Chapter 13: Tulaiha the Imposter
Ibn Abbas related that the Prophet (SAWS) said, "The nations were presented to me. I saw the prophet having a party of people with him, the prophet having one or two men with him, the prophet having no one with him. Then a great mass of people was shown to me, so I thought that they were my nation, but it was said to me, 'This is Musa and his people, but look at the horizon.' Behold! A great mass of people! It was said to me, 'Look at the other horizon.' Behold! A great mass of people! It was said to me, 'This is your nation, and among them are seventy thousand who will enter the Garden without reckoning or punishment'."
He then got up and entered his house, and the people began speculating about those special believers. Some of them said, "Perhaps they are those who accompanied the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace." Others said, "Perhaps they are those who were born in Islam and so never associated any partners with Allah at all." Others said various things.
Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came out to them and they informed him of their discussion, so he said, "They are those who do not seek spiritual cures for physical ailments, who do not practice cauterisation, and who do not draw omens, but put their trust totally in their Lord."
So 'Ukkashah bin Mihsan stood up and said, "Pray to Allah to make me among them."
He replied, "You are among them."
Another man stood up and said, "Pray to Allah to make me among them."
He replied, "'Ukkashah beat you to it."1
Of the false prophets who remained after the death of Aswad, the first to clash with the Muslims was Tulaiha bin Khuwailid. He was a chief of the tribe of Bani Asad, and had been opposing the Holy Prophet off and on for many years.
Tulaiha first showed his hostility to Islam three months after the Battle of Uhud. Believing that the Muslims had been badly hurt in that battle, he got his clan together with the intention of raiding Madinah and thus exploiting what he regarded as a fine opportunity; but the Prophet came to know of the concentration of the clan and sent a mounted column of 150 horsemen to deal with it. Before Tulaiha could get wind of this counter-move the Muslim horsemen were upon him. The infidels scattered without a fight, and the Muslims captured the flocks of the clan and drove them off to Madinah as spoils. This setback so discredited Tulaiha in the eyes of his tribe that he had to lie low for a while.
Then he took part in the Battle of the Ditch. Responding eagerly to the invitation of the Jews to take up arms against the Muslims, he got together a contingent from the Bani Asad and commanded it in the coalition that besieged Madinah. When Abu Sufyan withdrew from Madinah, the Bani Asad also returned to their settlements. Again Tulaiha got nowhere.
The next occasion on which he opposed the Muslims was their campaign against the Jews of Khaibar in 628 (7 Hijri). The Bani Asad, operating under Tulaiha, sided with the Jews. During the movement of the Muslim army towards Khaibar, Tulaiha fought a number of minor engagements with the Muslims but was worsted every time. Then he pulled out his forces and abandoned the Jews to their fate.
Two years later, during the 'Year of Delegations', the Bani Asad sent a delegation to Madinah which offered submission to the Prophet. The whole tribe accepted Islam, but like many other tribes of Arabia its conversion was a matter of political convenience rather than genuine belief. Outwardly Tulaiha also embraced Islam. Whether infidel or Muslim Tulaiha continued to enjoy considerable influence in his tribe as a chief and a soothsayer. He would foretell the future, dabble in clairvoyance and recite poetry.
During the illness of the Prophet, in fact a few days before the Prophet died, Tulaiha made a bid for independence. He declared himself a prophet! He called upon his people to follow him, and many did. When word arrived of the Holy Prophet's death, he intensified his efforts to establish himself as the new prophet, and as the contagion of the apostasy spread over Arabia, the entire tribe of Bani Asad flocked to his standard, accepting him as chief and prophet. To mark the severance of his ties with Madinah, Tulaiha expelled the Muslim tax collector of his area-a valiant young man by the name of Barar bin Al Azwar, of whom the account of the Campaign in Syria will have much to say.
