As for those who strive in Us,
We surely guide them to Our paths (Quran)
Imam Ali participating himself in the Ridda Wars After the Death of the prophet (SAAW)
We hinted to the position of Imam Ali (a.s.) from the Caliphate and how he chosen not to rise to reclaim his position as the appointed leader of the Muslims after the prophet. And during the time of the first and the second Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, Imam Ali (a.s) have chosen a strategic seclusion, unless he finds that protecting Islam needs him to take some actions. This was very clearly during the Ridda Wars, when he rose to defeat the enemies of Islam, as he clearly mentions in his letter to the people of Egypt, which was sent through Malik al-Ashtar, when Malik was made the Governor of that place, where the Imam (a.s.) said:
"Now, Allah the Glorified, deputed Muhammad (may Allah bless him and his descendants) as a warner for all the worlds and a witness for all the prophets. When the Prophet expired, the Muslims quarreled about power after him. By Allah, it never occurred to me, and I never imagined, that after the Prophet the Arabs would snatch away the caliphate from his Ahlul Bayt (the members of his house), nor that they would take it away from me after him, but I suddenly noticed people surrounding the man to swear him allegiance.
أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَإِنَّ اللهَ سُبْحَانَهُ بَعَثَ مُحَمَّداً(صلى الله عليه وآله) نَذِيراً لِلْعَالَمِينَ، وَمُهَيْمِناً عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ. فلمَّا مَضى(صلى الله عليه وآله) تنَازَعَ الْمُسْلِمُونَ الاْمْرَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ، فَوَاللهِ مَا كَانَ يُلْقَى فِي رُوعِي، وَلاَ يَخْطُرُ بِبَالِي، أَنَّ الْعَرَبَ تُزْعِجُ هذَا الاْمْرَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ (صلى الله عليه وآله) عَنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتِهِ، وَلاَ أَنَّهُمْ مُنَحُّوهُ عَنِّي مِنْ بَعْدِهِ! فَمَا رَاعَنِي إِلاَّ انْثِيَالُ النَّاسِ عَلَى فُلاَن يُبَايِعُونَهُ،
I therefore withheld my hand till I saw that many people were reverting from Islam and trying to destroy the religion of Muhammad (may Allah bless him and his descendants). I then feared that if I did not protect Islam and its people and there occurred in it a breach or destruction, it would mean a greater blow to me than the loss of power over you which was, in any case, to last for a few days of which everything would pass away as the mirage passes away, or as the cloud scuds away. Therefore, in these happenings I rose till wrong was destroyed and disappeared, and religion attained peace and safety.”
فَأَمْسَكْتُ يَدِي حَتَّى رَأيْتُ رَاجِعَةَ النَّاسِ قَدْ رَجَعَتْ عَنِ الاْسْلاَمِ، يَدْعُونَ إِلَى مَحْقِ دِينِ مُحَمَّد (صلى الله عليه وآله) فَخَشِيتُ إِنْ لَمْ أَنْصُرِ الاْسْلاَمَ أَهْلَهُ أَنْ أَرَى فِيهِ ثَلْماً أَوْ هَدْماً، تَكُونُ الْمُصِيبَةُ بِهِ عَلَيَّ أَعْظَمَ مِنْ فَوْتِ وِلاَيَتِكُمُ الَّتِي إِنَّمَا هِيَ مَتَاعُ أَيَّام قَلاَئِلَ، يَزُولُ مِنْهَا مَا كَانَ، كَمَا يَزُولُ السَّرَابُ، أَوْ كَمَا يَتَقَشَّعُ السَّحَابُ، فَنَهَضْتُ فِي تِلْكَ الاْحْدَاثِ حَتَّى زَاحَ الْبَاطِلُ وَزَهَقَ، وَاطْمَأَنَّ الدِّينُ وَتَنَهْنَهَ.
Abu-Bakr, Omer and Uthman fleeing from Battles:
Seeing what we have talked about of the bravery of the divinely supported miraculous warrior of Islam Imam Ali, and what we are going to talk about here of the undeniable traits of the Caliphs, seeing all of this, in addition to evidences we are going to provide in this rather long article, it’s strange to notice how some are trying to attribute the conquests to Abu-Bakr and Omer, rather than to Imam Ali. So let us talk a little about how the first three Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, are not such persons who can be imagined to plan for wars and bring victories.
Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا لَقِيتُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا زَحْفًا فَلَا تُوَلُّوهُمُ الْأَدْبَارَ، وَمَن يُوَلِّهِمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ دُبُرَهُ إِلَّا مُتَحَرِّفًا لِّقِتَالٍ أَوْ مُتَحَيِّزًا إِلَىٰ فِئَةٍ فَقَدْ بَاءَ بِغَضَبٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَمَأْوَاهُ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ.
“O you who have believed, when you meet those who disbelieve in battle, do not turn back [in flight]. And whoever turns his back to them on such a day, unless maneuvering for war or joining [another] company, has certainly incurred the wrath of Allah, and his abode is Hell - and wretched is the destination”. Quran_Surah Anfaal – verse 15 – 16.
On the first day of the battle of Khaibar, the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) gave the Muslim flag of leadership to Abu Bakr, who led the Muslim army against the Jews. Suffering a defeat after a short battle, he (Abu Bakr) fled with failure. The next day the Muslim flag was given to Omar, but before he reached the place of battle, he (Omar.) fled “in panic” as reported in the accounts of the Battle of Khaibar, which was an important event for the Muslims, which was recorded in detail by historians of both sects. Hafiz Abu Nu'aim Ispahani in his Hilyatu'l-Auliya, Muhammad Bin Yusuf Ganji Shafi'i in Kifayatu't-Talib, and many other Sunni scholars have recorded this event.
The most authentic narrations of the event, however, are those of two great scholars: Muhammad Bin Isma'il Bukhari, and Muslim Bin Hujjaj, in their “Sahih” books, who wrote that:
"Caliph Umar fled from the battlefield on two occasions."
In the battles of Uhud and Hunain again Abu Bakr and Omar fled from the battlefield, as reported by Tabrini and others. They left the Prophet alone among the infidels.
Is it possible that those who turned their backs to the enemy leaving the Holy Prophet alone to face the enemy were the loved ones of Allah and His Prophet?
Allah in the Holy Qur'an. says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لَائِمٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
"O you who believe! Whoever of you turns away from his religion, soon Allah will bring another people; He loves them and they love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the infidels, striving hard in Allah's way, and they fear not the censure of any censurer; this is the grace of Allah. He gives it to whomsoever He desires."
Abu Ishaq Imam Ahmad Tha'labi, writes in his Kashfu'l-Bayan that the above verse was revealed in praise of Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) because no other person possessed the attributes mentioned in it. In the Battle of Uhud, when Abu Bakr and Umar and other companions fled, and the enemy's 5,000 troops attacked the Muslims, the only person who stayed with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) until victory was achieved was Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.).
In the Battle of Hunain, Hamidi in his Jam'-e-Bainu's-Sahihain and Halabi in his Siratu'l- Halabiyya, say that Abu Bakr, Umar and other companions fled, except four: Ameerul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) and Abbas, who were in front of the Prophet, Abu Sufyan b. Harith held the reins of the Prophet's horse, and Abdullah b. Mas'ud stood on his left.
Finally, It is worth mentioning that the three first caliphs we talked about would not only flee from the battlefield, but they would also try their best to avoid being engaged in wars, even if Islam can’t be saved without fighting them. We will give some examples later on in this booklet, however, it’s suitable to mention their position from fighting Islam’s most important battle, the battle of Badr. In Sahih Muslim we read:
عَنْ أَنَسٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم شَاوَرَ حِينَ بَلَغَهُ إِقْبَالُ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ قَالَ فَتَكَلَّمَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ ثُمَّ تَكَلَّمَ عُمَرُ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ فَقَامَ سَعْدُ بْنُ عُبَادَةَ فَقَالَ إِيَّانَا تُرِيدُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ أَمَرْتَنَا أَنْ نُخِيضَهَا الْبَحْرَ لأَخَضْنَاهَا وَلَوْ أَمَرْتَنَا أَنْ نَضْرِبَ أَكْبَادَهَا إِلَى بَرْكِ الْغِمَادِ لَفَعَلْنَا - قَالَ - فَنَدَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم النَّاسَ فَانْطَلَقُوا حَتَّى نَزَلُوا بَدْرًا
It has been narrated on the authority of Anas that when (the news of) the advance of Abu Sufyan (at the head of a force) reached him. the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) held consultations with his Companions. The narrator said: Abu Bakr spoke (expressing his own views), but he (the Holy Prophet) did not pay heed to him. Then spoke 'Umar (expressing his views), but he (the Holy Prophet) did not pay heed to him (too). Then Sa'd b. 'Ubada stood up and said: Messenger of Allah, you want us (to speak). By God in Whose control is my life, if you order us to plunge our horses into the sea, we would do so. If you order us to goad our horses to the most distant place like Bark al-Ghimad, we would do so. The narrator said: Now the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) called upon the people (for the encounter). So they set out and encamped at Badr.
