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The Ridda wars (Arabic: حروب الردة), also known as the Wars of Apostasy, were a series of military campaigns launched by the Caliph Abu Bakr against rebel Arabian tribes during 632 and 633 AD, just after Muhammad died.1 The rebels' position was that they had submitted to Muhammad as the prophet of God, but owed nothing to Abu Bakr. Some rebels followed either Tulayha or Musaylima or Sajjah, all of whom claimed prophethood. Most of the tribes were defeated and reintegrated into the Caliphate. The peoples surrounding Mecca did not revolt.
In about the middle of May 632, Muhammad, now ailing, ordered a large expedition to be prepared against the Roman empire. 3000 Muslims were to join it. Usama ibn Zaid, a young man and son of Zayd ibn Harithah, was appointed as commander of this force.2 However, Muhammad died in June 632 and Abu Bakr was chosen as Caliph.
On the first day of his caliphate, Abu Bakr ordered the army of Usama to prepare for march. Abu Bakr was under great pressure regarding this expedition due to rising rebellion and apostasy across Arabia, but he was adamant.3 Before his march, Usama sent Umar to Caliph Abu Bakr and is reported to have said:
Go to the Caliph, ask him to permit the army to remain at Medina. All the leaders of the community are with me. If we go, none will be left to prevent the infidels from tearing Medina to pieces.4
However, Abu Bakr refused. He was moved to this decision at least partially by his desire to carry out the unfulfilled military plan of Muhammad.
On June 26, 632 the army of Usama broke camp and moved out. After leaving Medina, Usama had marched to Tabuk. Most of the tribes in this region opposed him fiercely but were defeated by Abu Bakr's army. Usama raided far and wide in the region of Northern Arabia, starting with the Quza'a, and then made his way to Dawmatu l-Jandal (modern Al Jawf, Saudi Arabia).
As a direct result of his operations, several rebel tribes resubmitted to Medinan rule and claimed that they re-accepted Islam. The Quza'a remained rebellious and unrepentant, however 'Amr ibn al-'As later attacked them and forced them to surrender again.1
Usama next marched to Mu'tah, attacked the Christian Arabs of the tribes of Banu Kalb and Ghassanids in a small battle. Then he returned to Medina, bringing with him a large number of captives and a considerable amount of wealth, part of which comprised the spoils of war and part taxation of the re-conquered tribes. The Islamic army remained out of Medina for 40 days.
The concentrations of rebels nearest Medina were located in two areas: Abraq, 72 miles north-east of Medina, and Dhu Qissa, 24 miles east of Medina.5 These concentrations consisted of the tribes of Banu Ghatafan, the Hawazin, and the Tayy. Abu Bakr sent envoys to all the enemy tribes, calling upon them to remain loyal to Islam and continue to pay their Zakat.
A week or two after the departure of the Islamic army under Usama, the rebel tribes surrounded Medina, knowing that there were few fighting forces in city. Meanwhile, Tulayha, a self-proclaimed prophet, reinforced the rebels at Dhu Qissa. In the third week of July 632, the apostate army moved from Dhu Qissa to Dhu Hussa, from where they prepared to launch an attack on Medina.
Abu Bakr received intelligence of this move of rebels, and immediately prepared for the defense of Medina. As the main army was out of Medina under Usama, Abu Bakr scraped together a fighting force mainly from the clan of Mohammad, the Banu Hashim. The army had stalwarts like Ali ibn Abi Talib, Talha ibn Ubaidullah and Zubair ibn al-Awam, who would later (in the 640s) conquer Egypt. Each of them was appointed as commander of one-third of the newly organised force. Before the apostates could do anything, Abu Bakr launched his army against their outposts and drove them back to Dhu Hussa.
The following day, Abu Bakr marched from Medina with the main army and moved towards Dhu Hussa.1 As the riding camels were all gone with Usama's army, he could only muster inferior pack camels, and the army mounted these camels. These pack camels, being untrained for battle, bolted when Hibal, the apostate commander at Zhu Hussa, made a surprise attack from the hills on the Muslims; and the Muslims retreated to Medina. The apostates recaptured the outposts that they lost a few days earlier. At Medina Abu Bakr reorganised the army for the battle and attacked the apostates during the night, taking them by surprise. The apostates retreated from Dhu Hussa to Dhu Qissa. On the morning Abu Bakr led his forces to Dhu Qissa and defeated the rebel tribes and captured Dhu Qissa on 1 August 632.
