Amr ibn al-As

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'Amr ibn al-'As
Emir of Palestine
In office
MonarchUmar Ibn al-Khattab
Preceded byNone (Conquest of the Levant from the Byzantine Empire)
Succeeded byMuawiyah I (as Governor of the Levant)
Governor of Egypt
In office
MonarchUmar Ibn al-Khattab
Preceded byNone (Conquest of Egypt from the Byzantine Empire)
Succeeded byAbdallah ibn Sa'ad
In office
MonarchMuawiyah I
Preceded byMuhammad ibn Abu Bakr
Succeeded byUtba ibn Abi Sufyan
Personal details
Born14 February 583 or before
Mecca, Hejaz (now in Saudi Arabia))
FatherAl-'As ibn Wa'il
Military service
AllegianceRashidun Caliphate
Ummayad Caliphate
Branch/serviceRashidun army
Ummayad Army
Years of service634–636
Governor of Egypt (642–644), (657–664)
CommandsConquest of Palestine
Conquest of Egypt, First Muslim Civil War
Domains of Rashidun empire under four caliphs. The divided phase relates to the Rashidun Caliphate of Ali during the First Fitna.
  Strongholds of the Rashidun Caliphate of Ali during the First Fitna
  Region under the control of Muawiyah I during the First Fitna
  Region under the control of Amr ibn al-As during the First Fitna

'Amr ibn al-'As (Arabic: عمرو بن العاص‎; c. 585 – 6 January 664) was an Arab military commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. He was a contemporary of Muhammad and one of the Sahaba ("Companions") who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8 AH (629). He founded the Egyptian capital of Fustat and built the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As at its center.


Early life[edit]

ʻAmr belonged to the Banu Sahm[1] clan of the Quraysh. 'Amr ibn al-'As was born in the city of Mecca in Arabia and died in Egypt. Assuming he was over eighty years old when he died, he was born before 592. Al-'As ibn Wa'il (Arabic: العاص بن وائل) was the father of 'Amr ibn al-'As and Hisham ibn al-A'as. He was a part of Hilf al-Fudul.

Before his military career, ʻAmr was a trader, who had accompanied caravans along the commercial trading routes through Asia and the Middle East, including Egypt.[2] He was a shrewd, highly intelligent man who belonged to the nobility of the Quraysh, and initially fought with the Quraysh against the Muslims in several battles. He was determinedly hostile to Islam, and was in fact Quraysh's envoy to the Negus, the ruler of Abyssinia.

On one occasion when going to fight the Muslims, he saw them praying, became highly interested and tried to find out more about Islam. After converting to Islam with Khalid ibn al-Walid, he fought for the Islamic cause and became a great commander. The first mosque to be built in Africa was erected under his patronage and is still known as The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. He came to Egypt as the commander in chief of the Muslim Arab troops in 650 AD.[citation needed]

Muhammad's era[edit]

Like the other Quraysh chiefs, he opposed Islam in the early days.

ʻAmr headed the delegation that the Quraysh sent to Abyssinia to prevail upon the ruler, Aṣḥama ibn Abjar (possibly Armah), to turn away the Muslims from his country. The mission failed and the ruler of Abyssinia refused to oblige the Quraysh.

After the migration of Muhammad to Medina ʻAmr took part in all the battles that the Quraysh fought against the Muslims.[3]

He commanded a Quraysh contingent at the battle of Uhud. He took with him his wife, Rayta bint Munabbih ibn al-Hajjaj, who was the mother of his son Abdullah.[4]

ʻAmr ibn al-ʻĀs was married to Umm Kulthum bint Uqba[5][6] but she died only one month after their marriage.

In the company of Khalid ibn al-Walid, he rode from Mecca to Medina where both of them converted to Islam in 629-30. Abu Bakr, Umar and Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah served under ʻAmr ibn al-ʻĀs in the campaign of Dhat as-Salasil and had offered their prayers behind him for many weeks. At that time, ʻAmr ibn al-ʻĀs was their chief not only in the army but also as a leader in religious services.[7]

ʻAmr was dispatched by Muhammad to Oman and played a key role in the conversion of the leaders of that nation, Jayfar and 'Abbād ibn Al-Juland. He was then made governor of the region until shortly after Muhammad's death.

