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Battle of Ullais
Part of Muslim conquest of Persia
Zoom out map for battle of Ullais-mohammad adil rais.PNG
Overview of the region where the Battle of Ullais was fought, showing the river Euphrates and its tributary the Khaseef (Iraq).
Date May 633 A.D
Location Iraq
Result Decisive Rashidun Caliphate Victory.
Belligerents
Rashidun Caliphate Sassanid Persian Empire
Arab allies.
Commanders
Khalid ibn al-Walid Jaban†
Abdul-Aswad†
Abjar†.
Strength
15,000[1] 70,000
(primary sources)[2]
30,000 - 35,000
(modern estimates)[3]
Casualties and losses
~2000 Entire army[4][5]

The Battle of Ullais was fought between the forces of the Rashidun Caliphate and the Sassanid Persian Empire in the middle of May 633 A.D in Iraq, and is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Blood River since, as a result of the battle, there were enormous amounts of Sassanian and Arab Christian casualties. It was the last of four consecutive battles that were fought between invading Muslims and the Persian army. These battles resulted in the retreat of the Sassanid Persian army from Iraq and its capture by Muslims under the Rashidun Caliphate.

Contents

Background

After defeat at the Battle of Walaja Christian Arab survivors of the battle fled from the battlefield, crossed the River Khaseef (a tributary of the Euphrates)[6] and moved between it and the Euphrates. Their flight ended at Ullais, about 10 miles from the location of the Battle of Walaja. The Muslims were aware of the presence of hostile Arabs at Ullais but, as they were less numerous and were survivors of Walaja, they never considered them a military threat until they started to regroup and the Muslim commander Khalid ibn Walid was informed about the arrival of more Arab hordes, mainly from the Christian Arab tribe of Bani Bakr. More reinforcements were raised from the Christian Arab tribes in the region between Al-Hirah and Ullais. The Rashidun Caliphate army under Khalid crossed the river Khaseef and approached Ullais frontally.[7] Emperor Ardsheer meanwhile sent orders to Bahman to proceed to Ullais and take command of Arab contingents there and stop the Muslims advance at Ullais. Bahman sent his senior general Jaban with the imperial army to Ullais with orders to avoid battle until Bahman himself arrived.[8] As Jaban set off with the army, Bahman returned to Ctesiphon to discuss certain matters with the Emperor. He arrived at Ctesiphon to find Emperor Ardsheer very ill and remained in attendance on him. By now the Persians and Arabs had realised that the Muslims' objective was Al-Hirah. They decided to fight and defeat the Muslims army . The Christian Arab contingents were under the command of a tribal chief called Abdul-Aswad, who had lost his two sons in the Battle of Walaja against the Muslims.

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The battle

One of the Muslim commanders, Misna bin Haris[9], advanced with the light cavalry scouts to the Ullais and informed the Muslim commander in chief Khalid ibn Walid of the location of the hostile Arabs. Khalid tried to reach Ullais before the Sassanid army could reinforce them, in order to avoid a battle with an army that would heavily outnumbered his own; however he failed to do so. In order to deny the Persians time to organize and to coordinate their plans, Khalid decided to fight the battle that very same day.

According to modern geography the battlefield lies 25 miles south-east of the Iraqi city of Najaf, and about 4 miles south-west of modern Ash Sinafiyah.[10]

The Sassanid army and Christian Arabs contingents were camped side by side with the Euphrates to their left, the Khaseef[11] to their right and the river junction behind them. Muslim commander in chief Khalid ibn Walid arrayed his army in battle formation, appointing Adi ibn Hatim (who was a the son of a the Famous Arab Christian Leader Hatim At Tai and a former Christian) as commander of the right wing and Asim ibn Amr commander of the left wing. Information of the Rashidun Caliphate army's advance reached Jaban a little before midday. It was mealtime[12 ] and the Persian soldiers were to take their meal, but the Sassanian troops abstained from food so as to "display their toughness" to the Muslims.

The site of the Battle of Ullais, showing Muslim army (in red) and Sassanid army (in blue).

Jaban arranged the Sassanid army in great haste before the Muslims could arrive, appointing the Christian Arabs to form the wings of his army, with the tribal chief Abdul-Aswad commanding the right wing and the tribal chief Abjar commanding the left wing. The center was formed by the Imperial army. The battlefield ran south-east of Ullais between the Euphrates and Khaseef. The Persian army was deployed with its back to Ullais, while in front of it was arrayed the Rashidun Caliphate army. The northern flank of both armies rested on the Euphrates and their southern flank on the river Khaseef, a distance of about 2 miles.

