RETURN OF USAMA.
EXPEDITION SENT AGAINST THE APOSTATE TRIBES THROUGHOUT ARABIA
11 AH. / 632 A.D.
USAMA at last returned from his foray; and Medina was at once relieved from further danger. The fifth of the booty (reserved by sacred ordinance for the State) was delivered to the Caliph, and by him distributed among the people. The expedition had served its purpose of satisfying Abu Bekr's conscience, and perhaps also of throwing dust in the eyes of the hostile Bedawin by making them believe that he was stronger than he really was1.
Abu Bekr lost no time in now following up the advantage he had already gained over the insurgents. Driven back from Dhu'l Kassa they had retired to Ar-Rabadha, and vented their anger in destroying by cruel deaths some faithful followers of the Prophet still left amongst them there. Deeply moved at their fate, Abu Bekr took an oath "that he would by the like death destroy as many of them as they had slain, or even more."
Leaving Usama in command of the City and also of the army left there for a little to recruit, Abu Bekr with rebel a small force marched out towards Ar-Rabadha. The chief men expostulated against his going forth to fight in person. Were a Commander killed in action, his place could easily be filled; but if the Caliph fell, their head and master would be gone. "Nay," replied Abu Bekr; "but I will go forth, and will be your comrade even as one of your own selves." So they marched on, and coming up with the enemy completely discomfited them, killing some,
1 Ibn al-Athir, ii., 254.
1 Ibn al-Athir, ii., 254.
and taking others prisoners. The Beni 'Abs and Dhubyan fled to Toleiha, and joined his army at Al-Buzakha. Thereupon Abu Bekr confiscated their pasture-lands to be in all time to come a reserve for the stud and camels of the State. The rebels after a time tendered their submission, and eventually found ample compensation in the conquered lands beyond Arabia.
Satisfied with this success, the Caliph returned to Medina. The army by this time was refitted. The tithes had begun to come in from neighbouring tribes in token of submission. Medina was no longer in peril, and the Citizens breathed freely. But a heavy burden still lay upon the Caliph. Save a remnant here and there, faith was vanishing, and the Arabs throughout the Peninsula were relapsing into apostasy. Yet Islam was to be the Faith of all Arabia;"Throughout the land there shall be no second creed," was the behest of Muhammad upon his deathbed. False prophets must be crushed; rebels vanquished; apostates reclaimed or else exterminated; and the supremacy vindicated of Islam. It was, in short, the mission of Abu Bekr to redeem the dying Prophet's words.
With this great purpose, Abu Bekr went forth a second time to Dhu'l Kassa and summoned there the whole available forces of Islam and all the loyal Chieftains. These he divided into eleven independent Columns, and over each appointed a distinguished leader, to whom (following the example of his Master) he presented a banner. Arabia was parcelled out, and each detachment given a quarter reclaim, with marching orders where to begin and what course to take. Thus Khalid was to subdue Toleiha; and 'Ikrima with Shurahbil, Museilima. Al-Muhajir was sent to the Yemen; Al-'Ala to Al-Bahrein; Hodheifa to MaHra; and 'Amr against the Beni Koda'a. By this great scheme, in course of time no spot would be left unconquered. The troops retained at home were few; but few were needed now.
Having despatched the various expeditions, Abu Bekr returned to Medina. There his first concern was to publish a summons to apostate tribes, commanding them everywhere to repent and submit themselves, on which condition they should be pardoned and received back into Islam.
Such as refused would be attacked, their fighting men cut to pieces and their women and children taken captive. This summons was sent by the hand of Envoys to every province and rebellious tribe. The Azan, or Call to Prayer, was to be the test of faith: if that were heard and responded to, good and well; if not, the people were to be held as apostate and punished to the bitter end.
Abu Bekr never again left Medina to lead his troops. Some say that he regretted this; but it is not likely that he did. Medina, the Capital, was his proper place. From it as a central point, he was able to direct the movement of his Commanders all over the Peninsula; and with operations in so many different quarters to control, he could not have been better placed.
It is not quite so clear why he appointed none of the more distinguished Companions to any chief command. The same was afterwards the policy of 'Omar, who used a to say that he refrained from doing so, partly because the liability to render an account would have implied subjection inconsistent with their dignity, but chiefly to strengthen his own hands by having them about him to advise. This latter reason no doubt also weighed with Abu Bekr, who used to take council on all important matters with the leading Companions. Still, it is singular that men like 'Ali and Az-Zubeir, so prominent in the battles of Mohammad, should now for the moment disappear from operations in the field.
The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
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