Battle of Ajnadayn

Battle of Ajnadayn

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The Battle of Ajnadayn, fought on July 30, 634, south of Beit Shemesh in present day Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, was the first major pitched battle
Pitched battle
A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

 between the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantine) and the army of the Arabic Rashidun Caliphate
Rashidun Caliphate
The Rashidun Caliphate , comprising the first four caliphs in Islam's history, was founded after Muhammad's death in 632, Year 10 A.H.. At its height, the Caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula, to the Levant, Caucasus and North Africa in the west, to the Iranian highlands and Central Asia...

. The result of the battle was a decisive Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 victory. The details of this battle are mostly known through Muslim sources, such as Al-Waqidi
Abu `Abdullah Muhammad Ibn ‘Omar Ibn Waqid al-Aslami , commonly referred to as al-Waqidi , was an early Muslim historian.He was born and educated in Medina...



After the Muslim conquest of the city of Bosra
Bosra , also known as Bostra, Busrana, Bozrah, Bozra, Busra Eski Şam, Busra ash-Sham, and Nova Trajana Bostra, is an ancient city administratively belonging to the Daraa Governorate in southern Syria...

, their commander Shurahbil's spy came from Ajnadayn with news that soon strong Byzantine forces would gather there. At this time Yazeed was still south of the River Yarmuk; Amr bin Al Aas was still at the Valley of Arabah; and several detachments of the corps of Abu Ubaidah and Shurahbil were spread over the District of Hauran. Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khālid ibn al-Walīd also known as Sayf Allāh al-Maslūl , was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is noted for his military tactics and prowess, commanding the forces of Medina and those of his immediate successors of the Rashidun Caliphate; Abu Bakr and Umar...

, commander of Muslim army
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

, wrote to all commanders to march at once and concentrate at Ajnadayn. This act to move towards Ajnadayn was correct; as with a large Roman army poised at the area, the Muslims would have remained tied down to their own land, which in itself was of little importance. The Romans, at this time, still thought they were dealing with local Arab bandits, so organized their defence only with local troops. For the Arabs, this perceived threat, engineered by the Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

, had to be overcome if they wanted to proceed deeper into Syria. In the third week of July 634, the Muslim army marched from Bosra
Bosra , also known as Bostra, Busrana, Bozrah, Bozra, Busra Eski Şam, Busra ash-Sham, and Nova Trajana Bostra, is an ancient city administratively belonging to the Daraa Governorate in southern Syria...

. The Muslims had taken a week to concentrate their army at Ajnadayn, a task which took the Romans more than two months. The Arab army consisted of up to 20,000 men, while the Roman army had at least 60,000

The battle

Before the start of the battle, both armies were arrayed in extended lines, with their camps to the rear. The Muslims, and almost certainly the Romans, were divided into three divisions with a flank guard on each wing. Mu'adh ibn Jabal
Mu'adh ibn Jabal
Muadh ibn Jabal is considered in Islam a sahaba .- Early life :...

 commanded the Muslim centre; Sa'id Ibn 'Amir the left; and Abdu'l-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr‎, son of the Caliph Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

, the right. Shurahbil led the vital left flank guard, but the name of the man who led the right flank guard is unknown. Behind the centre, protecting the Muslim camp, was a reserve led by Yazid. Muslim archers that day were also ordered to fire controlled barrages instead of individual firing. Khalid, Amr and other senior leaders and 'champions' were in the centre. Muslim women, as well were directed to defend the camp if necessary.

Before the beginning of the battle, Khalid is reported to have gone around visiting the various units in the camp and to have spoken to their commanders and men. He said:

Day 1

Before the battle began, commanders of both armies made morale-boosting speeches while reconnaissance took place on both sides. A Christian bishop tried in vain to negotiate a withdrawal from the Arabs. Khalid retorted by offering conversion to Islam, the payment of jizyah (tax), or a fight. Also, Dharar Ibn al Azwar, a former tax collector but now a renowned warrior, who surveyed the Roman position and slew those who tried to chase him off. Dharar soon played an important role in the battle.

