Today’s installment concludes 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.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of twelve thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Muslims Conquer Syria.
While 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 Mohammad. As he looked toward the caravan, he beheld Mohammad in the middle of it, and above him there was a cloud to keep him from the sun. Then the caravan having halted, as Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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 Bahira. They told him, “Mohammad 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 cried out, “La Ilaha,” etc. 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 Muslims.
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 ben-el-Ass lay before Caesarea. 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 Caesarea lost in the year of our Lord 638, being the seventeenth year of the Hegira and the fifth of Omar’s reign, which answers to the twenty-ninth year of the emperor Heraclius.
After the taking of Caesarea 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 Abu-Beker’s reign, had succeeded in subduing the whole of that large, wealthy, and populous country.
Syria did not remain long in the possession of those persons who had the chief hand in subduing it, for in the eighteenth year of the Hegira 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 Mohammad’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.
This ends our series of passages on Muslims Conquer Syria by Simon Ockley from his book History of the Saracens published in 1718. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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