Having proclaimed himself prophet, Tulaiha felt that he had to do something about religion in order to prove that he really was an apostle of Allah. He could think of no better way of creating a spectacular effect than by altering the form of prayer. He abolished prostration, which is an integral part of the Muslim prayer ritual. "Allah does not want us to invert our faces", he declared, "or bend our backs in an ugly posture. Pray standing!" 2 And the Bani Asad prayed without prostration after their impostor.
With the spread of the apostasy the ranks of his followers swelled. He received offers of support from the major tribes of North-Central Arabia, the staunchest of which were the Ghatfan, followed by the Tayy, with both of which the Bani Asad had an old and abiding alliance. There was support also from the Hawazin and the Bani Sulaim, but this was lukewarm. Although these two great tribes also apostatised and fought the Muslims, they did not join Tulaiha and did not fight under his standard.
1. Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad. Sahih Al-Jami Al-Saghir No. 3999 and Kitab Al-Tawhid of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, Chapter 3.
2. Ibn-ul-Aseer: Vol. 2, p. 131.
The most powerful single supporter of Tulaiha was Uyaina bin Hisn, the one-eyed chief of the Bani Fazara-a powerful clan of the Ghatfan. This was the man who had commanded the Ghatfan contingent at the Battle of the Ditch and whom the Holy Prophet had nicknamed the Willing Fool. Now he lived up to that name by following Tulaiha. He did not, however, believe whole-heartedly in the impostor, for he is known to have said, "I would rather follow a prophet from an allied tribe than one from the Quraish. Anyway, Muhammad is dead and Tulaiha is alive." 1 His support proved invaluable, for he brought the entire tribe of Ghatfan under the sway of Tulaiha.
Tulaiha gathered the Bani Asad at Samira. The Ghatfan lived in the neighbourhood of the Bani Asad and would join him soon. The Tayy also accepted him as chief-of-chiefs and prophet, but remained in their own region north and northeast of Khaibar, except for a small contingent, which joined him at Samira. Here Tulaiha began his preparations to fight the power of Islam.
When he heard of the gathering of the clans at Abraq and Zhu Qissa, he sent a contingent from his tribe to reinforce them under his brother, Hibal. The Muslim operations against Zhu Qissa and Abraq have already been described. While these operations were in progress, Tulaiha moved with his army to Buzakha, where he was joined some time later by the remnants of the apostates driven from Abraq.
At Buzakha, Tulaiha's preparations progressed rapidly. He sent couriers to many clans, inviting them to join him, and many clans responded to the call. Uyaina brought 700 warriors from the Bani Fazara. The largest groups were from the Bani Asad and the Ghatfan. There also was a contingent from the Tayy, but the main part of the Tayy did not come to Buzakha.
Tulaiha was ready for battle when Khalid set out from, Zhu Qissa.
Before launching Khalid against Tulaiha, Abu Bakr sought ways and means of reducing the latter's strength, so that the battle could be fought with the maximum prospects of victory. Nothing could be done about the tribes of Bani Asad and Ghatfan which stood solidly behind Tulaiha; but the Tayy were another matter. They were not nearly so staunch in their support of the impostor, and their chief, Adi bin Hatim, was a devout Muslim. (A man, who was to live to the incredible age of 120 years, Adi was so tall that when he sat on his horse, his feet would touch the ground! 2) When Adi had tried to prevent the apostasy of the Tayy, they had renounced him, with the result that he had left the tribe, along with a group of his faithful supporters, and joined the Caliph. Abu Bakr now decided to make an attempt at drawing the Tayy away from Tulaiha. And if they could not be persuaded to abandon the impostor, they should be fought and crushed quickly in their present location before they could join him at Buzakha. Thus Tulaiha would be denied the support of the Tayy.
Abu Bakr sent the Tayy chief to work on his tribe. With him marched Khalid, whose corps numbered about 4,000 men. "If the efforts of Adi are not successful", Abu Bakr instructed Khalid, "fight the Tayy in their present location." 3 After dealing with the Tayy, Khalid was to, march on Buzakha. (See Map 8.)
