In the same year that Jerusalem was taken, Said Ebn Abi Wakkas, one of Omar’s captains, was making fearful havoc in the territories of Persia.
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
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 Aelia. 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 Muslims 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 Muslims 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 Muslims 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 Muslims 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 Muslims 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 Muslims 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.
In the same year that Jerusalem was taken, Said 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 Khusrau (Cosroes), King of Persia; where he found money and rich furniture of all sorts, inestimable. El-makin says that they found there no less than three thousand million of ducats, besides Khusrau’s 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 Khusrau’s 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.
Omar, having taken Jerusalem, continued there about ten days to put things in order.
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.
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