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BATTLES OF THE PROPHET SERIES
 

 THE  BATTLE OF MU'TAH

 

 

Excerpt from the book "The Battles Of The Prophet"
by Ibn Kathir as translated by Wa'il Abdul-Mut'aal Shihab

The author, Abu Al-Fida Imad Ad-Din Isma'il bin Umar bin Kathir Al-Qurashi Al-Busrawi was born in 1301 in Busra, Syria. Considered as one of the great Muslim scholars, Ibn Kathir wrote the famous Tafsir al-Quran al-Adhim, now popularly known as Tafsir Ibn Kathir. His other popular works include the 14-volume Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah (The Beginning and the End) - considered one of the most authoritative sources on Islamic history, and Al-Sira An-Nabawiyyah (Life of the Prophet.) The book Battles of the Prophet is a part of Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah. Ibn Kathir died in the year 774 AH (1373 CE).

According to the scholars of Siyrah, the battle of Mu'tah was in the 8th year of Hijra. ‘Urwah Ibn Al-Zubair said that the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent this expedition to Mu‘tah in Jumadah Al-Ula in the 8th year of Hijra and put Zaid Ibn Harithah in command and said,

"If Zaid were slain, then Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib was to take command, and if he were killed then 'Abdullah Ibn Rawahah."

 

People prepared themselves to set off. Their number was 3,000. When they were about to set off, they bade farewell to the Messenger‘s chiefs and saluted them.

 

Then, the people marched forth, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) accompanied them until he said farewell and returned.

 

They went on their way as far as Ma'an in Syria where they heard that Heraclius had come down to Ma'ab in the Balqa' with 100,000 Greeks joined by 100,000 men from Lakhm, Judham, Al-Qayn, Bahra and Bali. When the Muslims heard this they spent two nights at Ma'an pondering what to do. 'Abdullah Ibn Rawahah

        Map of Mu'tah, now in Modern Jordan

encouraged the men saying,

"Men, what you dislike is that which you have come out in search of, viz, martyrdom. We are not fighting the enemy with numbers, or strength or multitude, but we are confronting them with this religion with which Allah has honored us. So come on! Both prospects are fine: Victory or martyrdom." The men said, "By Allah Ibn Rawahah is right."

The people went forward until when they were on the borders of the Balqa’. The Greek and the Arab forces of Heraclius met them in a village called Masharif. When the enemy approached, the Muslims withdrew to a village called Mu'tah. There the forces met and the Muslims made their dispositions: the right wing led by Qutbah Ibn Qatadah of Banu ‘Udhrah, and the left wing by an Ansari called ‘Ubaya Ibn Malik.

When fighting began Zaid Ibn Harithah fought holding the Messenger's standard, until he died from loss of blood among the spears of the enemy. Then Ja‘far took it and fought with it until he was martyred. ‘Abdullah Ibn Rwahah took the standard and fought until he died a martyr.

In this context, Al-Bukhari narrated the following narrations:

Nafi‘ narrated that Ibn ‘Umar informed me that on the day (of Mu'tah) he stood beside Ja‘far who was dead (i.e., killed in the battle), and he counted fifty wounds in his body, caused by stabs or strokes, and none of those wounds was in his back.

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar said, "Allah‘s Messenger appointed Zaid Ibn Harithah as the commander of the army during the Ghazwah of Mu'tah and said,

'If Zaid is martyred, Ja‘far should take over his position, and if Ja‘far is martyred, 'Abdullah Ibn Rawahah should take over his position. '"'

Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) further said, "I was present amongst them in that battle and we searched for Ja‘far Ibn Abi Talib and found his body amongst the bodies of the martyred ones, and found over ninety wounds over his body, caused by stabs or shots (of arrows).”

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had informed the people of the martyrdom of Zaid, Ja‘far and Ibn Rawahah before the news of their death reached. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

'Zaid took the flag (as the commander of the army) and was martyred, then Ja‘far took it and was martyred, and then Ibn Rawahah took it and was martyred.'