The Romans first sent in their light skirmishing infantry, with slingers and archers pelting and firing upon the Muslim army, seemingly attempting to disrupt cohesion and lower morale. But the Muslims stood firm and did not return fire as ordered; the Roman slingers and archers were out of range of the Muslim's archers. This phase of the battle went against the Muslims, several of whom were killed while many were wounded. Khalid now decided to let individual champions go into combat against champions from the Roman side. In this duelling the Muslims would have the advantage, and it would be useful to eliminate as many of the Roman officers as possible, as this would in turn reduce the effectiveness of the Roman army.
Dharar Ibn al Azwar was sent first by Khalid. Dharrar was known popularly as "the half naked warrior" because he often fought without his shirt and armour, but he advanced forward in full armor and a Roman elephant hide shield taken from a dead soldier, to protect himself against the projectiles. He then challenged several champions from the Roman side.

As a few of the opposing champions advanced to answer Zarrar's challenge, he quickly disrobed and allegedly Roman army knew him at once as the half naked Champion. He is credited with defeating several Roman champions who accepted his duels, including the governors of Tiberias and Amman
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

. A group of 10 officers emerged from the Roman army and moved towards Dharar. At this move, Khalid ibn Walid picked 10 of his men, and jumped into the combat. He intercepted and killed the Romans. Now more champions came forward from both sides, individually and in groups. Gradually, the duelling increased in extent and continued for about couple of hours, during which the Roman archers and slingers remained inactive.

As these duels were still being fought, Khalid ordered a general attack. The fight was ferocious, and continued until the sun set. There was no clear victor after the bloodshed, and both armies were in the same positions, ready to continue the fight.

Day 2

Theodorus planned to assassinate Khalid. However, fate was not with Theodorus; next day when the ambush tried to kill Khalid, it was defeated by the Dharar's corps. Theodorus invited Khalid for a duel and without drawing his sword, he sprang at Khalid and held him, at the same time shouting for 10 Romans to come to his aid. The 10 Romans emerged and raced towards him. Khalid thought that if Dharar had at last met his match. As the group of Romans got nearer, however, Theodorus noticed that the leader of these "Romans" was naked to the waist; it was Dharar who had put on the garments and armour of the Romans, later discarded the garments and reverted to his normal half naked fighting dress. Theodorus was killed by the "fearsome Dharar".

With the Romans losing their commander and the confusion that ensued after the failed ambush, the Muslims saw an opportunity to attack. They promptly did so, and brutal and merciless combat ensued. Yet the Romans, now at a disadvantage, did not yet collapse. However Khalid now committed his final reserves under Yazid (who were defending the camp) into the fray, to end the long hours of bloodshed of this prolonged battle. The Roman line finally collapsed under the weight of this final push.

The battle took a heavy toll on both sides, with more fallen senior Muslim figures than in any other battle in the conquest of Syria. Even across the valley today, one can find many tombstones of this era. Many of the Roman army were able to make it safely off the field, turning in three directions: some fled towards Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, others towards Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

, but the largest group of fugitives made for Jerusalem. Khalid forthwith launched his cavalry in several regiments to pursue the enemy on all three routes, and at the hands of this cavalry the Roman army suffered even more casualties than in the two days of fighting on the plain of Ajnadayn.


After the battle of Ajnadayn, the Rashidun army conquered all of Palestine and much of Syria, including Damascus (after two separate sieges). However, Emperor Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 realized that the Arab attacks were more than just raids , but these are coordinated effort to conquer territory. Heraclius, who was in Emesa
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

 at the time, fled to Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 upon hearing news of the battle's outcome.

In the spring of 636
Year 636 was a leap year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 636 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Byzantine Empire :* August 20 – Battle of Yarmuk:...

, the Romans sent an Imperial army against the Arabs, no longer relying on local forces to deal with the problem. Recognizing the hard price of victory at Ajnadayn against a much smaller force than the army that now marched against him, Khalid withdrew all the Muslim forces south. Hotly pursued by the Romans, Khalid stopped his advance at the Yarmouk River
Yarmouk River
The Yarmouk River is the largest tributary of the Jordan River. It drains much of the Hauran Plateau. It is one of three main tributaries which enter the Jordan between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. To the south, are the Jabbok/Zarqa and the Arnon/Wadi Mujib) rivers...

 and finally gave battle.

In the Battle of Yarmuk, Khalid Ibn al-Walid once again fought the Romans, this time under the command of Theodore the Sacellarius and Baänes. This further victory led to the total Muslim conquest of Palestine and Syria, the latter soon to become the centre of Islamic civilization.