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Conquest of al-Qadisiyya

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The Conquest of al-Qādisīyya or the Battle of al-Qādisīyya was a battle between an army of Muslims led by Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas and an army of Sassanid government led by Rostam Farrokhzad. This battle took place in 14/635 and led to the breakdown of Sassanian government and provided the grounds for destruction of Sassanian dynasty. This battle lasted four days. There are many different views in historical sources about the number of soldiers of the two armies, ranging between twenty thousand soldiers up to 120 thousand soldiers. At first, Umar b. al-Khattab, the Second Caliph, called himself the commander-in-chief of the Muslims' army in the battle, but then due to the advice of Imam Ali (a), stayed in Medina.

General Information

A photo of the Battle of al-Qadisiyya in Ferdowsi's Shahname

The battle of al-Qadisiyya, also called the Conquest of al-Qadisiyya due to the victory of Muslims, took place between the army of Muslims and the Sassanid government from seventh until tenth of Ramadan, 14/635. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas was the commander-in-chief of Muslim forces and Rostam Farrokhzad was the commander-in-chief of the Sassanid army. Al-Qadisiyya was the place where this battle took place, fifteen farsakhs away from Kufa.

Leadership of the Caliph and Objection of Imam Ali (a)

At first, Umar b. al-Khattab, the Second Caliph decided to lead the army of Islam; but, Imam Ali (a) opposed it and argued,

"Avoid battle, because if you leave this place the Arabs will attack you from all sides and directions till the unguarded places left behind by you will become more important than those before you. If the Persians see you tomorrow they will say, ‘He is the root (chief) of Arabia. If we do away with him we will be in peace.’ In this way this will heighten their eagerness against you and their keenness to aim at you."

Some historians have considered the advice to Umar about staying in Medina given by Abd al-Rahman b. Awf. Some reported that the caliph first offered Imam Ali (a) to be the commander-in-chief of the army and he (a) refused. Eventually, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas was appointed as the commander-in-chief of Muslim forces.

Before the Battle

Yazdegerd, the young king of Iran appointed Rostam Farrokhzad as the commander-in-chief of his army and decided to fight with Arabs. Some sources considered Rostam a Christian. Rostam believed that the whole army should not go to war all at once, but they should go to war group by group, but Yazdegerd did not accept.

Zarrinkoub, the contemporary researcher described Rostam's lack of faith at the beginning of the war as, "Rostam considered the war with Arabs fruitless and maybe dangerous. He thought that Arabs themselves would inevitably come to them due to hunger and lack of means. He thought that if war happened and the result were not be as desired, weakness and chaos would reveal in the government."

Dialogues

The Second Caliph ordered Sa'd to send messengers to the army of the enemy and invite them, since he considered it an insult and abasement for the army of the enemy. On the other side, Rostam wanted to know about the goal of Arabs and asked them to send him messengers to speak with. So, some persons from the army of Muslims went to Rostam to speak with him.

Historical sources have reported some of their conversations:

  • Al-Mughira b. Shu'ba went to Rostam Farrokhzad. Rostam said, "God glorified our kingdom and chose us the chief of nations and debased people of the earth before us. In our sight, there was no people more insignificant than you… How come you attacked our land? If that is due to hunger, we will help you, so you go back to your own land."
Mughayra said, "We know what you said about your kingdom, wealth and power upon other nations and your great position. Now, I inform you about our present time. We had a bad life; the powerful among us destroyed the weak, we killed our children and worshiped idols. Then, God chose a prophet for us. The Prophet (s) invited us to monotheism and following the book of God and we believed and acknowledged him. He (s) ordered us to invite people to what God has ordered. If they accept, they will have what we have, and if they refuse, we ask them to pay jiziya and if they refuse to pay that, we fight them. We will treat you the same."
  • Rib'i b. 'Amir went to Rostam and said, "God made us responsible to invite others to worship God and abandon worshiping servants and to take them from the hardship of the world to its tranquility and from the oppression of religions to the justice of Islam. So, He made us responsible to invite people to His religion. Whoever accepts us, we will accept him and let him go, but we will fight with those who do not accept, until the promise of God is fulfilled." They said, "what is God's promise?" Rib'i said, "the paradise is the reward for the one who is killed in the war with non-Muslims and the victory is for the one who remains [after it]."

The Battle

After about four months passed, the two armies decided to fight. Sa'd did not go to the battlefield due to being ill and led the army from a distance and appointed Khalid b. 'Arafta as his deputy in the battlefield. The battle of al-Qadisiyya lasted four days, each of which was called with a name: Armath, Aghwath, 'Amas and (Laylat al-Harir) al-Qadisiyya. On the fourth day, a great wind was blowing at the Iranian army, Rostam was killed and the Iranian army was defeated.

Famous Figures

Many of the companions including more than seventy of those who had participated in the battle of Badr, three hundred of those who had participated in the conquest of Mecca and seven hundred of the children of the companions of the Prophet (s) participated in the battle of al-Qadisiyya. However, none of the famous companions such as those who attended in the council of appointing the caliph after the Prophet (s) or the companions of al-Asharaa al-Mubashara (The Ten With Glad Tidings Of Paradise) in whom Sunnis believe, did not participate in this battle except Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas. Then, with the participation of companions and different tribes in this battle, none of the top figures in Islam participated in the battle of al-Qadisiyya.

Number of the Soldiers

There are many disagreements in historical sources about the number of the soldiers of both armies. Some contemporary historians including "Richard Frye" and "Bertold Spuler" believe that there has been a magnification in the reports about the number of the soldiers. Richard Frye believed that the reports suggesting that the Iranian army was double in size comparing to the army of Islam and the assumption of an unequal war between the two armies is wrong and the number of the soldiers of either side was twenty five thousand people at maximum.

Results

The battle of al-Qadisiyya is very important because it was a beginning for conquering Iran by Muslims and the end of one of the greatest sovereignties in Iran in military and political aspects and also a beginning to the end of Zoroastrian dominance.

The battle of al-Qadisiyya ended by the victory of Muslims and the bitter defeat of Iranians; but, its details have always been discussed and reviewed. Many Arab and Persian researchers and others have looked at this issue in a biased way, and even historians of the past who were mostly Arab made many exaggerations about it.

After the battle of al-Qadisiyya and the victory of Muslims, the Sassanian sovereignty broke down, but it was not completely destroyed. However, historians believe that the battle of Dhi Qar which was before the battle of al-Qadisiyya and the battle of Nahavand which was after it, completely destroyed the Sassanian sovereignty and divided the history of Iran to "before Islam" and "after Islam".

In this battle, the flag of Iran called "Derafsh Kaviani" decorated by many jewels was taken by Muslims.

Saddam's al-Qadisiyya

Saddam Hussein called himself "the commander of al-Qadisiyya" and also called the war between Iran and Iraq, "the battle of al-Qadisiyya".

References