At that time, the Prophet's eyes were shedding tears. He added,

"Then the flag was taken by a sword amongst the Swords of Allah (i.e., Khalid) and Allah made them (i.e., the Muslims‘) victorious. ’”

‘Amrah said, "I heard ‘Aishah saying, ‘When the news of the martyrdom of Ibn Harithah, Ja’far Ibn Abi Talib and ‘Abdullah Ibn Rawahah reached, Allah's Messenger sat with sorrow explicit on his face.” ‘Aishah added, “I was then peeping through a chink in the door. A man came to him and said, ‘O Allah's Messenger! The women of Ja’far are crying. ‘There upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him to forbid them to do so. So the man went away and returned saying, ‘I forbade them but they did not listen to me. ‘The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered him again to go (and forbid them). He went again and came saying, ‘By Allah, they overpowered me (i.e., did not listen to me).” ‘Aishah said, “Allah's Messenger said (to him),

'Go and throw dust into their mouths.'”

‘Aishah added, “l said, ‘May Allah put your nose in the dust! By Allah, neither have you done what you have been ordered, nor have you relieved Allah's Messenger from trouble."'

‘Amir said that whenever Ibn ‘Umar greeted the son of Ja‘far, he used to say (to him), "Assalam 'Alaika (i.e., peace be on you), O the son of two-winged person."

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "On the day (of the battle of) Mu'tah, nine swords were broken in my hand, and nothing was left in my hand except a Yemenite sword of mine."

FROM THE BOOK:

"THE SWORD OF ALLAH: KHALID BIN AL-WALEED

A Biographical Study of One of the Greatest Military Generals in History" by A.I. Akram

 

Spirits were high as the expeditionary force began its march from Madinah. When the force arrived at Ma'an, reports were received for the first time that Heraclius, the Eastern Roman Emperor, was in Jordan with "100,000 Romans" and had been joined by "100,000 Christian Arabs"-mainly from the Ghassan. The Muslims remained in Ma'an for two days debating their next move. There was a certain amount of hesitation and nervousness. Some suggested that the Prophet be informed of the large strength of the enemy so that he could give them fresh orders on what course of action they should adopt; but Abdullah bin Rawahah (the third-in-command) did not agree with this suggestion, as it would entail unnecessary delay and would give the impression that the Muslims were afraid. He recited a few verses and made a stirring speech to raise the spirits of the men. He concluded by saying, "Men fight not with numbers or weapons but with faith. By going into battle we have a choice of two glorious alternatives: victory and martyrdom." This speech dispelled all doubt from the minds of the Muslims, and they promptly resumed their march towards Syria.

The Muslims reached a place near the frontier of Balqa-a district in the east of what is now Jordan-where they made contact with a large force of Christian Arabs. Not finding this place suitable for battle, the Muslim commander withdrew his force to Mutah. The Christian Arabs followed the Muslims, and the two forces again met at Mutah. Both sides now decided to fight. It was the second week of September 29 (the third week of Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 8 Hijri).

Zaid deployed his force in the normal pattern of a centre and two wings. The right wing was commanded by Qutba bin Qatadah and the left wing by Ubaya bin Malik. Zaid himself commanded the centre, and in the centre, too, was Khalid. The battlefield lay to the east of, and stretched up to about a mile from, the present village of Mutah. The ground here was even, but had a slight undulation, and the gentle slope of a low ridge rose behind the Muslims as they faced the Christian Arabs to the north.

The battle began, and both armies very quickly got to grips with each other. This was essentially a battle of guts and stamina rather than military skill. The commander himself fought at the head of his men with his standard, and after a short while Zaid was killed. As the standard fell from his hands, the second-in-command, Jafar, picked it up and continued fighting at the head of the army. After his body had been covered with scores of wounds, Jafar also fell; and the standard went down for the second time. This distressed the Muslims, for Jafar was held in great esteem and affection as a cousin of the Prophet. A certain amount of confusion became noticeable among the Muslims, but soon the third-in-command, Abdullah bin Rawahah, picked up the standard and restored order. He continued to fight until he also was killed.

Now there was real disorder in the ranks of the Muslims. A few of them fled from the scene of battle, but stopped not far from the battlefield. Others continued to offer confused resistance in twos and threes and larger groups. Fortunately the enemy did not press his advantage, for had he done so the Muslims, without a commander, could easily have been routed. Perhaps the gallantry of the Muslim commanders and the valour with which the Muslims had fought made the enemy overcautious and discouraged him from taking bold action.

When Abdullah had fallen, the standard was picked up by Thabit bin Arqam, who raised his voice and shouted, "O Muslims, agree upon a man from among you to be the commander." He then spied Khalid, who stood next to him, and offered him the standard. Khalid was conscious of the fact that as a new convert he did not hold a high position among the Muslims, and Thabit bin Arqam was a Muslim of long standing. This consideration was important. He declined the offer of Thabit, saying: "You are more deserving than I" "Not I," replied Thabit, "and none but you!" This was really a windfall for the Muslims, for they knew of the personal courage and military ability of Khalid. They all agreed to his appointment, and Khalid took the standard and assumed command.