There are other sources which give detail of what exactly did Abu-Bakr and Umar said:
In Majma‘ al-Bayan, it is narrated that Abi Hamza Al-Thamaly said: “The Messenger of Allah (Pbuhp) sent Odei as a scout to check the caravan of Quraish. He came to the Messenger of Allah (Pbuhp) and told him how the caravan left. Then Jibraeel came down and told the Messenger of Allah (Pbuhp) about the march of the pagans towards him. So he asked his companions for advice, whether he goes after the caravan or stay for war. Abu Baker stood and said: “O Messenger of Allah, Quraysh with all its arrogance never believed after they disbelieved and they were never humiliated after glory. We also didn’t come here prepared for war.” Then the Messenger of Allah (Pbuhp) told him to sit and so he sat, then Omar stood and said as same as the other. The Messenger of Allah (Pbuhp) also told him to sit and so he sat.”
عن أبي حمزة الثمالي: بعث رسول الله (ص) عينا له على العير اسمه عدي, فلما قدم على رسول الله (ص) فأخبره أين فارق العير نزل جبرئيل على رسول الله (ص) فأخبره بنفير المشركين من مكة, فاستشار أصحابه في طلب العير وحرب النفير, فقام أبو بكر فقال: يا رسول الله, إنها قريش وخيلاؤها, ما آمنت منذ كفرت ولا ذلت منذ عزت, ولم نخرج على أهبة الحرب. . ثم قام عمر بن الخطاب فقال مثل ذلك، فقال (ص): اجلس فجلس.
(تفسير مجمع البيان)
The debate about the Muslim conquests which happened mainly during the fifty years that followed the death of the prophet of Islam, Muhammed (Pbuh&hh), is a common debate, whether between the Sunnis and the Shiites, or between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The Shia view regarding these conquests have not been adequately addressed, especially in the English literature. We hope that this piece would be a an important one in this regard.
In Futuh al-Buldan, by al-Baladhuri, it is mentioned that Khalid Ibn Sa'id was supposed to command one of the three armies left for the conquest of the Levant, but due to his objection to Abu Bakr's caliphate, and upon Omar’s emphasis, they replaced him with Yazid Ibn Abi Sufyan. Shaeikh al Koorani have shown in his book that we referred to many times, that this a recurrent theme. Despite this fact, however, we have seen that the main military commanders of the conquests were either stated Shiites, or ones who were somehow opposed by the first two Caliphs. Unjustly demoted Shia commanders on the other hand, would follow the example of their Imam, Imam Ali, and would accept leading the forces on the ground while the official titles are given to the others! An exemplar of this is the case Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas, who would stay in his Palace and would not participate in the battles, while depending on the leadership of Al- Mirqal, the Shiite commander, as we will see.
Throughout this chapter, we are going to give some information about those Shia military commanders who are the ones who brought victory and success to the Muslim conquests, but before that, we must show the reality of one man whom many try to portrait false picture about, and try claim that he was the main military commander of conquests.
Khalid Ibn Al wadleed: the real story!
Let us start to see who is Khalid Ibn al Waleed who some refer to his as: Sayfu-Allāh (Arabic: “Sword of God”). Indeed, those who have read through the early Islamic history realize why when Khalid is mentioned many will remember the story of the great Sahabi (companion of the prophet) Malik ibn Nuwayrah, who was the chief of his tribe. This is because it is a well established fact that of khalid has killed Malik ibn Nuwayrah, and "married" his beautiful wife on the same day, Layla bint al-Minhal, which violated the sharia law. Indeed this was a clear rape crime rather than marriage. This story is a very famous story that is mentioned in the Islamic history as well as the Hadith books.
Another of such stories about Khalid is stated by Sahih al-Bukhari, where it’s mentioned that Khalid was sent by prophet Muhammad to deal with the Arab tribe Jadhima. There, he fought them and ordered killing of all the captives, which was met with opposition and protests from other Muslims. Upon hearing about his actions, prophet Muhammad raised both his hands and said twice, “O Allah! I am free from what Khalid has done.”
Indeed we can mention many of such stories, however, it’s enough for showing the fake of the bravery stories that some have attributed to Kahlid, to recall what we have mentioned earlier about Muslims calling Khalid and his subordinate fugitives and accord them reception by throwing dust on their heads and faces, after they retreated from the battle of Muata, where at the time of retreat of the soldiers of Islam, the Roman soldiers pursed them and killed some of them.
About the main military commanders of the Conquests, who were the Shiites of Imam Ali:
Throughout the previous chapters, we have mentioned the names of the main military commanders of the conquests who happen to be either from the Shiites of imam Ali, or somehow opposed by the first two caliphs. In this chapter, some information about these commanders are to be given.
Although the supreme command positions would be decided by the Caliphs, studying the accounts of the Muslim battles reveals that the real supreme commanders are not necessary the ones appointed by the Caliphs. We have pointed out to an exemplar instance of this, where it is clearly mentioned by historians, such as al Tabari, that Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas would stay in his Palace and would not participate in the battles, while depending on the leadership of Al-Mirkal, the Shiite commander. Similarly Khalid Ibn al Waleeed would depend on al-Muthanna who initiated the conquest war against the Persians and was the first leader of this conquest and Malik al Ashter who played the main role in defeating the Byzantines. Information about these commanders and many others are given bellow:
Muthanna ibn Haritha:
Al-Muthanna was commander of the Muslim Arabs in al-Hira, from which they were conducting raids in plains of Sasanian Mesopotamia. We have mentioned earlier that he is the main figure in initiating the Conquest wars with the Persians and was the first leader of this conquest. He is from a Shiite family and his son died while fighting Ayesha Army under the leadership of Imam Ali, in the battle of al Jamal (The Battle of the Camel).
Abu Ubayd al-Thaqafi
Abu Ubayd ibn Mas'ud al- Thaqafi was the commander of the Muslim army at the Battle of the Bridge against the Sasanian army. Abu Ubayd was the father of the Shia leader al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, who rebelled against the Umayyads to revenge the Karbala tragedy.
Malik al-Ahstar was the main cavalry and commander of the army of Imam Ali in his battles. He played the main role in the conquests of Syria. His title "al-Ashtar" signifies an eyelid injury he received during the Battle of Yarmouk. Al Kourani quoted many sources that show how Malik played the major role in Muslims decisive victory in The Battle of Yarmouk, which left the whole of the Byzantine Empire vulnerable to the Muslim Arab armies. We talked about al-Ashtar in some previous chapters.
Hashim ibn Utbah bin Abi Waqas, titled as Hashim al-Mirqal, was a Muslim army commander. He was Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas' nephew through his father, and was a Sahaba (a companions of the Prophet Mohammed). Hashim participated in the Ridda wars against the rebellious Arab tribes following the death of Prophet Mohammad, in order to return them to Islam. He played a vital role in the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah that led to the conquest of Al-Mada'in by the Muslims. He also captured a number of cities of Iraq. We mentioned earlier how Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas would depend on Hashim to lead his forces.
Shurahbil ibn Hasana
Shurahbil ibn Hasana was a companion of prophet Muhammad and later one of the commanders of Muslim army during the Muslim conquest of Syria. He was from the Banu Kindah tribe. Shurahbeel was very close to the famous Shiites of Ali and depended on them very much in his battles, for instance he appointed Khalid Ibn Saeed as the head of the Cavalry or horsemen. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. When 'Umar b. al-Khattab went to Syria, he dismissed Shurahbil b. Hasana and appointed Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan in his place.
Al-Nu'man ibn Muqrin
An-Numan ibn Muqarrin was a companion of the prophet. An-Numan had several brothers, and all of them were accomplished soldiers. Imam Ali (a.s.) mentioned the name of Numan to Omar as a suitable person to lead the Muslim army in the campaign against the Persians concentrated at Nihawand, and he was appointed.
Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman
Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman was a well-known companions of the Prophet (s) and one of the first people who converted to Islam. He accompanied the Prophet (s) in many battles in the early years of Islam. He was a special and a close companion of Imam Ali (a). In some hadiths, he is mentioned as one of the four main companions of Imam Ali (a). He narrated Hadiths regarding the place and virtues of Imam Ali (a) and Ahl al-Bayt (a). Hudhayfa also narrated a hadith from the Prophet (s) according to which there will be twelve Imams after him.
