How effective was the Rashidun army

Military training in Hijaz during the early Islamic era


Hijaz is only a small part of the Arabian Peninsula on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. Arab groups understandably differed in their laws and customs across the region.

Who was the power in Hijaz?

In Hijaz, the main power was the city-state of Mecca. In fact, Meccans were the most famous people among the Arabs as they were administrators of the Kaaba. The Meccan natives were part of the Quresh tribe, although there was regular presence and settlement of foreign elements in the form of traders, pilgrims and slaves. You may be interested to know that Mohammed was a member of the Quresh tribe and the city of Mecca.

State Affairs Department in Mecca

Quresh had systematically divided the various affairs of the state into different tribal branches. All of these clans trained their youth in the matters that were charged to them.

Since we are only discussing the military, we will only focus on branches that had military responsibility.

  1. Banu Abd ad-dar: You were responsible for carrying and guarding the Meccan flag in battle.
  2. Banu Umayyad: They were accused of political command of the city, even though they competed with their cousins, the Hashemite.
  3. Banu Makhzum: This was the Mecca power station. This house was charged with defending Mecca and leading its armies. Many of the greatest generals of the subsequent Islamic caliphate belonged to this house, e. B. Khalid Bin Walid, Akrimah bin Abi Jahal etc.

Customs of sending children away to groom with Bedouins

It was a custom among the city's nobles to send their children to Bedouins in the desert for some time to learn survival skills, improve their physical condition and harden them. Muhammad himself lived with a Bedouin family for a while.

Training in weapons

The training Khalid bin Walid received as a kid should give you an idea. From Wikipedia:

As a member of the Makhzum clan, who were among the best horsemen in Arabia, Khalid learned to use weapons like the spearLance, bow and swordto ride and use. The lance is said to have been his favorite weapon. In his youth he was admired as a well-known warrior and wrestler among the Quraysh.

Now Khalid was the son of a remarkable nobleman, so of course not every boy would be as lucky as he when it came to training. But it shows you that his training seems by no means inferior to that of a Greek nobleman in Constantinople or a Persian nobleman in Persepolis.

In contrast to the wealthy Khalid, his cousin Umar, who eventually became the second caliph of Islam, belonged to the middle class. For his training, Wikipedia says:

According to the Quraish tradition Umar already learned in his youth Martial arts, horse riding and wrestling. He was tall, physically strong, and a well-known wrestler.

Now we have found that at least upper and middle class people have received combat training.

Arabic background

The Arabs were at constant war with one another before Islam was unified. Feuds over water rights and minor insults lasted for centuries. Even when Arab tribes were threatened by a larger and more organized power like the Kingdom of Aksum, the invaders destroyed them. (Yes, Islamic traditions say it was God who destroyed them, but we are not here to discuss it. Knowing that an invasion has occurred and it has been successfully repulsed, we can only assume that it was the Arabs who did that).

What the Arabs lacked was a unity and a system. Otherwise, they had waged countless wars with weapons comparable (at least for the most part) to their more developed neighbors. Arabs knew how to successfully exploit terrain (as the Medins did in the Battle of Badr), how to successfully use cavalry to force a general escape (as Khalid bin Waleed did against Muslims in the Battle of Uhud), how you fortified obstacles on the way to an established enemy (as Muslims showed in the Battle of the Trench), how to conduct a siege (as Muslims showed against Medinian Jews) and there was no one in the world who could teach the Arabs how to ride and how to ambush. They used swords, spears, spears, scimitars, helmets, shields, daggers, siege equipment, etc., just like their neighbors.

Islam provided them with a system and an association, and so they spilled off their peninsula and overran the old Persian and Eastern Roman empires.

Wars with neighboring empires

The Eastern Roman Empire and Persia certainly had larger and more established armed forces, but they had been weakened by wars against each other and also due to the inability to take command. They were therefore unable to defeat the hardened horsemen pouring out of Arabia. The same thing happened to the Arabs themselves when the Mongols came down from the steppe.

Between the two empires, Persia was the most vulnerable. They were plagued by corruption and weakened by court intrigue and fighting under the royal dynasty. Therefore, unlike the Eastern Romans, the Persians were completely conquered.

Superior tactics and generalship

The first Muslim commander on the Eastern Front made crucial use of his mobility to gather information for a major invasion. The Persians did not give an adequate answer.

Later, when a general invasion broke out, the Persians were completely outmaneuvered by superior, state-of-the-art tactics by Khalid bin Walid. Khalid is listed among the best generals of all time for a reason. For example, in Battle of Chains, Khalid showed us the power of mobility over equipment. The Persians were heavily armed and armored, which affected their speed. Focusing on their disadvantage, Khalid happily chased the Persians until they were tired to the bone. Then Khalid did brief work with them. Khalid also knew the exact movements of the Persians while successfully fooling the Persians into locating themselves. So he also got involved in intelligence and espionage operations. In the picture below graphic representations of the maneuvers that Rashidun (red) and Sassanids (blue) used in the battle of the chains:

Later in the Battle of the River, Khalid again used his mobility and attacked the Persians before they could rally. The Persians again showed an absolute lack of strategy and military sense.

At the Battle of Wallaja, Khalid performed a masterpiece of the double wrap or pincer movement and defeated a numerically superior opponent who displayed a generalship comparable to Hannibal's at the Battle of Cannae. Graphic representation of the following combat and troop movements (Red Rashidun and Blue Sassanids):

One of my personal favorites in Khalid's strategies is the one he used in the Battle of Maraj-Al-Debaj. He defeated a Byzantine force twice the size of his own with agility and surprise. He divided his meager 4,000 mounted lancers into four units of 1,000 men each and launched successive attacks from all sides to surprise and circling the more than 10,000 Byzantine soldiers who were commanded by the emperor's son-in-law himself. He won another crushing victory. The following GIF shows you the fight:

Khalid has fought more than 100 battles and never lost a single one. How many generals can boast about it and what does that say about the training and suitability of such a commander?

It must be noted that, unlike Persians, Muslims were lightly armored, but they let it play to their advantage.

As SwampYankee pointed out, you should visit the Rashidun Army page. You will see that you have the same technology as your opponent and an even better organization and strategy.

To finish things off:

  1. Muslims had a better generalship than their opponents.
  2. Muslims were trained in contemporary martial arts and veterans of many civil wars.
  3. The Muslims were united under the first caliphs.
  4. Muslims skillfully used all the weapons their enemies used and strategically beat them.
  5. However, the great empires had an advantage in terms of resources and numbers. They had better equipped their soldiers too. But they were used to sharing their combat experience with one another, and they were not ready to face the medieval blitzkrieg that the Arabs brought with them. The same thing happened to Arabs when they focused too much on static doctrine and were conquered by mobility-minded Mongols. The defeats did not stop until Mamluk Turkics of Egypt defeated the Mongol Turks at the Battle of Ain-Jalut to stop their advance further west towards North Africa (it was the first time a Mongol advance was halted).


Well researched. The static-mobile theory is worth considering and has been a major theme in the story.