The Battle of Az-Zallaqah
“To see the camels of al-Murabitun here is better than to see the pigs of Alfonso”.
The battle took place in the southern part of al-Andalus close to Badajoz. The battle was called Zallaqah due to the slipping of the fighters because there was so much blood on the ground the fighters were losing hold and started slipping. It occurred on the 12th of Rajab 479 H – October 23, 1086 CE.
After the Ummayad Caliphate declined in al-Andalus, the land split up 20 mini states each one being ruled by a different king. The most predominant amongst them were Banu Abbad in Seville, Banu Dhi Noon in Toledo, Banu Hood in Zaragoza, and each state claimed independence for itself and leadership, in fact each one would call himself Ameer al-Mu’mineen, there was one incident where one man from Banu Ummayah took over the Palace of Cordoba and declared himself Ameer, the people said your days (meaning the Ummayad days) are over, he said pledge to me today and kill me tomorrow, this how the status was. And this gave the Christians the golden opportunity to attack the Muslims.
And in the presence of disunity and disarray amongst the Muslims the Christians were forming an alliance between the kingdoms of Castile & Leon under Ferdinand I who started the reconquista.
This war continued even after his son Alfonso VI took power and during his reign he reached as far as Toledo (Tulaytula) (478 H – 1085 CE), the most important city and the base of the Muslims and it’s fall was a big blow to the Muslims and alas, never again did it return to their control.
But what is even more disgraceful than this is that kings of the Ta’ifas did not rush to aid or defend, on the opposite some of them sunk so low that they provided aid and help to Alfonso, while some of them thought that in order to let their mini state survive they had to maintain relations with Alfonso, ally with him, show kindness to him and even pay him a yearly tax. Some of them even ordered their troops to join in against the war in Toledo. As if that is not enough, one of them even gave his daughter in marriage to Alfonso, so as you can see things were really looking bad for the Muslims.
And Alfonso saw the state of weakness and cowardice from the leaders of the taifas, which roots lay in their stinginess, greediness, and their hatred for Jihad even though it was the only way to remove this disgrace and to return the glory and to protect the religion and whatever was left of the land. So Alfonso decided to weaken the these states before finally attacking them, his plan to do this was to take the yearly tax which he imposed on them all, and then to continuously raid the agricultural and farming lands of the Muslims, and finally besieging their forts whenever he had the chance, and thus weakening them economically.
And so Alfonso’s plan succeeded, and he could clearly see in front of him the taifas weakening (after they were already in a humiliating and weak state).
After Alfonso took over Toledo (Tulaytula) he turned his eyes on the neighbouring city of Seville (Ishbiliya) and it’s leader al-Mu’tamid bin Abbad. So he sent an envoy whose leader was a Jew to collect his yearly tax, after the tax was given, the Jew said that Alfonso VI had another request, al-Mu’tamid asked what this was, the Jew replied “The wife of Alfonso is pregnant and she will deliver soon, and Alfonso demands from you that you let her give birth inside the Masjid of Cordoba ”. While al-Mu’tamid was still amazed at what his ears heard, the Jew continued and said “The priests of Castile have told him that if a son of yours is born in their biggest Masjid you will overcome them”. Despite the lifestyle al-Mu’tamid led and him being one of the kings of the taifas he could not let such a thing happen in the Masjid so he refused to allow this to happen but stuck to paying the tax only. But out of his arrogance and his ill manners the leader of this envoy, the Jew, insulted al-Mu’tamid in front of all his ministers.
al-Mu’tamid enraged by this grabbed this man and cut off his head and imprisoned the rest of the envoy, and he sent a letter to Alfonso, saying that I will not pay the tax and your wife will not give birth in the Masjid.
When Alfonso heard of this, he totally lost it and became enraged, and immediately ordered that his armies be readied, and he came with his pomp and arrogance and burned the villages around the city of Seville and laid siege to it. And the siege continued for a while, and out of his arrogance Alfonso sent a letter to al-Mu’tamid in which he said “The flies around your city have irritated me, so if you can send me fan in which I can fan them away from myself, then do so”. As if he is saying in this siege, the only problem I’m facing is the flies and mosquitoes, as for you, your army, your equipment and castles they do me no harm.
