The Muítah Expedition (8 AH) - II
The Muslims Select Khaalid bin Al-Waleed, may Allah be pleased with him, to Lead Them
When ‘Abdullaah bin Rawaahah, may Allah be pleased with him, was martyred, the banner of the Muslim army fell to the ground but was promptly picked up by Thaabit bin Aqram bin Tha‘labah bin ‘Adiyy bin Al-‘Ajlaan Al-Balawi Al-Ansaari, may Allah be pleased with him. He did not pick it up with the intention of assuming the position of leadership over the Muslim army; rather, he called out, “O Muslims, choose a man to lead you.” They said, “We choose you.” He said, “No, I will not accept this.” So, they chose Khaalid bin Al-Waleed, may Allah be pleased with him.
It was mentioned in ‘Imtaa’ AI-Asmaa’ that once Thaabit bin Aqram, may Allah be pleased with him, picked up the banner, he turned to Khaalid bin AI-Waleed, may Allah be pleased with him, and said, “Take the banner, O Abu Sulaymaan.” Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “I will not take it. You deserve it more than me; you are older and more experienced than I am for you took part in the Battle of Badr.” Thaabit, may Allah be pleased with him, replied, “Take it, man. By Allah, I picked it up only to give it to you.” Khaalid bin Al-Waleed, may Allah be pleased with him, took the banner and hence became responsible for devising a plan to save the army from complete annihilation.
After considering the situation thoroughly and precisely, he concluded that withdrawing with the least possible losses was the best available option. After all, the enemy outnumbered the Muslims by sixty-six times, which left no option before the Muslim army other than organized retreat.
Based on this estimation, Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, came up with the following brilliant plan:
A- Separating the Byzantine army from the Muslim army to guarantee a safe retreat for the latter
B- To achieve this purpose, it was necessary for Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, to fool the enemy into believing that the Muslim army had received reinforcements. This would definitely reduce the intensity of the enemy’s attacks, which would enable the Muslims to withdraw. Khaalid waited until nightfall to implement his plan. In the darkness of night, he changed the positions of the various units of his army. Those on the right wing were moved to the left wing, and those in the forefront of the center changed places with those in the back. During these movements, the Muslims intentionally made a lot of loud noise. Then at the break of dawn, the Muslims took the initiative and attacked the enemy to give the impression that they had received a lot of reinforcements.
The plan worked wonderfully, as the enemy was taken by surprise; the new faces and different banners gave the enemy the impression that reinforcements had arrived and that the soldiers who were fighting them were ones who had recently arrived. The great courage of the Muslims weakened the Byzantines and their allies, and they were convinced that a complete rout of the Muslims was impossible. With their spirits dampened, the enemy soldiers held back their attacks alleviating their pressure on the Muslim army.
Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, seized the opportunity and began a full retreat from the battlefield. This retreat was one of the cleverest and most successful retreats throughout military history. Moreover, it was in accordance with modern retreat tactics. First, the two wing-units retreated under the protection of the heart of the army. Then, when the wing units of the army were at a safe distance from the enemy, they provided cover for the heart of the army while retreating.
Historians reported that the Muslims lost no more than twelve men during this battle. Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “On the day of Mu’tah, nine swords were broken in my hand and only a Yemenite sword remained.” [Al-Bukhari]
It is correct to say that through Khaalid’s plan, Allah The Exalted saved the Muslim army from complete annihilation. Furthermore, considering the circumstances of the battle, a successful retreat was the best and most beneficial tactic that could be achieved.
The Miracle of the Prophet and the Attitude of the People of Madeenah
A miracle occurred with the Prophet during this expedition. While the events of the Battle of Mu’tah were transpiring hundreds of miles away, the Prophet was providing a live and detailed account of it to his Companions in Madeenah. He told them about the death of Zayd bin Haarithah, Ja‘far bin Abi Taalib, and ‘Abdullaah bin Rawaahah, may Allah be pleased with them.
The Prophet was greatly saddened by what was happening to the Muslim army and shed tears, but then he informed his Companions that Khaalid, may Allah be pleased with him, had taken the banner and that victory was soon going to be achieved at his hands, calling him the “Sword of Allah”.
Later on, someone came and told the Prophet and the Muslims about what had happened to the expedition. His account was in exact agreement with the account that the Prophet had given to his Companions earlier.
When the army approached Madeenah, the Messenger of Allah and the Muslims went out to receive them. Children also came out running towards them. On seeing them, the Messenger of Allah instructed other riders to carry the children alongside them and asked them to bring Ja‘far’s to him. Ja‘far's son, ‘Abdullaah, was brought to the Prophet who picked him up and carried him.
People began throwing dirt at the returning soldiers and yelling out to them, “O you who fled! Have you fled from [fighting in] the way of Allah!” In their defense, the Messenger of Allah said: "They have not fled! They have simply turned around to resume fighting if Allah wills.”
One cannot help but be amazed at the nurturing with which the Prophet provided the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This upbringing made men and heroes out of little children, making them view withdrawing from a battle without achieving martyrdom in the cause of Allah as fleeing in the most pejorative sense of the word, and that the appropriate reward for it was throwing dust in the soldiers’ faces. How do our youth who loiter in the streets compare to such refined examples of unique early manliness?
Our Ummah (Muslim nation) will only be able to rise to these noble heights through solemn Islamic nurturing based on the noble prophetic methodology.
The Mu’tah Expedition (8 AH) - I