There are some hadith regarding him and his father's will.[8]

Under Abu Bakr and Umar[edit]

ʻAmr was sent by the Caliph Abu Bakr with the Muslim Arab armies into Palestine following Muhammad's death. It is believed that he played an important role in the Arab conquest of that region, and he is known to have been at the battles of Ajnadayn and Yarmouk as well as the siege of Damascus.

The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As in modern-day Cairo

Following the success over the Byzantines in Syria, Amr suggested to Umar that he march on Egypt, to which Umar agreed.

The actual invasion began towards the end of 639, as Amr crossed the Sinai Peninsula with 3,500-4,000 men. He is reported to have celebrated the feast of pilgrimage in Arish on 10th Dhul Hij A. H 18 or 12 December 640. After taking the small fortified towns of Pelusium (Arabic: Al-Farama) and beating back a Byzantine surprise attack near Bilbeis, Amr headed towards the Babylon Fortress (in the region of modern-day Coptic Cairo). After some skirmishes south of the area, Amr marched north towards Heliopolis, with 12,000 men reinforcements who had arrived on 6 June 640 reaching him from Syria, against the Byzantine forces in Egypt, under general Theodorus. The resulting Muslim victory at the Battle of Heliopolis brought about the fall of much of the country. The Heliopolis battle resolved fairly quickly, though the Babylon Fortress withstood a siege of several months, and the Byzantine capital of Alexandria, which had been the capital of Egypt for much of its 972-year existence, surrendered a few months after that. A peace treaty was signed in late 641, in the ruins of a palace in Memphis.[9] Despite a brief re-conquest by Byzantine forces in 645, after the Muslim victory at the Battle of Nikiou the country remained firmly in Muslim Arab hands. Finding no soldiers, Muslim army made their entry into Nakius and took possession.

Needing a new capital, Amr suggested that they set up an administration in the large and well-equipped city of Alexandria, at the western edge of the Nile Delta. However, Caliph Umar refused, saying that he did not want the capital to be separated from him by a body of water. So in 641 Amr founded a new city on the eastern side of the Nile, centered on his own tent which was near the Babylon Fortress. Amr also founded a mosque at the center of his new city—it was the first mosque in Egypt, which also made it the first mosque on the continent of Africa. The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As still exists today in Old Cairo, though it has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries, and nothing remains of the original structure. One corner of the mosque contains the tomb of his son, 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As.

Although some Egyptians did not support the Byzantine forces during the Arab conquest, some villages started to organise against the new invaders. After the Battle of Nikiou on 13 May 641, Arab troops, having defeated the Byzantine forces, destroyed many Egyptian villages on their march to Alexandria as the Delta rebelled against the new invaders. The Egyptian resistance seems to have been village by village without a unified command and therefore failed.

After founding Fustat, Amr was then recalled to the capital (which had, by then, moved from Medina to Damascus) where he became Mu'awiyah's close advisor.

Muhammad had told Amr "that when you conquer Egypt be kind to its people because they are your protégée kith and kin".

Later life[edit]

After his military conquests, Amr was an important player in internal conflicts within the Islamic empire during the First Fitna.He played a role in the rise of Mu'awiyah, who reappointed him governor of Egypt. Amr died in Egypt in 664 during Mu'awiyah's reign.

Amr as Mu'awiyah's arbiter at the Battle of Siffin[edit]

Late in Amr's life, he was sent out on a mission from Mu'awiyah's camp to negotiate a deal after the battle of Siffin fought between Mu'awiyah and Ali. A first meeting was agreed upon by both parties, but no conclusion was reached. When Mu'awiyah was close to losing he stirred up political trouble for Ali and pushed him to agree to another meeting.[10] Amr, taking this chance, made a pledge to Mu'awiyah that if he could defeat Ali then he should be appointed governor of Egypt. Mu'awiyah agreed and sent Amr as his representative[11] In the framework of these negotiations both Mu'awiyah and Ali agreed to accept the Qur'an as the base for the final judgment and appoint Abd Allah b. Qays Abu Musa al-Ash'ari as the arbiter for the Ali camp and Amr as the arbiter for the Mu'awiyah camp.[12] If they did not find what they were looking for in the Qur'an, they would use the example or Sunnah of the Prophet, consisting of the recorded actions from his life. Lastly, they decided that both Ali and Mu'awiyah would follow through with whatever verdict came out of the negotiations.[13]

The following narration often quoted in History of Islam is reported by a narator called Abu Mukhnaf.(Reference Tarikh Tabri, Part 3, pages 100-125).