The defeated apostate tribes retreated to Abraq, where more clansmen of the Ghatfan, the Hawazin, and the Tayy were gathered. Abu Bakr left a residual force of soldiers under the command of An-Numan ibn Muqarrin at Dhu Qissa and returned with his main army to Medina. On 4 August 632, Usama's army arrived in Medina. The army had been away for 40 days.
Abu Bakr ordered Usama to rest his men in Medina and re-equip them to fight against the rebels. Meanwhile in the second week of August 632 Abu Bakr with his army moved to Zhu Qissa. Taking the remaining forces from Numan ibn Muqarrin under his command, he moved to Abraq, where the retreated rebels had gathered, and defeated them. The remaining rebels retreated to Buzakha, where Tulayha had moved with his army from Samira.
In the fourth week of August 632, Abu Bakr moved to Zhu Qissa with all available fighting forces. There he planned the strategy of the Campaign of the Apostasy to deal with the various enemies who occupied the entire land of Arabia except for the small area in the possession of the Muslims. 5 The battles which he had fought recently against the apostate concentrations at Zhu Qissa and Abraq were in the nature of immediate preventive action to protect Medina and discourage further offensives by the enemy. These actions enabled Abu Bakr to secure a base from which he could fight the major campaign that lay ahead, thus gaining time for the preparation and launching of his main forces. Abu Bakr had to fight not one but several enemies: Tulayha at Buzakha, Malik bin Nuwaira at Butah, Musaylima at Yamamah. He had to deal with widespread apostasy on the eastern and southern coasts of Arabia: in Bahrain, in Oman, in Mahra, in Hadhramaut and in Yemen. There was apostasy in the region south and east of Mecca and by the Quza'a in northern Arabia.
Abu Bakr formed the army into several corps. The strongest corps, and this was the main punch of the Muslims, was the corps of Khalid ibn Walid. This was used to fight the most powerful of the rebel forces. Other corps were given areas of secondary importance in which to subdue the less dangerous apostate tribes. The first corps to go into action was that of Khalid, and the timing of the despatch of other corps hinged on the operations of Khalid, who was given the task of fighting the strongest enemy forces one after the other. Abu Bakr's plan was first to clear the area of west central Arabia (the area nearest to Medina), then tackle Malik bin Nuwaira, and finally concentrate against the most dangerous and powerful enemy: the self-proclaimed prophet Musaylima.
The caliph formed 11 main corps, each under its own commander. A standard was given to each corps. The available manpower was distributed among these corps, and while some commanders were given immediate missions, others were given missions for which they would be launched later. The 11 corps commanders and their assigned objectives were as follows:
- Khalid Ibn Walid: First Tulaiha bin Khuwailad Al-Asdee (طُلیحہ بن خویلد الاسدی) from the Asad Tribe (بنو اسد) at Buzaakhah (بزاخہ), then Malik bin Nuwaira, at Butah.
- Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl: Confront Musaylima at Yamamah but not to get involved until more forces were built up.
- Amr ibn al-As: The apostate tribes of Quza'a and Wadi'a in the area of Tabuk and Daumat-ul-Jandal.
- Shurahbil bin Hasanah: Follow Ikrimah and await the Caliph's instructions.
- Khalid bin Saeed: Certain apostate tribes on the Syrian frontier.
- Turaifa bin Hajiz: The apostate tribes of Hawazin and Bani Sulaim in the area east of Medina and Mecca.
- Ala bin Al Hadhrami: The apostates in Bahrain.
- Hudhaifa bin Mihsan: The apostates in Oman.
- Arfaja bin Harthama.: The apostates in Mahra.
- Muhajir bin Abi Umayyah: The apostates in the Yemen, then the Kinda in Hadhramaut.