Upon receiving the letter, al-Mu’tamid wrote on its back a reply, only one sentence, which shook the army of Castile and Alfonso, he wrote “By Allah! If you do not return I will fan you with a fan from the Murabitun”, meaning that he will seek assistance from the Murabitun.
Upon reading this Alfonso retreated as he knew the might of al-Murabitun. The rulers of the taifas came together and alongside with them the scholars, they discussed as to what they should do, of course the scholars told them that the only option you have is to fight and to seek aid from the Murabiteen, the rulers refused this except for some, amongst them al-Mu’tamid & al-Mutawwakil ibn al-Aftas, al-Mu’tamid said some strong words after which everyone agreed on seeking assistance from the Murabitun, he said “To see the camels of al-Murabitun here is better than to see the pigs of Alfonso”.
In fact al-Mu’tamid himself went with an envoy to Marrakech and Yusuf ibn Tashfin the leader of al-Murabitun promised him with good. And so in Rabi’ al-Akhir 479 H – Augustus 1086 CE) Yusuf ibn Tashfin and the Murabitun cross North Africa to al-Andalus, while they were on the boats, the waves started to shake the boats heavily, Yusuf raised hands and made du’a to Allah:
“O Allah, if you know that in my crossing is good and victory for the Muslims then make the crossing easy for me, but if you O Allah know that is not the case then make it hard for me so I cannot cross it (the sea).” And by the will of Allah to waves returned back to normal and Yusuf ibn Tashfin reached al-Andalus safely and the first thing he did when he landed is that he made prostration to Allah out of thankfulness for allowing him to cross and making him a soldier from amongst his soldiers.
As Yusuf ibn Tashfin enters Seville he receives the welcome of heroes and he continues to move north to face Castile, this Christian kingdom whom the taifa kings feared so much.
The people of al-Andalus have been living in humiliation, weakness and disgrace for 70 years, and when they saw these men who would not accept humiliation even for a day, and knew only Ribaat (guarding the Muslim borders), crossing the sea to make Allah’s word the highest, when they saw these people like these they changed a lot, and they wanted to be like them, and they accepted jihad. Imam al-Maqari says in Nafh al-Teeb : “And al-Mu’tamid also gathered his army, and from the people of Cordoba also many left, and many volunteers from al-Andalus, and news reached Alfonso and he too gathered his army and soldiers and left from Toledo”. And people from Cordobo were joining Yusuf, from Seville, and from Badajoz and from everywhere until the army reached Zallaqah (we will be referring to place of battle as Zallaqah too) with a number 30 000.
The 30 000 men under the command reached Zallaqah in which one of the greatest battles in Islamic history occurred, this place was not known as Zallaqah but later on became known as Zallaqah due to reasons mentioned before. While they are here news reaches Yusuf from the Maghreb that his eldest son has passed away, despite this he stays and does not retreat. Alfonso’s army included thousands from France, Italy, England & Germany after the Pope promised everyone who participated in this battle will be forgiven so the Christians flocked from everywhere. Alfonso was leading the army, carrying a cross and an image of Jesus and he said: “With this army I will fight mankind and jinn, with I will fight the angels of the heavens & and with it I will fight Muhammad and his Companions”.
And as was the norm of the time the two armies began exchanging letters. Yusuf ibn Tashfin sent a letter to Alfonso VI and in he said: “We have heard that you wished for boats so that you cross over to us, here were are having crossed over to you, and you will know the severity of your claim, and the prayer of the unbelievers is only in error. And I offer you either Islam, or the jizyah or war and I only give you those three.
Alfonso received the letter and after he read it he became enraged, how could this man ask him for the tax from him after he, his father and his grandfathers were taxing the Muslim? So he replied “I have chosen war with you, so what is your response”. Ibn Tashfin replied to him “The response is that which you see with your eyes, not that which you hear with your ears, and peace be upon those who follow the guidance.”.
Alfonso out of his treachery sent a letter to Yusuf in which he said “Lets decide on a day to fight, tomorrow is Friday, and its a day of festival for the Muslims and we do not fight on the festival of Muslims. As for Saturday it’s the day of the Jews and we cannot fight then because there are so many of them in our army. And Sunday is our day, so let us wait till Monday and fight then.”
But of course Yusuf did not fall for his trap.