Details of the manoeuvres used by Khalid are not recorded by history. Muslim commander in chief Khalid ibn Walid killed the Christian Arab tribal chief Abdul-Aswad in a duel. The fighting was heaviest on the bank of the Khaseef. It is mentioned in Muslim chronicles that If ever an army meant to fight it out to the last, it was the imperial army of Ullais. The fierce battle continued for hours; no signs of weakness were shown on either side. It is said in the Muslim chronicles that, seeing no opening, no weakening of the Persian and Arab resistance, the Muslim commander in chief Khalid ibn Walid, tired, angry, and frustrated prayed to Allah:

"O Lord! If You give us victory, I shall see that no enemy warrior is left alive until their river runs with their blood!"

.

Early in the afternoon the Sassanid Persian army and Arab allies, unable to withstand the veteran Muslim army, retreated finally to the north-west in the direction of Al-Hirah. Khalid ibn Walid launched his cavalry after it, with orders to capture them.[12 ] Muslim cavalry broke the desperate Persians and Arabs into several isolated groups and surrounded, overpowered, and disarmed them. Then they drove them back to the battlefield, where every man was beheaded in the river bed or on the bank and his blood ran into the river. The pursuit by the Muslim cavalry, the capture and return of the Persian and Arab warriors, and their killing in the river went on for the rest of that day and the whole of that night and the whole of the next day and part of the next.[13] In the river Khaseef the blood was still not flowing, as Khalid had pledged, until on the advice of Qa'qa ibn Amr, one of the commanders of the Muslim army, Khalid ordered the dam on the river to be opened. The river then flowed with blood, and it became known as the River of Blood.[14]

Aftermath

On the following day Khalid entered into a pact with the local inhabitants of the district. They would pay the Jizya and come under Muslim protection. After the battle, a fine tribute was given by Khalid to the Sassanid Persian army. He said:

At Mutah I broke nine swords in my hand. But I have never met an enemy like the Persians. And among the Persians I have never met an enemy like the army of Ullais.

The Persian emperor Ardsheer lay dying, and the empire was unable to send more armies to retake Iraq. The capital city of Hira was captured. This was quickly followed by the conquest of Al-Anbar and the successful siege of Ein-al-Tamr. With the fall of the main cities the whole of southern and central Iraq came under Muslim control. In 634 A.D Abu Bakr ordered Khalid ibn Walid to proceed to Syria with half of his army to command the invasion of the Byzantine Empire. Misna bin Haris was left as the successor of Khalid. The Persians, under their new emperor Yazdgerd III, concentrated new armies and defeated the Muslims in the Battle of the Bridge, and recaptured Iraq. The second invasion of Iraq was undertaken under Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās who, after defeating the Sassanid army at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah in 636 A.D, captured Ctesiphon. This was followed by the whole scale invasion[15] of the Sassanid Persian Empire.[15]

References

  1. ^ Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 554
  2. ^ Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 562.
  3. ^ The Sword of Allah”: Chapter no: Chapter 26: The Last Opposition, page no:5 by Lieutenant-General Agha Ibrahim Akram, Nat. Publishing. House, Rawalpindi (1970) ISBN 978-0-7101-0104-4.
  4. ^ Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 561-562
  5. ^ The Sword of Allah”: Chapter no: Chapter 22, by Lieutenant-General Agha Ibrahim Akram, Nat. Publishing. House, Rawalpindi (1970) ISBN 978-0-7101-0104-4.
  6. ^ Tabari Vol. 2, P. 560
  7. ^ Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 562
  8. ^ Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 560.
  9. ^ also spelled as Muthanna bin Harith
  10. ^ The Sword of Allah”: Chapter no: Chapter 22: page no:1 by Lieutenant-General Agha Ibrahim Akram, Nat. Publishing. House, Rawalpindi (1970) ISBN 978-0-7101-0104-4.
  11. ^ One of the Tributary of Euphrates
  12. ^ a b Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 561
  13. ^ Ibid.
  14. ^ Ibid: Vol. 2, pp. 561-2
  15. ^ a b See:Islamic conquest of Persia.
  • A.I. Akram, The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin al-Waleed, His Life and Campaigns, Nat. Publishing. House, Rawalpindi (1970) ISBN 0-7101-0104-X.

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