History of al-Tabari Vol. 12, The: The Battle of al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine A.D. 635-637/A.H. 14-15

SUNY Press
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The present volume of the History of al-Tabari deals with the years 14 and 15 of the Islamic era, which correspond to A.D. 635-637. The nascent Islamic state had just emerged victorious from the crisis that followed the Prophet's death in 632 and had suppressed what was known as the riddah ("apostasy") rebellion in the Arabian peninsula. Under the leadership of 'Umar b.'al-Khattab, the second caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims embarked on the conquests that would soon transform the whole of the Middle East and North Africa into an Arab empire. Most of the present volume describes the battle of al-Qadisiyyah, which took place on the border between the fertile Iraqi lowlands (al-sawad) and the Arabian desert and resulted in the decisive defeat of the Persian army. The Muslim victory at al-Qadisiyyah heralded the downfall of the Sasanian dynasty, which had ruled Persia and Mesopotamia since A.D., the third century; it also paved the way for the conquest of Iraq and facilitated Islamic expansion in Persia and beyond.

The volume also deals with the conquest of Syria and Palestine and the Expulsion of the Byzantines from those regions. Particular attention is devoted to the traditions related to the conquest of Jerusalem at the hands of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, the first Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount, and its transformation into an Islamic sanctuary.

The volume contains colorful descriptions of the various battles, expatiations on the bravery of the Muslim warriors, and portrayals of the futile negotiations between the parties before the beginning of hostilities. It thus provides the reader with a fascinating insight into the later Muslim traditions related to those crucial events of early Islamic history.
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Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Jun 15, 2015
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781438403403
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / General
Religion / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This volume deals with the aftermath of the decisive battle at al-Qadisiyyah described in the previous volume. First, the conquest of southern Iraq is consolidated; in rapid succession there follow the accounts of the battles at Burs and Babil. Then in 16/637 the Muslim warriors make for the capital al-Mada'in, ancient Ctesiphon, which they conquer after a brief siege. The Persian king seeks refuge in Hulwan, leaving behind most of his riches, which are catalogued in great detail. In the same year the Muslim army deals the withdrawing Persians another crushing blow at the battle of Jalula'.

This volume is important in that it describes how the newly conquered territories are at first administered. As the climate of al-Mada'in is felt to be unwholesome, a new city is planned on the Tigris. This is al-Kufah, which is destined to play an important role as the capital city of the fourth caliph, 'Ali. The planning of al-Kufah is set forth in considerable detail, as is the building of its main features--the citadel and the great congregational mosque.

After this interlude there follow accounts of the conquests of a string of towns in northern Mesopotamia, which bring the Muslim fighters near the border with al-Jazirah. That region is conquered in 17/638. The history of its conquest is preceded by an account of the Byzantines' siege of the city of Hims. Also in this year, 'Umar is recorded to have made a journey to Syria, from which he is driven back by a sudden outbreak of the plague, the so-called Plague of 'Amawas.

The scene then shifts back to southwestern Iran, where a number of cities are taken one after another. The Persian general al-Hurmuzan is captured and sent to Medina. After this, the conquest of Egypt--said to have taken place in 20/641--is recorded.

The volume concludes with a lengthy account of the crucial battle at Nihawand of 21/642. Here the Persians receive a blow that breaks their resistance definitively.

This volume abounds in sometimes very amusing anecdotes of man-to-man battles, acts of heroism, and bizarre, at times even miraculous events. The narrative style is fast-moving, and the recurrence of similar motifs in the historical expose lends them authenticity. Many of the stories in this volume may have begun as yarns spun around campfires. It is not difficult to visualize an early Islamic storyteller regaling his audience with accounts that ultimately found their way to the file on conquest history collected by Sayf b. 'Umar, al-Tabari's main authority for this volume.

A discounted price is available when purchasing the entire 39-volume History of al-Tabari set. Contact SUNY Press for more information.
Before the caliphate of the 'Uthman b. 'Affan, the Muslim community had grown from strength to strength in spite of a series of major crises--the Hirah, the death of the Prophet, the Riddah wars, the assassination of 'Umar by a Persian slave. But 'Uthman's reign ended in catastrophe. His inability to manage the social and political conflicts that were now emerging among various factions within the community led to his death at the hands of Muslim rebels. The consequences of this tragic event were bitter: not only a century of civil war, but also political and religious schisms of such depth that they have not been entirely healed even now. Most medieval Muslim historians told this story in an overtly partisan manner, but al-Tabari demands more of his readers. First of all, they must decide for themselves, on the basis of highly ambigous evidence, whether 'Uthman's death was tyrannicide or murder. But, more than that, they must ask how such a thing could have happened at all; what had the Muslims done to bring about the near-destruction of their community?

Al-Tabari presents this challenge within a broad framework. For, even while the internal crisis that issued in 'Uthman's death was coming to a head, the wars against Byzantium and Persia continued. The first expeditions into North Africa, the conquest of Cyprus, the momentary destruction of the Byzantine fleet at the Battle of the Masts, the bloody campaigns in Armenia, the Caucasus, and Khurasan are all here, in narratives that shift constantly between hard reporting and pious legend. Muslim forces retain the offensive, but there are no more easy victories; henceforth, suffering and endurance will be the hallmarks of the hero. Most evocative in the light of 'Uthman's fate is the moving account of the murder of the last Sasanian king, Yazdagird III--a man betrayed by his nobles and subjects, but most of all by his own character.
This volume chronicles the history of the Islamic state in the years A. H. 74-81 (A. D. 693-701), after the final defeat of Ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca put an end to twelve years of civil war and reunited the empire under the rule of the Marwanid caliph 'Abd al-Malik. Syria and the Hijaz enjoyed a period of relative peace during this time, and stability and consolidation were furthered by such basic administrative reforms as the institution of an official Islamic coinage. Pacification of Iraq, where Kharijite rebel bands still roamed and mutiny was spreading among the government forces, was entrusted by 'Abd al-Malik to the victorious general al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf. Al-Tabari gives a detailed account of this iron-fisted governor's administration, concentrating on his war against the redoubtable Shabib b. Yazid, a Kharijite guerilla leader with a band of a few hundred men who held out against all odds and twice even entered the capital at al-Kufah and prayed in its mosque. Vivid eyewitness reports from participants on both sides of this conflict provide a valuable picture of Arab life in Iraq at this time, as well as evidence for the ideology of the Kharijites and the sources of discontent in the wider society.

Attention is also given to developments in the frontier provinces of the east, eventually also placed under the authority of al-Hajjaj. In Khurasan, the vicious tribal feuds that had interrupted the policy of continued conquest were gradually resolved and campaigning resumed. In Sijistan, a crushing defeat of Arab troops led al-Hajjaj to outfit the "Peacock Army," a force of unprecedented size and impressiveness, which, when it rebelled under its leader, Ibn al-Ash'ath, was to offer the governor the gravest challenge of his career.
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