- Suwaid bin Muqaran: The apostates in the coastal area north of the Yemen.
As soon as the organisation of the corps was complete, Khalid marched off, to be followed a little later by Ikrimah and 'Amr ibn al-'As. The other corps were held back by the caliph and despatched weeks and even months later. Their despatch was conditioned by the progress of Khalid's operations against the hard core of enemy opposition.1
Before the various corps left Zhu Qissa, however, envoys were sent by Abu Bakr to all apostate tribes in a final attempt to induce them to submit.
Apart from their specific objectives, the corps commanders were given the following instructions:
- Seek the tribes which are your objectives
- Call the Azaan.
- If the tribe answers with the Azaan, do not attack. After the Azaan, ask the tribe to confirm its submission, including the payment of zakat. If confirmed, do not attack.
- Those who submit will not be attacked.
- Those who do not answer with the Azaan, or after the Azaan do not confirm full submission, will be dealt with by the sword.
- All apostates who have killed Muslims will be killed.
With these instructions Abu Bakr launched the forces of Islam against the apostates.
Apostasy and rebellion in central Arabia was led by Musaylima, a self-proclaimed prophet, in the fertile region of Yamamah. He was mainly supported by the powerful tribe of Banu Hanifa. At Buzakha in north central Arabia, another self-proclaimed prophet, Tulaiha, a tribal chief of Bani Asad, led the rebellion against Medina aided by the allied tribes of Banu Ghatfan, the Hawazin, and the Tayy. At Najd, Malik ibn Nuweira led the tribes of Banu Tamim against the authority of Medina.6
On receiving intelligence of the Muslims preparations, Tulayha too prepared for a battle, and was further reinforced by the contingents of the allied tribes. Before launching Khalid against Tulayha, Abu Bakr sought ways and means of reducing the latter's strength, so that the battle could be fought with the maximum prospects of victory. Nothing could be done about the tribes of Bani Assad and Banu Ghatafan, which stood solidly behind Tulayha, but the Tayy were not so staunch in their support of Tulayha, and their chief, Adi ibn Hatim, was a devout Muslim. Adi was appointed by Abu Bakr to negotiate with the tribal elders to withdraw their contingent from Tulayha's army. The negotiations were a success, and Adi brought with him 500 horsemen of his tribe to reinforce Khalid's army. Khalid next marched against another apostate tribe, Jadila. Here again Adi ibn Hatim offered his services to persuade the tribe to submit without bloodshed. Bani Jadila submitted, and their 1000 warriors joined Khalid's army. Khalid, now much stronger than when he had left Zhu Qissa, marched for Buzakha. There, in mid-September 632 CE, he defeated Tulayha in the Battle of Buzakha. The remaining army of Tulayha retreated to Ghamra, 20 miles from Buzakha, and were defeated in the Battle of Ghamra in the third week of September 632 CE. Several tribes submitted to the Caliph after Khalid's decisive victories. Moving south from Buzakha, Khalid reached Naqra in October 632 CE, with an army now 6000 strong, and defeated the rebel tribe of Banu Saleem in the Battle of Naqra. 632 In third week of October 632 CE, Khalid defeated a tribal mistress, Salma, in the battle of Zafar. Afterwards he moved to Najd against the rebel tribe of Banu Tamim and their Sheikh Malik ibn Nuwayrah.
At Najd, getting the news of Khalid's decisive victories against apostates in Buzakha, many clans of Banu Tamim hastened to visit Khalid, but the Banu Yarbu', a branch of Bani Tamim, under their chief, Malik ibn Nuwayrah, hung back. Malik was a chief of some distinction: a warrior, noted for his generosity, and a famous poet. Bravery, generosity, and poetry were the three qualities most admired among the Arabs. .
After the death of Muhammad, Malik refused to give his taxes and charity to anyone. He was quoted saying: "Today, your wealth are saved.", upon the death of Muhammad. Most scholars agreed that he was adhering to the normal beliefs of the Arabs of his time in which they should cease to pledge their allegiance to a tribe upon the death of its Sheikh.