Setting off from Zhu Qissa, Khalid marched in a northerly direction, making for Buzakha. When still a few marches from Buzakha, he turned left and approached the area south of the Aja Mountains, where the tribe of Tayy was gathered. Here Adi went forward and addressed the tribe: he spoke of Allah and His Messenger, of the fire of hell, of the futility of resistance; but in spite of his great eloquence he made no headway. The tribal elders rejected him, whereupon Adi warned them: "Then prepare to meet an army that comes to destroy you and take your women. Do as you please."
The warning had the desired effect. The elders reflected for a while and then said, "Keep this army away from us until we have extricated our brethren who are with Tulaiha. We have a pact with him. If we break it, he will either kill our brethren or hold them as hostages. We must get them away from Tulaiha before openly renouncing him."
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 487.
2. Ibn Qutaiba: p. 313.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 483.
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Soon after the two forces were arrayed for battle, Khalid launched an attack along the entire front. For some time the apostates resisted stubbornly, especially the Bani Fazara, but after a while the pressure of the Muslims began to tell and dents appeared in the apostate front line. Uyaina, alarmed at the severity of the Muslim attack, rode to Tulaiha's tent, hoping that divine guidance would come to their aid. "Has Jibril come to you?" he enquired. "No", replied the impostor with a solemn expression. Uyaina returned to battle.
Some more time passed. Then Khalid was able to drive a wedge into the infidel centre, but it still held, and the fighting became more intense with every inch of ground hotly contested. Uyaina again rode to Tulaiha and asked, "Has Jibril come to you?" "No, by Allah!" replied the impostor. Again Uyaina returned to battle.
Scenting victory, the Muslims now attacked more fiercely and gained some more ground. It was all the apostates could do to prevent a complete rupture of their position. Seeing the situation turn hopeless Uyaina went for the third time to Tulaiha. There was a nervous impatience in his voice as he asked the familiar question: "Has Jibril come to you?" The impostor answered, "Yes." "What did he say?" asked Uyaina.
Calmly Tulaiha replied, "He said 'You have a handmill just like his, and this is a day that you will not forget!'" "By Allah!" Uyaina exploded as the scales fell from his eyes, "This is a day that you shall certainly not forget." He then dashed to his clan. "O Bani Fazara!" he shouted. "This man is an impostor. Turn away from the fight!"1
The Bani Fazara, the hard core of Tulaiha's centre, turned and rode away. With their departure the entire front gave way and the apostate opposition collapsed. Groups of infidels raced from the battlefield in all directions. The victorious Muslims cut those who resisted to pieces. Some hapless fugitives rushed to Tulaiha and asked, "What are your commands?" Tulaiha replied, "Let those who can, do as I do and save themselves and their families." 2
With this parting instruction Tulaiha placed his wife on a fast camel, which he had kept ready saddled for just this eventuality. He himself sprang on to his horse, and man and wife disappeared in a cloud of dust.
The Battle of Buzakha was over. Khalid had been victorious. The second most powerful enemy of Islam had been defeated and his forces scattered.
Tulaiha fled to the border of Syria, where he took up residence among the Kalb. His imposturing days were over. But he had not been long with this tribe when he heard that the Bani Asad had re-entered Islam. Consequently he too became a Muslim and rejoined his tribe. He even visited Makkah for the pilgrimage during the time of Abu Bakr, but the Caliph, though informed of his visit, took no notice of him.
About two years later he visited Madinah and came to see Umar, who did not forgive easily. On seeing Tulaiha, Umar said to him, "You killed two noble Muslims, including Ukasha bin Mihsan. By Allah, I shall never love you."
Tulaiha had a subtle wit. He replied, "Allah blessed them with paradise by my hand, while I did not benefit by theirs. I seek forgiveness from Allah."
Umar, unrelenting, tried again. "You lied when you said that Allah would do you no harm."
"That", replied Tulaiha, "arose from the mischief of disbelief which Allah has destroyed. I cannot now be blamed for it."
Umar saw that he was not getting far with this exchange and made a last attempt. "O trickster! What remains of your clairvoyance?"
