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30 Mar. 2012

Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas was one of the earliest and most trusted companions of the Prophet (saw). He was the conqueror of Iraq and Persia. He was a great general who embraced Islam at the early age of 17 and he was one of the ten companions who were promised Paradise during their life time. 

 

Sa’ad was a famous warrior who took a leading part in the battle of Badr and Uhud and in the battles that followed. When Khalid ibn Walid left for Syria, and Muthanna asked for reinforcements, Khalifah Umar ibn Al-Khattab himself wanted to leave for Iraq and to assume command. A large force gathered at Madinah and Khalifah Umar wanted to march at their head. However, he was dissuaded by the companions who insisted that the central authority should remain at the capital. They selected Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas to assume the command. The entire campaign was planned by the Khalifah himself was daily informed of the developments of the war. 

Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, the trusted companion of the Prophet advanced with a force of 20 Muslims. His army contained about 400 companions and 700 of their sons. Sa’ad advanced towards Qadissiyya where the mighty Persian forces under their formidable General, Rustum, were encamped and waiting for the Muslims. Here, in the summer of 637 CE a historic battle was fought which was very hotly contested, lasting for several days. The soldiers fought like heroes, displaying great feats of bravery and they were able to unnerve the enemy. Sa’ad was ill but he had ably and skillfully directed operations from a rooftop overlooking the battlefield. 

The Muslims for the first time encountered an array of elephants and the Arab horses were finding it difficult to face these black giants. The Muslims began to suffer heavily. Seeing this, Sa’ad ordered a charge with lances on the elephants. The charge was fierce and caused the elephants to flee from the battlefield in panic. General Qaqa, a great warrior who had come from the Syrian border, joined forces in the thick of the battle and challenged two renowned Persian warriors to single combat and killed them both. Many other Persian warriors were slain by him. 

The battle was raging at its highest when Abu Mahjan, a celebrated warrior and poet, observed the entire theatre of war while he was in chains for drinking wine. Sa’ad had put him behind bars for his addiction, but he was determined to take part in the battle. He implored the commander’s wife to let him participate in the battle on the undertaking that if he survived he would willingly return to their custody. The commander’s wife gave way to his repeated begging and gave him Sa’ad horse. All of sudden an unknown warrior made a fierce charge on the Persian ranks which were at the moment attacking the Muslim soldiers. With his lightning charge Abu Mahjan paralyzed the entire Persian defense, and in the evening returned to Sa’ad custody. The great commander pardoned him in recognition of his bravery and gallantry, and in return Abu Mahjan swore not to drink wine ever again.

On the last day of the battle General Qaqa made an attack on the leading white elephant and drove his lance into its eyes and cut off its trunk with his sword. Bleeding profusely and jumping frantically the white elephant ran back and with him all the elephants fled in panic. Then and there the Muslim forces made a fierce attack and pushed back the Persian forces. Their great General Rustum fled in panic and was killed while swimming across a canal. 

Sa’ad now advanced towards Babylon where some of the famous warriors including Firuzan, Hormuzan and Mihran had assembled their forces to face the Muslim army. However, when Sa’ad advanced, the Persian forces fled in panic. Mihran escaped to Madain, Hormuzan to Ahwaz and Feruzan to Nehawand. Madain, the capital of the young Persian King Yezdijard was now targeted by Muslim forces where Mihran was also encamped with his troop. 

Madain was situated on the Tigris. Sa’ad, on reaching the river with his forces, observed that the Persians had blown up the bridge. He plunged his horse into the river while it was in flood. His army followed him and rapidly crossed the river without breaking their lines. The Persian watching this apparently impossible feat cried out,” The demons have come,” and they fled in panic. The young king also hurriedly fled leaving the luxurious palaces and immense booty in the hands of the Muslims. 

The fall of Madain led to the fall of the entire country to the west of the Tigris to the Muslims. The Muslims offered thanks to Almighty Allah in the Palace of Chosroes, led by Sa’ad. Sa’ad, now the civil and military Governor of Iraq, made Madain his headquarters. He administered the conquered country very ably and instituted several land reforms. 

Sa’ad, as Governor, laid the foundations of the Arab settlement in Kufa which soon became an important and prosperous city militarily and culturally. It was Sa’ad who was nominated by Khalifah Umar as one of the six trusted companions to select the next khalifah. Hadrat Uthman, the third Khalifah, also reappointed him as the Governor of Kufa. 

Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas retired to Aqiq during the khilafah of Hadrat Ali where he lived peacefully until his death in 50 A.H. (670 CE) at the ripe age of 70.

(Prepared by Abdul Muhaemin Karim)