events which attended the submission of the governors of the various provinces of Persia, but a circumstance involved with the fall of the province of Anwaz and Susa is so illustrative of oriental manners, that it is inserted here to relieve the sanguinary uniformity of the Saracenic annals. The Arabs besieged Harmozan, the governor of this province, in his castle at Susa. The fortress soon surrendered, and the Persian satrap was conducted to Medina; where, at the moment of his arrival, the caliph was reposing himself amidst a crowd of paupers, on the steps of the great mosque. The Persian, unaccustomed to associate the ideas of simplicity of manners with the power of royalty, requested to be conducted into the presence of Omar. The caliph, awakened by the noise, directed the Mussulmans to lead their prisoner into a chamber of the mosque. Seated in the chair of Mohammed, the conqueror commanded his captive to be stripped of his gorgeous habiliments, and asked him whether he was sensible of the judgments of God, and of the different rewards of infidelity and obedience? “Alas,” replied Harmozan, “I feel them too deeply. In the days of our common ignorance, we fought with the weapons of the flesh, and my nation was superior: God was then neuter: since he has espoused your quarrel, you have subverted our kingdom and religion.” The Persian complained of thirst, and wished to drink in the presence of his conqueror, as, according to the custom of the Orientals, that circumstance would have entitled the prisoner to the privileges of his friendship. “Why do you ask for water?” demanded the caliph. “My thirst is intolerable,” answered the satrap, “and I ask for water for the preservation of my life.” “Your life is not in danger till you have drunk the water,” said the caliph. The crafty Harmozanda shed the vase to the ground. Though a promise of perpetual safety was far from being the meaning of Omar, yet the calls of mercy and the sacred solemnity of justice forbade the caliph from recalling his unguarded language. See Mills. Major Price records that this Harmozan afterwards became a Mohammedan, and resided at Medina upon a trifling pension from the public treasury. Upon the death of Omar, however, he fell a sacrifice at the hands of Abdallah, the son of the caliph, who knowing him to have been intimate with the assassin of his father, supposed him also to be implicated in his murder.
- Koran, chap. 1126
- Ib. iii. 96.
- Koran, iii. 60
- Ib. iii. 78.
- Ib. iii. 77.
- Arabic, “Aflama.”
- Koran, xxii. 77.
- Koran, chap. ii. 190; iii. 129, 141. v. 16.
- Koran, chap. xcvi. ver. 1. according to the order of the copies now in use; though the Mohammedans take it for the first chapter of the whole Koran.
- It is the lxiii. of the Koran.
- Ib. chap. lxxiv.
- Koran, iv. 161. xl. 43.
- Ib. chap. xlviii. 8, and xxxiii. 44.
- Arabic, “Gadan,” i. e. “to-morrow.” It is used to express future time, and signifies in this place the day of judgment.
- Hej. 17. a.d. 638.
- Koran, chap. i. 1.
- Ib. chap. lxxii. 3.
- Arab. “Sahhibah.”
- Arab. “Almowayad.”
- That is, into the profession of the Mohammedan religion.
- Koran chap. xxiv. 37, lxiii. 9.
- Ib. chap xx. 49.
- MS. Arab. Pococ. No. 362.
- This is an expression used by the Arab writers whenever they mention any of the ancient prophets.
- Amrou makes strange work of this genealogy; but the Arabic may be read, Esau walado Ishac, i. e. “Esau is the son of Isaac;” not walada, “begot Isaac.” But if, to help him out, we should read it so, we contradict him, for just before he reckons Esau before Isaac.
- Koran, chap. vii. 125.
- This the Mohammedans have from the Jews, who believe most Europeans to be the offspring of Esau. Abarbanel takes a great deal of pains to prove it, and those Jews I have conversed with are of the same opinion.
- Amongst other strange stories which some of the Christian writers have told of the Saracens, this is one, viz.: “That they called themselves Saracens, because they would have the world believe that they were descended from Sarah, Abraham’s lawful wife, being ashamed of Hagar, his slave.” But the contrary is most evident, for they were neither ashamed of Ishmael nor Hagar. As for Ishmael, we have an instance in this very place; and for Hagar, the reader may consult the Jauharian (a famous Arab lexicographer), who in the word Agara, says, “Hagar is the mother of Ishmael, upon whom be peace.”
