Ghadasiyeh,Battle of Ghadesiya,Qadisiyah
Qadesiya was a small village by
The Battle of
Ghadesiya was the decisive engagement between the
Muslim army and the
Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion. It resulted in the
Islamic conquest of
Persia, and was the key to conquest of
Prophet Mohammad's lifetime, Persia was ruled by Emperor
Khosrau 2nd. Khosrau waged a war against the
Byzantines to avenge Maurice's death. Therefore, the Sassanid army captured
Anatolia and the True Cross was carried away in triumph. The early defeat and eventual victory of the
Romans was supposedly foretold in the
Quran in Surah Ar-Room, The Romans:
Heraclius, who succeeded Phocas in 610, united the Byzantine Empire and began a war of re-conquest. He successfully regained territory lost to the Sassanid Empire. He also defeated the Persians at the final and decisive Battle of
Nineveh and advanced towards
Ctesiphon. Khosrau fled, and Heraclius ordered his armies to retreat only after a pact was signed with the newly appointed Emperor
Ghobad 2nd. According to the pact, the True Cross would be given back to Heraclius and all Byzantine territory that the Persians had captured would be evacuated.
Khosrau 2 was murdered in his palace by his son Qobad 2 in 629. Qobad put his 18 brothers to death and began negotiations with Heraclius, but died after a reign of a few months.
Ardeshir 3d (c. 621–630), son of Qobad (628), was raised to the throne as a boy of 7 years, but was killed 18 months later by his general Farrokhan. Farrokhan was called
Shahrbaraz, a title meaning "the Boar of the Empire". Shahrbaraz took
Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire in 613 and 614 respectively, during the Byzantine-Persian War when the True Cross was carried away in triumph. Following the Persian surrender, Shahrbaraz was heavily involved in the intrigues of the Sassanid court. He made peace with Heraclius and returned a relic that was accepted as the True Cross.
In April 630, he failed to deal with the invasion of
Armenia by a
Gokturk force under Chorpan Tarkhan. Then on 9 June 630 Shahrbaraz was slain, and succeeded by
Pourandokht, the daughter of the King Khosrau 2 (590–628). She was one of only two women to sit on the throne of the Sassanid dynasty, the other being her sister Azarmidokht. She was the 26th sovereign Monarch of Persia, from 629 to 631. When Purandokht ascended to the throne after the murder of the general Shahrbaraz, who had killed her nephew
Ardeshir 3, she was made Queen of Persia on the understanding that she would vacate the throne on
Yazdgerd 3 attaining majority. She attempted to bring stability to the empire by the implementation of justice, reconstruction of the infrastructure, lowering of taxes, minting coins, and a peace treaty with the Byzantine Empire. She also appointed Rostam Farrokhzad as the commander in chief of the Persian army. She was, however, largely unsuccessful in her attempts to restore the power of the central authority, which was weakened considerably by civil wars, and she resigned or was murdered soon after. She was replaced by her sister Azarmidokht who in turn was replaced by
Hormazd 6th, a noble of the Persian court.
After 5 years of internal power struggle,
Yazdgerd 3 (the grandson of Khosrau) became emperor at the age of 16. However, the real pillars of the state were generals Rostam Farrokhzad and Firouz. There was violent friction between these two, although pressure from the Persian courtiers pushed this backstage. The coronation of Yazdgerd 3 infused new life into the Sassanid Persians.
After Prophet Mohammad, the Caliph Abu Bakr re-established control over
Arabia through the Ridda Wars, and then launched campaigns against the remaining Arabs of Syria and
Palestine. He triggered the trajectory that would in few decades form the largest empire the world had ever seen. He thus put the nascent
Islamic empire on a collision course with the Byzantine and Sassanid empires, which had been disputing these territories for centuries. The wars soon became a matter of conquest that would eventually result in the ultimate demise of the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire, as well as the annexation of 80% of their respective territories. To make certain of victory, Abu Bakr decided that the invading army would consist entirely of volunteers and it would be commanded by his best general, Khalid ibn al-
Walid. Khalid won quick victories in four consecutive battles: the Battle of Chains, fought in April 633; the Battle of River, fought in the 3rd week of April 633; the Battle of Walaja, fought in May 633; followed by the decisive Battle of Ullais, fought in the mid of May, 633. By now the Persian Empire was struggling and in the last week of May 633, the capital city of Iraq, Al-
Hirah, fell to the Muslims after the Battle of Hira. Thereafter, the Siege of Al-Anbar during June–July 633 resulted in surrender of the city after strong resistance. Khalid then moved towards the south and conquered the city of Ein ul Tamr after the Battle of Ein ul Tamr in the last week of July, 633. In November 633, the Persian counter-attack was repulsed by Khalid and in December 633, Muslim forces reached the border city of Firaz, where Khalid defeated the combined forces of the Sassanid Persians, Byzantine Romans and
Christian Arabs in the Battle of Firaz.