At the time of Muhammad, he had been appointed as a tax collector for the tribe of Banu Tamim. As soon as Malik heard of the death of Muhammad, he gave back all the tax to his tribespeople, saying, "Now you are the owner of your wealth."7 His riders were stopped by Khalid's army at the town of Buttah. Khalid asked them about the signing of pact with Sajjah; they said it was just because they wanted revenge against their terrible enemies.8 When Khalid reached Najd he found no opposing army. He sent his cavalry to nearby villages and ordered them to call the Azaan (call for prayers) to each party they meet. Zirrar bin Azwar, a squadron leader, arrested the family of Malik, claiming they did not answer the call to prayer. Malik avoided direct contact with Khalid's army and ordered his followers to scatter, and he and his family apparently moved away across the desert.9 He refused to give zakat, hence differentiating between prayer and zakat Nevertheless, Malik was accused of rebellion against the state of Madina. He was also to be charged for his entering in an anti-Caliphate alliance with Sajjah, a self-proclaimed prophetess.10 Malik was arrested along with his clan men,11 Malik was asked by Khalid about his crimes. Malik's response was "your master said this your master said that" referring to Abu Bakr. Khalid declared Malik a rebel apostate and ordered his execution.12 Khalid bin Walid killed Malik ibn Nuwayra In Medina, ‘Umar told Khâlid: “You enemy of Allâh! You killed a Muslim man and then rape his wife. By Allâh, I will stone you".13 his wife, Layla bint al-Minhal. Shias claim that Islamically, Khalid would have had to wait for her to complete the waiting period iddah (3 menstrual cycles) before Khalid would have been able to marry her. Sunnis believe that since Malik and his tribe were judged apostates, they were taken captives and Idda rules do not apply to apostates. Shias also claim that Abu Qatada Ansari was so shocked at Malik's murder by Khalid that he immediately returned to Medina, and told Abu Bakr that he would not serve under a commander who had killed a Muslim.14 The death of Malik and Khalid's taking of his wife Layla created a controversy. Some officers of his army—including a prominent companion of Muhammad, Abu Qatadah—believed that Khalid killed Malik to take his wife. After the pressure exerted by Umar—Khalid's cousin and one of Caliph Abu Bakr's main advisors—Abu Bakr called Khalid back to Madina to explain himself.15 In Medina, ‘Umar told Khâlid: “You enemy of Allâh! You killed a Muslim man and then rape his wife. By Allâh, I will stone you".13 Unlike the Shias, Sunni Muslims believe that slandering the Prophet's companions is prohibited and that we cannot judge them right or wrong. The fact that Abu Bakr and Umar, the most prominent companions, did not appoint any penalty on Khalid Bin Walid means that after investigation they found him correct and not guilty, and that is sufficient for us to know that Khalid Bin Walid was correct in his judgment.
Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl, one of the corps commanders, was instructed to make contact with Musaylima at Yamamah, but not to engage in fighting until Khalid joined him. Abu Bakr's intention in giving Ikrimah this mission was to tie Musaylima down at Yamamah. With Ikrimah on the horizon, Musaylima would remain in expectation of a Muslim attack, and thus not be able to leave his base. With Musaylima so committed, Khalid would be free to deal with the apostate tribes of north-central Arabia without interference from Yamamah. Meanwhile Abu Bakr sent Shurhabil's corps to reinforce Ikrama at Yamamah. Ikrimah, however, in early September 632 A.D attacked Musaylima's forces and was defeated. He wrote the details of his actions to Abu Bakr, who, both pained and angered by the rashness of Ikrimah and his disobedience, ordered him to proceed with his force to Oman to assist Hudaifa; once Hudaifa had completed his task, to march to Mahra to help Arfaja, and thereafter go to Yemen to help Muhajir.16 Meanwhile Abu Bakr sent orders to Khalid to march against Musaylima. Shurhabil's corps, that was stationed at Yamamah, was to reinforce Khalid's corps. In addition to this Abu Bakr assembled a fresh army of Ansar and Muhajireen in Medina that joined Khalid's corps at Butah. From Butah Khalid marched to Yamamah to join with Shurhabil's corps. Though Abu Bakr had instructed Shurhabil not to engage Musaylima's forces until the arrival of Khalid, shortly before the arrival of Khalid, Shurhabil engaged Musaylima's forces and was defeated too. Khalid joined with the corps of Shurhabil early in December 632. The combined force of Muslims, now 13,000 strong, defeated Musaylima's army in the Battle of Yamama, which was fought in the third week of December 632 CE. The fortified city of Yamamah surrendered peacefully later that week.16 Khalid established his headquarters at Yamamah, from where he despatched columns to all over the plain of Aqraba to subdue the region around Yamamah and to kill or capture all who resisted. Thereafter all of central Arabia submitted to Medina. What remained of the apostasy in the less vital areas of Arabia was rooted out by the Muslims in a series of well planned campaigns within five months.
