by Dr Salah Zaimeche, BMHC
In Khalid ibn al-Waleed, ‘Amr ibn Al ‘Asi, Imad and Nur Eddin Zangi, Salah Eddin, Baybars, Bayazid, Mohammed II, etc, Islam produced some of the most astounding army commanders in history. It is a reflection of the dire situation of Muslim scholarship today that the greatness of such generals is not recognised and amply described. 1 It is also a great reflection of how bias non-Muslim scholarship is in not recognising the great place in history of such men. It is, indeed, quite edifying to note the place given to such great men of Western history, for instance, the likes of Alexander, Julius Cesar, Napoleon, Rommel, etc, but no place whatsoever to the Muslim commanders. 2 Yet, when the facts of history are looked at, it is impossible to find similar men of great stature. As George Bell, the publisher of Simon Ockley, an early historian fervently hostile to Islam, holds in the opening section of his work on the History of the Muslims (which he calls Saracens):
‘With the Koran in one hand, and the scimitar in the other, the impetuous and indomitable Arabs achieved a series of splendid victories unparalleled in the history of nations: for in the short space of eighty years that mighty range of Saracenic conquest embraced a wider extent of territory than Rome had mastered in the course of eight hundred.’ 3
It is, indeed, and after all, the Muslim early generals such as Khaleed (Khalid) ibn al-Waleed, ‘Amr Ibn al-As and Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas who in just a matter of a few weeks, two months at most, terminated the power of two of the mightiest empires that have ever dominated history: the Byzantines and the Persians. What is remarkable is that the Muslims fought with much inferior numbers and much less equipped armies, and yet won nearly every battle they fought with these two empires, which had dominated world history for hundreds of years until the Muslims arrived onto the scene. The genius of Khalid ibn al-Waleed at the battle of Al-Yarmuk, in August 636, and how he organised the Muslim armies, and how he destroyed the whole Byzantine army in one swoop is quite remarkable. 4 His crossing of the desert prior to that to outflank the Byzantines is one of the great feats of tactical warfare. 5 The role of ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Asi in the capture of Egypt, and how he removed Byzantine power from that country, his military genius, and tactical awareness in using the smaller Muslim resources is possibly unique in history. 6 Likewise, the way Tarik Ibn Ziyad led the Muslim armies in al-Andalus, just over 12,000 men, and led them into victory against the mighty Visigoth army (which had before then crushed the might of Rome), and which numbered over 100,000, at the Battle of the Guadalete in 711 is yet again, as Scott remarks:
‘The battle of the Guadalete is justly ranked with the great and decisive victories of the world. Indeed, if we consider the relative number of the combatants, the duration of the action, and the importance of its results, it has no parallel in the annals of warfare.’ 7
It is also one of the greatest and most decisive moments of history when the Mamluks, inspired by the future sultan of Egypt, Baybars, inflicted the first military defeat on the Mongols at Ain Jalut, in 1260, something no other army could do. 8 That same Baybars had ten years before led the Mamluks in their annihilation of Louis IX’s crusade, possibly one of the most powerful crusade armies ever to invade the Muslim world.
The place of Turkish army commanders is also remarkable. It is impossible to dwell on the role of Othman who established the foundations of modern Turkey, or his son, Orkhan, the conqueror of Bursa, or of Bayazid who destroyed the greatest crusader army of the late middle Ages in 1396 at Nicopolis, or Selim I who literally smashed every single army that came in the way of Islam, or Murad II who destroyed yet another huge crusader force at Varna in 1444. 9 The list of Turkish seamen who ruled the seas, Khayr-Eddin Barbarossa, in particular, who is responsible for helping France remain independent, is an endless list dating from the times when the Turkish navy ruled supreme. 10 Here, in this outline, only Mohammed II the conqueror of Constantinople is looked at. 11
Of course, many such men, besides being army commanders, were state builders as well, which is remarkable, and some of them, Barbarossa, for instance, were also scholars, writers and men of literature, which is also a great Muslim point of strength.
It is not right, of course, to forget the great Muslim army leaders who lived nearer our time. Amongst these there can be cited the Algerians, Hadj Ahmed and Emir Abd Al-Kader, who fought and nearly broke French colonial power. 12 Their example was followed many decades later by younger and yet equally determined heroic figures of the Algerian war of Liberation (1954-1962), men like Ben M’hidi, Ben Boulaid, Didouche Murad, Amirouche, etc.. Libya too had a great men of universal proportions, Umar al-Mukhtar, a man who, despite his old age (60s), fought till his death one of the great colonial power, Italy, with all its superior armada, and technological knowhow, for the liberation of his country. 13
All these men deserve a much better acknowledgment, yet the dire state of Muslim scholarship fails to see their great place in world history, a place which is recognised in some Western works, on which the following relies to highlight the role played by some of these most unique men in Muslim and world history, beginning with Khalid ibn al-Waleed.
- Abu Shama: Kitab al-Rawdatayn; ed. M.H. M. Ahmad; 2 vols; Cairo; 1954.
- Abu Shama: Kitab al-Rawdatayn; In (RHC Or); vols iv-v.
- Abu Shama; Tarajim rijal al-qarnayn al-sadis wa’l sabi’, Cairo, 1947 (repr. Beirut 1974).
- A.I. Akram: Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed; Maktabah; Publishers and Distributors; Birmingham; England; 2004.
- T.A. Archer: The Crusades; T. Fisher Unwin; London; 1894.
- T.W. Arnold: The Preaching of Islam; Lahore: Sb. M. Ashraf, 1961.
- A.S. Atiya: Crusade, Commerce and Culture; Oxford University Press; London; 1962.
- A.S. Atiya: The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages; Methuen; London; 1938.
- A.S. Atiya: The Crusade of Nicopolis; Methuen & co. Ltd; London; 1934.
- F. Babinger: Mehmed the Conqueror; tr. from German by R. Manheim; ed by W.C. Hickman, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1978.
- Baibars al-Mansuri: Zubdat al-Fikra fi Tarikh al-Hifra; Vol IX; Cairo University Library; Ms; 24-8; Photographic copy of British Museum Or. Ms.Add. 23325, fol 187 vo; al-Tuhfa al-Mulukiya fi a-Daula at-Turkiya; Cairo University Library; Ms; 24-29; Photographic copy of Austrian National Library; Flugel; Ms; 904; fol. 64 ro.
- Al-Baladhuri: Kitab Futuh al Buldan, published by M. J. de Goeje, Leiden, 1866.
- Al-Baladhuri: Kitab Futuh al-Buldan; tr by P.K. Hitti as The Origins of the Islamic State; Columbia University; New York; 1916.
- Beha Eddin: Al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyya, ed J. El-Shayyal; Cairo; 1964.
- Beha Eddin: The Life of Saladin; London, Palestine Pilgrim’s Text Society, 1897.
- C. Bouamrane-L. Gardet: Panorama de la Pensee Islamique, Sindbad; Paris; 1984. Pp. 252-66.
- R. Burns: Damascus, A History; Routledge; London; 2005.
- A.J. Butler: The Arab Conquest of Egypt, Oxford 1902.
- C.R. Conder: The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem; The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund; London; 1897.
- Y. Courbage, P. Fargues: Chretiens et Juifs Dans L’Islam Arabe et Turc, Payot, Paris, 1997;
- G.W. Cox: The Crusades; Longmans; London; 1874.
- J. Curtin: The Mongols; A History; Greenwood Press Publishers; Westport; 1907.
- J. Davenport: An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran; J. Davy; London; 1869.
- De Toulouse a Tripoli, Colloque held between 6 and 8 December, 1995, University of Toulouse; AMAM, Toulouse, 1997.
- F.M. Donner: The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press; 1981.
- M. Doukas: Historia Byzantina; ed. By I. Bekker (Corpus Scriptorum Historia Byzantinae;) Bonn 1834.
- Doukas: Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks; Wayne State University Press; 1975.
- W. Durant: The Age of Faith, Simon and Shuster, New York; 6th printing; 1950.
- P. W. Edbury: The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade, Scolar Press, 1996.
- N. Elisseeff: Nur al-Din: Un Grand Prince Musulman de Syrie au Temps des Croisades; Damascus; 1967.
- Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leyden; Brill.