- Hej. 17, a.d. 638.
- Lane, in his edition of the Arabian Nights, relates a circumstance which took place during the war with Syria, and as it is exceedingly illustrative of the times, we insert it here:—
- “On one occasion when the Mussulmans’ army was besieging a fortified town in Syria, two of their number, who were brothers, exhibited so much valour and impetuosity against the enemy, that the governor of the town laid an ambush for them, and one was slain and the other taken prisoner. The captive was carried before the governor, who seeing him, said: ‘The slaughter of this man would be an evil; but his return to the Mussulmans would be a calamity: can he not be persuaded to embrace Christianity, and become an auxiliary and helper?’ A Greek patriarch who was present, answered him, and said, ‘O Emir, I will tempt him to apostacy; for the Arabs are exceedingly fond of women, and I have a daughter endowed with perfect beauty, who shall seduce him. The governor, thereupon, gave the prisoner into His charge, and the patriarch conveyed him to his house; and having arrayed his daughter in such attire as to increase her grace and loveliness, he caused food to be brought, and ordered it to be to them by the beautiful Christian. The pious Mussulman saw the temptation, and endeavoured to escape it by closing his eyes, and occupying himself with the worship of God, and the recital of the Koran; but here his excellent voice, and his superior talents in using it, were so effective, that the daughter of the patriarch fell violently in love with him, and at the expiration of seven days, begged him to teach her the religion of Mohammed. The Saracen soon converted her to the true faith, and after she had acknowledged to him the state of her affections, they began to consider the easiest means of becoming united. At length the maiden resolved upon the following stratagem. Calling to her father and mother, she said, ‘The heart of the Mussulman is softened, and he is desirous of embracing the faith, and I must also grant him the accomplishment of that which he desireth of me. He hath however said, that this must not happen in the town where his brother was slain, but he must depart from it before he can do all that I desire. Send me with him, therefore, to some other place; no harm can ensue, for I am a surety to you and to the king, that he embraces Christianity.’ The patriarch advised with the governor, who rejoiced in the event, and immediately gave orders that the lovers should be sent to a neighbouring village. Accordingly they departed from the town, and reached the place appointed, where they stayed till the evening, and then the Mussulman mounted a swift horse, and placing the damsel behind him, they ceased not to travel till the morning was near, when they performed the ablution and recited the necessary prayers. While thus engaged, they were suddenly alarmed by the clashing of weapons and the clinking of bits and bridles, and thinking that they were being followed by a body of Christians, and finding their horse jaded and weary, they fell to supplicating God for assistance. Suddenly the young man heard the voice of his brother, the martyr, saying, ‘Fear not, O my brother, for the approaching troop is the troop of God, and it is his angels whom be hath sent to witness your marriage. Verily, God hath gloried in you before his angels, and hath contracted the earth for you, so that in the morning thou wilt be among the mountains of Medina.’ Then the angels raised their voices, saluting him and his wife, and said, ‘Verily God married her to thee two thousand years before the creation of your father Adam.’ Upon this the two lovers were released and overjoyed, and when the day-break had fully arrived, they performed the morning prayers.
- “At this very time the caliph, Omar, was simultaneously performing the morning prayers in the darkness before dawn, and the mosque was gradually filled with people. Having read two short chapters and pronounced the salutations, he looked towards his congregation, and suddenly said, ‘Come forth with us, that we may meet the bridegroom and bride.’ The people regarded each other with astonishment, and could not understand the caliph; but as he left the mosque, they followed him until he came to the gate of the city. By this time daylight had appeared and they beheld a young man and a maiden proceeding towards them, whom Oman met and saluted. The lovers were then conducted to the town, where a feast was immediately provided, and from that time the Mussulman and his bride passed a life of perfect happiness, and were blessed with children, who fought in the way of God, till at length they were visited by the terminator of delights and the separator of companions.”
- Amo’l ramadah.
- Author of the History of Jerusalem, above cited.