Map detailing the route of Khalid ibn Walid's conquest of Iraq.
This was the last battle in his conquest of Iraq. By now, with the exception of Ctesiphon, Khalid had captured whole of Iraq. However, circumstances changed on the western front. The Byzantine forces soon came in direct conflict in Syria and Palestine, and Khalid was sent to deal with this new development along with half of his army. Soon after, Caliph Abu Bakr died in August 634 and was succeeded by Caliph Omar Khattab. Muslim forces in Iraq were now too few to control the region. After the devastating invasion by Khalid, Persians took time to recover. Moreover, the political instability was at its peak at Ctesiphon. Once the Persians recovered they concentrated more troops and mounted a counter attack. Muthanna ibn Haris, who was now commander in chief of the Muslim forces in Iraq, pulled his troops back from all outposts and evacuated Al-Hirah. He then retreated to the region near the Arabian Desert. Meanwhile, Omar sent reinforcements from Madinah under the command of Abu Ubaid. The reinforcements reached Iraq in October 634, and Abu Ubaid assumed the command of the army and defeated the Sassanids at the Battle of Namaraq near modern day Kufa. Then, in the Battle of Kaskar, he recaptured Hirah without any resistance.
The Persians then launched another counterattack, and were successful in defeating the Muslims at Battle of the Bridge which killed Abu Ubaid, and the Muslims suffered heavy losses. Muthanna then assumed command of the army and withdrew the remnant of his army, about 3000 strong, across the Euphrates. The Persian commander
Bahman was committed to drive the Muslims away from the Persian soil but was restrained from pursuing the defeated Muslims after being called back by Rostam to Ctesiphon to help in putting down the revolt against him. Muthanna retreated near the frontier of Arabia and called for reinforcements. Then, after getting sufficient reinforcements, he re-entered the fray and camped at the western bank of Euphrates, where a Persian force intercepted him and was defeated.
Since Khalid left Iraq for Syria, Suwad, the fertile area between the Euphrates and the
Tigris, remained unstable. Sometimes it was occupied by the Persians and sometimes by the Muslim forces. This struggle continued until emperor Yazdgerd 3 consolidated his power and sought alliance with Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 635, in an effort to prepare for a massive counter attack. Heraclius married his daughter to Yazdgerd 3, according to an old Roman tradition to seal an alliance. Heraclius then prepared for a major offense in Levant. Meanwhile, Yazdgerd ordered a concentration of massive armies to pull back from Iraq for good. This was supposed to be well coordinated attacks by both emperors to annihilate the power of their common enemy, Caliph Omar.
When Heraclius launched his offense in May of 636, Yazdgerd could not coordinate with Heraclius, and the plan did not come off. Omar, allegedly having intelligence of this alliance, devised his own plan. He wanted to finish off business first with the Byzantines and then reinforce the Muslim army at Yarmouk. He sent 6000 soldiers in small bands to give the impression of a continuous stream of reinforcements. Meanwhile, Omar engaged Yazdgerd 3, ordering
Saad Ibn Vaghas to enter in peace negotiations with Yazdgerd 3 by inviting him to Islam. Heraclius had instructed his general Vahan, to not engage in battle with Muslims until his orders. However, fearing more reinforcement for the Muslims from Madinah and their growing strength, the Byzantines felt compelled to attack the Muslim forces before they get stronger. Heraclius's imperial army was annihilated at Battle of Yarmouk in August of 636, three months before Ghadesiya, ending the power of the Roman Emperor, for good. Nevertheless, Yazdgerd continued to execute his ambitious offensive plan and concentrated armies near his capital Ctesiphon. A large force was put under the control of veteran general Rostam and was cantoned at Sabat near Ctesiphon. Getting news of the preparations of this massive counter-attack, Omar ordered Muthana to retreat to the edge of Arabian Desert and abandon Iraq. The campaign of Iraq was now to be started again from the beginning. .