In mid-September 632, Abu Bakr dispatched Hudaifa bin Mihsan's corps to Oman to tackle the apostasy in Oman, where the tribe of Azd, that dominated the region of Oman, had revolted under their chief Laqeet bin Malik, known more commonly as "Dhu'l-Taj", i.e. "the Crowned One." According to some reports, he also claimed prophethood. Hudaifa entered the province of Oman, but not having strong enough forces to fight Dhu'l-Taj, he decided to wait for reinforcement, and wrote to the Caliph accordingly. The Caliph sent Ikrimah to aid him in late September 632. Ikrimah marched from Yamamah to Oman, and the combined forces of these two generals defeated Dhu'l-Taj at the Battle of Daba, fought in late November 632 at Dibba, a stronghold of Dhu'l-Taj. Dhu'l-Taj was killed in battle. 12
Being appointed governor of Oman, Hudaifa next set about the re-establishment of law and order. Ikrimah, having no local administrative responsibility, used his corps to subdue the neighbourhood of Daba, and in a number of small actions succeeded in breaking the resistance of those of the Azd who had continued to defy the authority of Medina.1
Some time in October 632, Amr's corps were dispatched to Syrian border to subdue the apostates tribes, most importantly the tribes of Quza'a and the Wadi'a (a section of Bani Kalb), in the region around Tabuk and Daumat-ul-Jandal (Al-Jawf). Amr was not able to beat the tribes into submission until Shurhabil joined him in January after Battle of Yamamah.
The Yemen had been the first province to rebel against the authority of Islam when the tribe of Ans rose in arms under the leadership of its chief and self-proclaimed prophet Al-Aswad, the Black One, who was killed by Fairoz the Persian, while the Prophet Mohammad still lived, and thereafter Fairoz had acted as governor of Yemen at San'a. 5
When word arrived that the Prophet Mohammad had died, the people of the Yemen again revolted, this time under the leadership of a man named Qais bin Abd Yaghus. The avowed aim of the apostates was to drive the Muslims out of the Yemen, and they decided to achieve this objective by assassinating Fairoz and other important Muslim leaders, thus rendering the Muslim community leaderless. Fairoz somehow managed to escape and took shelter in the mountains. This happened in June or July 632. For the next six months Fairoz remained in his mountainous stronghold, where over the months he was joined by thousands of Muslims of Yeman. 12
When he felt strong enough, Fairoz led his men against Qais, and marched to San'a and defeated Qais, who retreated with his remaining men northeast to Abyan, where they all surrendered and were subsequently pardoned by the Caliph. 5
From Oman, following the orders of Abu Bakr, Ikrimah marched to Mahra to join Arfaja bin Harthama. As Arfaja had not yet arrived, Ikrimah, instead of waiting for him, tackled the local rebels on his own.
At Jairut Ikrimah met two rebel armies preparing for battle. Here he persuaded the weaker to embrace Islam and then joined up with them to defeat their opponents. Having re-established Islam in Mahra, Ikrimah moved his corps to Abyan, where he rested his men and awaited further developments.
After the Battle of Yamamah, Abu Bakr sent Ula bin Al Hadhrami's corps against the rebels of Bahrain. Ula arrived in Bahrain to find the apostate forces gathered at Hajr and entrenched in a strong position. Ula mounted a surprise attack one night and captured the city. The rebels retreated to the coastal regions, where they made one more stand but were decisively defeated. Most of them surrendered and reverted to Islam. This operation was completed at about the end of January 633.
