Utbah Ibn Ghazwan

Utbah Ibn GhazwanUtbah Ibn GhazwanFrom AlimĀ® Online

Umar ibn al-Kattab, the head of the rapidly expanding Muslim State went to bed early just after the Salat al-Isha. He wanted to have a rest and feel refreshed for his nightly tour of inspection of the capital city which he often did incognito. Before he could/all asleep however, the post from the outlying regions of the State arrived informing him that the Persian forces confronting the Muslims were proving especially difficult to subdue. They were able to send in reinforcements and supplies from many pl aces to relieve their armies on the point of defeat. The letter urged Umar to send reinforcements and in particular it said:

“The city of al-Ubullah must be considered one of the most important sources providing men and material to the Persian forces under attack.”

Umar decided then to despatch an army to take the city of al-Ubullah and cut off its line of supplies to the Persian armies. His main problem was that he had so few men left with him in the city. That was because young men, men of maturity and even old men had gone out on campaigns far and wide in the path of God, fi sabilillah.

In these circumstances he determined to follow the strategy which he knew and which was well-tried that is, to mobilize a small force and place it under the leadership of a strong and able commander. He considered, one after another the names of the indiv iduals who were still with him, to see who was the most suitable commander. Finally, he exclaimed himself: “I have found him. Yes I have found him.”

He then went back to bed: The person he had in mind was a well-known mujahid who had fought at Badr, Uhud, al-Khandaq and other battles. He had also fought in the terrible battles of Yamamah and emerged unscathed. He was in fact one of the first to a ccept Islam. He went on the first hijrah to Abyssinia but had returned to stay with the Prophet in Makkah. He then went on hijrah to Madinah. This tall and imposing companion of the Prophet was known for his exceptional skill in the use of spears and arr ows.

When morning came, Umar called his attendants and said: “Call Utbah ibn Ghazwan for me,” Umar managed to put together an army of just over three hundred men and he appointed Utbah as their commander with the promise that he would send reinforcements to hi m as soon as possible.

When the army was assembled in ranks ready to depart, Umar al-Faruq stood before them bidding them farewell and giving instructions to his commander, Utbah. He said: “Utbah, I am sending you to the land of al-Ubullah. It is one of the major fortresses of the enemy and I pray that God helps you to take it. When you reach the city, invite its inhabitants to the worship of God. If they respond to you, accept them (as Muslims). If they refuse, then take from them the jizyah.. If they refuse to pay the jizy ah then fight them… And fear God, O Utbah, in the discharge of your duties. Beware of letting yourself become too haughty or arrogant for this will corrupt your hereafter. Know that you were a companion of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and gr ant him peace. God honoured you through him after your being insignificant. He strengthened you through him after you were weak. You have become a commander with authority and a leader who must be obeyed. What a great blessing if this does not make you v ain and deceive you and lead you to Jahannam. May God protect you and me from it.”

With this chastening advice and prayer, Utbah and his army set off. Several women were in the army including his wife and the wives and sisters of other men. Eventually they reached a place called Qasbaa not very far from al-Ubullah. It was called Qasbaa because of the abundance of reed-like stalks which grew there.

At that point the army was absolutely famished. They had nothing to eat. When hunger gripped them, Utbah ordered some of his men to go and search the land for something to eat. One of the men told the story of their search of food:

“While we were searching for something to eat, we entered a thicket and, lo and behold there were two large baskets. In one there were dates and in the other small white grains covered with a yellow husk. We dragged the baskets with the grain and said: “T his is poison which the enemy has prepared for you. Don’t go near it all.”

We went for the dates and began eating from it. While we were busy eating the dates, a horse which had broken loose from its tether went up to the basket of grain and began eating from it. By God, we seriously thought of slaughtering it before it should die (from the alleged poison) and benefit from its meat. However, its owner came up to us and said: “Leave it. I shall look after it for the night and if I feel that it is going to die, I will slaughter it.”

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