Chapter 4: Planning in the Peninsula
23 Jumada Al-Akhir, 1663
"Commander, sir," a timid man by the name of Zayd ibn Abdullah spoke as he entered the dimly lit tent. The dark sky behind him disappeared as the tent flaps drew closed. "I'm sorry to disturb you at this time but a few of the soldiers have located a nearby oasis and they are requesting permission to go and fill their canteens."
"Zayd," called the deep voice of a man sitting beside a dancing candlelight. "How many times must I tell you; you can still call me Zubayr."
"My apologies, sir- I mean, Zubayr."
"No need to apologize, Zayd. I may be the commander but there is no need for you to be so formal; we’re still brothers, are we not?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good. And as for the water, tell Abu Yusuf in the morning to take a small troop to further investigate this oasis before anyone else approaches it; we are near enemy territory and we cannot risk falling into a trap. It may be that perhaps there are enemies stationed nearby lying in wait, or perhaps the water itself is toxic to consume. Let Abu Yusuf and a small team of men go and properly analyze it all; then if he gives you the okay, bring as much water back as you can for the others.”
“In Shaa Allah.”
“And return here after you are done.”
"Of course sir, thank you."
Zubayr looked up from the Quran he had previously been engaged in as Zayd opened the pale flap of the tent. He truly is a respectful and dedicated subordinate, Zubayr thought to himself. It's quite a shame that he is so overly formal; I'm certain he could have gone further in life if he would just put that aside and let himself grow. It’s a wonder he managed to become a lieutenant with his subservience and lack of initiative. Then again, he’s always been this way…
It was true enough; Zayd ibn Abdullah had always been the lesser half of his “blade-brother,” Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim. Born the son of an army general, Zubayr had grown up in a military family. His father was constantly going away for military expeditions to defend against the invading Kwaadi army; and when one of the soldiers under his command died, Abdul-Hakim took in the soldier's family to live with his own.
Life after that was no simple matter, however. Living had already been difficult enough for a small family like Zubayr’s; but when they had to take in Zayd’s family as well, it was a near impossible struggle just to survive. Food had often been scarce at times, and at times the wages Zubayr's mother worked for were barely enough to feed one person, let alone a family. Still, they never complained. They accepted the Abdullah family like their own, and provided them the same comforts as themselves.
As a child, Zubayr had considered himself lucky. Most families didn't have as many kids as his did. He had two older sisters during is toddler years and eventually that expanded to having 3 younger "sisters" and a "brother" as well. Even though the family wasn't fully adopted into his own, Zubayr considered Zayd to be his blade-brother, as they grew up training for combat together. As children, the two would be out in the fields swinging around sticks pretending to be fighting in battle. And when Abdul-Hakim was home from the military, he would train them both for real combat.
In their teenage years, Zubayr and Zayd had sworn that they would help provide for their family. Until that point, the stress of providing had been mainly upon Zubayr’s own mother. Zayd’s mother had passed away and Abdul-Hakim’s meager payments were hardly enough to support the many members of the household. And so it was that Zubayr and Zayd had to go out and seek any extra means of provision that they could. Hunting animals for food or slaughtering for payment, the two worked whatever they could, with Zayd always following in Zubayr’s lead.
Eventually, the two young men had enlisted in one of the Muslim armies. The army would provide an opportunity for them to defend their lands against the oppressing Kwaadi peoples as well as earn small payments to send to their family; it was a win-win. They joined and fought their way through many battles, earning more and more strength and becoming notable warriors. As the war went on, the men were quickly rising through the ranks and increasing their status. Zubayr’s bravery and fighting skills brought him honor and admiration; and Zayd’s intellect and knack for strategizing made them an excellent pairing. Nonetheless, it was mainly Zubayr who earned high recognition, despite Zayd possessing similar talents as he often sacrificed his own pursuits to dedicate himself in aiding Zubayr’s cause. It was his way of repaying the debt that he felt he owed to Zubayr and his family.
It was no surprise then, that when Zubayr was given command over a small army, Zayd enlisted as his subordinate. As the lieutenant general, Zayd was free to assist his brother in his mission to recapture some spacious lands in a desert-mountain region. They fought side-by-side once more, making a fearsome team. With Zubayr’s leadership and Zayd’s loyalty, the two were almost unstoppable. It was only a matter of time before they would be able to push back the Kwaadi forces and expel them from the Arabian Peninsula as planned, and so continued the strategizing.
Sitting beside the burning candle, Zubayr closed his Quran and sighed. There was only about an hour left before the Sun would rise, and he needed to have his strategy mapped about before the morning. Resting on a small, wooden table, there was a paper map with a series of red and green pieces denoting Kwaadi and Muslim forces. There were some near and far to one another, and some groups were larger than others. Picking up on piece, Zubayr scratched his bearded chin and pondered where to place it.
“If this oasis the men have found is worthwhile, then perhaps we can move our camp to occupy it before it is discovered by the Kwaadi,” Zubayr suggested to himself. “Then again, Abdur-Rashid and his men are still waiting on our reinforcements; we cannot leave them unaided. Still, it would be a waste to pass up this water source and leave it to the enemies.”
Hearing the fluttering sound of the tent’s flaps opening again, Zubayr looked up to see Zayd returning to him. Zubayr certainly appreciated his fast work, and was more than grateful to have him rejoin the planning efforts. With a wave of his hand, Zubayr urged Zayd to sit before him and give his opinion on the matter. Zayd glanced over the map, his thoughtful mind working just as fast as he observant eyes.
“I assume you mean to seize control of the oasis, should the reports prove positive,” Zayd questioned.
“Indeed. I do not think that we should leave any possible aid or resources to the Kwaadi. Should they manage to make it past Abdur-Rashid despite our support, I do not want them to be able to dwell in this land and take over; the people use the nearby travel routes for trade and that will expose them to danger.”
“Yes. Just as well, if we occupy the nearest water source, we will certainly hold the greater control within the area. With a fully established settlement, we would have the advantage over our enemies who would need to receive constant support from their homes. Thus, even if we are unable to fight them off in one fell swoop, we can outlast them and fend them off over time.”
“Ah, this is true. You’ve certainly convinced me of the importance in maintaining this oasis. Still, what shall we do about Abdur-Rashid? He has requested immediate support and we are due to arrive in the southern mountains within a week. We must hasten to his side and cannot afford any delays in doing so.”
“Why then do you not divide your troops, sir?”
“If you divide your troops, you and I can lead a team of the most skilled warriors and journey to assist Abdur-Rashid. In the meantime, we can leave another team of men here to occupy the oasis and keep up camp. They can send word to the Amir and request further reinforcements who would then join us at a later time; all needs would be met without sacrificing or delaying any.”
“You’re right; that’s an excellent idea. I find only one issue that I disagree with in it though.”
“What is that?”
“I think that I had better leave you here to take command, while I go ahead with half of the troops myself.”
“Zayd, I do not think that I would trust anyone to lead as much as I trust you. You have been at my side since childhood and you know exactly how I think and plan; would this not make you the most suitable replacement for me?”
“Perhaps, but sir- Zubayr, would you not prefer that I accompany you and fight alongside you? We have trained together as a team and I do not think it would be right for me to leave you to go off and fight whilst I remain here at rest. I should go and support you in your mission.”
“No, rather this is your support, ya Zayd. When I know that the troops are in good hands and the land is secure, I can certainly go and fight with my fiercest determination. Now, is there any reason that you cannot agree to this decision?”
“Well I-” Zayd began before getting cut off by a call from outside.
"Allahu-Akbar, Allahu-Akbar,” the camp’s *muezzin cried out in a loud voice, beginning the athan and alerting the others to wake up for prayer. Zayd bit is thumb and Zubayr smirked, moving two pins on the map before getting to his feet.
"It is decided then," Zubayr concluded. "We will divide the troops and I will lead half of them to reinforce Abdur-Rashid. Meanwhile, I will leave you here to command the rest of our army and protect this oasis. Build a well and preserve this water for our peoples; it will prove most beneficial. Understood?”
“Excellent. Come now, brother; let us get ready for Fajr."
Zubayr stood and led Zayd out of the tent and into the moonlight where the soldiers had begun to assemble outside their tents. The winds blew mildly and the sands shifted, some dunes growing and some shrinking. The distant mountain cliffs stood against the sky, blocking the heavier winds from the camp. As his eyes adjusted to the light of the moon, Zubayr began to notice the other tents like his. They blended in, likely from endless batter from sand and dirt by torrential winds. Some appeared frayed and many were patched and worn, as were some of the soldiers that were gathered outside them.
After making wudhu and praying their *Sunnahs, the army gathered to pray Salat-ul-Fajr together. The prayer seemed almost endless as Zubayr recited Surah *At-Tauba. The warm rays of the sun rising began to penetrate the darkness of the night. In the 2nd *rak’ah, Zubayr heard the galloping of a young Arabian horse with a messenger on its back. The messenger tied his horse and joined the prayer.