When al-Nu'man b. Muqrin was killed, he undertook the commandership of the army and conquered Nahawand. He then conquered other cities in Iran. Later on, When Imam Ali (a) arrived in the area of Dhi Qar on his way to the Battle of Jamal, Hudhayfa told his companions: "accompany Amir al-Mu'minin (a) and the successor of the Prophet (s). The right thing is to assist him".
Al-Mas'udi reported that Hudhayfa's two sons, Safwan and Sa'd, accompanied Imam Ali (a) in the Battle of Siffin and that they were martyred there. But according to al-Tabari, Sa'd was alive during the rise of Tawwabun. Sulayman b. Surad asked for his help and he offered his help in reply.
Ahnaf b. Qays
Ahnaf b. Qays was among the famous people in early years of Islam who had an important role in the conquest of Iran and the important events during the caliphate of Imam Ali (a) and the beginning of Umayyad rule. After 'Uthman's murder, Ahnaf gave allegiance to Imam Ali (a). When Talha and al-Zubayr wanted to take revenge for 'Uthman and waged the Battle of Jamal, Ahnaf did not side with any of the two sides of the battle and thus Banu Tamim withdrew from the battle and did not stand against Imam Ali (a). After that, in the Battle of Siffin, Ahnaf sided with Imam Ali (a) and was the leader of Banu Tamim.
Omar gave him permission to pursue Yazdgerd III, and put al-Ahnaf at the head of an army to complete the conquest of Khurasan in the last stages of its annexation. Al-Ahnaf followed the Persian leader Yazdgerd III until he barricaded himself in the town of Marwir-Rawdh. Yazdgerd III wrote to the Turkic and Chinese rulers seeking help. Al-Ahnaf sent for reinforcement from Kufa and finally captured Marwir-Rawdah, completing the conquest of Khurasan.
Ammar b. Yasir
Ammar b. Yasir was an early companion of Prophet Muhammad (s) and among the first people to become Muslim. His family was brutally tortured for believing in the Prophet (s) and this resulted in his parents' martyrdom. 'Ammar b. Yasir had the kunya of Abu Yaqzan.
Ammar, along with Salman, Miqdad, and Abu Dhar, is considered to be one of the first Shi'a. He was among those few Muslims who refused to pay allegiance to Abu Bakr. In one incident, after criticizing the third caliph for unlawful spending from the public treasury, the caliph kicked him so badly that he fell unconscious. The caliph planned to banish him, but then withdrew due to Imam 'Ali's (a) mediation.
The Prophet (s) had told Ammar that he would be martyred by a group of rebels. He was over 90 years old when he fought in the Battle of Siffin and was martyred by the army of Mu'awiya.
In the period of Omar b. al-Khattab, he was appointed as the ruler of Kufa and the commander of the Muslim army there. The Battle of Nahawand occurred during his commandership. In this battle, some areas of Iran were conquered.
Salman the Persian or Salman al-Farsi was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the first Persian who converted to Islam. According to popular tradition, Muhammad considered Salman as part of his household (Ahl al-Bayt). He was a renowned follower of Ali ibn Abi Talib after the death of Muhammad.
Omar b. al-Khattab assigned Salman and Hudhayfa as the leaders of the Muslim army in the Conquest of Iran. In the conquest of al-Mada'in he was the negotiator of the Muslims with the commanders of the Iranian forces. Salman played a major role in convincing many of his fellow Persians to convert to Islam, and played a major role in the Muslim conquest of Iran.
Written by some team members of ReligionInform.com.
The Conflicts with the Persians began even before AbuBakr agreed to it!
According to Dinwari, ever since (Puran) sat on the throne in Iran, rumors began to spread that there was nothing left of the Iranian glorious kingdom. Hearing about this, two people from Bakr Ibn Wa'il, Muthanna Ibn Haritha and Suwayd Ibn Qutba 'Ijali, attacked the land of Iranians with their men (the first attacked Hira and the second one invaded Ubulla). They would raid farmers and plunder them. Ibn A'tham detailed that following these events, Muthanna wrote a letter to Abu Bakr and noted Iran's weakness. Abu Bakr who had heard about his assaults on the Iranians, said, “Who is this man, whose “news” reaches us before his “name”?” He was told the man was not an unknown person.
وفي فتوح ابن الأعثم (1/72): "وبلغ أبا بكر عنه فعاله فقال للمسلمين: ويحكم مَن هذا الذي تأتينا أخباره ووقائعه قبل معرفة خبره؟ قال: فوثب قيس بن عاصم المنقري فقال: يا خليفة رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله) هذا رجل غير خامل الذكر ، ولا مجهول الحسب ، ولا بقليل العدد والمدد ، هذا المثنى بن حارثة الشيباني ."
After ending the war against apostates, Muthanna came to Medina and asked Abu Bakr's permission to fight the Iranians. Abu Bakr wrote an agreement for him. A few months later, he dispatched his brother to Medina to ask Abu Bakr to send forces to him and the caliph sent Khalid Ibn Walid to Iraq.
Omar was against the Conquest of Persia:
After the conquest of Khuzistan, the Caliph Omar wanted peace. Though considerably weakened, the image of the Persian Empire as a fearsome superpower still resonated in the minds of the newly-ascendant Arabs, and Omar was wary of unnecessary military engagement with the Iranians. He wanted to leave the rest of Persia to the Iranians. Al-Tabari reported that Omar said:
“I wish there was a mountain of fire between us and the Iranians, so that neither they could get to us, nor we to them.”
كان عمر يقول :وددت أن بيننا وبين فارس جبلاً من نار لا يصلون إلينا منه ولا نصل إليهم. )تاريخ الطبري 3 :176.(
However, the pride of the imperial Persians had been hurt by the conquest of their land by the Arabs. They could not acquiesce in the occupation of their lands by the Arabs.
The Decisive Battle of Nihawand:
After the defeat of the Persian forces at the Battle of Jalula in 637, Emperor Yazdgerd III went to Rey and from there moved to Merv where he set up his capital. From Merv, he directed his chiefs to conduct continuous raids in Mesopotamia to destabilize the Muslim rule. Within the next four years, Yazdgerd III felt powerful enough to challenge the Muslims once again for the throne of Mesopotamia. The Emperor sent a call to his people to drive away the Muslims from their lands. In response to the call, hardened veterans and young volunteers from all parts of Persia marched in large numbers to join the imperial standard and marched to Nihawand for the last titanic struggle between the forces of the Caliphate and Sassanid Persia. 100,000 Persian fighters assembled, commanded by Mardan Shah.
The Governor of Kufa, Ammar ibn Yasir, received intelligence of the Persian movements and concentration at Nihawand. He reported the matter to Omar. Omar was so frightened, as reported by Ibn A'tham al-Kufi, in his book “Kitab al-Futooḥ”.
قال ابن الأعثم (2/291): "فلما ورد الكتاب على عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه وقرأه وفهم ما فيه وقعت عليه الرعدة والنفضة حتى سمع المسلمون أطيط أضراسه، ثم قام عن موضعه حتى دخل المسجد وجعل ينادي: أين المهاجرون والأنصار؟ ألا! فاجتمعوا رحمكم الله وأعينوني أعانكم الله."
Again, as in the conquest of the Levant, Imam Ali played the vital role here also, where we read in NahjulBalagha, in Sermon 146, that Imam Ali (a.s.) told Omar, when Omar consulted him about taking part in the battle of Persia:
“In this matter, victory or defeat is not dependent on the smallness or greatness of forces. It is Allah's religion which He has raised above all faiths, and His army which He has mobilized and extended, till it has reached the point where it stands now, and has arrived its present positions. We hold a promise from Allah, and He will fulfill His promise and support His army.
ومن كلام له (عليه السلام(، وقد استشاره عمر بن الخطاب في الشخوص لقتال الفرس بنفسه:
إِنَّ هذَا الاْمْرَ لَمْ يَكُنْ نَصْرُهُ وَلاَ خِذْلاَنُهُ بِكَثْرَة وَلاَ بِقِلَّة، وَهُوَ دِينُ اللهِ الَّذِي أَظْهَرَهُ، وَجُنْدُهُ الَّذِي أَعَدَّهُ وَأَمَدَّهُ، حَتَّى بَلَغَ مَا بَلَغَ، وَطَلَعَ حَيْثُ طَلَعَ، وَنَحْنُ عَلَى مَوْعُود مِنَ اللهِ، وَاللهُ مُنْجِزٌ وَعْدَهُ، وَنَاصِرٌ جُنْدَهُ.