Caliph Omar raised new armies from all over Arabia to send a large enough force to re-invade Iraq. Omar appointed Saad
Ibn Vaghas, an important member of the Qoreish tribe, and cousin of Prophet Mohammad, as commander of this army. In May 636, Saad marched from his camp at Sisra (near Madinah) with an army of 4,000 men and was instructed to join other armies, concentrated in northern Arabia, on his way to Iraq. Saad, being less experienced in the matter of war, was instructed by Caliph Omar to seek the advice of the experienced commanders. Once Saad entered Iraq, Omar sent orders to him to halt at al- Ghadesiya, a small town, 30 miles from Kufah. Muslims marched to Ghadesiya and camped there on July 636. Omar continued to issue strategic orders and commands to his army throughout the campaign. Omar wanted victory on Persian front but he ran short of the manpower and decided to lift the ban on the ex-apostate tribes of Arabia of not participating in state affairs. Because of this, the army raised was not the professional army, but was instead composed of newly recruited contingents from all over Arabia. Due to this fact, Omar was more concerned about providing it strategic aid. Omar however was quite satisfied with the developments on Byzantine front, as the army there was a veteran, and was commanded by Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, and Khalid ibn Walid, a military genius. After they won a decisive victory against the Byzantine army at the Battle of Yarmouk, Omar sent orders to Abu Ubaidah to immediately send a contingent of veterans to Iraq. Later, a force of 5,000 strong veterans of Yarmouk were also sent and arrived on second day of the battle. This proved to be the turning point in the battle. The battle fought was more between Caliph Omar and Rostam Farrokhzad, rather than between Saad and Rostam. On the other hand, the bulk of the Sassanid army was also made of new recruits since as bulk of the regular Sassanid forces was destroyed during the Battle of Walaja and the Ullais .
Ghadesiya was a small town on the west bank of the river Ateeq, a branch of the Euphrates. Al-Hira, ancient capital of
Dynasty, was laid about thirty miles west. According to present day geography it is situated at southwest of al-Hillah and Kufah in Iraq.
Modern estimates suggest that the size of Sassanid forces was about 60,000 strong and Muslims around 30,000 strong after being reinforced by the
Syrian contingent on second day of the battle. These figures come from studying the logistical capabilities of the combatants, the sustainability of their respective bases of operations, and the overall manpower constraints affecting the Sassanids and Arabs. Most scholars, however, agree that the Sassanid army and their allies outnumbered the Muslim Arabs by a sizable margin.
The Persian army reached Ghadesiya in July 636 and established their highly fortified camps on the eastern bank of the Ateeq River. There was a strong bridge over the Ateeq River, and it was the only crossing to the main Sassanid camps, although they had boats available in reserve to cross the river.
The Sassanid Persians army, about 60,000 strong, fell in three main categories, infantry, Persians heavy cavalry, and the Elephant corps. The Elephant corps was also known as
Indian corps, as the elephants were trained and brought from the Persians provinces in India. On November 16, 636, the Sassanid army crossed over the west bank of Ateeq, and Rostum deployed his 45,000 strong infantry in four divisions, each about 150 meters apart from the other. 15,000 strong cavalry was divided among four divisions to be used as reserve for counter-attack and offensives. At Ghadesiya, about 33 Elephants were present, eight with each of four divisions of army. The battle front was about 4 km long. The Sassanid Persians' right wing was commanded by
Hormozan, right center by Jalinus, left center by Beerzan and left wing by
Mehran. Rostam himself was stationed at an elevated seat shaded by a canopy near the west bank of the river, behind the right center, from where he could have a nice view of the battlefield. By his side waved the
Derafsh Kaviani the flag of the Sassanid Persians. Rostam placed men at certain intervals between the battlefield and Capital Ctesiphon to convey intelligence.
