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Details about Battle of Mutah

The Battle of Mutah was fought in Jumadah Al-Ula, 8th year of Hijri, near the village of Mutah (currently located near the city of Karak in Jordan), between Muslims and the army of Byzantine Empire (Roman Empire).

Background of the Battle:

Islam was not to remain confined to Makkah and Madinah. Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) sent letters and messengers to different rulers and head of tribes and invited them to Islam. 

For this purpose, He (S.A.W.) sent Al-Harith bin Umair Al-Azdi (R.A.) to Busra (currently located in Hauran, Syria). Busra’s governor and people were Arabs but they were Christians and they were subject to the Byzantine Empire. 

On his way, Al-Harith (R.A.) was intercepted by Shurahbil bin Amrul-Ghassani, the governor of Al-Balqa and representative of Byzantine Emperor. When Shurahbil heard that Al-Harith (R.A.) was the envoy of the Prophet (S.A.W.), he killed Al-Harith (R.A.) brutally. Killing envoys and messengers used to be regarded as the most awful crime at that time and amounted to the degree of war declaration. 

Formation of Muslim Army:

When the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) heard that Al-Harith (R.A.) had been killed, he (S.A.W.) and companions (R.A.) became very grieved. After evaluating the incident, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) formed an army. He appointed Zaid bin Haritha (R.A.), his freed slave, to command the army that consisted of 3,000 Muslims, which was their largest army.

Narrated by Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.), who said:

"Allah's Messenger (S.A.W.) appointed Zaid bin Haritha as the commander of the army during the Ghazwa of Mu'tah and said, 

"If Zaid is martyred, Jafar ibn Abi Talib should take over his position, and if Jafar is martyred, Abdullah bin Rawaha should take over his position.'" (Sahih Bukhari: 4261)

Three Thousand Muslims prepared themselves to set off.  When they were about to set off, they bade farewell to the Messenger's chiefs and saluted them.

Then, the Muslim army marched forth, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) accompanied them until he said farewell and returned.

The Prophet (S.A.W.) recommended that they reach the scene of Al-Harith’s murder and invite the people to profess Islam. Should the latter respond positively, then no war would ensue, otherwise fighting them would be the only alternative left.

He (S.A.W.) ordered them:

"Fight the disbelievers in the Name of Allah, neither breach a covenant nor entertain treachery, and under no circumstances a new-born, woman, an ageing man or a hermit should be killed; moreover neither trees should be cut down nor homes demolished.”

3,000 Muslim Army vs 200,000 Byzantine Army:

The Muslim army went on their way as far as Ma’an in Syria where they heard that Hereaclius had come down to Ma'ab in the Al-Balqa with 100,000 Greeks joined by 100,000 men from Lakhm, Judham, Al-Qayn, Bahra and Bali (Arabian tribes allied to the Byzantines). When the Muslims army of 3,000 men heard this, they spent two nights at Ma'an pondering what to do as they had never thought of encountering such a huge army. 

Abdullah Ibn Rawahah (R.A.) encouraged the men saying:

"Men, what you dislike is that which you have come out in search of, viz, martyrdom. We are not fighting the enemy with numbers, or strength or multitude, but we are confronting them with this religion with which Allah has honored us.  So come on! Both prospects are fine: Victory or martyrdom." 

The men said, "By Allah Ibn Rawahah is right."

Muslim went forward until when they were on the borders of the Al-Balqa. The Greek and the Arab forces of Heraclius met them in a village called ‘Masharif’. When the enemy approached, the Muslims withdrew to a village called Mutah. There the forces met and the Muslims made their dispositions: the right wing led by Qutbah Ibn Qatadah (R.A.) of Banu Udhrah and the left wing by an Ansari called' Ubaya Ibn Malik (R.A.).

Martyr of Zaid Ibn Harithah, Jafar Ibn Abi Talib and Abdullah bin Rawaha (R.A.):

When fighting began, Zaid Ibn Harithah (R.A.) fought holding the Messenger's standard, until he died from loss of blood among the spears of the enemy. 

Then as per instructions of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.), Jafar ibn Abi Talib (R.A.), who subsequently called "the flying Jafar" or "Jafar with two wings due to his bravery” took the banner until he was martyred. 

Abdullah bin Rawaha then proceeded to hold up the banner and fight bravely on his horseback while reciting enthusiastic verses until he died a martyr.