The position of the head of government is that of the thread for beads, as it connects them and keeps them together. If the thread is broken, they will disperse and be lost, and will never come together again. The Arabs today, even though small in number are big because of Islam and strong because of unity. You should remain like the axis for them, and rotate the mill (of government) with (the help of) the Arabs, and be their root. Avoid battle, because if you leave this place the Arabs will attack you from all sides and directions till the unguarded places left behind by you will become more important than those before you.
وَمَكَانُ الْقَيِّمِ بِالاْمْرِ مَكَانُ النِّظَامِ مِنَ الْخَرَزِ يَجْمَعُهُ وَيَضُمُّهُ: فَإِنِ انْقَطَعَ النِّظَامُ تَفَرَّقَ وَذَهَبَ، ثُمَّ لَمْ يَجْتَمِعُ بِحَذَافِيرِهِ أَبَداً. وَالْعَرَبُ الْيَومَ وَإِنْ كَانُوا قَلِيلاً، فَهُمْ كَثِيرُونَ بَالاْسْلاَمِ، عَزِيزُونَ بَالاجْتِماعِ! فَكُنْ قُطْباً، وَاسْتَدِرِ الرَّحَا بِالْعَرَبِ، وَأَصْلِهِمْ دُونَكَ نَارَ الْحَرْبِ، فَإِنَّكَ إِنْ شَخَصْتَ مِنْ هذِهِ الاَرْضِ انْتَقَضَتْ عَلَيْكَ الْعَرَبُ مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا وَأَقْطَارِهَا، حَتَّى يَكُونَ مَا تَدَعُ وَرَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعَوْرَاتِ أَهَمَّ إِلَيْكَ مِمَّا بَيْنَ يَدَيْكَ.
If the Persians see you tomorrow they will say, "He is the root (chief) of Arabia. If we do away with him we will be in peace." In this way this will heighten their eagerness against you and their keenness to aim at you. You say that they have set out to fight against the Muslims. Well, Allah detests their setting out more than you do, and He is more capable of preventing what He detests. As regards your idea about their (large) number, in the past we did not fight on the strength of large numbers but we fought on the basis of Allah's support and assistance.
إِنَّ الاَعَاجِمَ إِنْ يَنْظُرُوا إِلَيْكَ غَداً يَقُولُوا: هذا أَصْلُ الْعَرَبِ، فَإِذَا اقْتَطَعْتُمُوهُ اسْتَرَحْتُمْ، فَيْكُونُ ذلِكَ أَشَدَّ لِكَلَبِهِمْ عَلَيْكَ، وَطَمَعِهِمْ فِيكَ. فَأَمَّا مَا ذَكَرْتَ مِنْ مَسِيرِ الْقَوْمِ إِلَى قِتَالِ المُسْلِمِينَ، فَإِنَّ اللهَ سُبْحَانَهُ هُوَ أَكْرَهُ لِمَسِيرِهِمْ مِنْكَ، وَهُوَ أَقْدَرُ عَلَى تَغْيِيرِ مَا يَكْرَهُ . وَأَمَّا مَا ذَكَرْتَ مِنْ عَدَدِهِمْ، فَإِنَّا لَمْ نَكُنْ نُقَاتِلُ فِيَما مَضَى بِالْكَثْرَةِ، وَإِنَّمَا كُنَّا نُقَاتِلُ بِالنَّصْرِ وَالْمَعُونَةِ!"
Hudheifa ibn Al Yaman was appointed commander of the forces of Kufa, and was ordered to march to Nihawand, and based on an advice from Imam Ali (a.s.), Omer appointed Nouman ibn Muqarrin as commander in chief of the Muslims at Nihawand. The Muslim army left for Nihawand and first concentrated at Tazar, and then moved to Nihawand and defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Nihawand in December 642. Nouman died in action, and as per Omar’s instructions Hudheifa ibn Al Yaman became new commander in chief. After the victory at Nihawand, the Muslim army captured the whole district of Hamadan after feeble resistance by the Persians.
صرح ابن أعثم: بأن علياً (عليه السلام) هو المشير على عمر بالنعمان بن مقرِّن. (الفتوح لابن أعثم).
The Battle of Nihawand was one of the most decisive battles in Islamic history and proved to be the key to Persia. Indeed, this battle is known to Muslims as the "Victory of Victories”. After the devastating defeat at Nihawand, the last Sassanid emperor, Yazdegerd III, fled to different parts of Persia to raise a new army, with limited degrees of success, with Muslims trying to capture him.
The difficulty about writing this piece is that it has to address two groups of audience, as we have pointed to. The first group represents those who believe that Islam is not a true religion from God, and hence it's difficult for them to accept that Muslims have the right to spread their religion in the case that this will require engaging in wars with the regimes controlling people of the other nations. The other group is the Sunni Muslims, with whom the debate is about whether the first two Caliphs who ruled after the death of the prophet, i.e.; AbuBakr and Umar, can claim the credit for these conquests. Also, if mistakes happened during the conquests, can those rulers be blamed for them?
Before going further, it’s worth to say some basic things about the Shia Muslims- and the word “Muslims” is emphasized because some Wahhabi/Salafi extremists do not even consider the Shiites to be Muslims! So what is suitable to be said here about the Shia Muslims is that they believe that as God chooses his prophets, he chooses their successors. So – in very direct words - they think that those who have chosen a successor for the prophet for themselves after the death of prophet Muhammad have indeed participated in an action that is against the essential teachings of Islam.
A new book on the Subject has been published:
Not long ago, a book dedicated to this subject by a modern famous Scholar, who is Sheikh Ali al-Kourani has been published. He is a Lebanese Shia cleric. His book is titled "A New reading of the Islamic conquests" (قراءة جديدة للفتوحات الإسلامية). Although the book, which is of two volumes, aims at debunking the Sunni views, non-Muslims can find it to be the best source to understand the Shia view in the matter. This article shall include some of the main themes of the book - which has not been translated to English so far- beside the views of its writer.
Looking at the Muslim Conquests in their broader context:
Now, let us first take an overview at the Muslim Conquests. You cannot look at the story of these conquests as a separate story form the whole story of Islam itself. It would be astonishing to find a free-thinker with deep understanding of Islam who denies that Islam came into being as a revolutionary way of living that aimed at freeing the human from the control of different oppressing forces, where Islam explicitly declared that humans are equal and they must all be slaves to the only one God. Instead of elaborating on how people used to live under the rule of the different regimes at that time and how Islam brought a great change that attracted the masses from all sort of groups of people, it is enough to mention some words said by the Muslims to a Persian leader during the wars of the Conquests between the Muslims and the Persians. It was narrated in “Al-Bidaya wa'l-Nihaya” by Ibn Kathir that when a Muslim Commander called Rib'ie` ibn `Amir entered the court of Rustum, the Persian leader, he was asked : “What brought you here?” Rib'ie ibn 'Amir answered:
"We are a group of people whom Allah has sent to emancipate men from the worship (obedience) of men to the worship of the LORD of all men (Allah); To liberate them from the narrowness of this world to the broadness of the Hereafter, and To free mankind from the injustice of other religions to the justice of Islam”.
اللَّهُ ابْتَعَثْنَا لِنُخْرِجَ مَنْ شَاءَ مِنْ عِبَادَةِ الْعِبَادِ إِلَى عِبَادَةِ اللَّهِ ، وَمِنْ ضِيقِ الدُّنْيَا إِلَى سِعَتِهَا ، وَمِنْ جَوْرِ الْأَدْيَانِ إِلَى عَدْلِ الْإِسْلَام
This call for freedom and the fact that the slaves were among the first people who embraced Islam, have from the beginning angered the people of power in Mecca, where they started to persecute the Muslims, and forced them to migrate to Africa first, and then to Medina.
In Medina, the prophet of Islam succeeded in ending a long war that has been waging between the two main tribes there, and both of these tribes believed in him and ultimately he established his first government therein. However the Meccans did not leave the prophet to enjoy his success even outside Mecca, where they first followed his followers to Africa, and tried to turn their host ruler against them without success, and later they waged wars against the newly established Islamic community in Medina, which was very weak militarily.
However, the Muslims were able to gain more and more followers who embraced Islam, whether they were previously polytheists, Jews, or Christians, and Islam has miraculously established itself in the Arabia.
The early Byzantine and Persian Reactions to the Rise of Islam:
When Muhammad (s) came with Islam, Arabia was under the influence - and in some areas under the control- of the main global forces at that time, The Persians and the Byzantine Romans. As the Quran explicitly explained that Islam came as a religion for the whole humanity, Muhammad sent letters to the leaders of the main world powers who were surrounding the Arabia, calling them to embrace Islam. The Persian king Khosrow II كسرى, to whom Muhammad had sent a letter, responded by commanding his vassal ruler of Yemen, to dispatch two valiant men to identify, seize and bring Prophet Muhammad from Hijaz to him. Miraculously Muhammad was saved from this plot.
