Date: 3/16/2005


The capture of Alexandria by deception

When Umar the gangster chieftain whom the Muslim call Khalifah Caliph, received the report of Amr bin Al-Aas about the conquest of Babylon he advised Amr to wipe out Kufr (non-Muslim religious belief) from Egypt entirely. He ordered Amr to go on a capture the port city of Alexandria (Which the Muslims re-named Iskandariya). When the Muslims appeared before Alexandria in March 641. Alexandria was heavily fortified. There were walls behind walls, and forts within forts. The Byzantine force within the city numbered 50,000 while the strength of the invading Muslim force was over 100,000. There was no dearth of provisions and food supply in the city. The city had direct access to the sea, and through the sea route help from Constantinople in men and material could come any time. As Amr surveyed the military situation, he felt that Alexandria would be a hard nut to crack. The Byzantines had high stakes in Alexandria, and they were determined to offer stiff resistance to the Muslims Amr, however, felt that in spite of the heavy odds the Muslims would be able to conquer the city by using subterfuge.

The Muslim brutes accordingly decided to lay siege to the city. The Byzantines mounted catapults on the walls of the city, and these engines pounded the Muslims with boulders. This caused considerable damage to the Muslims and Amr ordered his men back from the advance position so that they might be beyond the range of these missiles. A see-saw war followed. When the Muslims tried to go close to the city they were pounded with missiles. And when the Muslim retreated away from the Walls of the fort, the Byzantines sallied from the fort, they were invariably beaten back by the Muslims. Heraclius the Byzantine emperor collected a large reinforcement at Constantinople. He intended to march at the head of this reinforcement personally to Alexandria. Before he could finalize the arrangements he died. The reinforcement mustered at Constantinople dispersed, and no help came to Alexandria.

The foul move used by Muslims to win a duel and gain freedom when they were trapped by the Byzantines

When the Muslims came to know that the Byzantine emperor had died and that no reinforcement was likely to come to Alexandria they took full advantage of the demoralization among the Byzantine ranks and intensified their attacks. In one of the assaults the Muslims got into one of the towers. On the Byzantine counter attack the Muslims withdrew. As the Byzantines closed the outer gate four Muslims were trapped inside. These four Muslims descended to an underground chamber but because of the narrowness of the entrance that allowed entry to only one person at a time, it was easily defended by these four men and it was not possible for the Byzantines to descend to the chamber to capture these Muslims alive. Left to themselves these Muslims would have been starved to death within a few days. Among these four trapped Muslims was Amr that horrid Muslim commander who had betrayed the personal trust placed in him by Maqauqas the Coptic High priest and had used this trust to capture Babylon. The Byzantines were not aware of the identity of these four Muslims. They took them to be ordinary soldiers of no particular significance

In a playful mood the Byzantines asked these trapped Muslims to surrender for if they did not do so they would automatically die in the underground cellar within a few days. The Muslims refused to surrender. Whereupon the Byzantines said that they could be exchanged with Byzantine prisoners in the Muslim camp. This was also not agreed to by the trapped Muslims. Thereupon in a chivalrous mood the Byzantines said, "Let us have a duel, one man out of you and one man from us. If your man kills our man all of you can depart. If your man is killed the rest of you will be our captives". To this the Muslims agreed.

Amr wanted to offer himself for the duel, but Masalma a young man of great sinews prevailed upon him that he should let Masalma fight the duel Amr ultimately agreed. The Byzantines gave a solemn undertaking in the terms of the agreement arrived at and the trapped Muslims came out of the cellar into the chamber where the duel was to be held. Had the Muslims been in place of the Byzantines, they would have immediately surrounded the enemy prisoners and slaughtered them. But the Byzantines were honorable people, not dishonorable like the Muslims, so they kept their word. Accordingly the Byzantine champion stepped forward and he was met by Masalma from the Muslim side. The contest was hard and stiff, and it appeared as if the Byzantine champion would score. But ultimately Masalma through a foul move tugged hard at the armpit hair of the Byzantine champion. At this unexpected foul move, the Byzantine Champion drew back, and seizing this moment, Masalma killed him by stabbing his dagger through the Byzantine champion's heart so hard that it stuck out from his back,. In spite of the foul move by Masalma, the Byzantines kept their word. After the duel was over they opened the gate of the tower and let the Muslims go in peace. Little did they know that these four included the Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim force Amr, whom they could have ransomed and used in negotiations, and could still have ultimately killed hi. This is what the Muslim would have done, had the shoe been on the other foot.

