In the night the Greeks had another calamity added to their misfortune of losing the victory in the day.
Continuing Muslims Conquer Syria,
our selection from History of the Saracens by Simon Ockley published in 1718. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in twelve easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Muslims Conquer Syria
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 while 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 afterward asked by what mischance he was blinded, he would answer that it was not a mischance, but a token of favor from God, for they gloried as much in those wounds they received in the defense 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 saw 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, while they were this day reveling 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, plunged 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 flee, 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, etc.
“This is to acquaint thee that I encamped at Yermouk, where Mahan was near us with such an army as that the Muslims 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 Muslims were killed four thousand and thirty, to whom God had decreed the honor of martyrdom. Finding some heads cut off, and not knowing whether they belonged to the Muslims or Christians, I prayed over them and buried them. Mahan was afterward 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 Muslims.”
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