On their part, the Byzantines murdered the Muslim emissary sent by the Prophet, and as a result, there were the battles of Muata and then Tabouk, between the two sides, during the life of the prophet.
Section Conclusion: a closer look at the Early Muslim Conquests:
In light of the above introduction, and before going further, what should be said at this point is that the miraculous success of the Muslims after less than 50 years from the advent of Islam to end one of the two great empires of that time, and to defeat the other one, shows that something great has happened in the Arabia when Muhammad (s) declared that a new revelation has been revealed from God aiming at the salvation for the whole humanity! And although the aim of the Muslims was clearly to spread Islam, the Muslims did not initiate the wars of the Islamic conquests, but rather the Byzantine and the Persian empires at that time showed great hostility against Islam, and started their aggressions against the Muslims even during the time of the prophet, where the wars between the Muslims the Byzantines especially began during that time.
Throughout the reaming of this article, we are going to mainly address the Sunni view regarding the Conquests. Despite this, many of these remaining parts will also provide answers to questions raised by the non-Muslims about the Conquests, especially the part regarding the factors that led to the astounding success of the Muslims in their objective, as we will see how unpopular were the Byzantine and the Persian rules of that time, and how many groups within those empires have welcomed the arrival of the Muslims and even helped them in their “holy wars”.
In the book the we mentioned many time, which is "A new reading of the Islamic conquests" (قراءة جديدة للفتوحات الاسلامية), Sheikh Ali al-Kourani gave many explanations of the success of the Muslim Conquests, despite the Shia view regarding the events after the death prophet Muhammad that led to the Caliphate of the first two caliphs, and the real position of these two caliphs from the conquests as we have described. Indeed many of the explanations and reasons can be understood from what we have already covered. However it would be appropriate to summarize all the explanations in one Section.
In his book, History of The Caliphs, Rasul Ja'fariyan quoted Spuler as stating: “Today, there is no doubt that the religion of monotheism was the strongest driving force behind Arabs' conquest of lands.” Rasul Ja'fariyan, added that: we should also remember that while fighting for monotheism, Arabs expected booties, too, after victory. They headed for battlefronts after hearing Prophet Muhammad's words who had promised them, the treasures of Caesar and Chosroe."
However, as we have shown more than once in the previous sections, the religious zeal of the conquerors alone, could not lead to the miraculous success of the conquests, without the divine guidance of the man who accompanied the prophet and was the standard-bearer in his battles, I mean Imam Ali (a.s.).
On the other hand, Chase F. Robinson wrote in “The New Cambridge History of Islam” that it is likely that Muslim forces were often outnumbered, but, unlike their opponents, they were fast, well coordinated and highly motivated." In addition, most historians agree that the Sassanid Persian and Byzantine Roman empires were militarily and economically exhausted from decades of fighting one another. Where In the case of Byzantine Egypt, Palestine and Syria, these lands had been reclaimed from the Persians only a few years before.
Moreover, In an article titled “A Short History of the Middle Ages”, Barbara H. Rosenwein said that "It has been suggested that some Jews and Christians in the Sassanid Empire and Jews and Monophysites in Syria were dissatisfied and welcomed the Muslim forces, largely because of religious conflict in both empires."
Ira M Lapidus has mentioned in a book titled “A History of Islamic Societies” that "the early caliphate was characterized by religious tolerance and peoples of all ethnicities and religions blended in public life..Before Muslims were ready to build mosques in Syria, they accepted Christian churches as holy places and shared them with local Christians.. In Iraq and Egypt, Muslim authorities cooperated with Christian religious leaders.. Numerous churches were repaired and new ones built during the Umayyad era. " Lapidus added that "Arab governors supervised collection and distribution of taxes, but otherwise left the old religious and social order intact. "
Finally, in his book, “The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750”, David Nicolle explained that “in Islam, Christians and Jews are seen as "Peoples of the Book" as the Muslims accept both Jesus Christ and the Jewish prophets as their own prophets, which accorded them a respect that was not reserved to the "heathen" peoples of Iran, Central Asia and India. " this illustrates the observation described by Lapidus, in the same book that we referred to above, that "contrary to belief of earlier historians, there is no evidence of mass conversions to Islam in the immediate aftermath of the conquests.. The first groups to convert were Christian Arab tribes, although some of them retained their religion into the Abbasid era even while serving as troops of the caliphate.. They were followed by former elites of the Sasanian empire, whose conversion ratified their old privileges.”
In conclusion, although, Shia Muslims believe that the Muslims generally, behaved after the death of their prophet in a manner similar to how the previous nations behaved after the death of their prophets, i.e., they did not follow the rightly appointed successors of their prophets, and the Ahlulbayt Imams as well as their followers suffered the oppression and the killings, despite all of this the spirit of the prophethood and the Imamate continued to live within the Mulsm Ummah, and many great achievement were accomplished, including the great Muslim conquests which we have seen that they must be credited to the prophet, his appointed successor, Imam Ali, and their true followers.
Moreover, although these conquests were miraculous if they are looked at through the material sight, they are less than what should have been achieved for those who believe that Islam is a true religion of God that was revealed to the whole humanity, and that God assured the Muslims that it will be victorious over all other religions. As one example, if Muslims followed the commands of the prophet of appointing Imam Ali as the first legitimate Caliph, they would not encounter the disastrous failure of the siege of Constantinople in 718 which was accompanied by massive Arab casualties. It’s Imam Ali on whom, that the Apostle has bestowed the surname of "the Lion of God" (Asadullah), and by abandoning him and choosing Caliphs for themselves, they have lost so much!
Note: Many of the resources in the list bellow, may not be available in English, however translations of many relevant parts of them are available in many major websites which covers the topic of the early Muslim conquests. Some main examples in include: (al-islam.org, wikishia.net, al-hadi.us, shiapen.com, and wikipedia.org).
“A History of Islamic Societies”. Lapidus, Ira M.
“A New reading of the Islamic conquests”. Sheikh Ali al-Kourani.
“A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims”. Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy.
“Akhbār al-ṭiwāl”. Ibn Qutayba al-Dīnawarī.
“Al-Aghānī”. al-Iṣfahānī, Abū l-Faraj ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn.
“Al-Amwāl”. Abū ʿUbayd, Qāsim b. Salam.
“Al-Badʾ wa l-tārīkh”. Al-Maqdisī, Muḥammad b. Ṭāhir.
“Al-Bidaya wa'l-Nihaya”. Ibn Kathir.
“Al-Futuh”. Ibn A'tham.
“Al-Ghadir”. Amini , Abd al-husayn.
“Al-Irshad”. al-Shaykh al-Mufīd.
“Al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb”. Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr.
“Al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh”. Ibn Athīr.
"Al-Mawaiz Wal-Itibar". Aḥmad ibn ʻAlī Maqrīzī.
“Al-Milal wan-Nihal”. Shahristani.
“Al-Musnad”. Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal.
“Al-Ṣaḥīḥ min sirat al-nabīyy”. ʿ al-Āmilī, Jaʿfar Murtaḍā.
“Al-Sīra al-Ḥalabīyya”. Ḥalabī, ʿAlī b. Ibrāhīm.
“Al-Sīra al-nabawīyya”. Ibn Hishām, ʿAbd al-Malik.
“Al-Ṭabaghāt al-kubrā”. Ibn Saʿd, Muḥammad b. Manīʿ.
“Ansab al-ashraf”. al-Baladhuri, Ahmad b. Yahya.
“Arabs and Others in Early Islam”. Bashear, Suliman.
“A'yan al-Shi'a” . al-Amin, al-Sayyid Muhsin.
“Battle of Nahāvand”. Encyclopædia Britannica.
“Bihar al-anwar”. al- Majlisi.
“Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests”. Kaegi, Walter E.
“Christians in the Arab East: A Political Study”. Betts, Robert B.
“Collapse of Sasanian Power in Fars”. Daryaee, Touraj.
“Conversion and the Poll Tax in Early Islam”. Dennett, Daniel Clement.
“Encyclopaedia of Islam” .Cahen, Claude.
“Fada'ilu amir al-mu'minin 'ali (s)”. Ahmad b. Hanbal.
“FĀRS iii. History in the Islamic Period”. Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. IX.
“Futūḥ al-buldān”. al-Baladhuri, Ahmad b. Yahya.
“Kanz al-'ummal”. Muttaqi al-Hindi.
“Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi”. Al-Waqidi.
“Murūj al-dhahab”. al-Masʿūdī, ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn.
“Mustadrak al-wasa'il”. Al-Nuri, Husayn b. Muhammad Taqi.
