APOSTASY AND REBELLION CRUSHED IN OTHER
PARTS OF THE PENINSULA
11 A.H. / 632-633 A.D.
WHILE Khalid thus pursued his victorious career from the North to the Centre of Arabia, the various columns despatched by Abu Bekr were engaged with the apostate and rebellious tribes in other parts of the Peninsula. The opposition there was not less stubborn; and the success, though in many quarters slow and even at times doubtful, was in the end complete.
Beyond Al-Yemama, and skirting the Persian Gulf between Al-Katif and 'Oman, lie the two desert provinces of Hejer and Al-Bahrein. Al-Mundhir, their Christian chief, had adopted Islam and recognising the suzerainty of the Prophet had received Al-'Ala as Resident at his Court. But Al-Mundhir died shortly after Mohammad, and the Province went into rebellion. Al-'Ala fled, but was sent back with a strong force to reclaim the apostate people. The brilliant campaign of Khalid had just then struck terror into the neighbouring country; and so, as he passed near the borders of Al-Yemama, Al-'Ala was joined by contingents from many chiefs anxious thus to prove their loyalty. A scion of the Hira dynasty hostile to Islam had succeeded Al-Mundhir, and Al-'Ala found him so well supported that, even thus strengthened, he had to entrench his army and content himself with single combats and indecisive skirmishes. At last, finding through his spies that the enemy were in a festive and drunken state, he overwhelmed them unexpectedly and took their Prince a prisoner. The discomfited host fled by ship to Darin, an island near the coast, whither they were
again pursued and put utterly to the sword. The spoil was prodigious, and so was the multitude of women and children taken captive.
On the Prophet's death tradition ceases to indulge in the miraculous; but this expedition forms a singular exception. As the column marching from Medina reached the waterless zone of Dahna, it had nearly perished by long-protracted thirst; when in the last extremity, water suddenly shining in the horizon man and beast hurried joyfully on to slake their thirst at an extensive lake. No spring had been ever seen in that wilderness before; nor was the miraculous lake ever found again. Shortly after, while pursuing the apostate host to the isle of Darin, a second miracle parted the waves, and the Muslims after a wild invocation of the Deity, rushed on and crossed the strait, as it had been a shallow beach. A pious bard has likened the passage to that of the Israelites through the Red Sea, and a monk is said to have been converted by the double miracle of waters breaking out in the wilderness, and waters drying up in the channel of the great deep.
While thus engaged, Al-'Ala received material help from loyal followers along the coast. Amongst those who aided in this work was Al-Muthanna, a chief of great influence amongst the Bekr clans; following up the victory of Al-'Ala along the Persian Gulf, this warrior in his progress from Hejer northwards, reached at last the delta of the Euphrates, where he inaugurated a fresh movement that will shortly engage attention.
The reduction of the important province of 'Oman followed close on that of Al-Bahrein. Its Prince had recently tendered allegiance to Mohammad. 'Amr was thereupon deputed as Resident, and the tithes were, by reason of the distance, given up to the local poor. Notwithstanding this concession, Mohammad was no sooner dead than the people, led by a rebel who claimed to be a prophet, rebelled. The Prince fled to the mountains, and 'Amr to Medina. The task of reclaiming 'Oman and the adjoining province of Mahra was committed by Abu Bekr to Hodheifa, a convert of influence in those parts. He was assisted by 'Ikrima, sent, as we have seen by Abu Bekr, to retrieve his reputation in this distant quarter. Arrived in 'Oman, they
effected a junction with the loyal Prince.
An engagement followed, in which the Muslims, hard pressed, were near to suffering defeat, when a strong column from the tribes recently reclaimed in Al-Bahrein appeared on the field and turned the battle in their favour. The slaughter amongst the enemy was great, and the women placed in the rear to nerve their courage, fell a welcome prize into the believers' hands. The mart of Daba, enriched by Indian merchandise, yielded a magnificent booty, and there was at once despatched to Medina the royal fifth of slaves and plunder.
Hodheifa was left behind as governor of'Oman. 'Ikrima, having thus reached the easternmost point of Arabia, turned to the south-west; and with an army daily swelled by levies from repentant tribes, pursued his victorious course to Mahra. This province was at the moment distracted by a breach between two rival chiefs. Espousing the cause of the weaker, who at once avowed the Faith, 'Ikrima attacked the other and achieved a great victory. Among the spoil were 2000 Bactrian camels and a vast supply of arms and beasts of burden. This quarter of the Peninsula quickly subdued and restored to order, 'Ikrima, now in great strength, advanced as he had been instructed, to join Al-Muhajir in the campaign against Hadramaut and the Yemen. But we must first take note of how things stood after the death of Mohammad nearer home, in the west and south of the Peninsula.