Use of subterfuge carries the Day for the Muslims at Alexandria

The state of stalemate continued. The Muslims intensified their attacks but there was no slackening of the Byzantine resistance. The siege dragged on for six months, and in Madina Umar got impatient. In a letter addressed to Amr the Caliph expressed his concern at the inordinate delay in the conquest of Egypt. Umar wrote

"When you get this letter address the people and urge them to fight. Launch the attack in the early afternoon of a Friday for that is the hour of Allah's blessing.

Amr bin Al-Aas assembled his men, and read to them the letter of Umar. Fiery speeches were made to inspire the Muslims to violent action. It was decided that after the ensuring Friday prayers an all-out assault would be launched on the enemy. Ubada was chosen to carry the standard and launch the assault.

The following Friday after the noon prayers, the Muslims marched to the battle-field with the coffins tied on their heads. They moved forward with the fury of a torrent, but the Byzantines were more than prepared for this. The full onslaught of the Muslim attack was blunted and the Muslim were given a bloody nose. Many Muslims died on that Friday and the attack was a dismal failure. Allah had refused to obliged the Muslims and that too on a Friday the Sabbath of the heathen Muslims.

That night there was dejection in the Muslim camp, and there was talk of lifting camp and moving back to Al Fustat (the camp which the Muslim had put up at Babylon. The ferocity of the Byzantine defense had swept aside the Muslim attack. When all seemed lost, a recent Coptic convert to Islam named Abu who was a fisherman, suggested to Amr that he and his friends who could speak the Greek language could go around the bay and at early dawn land their fishing crafts in the harbor. His was the usual practice of the fishermen who brought in the catch every morning to Alexandria. After landing there, Abu suggested that he and his gang would go to one of the gates and overpower the unsuspecting guards in the twilight of the dawn and open the gate. At a signal from Abu, the Msulim army could then rush inside the city. Amr agreed to this scheme and, unfortunately for the valiant Byzantine defenders, the trick worked Before the sun rose the city was carried by the Muslims by storm. Over 20,000 Byzantines were killed or taken captive. The rest of the Byzantine army found safety in flight to Constantinople through ships that stood anchored in the port. Some wealthy traders also left, but most of the population remained back and all through the next three days there was carnage in the city. The palaces were stripped bare, the women folk were taken into sex-slavery, the most beautiful one taken into the harems of Amr and his commanders.

Amr reported to his boss Umar: "We have conquered Alexandria. In this city there are 4,000 palaces, 400 places of entertainment, and untold wealth."

The Muslim soldiers were keen to collect the war spoils and distribute them among themselves. The matter was referred to Umar, decided that the Muslims could appropriate all the property which was their by the right of might. After all with the Muslim the adage "Might is Right was to make itself known over and over again in the next fourteen centuries in the ravages they caused in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria

Scholars differed in views on how the ancient library of Alexandria was destroyed. However, recent research by Luciano Canfora concluded that the Arab general Amr at the orders of the Arab Caliph Umar did the heinous deed of destruction of the library. The story of the Arabs destruction of the library indicates that it took them six months to burn the books in about one thousand public bathes in Alexandria. This was a shameful act on part of the unlettered Arabs, whose Islamic mentality told them that no other book need now exist, as the Quran contained all that they needed! This was the justification of the barefooted and lizard-eating Arab Muslims for burning down all libraries, not just in Egypt but also in Syria, Persia, Spain, India (where they burnt the Buddhist university of Nalanda). The burning of libraries was one of the heinous Muslim crimes against humanity.