Battle of Dhi Qar
|Battle of Dhi Qar
معركة ذي قار
|Sassanid Persian army and Arab Lakhmids soldiers||Arab tribesmen of Bakr ibn Wa'il|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Iyas ibn Qabisah al-Ta'i||Hani ben Qabisha|
|2,000 Persian soldiers, with 3,000 Arabs||Unknown|
|Casualties and losses|
Dhi Qar, watering place near Kufa in Iraq was a battle ground that was fought between Arab tribesmen and Persian forces in the early 7th century. In the 6th century, the Sasanians relied on the Arab Lakhmids, with its capital at Hira in Iraq, for defense of their southwestern frontier against incursions by Arab tribes. Nevertheless, in the second half of the century, Arab tribes sometimes defeated Lakhmid forces and also attacked Persian caravans. In 602, Khosrow II Parvēz imprisoned the Lakhmid king Numan III and abolished the dynasty, appointing Iyas ibn Qabisah al-Ta'i, an Arab of the tribe of Tayy, as governor. Subsequently, at an indeterminate date, an open clash between the Persians and their Arab auxiliaries, on one hand, and Arab tribesmen, on the other, occurred at Dhi Qar. According to certain Muslim traditions, the battle took place in the year 623 or 624 .Modern scholars have narrowed this range to 604-11.
In the Arab sources the Persian force is numbered at 2,000 soldiers, with 3,000 Arabs led by Iyas ibn Qabisah. The Arab force opposing the Persians, with their Arab auxiliaries, was from the Bakr ibn Wa'il, a large tribal confederation whose territory extended from southwestern Iraq into the eastern Arabian peninsula. The most prominent constituent tribe was the Banu Shayban, the other groups being the Banu 'Ijl, Banū Zohl, Banu Qays ben Thalaba, Banu Taym Allah ben Thalaba, and Banu Yashkor. These groups do not seem to have coordinated their efforts on the battlefield, nor did they have a single commander in chief. Rather, leadership seems to have shifted among various warriors. Nevertheless, the Banu Bakr defeated the combined Persian and Arab forces.
Arab authors pieced together elements from disparate traditions on the battle of Dhi Qar. The outlines of two main versions are discernible, one ultimately traceable to Abu Obayda (died 824), the other to Ebn Kalbī (died 819). According to Abu Obaydas more anecdotal version, Khosrow Parviz was angry with the Hiran king Noman for refusing to give him his daughter in marriage and insulting Persian women; he therefore imprisoned Noman, who died in prison. Subsequently Khosrow sent armed forces against the Shaybani leader Hani ben Qabisha, who refused to hand over to him Noman’s family and armor, but these forces were defeated at Dhi Qar. According to Ebn Kalbi’s version, when Noman was deposed Bakrī tribesmen raided Persian territory in Iraq. The Shaybani Qays b. Masud made an agreement with Khosrow by which he received tracts of land in return for preventing Arab incursions into Persian territory. Qays’s rivals within his own tribe deliberately continued the raids in order to foil this contract, and, indeed, Khosrow imprisoned Qays and demanded Bakrī hostages as a condition for his release (or as a guarantee against further incursions). The Bakrīs refused to give such hostages, and Khosrow sent armies against them, meeting with defeat at Dhi Qar. Modern scholars generally prefer Ebn Kalbī’s version, on the grounds that it is less colorful and therefore more plausible. Persian sources on the Sasanian period are silent about this battle; the relatively small number of soldiers involved, as well as the Persian defeat, may explain this silence.
Religious, as well as Arab, sentiment must have played a part in shaping accounts of Dhi Qar. The Prophet Muhammad (allegedly) said This is the first battle in which the Arabs took equitable vengeance on the Persians, and they achieved this victory through me.
Some scholars, apparently influenced by the Muslim tradition, have interpreted the battle of Dhi Qar as part of a prolonged Arab rebellion against the Persians, which culminated in the Muslim conquest of the Persian empire. As Shaybani tribesmen, led by Mosannā ben Haresa, assisted in the conquest of Iraq, it has been argued that the Bakr, and especially the Shayban, had followed a distinct anti-Sasanian policy since Dhi Qar.Scholars has shown, however, that the Shayban who supported the Muslims and those who were prominent at Dhi Qar belonged to different, even rival clans; some Shaybani leaders allied themselves with the Persians after Dhi Qar, and others even opposed the Muslims during the conquest of Iraq. The battle of Dhi Qar thus appears to have had ideological and symbolic meaning for the Arabs far beyond its military and political significance.