While the towns of Mecca and At-Taif remained tolerably secure, the country round about was rife with violence and misrule. Hordes from the lawless tribes, ready as ever for plunder and rapine, hovered close even to the Holy City. They were attacked by the Governor, and dispersed with slaughter. Order was restored by a body of 500 men quartered within the sacred limits, and by pickets throughout the neighbourhood. But from thence all the way to the Yemen, nothing was to be seen save turmoil and alarm. Troops of bandits, remnants of the false prophet's army, ravaged Nejran ; and the loyal adherents of Islam were fain to fly to mountain fastnesses. The Tihama, or long strip of land skirting the shore of the Red Sea, was overrun by bands of Bedawin robbers, stopping all communication between the north and south. An army at length cleared the country of these robbers,so effectually indeed, that the
roads became again for a time impassable, but now only from the offensive mass of carcases strewn upon them.
Peace in the Yemen was not so easily restored. The "Veiled Prophet" Aswad had been recently assassinated by conspirators in the interest of Mohammad1. These were Keis ibn Mekshuh an Arab chief, and two others of Persian descent, Feiruz and Daduweihi, into whose hands the government of San'a fell. The tidings reaching Medina just after Mohammad's death, Abu Bekr appointed Feiruz to be his lieutenant. The Arab blood of Keis ibn Mekshuh rebelled against serving under a Persian, and he plotted to expel the whole body of foreign immigrants. To effect this, he called in the aid of 'Amr ibn Ma'dikerib, a famous poet and influential chief who, having like others cast off the Faith, ravaged the country with remnants of the false prophet's army. Daduweihi was treacherously slain by this 'Amr at a feast, but Feiruz escaped, and after much hardship secured his retreat with a friendly tribe. For a time Keis ibn Mekshuh carried all before him. The family of Feiruz was taken captive, and the Persian settlers, pursued in every direction, fled to the mountains, or took ship from Aden. Feiruz appealed to Medina; but it was long before the Caliph had any men to send. So Feiruz cast about for himself, and at length, by the aid of loyal tribes, put the troops of Keis ibn Mekshuh to flight, regained possession of his family and reoccupied San'a.
But more effectual help was now approaching. On one side was Al-Muhajir. Appointed by the Prophet his lieutenant in Hadramaut, he had been detained by sickness at Medina, perhaps also by inability earlier to obtain following.
Last of the Commanders to take the field, it was probably ten or twelve months after the Prophet's death before he marched south, and, joined on the way by loyal tribes, approached the disturbed country at the head of a substantial force. On the other hand, 'Ikrima, with an ever-growing army, advanced from the east. Hastening to meet Al-Muhajir he, for the present, left Hadramaut aside and passed rapidly on towards Aden. Alarmed at the gathering storm, Keis and 'Amr joined their forces to oppose Al-Muhajir. But soon quarrelling, they parted, sending each
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 479.
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 479.
other, after Arab wont, lampoons in bitter verse. Opposition being now vain, 'Amr sought by an unworthy stratagem to gain his safety. Making a night attack on Keis, he carried him prisoner to Al-Muhajir; but he had forgotten a safe-conduct for himself. Al-Muhajir, therefore, seized both, and sent them in chains to Medina. The Caliph was at first minded to put 'Amr to death because of the murder of Daduweihi, but he denied the crime, and there was no evidence to prove it. "Art thou not ashamed," said Abu Bekr to him, "that following the rebel cause, thou art ever either a fugitive or in bonds? Hadst thou been a defender of the Faith instead, then had the Lord raised thee above thy fellows." "So assuredly it is," replied the humbled chief; "I will embrace the faith, and never again desert it." The Caliph forgave them; and his clemency was not abused, for we find both these gallant and unscrupulous chiefs soon after fighting loyally in the Persian war. After this, the Yemen was speedily reduced to order, and Al-Muhajir was at liberty to pursue his march to Hadramaut.
The government of the great southern province of Hadramaut was held with difficulty during the protracted absence of Al-Muhajir by one Ziyad, who aroused the hatred of its occupants the Beni Kinda, by exacting from them the tithe but with the support of some still loyal clans he was able to hold his place. In one of his raids Ziyad having carried off the families of a vanquished tribe, Al-Ash'ath ibn Keis, chief of the Beni Kinda, was moved by their cries and, having gathered a strong force, fell upon Ziyad and rescued the captives. It is the same Al-Ash'ath who, when tendered homage to Mohammad, betrothed to himself the sister of Abu Bekr1. Now compromised, he went into active rebellion, and roused the whole country against Ziyad who, surrounded by the enemy, despatched an urgent summons for Al-Muhajir to hasten to his deliverance.
By this time Al-Muhajir and 'Ikrima, marching respectively from Sana and Aden, had effected a junction at Ma'rib, and were crossing the sandy desert which lay between them and Hadramaut. Receiving the message, Al-Muhijir set off in haste with a flying squadron and, joined by Ziyad, fell upon Al-Ash'ath and discomfited him with great slaughter.