“Nahjul Balagha”. The Sermons of 'Ali b. Abi Talib, Complied by 'Allamah al-Sharif al-Radi.
“Persian Historiography And Geography”. Bertold Spuler.
“Rawḍ al-janān”. Abū l-futūḥ al-Rāzī.
“Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī”. al-Bukhārī, Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl.
“Sahih-muslim”. Muslim b. al-Hajjaj.
“Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire”. Daryaee, Touraj.
“Sharh nahj al-balagha”. Ibn Abi al-Hadid.
“Sīratu Rasūli l-Lāh”. Ibn Ishaq.
“Sistān ii. In the Islamic period”. Encyclopaedia Iranica.
“Sīstān”. The Encyclopedia of Islam.
“Tārīkh al-Islām” al-Dhahabī, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad.
“Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ”. al-Suyūṭī, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Abī Bakr.
“Tarikh al-khulafa”. Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-din, Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr.
“Tarikh al-rusul wa l-muluk”. Al-Tabari, Muhammad b. Jarir.
“Tarikh-i ya'qubi”. al Ya'qubi, Ahmad b. Abi Ya'qub.
“The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu”. Charles, Robert H.
“The Early Islamic Conquests”. Donner, Fred.
“The fall of Persia”, Vol. 2, ed. Sayyid Ali Al-Jumjumani
“The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750”. Nicolle, David.
“The History of Iran”. Daniel, Elton.
“The History of Iran”. Elton L. Daniel.
“The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Edward Gibbon.
“The Islamic East”. Daniel, Elton L.
“The Message”. Ayatullah Jafar Subhani.
“The Times Atlas of World History”. Barraclough, Geoffrey.
“Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages”. Cohen.
“Yanabi' al-mawada”. Al-Qunduzi, Sulayman ibn Ibrahim.
“Yarmuk AD 636: The Muslim Conquest of Syria”. Nicolle, David.
“Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices”. Boyce, Mary.
The Early Muslim Conquests: A Shia View
Now regarding the arguments of the Sunnis - whose view is that the Ummah (the Muslims) have the right to appoint the successors of the prophet - we will concentrate on our counter-argument on emphasizing that regardless of our claim that it's for God to appoint the successors of his prophets, the first two caliphs have no credit for the success of the Futoohat ( the Muslim conquests), for many reasons. Firstly, we have already shown that the wars between the Muslims and the two great empires of that time began during the life of the prophet. Then, as we will show, the first two caliphs had negative opinions toward the wars of the conquests. After that, the main battles between the Muslims and the mentioned empires were about to end in crushing defeats for the Muslims, if it was not for the involvement of Imam Ali (a.s.). And finally the main military commanders of these conquest were the Shiites of Imam Ali (a.s.).
In addition, we will show how the involvement of the two Caliphs led to many disasters. For instance they demoted great military commanders based on nepotism and personal reasons, and made many other mistakes that led to losing some battles with great loss of lives among the Muslims. Moreover, usurping the position of Imam Ali, the man who was behind the victory of Islam during the life of the prophet, limited the success of the conquests and caused them to practically reach the point of deadlock in many areas. For instance, the Muslims- at those times- failed to conquest Constantinople and lost great number of lives in their failed attempts to do so.
Also, some of the people of the conquest lands were not treated according to the Islamic rules which negatively affected the rate of conversion to Islam. What's more, when the Umayyads ruled the Muslims, and their rule was a result of the rule of the first two caliphs, many of those who have chosen to convert to Islam, as we will see, were penalized for doing so, as the rulers thought that this would not benefit them materially
God supports Islam even with Transgressors!
As we have mentioned earlier, the Shiites believe that as God chooses his prophets, he also chooses their vicegerents, and hence the Shiites have faced all the claims regarding the legitimacy of those who they see as the usurpers of Imam Ali's position. They have written many books about the virtues of imam Ali and the vices of whoever have assumed the position of leading the Ummah after the prophet other than the Imam whom they believe to have been appointed by the prophet, and hence by God, to lead the Ummah after the death of the prophet. What is notable though, is that although we have Haidths rejecting the claims that the first Caliphs (before imam Ali) are to be credited for the success of the conquests, the Shiites did not write much on this topic.
One possible reason for not writing much on the subject, is that the Shiites don't see that any presumed role in the success of the conquests to necessarily be an indication of righteous of the ones who assume that role. This is because the prophet- as reported in Sahih al-Bukhari, in the Book of Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihaad)-said:
"Verily, Allah may support this religion at the hands of a wicked man"
وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيُؤَيِّدُ هَذَا الدِّينَ بِالرَّجُلِ الْفَاجِرِ ".”
This is a clear reference to those who are known for their un-Islamic traits and manners, and at the same time have played roles on the success of the conquests for example. To put it simple, as rulers of great empires, regardless of their religions, tend to seek to expand their lands and accumulate wealth, many of those who have played role in the Muslim conquests have done so for mere mundane reasons, For instance, during the Umayyads rule which we have described as being a result of the rule of the two first caliphs, many cases in which conversion to Islam was penalized by the Muslim governors have been reported. It is well documented that in Iraq, many peasants who had fallen behind with their tax payments, converted to Islam and abandoned their land for Arab garrison towns in hope of escaping taxation. Faced with a decline in agriculture and a treasury shortfall, the governor of Iraq al-Hajjaj forced peasant converts to return to their lands and subjected them to the taxes again, effectively forbidding them from converting to Islam. Among the sources reporting this issue is "Al-Mawaiz Wal-Itibar" by al-Maqrīzī.
Claude Cahen has mentioned in the “Encyclopaedia of Islam” that In Khorasan, a similar phenomenon forced the native aristocracy to compensate for the shortfall in tax collection out of their own pockets, and they responded by persecuting peasant converts and imposing heavier taxes on poor Muslims. Indeed, in many occasions the rules of Islam were not followed and many mistakes, wrongdoings and even crimes have been committed. Elaborating on this matter is beyond the scope of this article, however, one reference in the matter is the book written by Sheikh al-Kourani, that we talked about earlier, where he gave references of even some instances that included attacking some places without even calling their people to Islam!
Imam Ali (a.s.) talking about how the conquests have been wrongly attributed to the first two caliphs"!
Unlike what many people thinks, the birth of the partisans of Imam Ali or the Shiites of Imam Ali , happened during the life of the prophet, where some Sahaba (companions) became very close to Imam Ali and followed him as the second man in Islam, and this was a result of the many sayings of the prophet about Imam Ali’s position in Islam. Even the Sunni books report that the prophet himself named that group as the Shiites (followers of Ali). For instance, Ibn As'akir, a well known Sunni scholar, reported that Jabir bin Abdullah, the great companion of the prophet said:
"I was with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), then Ali came, and the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said "By whom my soul is in his hands, he (Ali) and his followers (Shia'teh) they are the winners on the day of judgement."
أخرج ابن عساكر عن جابر بن عبد الله قال كنا عند النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فأقبل علي فقال النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم : " والذي نفسي بيده إن هذا وشيعته لهم الفائزون يوم القيامة".
As the followers of Imam Ali activities involved spreading the information about the virtues of Imam Ali, and the vices of his enemies. The followers of the first two Caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, credited them with the success of Muslim conquests. Before providing elaborated evidences that contradict this claim, we will start by mentioning a great proof on the matter, which is a part of a letter written by imam Ali himself debunking the mentioned claim, where the famous Sunni scholar Ibn Abi al Hadid has mentioned the whole letter in his famous book Sharh Nahjul Balagha. Please note that the Imam started his letter by talking about the general position of the Arabs from the message of the prophet (S), where we know how they started to expel him and then, while the prophet was fighting the Maccans with the help of the Medinians (who were generally of Yemeni ancestors) he suffered a lot from the Hypocrites. Here is what Ibn Abi l-Hadid has mentioned:
Once Imam was asked:“Do you think if the Messenger (S) had a mature son, Arabs would hand the governorship over to him?”
Imam responded: “If he had done something different from what I did, he would have been killed.”
Arabs hated the matter of Muhammad (S) (i.e., Islam) and felt envious of what God had granted him… they have conspired and agreed among themselves since the time in which he was alive, to disentitle Ahl al-Bayt, ie the family of Muhammad, from their position of leadership, after his departure. Quraysh (The main Arab tribe in Mecca) found his name as a mean of domination and ladder of promotion and if not for this reason, they would never have worshipped God even one day after him and would become apostates..
A while after, conquests come one after another, no hunger and poverty remained after starvation and destitution. This led to popularity of Islam among them and many of them accepted Islam by heart and said, If it was not a true religion, it won't be like this.
