The Battle of Damascus

…battle of financial nerve center mattered for Romans
The Battle of Damascus

Damascus mattered, as it was the global financial nervecenter of yore. Here, trade caravans crossed paths. The caravans from Yemen andHejaz would make a regular appearance to unload their merchandize. In exchange,they would load their beasts of burden with woven textiles of varied fibersincluding expensive silk. Spices to provide taste to their cuisine was anIndian item much relished. Here the Jew, the Christian, the Hindu, theConfucian, the Zoroastrian, the pagan Arab interacted freely. Pauline Christianity,the order of St. Paul remained the dominant Christian narrative in ByzantineEmpire. It was orthodox and intolerant; however maintaining freedom to interactin the city of Damascus was a financial compulsion for Byzantines.

Byzantine Empire from Europe to Asia Minor stretched to westof Asia. Governance of Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire was a geopoliticalchallenge. Defending Damascus had heavy stakes involved for Caesar Heracles.Reverse at Ajnadin jolted Romans; they feared battle in an open field.Historians agree that Byzantines banked on a strategy of getting fortified,with the belief of winter giving desert Arabs cold feet. This didn't happen;Muslims forces were too resilient to be upset by challenges of weather. Thestalemate continued until Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) departed for heavenlyabode in the year 634 A.D. Hazrat Omar Farooq (RA) assumed the charge ofCaliphate, with momentous decisions awaiting him. As the orderly change ofCaliphate was taking place, Saifulah Khalid [RA] was getting restless. He lovedto remain in action. Fortification was unknown to Arabs. Do or die in thedesert warfare, was all they were known for.

 Saifulah Khalid [RA]examining openings constantly witnessed a point where he could cross the wallof fort from waterway intervening between Muslim positions and the wall. Hemade maximum of a God given opportunity. In the dead of night, he swam across the water filled moat around therampant guarding the city and getting over the wall caught the city guards unawares,drunk as they were celebrating the birth of the son of Governor of Damascus. Hehad the gates opened to let in his subordinate commanders from various gates.Fearful of Saifulah Khalid (RA) the enemy sought sanctuary by negotiatingsurrender with mild mannered and soft hearted Hazrat Abu-Obaidah (RA). Even anordinary soldier could provide sanctuary; here a close associate of ProphetMohammad (PBUH) was promising relief. Saifulah Khalid (RA) respected hisdecision. And with that the peace deal on the city of Damascus was concluded inthe month of Rajab, in the year 14thA.H/635-636 A.D.

Following the conquest of Damascus, the cities ofHims/Emessa, Jerusalem and Antioch remained to be conquered, however theMuslims turned in the direction of Jordan, as the Romans had started collectinganother combative force at Baisan, an important town of Jordan. The chief townof Jordan was Tibriyah, which has a 12 km lake to the east of it. The Islamicforces laid camp in town of Scylla (Arabic Fahl) now extinct except for a fewruins near it. The Romans fearing an assault created a water barrier bydemolishing embankments of neighbouring canals and sued for peace, a ruse whilewaiting for re-enforcements.

The standard Muslim answer to peace pleas was to either acceptIslam or pay 'Jaziah' for protection and in case of non-acceptance of theseproposals, it was left to the ensuing battle, as to  whose word prevails. Yet again in Fahl, theMuslim forces were disproportionate to what the Romans put forth and as usual theirvalour carried the day in the 14th year of Hijra [635/636 A.D]. The rest of thetowns of Jordan were easily gained, the resistance melting away withadvancement of Islamic troops. As Shubli Nomani notes in his book on 'SyedenaOmar Farooq [RA]' the terms of peace were that the lives, goods and chattels,lands, houses, churches and temples would be under protection, and only a fewsites would be acquired for mosques.

With Jordan under control, the Islamic forces turned backtheir attention to mainland Syria and in the same year; 14th Year of Hijra [635A.D], the ancient city of 'Emessa' called 'Hims' by Arabs, known for its great'Sun temple' of ancient times fell after a token resistance by the Romans. Thecity had a mixed Christian and Jewish population. The Christian clergy hadturned the heat on Jews. The way Muslims treated them carried a highlyfavourable impression. That is how the Jews behave, whenever they sound low.The world is moved by their wail of despair. However, the movement they gain power,they are a different people, impossible to contend with. That is precisely whya philosopher has commented that 'World would always have the Jewish question'?

With Jordan, Damascus and Hims under control, CaesarHeracles was alarmed and a great council was convened in Antioch. Initiallydisheartened and almost prepared to leave Syria, one Christian delegation afteranother made him to change his mind in favour of the last ditch effort. Hedispatched orders to Constantinople, Armenia and Jazira. Jazira is the fertileland between Tigris and Euphrates. The land belonged to the Iranian Empire.However, it was conquered by Islamic forces, under the command of Hazrat Saadibn Ibi Waqas [RA]. The area had nevertheless a Roman enclave on the fringes,where border between the Iranians and Roman Empire was located. It waspopulated by Arab Christian tribes. Before the re-enforcement column couldmove, Hazrat Saad ibn Ibi Waqas [RA] checkmated the move. Still, column aftercolumn of troops from provinces of Byzantine Empire was collecting in thevicinity of Antioch until a huge army convinced Hercules that Romans mightcarry the day.

We are moving to battle of Yarmouk, which with Qadsia ranksas two of the greatest battles Muslims fought to re-structure world order, thefascinating tale continues.

 Yaar Zinda, SohbatBaqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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