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The Islamic World
The Islamic World


Mart 7th, 2015

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Conquest of the Island of Cypress

Muawiyah's proposal
When Muawiyah became the Governor of Syria, he suggested to Umar the desirability of undertaking a naval expedition and conquering the island of Cypress in the Mediterranean. He argued that in any campaign against Constantinople. Cypress could serve as base

Umar's decision
On receiving the proposal of Muawiyah, Umar asked the opinion of 'Amr b Al 'Aas the Governor of Egypt on the point. He was particularly asked to express his view about naval warfare on the sea.

In figurative language, 'Amr b Al 'Aas described naval action on the sea in the following terms:

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Interesting revelation

The aforesaid passage in Tabari makes an interesting revelation. It means that when in 711-712 C.E. regular campaigns were undertaken for the conquest of Spain by Tariq b Ziyad and Musa b Naseer the Muslims were already familiar with Spain, and such familiarity helped in the process of conquest.

Another point which emerges from this account is that Uthman contemplated the conquest of Constantinople via Spain. At that time there were only two great powers in the ancient world namely the empire of Persia, and the

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Conquest of Spain

Conquest of Spain
According to the general books of Islamic history the conquest of Spain is attributed to Tariq b Ziyad and Musa b Naseer in 711 - 712 C.E. in the time of the Umayyad Caliph Walid b Abdul Malik. According to Tabari, Spain was conquered some sixty years earlier during the caliphate of Uthman.

Tabari's account
According to the account of Tabari, when North Africa had been duly conquered by Abdullah b Sa'ad b Abi Sarah, two of his Generals Abdullah b Nafiah b Husain, and Abdullah b Nafi' b Abdul Qais were commissioned to invade Spain by sea. On this occasion Uthman is reported to have addressed a letter to the invading force. In the course of the letter, Uthman said:

"Constantinople will be conquered from the side of Spain. Thus if you conquer Spain you will have the honor of taking the first step towards the conquest of Constantinople. You will have your reward in this behalf both in this world and the next."

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Naval Battles

Umar and naval warfare
During the caliphate of Umar, Muawiyah had sought the permission of Umar to undertake naval warfare. Umar consulted 'Amr b Al 'Aas who was then the Governor of Egypt. 'Amr b Al 'Aas reported unfavorably in the following terms:

"O Commander of the Faithful, I have seen a numerous people going upon it overpowered by a few. When it is calm it tends the heart, and when it is in motion, it twists the brain. It weakens confidence and strengthens doubt. There is nothing there but sky and water. People at sea are like a worm in a log of wood. If their boat inclines they sink, and if they survive they are dazed."

Umar rejected the proposal of Muawiyah to undertake war on the sea in the following terms:

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Campaigns Against Nubia

The first invasion of Nubia
In 641 C.E. during the caliphate of Umar when 'Amr b Al 'Aas was the Governor of Egypt, an expedition under Uqba b Nafe' was undertaken against Nubia. The Nubians were very mobile, and as such no regular battle was fought. The operations consisted of skirmishes, haphazard engagements and hit-and-run raids. The Nubians were expert archers, and they caused considerable havoc among the ranks of the Muslims. Most of the Muslim soldiers lost their eyes. The war proved inconclusive, and the Muslim forces were Pulled out of Nubia without achieving any result.

Second invasion of Nubia

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Sequel to the battle of Subetula

After the battle of Subetula the people of North Africa sued for peace. They agreed to pay an annual tribute. Instead of annexing North Africa, the Muslims preferred to make North Africa a vassal state. When the stipulated amount of the tribute was paid, the Muslim forces withdrew to Barqa.

True to the declaration, Sabiyya the beautiful daughter of Gregory was awarded to Abdullah b Zubair. In this battle immense booty fell into the hands of the Muslims. When the booty was distributed according to the prescribed formula, the share of each warrior came to as much as 3,000 diners.

Uthman had declared at the outset of the campaign that if Abdullah b Sa'ad succeeded- in his mission he would be given one fifth of the booty out of the State share. Abdullah b Sa'ad kept one fifth of the State share of the booty for himself, and sent the rest to Madina through Marwan b Al Hakam.

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - The battle of Subetula

From Tripoli the Muslim forces marched to Subetula the capital of Gregory. All told the Muslim forces numbered 30,000. The forces of Gregory were twice the strength of the Muslim force. The two forces clashed outside Subetula. The war dragged on for several days without leading to any tangible result.

Gregory had a daughter Sabiyya renowned for her beauty and bravery. Gregory announced that whosoever killed Abdullah b Sa'ad, the Commander of the Muslim forces, would be married to Sabiyya as his reward, and would be declared as the heir to the Crown. This declaration caused some anxiety among the Muslims and Abdullah b Sa'ad fearing for his life remained confined to his camp. That led to a state of stalemate in the fortunes of the war.

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Muslim Conquest of North Africa

Campaign against North Africa
After the withdrawal of 'Amr b Al 'Aas , when Abdullah b Sa'ad settled down as the Governor of Egypt, he sent raiding parties to the west. As a result of these raids the Muslims got considerable booty The success of these raids made Abdullah b Sa'ad feel that a regular campaign should be undertaken for the conquest of North Africa. North Africa was originally under Byzantine control, but after the withdrawal of the Byzantines from Egypt, North Africa had declared its independence under its king Gregory. The dominions of Gregory extended from the borders of Egypt to Morocco.

Jihad against North Africa

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Battle of Naqyus

On taking over charge, 'Amr b Al 'Aas reviewed the situation, and decided that instead of attacking Alexandria forthwith, the Byzantines should be drawn inside the country, and then given a battle.

The Byzantine force advanced from Alexandria, and marched to Fustat with a view to capturing it. The Muslim force under 'Amr b Al 'Aas marched from Fustat to meet the Byzantines half way. The two forces met at Naqyus.

The battle began with a duel between the Byzantine General, and a Muslim warrior Haumal bin Abu Madhhij. As a result of the duel both the contestants died. Thereafter the two forces clashed. In spite of their superiority in strength, the Byzantines were defeated and they retreated to Alexandria.

Siege of Alexandria

Khalifa Uthman bin Affan - Byzantine occupation of Alexandria.

In Alexandria there was a considerable population of the Byzantines who owed nominal allegiance to the Muslims, and whose loyalties lay with the Government of Byzantium.

With the death of Umar, and the deposition of 'Amr b Al 'Aas from the Governorship of Egypt of Byzantines of Alexandria felt that it was the right moment to throw off the yoke of the Muslims. The Byzantines of Alexandria moved the Emperor of Byzantium, Constans to invade Egypt and reconquer it from the Muslims.

Early in 646 C.E., a large Byzantine force landed at Alexandria. There was only a small Muslim garrison in Alexandria generally remained faithful to the Muslims, but they were not in a position to offer any resistance to the Byzantines. The Byzantine forces occupied Alexandria without much difficulty.

Recall of 'Amr b Al 'Aas