The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18b (part 2)

We now get the first significant chunk of Islamic history.

5. When Abu Bakr became caliph, there was the first riddah [war] among the Arabs, but he fought those who did not remain in Islam to the end.  Then he sent Khalid ibn al-Walid with a huge army into Iraq.  Khalid encamped in Mesopotamia.  The notables of the place came to meet them, he gave them a guarantee of security and they made a pact of peace with him by giving him seventy thousand dirhams: this was the first jizya in Iraq and the first money that was given to Abu Bakr from Iraq.  Next Abu Bakr sent letters to Yemen, to Ta’if, Mecca and to other Arab people asking aid to subjugate Rum.  They responded to his appeal, and Abu Bakr put in charge of the expedition Amr ibn al-As, Sarhabil ibn Hasana, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah and Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan.  He entrusted to them the fighters and designated as supreme head Amr ibn al-As, ordering them to focus on Syria taking the road to Aylah.  He ordered them not to kill old people or children or women, not to cut down fruit trees, not to destroy the towns, not to burn the palms, not to cripple and kill sheep, cows and goats.  They made their way until they came to a village called Tādūn, in the territory of Ghazza, on the border with al-Hiğāz.  Having been informed that in the city of Ghazza the armies of Heraclius were concentrating, who was then in Damascus, Amr ibn al-As wrote to Abu Bakr asking for reinforcements, and making him aware of the plans of Heraclius.  Abu Bakr then wrote to Khalid ibn al-Walid to bring his men to Amr ibn al-As to support him.  So Khalid ibn al-Walid moved from Mesopotamia taking the way of the desert until he reached Amr ibn al-As.  Meanwhile the soldiers of Heraclius were well fortified in Ghazza.  Having come to Ghazza, the patrician who commanded the army of Heraclius turned to the Muslim soldiers and asked them to send him their commander, in order to know, through him, what they had to say.  Khalid then said to Amr ibn al-As: “You go”, and Amr went.  He opened the gate of Ghazza and entered.  When he came to the patrician, he greeted him and said: “Why have you come into our country, and what do you want?”  Amr ibn al-As replied: “Our king has ordered us to fight you.  But if you embrace our religion, if you feel it is as useful to you as it is to us, and harmful to your interests as it is to ours, if you are our brothers, then we will not allow wrong or revenge to be done to you.  If you refuse, you will pay the jizya: a jizya agreed between us, every year, forever, as long as we live, and you live: we will fight for you against anyone who dares to oppose you and lay claim on your territory, on your lives, on your assets, and on your children; we will take care of these things for you if you accept our protection by entering into an agreement for this purpose.  If you refuse then there will be between us only the judgment of the sword: we will fight to the death, and until we get what we want from you.”  On hearing the words of Amr ibn al-As and seeing the lack of hesitation that the subject gave him, the patrician said to his men: “I think he is the leader of the people.”  So he ordered them to kill Amr as soon as he came to the gate of the city.  There was with Amr a slave named Wardan, who knew Greek very well because he was Greek.  Wardan informed Amr of what he had heard: “Be very careful how to escape.”  The patrician then asked Amr ibn al-As: “Is there anyone like you, among your companions?”  Amr replied: “I’m the the least of all who speak, and less authoritative than any other.  I am merely a messenger, and repeat what was said to me by my colleagues, ten people more important than me, who are busy with soldiers and wanted to come with me, here with you.  But they sent me to hear what you have to tell us.  However, if you want me to make them come here, so you can listen to them, and to know that I told you the truth, I will.”  The patrician said to him: “Yes, let them come.”  In fact, he thought and said to himself: “I think it’s better to kill many than just one.”  So he sent word to those, to whom he had given the order to kill Amr, not to do it, and to let him out without any trouble, in the hope that he would bring his ten companions and kill them all together.  After he had come out of the gate, Amr ibn al-As informed his men of what had happened and said: “I never go back to someone like that,” and he finished talking, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!”  The Rum came out against the Arabs and engaged in a violent battle with them, but were put to flight.  The Muslims made a great slaughter of them, and then gave chase, driving them into Palestine and Jordan.  They took refuge in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, and wherever they could.  The Muslims left them and went away from the parts of al-Bathaniyyah.  Then he wrote to Abu Bakr informing him of what had happened.  When the messenger came to him, he was already dead and had been succeeded by Umar ibn al-Khattab.  Abu Bakr himself, when he was sick, designated Umar ibn al-Khattab as his successor and ordered  Uthman ibn Affan to put this in writing.

6. Abu Bakr died on the penultimate day of the month of ğumāda al-akhar, in the thirteenth year of the Hegira.  The ritual prayers were held by Umar ibn al-Khattab.  He was buried in the same house in which Muhammad had been buried.  His caliphate lasted two years, three months and twenty-two days.  He died at the age of seventy-three.  Abu Bakr was tall, with a fair complexion which verged on pale, thin, with a thin, sparse beard, a gaunt face and sunken eyes.  He dyed his beard with hinna and cetamo, and his waist could barely bear the izar.  His minister was Abu Qahhafa as-Sandas and his hāgib was his freedman Sadid.

2 thoughts on “The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18b (part 2)

  1. Some interesting detail here (including topographical references) that I haven’t seen in other Christian sources for the Arab Conquest. What a shame the Romans weren’t able to crush the Arab armies before they really got going! Christianity in Iran was on the point of reaching critical mass, as it had three centuries earlier in the Roman Empire, and I’m sure there would have been a Christian King of Kings ruling the Sasanian Empire before the end of the 7th century had it not been for Muhammad. Instead, everything went pear-shaped, civilisation went catastrophically downhill, and we are still paying today for the inability of the Romans to hold onto Palestine, Syria and Egypt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *