Rashidun Caliphate - Army

Army

The Rashidun Army was the primary military body of the Islamic armed forces of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy. The Rashidun Army maintained a very high level of discipline, strategic prowess, organization along with motivation and self initiative of the officer corps. For much of its history this army was one of the most powerful and effective military forces in all of the region. At the height of the Rashidun Caliphate the maximum size of the army was around 100,000 troops. The Rashidun army was divided into the two basic categories of infantry and light cavalry. Reconstructing the military equipment of early Muslim armies is problematic. Compared with Roman armies or later medieval Muslim armies, the range of visual representation is very small, often imprecise and difficult to date. Physically very little material evidence has survived and again, much of it is difficult to date. The soldiers used to wear Iron and bronze segmented helmet that comes from Iraq and was of central Asian type. The standard form of protective body armor was chain mail. There are also references to the practice of wearing two coats of mail (dir’ayn), the one under the main one being shorter or even made of fabric or leather. Hauberks and large wooden or wickerwork shields were used as a protection in combat. The soldiers were usually equipped with Swords that were hanged in baldric. They also possessed spears and daggers. Caliph Umar was the first Muslim ruler to organize the army as a State Department. This reform was introduced in 637. A beginning was made with the Quraish and the Ansar and the system was gradually extended to the whole of Arabia and to Muslims of conquered lands. The basic strategy of early Muslim armies sent out to conquer foreign lands was to exploit every possible weakness of the enemy army in order to achieve victory. Their key strength was mobility. The cavalry had both horses and camels. The camels were used as both transport and food for long marches through the desert (Khalid bin Walid’s extraordinary march from the Persian border to Damascus utilized camels as both food and transport). The cavalry was the army’s main striking force and also served as a strategic mobile reserve. The common tactic used was to use the infantry and archers to engage and maintain contact with the enemy forces while the cavalry was held back till the enemy was fully engaged. Once fully engaged the enemy reserves were absorbed by the infantry and archers the Muslim cavalry was used as pincers (like modern tank and mechanized divisions) to attack the enemy from the sides or to attack enemy base camps. The Rashidun army was quality-wise and strength-wise bellow standard versus the Sassanid Persian army and the Byzantine army. Khalid ibn Walid was the first general of the Rashidun Caliphate to conquer foreign lands and to trigger the whole scale deposition of the two most powerful empires. During his campaign against the Sassanid Persian Empire(Iraq 633 - 634) and the Byzantine Empire (Syria 634 - 638) Khalid developed brilliant tactics, that he used effectively against both the Sassanid army and the Byzantine army. The Caliph Abu Bakr's way was to give his generals their mission, the geographical area in which that mission would be carried out, and the resources that, could be made available for that purpose. He would then leave it to his generals to accomplish their mission in whatever manner they chose. On the other hand Caliph Umar in the latter part of his Caliphate used to direct his generals as to where they would stay and when to move to the next target and who will be commanding the left and right wing of the army in the particular battle. This made the phase of conquest comparatively slower but provided well organized campaigns. Caliph Uthman used the same method as Abu Bakr: he would give missions to his generals and then leave it to them how they should accomplish it. Caliph Ali also followed the same method.

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