- An affecting instance of public ingratitude towards this distinguished general is recorded by Major Price, in his elaborate “Mohammedan History: “Before the death of this noble Saracen, a base charge of appropriating to himself the public treasure was preferred against him, or encouraged, by Omar. It seems that among many others, one of the poets of the day, Assauth, the son of Keyss Kaundi, had celebrated the glory of Kaled in the following lines: ‘Thy irresistible valour hath hushed the raging tempest; in battle thou hast been armed with the tusks of the elephant and the jaws of the alligator; thy mace hath hurled the terrors of the day of judgment through the Roman provinces; and the lightning of thy scimitar hath spread wretchedness and mourning among the cities of the Franks.’ For this effusion of his muse, Kaled, equally liberal as he was brave, bestowed on the poet a donation of 10,000 dirhems, or £229 sterling, but equivalent to about ten times as much at the present day; an act which awakened the observation and aspersions of envy, and excited the suspicions of Omar, more especially as on a former occasion Kaled had advanced 100,000 dirhems as the dower of his wife. An examination was accordingly instituted with every indignity, and his turban fastened round his neck, in the ignominious grasp of the common crier. He submitted with exemplary moderation, alleging that the dictates of resentment, however just, should not prevail with him to resist the will of his superiors. The imposition of a fine satisfied the public justice; but when his horse, his armour, and one slave, were found to constitute all big wealth, Omar deigned to weep over the tomb, at Emesa, of the injured conqueror of Syria.”
- The same story is told, with some variation of circumstances, both by Elmakin and Alwakidi.
- The following tradition concerning Amrou is quoted by Dr. Weil. At an early period of his life Amrou made a journey on business to Jerusalem. One day he chanced to be guarding his own and companions’ camels upon a hill in the vicinity of Alexandria, when a Greek ecclesiastic came to him from the city, and begged a draught of water, as the weather was unusually hot and oppressive. Amrou gave him his own pitcher, and the other having quenched his thirst, laid himself down and slept. Shortly afterwards, Amrou saw a serpent creep from a hole and advance towards the Greek, upon which be immediately sprang to his bow and killed the snake with an arrow. When the Greek arose, and saw the dead reptile by his side, and heard from Amrou how his life had been preserved, he said, “Thou hast twice saved my life, and I will reward thee, though I am here but as a poor pilgrim. Go with me to Alexandria, and I will give thee 2000 dinars.” Amrou followed, and whilst in the city he was present at a game of ball, and according to the faith and experience of the Alexandrians, this ball had never as yet fallen into the hands of an individual without his subsequently becoming a ruler over their kingdom. On the present occasion, to the astonishment of all the Greeks, the ball fell into the hands of Amrou, who afterwards became, as is related above, the conqueror of Egypt. This story is told at a greater length by Ebn Abdal Haken.
- Hej 20. a.d. 640.
- “I have taken,” writes Amrou to the caliph, “the great city of the west. It is impossible for me to enumerate the variety of its riches and beauty; and I shall content myself with observing, that it contains four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, four hundred theatres or places of amusement, twelve thousand shops for the sale of vegetable food, and forty thousand tributary Jews. The town has been subdued by force of arms, without treaty or capitulation, and the Mussulmans are impatient to seize the fruits of their victory.” —Eutychius, as quoted by Gibbon.
- It is needless to apprize the reader of the variety of controversy regarding this literary conflagration, some persons disputing even the existence of any great collection; but the testimony of antiquity, joined to the passionate desire of the Lagidæ ; to accumulate manuscripts, and their vast wealth and influence, render the circumstance a very probable one. Gibbon says he felt strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the consequences of this irreparable shipwreck of learning, as being founded on the simple authority of Abulfaragius, whilst Eutychius and Al Makin are both silent on the subject. Mr. Milman, however, adds that since this period several new Mohammedan authorities have been adduced to support Abulfaragius. That of, I. Abdollatiph, by professor White: II. Of Makrisi: III. Of Ibn Chaldedun; and after them Hadschi Chalfa. See Von Hammer’s History of the Assassins. Reinhard, in a German dissertation, printed at Gottingen, 1792, and St. Croix (Magasin Encyclop., tom. iv. p. 433), have examined the question. Among oriental scholars, Professor White, M. St. Martin, Von Hammer, and Silv. de Jacy, consider the fact of the burning of the library, by the command of Omar, beyond question. A Mohammedan writer brings a similar charge against the crusaders. The library of Tripoli is said to have contained the incredible number of three millions of volumes. On the capture of the city, Count Bertram of St. Gilles, entering the first room, which contained nothing but the Koran, ordered the whole to be burnt, as the works of the false prophet of Arabia. See Wilken. Gesch. der Kreuzzuge, vol. ii: p. 211.—Milman’s Gibbon.
