Hazrat Sa’ad ibn Wakka’s, one of the oldest and most trusted companions of the Prophet of Islam, was the conqueror of Iraq and Persia. He was a great Arab General, who embraced Islam at the early age of 17. He was one of the ten Companions of the Prophet who were promised Paradise during their lifetime.
Hazrat Sa’ad was a famous warrior and General who took a leading part in the battles of “Badr” and “Uhd” and also in the campaigns that followed. When Muthanna who assumed command of Muslim forces at Al Hira (Iraq) after the departure of Khalid bin Waleed to Syria, asked for reinforcements in order to meet the threat of the ever-increasing Persian hordes, the Second Caliph of Islami himself wanted to assume the command. A large force gathered at Madina and Umar wanted to march at their head. Great enthusiasm prevailed there. But he was dissuaded by his Companions, who insisted that the central authority should remain in the Capital. At last Sa’ad ibn Wakka’s was selected to assume the Chief command. The entire campaign in Iraq was planned by the Caliph himself, who was daily informed of the developments in the military situation.
Sa’ad ibn Wakka’s, the trusted Companion of the Prophet and highly respected by Muslims, advanced with a force of 20 thousand Muslims. His army contained about 400 Companions of the Prophet and their 700 sons. Sa’ad advanced towards Kadessia, where the formidable Persian forces under their famous General Rustani were encamped and were harassing the neighboring Muslim dominions. Here, in the Summer of 637 A.C., a memorable battle was fought, which was hotly contested lasting for several days. The Muslim soldiers fought like real heroes and displayed great feats of bravery which unnerved and discomfited the enemy. Illness prevented Sa’ad from taking part in the battle personally, but a shrewd and skillful soldier as he was, very ably he directed the whole operations from a housetop, situated by the side of the battle-field.
The Muslims, for the first time, encountered an array of elephant and the Arab horses could hardly be controlled while facing these black giants. The Muslim army had been suffering heavily. Seeing this, Sa’ad ordered a charge with lances on the elephants. Accordingly, the Arabs made a fierce charge on the elephants with pointed lances and pushed them back and made them flee from the battle-field in panic.
Kaaka, a renowned Arab warrior, who joined the Muslim forces in the thick of the battle, challenged two renowned Persian warriors to personal combat and killed both of them. A number of famous Persian warriors were slain.
The battle of “Kadessia”, which lasted several days, was at its highest pitch. Abu Mahjan, the celebrated Arab warrior and poet, was at the time in chains due to drinking wine. He was extremely impatient to take part in the battle. He implored the Commander’s wife to let him participate in the battle on the undertaking that if he survived, he would willingly come back to their custody. The Commander’s wife agreed and gave him Sa’ad’s horse. All of a sudden an unknown warrior made a fierce charge on the Persian ranks who were at the moment routing the Muslims at certain points of the theatre of war. With his swift lightning charge, Abu Mahjan paralyzed the entire Persian defense, and when in the evening, he returned to Sa’ad’s custody he was pardoned by the Commander. In return, the poet swore not to taste the wine again.
On the last day of the battle, Kaaka made an attack on the leading white elephant and drove his lance into his eyes. With his sword, he cut down his trunk. Bleeding profusely and trumpeting frantically the white elephant turned back and with him, other elephants, too, fled in panic. Thereupon, the Muslims made a fierce charge and pushed back the Persian forces. Their great General Rustam fled in panic and was killed while swimming across a canal.
Defeated with terrible loss, their General killed, the Persians fled towards the North. The battle of Kadessia practically decided the fate of Persia. Sa’ad was now the master of the whole of Iraq.
Hazrat Umar, the Second Caliph of Islam, was extremely anxious about the outcome of the battle of Kadessia. He used to wait outside Madina for the messenger who regularly brought him reports about the war situation. At last, one day, he met the camel driver bringing the news of victory. The Caliph did not disclose his identity and quickly followed him enquiring about the news. He broke the news to the people assembled in the Mosque of the Prophet.
After receiving the submission of neighboring towns, Sa’ad now advanced towards Babylon. Here some of the famous Persian warriors including Firuzan, Hurmuzan, and Mihran, had reassembled the scattered Persian forces. But they could not withstand the initial charge of Sa’ad and fled in panic. Mihran escaped to Madain, Hurmuzan fled to Ahwaz and Firuzan to Nehawand. It was difficult to hold Chaldea. The fall of Madain, the Capital of the young Persian King Yezdjard was now imminent where Mihran was encamped with a strong Persian force.
Madain was situated on the Tigris. This river lay between the Muslim and Persian forces. On approaching the bank of the river, Sa’ad observed that the Persians had blown up the bridge. He plunged his horse into the river which was in flood.
His army followed him and in a few moments crossed the river without breaking their lines. The Persians watching this seemingly impossible feat cried out, “The Demons have come”, and fled in panic. The Persian Emperor, too, hurriedly fell back leaving behind his luxurious palaces and countless booty into Sa’ad’s hands.
The fall of Madain led to the submission of the entire country lying west of the Tigris to Muslims. A service of thanksgiving, led by Sa’ad, was held in the Palace of Chosroes.
Sa’ad, the civil and military Governor of Iraq, made Madain his Headquarters. He administered the conquered country very ably. The Persian King made one more effort to recapture Madain. He sent a large force that was defeated with terrible losses. According to Tabari, more than one lakh Persians perished in this battle and the Arabs captured vast booty. Seeing the rich spoils of Jalula, the Caliph wept bitterly. Asked for its reason, he replied that he saw in that wealth the ruin of his people.
During the Governorship of Sa’ad, the foundation of the Arab settlement of Kufa was laid, which soon grew to be an important, prosperous city, military and literary center.
Sa’ad was nominated by the Second Caliph of Islam, on his death bed as one of the six trusted Companions of the Prophet of Islam to choose the next Caliph. Hazrat Usman, the Third Caliph of Islam, reappointed him as the Governor of Kufa.
Sa’ad ibn Wakka’s retired to Akik during the Caliphate of Hazrat Ali and passed a retired and peaceful life till his death in 50 A.H. (670 A.C.) at a ripe age of 70. He was buried at Madina.