On Thursday Yusuf readied the army. And on the night of Friday amongst the sleeping Muslims was the great Shaykh ibn Rumaylah (The great Maliki Scholar Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Rumaylah al-Qurtubi). This shaykh knew his duty was not only to sit in the Masjid and giving lessons and lectures, no, this Shaykh knew his duties and knew of the pinnacle of this religion.
On this night ibn Rumaylah saw the Messenger of Allah in his dream in which he said “O Ibn Rumaylah! You will be victorious, and you will meet us (meaning you will be martyred)”.
The Shaykh wakes up happy and could not contain himself, because after all the Messenger of Allah has promised the Muslims victory and promised him martyrdom. He goes in the middle of the night to wake up Yusuf ibn Tashfin, to wake up al-Mu’tamid bin Abbad, to wake al-Mutawwakil bin al-Aftas, and Abdullah ibn Bilqin and the rest of the commanders and relates to them the dream.
This dream shook Yusuf ibn Tashfin and they awoke everyone exclaiming on the top of their voices: “ Ibn Rumaylah has seen the Prophet and you will be victorious!”. It has been 70 years since the Muslims enjoyed a moment a like this, imagine the scene, the people are eager for martyrdom, Yusuf orders the recitors to recite Surah al-Anfal, and orders to speakers to incite the people for martyrdom and he himself goes to each faction of the army telling them : “Glad tidings to those who are martyrs & whoever lives then he has the reward and the booty”.
After readying the army and praying the Fajr prayers on 12 Rajab 479 H – 23 October 1086 H, Alfonso decided to attack and betray the Muslims as his nature was, to his surprise he found the Muslims ready to fight and of utmost preparation. What Yusuf did was he split the army into two halves, a front half and a back half. Al-Mu’tamid requested to lead everyone who was with him and all the Andalusis, he wanted to wash the sins all the humiliation he endured away for years. The first half consisting of 15 000 led by al-Mu’tamid and behind him Dawud ibn Aisha one of the commanders of al-Murabitun. As for the second half of the army, in it is Yusuf bin Tasfhin and they hide behind the first half far away, and behind them he hides away even further 4000 fighters, and these were fighters from Sudan carrying Indian swords and javelins and were the best fighters of the army so he kept them behind the first half.
So the army actually became three factions, and this is not a new strategy as Khalid ibn al-Waleed used it in Persia and al-Nu’man bin Muqrin used it in the battle of Nahawand.
So the Crusaders attacked and the first to repel the attack was the first group of al-Mu’tamid and he showed patience like no one else showed, he sustained injuries, was struck on the head, one of this thighs were injured and three horses of his were hamstrung, every time one dies another one was brought. And the first one to come to his was Dawud bin Aisha and with his arrival things turned a bit better.
Yusuf ibn Tasfhin stood by as it was not his time to attack yet. After ‘Asr of that day Yusuf ibn Tasfhin descends upon the Crusaders and surrounds them after the first group showed patience and many Muslims were martyred. Yusuf then further split this group into two one to help the first group of al-Mu’tamid and the second one to attack the Crusaders from behind. And the first thing they did behind them was to burn their tents, and this so as the Crusaders know that Yusuf ibn Tashfhin was behind them and that they are attacking. When they, the Crusaders knew that they were surrounded they morale sunk immensely, and defeat entered their hearts, and chaos ensued. In the first strike of Yusuf they killed 10 000 crusaders. And from far Yusuf gives the sign of advancing to the 4000 men from Sudan, and as they descend they kill all Crusaders in their way. And the horses and men began to slip due to amount of blood on the floor. And only 450 horsemen and men remained from the Crusaders including Alfonso who had lost a leg, and they retreated to Toledo in the darkness of the night, while on the way 350 more Crusaders die from injuries.
Thus the battle of Zallaqah is no doubt equal to al-Qadisiyyah and Yarmook.
After this battle the Muslims collected much booty & spoils of war. But Yusuf ibn Tashfin out of his Zuhd (asceticism) left all the booty for the people of al-Andalus and the Murabitun took nothing and they returned back as they came, except that they were loaded with reward from Allah this time.
(Taken from a lecture delivered by Dr. Ragheb As-Sergany on al-Andalus)
“To see the camels of al-Murabitun here is better than to see the pigs of Alfonso”. | Al-Andalus