After the prayer's conclusion, Zubayr ordered his troops to sit out and await further instructions. Meanwhile he returned to his tent and waited for the messenger to finish praying.
The man finished his prayers in a hurry and invited himself into Zubayr's tent. "Dawud Abdus-Sam'ee, at your service, sir," said the thin, lanky messenger with curtness.
"Who has sent you?" Zubayr questioned him.
The messenger stepped forward and handed Zubayr a scroll that he had been carrying. "The commander of the Muslim forces in the western battle-front, Hussein Ibn Tahir. I was ordered to ride east and warn each commander that the Ikeqi and the Kwaadi have made a truce and are uniting to fight the Muslims in the Western Continent."
"What?! Those treacherous Ikeqi; they had made a truce with us!"
"A travelling merchant reported that the Ikeqi launched an attack on multiple villages in one of the desert lands near the Nile. One of the villages sent a small army to confront them, and successfully dealt them a heavy loss. New reports indicate that they are now receiving men and weaponry from Kwaade and are devising a new strategy to gain superiority in the land. It is assumed that they intend to wipe out the Muslims from the continent and head west to face us as well. We do not currently know whether they will return to the place of their defeat first or head northwest to attack the larger Muslim population there."
"Ya Allah! With an increased amount of enemies, we are ill prepared to fight. I will need to send support to the desert tribes as back up in case they do head there first. Those in the northwest will have to rely on support from their island brothers further north."
"Worry not commander, one thousand and seven hundred warriors from Amman have been recruited and are en route to defend our brothers there. They will, In Shaa Allah, be safe and well equipped to deal with the traitors. Now sir, I must depart to warn the other commanders."
"Of course you must depart. But first, where are you going to next?"
"I am to go to the mountains where Commander Abdur-Rashid is stationed."
"Good, good. We are heading there as well. When you arrive, please do inform the man that we reinforcements will arrive shortly, In Shaa Allah."
"Certainly sir. I will take my leave now, Salaam and may Allah be with you." With that being said, the mysterious messenger left the tent. Zubayr heard the thumping of the horse carrying the messenger off through the sand.
"Ya Zayd," Zubayr called from out of his tent. "Gather the troops once more and ready them for battle; I need to examine them in order to select who from amongst them shall accompany me to assist Abdur-Rashid." After hearing Zayd’s acceptance, Zubayr then turned his attention back to his Quran on a small shelf. He picked it up and continued reading where he had left off. "O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient." (Quran 2:153).
With a sigh, Zubayr put the Quran back down and raised his hands to make a silent du’ah. Still reflecting on the verse in his mind, Zubayr stood up to dress himself in his battle armor. He tied a black turban over his silver helmet and put *kohl on his eyes. He went over the verse in his head once more and then took a deep breath.
Stepping out of his tent, the brave general looked out over the army as the men assembled to stand before him. There they stood, with the sun shining over their heads. They were dressed in tattering clothing, wearing dented armor and carrying curved blades. A few of the soldiers wore nothing but plain clothes and turbans; some were unarmed; and some were holding only small knives. Nonetheless, they all stood as a unit, with strength and determination evident in their eyes. From the young to the old, strong to the weak, all were equally willing to lay their lives on the line for justice and for righteousness.
"Men, Soldiers, Brothers," Zubayr addressed them in a sincere voice. "Today we ride out on a great path, one that will, In Shaa Allah, lead us to Jannah. Allah has promised victory to the Believers, and we pray and strive to be amongst them. Subhaan Allah, Allah has so much Mercy that He has guaranteed the Believers victory no matter what. If we die, then, In Shaa Allah, we will enter Jannah. And if we triumph over the enemy forces, then it will be that Allah has brought about Justice and Freedom for the people through us. We fight to defend not just ourselves, but all those who wish only to worship Allah in peace, Blessed be His Name! May Allah grant us the strength to remain steadfast in these decisive times. War is upon us; it is time to fulfill our duty, time to give our all for Islam, and remain unwavering in the face of our enemies. My dear respected brothers in Islam, with Allah's Help, WE WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!"
"Allahu Akbar!" Resounding cheers came from the excited crowd. "Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!"
Muezzin: One who makes the call to prayer.
Sunnahs: In this context, it refers to an additional set of prayers before or after an obligatory prayer.
Surah At-Tauba: The 9th chapter of the Quran
Rak’ah: Segment of the prayer
Kohl: An ancient eye cosmetic with various uses such as protection against eye ailments, protection against the harsh rays of the sun, or simply as decoration.