- Hej. 21. a.d. 641.
- Ahmed Ebn Mohammed Abdi Rabbibi. M.S. Arabic. Huntingdon, No. 264.
- History of the Holy Land, M. Arab. Poc. No. 362.
- Masudi relates that Omar’s governors lived as piously and simply as himself. The inhabitants of Hems once brought the following accusations against their governor. 1st. That he never granted an audience before sunrise; 2nd. That he never attended to any one during the night; and 3rd. That he was altogether invisible far one whole day in every month. When Omar desired him to explain his conduct, he replied, “In the first place as I have no servant, I am forced, early in the morning, to knead and bake my own bread; secondly, during the night, I pray to God, and read the Koran, until sleep overtakes me; and thirdly, as I have only one upper shirt, I cannot show myself on the day I wash, and dry it.” Omar made the governor a present of 1000 dinars, the greater part of which, however, he gave to the poor.—Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen.
- D’Herbelot Bibliotheque Orientale.
- The following story of this caliph is related by Mr. Lane, in his Notes to the Arabian Nights:—“Omar was one day sitting to judge the people, when a comely young man in clean apparel was brought before him by two handsome youths, who had seized him by his vest. The caliph having ordered the two youths to withdraw from their prisoner, demanded the object of their application, to which they replied:—‘O prince of the faithful, we are two brothers by the same mother, and we had a father prudent and honoured among the tribes, who reared us from infancy, and bestowed on us great favours: and he went forth into his orchard to recreate himself and pluck its fruits, when this young man slew him. We therefore request thee to retaliate his offence, and to pass judgment upon him in accordance with the commands of God.’
“Omar casting a terrifying glance upon the young man said, to him ‘What hast thou to say in reply to these two youths?’ Now that young man was of fine heart and bold tongue; he had cast off the garments of dastardy, and divested himself of the apparel of fear; and after some preliminary compliments to the caliph, delivered in elegant language, he replied, ‘These youths have spoken truth, and the command of God is an interminable decree;’ but I will state my case, and it is for thee to decide upon it. Know, O prince, that I am of the choicest of the genuine Arabs, and I grew up in the dwellings of the desert till an oppressive famine afflicted my people, when I came to the environs of this town with my family and wealth. Now I had several she camels of great estimation, and a most beautiful male camel of high breed, whereby the she camels bore abundantly; and whilst I was journeying on a road which passed through gardens of trees, one of my she camels ran to the orchard of the father of these young men, and nibbled at some trees which appeared above the wall. I drove her away from the orchard, but lo! a sheikh appeared through an interstice of the wall with a stone in his hand, and smiting the male camel with it in the right eye, he killed it. Seeing my male camel fall, I became hot with anger, and took up that same stone and smote him with it, and the man was killed by that wherewith he had killed. Upon being struck with the stone he uttered a great cry and a painful shriek, whereupon I hastened from the place; but being seized by these youths, I am brought before thee.’ Then Omar said, ‘Thou hast confessed thy crime: liberation hath become difficult, retaliation is necessary, and there is no escape.’ The young man replied, ‘I hear and obey; but I have a young brother, whose father left him abundance of wealth and gold, and committed both him and his treasure to my charge. Now the money is buried, and no one but myself knoweth where: therefore, before passing sentence of death, give me three days that I may appoint a guardian for the boy, by which time I will return to discharge my obligations, and will give surety for my return. The caliph asked who would be surety; when the young man looking round him pointed to Aboo Dharr,* who thereupon consented to become his guarantee for three days.
