Chapter 17: The Collapse of the Apostasy
"There was not born to Adam among his descendants anyone better than Abu Bakr, after the Prophets and Messengers. Abu Bakr took a stance in the Days of Apostasy which was like the stance of one of the Prophets."
What remained of the apostasy in the less vital areas of Arabia was rooted out by the Muslims in a series of well planned campaigns within five months.
Amr bin Al Aas had been sent with his corps to the Syrian border to subdue the apostates in that region. The most important tribes that needed chastisement were the Quza'a and the Wadi'a, the latter being a section of the large tribe of Kalb. While Khalid was fighting in Central Arabia, Amr struck at the apostates in the north, but achieved only limited success. He was not able to beat the tribes into submission.
When the Battle of Yamamah was over, Shurahbil bin Hasanah proceeded with his corps, on the orders of the Caliph, to reinforce Amr, and the two commanders operated in unison to bring about the subjugation of the northern tribes. Most of the apostates were concentrated in the region of Tabuk and Daumat-ul-Jandal, and it was here that Amr and Shurahbil struck their hardest blows. In a few weeks the apostasy was destroyed and the tribes re-entered Islam. Peace returned to Northern Arabia.
The main tribe inhabiting Oman was the Azd. The chief of this tribe was Laqeet bin Malik, known more commonly as Dhul Taj, the Crowned One. These Arabs, like those whose apostasy is described later in this chapter, had embraced Islam in the time of the Prophet and agreed to abide by the terms imposed by the Muslim State.
On hearing the news of the Holy Prophet's death, the bulk of the Azd, led by Dhul Taj, revolted and renounced Islam. It is not certain that this man was an impostor. Going by a brief comment of Tabari that he "claimed what prophets claim", 2 we could assume that he probably did make some claim to prophethood. Be that as it may, while Abu Bakr was busy dealing with the immediate threat to Madinah, Dhul Taj declared himself King of Oman and established himself as its undisputed ruler with his headquarters at Daba. (See Map 7)
After Khalid had left Zhu Qissa to seek Tulaiha, the Caliph despatched Hudaifa bin Mihsan (one of the corps commanders) to tackle the apostasy in Oman. Hudaifa entered the province of Oman, but not having strong enough forces to fight Dhul Taj, he decided to await reinforcements. He wrote to the Caliph accordingly, who, as has already been noted, instructed Ikrimah to march from Yamamah to the aid of Hudhaifa. On his arrival, the two generals combined their forces and set out to fight Dhul Taj at Daba.
The Battle of Daba was fought towards the end of November 632 (early Ramadan, 11 Hijri). At first the battle went badly for the Muslims; but at a critical moment a force of local Muslims, who had clung to their faith in spite of Dhul Taj, appeared on, the battlefield in support of their co-religionists. With this fresh addition to their strength the Muslims were able to defeat the infidel army. Dhul Taj was killed in battle.
Being appointed governor of Oman, Hudaifa next set about the re-establishment of law and order. Ikrimah, having no local administrative responsibility, used his corps to subdue the neighbourhood of Daba; and in a number of small actions, succeeded in breaking the resistance of those of the Azd who had continued to defy the authority of Islam. Thereafter the Azd once again became peaceful, law-abiding Muslims and gave no further trouble to Madinah.
1. Tarikh Al-Khulafaa of As-Suyuti
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 529.
Page 2 missing
Page 3 incomplete
To implement this perfidious plan Qais invited Fairoz and other Muslim officers to his house for talks. Some Muslims fell into the trap and were speedily despatched by the assassins; but at the eleventh hour Fairoz got wind of the plot and of the organisation behind it. Having no military force at his disposal for immediate use, Fairoz sought safety in flight. He left San'a. Qais came to know of his departure and pursued him, but Fairoz was able to evade his pursuers and reach the hills where he found a safe refuge. This happened in June or July 632 (Rabi-ul-Awwal or Akhir, 11 Hijri).
For the next six months Fairoz remained in his mountainous stronghold, where over the months he was joined by thousands of Muslims who were prepared to shed their blood to oust Qais and restore Muslim rule in the Yemen. Fairoz organised these Muslims into an army. When he felt strong enough to face Qais in the field, he marched to San'a with this army. Qais awaited him here, and in mid-January 633 (late Shawal, 11 Hijri) they joined battle just outside the town. The Muslims were victorious, and Qais fled to Abyan, where Ikrimah was to rest later, after subduing Mahra.
