Both sides now prepared for that fight which was to determine the fate of Syria.
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
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 us to sit down upon is purer than your tapestries, defending their practice from a sentence of their prophet Mohammad, 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. 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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad, 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 Abu-Bekr had given him at his first setting forth into Syria, being the same which Mohammad 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.
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