"Nothing but a gust or two from the bellows!" 3
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 485.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 489; Balazuri: pp. 105-6.
A sense of humour was not one of Umar's strong points; and not being able to think of a suitable rejoinder, he turned away.
Tulaiha returned to his tribe and lived amongst them until the third invasion of Iraq. Then he volunteered for service in Iraq as a Muslim warrior and commander. He served with distinction, performing prodigies of valour and skill, and took part in the great battles of Qadissiyah and Nihawand, where he fell a martyr. Tulaiha thus more than earned his redemption.
As soon as the battle was over, Khalid sent out columns to pursue the fleeing apostates and subdue the neighbouring tribes. One column caught up with some apostates in the hilly region of Ruman, 30 miles south-south-east of Buzakha, but they submitted without a fight and became Muslims again. Khalid led a fast column in pursuit of Uyaina, who had fled to the south-east with his clan of Bani Fazara and some elements of the Bani Asad. Uyaina had only got as far as Ghamra, 60 miles away 1 (see Map 8), when Khalid overtook him. Uyaina then turned to fight again, for although he was now totally disillusioned about Tulaiha, he remained defiant and unrepentant. There was a sharp clash in which several apostates were killed and the rest fled. Uyaina was taken prisoner.
Uyaina's father had been a very prominent and highly respected chieftain of the Ghatfan, as a result of which Uyaina regarded himself as second to none in birth and rank. But this proud scion of a long line of chiefs, with whom the Holy Prophet himself had sought to negotiate peace at the Battle of the Ditch, was now put in irons and led as a humble captive to Madinah.
As he entered Madinah, the children, on discovering his identity and circumstances, crowded around him. They began to prod him with sharp sticks, chanting awhile "O Enemy of Allah! You disbelieved-after-belief." Uyaina protested piteously, "By Allah, I never was a believer." In other words, since he had never become a Muslim (as he now falsely claimed), he could not be accused of apostasy.
He pleaded his case before Abu Bakr, who pardoned him, and so Uyaina became a Muslim again and lived in peace amidst his tribe for many long years.
In the time of Caliph Uthman, Uyaina, now grown old, visited Madinah and called on the Caliph. It was well after sunset. Uthman, as always the generous host, asked him to stay for supper and was taken aback when Uyaina declined the invitation on the plea that he was fasting. (The Muslim fast begins at the first light of dawn and ends at sunset.) Seeing the look of surprise on Uthman's face, Uyaina exclaimed hastily, "I find it easier to fast by night than by day!" 2
After the action at Ghamra, Khalid set off for Naqra where certain clans of the Bani Sulaim had gathered to continue the struggle against Islam. (See Map 8) In command of this group of Bani Sulaim was a rash chieftain whose name was Amr bin Abdul Uzza, but who was more commonly known as Abu Shajra. This man had learnt no lesson from the defeat of Tulaiha, and in order to encourage his men to remain firm in their defiance of Muslim authority, he composed and recited the following lines:
My spear shall play havoc
With the regiments of Khalid.
And I trust thereafter
It shall also crush Umar 3
1. Ghamra lies 15 miles north north-east of Samira, and a hill overlooking the present village is also named Ghamra. This place has been called Ghamr by Ibn Sad who places it at two stages from Feid (p. 590). It is actually 30 miles from Feid as the crow flies, and would be a little farther by caravan route.
2. Ibn Qutaiba: p. 304.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 494.
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page 7 below incomplete
All the murderers were lined up. Khalid's justice was swift. He had each murderer killed in exactly the same manner as he had employed to kill his Muslim victim. Some were beheaded, some were burnt alive, and some stoned to death. Some were thrown from the tops of cliffs, while others were shot to death with arrows. A few were cast into wells.1 An eye for an eye!
Having completed this task, Khalid wrote to Abu Bakr and gave him a complete account of all that had passed. The Caliph wrote him a complimentary letter in reply, congratulating him on his success, approving his actions and praying for his continued success.
