The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 6)

We continue the account of the reign of Omar.

10. When he arrived at Medina, Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote a letter to remove Amr ibn al-‘As from office in Palestine, ordering him to equip himself and leave for Egypt, and he appointed Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān as governor of Ashkelon, Caesarea and Palestine. Mu’awiya and his forces occupied Caesarea and Ashkelon, in the seventh year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab. Othman ibn Affan paid a visit to Omar ibn al-Khattab, and Omar said:  “I have written to Amr ibn al-‘As, telling him to leave Palestine and Caesarea.  I’ve ordered him to go to Egypt and assigned the governorship of Palestine and Caesarea to Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān”.  Othman said to him: “You know, O prince of believers, that ‘Amr is a bold, and intrepid commander.  I fear that he may start recklessly and without enough men, and then expose the Muslims to ruin, in the hope of a few opportunities that might turn out as easily good as bad.”  Omar ibn al-Khattab regretted the letter that he had sent to Amr ibn al-‘As, and worried about what Othman had said.  So Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote another letter to Amr ibn al-‘As, saying:  “If this letter reaches you before you’re entered the province of Egypt, go back to where you were.  If you’ve already entered, carry on.”  The letter came to Amr while he was at Rafakh.  Fearing that it might be an order to retire, if he took and opened the letter, Amr would not take it from the hand of the messenger and brought him with him, and he continued on his way until he came to a village halfway between Rafakh and al-‘Arīsh.  He enquired about the place and they said:  “This village belongs to the province of Egypt.”  He then called the messenger, took delivery of the letter, read it in front of the Muslims who were with him and said to them:  “Do you not know that this village belongs to the province of Egypt?”  “Yes,” they replied.  Then Amr said:  “The prince of believers has ordered me to go back if this letter is delivered to me before I entered Egyptian territory, and to continue if this letter comes to me after entering Egyptian territory.  We will continue, therefore, with the blessing and help of Allah. ”  It is said, though, that Amr was in Palestine and continued with his men to enter Egypt without any authorization and that Omar wrote the letter before Amr was at al-‘Arish.  However, he kept hidden the letter and did not read it until he arrived at al-‘Arish, where he opened it, and he read as follows: “From Omar ibn al-Khattab to Amr ibn al-‘As.  You’ve left for Egypt with those who are with you.  In Egypt there are many Rum and you have with you only a small handful of men.  If you’re not yet in Egypt, come back.”  Amr said: “Glory to Allah, what territory is this?”  They answered:  “It is Egyptian territory”.  Then he advanced and carried on.  It is also said that Omar sent him to attack Caesarea, to give a hand to the soldiers who were besieging it, when Omar ibn al-Khattab was at al-Ğābiyah and that Omar wrote secretly to Amr to travel to Egypt.  Amr then marched on Egypt and gave orders to his men as if they were only moving from one place to another place nearby.  He moved with them at night.  Later the leaders of his men halted their work because they saw that he had exposed them dangerously, and after they realised this, they reported it to Omar ibn al-Khattab, who sent a letter to Amr ibn al-‘As in which he said:  “You have endangered the lives of those who are with you.  If my letter reaches you before you have entered Egypt, then go back where you were.  If you have already entered Egypt, go ahead, and know that I give you my support.”  Then he carried on, until he came to al-Farama, besieged it for a month and captured it.  Then he continued his march into Egypt.  The Rum were well reinforced in the citadel, they had dug a moat around in which they had placed iron bars, and held back the garrison troops to guard the citadel, so that for seven months they defended themselves strongly.  Because of the delay in taking the city, [Amr] wrote to Omar and asked him for reinforcements.  He sent him as assistance four thousand men, including az-Zubayr ibn al-‘Arrām, Obāda ibn as-Samit, and Maslama ibn Muqallad. Amr already had four thousand men with him, and so this became eight thousand.


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