The Battle of Yarmuk
Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
* Date: 20th of August 636
* Place: Yarmuk, Hieromyax, Syria
* Main Historic Figures: Khalid Ibn Al Walid, Heraclius.
The Battle of Yarmuk (also spelled Yarmuq or Hieromyax) took place between the Muslim Arabs and the Byzantine Empire on the 20th of August 636. It is considered by some historians to have been one of the most significant battles in the history of the world, since it marked the first great wave of Muslim conquests outside Arabia, and heralded the rapid advance of Islam into Christian Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia, it was the crucial struggle that permitted the outnumbered Muslims (24,000 Muslims vs. 80,000 Byzantines) to take Syria from the Byzantines.
The battle took place only four years after Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) passing away in 632, In 633 Muslim armies invaded Syria, and after raids and skirmishing quickly captured Damascus in 635. Byzantine emperor Heraclius organized a force of about 80, 000 troops on learning of the loss of Damascus and Emesa. The advance of this large Byzantine army, caused the Muslims under Khalid Ibn Al Walid to abandon the cities, and retreat southward towards the River Yarmuk, a tributary of the River Jordan.
It is noteworthy to recall that part of the Byzantine force under Theodore the Sacellarius was defeated outside Emesa. The Muslims under Khalid Ibn Al Walid met the other Byzantine commander, Baänes in the valley of the Yarmuk River in late July. After a month of skirmishes, with no decisive action, the two armies finally confronted each other on the 20th of August 636.
According to Muslim accounts, a strong south wind blew clouds of dust into the Christians' faces, and the soldiers wilted under the heat of the August sun. Despite this, Khalid was at first pushed back, but although his army was only about half the size of the Byzantine force, it was more unified than the multinational Imperial Army which contained Armenians, Slavs and Ghassanids as well as regular Byzantine troops. Eventually renewed Muslim counter-attacks broke through the Byzantine lines, and a rout ensued. Most of Baänes men were either encircled and massacred, or driven to their deaths over a steep ravine. As a result of this, all of Syria lay open to the Muslim Arabs. Damascus was recaptured by the Muslims within a month, and Jerusalem fell shortly after.
When news of the disaster reached Heraclius at Antioch, it is said that he bade a last farewell to Syria, saying, "Farewell Syria, my fair province. Thou art an enemy's now" and left Antioch for Constantinople.
Abu-Hafs Ad-Dimashki from Sa'id Ibn-'Abd-al-'Aziz:When Heraclius massed his troops against the Moslems and the Moslems heard that they were coming to meet them at Al-Yarmuk, the Moslems refunded to the inhabitants of Hims the Kharaj (tribute)they had taken from them saying, "We are too busy to support and protect you. Take care of yourselves."
But the people of Hims replied, “We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were”.
The account of the Great Historian Al-Baladhuri (d. c. 892) shows the episodic and personal character of early Islamic historiography but also emphasizes the hostility of Syria to Byzantium and the welcome which the inhabitants of the former province accorded to their conquerors, it is related from historic sources that Christians and Jews have preferred Moslem rule.
According to this great Historian in his book: Kitab Futuh al-Buldan of Ahmad Ibn Jabir al-Baladhuri, trans. by P. K. Hitti and F. C. Murgotten, Studies in History, Economics and Public Law, LXVIII (New York, Columbia University Press,1916 and 1924) , the Jews rose and said, “We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Hims unless we are first vanquished and exhausted”, Saying this, they closed the gates of the city and guarded them.
The inhabitants of the other cities, Christians and Jews that had capitulated to the Moslems, did the same, saying, "If Heraclius and his followers win over the Moslems we would return to our previous condition, otherwise we shall retain our present state so long as numbers are with the Moslems”.
When by Allah's help the "unbelievers" were defeated and the Moslems won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and music players and began to play, and went rapidly to pay the Kharaj, had the Muslims ill-treated the people of Syria or persecuted their religion, their position would now have been desperate indeed; but their leniency towards the conquered, and their justice and integrity presented a marked contrast to the tyranny and intolerance of the Romans.