Chapter 25: Damat-ul-Jandal Again
After the episode of Daumat-ul-Jandal, Khalid returned to Hirah, whose inhabitants received him with singing and amusement. He heard one of them say to his companion,
"Pass by us, for this is a day when evil is happy."1
Daumat-ul-Jandal was one of the large commercial towns of Arabia, widely known for its rich and much-frequented market. It was also an important communication centre, a meeting point of routes from Central Arabia, Iraq and Syria. In Part 1 of this book, I have described how Khalid came to Daumat-ul-Jandal during the Prophet's expedition to Tabuk and captured Ukaidar bin Abdul Malik, the master of the fort. Ukaidar had then submitted and sworn allegiance to the Prophet, but subsequent to the operations of Amr bin Al Aas and Shurahbil bin Hasanah in the apostasy, he had broken his oath and decided to have nothing more to do with Madinah. Now he ruled over a principality of Christians and pagans.
At about the time when Khalid set off from Yamamah for the invasion of Iraq, Abu Bakr had sent Ayadh bin Ghanam to capture Daumat-ul-Jandal and once again bring the northern tribes into submission. The Caliph probably intended to send Ayadh to Iraq, to assist Khalid, after this task had been completed. Ayadh arrived at Daumat-ul-Jandal to find it strongly defended by the Kalb-a large Christian Arab tribe inhabiting this region and the eastern fringe of Syria. He deployed his force against the southern face of the fort, and the situation that now developed was, from the military point of view, absurd. The Christian Arabs considered themselves to be under siege, but the routes from the northern side of the fort were open. The Muslims, engaged closely against the fort, considered themselves so heavily committed that they could not break contact. According to early historians both sides were under siege! The operations considered mainly of archery and sallies by the garrison of the fort, which were invariably repulsed by the Muslims. This state of affairs continued for several weeks until both sides felt equally tired and equally hurt by the stalemate.
Then one day a Muslim officer said to Ayadh, "In certain circumstances wisdom is better than a large army. Send to Khalid for help." 2 Ayadh agreed. He wrote Khalid a letter explaining the situation at Daumat-ul-Jandal and seeking his help. This letter reached Khalid as he was about to leave Ain-ut-Tamr for Hira.
It did not take Khalid long to make up his mind. The situation on the Iraq front was now stable and he had able lieutenants to deal with the Persians, should they decide to launch a counter-offensive from Ctesiphon. He sent a letter to Qaqa at Hira telling him that he would act as Khalid's deputy and command the front in his absence. He left a garrison at Ain-ut-Tamr. And with an army of about 6,000 men, he left Ain-ut-Tamr the following day to join Ayadh. Ahead of him sped Ayadh's messenger, carrying Khalid's letter, which contained nothing more than the following in verse:
Wait a while for the horses come racing.
On their backs are lions brandishing polished swords;
Regiments in the wake of regiments.
The movement of Khalid was discovered by the defenders of Daumat-ul-Jandal a good many days before his arrival, and there was alarm in the fort. With their present strength they could hold off the Muslim force under Ayadh, but they would not have a chance if Khalid's army also took the field against them. In desperate haste they sent couriers racing to neighbouring tribes. The Christian Arab tribes responded spiritedly to the appeal for help. Contingents from several clans of the Ghassan and the Kalb joined the defenders of the fort, many of them camping under the fort walls because of the insufficient room within This put Ayadh in a delicate situation, and he prayed for the early arrival of Khalid.
The Christian Arab forces were led by two great chiefs: Judi bin' Rabi'a and Ukaidar. The only chief who had any personal experience of dealing with Khalid was Ukaidar, and this man had been ill at ease ever since he heard of the march of Khalid from Ain-ut-Tamr. When the clans gathered at Daumat-ul-Jandal, Ukaidar called a conference of the tribal chiefs. "I know more about Khalid than anyone else", he said. "No man is luckier than he. No man is his equal in war. No people face Khalid in battle, be they strong or weak, but are defeated. Take my advice and make peace with him." 3
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 6 P. 429.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 578.
But they spurned his advice and determined to fight it out with Khalid. Ukaidar, however, had by now completely lost his nerve. He could not bring himself to face another encounter with the Sword of Allah, and one night he slipped out of the fort and set off on the road to Jordan. But it was too late. Khalid's army had just arrived and one of his mounted detachments, under Asim bin Amr, intercepted and captured the fleeing chief.