At Abyan, Qais was joined by other apostate chiefs, but they fell out amongst themselves. Seeing no hope of further successful opposition to Madinah, they all surrendered to the
Reinforcements were on the way. Muhajir bin Abi Umayyah, the last of the corps commanders to be despatched by Abu Bakr, had just subdued some rebels in Najran and was to go on to the Yemen. Abu Bakr directed him to proceed instead to Hadhramaut to join Ziyad and deal with the apostasy of the Kinda. Similar instructions reached Ikrimah, who was now at Abyan.
The forces of Muhajir and Ziyad combined at Zafar, under the overall command of the former, and set out to fight Ash'as.
Ash'as bin Qais was one of the most remarkable men of his time. Coming from a princely family of the Kinda, he was a man of many parts. An able general, a clever chief, a bold warrior and an accomplished poet, he had a fertile imagination and a smooth tongue. A man of charm and wit, he was the most colourful of the many colourful personalities thrown up by the apostasy. But he had one big flaw; he was treacherous! Historians have noted that his was the only family that produced four breakers of pacts in an unbroken line, Ash'as, his father, his son, and his grandson.
Ash'as lived close to the borderline between virtue and evil, between faith and unbelief, but never quite crossed that fine. Practising a kind of moral and spiritual brinkmanship, he was clever enough to get away with it. And now, in late January 633 (the second week of Dhul Qad, 11 Hijri), he faced the Muslim army in battle.
The battle did not last long. Ash'as was defeated, though the defeat was not decisive. He speedily withdrew his army from the battlefield and retreated to the fort of Nujair, where he was joined by other dissident clans. Here Ash'as prepared for a siege.
Just after this battle the corps of Ikrimah also arrived. The three Muslim corps, under the over-all command of Muhajir, advanced on Nujair and laid siege to the fortified city. There were three routes leading into the city. The generals deployed their forces on all three of these routes, completely surrounding and isolating the city. Reinforcements and provisions coming to Ash'as were either captured or driven back.
The siege continued for several days. A number of sallies were made by the beleaguered garrison, but all were repulsed with losses. Yet the Kinda remained firm in their determination to fight on.
Some time in mid-February 633 (early Dhul Hajj, 11 Hijri) Ash'as realised that the situation was hopeless. There was no possibility of success. It was only a matter of time before the fort fell to the Muslims, and then there would be a blood?bath. The next action of Ash'as was characteristic of the man: he decided to sell his tribe to save himself!
He sent a message to Ikrimah proposing talks. Ash'as knew Ikrimah well, for in their days of unbelief they had been good friends. As a result of the proposal talks were arranged with Ikrimah and Muhajir on one side and Ash'as on the other. Accompanied by a few men, Ash'as came out of the fort secretly to the rendezvous.
"I shall open the gates of the fort to you if you will spare the lives of 10 men and their families", Ash'as offered. To this the Muslims agreed. "Write down the names of the 10 men," said Muhajir, "and we shall seal the document."
Ash'as went aside with his men and began to write down the names. It was his intention first to write the name of nine favoured ones and then add his own as the tenth, but he did not notice that one of his men was looking over his shoulder and reading the names as he wrote. This man, named Jahdam, was not one of the favoured nine. As Asha's wrote the ninth name, Jahdam drew his dagger. "Write my name," he hissed, "or I kill you." Hoping to save himself later by his wits, Ash'as wrote down Jahdam as the tenth name. The list was complete. Muhajir sealed the document.
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 547.
Ash'as and his men returned to the fort. At the agreed time he opened one of the gates, and the Muslims poured into the fort and fell upon the unsuspecting garrison. There was a terrible slaughter, and it continued until everyone in the fort had laid down his arms. Ash'as and a group of men and families that remained near him were scared.
The fort of Nujair had now fallen. When Muhajir checked the list prepared by Ash'as, he noticed that the name of Ash'as was not in it. He was delighted. "O Enemy of Allah!" he said to Ash'as. "Now I have a chance to punish you." 1 He would have killed Ash'as, but Ikrimah intervened and insisted that Ash'as be sent to Madinah, where Abu Bakr could decide his fate. Consequently Ash'as was put in chains.
Within the fort the Muslims had taken many captives who were to be sent to Madinah as slaves, and these included a large number of attractive young women. They were led out of the fort and passed Ash'as, of whose perfidy they had by now come to know. As they slowly filed past him, the captive women looked at him reproachfully and wailed, "You traitor! You traitor!" 2 To add to his discomfiture, Ash'as was sent with this same group of captives to Madinah. It could not have been a very pleasant journey!
