Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Arab Women at Yarmuk - A Battle that Changed the World

Moment of Battle – The Twenty Clashes that Changed the World, by James Lacey and Williamson Murray (Random House, 2013) p. 112-115

Yarmuk – The Islamic Conquest Beings 636

“In 629, the Prophet Muhammad, taking advantage of a truce between himself and his mortal enemies, the Quraysh tribe, took time to send a series of ultimatums to the kings of Persia, Yeman, and Ethiopia and the Byzantine emperor Heracles:

‘Peace be upon him, he who follows the right path. Furthermore I invite thee to Islam; become a Muslim and thou shalt be safe, and God will double thy reward, and thou reject this invitation, thou shalt bear the sins of persecuting Arians.’

The Battle of Yarmuk began on August 15, 636

“Believing his men would be reluctant to abandon their wives and children to Byzantine mercy, he ordered them to pitch camp directly behind the Arab battle formation. As the women arrayed themselves, Abu Ubaidah visited the various camps, giving instructions to the women: ‘Take tent poles in your hands and gather heaps of stones. If we win all is well. But if you see a Muslim running away from battle, strike him in the face with a tent pole, pelt him with stones…’ The women prepared accordingly.”

“…On the third Slavic charge, the Arab line broke. An Arab cavalry charge slowed the Byzantine pursuit just long enough to give the retreating Arabs time to reach their camp. Here they encountered something more fearsome than the Slavs – their own wives….the women screamed curses in an attempt to shame the fleeing Arab force. When this failed to stem the Arab flight, the women assaulted them, as they had been instructed, with stones and tent poles. ‘This was more than the proud warriors could take. Indignant at their treatment, they turned back from the camp and advanced in blazing anger.”

“It is one of the quirks of history that the Muslim invasions struck at what may have been the only time they had the slightest chance of success….It is one of the great what-ifs of history to ask what would have become of the Islamic faith if the Byzantines had won at Yarmuk. At the very least, they would have repelled the Islamic tide early, and the Arab-Islamic civilization that now dominates from the Bosporus to the Strait of Gibraltar would not exist. The entire Mediterranean would have remained culturally Greco-Roman and Christian, and if it survived at all, Islam itself would arguably have been relegated to the deserts of Arabia.” 

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