Afterwards, these conquests were (wrongly) attributed to the strategy and thought of the rulers and the good planning and management of the emirs who were assigned to achieve them. .. Years passed this way, many people who know (the truth) died, and many people who don't know came into stage."
قال له قائل: يا أمير المؤمنين، أرأيت لو كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله ترك ولدا ذكرا قد بلغ الحلم، وآنس منه الرشد، أكانت العرب تسلم إليه أمرها ؟
قال: لا، بل كانت تقتله إن لم يفعل ما فعلت، إن العرب كرهت أمر محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم وحسدته على ما آتاه الله من فضله.. وأجمعت مذ كان حيا على صرف الأمر عن أهل بيته بعد موته، ولولا أن قريشا جعلت اسمه ذريعة إلى الرياسة، وسلما إلى العز والإمرة، لما عبدت الله بعد موته يوما واحدا،ولارتدت في حافرتها، وعاد قارحها جذعا، وبازلها بكرا.
ثم فتح الله عليها الفتوح، فأثرت بعد الفاقة، وتمولت بعد الجهد والمخمصة، فحسن في عيونها من الإسلام ما كان سمجاً، وثبت في قلوب كثير منها من الدين ما كان مضطربا، وقالت:
لولا أنه حق لما كان كذا، ثُمَّ نَسَبَتْ تِلْكَ الفُتُوحَ إِلى آراءِ وُلاتِها، وَحُسْنِ تَدْبيرِ الأُمَراءِ القائِمينَ بِها .. وَمَضَتِ السُّنونُ وَالأَحْقابُ بما فيها، وَماتَ كَثيرٌ مِمَّنْ يَعْرِفُ، وَنَشأَ كَثيرٌ مِمَّنْ لا يَعْرِفُ.
(شرح نهج البلاغة)
So Imam Ali explicitly debunks the claim regarding attributing the conquests to the first two Caliphs. Now addressing this point further, it's suitable at this point to talk briefly about how Imam Ali miraculously brought victories to Islam since the beginning.
Islam’s Miraculous Warrior: ImamAli (a.s.)
The talk about the battles of the prophet, is a talk about Imam Ali. "One of the distinctions of the Commander of the Faithful is that he accompanied the Prophet and was his standard-bearer in all Islamic battles except in the Battle of Tabuk, when he stayed in Madina and did not participate in jihad under the orders of the Prophet himself. The Prophet took this decision, because he knew very well that the hypocrites and some persons from amongst Quraysh were seeking an opportunity to bring about disorder and topple the newly established Islamic Government in his absence.
Tabuk was the farthest point to which the Prophet travelled in connection with the battles in which he participated. He realized perfectly that it was possible that during his absence anti-Islamic groups might create disturbance and might call their sympathizers from different places to join them for the success of their nefarious schemes. Hence,.. he also said to Ali:
"You are the guardian of the Ahl al-Bayt and my kinsfolk and the group of the Muhajirs, and none except myself and you is suited for this task".
The stay of the Commander of the Faithful in Madina upset the conspirators very much, because they realized that they could not put their schemes into practice in the presence of Ali who was continuously vigilant.
Hence, in order to ensure the exit of Ali from Madina, they decided upon another plan and circulated the rumour that the Prophet had asked Ali very earnestly to take part in jihad but the latter had declined to participate in this sacred battle on account of the very long journey and excessively hot weather. In order to contradict these people Ali saw the Prophet and placed the matter before him. At this moment the Prophet uttered his historical sentence which is a clear proof of Ali's Imamate and his immediate succession as Caliph after the demise of the Prophet. He said:
"O my brother! Return to Madina, because none is more suited to preserve the dignity and position of Madina than myself and you. You are my representative amongst the Ahl al-Bayt and my kinsfolk, my people and the land from which I migrate. Don't you feel happy when I say that your relationship with me is similar to the one which existed between Harun and Musa except that no prophet will come after me." (The Message, by Ayatullah Jafar Subhani).
الإرشاد: "ثم كانت غزاة تبوك، فأوحى الله عز اسمه إلى نبيه صلى الله عليه وآله: أن يسير إليها بنفسه، ويستنفر الناس للخروج معه، وأعلمه أنه لا يحتاج فيها إلى حرب، ولا يمني بقتال عدو، وأن الأمور تنقاد له بغير سيف، وتعيده بامتحان أصحابه بالخروج معه، واختبارهم ليتميزوا بذلك، وتظهر به سرائرهم، فاستنفرهم النبي صلى الله عليه وآله إلى بلاد الروم، وقد أينعت ثمارهم واشتد القيظ عليهم، فأبطأ أكثرهم عن طاعته، رغبة في العاجل، وحرصا على المعيشة وإصلاحها، وخوفا من شدة القيظ و بعد المسافة، ولقاء العدو، ثم نهض بعضهم على استثقال للنهوض، وتخلف آخرون ولما أراد النبي صلى الله عليه وآله الخروج استخلف أمير المؤمنين في أهله وولده وأزواجه ومهاجره، وقال: يا علي إن المدينة لا تصلح إلا بي أوبك، ودلك أنه صلى الله عليه وآله علم خبث نيات الاعراب، وكثير من أهل مكة ومن حولها ممن غزاهم وسفك دماءهم فأشفق أن يطلبوا المدينة عند نأيه عنها وحصوله ببلاد الروم أو نحوها فمتى لم يكن فيها من يقوم مقامه لم يؤمن من معرتهم وإيقاع الفساد في دار هجرته والتخطي إلى ما يشين أهله ومخلفيه، وعلم صلى الله عليه وآله أنه لا يقوم مقامه في إرهاب العدو وحراسة دار الهجرة وحياطة من فيها إلا أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام، فاستخلفه استخلافا ظاهرا.."
As we mentioned earlier, the conflicts between the Muslims and the Byzantines and the Persians started during the life of the Prophet. In this section we will talk about the wars with the Byzantines and the conquest the Levant, where as we mentioned, the Byzantines murdered the Muslim emissary sent by the Prophet, and as a result, there were the battles of Muata and then Tabouk, between the two sides, during the life of the prophet.
The Battle of Muata:
In September 629 C.E., the Battle of Mu'tah took place between Muslims and the forces of the Byzantine Empire. All three named commanders were martyred during the Battle, and Khalid Ibn al Waleed was selected as the commander. Despite the fake story of bravery of Khalid at this battle, there are many reports that the Muslims called him and his subordinate fugitives and accord them reception by throwing dust on their heads and faces, after they retreated from the battle. Ibn Sa'd writes: "At the time of retreat of the soldiers of Islam, the Roman soldiers pursed them and killed some of them".[ Tabaqat, vol. II, page 129].
The expedition of Usama:
1. An overview
Usāma b. Zayd's Army was the last army prepared by the order of Prophet Muhammad (s) to battle against the Romans. Because the army was led by Usama b. Zayd it became known as Jaysh Usama (the army of Usama). As a number of senior companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) (including Abu-Bakr and Umar) defied his command to send soldiers to battle, this army did not set out to face the enemy before the demise of Prophet (s). Shi'ite Muslims believe, Prophet Muhammad (s) had some purposes other than merely sending an army to war which were related to his appointing of Imam Ali as his successor.
It was mentioned that the first purpose of Prophet Muhammad (s) in sending Usama's army was to compensate the defeat of Muslims in the Battle of Muta in which three companions of Prophet Muhammad (s), Ja'far b. Abi Talib, 'Abd Allah b. Rawaha and Zayd b. Haritha (Usama's father) were martyred. It can be said that Usama was chosen as the commander of Muslims' army because of martyrdom of his father in that battle. On the other hand, sending such army by Prophet Muhammad (s) in the last days of his life had other reasons as well, including keeping the companions who were seeking caliphate away from Medina.
When Usama was appointed as the commander of the army, some companions showed their disapproval. Al-Tabari has reported from Ibn 'Abbas that hypocrites complained about the decision. In historical reports it is mentioned that 'Ayyash b. Abi Rabi'a al-Makhzumi was among the oppositions. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid mentioned that some Muslims disobeyed the order and Prophet Muhammad (s) denounced them. We will shortly elaborate on this point.
The reason of their disagreement was the young age of Usama, according to different historical reports he was about, 17, 18, 19 or at most 21. They told Prophet Muhammad (s): Do you appoint a young boy as our commander?
Muhajirun (the Emigrants) were the majority of troops of Usama's army. Ibn Ishaq said: "All the early Emigrants joined Usama's army. This statement is approved by Al-Waqidi and he added that no one from Muhajirun stayed in Medina as they all joined Usama's army." Some reports stated that the notable figures of Muhajirun and Ansar were asked to join the army as well.
