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Campaign of Osama on the Syrian Border. Concluding Observations.

Campaigns of Osama. 1 and 2 Rabi, A.H. XI. May, June A.D. 632.

THE first concern of Abu Bakr, on assuming Caliphate, was to despatch the Syrian army, and thus fulfil the dying wish of Mahomet. But the horizon all around was lowering; and many urged that the Moslem force should not be sent upon this distant expedition. Even Omar joined in the cry,- "Scatter not the believers; rather keep our soldiers here together: we may yet have need of them to defend the city." "Never!" replied Abu Bakr ;- "the command of the Prophet shall be carried out, even if I be left here in the city all alone, a prey to the wolves and beasts of the desert." Then they besought that a more experienced soldier might be appointed to the chief command. Abu Bakr arose in wrath :- "Out upon thee!" he cried, as he seized Omar by the beard ; -"hath the Prophet of the Lord named Osama to the leadership, and dost thou counsel me to take it from him!" The Caliph would admit of no excuse and no delay; the force was soon marshalled again at Jorf. Abu Bakr repaired to the camp, and treating Osama with the profound respect due to a commander appointed by

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Mahomet himself, begged permission that Omar might be left behind at Medina as his counsellor. The request was granted. Abu Bakr then, bidding Osama farewell, exhorted him to go forward in the name of the Lord, and fulfil the commission he had received at the Prophet's hands. The army marched; and the Caliph, with Omar alone, returned to Medina.1

His triumphant return to Medina

Within twenty days of his departure from Jorf, Osama had overrun the province of Belcaa. In fire and blood, he avenged his father's death and the disastrous field of Muta. "They ravaged the land; says, the historian," with the well-known cry of Ya Mansur Amit ('Strike, ye conquerors!')2 they slew all who ventured to oppose them in the field, and carried off captive the remainder. They

1 Tabari (Kosegarten), pp.42, 51; K. Wackidi, 138. The period at which the expedition started is given by the Secretary as the beginning of the 2nd Rabi, that is, more than a fortnight after the Prophet's burial. The narrative given by Tabari would lead to the supposition that Osama marched earlier; since Abu Bakr is represented as ordering the fulfilment or Mahomet's commands regarding the campaign a day or two after his death. On the other hand, the general anxiety to keep the troops back, in consequence of the threatened rising of the Arabs, makes it probable that some little time had elapsed.

According to the Secretary, it was Abu Bakr who desired to keep back the troops from their march, in consequence of the rebellion of the Arabs; and it was Osama who insisted on an immediate march, in pursuance of the command of Mahomet. K. Wackidi, 189. But the traditions on the subject in Tabari seem stronger, and I have followed them.

2 For this battle-cry, see vol. iii. p.105.

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burned the villages, the fields of standing corn, and the groves of palm trees: and there went up behind them, as it were, a whirlwind of fire and smoke."1 Having thus fulfilled the Prophet's last command, they retraced their steps. It was a triumphal procession as they approached Medina; Osama rode upon his father's horse, and the banner, bound so lately by Mahomet's own hand, floated before him. Abu Bakr and the citizens went forth to meet him, and received the army with acclamations of joy. Attended by the Caliph, and the chief companions of the Prophet, Osama proceeded to the Mosque, and offered up prayer with thanksgiving for the success which had so richly crowned his arms.2

The rapid spread of Mussulman conquest

With the return of Osama's army to Medina a new era opens upon us. The Prophet had hardly departed this life when Arabia was convulsed by the violent endeavour of its tribes to shake off

1 K. Wackidi, 189. The Secretary represents Osama as killing in battle the very man that slew his father.

2 The tidings of this bloody expedition alarmed Heraclius, and he sent a strong force into Belcaa. The attention of Abu Bakr had first to be directed nearer home. Reinforced by the army of Osama, he had to quell the fierce spirit of insurrection rising all around. But a year had not elapsed, when he was again in a position to take the field in Syria, and to enter on the career of conquest which quickly wrested that fair province from Christendom.

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the trammels of Islam, and regain their previous freedom. The hordes of the desert rose up in rebellion, and during the first year of his Caliphate Abu Bakr had to struggle for the very existence of the faith. Step by step the wild Bedouins were subdued, and forced to tender their submission. By a master stroke of policy, they were induced again to take up their arms, and aroused, by the prospect of boundless spoil, to wield them on the side of Islam. Like blood-hounds eager for the chase, the Arabs were let forth upon mankind,- the whole world their prey. They gloried in the belief that they were the hosts of God, destined for the conversion of his elect,- for the destruction of his enemies. The pretexts of religion thus disguised and gilded every baser motive. The vast plunder of Syria was accepted as but the earnest of a greater destiny yet in store. Once maddened by the taste of blood into a wild and irresistible fanaticism, the armies of Arabia swept their enemies everywhere before them. Checked towards the north by the strongholds of the Bosphorus, the surging wave spread to the east and to the west with incredible rapidity, till in a few short years it had engulphed in a common ruin the earliest seats of Christianity, and the faith of Zoroaster.

Simplicity and earnestness of primitive Moslems after Mahomet's death, an argument in favour of his sincerity

But this is a province of history upon which it is not my object to enter. In some respects, indeed, it might be connected indirectly with the subject of these volumes. The simplicity and earnestness of

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the early caliphs, and the first burst of zeal and devotion exhibited by his followers after the Prophet's death, are strong evidence of their belief in his sincerity: and the belief of these men must carry undeniable weight in the formation of our own estimate of his sincerity, since the opportunities they enjoyed for testing the grounds of their convictions were both close and long continued. It is enough, that I here barely allude to this consideration, as strengthening generally the view of Mahomet's character, which in these volumes I have endeavored to support.

The Life of Mahomet, Volume IV [Table of Contents]