The third day had almost closed, and the ‘companions of the prophet’ were surrounding Omar like stars round the moon; but as yet, the young man had not returned. Aboo Dharr was present, and the plaintiffs who were waiting, said to him, ‘Where is the delinquent? How shall he who hath fled return? But we will not move from our place until thou bring him to us, that our blood revenge may be taken.’ Aboo Dharr replied, ‘By the Omniscient King, if the three days expire, and the young man come not, I will discharge the obligation and surrender myself to the caliph.’ And Omar said, ‘By Allah, if the young man delay his coming, I will assuredly pass sentence upon Aboo Dharr, according as the law of Islam requireth!’ Upon this the tears of the assembly flowed, and the sighs of the spectators rose, and great was the clamour. The chiefs of the ‘companions’ begged the youths to accept pecuniary compensation; but they would be satisfied with nothing less than the revenge of blood.
“Whilst the people were thus lamenting, lo, the young man approached and stood before the caliph, with his face glistening with perspiration; and he said:—‘I have committed my brother to his maternal uncles, and acquainted them with all his affairs, and the depository of his wealth; then I rushed through the sultry mid-day heat; and fulfilled my promise.’ And the people wondered at his veracity and good faith, and praised him; but he replied: I Are ye not convinced that when the period of death hath arrived, no one can escape from it? Verily I fulfilled my promise, that it might not be said, —Fidelity hath departed from among men. Then Aboo Dharr said:—‘O prince, I became surety for this young man, and knew not his tribe, nor had I previously seen him. But when he turned from all others and appealed to me, I deemed it not right to deny him, that it might not be said, —Virtue hath departed from among men.’ And upon this the two youths said: ‘O prince, we give up to this young man the blood of our father, since he hath converted sadness into cheerfulness, that it may not be said, —Kindness hath departed from among men.’ Then the caliph rejoiced at the pardon granted to the young man, and greatly extolled the humanity of Abeo Dharr and the kindness of the two youths. He then offered to pay the latter the price of their father’s blood from the government treasury, but they refused to receive it.”
“But little is known to us of the private life of Omar, but we learn that he was married seven times; three times in Mecca, and four times after the flight to Medina; which proves that he did not live entirely devoted to God and Islamism. Beside his wives, he had two female slaves, both of whom bore him children; and he also got Ayesha to forward his suit with two other women, but they both refused him. One was a daughter of Otba, who would not accept him because, from jealousy, he always kept his wives locked up. The other, Asma, a daughter of Abubeker, declined to receive his addresses because she dreaded the hard living of the abstemious caliph, who is said to have confined his household to barley bread and camel’s flesh. Omar, however, was so much in love with Asma, that Ayesha was afraid to acquaint him with her refusal, and therefore tools counsel with Amrou Ebn Aas. The latter accordingly went to Omar, and said to him, ‘I have heard you wish to marry Asma, and would dissuade you from it, for she has grown up so uncontrolled amongst her brothers, that she will neither submit to thy restraints nor suit so strict a ruler; and if she complains of thy severity, all the people will support her cause, and condemn thee, because she is the daughter of Abubeker.’ This artful speech succeeded, and Ayesha was spared from further commissions. Omar concluded a marriage with Omm Kolthum, the daughter of Ali; but Ali expressed great unwillingness in giving him his daughter, because of her extreme youth; and a somewhat similar scene took place as that which preceded the marriage of Mohammed with Ayesha. Ali sent his daughter to Omar, who unveiled her, and drew her towards him; but she escaped from his hands, and went and complained to her father, who accordingly said to Omar, ‘If thou went not caliph, I would break thy nose and scratch thy eyes out.’ Omar subsequently won Ali over, by saying that ‘Mohammed had declared that all ties of relationship and marriage would cease on the day of resurrection, save those in his own family; therefore, as Omm Kolthum was the grandchild of the prophet, through her mother Fatima; if he married her now, she would become one of his wives in paradise: Omm Kolthum, however, again evinced a dislike to return to the old voluptuary, as she called him; but Ali overruled her objections by the simple reply of, ‘He is now thy husband.’”—See Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen.
- * A celebrated and highly esteemed relater of the sayings and actions of the prophet.