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 463.
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 463.
The routed enemy fled for refuge to a stronghold, which Al-Muhajir immediately invested. 'Ikrima soon came up with the main body, and there were now troops enough both to besiege the city and ravage the country around. Stung at witnessing the ruin of their kindred, and preferring death to dishonour, the garrison sallied forth and fought the Muslims in the plain. After a desperate struggle, in which the approaches were filled with bodies of the dead, they were driven back. Meanwhile, Abu Bekr, apprised of their obstinate resistance, sent orders to make an example of the rebels and give no quarter. The wretched garrison, with the enemy daily increasing and no prospect of relief, were now bereft of hope. Seeing the position desperate, the wily Al-Ash'ath made his way to 'Ikrima, and treacherously agreed to deliver up the fortress if nine lives were guaranteed. The Muslims entered, slew the fighting men, and took the women captive. When Al-Ash'ath presented the list of nine to be spared"Thy name is not here!" cried Al-Muhajir, exultingly; for the craven traitor had forgotten in the excitement of the moment to enter his own name;"The Lord be praised, who hath condemned thee out of thine own mouth." So, having cast him into chains, he was about to order his execution when 'Ikrima interposed and induced him, much against his will, to refer the case to Abu Bekr. The crowd of captive women, mourning the massacre of their sons and husbands, loaded the recreant as he passed by with bitter imprecation.
Arrived at Medina, the Caliph abused him as a pusillanimous wretch who had neither the power to lead, nor yet the courage to defend, his people, and threatened him with death. But at last, moved by his appeal to the terms agreed upon by 'Ikrima, and by protestation that he would thenceforth fight bravely for the Faith, Abu Bekr not only forgave but allowed him to fulfil the marriage contract with his sister. Al-Ash'ath remained for a while in idleness at Medina, and the Caliph would say that one of the few things he repented of, was having weakly spared the rebel's life. But afterwards Al-Ash'ath went forth to the wars, and as we shall see, effectually redeemed his name.
Thus, in this the last province of the Peninsula, rebellion was finally crushed and the reign of Islam completely re-established.
Al-Muhajir elected to remain in the Yemen, where he shared the government with Feiruz. Ziyad continued to administer Hadramaut.
A curious story is told of a lady whom 'Ikrima married at Aden, and carried with him in his camp. She had been betrothed to Mohammad, but the marriage had not been completed. The soldiers murmured, and questioned the propriety of 'Ikrima's marriage. Al-Muhajir referred the matter to Abu Bekr, who decided that there was nothing wrong in the proceeding, as Mohammad had never fulfilled his contract with the damsel1.
I should not here omit to mention the fate of two songstresses in the Yemen, who were accused, one of satirising the Prophet, the other of ridiculing the Muslims, in their songs. Al-Muhajir had the hands of both cut off; and also (to stay their singing for the future) their front teeth pulled out. The Caliph, on hearing of it, approved the punishment of the first; for, said he, "Crime against the Prophet is not as crime against a common man; and, indeed, had the case been first referred to me, I should, as a warning to others, have directed her execution." But he disapproved the mutilation of the other.
As a rule Abu Bekr was mild in his judgments, and even generous to a fallen and submissive foe. But there were, as we have seen, exceptions. On one occasion the treachery of a rebel chief irritated him to an act of barbarous cruelty. Al-Fuja'a, a leader of some note, under pretence of fighting against the insurgents in his neighbourhood, obtained from the Caliph arms and accoutrements for his band. Thus equipped, he abused the trust, and becoming a freebooter, attacked and plundered alike Muslim and apostate. Abu Bekr thereupon wrote letters to a loyal chief in that quarter to go against the brigand. Hard pressed, Al-Fuja'a challenged his adversary to a parley, and asserted that he held a commission as good as his. "If thou speakest true," answered the other, "lay aside thy weapons and accompany me to Abu Bekr." He did so, but no sooner did he appear at Medina, than the Caliph, enraged at his treachery, cried aloud "Go forth with this traitor to the
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 390.
She was brought to the Prophet for her beauty, who finding some blemmish,
sent her home. Tab. i. 2012 f.
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 390. She was brought to the Prophet for her beauty, who finding some blemmish, sent her home. Tab. i. 2012 f.
burial-ground, and there burn him with fire." So, hard by the graveyard of the City they gathered wood, and, heaping it together at the place of prayer, kindled the pile and cast Al-Fuja'a on it. If the charges were well founded, which we have no ground for doubting, Al-Fuja'a deserved the fate of a bandit; but to cast him alive into the flames was a savage act, for which Abu Bekr was sorry afterwards, and used to say"It is one of the three things which I would I had not done."
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