Of all the great nations of the world that have contributed to the building of human civilization, none perhaps have wielded the sword and pen with equal success than the nomadic Arabs. Issuing from their desert tents, they, in a remarkably short time, founded the mightiest Empire of the Mediaeval era, which stretched from the shores of the Atlantic in the West to the walls of China in the East. Their territorial conquests were not like those of Changiz, Hulaku, Atilla and Hannibal, culminating in the destruction of humanity and civilization. Instead, the Arab conquerors were the harbingers, protectors and patrons of civilizations and cultures. They proved to be the greatest administrators and reformers. In this way, they had won the hearts of the conquered races and ruled not only on their bodies but also on their souls. Thus they brought about the greatest revolution in the history of mankind-a revolution which embraced all branches of human activity.
The outstanding Generals, during the Caliphate Rashida, were Khalid bin Waleed, Saad ibn Al-Wakka’s and Anir bin al-Aas and during the Umayyad Caliphate were Musa bin Nusair, Tariq bin Ziyad Qutaiba and Muhammad bin Qasim.
The Umayyad power reached its zenith during the reign of Waleed. The brilliant military achievements during his regime centre on the name of Muhammad bin Qasim in the East and Musa ibn Nusair in the West. “The conquests on the Western front”, writes Phillip K. Hitti, in his outstanding work, The History of the Arabs, “Under Musa ibn Nusair and his lieutenants, were no less brilliant and spectacular than those on the East by al-Hajjaj and his Generals”.
Musa ibn Nusair was born in 640 A.C. His father was the Police Chief of “Amir Muawiya”. His talents as an administrator and man of valour were early recognized and he was appointed by Caliph Abdul Malik as Collector of Revenue at Basra. Later, he was appointed as the Viceroy of Africa and governed over a vast territory extending from the borders of Egypt to the shores of the Atlantic. He administered his vast territories with a firm hand and introduced several reforms. The Berbers found in their new Viceroy an outstanding administrator as well as an extraordinary military genius. Musa and his troops then entered on a career of successful conquests which ended in the consolidation of Arab power in Africa and the conquest of the rest of North Africa and Spain.
By a series of daring and brilliant operations carried out by himself and his sons, Musa broke the Berber opposition, drove out the Greek conspirators, and pacified the entire country. His wise administration and his conciliatory attitude endeared him to the Berbers and won him their confidence. He administered from Al-Qayrawan and was directly under the Caliph. The forbearance and equality, chivalry, and fraternity justice, and tolerance showed by the new conquerors towards the conquered races, won their hearts so much so that within a short time the entire Berber nation embraced Islam. They, in later years, became a formidable force, who carried the banner of Islam as far as the heart of France.
The Islamic countries of North Africa were harassed by the Byzantine Navy, stationed in the Mediterranean Islands. Musa, therefore, sent an expedition, and the strategic Mediterranean islands of Majorca, Minorca, and Ivica were captured and under the Islamic rule soon became extremely flourishing regions. “Musa’s viceroyalty”, writes Amer Ali, “was now almost equal to that of Hajjaj in extent; but its importance in the demand for administrative ability and generalship was far greater”,
Musa, who had driven the Byzantines out of Africa forever, had pushed his conquest up to the shores of the Atlantic, thus securing a point for the invasion of Europe. In 710 A.C., the first reconnaissance was made under the leadership of Tariq, an illustrious lieutenant of Musa. In the following year, Tariq ibn Ziyad landed in Spain with a small force of 7,000 men. A decisive battle was fought at the mouth of river Barbate between the tiny force of Tariq and the huge army of the Gothic King, Roderick, comprising one lakh soldiers in which the Christians were routed with terrible losses. Now, Tariq made a triumphal march into Spain, meeting little resistance. A year later, Musa too entered Spain with 10,000 Arabs and taking a different course captured Merida, Sidonia, and Seville. Merida was taken by storm. Musa joined Tariq at Toledo and the two conquerors pushed on as far as the Pyrenees. In less than two years the whole of Spain was in Muslim hands. Portugal was conquered, a few years after, and was named al-Gharb. (The West). “In its swiftness of execution and completeness of success”, writes Phillip K. Hitti, “This expedition into Spain holds a unique place in Mediaeval military annals”. Leaving Tariq behind, Musa crossed into France and conquered a part of Southern France. “Standing on the Pyrenees”, writes Ameer Ali, “the dauntless Viceroy conceived the project of conquering the whole of Europe; and in all human probability had he been allowed to carry his plan into execution, he would have succeeded. The West lay completely at his feet… … The cautious and hesitating policy of the Damascus Court lost the glorious opportunity, with the consequence that Europe remained enveloped in intellectual darkness for the next centuries”.
Musa was engaged in reducing a few guerrilla bands in the defiles of the Pyrenees when orders were received from the Caliph, summoning him and Tariq to Damascus.
Musa made a triumphal march through Africa, but they were not well received by the new Umayyad Caliph Sulaiman. Musa died in Syria in 98 A.H. (716-17 A.C.).
Before leaving Spain, Musa made all necessary arrangements for the Government of the country. He made one of his sons as Viceroy of Spain with his Headquarters at Seville and entrusted the charge of Africa to his con Abdullah, a great warrior, and administrator.
The discipline shown by the Muslim conquerors is unique in the history of military conquests. Musa also withstood this test magnificently and when the whole of Europe lay at his feet and he was on his triumphal march, he preferred to cut short his career and obeyed the orders of the Caliph summoning him to Damascus.
Musa was a great warrior, an outstanding General, a wise administrator, and above all a great Disciplinarian. It was on account of such capable men that Islam established its supremacy and permanent footing on extensive territories of the world and that too in such a short time.