This led Amr to attempt to buy out Abu Musa, saying that if he sided with Mu’awiyah he would give him governance over any province he wanted. Abu Musa rejected this offer. So Amr advised Mu’awiyah to continue blaming Ali for the death of Uthman.[14] Amr argued that Mu’awiyah had a blood revenge for his tribe – this being the reason for the violence and distrust of Ali.[15] Both arbiters eventually agreed that neither Mu’awiyah nor Ali were worth of the role of caliph.[16] This agreement was made in private between these two alone. As their choice was announced, people came together to hear the verdict. Amr let Abu Musa speak first:

“O people, surely the best of men is he who is good to himself and the most wicked is he who is evil towards himself. You know full well that these wars have spared neither the righteous and the God-fearing, nor the one in the right, nor the one in the wrong. I have, therefore, after careful consideration, decided that we should depose both Ali and Mu’awiya and appoint for this affair Abdullah b. Umar b. al-Khattab, for he has neither stretched a hand nor drawn a tongue in a these wars. Behold, I shall remove Ali from caliphate as I now remove my ring from my finger.”[17]

Then it was Amr's turn to speak:

“Behold, this is Abd Allah b. Qays Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari , the deputy of the people of Yaman to the Messenger and representative of Umar b. al-Khattab and the arbiter of the people of Iraq; he has removed his companion Ali from the caliphate. As for me, I confirm Mu’awiyah in the caliphate as firmly as this ring sits around my finger.”[18]

This statement by Amr made Abu Musa upset because he said in secret that he would reject both of them as leader. This led to the fall of Ali's power and the rise of Mu’awiyah as the leader of the Muslim empire, which would change the course of the Empire. Because of Amr's support of Mu’awiyah, he was made the governor of Egypt.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Archived 2 November 2007 at WebCite
  2. ^ Andrew Beattie, Cairo: A Cultural History, p. 94
  3. ^ Archived 28 October 2008 at
  4. ^ Muhammad ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 371. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in German) Archived 2 November 2007 at WebCite
  6. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in German) Archived 2 November 2007 at WebCite
  7. ^ Archived 2 November 2007 at WebCite
  8. ^ see Sunan Abu Dawud 2877 Archived 23 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Beattie, p. 95
  10. ^ Veccia Vaglieni, Il conflitto'Ali-Mu'awiyacla seccessions khanigita riesaminat alla lucedi fonti ibadite' in Annali dell'Istituto Universitario Orientale Napoli, N.S. IV 1-94 translated by Madelung, Wilferd
  11. ^ Marsham, Andrew (2012). "The Pact (Amāna) Between Muʿāwiya Ibn Abī Sufyān And ʿamr Ibn Al-ʿāṣ (656 Or 658 CE): 'Documents' And The Islamic Historical Tradition". Journal of Semitic Studies. 57 (1): 69–96. doi:10.1093/jss/fgr034.
  12. ^ Ayoub, Mahmoud. The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003. Print.
  13. ^ Al-Tabari. The History of Al-Tabari. Trans. G.R. Hawting. Vol. 16. New York: State University of New York, n.d. Print.
  14. ^ Holt, Peter Malcolm, et al., eds. The Cambridge History of Islam. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1977.
  15. ^ Madelung, Wilferd. The Succession to Muḥammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.
  16. ^ Al-Tabari. The History of Al-Tabari. Trans. G.R. Hawting. Vol. 16. New York: State University of New York, n.d. Print.
  17. ^ Ayoub, Mahmoud. The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003. Print.
  18. ^ Ibd
  19. ^ Wensinck, A.J.. "ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. Augustana College. 9 October 2013 <"ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2013.>
  • (10) Glubb J.B. The Great Arab Conquests. Quartet Books, London 1963

Further reading[edit]

Preceded by
Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr
Governor of Egypt
Succeeded by
Utba ibn Abi Sufyan
New title Governor of Egypt
Succeeded by
Abdallah ibn Sa'ad