After the action against the Bani Sulaim at Naqra, Khalid stayed at Buzakha for three weeks, receiving the submission of the tribes and punishing the murderers. Then he turned his steps towards Zafar, where a lady needed his attention. He looked forward eagerly to the rendezvous; and she awaited him with breathless anticipation!
Salma, alias Um Zhiml, was a first cousin of Uyaina. Her father too was a big chief, Malik bin Hudaifa, of the Ghatfan. Not only was her father a noted chief, but her mother, Um Qirfa, also was a great lady, held in esteem and veneration by the tribe. In the time of the Holy Prophet, the mother had fought against the Muslims and had been captured in battle and killed, but memories of the chieftainess had remained alive among the Ghatfan. Salma had been taken captive and led to Madinah, where the Prophet presented her as a slave to his wife, Aisha. But Salma was not happy, so Aisha set her free, and she returned to her tribe.
After the death of her parents, Salma rose in stature until she began to command the same respect and affection in her tribe as her mother had enjoyed. She became-and this was unusual among the Arabs-a chief in her own right. Her mother had owned a magnificent camel which was now inherited by Salma, and since the daughter looked just like the mother, whenever she rode the camel she reminded her people of the departed grande dame.
Salma became one of the leaders of the apostasy and an implacable enemy of Islam. After the Battle of Buzakha and the action at Ghamra, some of those who had lost to Khalid, along with many die-hards from the Hawazin and the Bani Sulaim, hastened to Zafar, at the western edge of the Sulma Range, and joined the army of Salma. 2 (See
With the death of Salma, all resistance collapsed and the apostates scattered in all directions. Salma had given Khalid the hardest fight since Tulaiha.
The Salma Range-a range of black, rugged hills standing some 40 miles south-east of the town of Hail-is believed to have been named after Salma, Um Zhiml…a fitting tribute to a grand lady who had the courage to stand and fight against the greatest soldier of the day, and who went down fighting.
The Battle of Zafar was fought in late October 632 (late Rajab, 11 Hijri). For a few days Khalid rested his men. Then he gave orders for the march to Butah, to fight Malik bin Nuwaira.
The first phase of the Campaign of the Apostasy ended with the death of Salma. The major tribes of North-Central Arabia which had rebelled against Islam as followers of Tulaiha had now been defeated and subdued, and their leaders were either killed or captured or driven away. No more rebel chieftains raised their heads again in this region.
But one man remained, more of a bandit leader than a tribal chief, who was still causing anxiety to the Muslims. This man's name was Ayas bin Abd Yalil, but he was more commonly known as Al Faja'a. He was an adventurer.
At about the time when Khalid was consolidating his gains at Buzakha, Al Faja'a came to Abu Bakr. "I am a Muslim." he said. "Equip me with weapons and I shall fight the infidels." 1
Abu Bakr was only too glad to hear the offer and equipped him with weapons. The man rode away from Madinah, formed a gang of bandits and began to waylay unwary travellers, many of whom were killed. The gangsters operated in the region lying to the east of Makkah and Madinah, and Muslim and infidel alike suffered at the hands of Al Faja'a.
When Abu Bakr heard of the depredations of Al Faja'a, he decided to make an example of him for the deceit he had practised on the Caliph. He sent a column to get the man alive, and a few days later the brigand was brought to Madinah in irons.
Abu Bakr ordered a large pile of faggots arranged in front of the mosque. When ready, the pile was set on fire. As the wood crackled and the flames rose skywards, Al Faja'a, still in irons, was thrown into the fire!
When Abu Bakr was dying, two years later, he expressed certain regrets. There were, he said, three things that he had done and wished he had not done, and three things that he had not done and wished he had. One of these related to Al Faja'a "I wish", said Abu Bakr, "I had had Al Faja'a killed outright and not burnt alive." 2
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 492
2. Ibid: Vol. 2, p. 619; Balazuri: p. 112; Masudi: Muruj, Vol. 2, p. 308.