The situation now was serious and could easily have taken a turn for the worse, leading, rapidly to the total defeat of the Muslims. The commanders before Khalid had shown more valour than judgement in fighting this battle. Khalid regained control over his small army and organized it into a neatly deployed fighting force. He was faced with three choices. The first was to withdraw and save the Muslims from destruction, but this might be regarded as a defeat and he would then be blamed for having brought disgrace to Muslim arms. The second was to stay on the defensive and continue fighting; in this case the superior strength of the enemy would eventually tell and the battle end in defeat. The third was to attack and throw the enemy off balance, thus gaining more time in which to study the situation and plan the best course of action. The last choice was closest to the nature of Khalid, and this is the course that he adopted.

The Muslims attacked fiercely along the entire front. They surged forward with Khalid in the lead. The example of Khalid gave fresh courage to the Muslims, and the battle increased in violence. For some time desperate hand?to?hand fighting continued; then Qutba, commanding the Muslim right, dashed forward and killed the Christian commander, Malik, in a duel. This resulted in a setback for the enemy and led to, a certain amount of confusion. The Christian Arabs now pulled back, still fighting, with a view to gaining time for reorganization. At this moment Khalid had his tenth sword in his hand, having broken nine in fierce combat.

As the Christian Arabs stepped back, Khalid restrained the Muslims and broke contact, pulling his force back a short distance. The two armies now faced each other out of bow range, both seeking time to rest and reorganize. This last round of the battle had ended in favour of the Muslims of whom so far only 12 had been killed. There is no record of enemy casualties but they must have been considerable, for each of the Muslim commanders before Khalid was a brave and skilful fighter and the nine swords that Khalid broke were broken on the bodies of Christian Arabs. The situation, however, offered no further prospect of success. Khalid had averted a shameful and bloody defeat and saved the Muslims from disgrace and disaster; he could do no more. That night Khalid withdrew his army from Mutah and began his return journey to Madinah.

The news of the return of the expedition preceded it at Madinah, and the Prophet and those Muslims who had remained in Madinah set out to meet the returning soldiers. The Muslims were in an ugly temper, for never since the Battle of Uhud had a Muslim force broken contact with the enemy and left him in possession of the battlefield. As the army arrived among the Muslims, they began to throw dust into the faces of the soldiers.

"O you who have fled!" they cried. "You have fled from the way of Allah." The Prophet restrained them and said, "They have not fled. They shall return to fight, if Allah wills it."  Then the Prophet raised his voice and shouted, "Khalid is the Sword of Allah."

Later the resentment against Khalid died down, and the Muslims realised the wisdom, judgement and courage which he had shown in the Battle of Mutah. And the name stuck to Khalid. He now became known as Saifullah, i.e. Sword of Allah. When the Prophet gave Khalid this title, he virtually guaranteed his success in future battles.

Some historians have described the battle of Mutah as a victory for the Muslims; others have called it a defeat. As a matter of fact it was neither. It was a drawn battle; but drawn in favour of the Christians, for the Muslims withdrew from the battlefield and left it in possession of their opponents. It was not a big battle; it was not even a very important one. But it gave Khalid an opportunity to show his skill as an independent commander; and it gained him the title of the Sword of Allah.

 

Battle of Mu'tah (غزوة مؤتة)

Date

September 629 (Jumadah Al-Ula 8 AH)

Location

Mu'tah in Kerak GovernorateJordan

Belligerents

Muslims From Madinah

Byzantine Empire,
Ghassanids

Commanders and leaders

Jafar bin Abi Talib KIA,
Zayd ibn Haritha KIA,
Abdullah ibn Rawahah KIA,
Khalid ibn al-Walid

Theodore,
Heraclius,
Shurahbil ibn Amr

Strength

3,000 [1][2]

100,000-200,000 [2]

Casualties and losses

12 soldiers [1]

Approx 3,000 soldiers [1]

[1] - Saif-ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri, ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoom, "The Sealed Nectar", Islamic University of Medina, Dar-us-Salam publishers

[2] -  General A. I. Akram, The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin Al-Waleed, Chapter 6

 

OTHER BATTLES:

The Great Battle of Badar

The Battle of Uhud

The Battle of the Trench

The Battle of Banu Quraisha

The Battle of Khaibar

 

 
     

   

 

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