- Epistolae Innocenti III (ref as Inn. Ep): Ed. Baluze, 1683, Publ J. Migne in Patrologia Latina, vols 214-217, Paris 1855.
- M. Erbstosser: The Crusades; David and Charles; New ton Abbot; first published in Leipzig; 1978.
- Extraits de l’Histoire des Patriarches d’Alexandrie Relatifs au Siege de Damiette; tr. E. Blochet, ROL. XI (1908).
- I.R. and L. L al-Faruqi: The Cultural Atlas of Islam; Mc Millan Publishing Company New York, 1986.
- R. Finucane: Soldiers of the Faith; J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd; London, 1983.
- F. Gabrieli: Muhammad and the Conquests of Islam; World University Library, London; 1968.
- F. Gabrieli: Arab Historians of the Crusades; Routledge and Keegan Paul; 1969.
- E. Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; vol 5; ed. W. Smith; London, 1858. (see also vol 7: Methuen and Co; London; 1920.)
- E. Gibbon: The Crusades; Alex Murray and Son; London; 1869.
- S.J. Joseph Gill: Byzantium and the Papacy 1198-1400; Rutgers University Press; New Jersey; 1979;
- J.B. Glubb: The Life and Times of Muhammad; Hodder and Stoughton, London; 1970.
- E.A. Grosvenor: Constantinople; Little Brown Company; Boston; 1900.
- The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks; tr. from the Turkish of Haji Khalifah; by J. Mitchell; The Oriental Translation Fund; London; 1831; preface; p. v.
- P.M. Holt: Three Biographies of Al-Zahir Baybars; in Medieval Historical Writing in the Christian and Islamic Worlds; School of Oriental and African Studies; University of London; London; 1982; pp. 19-29; at p. 20.
- Ibn al-Athir: Tarikh al-Dawla Al-Atabakiyya; ed. A. A. Tulaymat; Cairo; 1963.
- Ibn al-Athir: Kitab al-Kamil; ed K.J. Tornberg; 12 vols; Leiden; 1851-72.
- Ibn al-Qalanisi: Dayl Tarikh Dimashk; ed. H.F. Amedroz; Leiden; 1908.
- Ibn al-Qalanisi: The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades, tr. of Ibn al-Qalanisi. H.A.R. Gibb; London, Luzac and Co, Ltd, 1932.
- Ibn Shaddad: Al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyya, ed J. El-Shayyal; Cairo; 1964.
- Imad Eddin al-Isfahani: Sana al-Barq al-Shami; summarised by al-Bundari; ed. F. al-Nabarawi; Cairo; 1979.
- Imad Eddin al-Isfahani: Al Fath al-Qusi fi ‘l Fath al-Qudusi; Landberg Ed; Leiden; 1888.
- Ibn Taghribirdi: Al-Nujum al-Zahira fi Muluk Misr wal Qahira; Cairo; 1938.
- Ibn Wasil: Mufarrij al-Kurub fi Akhbar Bani Ayyub; Ed. G. Shayyal, S.Ashur, and H. Rabi’; 4 vols; Cairo.
- Baron Mac-Guckin de Slane: Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary (4 vols, quarto, Paris, 1842-171.
- Ibn Abd al-Zahir: Al-Rawd al-Zahir fi Sirat al-Malik al-Zahir; ed. A.A. Khuwayter; Ryad; 1976. Partial ed and tr. F. Sadeque: Baybars I of Egypt; Dacca; 1956.
- T. Al-Ismail: The Life of Muhammad; Taha Publishers; London; 1988.
- Abd Al-Rahman Al-Jabarti’s History of Egypt: Ajaib al-Athar fi’l Trajim wa’l Akhbar; edited by T. Philipp and M. Perlmann; 2 vols; Verlag; 1994; p. 2.
- W.E. Kaegi: Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests; Cambridge University Press; 1992.
- Kemal Eddin: Zubdat al-Halab fi Ta’arikh Halab; tr. as Histoire d’Alep de Kamal Ad-Din by E. Blochet; in Revue de L’Orient Latin (ROL); Vols 3-6; 1896 to 1899.
- Kemal Eddin: Zubdat al-Halab fi Ta’arikh Halab; Sami Dahhan’s edition, II, Damascus, 1954.
