Chapter 29: The Battle of Ajnadein

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 5

This phase of the battle went against the Muslims, several of whom were killed while many were wounded. This suited the Romans very well; and for some time the missiles continued to fly from their bows and slings. The Muslims, unable to do anything to offset this Roman advantage, became impatient to attack with sword and lance, but still Khalid restrained them. Finally the impetuous Dhiraar came to Khalid and said, "Why are we waiting when Allah, the Most High, is on our side? By Allah, our enemies will think that we are afraid of them. Order the attack, and we shall attack with you." Khalid decided to let individual champions go into combat against Roman champions.

In this duelling the Muslims would have the advantage, and it would be useful to eliminate as many of the Roman officers as possible, as this would in turn reduce the effectiveness of the Roman army. "You may attack, Dhiraar", he said. 1 And the delighted Dhiraar urged his horse forward.

Because of the Roman archers, Dhiraar kept on his coat of mail and helmet, and in his hand carried a shield made of elephant hide, which had once belonged to a Roman. Having gone halfway to the Roman line, he stopped and raising his head, gave his personal battle cry:

I am the death of the Pale Ones;
I am the killer of the Romans;
I am a scourge sent upon you;
I am Dhiraar bin Al Azwar!
2

As a few of the Roman champions advanced to answer his challenge, Dhiraar quickly disrobed; and the Romans knew him at once as the Naked Champion. In the next few minutes, Dhiraar killed several Romans, including two generals, one of whom was the governor of Amman and the other the governor of Tiberius.

Then a group of 10 officers emerged from the Roman army and moved towards Dhiraar. At this move, Khalid picked 10 of his stalwarts, and riding up, intercepted and killed the Romans. Now more champions came forward from both sides, some individually, others in groups. Gradually, the duelling increased in extent and intensity, and continued for about two hours, during which the Roman archers and slingers remained inactive. This phase more than restored the balance in favour of the Muslims, for most of the Roman champions were killed in combat.

While this duelling was still in progress-and it was now past midday-Khalid ordered a general attack; and the entire Muslim front moved forward and hurled itself at the Roman army. The main battle was now on with sword and shield.

This was a frontal struggle with no fine manoeuvre and neither side attempting to outflank the other. It was a hard slogging match at close quarters, and continued for some hours. Then in the late afternoon both sides, now very tired, broke contact and fell back to their original lines. No more could be done on this day.

The losses of the Romans were staggering. Wardan was shocked to learn that thousands of his soldiers lay dead on the battlefield, while very few Muslims had been accounted for. He called a council of war, at which he expressed his misgivings about the outcome of the battle, but his generals swore that they would fight to the last. Wardan asked for ideas; and of the various suggestions made, the one that appealed to him most was a plot to kill the Muslim commander. According to this plan, Wardan would personally go forward in the morning, offer peace and ask for Khalid to come forth and discuss the terms with him. When Khalid had approached near enough Wardan would engage him in combat; then, on his signal, 10 men, suitably concealed nearby, would rush up and cut the Muslim commander to pieces. It was as simple as that. Wardan was a brave general and agreed to the plan. The men would be positioned during the night, and would be carefully briefed for their role.

The Roman commander then sent a Christian Arab named David, who was a member of his staff, with instructions to proceed to the Muslim army and seek Khalid. He was to say to the Muslim commander that sufficient blood had been shed; that there should be no more fighting; that they should make peace; and that Khalid should meet Wardan early next morning between the two armies to discuss terms of peace. Both generals would appear alone.

1. Waqidi: p. 36.
2. Ibid: p. 37.

   

   
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