The names of some of those who were asked to join the army were cited in historical sources including Abu Bakr, 'Umar b. al-Khattab and Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah. Ibn Kathir, a well-known historian excluded the name of Abu Bakr from those who were called to join the army. But this exclusion was not because of historical report, but as he supposed Abu Bakr was in charge of saying prayers instead of Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina, he could not have been asked to join the army. But how to prove that the prophet has authorized Abu Bakr of saying prayers instead of himself, while we have the Hadiths related to Him appointing Imam Ali as his successor.
Shahristani, the historian, writes in his book, Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal : “The Apostle of God said: 'Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him.'“
ibn Sa'ad reported in his Tabaqat that the prophet, while he was sick, sent an army including Abu Bakr and Umar, under the leadership of Usama ibn Zayd. But some people criticized the leadership of Usama because of his young age. When the prophet heard that, he ascended his Minbar and said: "Some of you people are criticizing Usama's leadership, you have already criticized the leadership of his father before. By Allah they are both competent for it. Usama is one of the most beloved persons to me so I entrust you to treat him well."
ذكر كاتب الواقدي تحت عنوان: " ذكر ما قاله رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم) في مرضه لأسامة بن زيد رحمه الله ". عن ابن عمر أن النبي (صلى الله عليه وسلم) بعث سرية فيهم أبو بكر وعمر واستعمل عليهم أسامة بن زيد فكان الناس طعنوا فيه - أي في صغره - فبلغ ذلك رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم) فصعد المنبر فحمد الله وأثني عليه وقال: إن الناس قد طعنوا في إمارة أسامة وقد كانوا قد طعنوا في إمارة أبيه من قبله وإنهما لخليقان لها وإنه لمن أحب الناس إلي ألا فأوصيكم بأسامة خيرا؟؟ ".
2. The Duty
Prophet Muhammad (s) gave two duties to Usama's army: one was to prepare the army rapidity and the other one was to plan a surprise attack against the Romans. According to historical sources, Prophet Muhammad (s) ordered the army to be prepare quickly for the battle and he told Usama: "Attack the enemies at dawn ... and move quickly to reach the enemies faster than the news."
It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (s) disagreed with some requests like Umm Ayman's to delay the launch of the army until Prophet (s) gets better. Prophet (s) constantly said: "Execute the order and set out Usama's army quickly."
Disobedience in Joining the Army:
Despite Prophet Muhammad's (s) order in hasty preparation of army, some not only did not prepare the army in Prophet's life, but they also delayed it for a month after his demise. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid described the situation and mentioned disobedience of Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. al-Khattab: "Prophet Muhammad (s) ordered Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. al-Khattab to join Usama's army but they refused and disobeyed; besides Prophet (s) was not aware of that. When he realized that Aisha and Hafsa, Prophet's wives, were trying that their fathers be chosen as the Imam (someone who leads the prayer) of congregational prayer in Medina, Prophet (s) noticed their absence in the army."
Launch of the Army to Syria in the Time of Abu Bakr:
When the prophet died, the companions returned to Medina and did not proceed to al-Sham, and during the reign of Abu Bakr, the army left for al-Sham without Abu Bakr and Umar, contrary to the orders of the prophet! Al-Tabari reported that Umar asked Abu Bakr to remove Usama from the commandment of the army. But Abu Bakr refused, pulled him from the beard and said:
"May your mother lose you, and may she be deprived of you as a son! He has been appointed by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and you still ask me to depose him?!"
ثكلتك أمك وعدمتك يا بن الخطاب استعمله رسول الله وتأمرني أن أنزعه؟
In his book “A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims”, Sayyid Ali Ashgar Razwy described the end of this long story by saying:
"At length Usama left Medina and marched toward the north at the head of his army minus Abu Bakr and Umar. But his army had lost its élan. He now perhaps did not know what to do, and returned to Medina after an absence of two months." And in his conclusion, he quoted Sir John Glubb, in his book The Great Arab Conquests, as saying: "In September 632, after two months' absence, Usama returned to Medina with plundered sheep and camels, though few details of his operations have been handed down to us. It appears that he raided Bedouin tribes rather than Byzantine troops!" ”.
The Continuation of the Wars with the Romans and the Conquests of the Levant after the Death of the Prophet:
We have seen earlier that the wars with the Romans have started since the life of the prophet (s). That is why it's strange to see that the first Caliph, Abu Bakr was hesitant about continuing the prophet mission of confronting the aggressive Byzantines and their allies. However, Imam Ali (a.s.) made it clear to him that if he is to invade them, then he would win. The famous history resource Tarikh Ya`qubi, wrote the following:
"Abu Bakr intended to wage war against the Romans so he consulted a group amongst the Sahabah of Rasulullah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, [but they differ among themselves regarding the Issue]. He then sought the opinion of `Ali ibn Abi Talib. `Ali suggested that he go ahead with the attack and said, “You will definitely be victorious if you do so.” Abu Bakr said, “Indeed you are a bearer of good news.”.
"أراد أبو بكر أن يغزو الروم فشاور جماعة من أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقدموا و أخروا فاستشار علي أبي طالب فأشار أن يفعل فقال إن فعلت ظفرت فقال بشرت بخير".
The Battle of Yarmouk:
The Battle of Yarmouk between the Muslim forces and the army of the Byzantine Empire is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history, and it marked the first great wave of early Muslim conquests after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, heralding the rapid advance of Islam into the then Christian Levant.
Most early accounts place the size of the Muslim forces between 24,000 and 40,000 and the number of Byzantine forces between 100,000 and 400,000.
Al Waqidi, in "Book of the Conquests of Syria", reported that when the commander of the Muslim Army saw that the number of the Byzantine forces was around 800000 soldiers he wrote to Omar who became so frightened, while the Muslims have almost surrendered and were collectively crying. Imam Ali, however, was so decisive and was full confidence of the victory, where he said that the prophet talked to him about the future and about this battle, which the prophet said be remembered forever, and a sign of Allah will appear in it.
Malik al Ashtar, the great follower of imam Ali has then came form Yemen and stayed in Imam Ali’s (a.s.) house, and along with him, Yemani forces came, and they all marched toward the Levant, where Malik played the decisive role in bringing the victory to the Muslims . His eye was split by a sword. Namely, its lower lid was split. Thus, he was called al-Ashtar.
في فتوح الشام : 1 / 177 : « قال الواقدي : حدثني من أثق به أن الأمير أبا عبيدة لما نظر إلى عساكر الروم معولة على قتاله ، كتب إلى عمر بن الخطاب كتاباً يقول فيه : بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم . إلى أمير المؤمنين عمر بن الخطاب من أبي عبيدة عامر بن الجراح عامله . سلام عليك ، فإني أحمد الله الذي لا إله إلا هو ، وأصلي على نبيه محمد ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) . واعلم يا أمير المؤمنين أن كلب الروم هرقل قد استفزَّ علينا كل من يحمل الصليب ، وقد سار القوم إلينا كالجراد المنتشر ، وقد نزلنا باليرموك بالقرب من أرض الرماة والخولان ، والعدو في ثمان مائة ألف مقاتل غير التبع وفي مقدمتهم ستون ألف من العرب المنتصرة من غسان ولخم وجذام . . . فلما فتح عمر الكتاب انتقع لونه وتزعزع كونه ، وقال : إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون ."
..ثم قال: ما تشيرون به علي رحمكم الله تعالى فقال له علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه: ابشروا رحمكم الله تعالى فإن هذه الوقعة يكون فيها آية من آيات الله تعالى يختبر بها عباده المؤمنين لينظر أفعالهم وصبرهم فمن صبر واحتسب كان عند الله من الصابرين واعلموا أن هذه الوقعة هي التي ذكرها لي رسول الله صلى الله ليه وسلم التي يبقى ذكرها إلى الأبد هذه الدائرة المهلكة فقال العباس على من هي يا ابن أخي فقال: يا عماه على من كفر بالله واتخذ معه ولدا فثقوا بنصر الله عز وجل ثم قال لعمر يا أمير المؤمنين اكتب إلى عاملك أبي عبيدة كتاباً وأعلمه فيه أن نصر الله خير له من غوثنا ونجدتنا فيوشك إنه في أمر عظيم."
وقال الواقدي أيضاً: ( 1 / 68 ) : "فما تمت أيام قلائل حتى جاء جمع من اليمن وعليهم عمرو بن معد يكرب الزبيدي يريد الشام ، فما لبثوا حتى أقبل مالك بن الأشتر النخعي فنزل عند الإمام علي ( عليه السلام ) بأهله ، وكان مالك يحب سيدنا علياً وقد شهد معه الوقائع وخاض المعامع في عهد رسول الله ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) وقد عزم على الخروج مع الناس إلى الشام ".