Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Arab Islamic Warfare - 7th Century

The Arab Onslaught

In the early 7th Century, Islam was growing out of Arabia but the Sassanian and Roman empires were still at each others necks. As late as 628 C.E. the Roman and Persians were engaged in active hostilities.

Only six years after that in 634 C.E. the Arabs sent an ultimatum to the Persian Emperor Hormazd and to the then reigning Roman (Byzantine) emperor to embrace Islam or face war. Both empires decided on war. In the year 634 C.E. the Arabs decided first to attack the Persians (Sassanian) in a large way and gave them a shattering blow at the Battle of Cadesia (Quadisiyyah) and captured the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon (modern Baghdad).

Had the Persians held the Arab hordes at Cadesia, not only would have Persia remained Zoroastrian, but the history of South-Asia would have changed.

The Romans (Byzantines) fared no better. At the battle of Yarmuk only a few days before the battle of Cadesia, the Roman army was defeated by the Arabs and the boundaries of the Roman empire shrank from the Red sea to the Cilician Gates in Turkey. The local Arab population was converted to Islam But the many of the Christian Arabs retreated to the hills of Lebanon. The conflict of the Maronite Christians in Lebanon with the Muslims which we saw in the 1970s owes its ultimate origin to the Islamic-Arab conquest of the 7th century. Meanwhile, the Romans (Byzantines) held the Arabs at the Cilician Gates (A narrow pass in the Taurus mountains in Southern Turkey) for nearly 700 years till the Uthman (Ottoman) Turks bypassed this mountain range to occupy the whole of Turkey and capture the Byzantine capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) in around 1453. The Turks reached Vienna two centuries later but were driven back into Yugoslavia. The Bosnian Muslims are a result of this Muslim-Turkish rule in Europe.

The Coming of Islam

The Zoroastrian Sassanians of Persia fared extremely badly against the Arabs. After their initial defeat at Cadesia, the Arabs gave a second and mortal blow to the Sassanian Empire in 641 C.E. at the battle of Nehavand.

Yazdgard, the last Sassanian emperor died as a refugee ten years later in 651 A.D. The defeat of the Iranians at the hands of the Arabs has been described by an Iranian historian in the following words, "In 636, in Ghadasi, located on the southern parts of Mesopotamia, Rostam-e-Farrokhzaad, chief commander of Iranian armies faced the new power coming from the south: Muslim Arabs. Headed by their greatest army genius, Sa'ad ebn Vaghas, and powered by their new faith, Arabs defeated the Iranian Army. Rostam was killed, and Arabs were walking toward Tispoon, the capital of Iran on the banks of Tigris. Yazdgerd flew Tispoon and went to eastern Iran. Arab invaders captured the glorious capital of Sasanids, and plundered the city’s treasures. Yazdgerd was killed by the hands of a miller in Marv. Arabs conquered the rest of the frightened country, and established their rule over the vast empire of Khosro and Shahpour.

"There is about 1200 hundred years that people talk about this amazing incident. The defeat of Sasanid Empire from bare-foot Arabs was unbelievable. The same country that hold back in front of the well organized Roman legionaries for over 700 years, could not stop the Arabs."

The subsequent history of Iran is that of Islamization and Arabisation. After the Arabs overran the whole of Iran, a small group of Zoroastrians left that country and came to India to seek asylum. they landed at Sanjan, a place in Gujarat around 900 C.E. and have lived in India ever since.

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