The reign of the Caliph Omar continues, with the seige of Damascus. The Roman garrison defends the city against what is seen at the time as merely a large-scale raid. But in the end, after six months, the governor surrenders.
6. When the Muslims arrived at Damascus, Khalid ibn al-Walid camped near the “Bab ash-Sharqi”, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah near the “Bāb al-Gābiyah”, Amr ibn al-As near the “Bāb Tuma”, and Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan near the the “Bāb as-Saghir (71)” and the “Bāb Kisan”. They besieged Damascus for six months less one day. The Rum made raids against them every day, coming out now from one gate or another, keeping them engaged in combat. Then the Muslims wrote to Omar ibn al-Khattab, informing him of the progress of affairs. Omar ibn al-Khattab replied, sending a letter with which he removed the supreme command from Khalid ibn al-Walid and entrusted it to Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah. The siege had now exhausted the inhabitants of Damascus, and Mansur, the prefect of Damascus, went up on the “Bāb ash-Sharqi” and spoke to Khalid ibn al-Walid, asking him to grant safety to him, to his family, to those who they were with him, and to the inhabitants of Damascus, with the exception of the Rum: in exchange for which he would open the gates of the city. Khalid ibn al-Walid agreed to his request and wrote to him a covenant whose text read as follows:
“This is a statement by Khalid ibn al-Walid to the people of Damascus. I will guarantee your lives, your homes, your property and your churches and I assure you that these will not be destroyed, nor your dwelling places and that you will be left alone.”
He handed over the parchment, and Mansur opened to Khalid ibn al-Walid the “Bāb ash-Sharqi”. Khalid burst into the city shouting to his men: “Keep your swords in their sheaths.” Once they entered the city, Khalid’s men shouted in chorus “Allahu Akbar” [=God is great]. Their shout came up to the Rum who were fighting at the [other] gates. Realizing that Mansur had opened the door and had let the Arabs into the city, they gave up defending the gates and fled. Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah came with a drawn sword from the “Bab al-Gabiyah”, and from “Bab as-Saghir” came Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who was also with his sword drawn, and from the “Bab Tuma,” where there was still violent fighting, came in, always with a drawn sword, Amr ibn al-As. Many men were killed at the “Bab Tuma” on both sides. The Muslims were continuing to slaughter, and to take prisoners when Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan and Amr ibn al-As met together in the place called “az-Zayyanin” where Mansur was with the [text] of the covenant in his hands. Khalid ibn al-Walid made them aware of the guarantee which he had granted them. Their opinions were divided. Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan said: “We do not endorse the guarantee given to them,” while Abu Ubayda and Amr ibn al-As said: “We will recognize its validity” and cried out to their men, saying sheathe their swords. Yazid instead shouted to his men not to put away their swords. Then Amr ibn al-As said: “Come now, consider also that the city was taken based on our commitment of protection and there is peace between us.” Thus they were all agreed.
Then Mansur said to them: “Promise me in the name of Allah”, and did write in the text “There swore in the name of Allah: Abu Ubayda ibn al-Garrah, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Amr ibn al-As and Sarhabil ibn Hasana”. Mansur took with him the text. The Byzantine soldiers who had found safety reached King Heraclius at Antioch.
When King Heraclius understood that Damascus had been occupied he exclaimed: “Peace to you, O Syria,” or “Peace to you, O Damascus of Syria”, and went on his journey till he came to Constantinople, in the third year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab. As for Mansur, prefect of Damascus, for his cowardly behaviour and for what he had done to the Rum, getting them killed, and for the help given to the Muslims against them, all the patriarchs and bishops of the whole earth cursed him.
Seven days later, a messenger announced to Omar ibn al-Khattab the fall of Damascus.
- I.e. outside each of the gates (“bab”) of the city.↩