The History of al-Ṭabarī Vol. 13

The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt: The Middle Years of ʿUmar's Caliphate A.D. 636-642/A.H. 15-21

Translated by Gautier H. A. Juynboll

Subjects: Islam
Series: SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780887068775, 280 pages, July 1989
Hardcover : 9780887068768, 280 pages, August 1989

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Table of contents



Translator's Foreword

The Events of the Year 15 (cont'd) (636/637)
The Battle of Burs
The Battle of Babil
The Story of Bahurasir in the Month Dhu al-Hijjah of the Year 15 (January 637) as Related by Sayf

The Events of the Year 16 (637/638)
The Remainder of the Account of the Muslims' Entering the City of Bahurasir
The Report Concerning al-Mada'in al-Quswa, That Is, That Part (on the East Bank of the Tigris) in Which the King Had His Residence
Mention of the Booty Amassed from the People of al-Mada'in
How the Booty Acquired at al-Mada'in Was Distributed among the People Present at Its Conquest, Who Numbered, as Sayf Claims, in All Sixty Thousand
The Report about the Battle of Jalula' al-Waqi'ah
The Account of the Conquest of Takrit
The Account of the Conquest of Masabadhab
The Account of the Battle That Took Place at Qarqisiya

The Events of the Year 17 (638/639)
The Reason Why Those Muslims Who Moved from al-Mada'in to al-Kufah Did So, and the Reason for Their Planning of al-Kufah, According to Sayf
The Account Is Resumed Once More by Sayf
The Redivision of the People into 'Irafahs
The Conquest of al-Mada'in before the Founding of al-Kufah
The Story of Hims When the Byzantine Commander Marched on Its Muslim Occupants
The Conquest of al-Jazirah
'Umar's Journey to Syria
Variant Features of the Story of the Plague of 'Amawas and the Uncertainty as to the Year That It Occured
Sayf's Account of 'Umar's Last Trip to Syria and How He Introduced New Ideas for the Well-Being of the Muslims
An Account of the Campaign of Khalid and 'Iyad
An Account of the Circumstances Leading to the Conquest of al-Ahwaz and of Him Who Carried It Out
The Conquest of Tustar
The Raid into Fars
The Conquest of Ramhurmuz, al-Sus, and Tustar
The Conquest of al-Sus
What Happened between the Muslims and the Inhabitants of Jundaysabur

The Events of the Year 18 (639/640)

The Events of the Year 19 (640)

The Events of the Year 20 (640/641)
The Campaigns of the Muslims and Other Matters
The Conquest of Misr and Alexandria

The Events of the Year 21 (641/642)
The Battle of the Muslims and the Persians at Nihawand
The Account Is Resumed Once More by Sayf

Appendix I. The Poetry and Saj' in This Volume

Appendix II. A Modern Description of Tustar

Bibliography of Cited Works


This volume deals with the aftermath of the decisive battle at al-Qādisiyyah described in the previous volume. First, the conquest of southern Iraq is consolidated; in rapid succession there follow the accounts of the battles at Burs and Bābil. Then in 16/637 the Muslim warriors make for the capital al-Mada'in, ancient Ctesiphon, which they conquer after a brief siege. The Persian king seeks refuge in Ḥulwān, leaving behind most of his riches, which are catalogued in great detail. In the same year the Muslim army deals the withdrawing Persians another crushing blow at the battle of Jalūlā'.

This volume is important in that it describes how the newly conquered territories are at first administered. As the climate of al-Mada'in is felt to be unwholesome, a new city is planned on the Tigris. This is al-Kūfah, which is destined to play an important role as the capital city of the fourth caliph, 'Alī. The planning of al-Kūfah is set forth in considerable detail, as is the building of its main features--the citadel and the great congregational mosque.

After this interlude there follow accounts of the conquests of a string of towns in northern Mesopotamia, which bring the Muslim fighters near the border with al-Jazirah. That region is conquered in 17/638. The history of its conquest is preceded by an account of the Byzantines' siege of the city of Ḥimṣ. Also in this year, 'Umar is recorded to have made a journey to Syria, from which he is driven back by a sudden outbreak of the plague, the so-called Plague of 'Amawās.

The scene then shifts back to southwestern Iran, where a number of cities are taken one after another. The Persian general al-Hurmuzān is captured and sent to Medina. After this, the conquest of Egypt--said to have taken place in 20/641--is recorded.

The volume concludes with a lengthy account of the crucial battle at Nihawand of 21/642. Here the Persians receive a blow that breaks their resistance definitively.

This volume abounds in sometimes very amusing anecdotes of man-to-man battles, acts of heroism, and bizarre, at times even miraculous events. The narrative style is fast-moving, and the recurrence of similar motifs in the historical expose lends them authenticity. Many of the stories in this volume may have begun as yarns spun around campfires. It is not difficult to visualize an early Islamic storyteller regaling his audience with accounts that ultimately found their way to the file on conquest history collected by Sayf ibn 'Umar, al-Ṭabarī's main authority for this volume.

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