The last of the great revolts of the apostasy was that of the powerful tribe of Kinda, which inhabited the region of Najran, Hadhramaut, and eastern Yemen. They did not break into revolt until January 633. 12 Ziyad bin Lubaid, Muslim governor of Hadhramaut, operated against them and raided Riyaz, after which the whole of the Kinda broke into revolt under Ash'as bin Qais and prepared for war. However, the strength of the two forces, i.e. apostate and Muslim, was so well balanced that neither side felt able to start serious hostilities. Ziyad waited for reinforcements before attacking the rebels. Reinforcements were on the way. Muhajir bin Abi Umayyah, the last of the corps commanders to be despatched by Abu Bakr, defeated some rebel tribes in Najran, south-eastern Arabia, and was directed by Abu Bakr to march to Hadhramaut and join Ziyad against the Kinda. The Caliph also instructed Ikrimah, who was at Abyan, to join Ziyad and Muhajir's forces. In late January 633 the forces of Muhajir and Ziyad combined at Zafar, capital of Hadhramaut, under the overall command of the former, and defeated Ash'as, who retreated to the fortified town of Nujair. Just after this battle the corps of Ikrimah also arrived. The three Muslim corps, under the overall command of Muhajir, advanced on Nujair and laid siege to the fortified city. Nujair was captured some time in mid-February 633. With the defeat of the Kinda at Nujair the last of the great apostate movements collapsed. Arabia was safe for Islam. The Campaign of the Apostasy was fought and completed during the 11th year of the Hijra. The year 12 Hijri dawned, on March 18, 633, with Arabia united under the central authority of the Caliph at Medina. This campaign was Abu Bakr's greatest political and military triumph.
With the collapse of the rebellions and Arabia united under the central authority of the Caliph at Medina, Caliph Abu Bakr now decided to expand the empire. It is unclear what his intentions were; whether it was a full scale expansion plan or preemptive attacks to secure more territory to create a buffer zone between the Islamic state and the powerful Sassanid and Byzantine empires. This set the stage for the Islamic conquest of Persia to begin. 12 Khalid was sent to the Persian Empire with an army consisting of 18,000 volunteers to conquer the richest province of the Persian empire: Iraq. After the successful conquest of Iraq, Abu Bakr sent his armies to invade Roman Syria, a main province of the Byzantine Empire. 17
- Laura V. Vaglieri in The Cambridge History of Islam, p.58
- Ibn Sad: p. 707.
- Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 461.
- Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 462.
- Frank Griffel: Apostasie Und Toleranz Im Islam, p. 61.
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Vol. 1, p. 110.Peter Hellyer, Ibrahim Al-Abed, Ibrahim Al Abed, The United Arab Emirates, A New Perspective, London, Trident Press Ltd., 2001, p. 81-84. ISBN 1-900724-47-2.
- reference=al-Balazuri: book no: 1, page no:107.
- reference= Tabari: Vol) p. 501-2.
- Al-Tabari 915, pp. 501–502
- Al-Tabari 915, p. 496
- Al-Tabari 915, p. 502
- reference=Tabari: Vol. 2, Page no: 5)
- Tabari, Al (1993), The conquest of Arabia, State University of New York Press, p. 104, ISBN 978-0791410714
- (A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims, Ali Razwy, Chapter 55)
- Akram 2004, p. 183
- John Glubb, The Great Arab Conquests, 1963, p. 112.
- Akram, chapter 18.
- Fred McGraw Donner: The Early Islamic Conquests. Princeton University Press, 1986.ISBN 0691053278
- Elias S. Shoufani: Al-Riddah and the Muslim conquest of Arabia. Toronto, 1973. ISBN 0-8020-1915-3
- Meir J. Kister: The struggle against Musaylima and the conquest of Yamama. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 27 (2002)
- Ella Landau-Tasseron: The Participation of Tayyi in the Ridda. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 5 (1984)