Again Ukaidar stood before Khalid. If he hoped that memories of the peaceful ending of their last encounter would kindle a spark of kindness in the heart of Khalid, he was mistaken. In Khalid's mind the situation could not be clearer: Ukaidar had broken his oath of allegiance; he was a rebel. Khalid ordered the execution of Ukaidar, and the sentence was carried out without delay. This was the end of Ukaidar bin Abdul Malik, prince of the Kinda, master of Daumat-ul-Jandal.
The following day Khalid took Ayadh under command and incorporated his detachment into his own army. He deployed Ayadh's men on the south of the fort to block the Arabian route; positioned part of his army of Iraq to the east, the north and the west of the fort, covering the routes to Iraq and Jordan; and kept the remainder back as a strong reserve. Khalid appreciated that at present the fort was strongly manned and to storm it in its present state would prove a costly operation. He therefore decided to wait, in the hope that the defenders, tiring of the siege, would sally out to fight him in the open. Then he could inflict the maximum damage upon them and storm the fort after the garrison had been weakened. He accordingly held his forces some distance back from the fort.
With the departure of Ukaidar the entire Christian Arab army had come under the command of Judi bin Rabi'a. Judi waited for the Muslims to make the first move, but the Muslims remained inactive. When some time had passed and Judi saw that the besiegers were making no attempt to close up on the fort, he became impatient for a clash with Khalid. Consequently he ordered two sallies. One group would attack Ayadh on the Arabian route while the other, a large group comprising his own clan, the Wadi'a, operating under his direct command, would attack Khalid's camp to the north.
Ayadh drove back the Arabs who came out to attack him. Leaving behind many dead, they hastily returned to the fort and closed the gate. This group was lucky. It had only had to face an inexperienced general like Ayadh bin Ghanam and men who were not of the calibre of the hardened veterans of Khalid.
The other and larger group-the clan of Wadi'a operating under Judi-came out at the same time as the group against Ayadh, and made for Khalid, who stood back from the fort and deployed his army for battle. Seeing no move from Khalid's side, Judi became bolder. He formed up his clan for battle and advanced to meet Khalid. The two forces were now very close, and Judi imagined that he would send the Muslims, reeling from the battlefield. Then suddenly Khalid struck at Judi with the utmost violence and speed.
The Arabs never knew just what hit them. In minutes they had collapsed like a house of cards. Judi was captured along with hundreds of his clansmen, while the rest, losing all cohesion and order, fled in panic towards the fort. The Muslims were not just pursuing them; they were with them, among them, all over them. If the first to reach the gate of the fort was a Christian Arab, the second was a Muslim. The Arabs who had remained in the fort saw a horde rushing towards the gate of which at least half was Muslim. They closed the gate in the face of their comrades, and the clan of Wadi'a which had sallied out with Judi was locked out. Hundreds were made prisoner by the Muslims. The rest perished-some in the short violent battle and the rest in the pursuit to and the fighting at the gate. It was with bitterness that they recollected the counsel of Ukaidar. Such indeed was Khalid! But now it was too late.
The first part of Khalid's plan had been accomplished. He next moved the army close to the fort to let the defenders see that there was no possibility of escape, and then called upon the garrison to surrender, but the garrison refused to comply.
Khalid had Judi and his captive clansmen paraded near the fort for all to see. Then, under the horrified gaze of the defenders, Judi and the captives were beheaded. But this, instead of breaking the spirit of the defenders of Daumat-ul-Jandal, as Khalid had hoped, hardened their determination to fight to the last.
The siege continued for a number of days. Then one day Khalid stormed the fort. The defenders put up such resistance as they could, but against the superb, battle-conditioned troops of Khalid they never had a chance. Most of the garrison was slaughtered, but women and children and many youths were taken captive. This happened in about the last week of August 633 (middle-of Jamadi-ul-Akhir, 12 Hijri).
Khalid had always been attracted by beautiful women. And he appears to have had an especial fondness for the womenfolk of the chiefs who fought him. He purchased the lovely daughter of Judi and kept her as a slave!
Khalid spent the next few days in settling the affairs of Daumat-ul-Jandal. Then he set off for Hira, taking Ayadh with him as a subordinate general. He would return to find the situation in Iraq somewhat altered, for the Persians were on the warpath again.