Ash'as was no stranger to Madinah. He had visited the place during the Year of Delegations, when the Kinda submitted to the Holy Prophet and embraced Islam. During that visit he had also married Um Farwa, sister of Abu Bakr, but when leaving Madinah he had left her behind with Abu Bakr, with the promise of picking her up on his next visit. This next visit was now taking place under very different and uncongenial circumstances.
The Caliph charged Ash'as with all his crimes against Islam and the State. He expressed his low opinion of the way Ash'as had betrayed his own tribe. Was there any reason why the accused should not be beheaded at once?
Attention has been drawn to the smooth tongue of Ash'as. This time he excelled himself. Not only did he win a pardon, he also persuaded Abu Bakr to return his wife to him! He remained in Madinah, though, unwilling to return to his own tribe. In later years he fought with distinction in Syria, Iraq and Persia, and in the time of Uthman he was made governor of Azerbaijan.
But his treacherousness never left him. Many were the people, including Abu Bakr, who wished that he had not been pardoned after his apostasy. In fact when Abu Bakr was dying, and spoke to his friends of his regrets about things he had not done and wished he had, he said, "I wish I had had Ash'as beheaded." 3
Students of Muslim history might recollect that Imam Hassan's wife, who poisoned him4 at the instigation of Caliph Muawiyah, for which service he paid her 100,000 dirhams, was the daughter of Ash'as. 5
With the defeat of the Kinda at Nujair the last of the great apostate movements collapsed. Arabia was safe for Islam. The unholy fire that had raged across the land was now dead. Arabia would see revolt and civil war many times in its stormy history, but it would never again see apostasy.
The Campaign of the Apostasy was fought and completed during the eleventh year of the Hijri. The year 12 Hijri dawned, on March 18, 633, with Arabia united under the central authority of the Caliph at Madinah. 6
This campaign was Abu Bakr's greatest political and military triumph. Although the Caliph would launch bold ventures for the conquest of Iraq and Syria, it was by his able and successful conduct of the Campaign of the Apostasy that he rendered his greatest service to Islam. And this would not have been possible without the arm of the Sword of Allah.
1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 548.
3. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 619, Masudi: Muruj, Vol. 2, p. 308; Balazuri: p. 112
4. Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi says in Al-'Awasim min Al-Qawasim (Al-Maktabah al-'Ilmiyyah, Beirut, pp. 213-4), "If it is said that Muawiyah intrigued against Al-Hassan in order to poison him. We replied that this is impossible for two reasons. One of them is that he did not fear any power of Al-Hassan once the latter had surrendered authority. The second is that this is an unseen matter which only Allah knows. How can you state it without proof and accuse any of His creatures in a distant time when we do not have any sound transmission about it? Moreover, this occurred in the presence of the people of sects who were in a state of sedition and partisanship. Each of them ascribed what he should not ascribe to his companion. Only the pure is accepted from it. Only the resolute just man is listened to regarding it."
Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib comments on the above as follows, "In the Minhaj as-Sunnah (2:225) Ibn Taymiyya spoke about the Shi'a claim that Mu'awiyah had poisoned Al-Hassan, 'That was not established by any clear proof in the Shariah nor by any plausible statement nor by a clear transmission. This is part of what it is not possible to know. Hence this saying is a statement without knowledge … In our time, we saw people among the Turks and others who said that he was poisoned and died of poisoning. People disagree about that and even the place where he died and the fortress in which he died. You will find each of them relating something different from what the other people related.' After Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned that Al-Hassan died in Madinah while Muawiyyah was in Syria, he mentioned the possibilities of the report, assuming it to be sound. One of them is that Al-Hassan was divorced and did not remain with a wife …" (see also Al-Muntaqa, [al-Dhahabi's abridgement of the Minhaj], p. 266)" See also Defence against Disaster, Madinah Press, 1416/1995, pp. 203-4.
A report mentioned by As-Suyuti in Tarikh Al-Khulafaa says that Yazid bin Muawwiyah bribed Al-Hassan's wife to poison him by offering to marry her in return. This illustrates the conflicting and contradictory nature of these reports, which are almost certainly Shi'ite fabrications. Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani merely says in his biography of Al-Hassan in Al-Isabah, "It is said that he was poisoned to death."
5. Ibn Qutaiba: p. 212; Masudi: Muruj, Vol. 3, p. 5. This is Masudi's figure. Some historians have given the sum as 150,000 dirhams.
6. For an explanation of the chronology of the Campaign of the Apostasy, which is subject to some possible sources of error, see Note 3 in Appendix B.