The Arabs lived there since pre-Roman times; and embraced Christianity when Emperor Constantine declared it a state religion in the fourth century A.D. The Arabs of Syria were people of no consequence until the migration of the powerful Ghassan tribe from the Yemen to Syria, who thereafter ruled a semi-autonomous state with their own king under the Romans. The Ghassanid dynasty became one of the honored princely dynasties of the Empire, with the Ghassanid king ruling over the Arabs in Jordan and Southern Syria from his capital at Bosra.
Our Beloved Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) died in June 632, Abu Bakr was appointed Caliph.
Once the rebellions (Ridda Wars) of the apostates had been put down, Abu Bakr began his strategy to spread Islam to other lands. Abu Bakr began with Iraq, the richest province of the Persian Empire. He sent his most brilliant general Khalid ibn Al-Walid (Sword of Allah) to invade the Sassanid Persian Empire.
After successful campaigns against Sassanid Persians and conquest of Iraq, Abu Bakr's confidence built up, once Khalid established a Muslim stronghold in Iraq, Abu Bakr issued a call to arms for the invasion of Syria in February 634 on his return from Hajj. Tribal contingents responded eagerly to the call from Madinah from all over the Arabian Peninsula, from as far away as Oman and the Yemen.
Abu Bakr organised the army in to four Armies, each with its own commander and objective
- Amr ibn al-As: Objective Palestine. Move on Elat route, then across Valley of Arabah.
- Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan: Objective Damascus. Move on Tabuk route.
- Shurahbil bin hassana: Objective Jordan. Move on Tabuk route after Yazid.
- Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah: Objective Homs (Emessa) Move on Tabuk route after Shurahbil.
Emperor Heraclius received intelligence of the Muslim armies from Christian Arabs on the border caravan routes & planned counter-measures against the Muslims, meanwhile he learnt of the crushing defeat of the Persians. He ordered Byzantine armies from different garrisons in northern Syria to mobilise & they moved towards ‘Ayjnadyn’ where they planned to confront Amr's corps.
Abu Ubaidah informed Caliph about the preparations made by the Byzantines in third week of May 634. Abu Bakr had concerns about Abu Ubaidah’s ability to manage the entire Muslim army in a Major clash with the powerful and sophisticated army of Eastern Rome. Abu Bakr thus decided to send Khalid ibn Walid to Syrian front to command the Muslim.
After only one day of his arrival, Khalid set out for the conquest of Syria. He reached the town of Sawa after a little resistance; the city capitulated and agreed to pay tribute the first city in Al-Sham to do so. He moved to Arak city in the same day, and this city too surrendered and agreed to pay tribute. The next day Khalid moved to Tadmur (Palmyra), which surrendered as well. He moved further inland & the cities of As-Sukhnah and Qadma also surrendered and agree to pay tribute. The next day the cities of Qaryatayn and Hawareen.
After dealing with all these cities, Khalid moved towards Damascus, after three days journey he reached a strategic mountain pass, 20 miles from Damascus which is now known as Sanita-al-Uqab (The Eagle’s pass) the name of Khalid's army standard. From here he moved away from Damascus towards rest of the Islamic armies which were still near the Syrian-Arabia border. At ‘Maraj-al-Rahit’, Khalid defeated a numerically superior Ghassanid army of Christian Arabs. By now he was moving away from Damascus, the stronghold of Byzantines, and towards the city of Bosra. Khalid reached there after 3’day’s march, when Shurhabil's 4000 men were besieging the city & were nearly encircled by the larger Roman army when Khalid reached there with his cavalry, the Roman army retreated & fortified themselves within the castle. Bosra surrendered in mid of July 634.
The four Muslim armies joined Khalid at Ajnadayn on 24th July 634 and defeated the Byzantine army on the 30th July 634. Khalid moved to Damascus which was besieged for 30 days & surrendered on 18th September 634 A.D. During its siege Heraclius sent reinforcements from Antioch to break the siege, but they were defeated at the Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab, 20 miles from Damascus.
Abu Ubaida & Khalid moved towards Homs (Emessa). Heraclius sent General Theodoras to Damascus to recapture it, calculating the weak Muslim defensive army in the city. Theodoras met the Muslim army at ‘Maraj al Rum’, and cunningly moved half of his army towards Damascus at night, while Abu Ubaida & Khalid were engaged with the remaining Byzantine army. Soon they came to know about this maneuver & Abu Ubaida sent Khalid with cavalry towards Damascus. Khalid defeated the Byzantine army outside Damascus; meanwhile Abu Ubaidah defeated the remaining Roman army at Maraj al rum. A week later, Abu Ubaida himself marched towards Balaq an important garrison in central Syria, which surrendered peacefully, while another detachment under Khalid was sent straight towards Homs.Homs & Qinnasrin conceded & signed a one year peace treaty. In November 635, Khalid and Abu Ubaida moved towards Hama, which surrendered. Meanwhile Qinasareen & Emessa broke the peace treaty. In response, Abu Ubaida decided to conquer Emessa first and sent Khalid who defeated the advance guard of the garrison outside Emessa & laid siege to the city and was soon joined by Abu Ubaida with the main army. After two months of siege. Emessa was captured in March 636.
Battle of Yarmouk
While Muslims were occupied in northern Syria, Heraclius decided to assemble a combined army of 350,000 of Byzantines, Slavs, Franks, Georgians, Armenians and Christian Arabs to obliterate the Muslim armies. Preparations started in late 635, and by May 636 they assembled at Antioch. This force was organized into 5-armies;The Armenian King Mahan was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the entire army. The Imperial Army was launched from Antioch and Northern Syria in the middle of June 636. Alerted to the possibility of being caught with separated forces that could be easily destroyed Khalid advised Abu Ubaidah; to pull back from north & central Syria, as well as from Palestine, to unify the Muslim army to the Plain of Yarmouk. The Battle of Yarmouk took place in August 636. Muslims won a crushing victory over the Byzantines in this epoch defining battle, over 90,000 Romans died whilst 4,000 Muslims were martyred. The Byzantine Roman power in Syria was destroyed forever, except for the garrisons that resisted in Halab (Aleppo). All other cities and towns surrendered peacefully and agreed to pay Jizyah (tribute tax).