- Abd al-Aziz al-Khowaiter: Al-Rawd al-Zahir fi sirat al-Malik al-Zahir; Ryad; 1976.
- A. Khowaiter: Baibars the First; The Green Mountain Press; London; 1978.
- K.M. Khaalid; A. Hamid Eliva: Men and Women Around the Messenger; tr into English by M. M. Gemeiah et al; dar al-Manarah; Al-Mansurah; Egypt; 2003.
- A. De Lamartine: History of Turkey; in 3 vols; D. Appleton & Company; New York; 1855; vol 2.
- J.H. Lamonte: Crusade and Jihad: in N.A. Faris ed: The Arab Heritage, Princeton University Press, 1944; pp 159-98.
- S. Lane Poole: Saladin and the Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Beirut; Khayats; 1964.
- G. Le Bon: La Civilisation des Arabes, Syracuse; 1884.
- U. and M.C. Lyons: Ayyubids, Mamluks and Crusaders, selection from the Tarikh al-Duwal wal Muluk of Ibn al-Furat; 2 vols, W. Heffer and Sons Ltd, Cambridge, 1971.
- Al-Maqrizi, Ahmad Ibn Ali: Al-Mawaiz wa Alitibar fi Dhikr al-Khitat wa-Al-Athar. Edited by Ahmed Ali al-Mulaiji. 3 Vols. Beirut: Dar al Urfan; 1959.
- Al-Maqrizi: Kitab al-Khitat, ed. Bulaq; partial French tr. by U. Bouriant and P. Casanova, Description Topographique et Historique de l’Egypte, Paris, 1895-1900; Cairo, 1906-20.
- Al-Makrizi (Al-Maqrizi): Kitab al-Suluk, translated as Histoire de l’Egypte de Makrizi by E. Blochet; Revue de l’Orient Latin; vols viii-xi; Paris.
- Al-Makrizi: Al-Suluk fi Ma’rifat Duwal al-Muluk; tr. M. Quatremere as Histoire des Sultans Mamluks de l’Egypte; Paris; 1845.
- Al-Makrizi: Kitab al-Suluk; tr. R.J.C. Broadhurst as History of Ayyubids and Mamluks; Boston; 1980.
- W. Muir: The Mamluke or Slave Dynasty of Egypt; 1260-1517; London; Smith, Elder & Co; London; 1896.
- S. Ockley: History of the Saracens; George Bell and Sons; London; 1890.
- Baron G. d’Ohsson: Histoire des Mongols: La Haye et Amsterdam; 1834.
- A.A. Paton: History of the Egyptian Revolution; From the Mamelukes to the Death of Mohammed Ali; 2nd edition; London; Trubner &Co; 1870.
- H.U. Rahman: A Chronology of Islamic History: 570-1000 CE; Mansell Publishing Limited; London; 1989.
- Receuil des Historiens des Croisades; Historiens Orientaux; in 4 vols; Imprimerie Nationale; Paris; 1841 ff.
- S. Runciman: A History of the Crusades, in 3 vols; Cambridge University Press, 1962.
- S. Runciman: The Fall of Constantinople 1453; Cambridge University Press; 1965.
- J.J. Saunders: Aspects of the Crusades; University of Canterbury Publishing; Canterbury; 1962.
- J.J. Saunders: The History of the Mongol Conquests; Routlege & Kegan Paul; London; 1971.
- S.P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire; in 3 vols; The John Lippincott Company; Philadelphia; 1904.
- K. M. Setton: A History of the Crusades; K.M. Setton ed; The University of Wisconsin Press; 1975; vol 3.
- Sibt al-Jawzi: Al-Muntazam Fi Tarikh Al-Muluk Wa’l Umam; X; Hyderabad; 1940; VIII/ 2.
- Sibt al-Jawzi: Mir’at al-Zaman; Partial edition by Jewett; Chicago; 1907.
- E. Siwan: La Genese de la Contre Croisade; Journal Asiatique; 254 (1966) pp. 199-204.
- V. Slessarev: Prester Jean: The Letters and the Legend; 1959.
- B. Spuler: History of the Mongols; London, Routledge& Kegan Paul, 1972.
