"It is said that the
Companions said a takbir (Allahu Akbar - Allah is the Greatest!)
one day during the siege of Homs (Emessa), by which the town shook,
such that some of its walls split asunder. Then they said another
takbir, upon which some houses collapsed. Hence the public went
to their leaders and said, "Do you not see what has befallen
us, the situation in which we are? Will you not make peace with
them for us?" So they made peace with them upon terms similar
to those of Damascus
In early March
635 (early Muharram, 14 Hijri), Abu Ubaidah and Khalid set off from
Fahl to carry the war to the north. They had waited at Fahl while
Shurahbil was dealing with Baisan and Tabariya, in case a large
scale battle should develop necessitating their participation. Once
Tabariya was taken, the possibility of such a battle in Jordan vanished
and they were free to depart.
A few miles west and south west of Damascus
stretched a grassy plain known in Muslim history as Marj-ur-Rum,
i.e. the Meadow of Rome, and towards this plain Abu Ubaidah and
Khalid moved with the intention of bypassing Damascus and continuing
the advance to Emessa. Yazeed was still in peaceful occupation of
Damascus and would remain there a few months yet, before receiving
orders from Umar to operate against the Mediterranean coast. At
Marj-ur-Rum, Abu Ubaidah again made contact with sizable Roman forces.
On hearing of the Muslim operations at Baisan
and Tabariya, Heraclius surmised that the Muslims had chosen Jordan
and Palestine as their next strategic objectives and were not interested
in Northern Syria. He also heard that only a weak corps of the Muslim
army remained at Damascus, and this corps was showing no sign of
aggressive intent. He therefore determined to retake Damascus rapidly.
With this object in view he sent a Roman force under a general named
Theodorus to fight and defeat the Muslim garrison in Damascus and
re-occupy the city. This force set off from Antioch, and moving
via Beirut, approached Damascus from the west. This movement, however,
had hardly begun when Heraclius was informed that Abu Ubaidah and
Khalid had left Fahl and were moving north again. They would arrive
at Damascus at about the same time as Theodorus, and the Romans
would then not have a chance to retake the city. To strengthen the
Roman force, Heraclius ordered the detachment of a part of the large
garrison of Emessa to reinforce Theodorus. This detachment, under
the command of Shans, marched from Emessa on the direct route to
The Muslims arrived at Marj-ur-Rum to find
Theodorus waiting for them. On the same day Shans also arrived from
Emessa and the two armies deployed in battle formation facing each
other. In this deployment Abu Ubaidah stood opposite Shans while
Khalid stood opposite Theodorus. The strength of the Roman forces
here is not known, but it may be assumed that it amounted roughly
to two strong corps. It could not have been much less otherwise
it is doubtful if the Romans would have accepted battle with the
two Muslim corps facing them. For the rest of the day the two armies
remained in their battle positions, each waiting for the other to
make the first move.
As night fell, Theodorus decided to carry
out a skilful strategical manoeuvre. Leaving Shans to face the Muslims,
he pulled back his corps under cover of darkness, moved it round
the flank of Khalid and by dawn on the next day arrived Damascus.
His intention was to keep the main Muslim army busy at Marj-ur-Rum
with the corps of Shans, while with his own corps he quickly destroyed
the Muslim garrison of Damascus. It was a very clever plan, and
the movement was carried out with such perfect organization that
it was not until the latter part of the night that the Muslims came
to know that half the Roman army facing them was no longer there.
At Damascus, Yazeed's scouts brought word
at dawn of the coming of the Romans. On receiving this news, Yazeed
immediately deployed his small corps outside the fort facing south-west.
Feeling more at home in the open and unused to being besieged in
a fort, the Muslims preferred to fight in the plain rather than
in the city. Just after sunrise began the battle between Theodorus
and Yazeed and soon the Muslims found themselves hard pressed, for
the Roman force vastly outnumbered them. But they held their own
till about mid-morning. Then, just as the situation had become desperate
for Yazeed, the Romans were struck in the rear by a furious mass
of Muslim horsemen. This was the corps of Iraq, spearheaded by the
Mobile Guard. In a very short time Khalid and his fearless veterans,
attacking from the rear, had chopped the Roman corps to pieces.
Few Romans escaped the slaughter, and Khalid killed Theodorus in
a duel. A large amount of booty, mainly weapons and armour, fell
into Muslim hands and was shared by the warriors of Khalid and Yazeed,
except for the usual one-fifth reserved for Madinah.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah
wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 7 P.
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