In July 636 A.D. the main Muslim army marched from Sharaf to Ghadesiya. After establishing the camp, organizing the defenses, and securing the river heads, Saad sent parties inside the Suwad to conduct raids. Saad was continuously in contact with Caliph Omar, to whom he sent a detailed report of the geographical features of the land where the Muslims encamped and the land between Ghadesiya, Madinah and the region where the Persians were concentrating their forces. The Muslim army at this point was about 30,000 strong, including 7,000 cavalry. Its strength rose to 36,000 strong once it was reinforced by the contingent from Syria and local Arabs allies. Saad was suffering from sciatica, and there were boils all over his body. Saad took a seat in the old royal palace at Ghadesiya from where he would direct the war operations and could have a good view of the battlefield. He appointed Khalid ibn Arfatah as his Deputy, who would carry out his instructions to the battlefield. The
Rashidun infantry was deployed in four corps, with each corps having its own cavalry regiment which was stationed at the rear for counter-attacks. Each corps was about 150 meter apart from the other. The army was all formed on a tribal and clan basis, so that every man would fight next to well-known comrades and so that tribes may be held accountable for any weakness. Saad Ibn Vaghas was the commander in chief of the army, due to his illness he was unable to participate directly in the battle and thus made Khalid ibn Arfatah his deputy. The Muslims' left wing was commanded by Shurahbeel ibn As-Samt, left center was commanded by Asim ibn Amr while the right center was commanded by Zuhra ibn Al-Hawiyya and right wing was commanded by Abdullah ibn Al-Mut'im. Cavalry of the right wing was commanded by Jareer ibn Abdullah and that of right center by Ath'ath ibn Qais.
The helmets included gilded helmets similar to that of silver helmets of Sassanid empire. Mail was commonly used to protect the face, neck and cheek either as an aventail from the helmet or as a mail coif. Heavy leather sandals as well as Roman type sandal boots were also typical of the early Muslim soldiers. Armor included, hardened leather scale or lamellar armor and mail. Infantry soldiers were more heavily armored than the horsemen. Hauberks and large wooden or wickerwork shields were used as well as long-shafted spears. Infantry spears were about 2.5 meters long and those of the cavalry were up to 5.5 meters long. Swords used were a short infantry weapon like the Roman gladius, and the Sassanid long sword. Both were worn hung from a baldric. Bows were about two meters long when un-braced, about the same size as the famous English longbow– with a maximum range of about 150 meters. Early Muslim archers were infantry archers who proved very effective against the opposing cavalry. The troops at the Sassanid Persian front were lightly armed compared to the Rashidun troops deployed at the Byzantine front.
The Muslims had encamped at Ghadesiya with 30,000 men since July 636. Omar ordered Saad to send emissaries to Yazdgerd 3 and the Persian general, Rostam Farrokhzad inviting them to Islam. For next three months, negotiations between Muslims and Persians continued. On Caliph Omar's instructions, Saad sent an embassy to Persian court with instructions to convert the Sassanid emperor to Islam or to get him to agree to pay
Jaziyah. An-Numan ibn Muqarrin led the Muslim emissary to Ctesiphon and met Emperor Yazdgerd 3. However, the mission failed.
The battle of Qadesiya was a decisive victory for the Muslim Arabs in 14 AH in the time of Caliph Omar. Qadesiya was a small village by Euphrates near Kufa. In this battle, the famous
Iranian flag was lost which was a great dishonor for the Iranian army. Until this time the Arab invaders were not taken seriously and the king Yazdgerd 3 did not show characteristics necessary to lead the Sassanid Empire.
The battle of Qadesiya lasted for four days. At the end of the first day, the Iranian army repelled Arabs with the use of elephants. The second day, the tables turned and arrows blinded many of the elephants; another army arriving from Syria helped stop the Persian army. The battle went on during the third day and continued through the night when the Caliph forces attacked the Iranian camp at night. Day 4, started with a sandstorm blowing from behind the Arab invaders which completely paralyzed the Persian army. Rostam Farrokhzad, the Iranian commander was killed and the Persian army totally disintegrated.
After this battle, the Arabs migrated from the Arab Peninsula towards
Mesopotamia and settled in today's Iraq. Other Iranian cities were then taken gradually and Muslim conquest of Persia continued for almost 100 years.
The size of the Persian army in Qadesiya has been highly exaggerated and accounts of historians including dates and numbers just do not fit in.
There's only one certainty, that is: Iranians have carried a dislike against Omar ever since and probably that is one basis for Iranians accepting the
Shiite sect of Islam which does not recognize the first 3 caliphs after prophet Mohammad passed away.