- B. Spuler: The Muslim World: The Mongol Period; tr. by F.R. C. Bagley; Leyden; Brill; 1960.
- B. Spuler: Die Mongolen und das Christentum, in Internationale Kirchichte Zeitschrift; Bern; 28; 1938; pp. 156-75.
- W.B. Stevenson: The Crusaders in the East; Cambridge University Press; 1907.
- A.N. Stratos: Byzantium in the Seventh Century; tr by H.T. Hionides; Hakkert Publisher; Amsterdam; 1972.
- Al-Sulami: Un Traite Damasquin du debut du XIIem siecle, ed E. Siwan, Journal Asiatique, 1966.
- Al-Tabari: Tarikh al-Umum wal Muluk; ed De Goeje; Leyden 1879-1901;
- Al-Tabari: Tarikh al-Umum wal Muluk; Cairo; 1939.
- The History of Tabari, vol xiii, tr and annotated by G.H.A. Juynboll, State University of New York Press, 1989.
- Al-Tabari: Chronique; tr to Fr by H. Zotenberg; Paris; Imprimerie Imperiale; 1874 ff.
- Al-Tabari: Chronique; tr by M.H. Zotenberg; New ed Rev by M. Hamade; Ed al-Bustane; Paris; 2002.
- Al-Tabari: The History of al-Tabari (Tarikh al-Rusul wa’l Muluk;) tr. by M. Fishbein; State University of New York Press; 1997.
- A.D. Taha: The Muslim Conquest and Settlement of North Africa and Spain; Routledge; London; 1989.
- P. Thorau: The Lion of Egypt; tr into English by P.M. Holt; Longman; London; 1987.
- A.S. Tritton tr. with notes by H.A.R. Gibb: The first and second Crusades from an Anonymous Syriac Chronicle; Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society (JRAS) 1933; pp 69-101.
- The First and second crusades from an Anonymous Syriac chronicle: tr. by A.S. Tritton and notes by A.H. R. Gibb: JRAS: Part two: April. pp 273-305.
- With some exceptions such as in the works of early Muslim historians:
-Beha Eddin: The Life of Saladin; London, Palestine Pilgrim’s text Society, 1897.
-Ibn Shaddad: Al-Nawadir al-Sultaniyya, ed J. El-Shayyal; Cairo; 1964.
-Imad Eddin al-Isfahani: Al Fath al-Qusi fi ‘l Fath al-Qudusi; Landberg Ed; Leiden; 1888.
Or more recent ones such as A.I. Akram: Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed; Maktabah; Publishers and Distributors; Birmingham; England; 2004. ↩
- With very rare exceptions such as:
-N. Elisseeff: Nur al-Din: Un Grand Prince Musulman de Syrie au Temps des Croisades; Damascus; 1967.
-S. Lane Poole: Saladin and the Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Beirut; Khayats; 1964. ↩
- Henry George Bell in S. Ockley: History of the Saracens; George Bell and Sons; London; 1890; Advertisement. ↩
- W.E. Kaegi: Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests; Cambridge University Press; 1992. ↩
- J.B. Glubb: The Great Arab Conquests; Hodder and Stoughton; 1963. ↩
- A.J. Butler: The Arab Conquest of Egypt, Oxford 1902. ↩
- S.P. Scott: History of the Moorish Empire; in 3 vols; The John Lippincott Company; Philadelphia; 1904; vol 1; p. 232. ↩
- P. Thorau: The Lion of Egypt; tr by P.M. Holt; Longman; London; 1992 ↩
- N. Jorga: Notes et Extraits; Pour Servir a l’Histoire des Croisades au XVem Siecle; 2 vols; Paris; Ernest Leroux; 1899; II. ↩
- See most particularly:
G. Fisher: The Barbary Legend; Oxford; 1957. ↩
- F. Babinger: Mehmed the Conqueror; tr. from German by R. Manheim; ed by W.C. Hickman, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1978. ↩
- M. Morsy: North Africa 1800-1900; Longman; London; 1984. ↩
- See E.E. Evans Pritchard: The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1949.
J. Wright: Libya, Frederick.A. Praeger, Publishers, New York, 1969. ↩