In this context, Al-Bukhari narrated the following narration:

Abdullah Ibn Umar (R.A.) said:

"I was present amongst them in that battle and we searched for Jafar bin Abi Talib and found his body amongst the bodies of the martyred ones, and found over ninety wounds over his body, caused by stabs or shots (of arrows). (Sahih Bukhari: 4261)

Narrated by Amir (R.A.):

“Whenever Ibn Umar greeted the son of Jafar, he used to say (to him), "Assalam 'Alaika (i.e. peace be on you) O the son of two-winged person." (Sahih Bukhari: 4264)

Anas (R.A.) said:

The Prophet (S.A.W.) had informed the people of the martyrdom of Zaid, Jafar and Ibn Rawaha before the news of their death reached. The Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Zaid took the flag (as the commander of the army) and was martyred, then Jafar took it and was martyred, and then Ibn Rawaha took it and was martyred." 

At that time the Prophet's eyes were shedding tears. He added, "Then the flag was taken by a Sword amongst the Swords of Allah (i.e. Khalid ibn Al-Walid) and Allah made them (i.e. the Muslims) victorious." (Sahih Bukhari: 4262)

Khalid bin Al-Walid as Commander of Muslim Army:

The honour was unanimously granted to Khalid bin Al-Waleed (R.A.), a skilled brave fighter and an outstanding strategist. It was reported by Al-Bukhari that he used nine swords that broke while he was relentlessly and courageously fighting the enemies of Islam. Allah knows how many unbelievers Khalid (R.A.) wounded and killed while breaking nine swords.

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid (R.A.) said:

“On the day of Mu'tah, nine swords were broken in my hand and only a Yemenite sword of mine remained in my hand.” (Sahih Bukhari: 4266)

Khalid (R.A.) undertook the duty of commandership just before the evening. After one or two attacks, it got dark and both parties returned to their encampment. Khalid (R.A.) was a great tactician of battles; he could startle the enemy with his tactics. During the night, he thought about some plans and tactics that would startle the enemy. When the sun rose, Khalid (R.A.) positioned his men in such a way that they appeared to look greater in number. The strategy was to cast fear into the hearts of the Byzantine by fooling them that fresh reinforcements had arrived. When the Byzantine enemy saw them, they were startled and scared and said, “It means auxiliary troops arrived at night to help the Muslims. We have not seen those soldiers on the right before.”

The enemy soldiers, who were still under the effect of the sudden blow they received the day before, were scared and worried; they were looking at one another wondering what to do.

When Khalid (R.A.) noticed that the enemy was spiritually affected by this tactic, he ordered the Muslim army to attack at once. They attacked and scattered the enemy. The swords, which were drawn in the way of elevating the word of Allah, hit the enemy army very hard. The seemingly magnificent army of the enemy had to run away. It looked as if an eagle had attacked chickens. The enemy soldiers looked as if they had been glued to the ground. They could not dare to follow the Islamic army; it was a big defeat for them.  

Martyrs and Deaths of the Battle:

The Muslims sustained twelve martyrs (some sources say 15) whereas the number of casualties among the Byzantines was unknown although the details of the battle point clearly to a large number. 

Prophet’s (S.A.W.) Know everything about the Battle:

Yala bin Umayyah (R.A.) arrived in Madinah before the army and went to the presence of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). When he wanted to narrate what had happened to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.), the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said, “I will tell you what happened.” He (S.A.W.) narrated what had happened exactly. Yala (R.A.) said, “I swear by God, who sent you with the true religion and book that you did not omit even one word about the incidents.”

The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) said, “Allah eliminated the distance between us and I saw the battlefield through my eyes.”(as narrated by Ibn Kathir)

Welcome of Muslim Army in Madinah:

The Muslim Army started their journey back to Madinah with the dignity and majesty of gaining a bright victory. The army that was coming was not the army of Zaid (R.A.) but the army of Khalid bin Al-Walid (R.A.), who was given the name “Sey­fullahi’s-Sarim” (the Sharp Sword of Allah).   

Despite scorching heat, everybody, children and adults of Mainah, gathered at a place called Juruf, outside Madinah, to welcomed their heroes.

Outcome of the Battle:

Even though the battle did not satisfy the Muslims’ objective, namely avenging Al-Harith’s murder, it resulted in a far-ranging impact and attached to the Muslims a great reputation in the battlefields.

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