Expedition of Usama bin Zayd

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The Expedition of Usama bin Zayd [1] also known as the Army of Usama ibn Zaid to al-Balqa, took place in 11AH of the Islamic calendar,[2] in May 632. Usama ibn Zayd was appointed as the commander of an expeditionary force which was to invade Palestine again (and attack Moab and Darum), on the orders of Muhammad.[1][3] He set out with 3000 men on the same day Muhammad died, when he reached the destination he attacked the inhabitants, killing many, taking as many captives as he could.[4]


Muhammad invited Usama ibn Zayd (son of Zayd ibn Harithah) to a Mosque and ordered him to act as the commander of an Army that was to invade Palestine, and attack Takhum of al-Balqa (which was in Palestine) . Usama ibn Zayd was the son of Zayd ibn Harithah, a slave that Muhammad freed, and a man that was very close to Muhammad. Zayd ibn Haritha was killed in the Battle of Mutah.[1]

In addition to attacking Balqa, he was ordered attack Darum. Some weeks later, Muhammad fell ill, and from his seat (the Minbar) in the Mosque, he ordered that Usama ibn Zayd should lead the expeditionary force. Muhammad also rebuked those that claimed he did not merit such an honour, and rebuked those who claimed he was too young, while the best of Muhammad’s commanders were available.[1][3]

Usama visited Muhammad before he went into battle. The next day he set out for his expedition and learnt Muhammad had died on 8 June 632. He was told by Abu Bakr to continue the expedition.[5]

Invasion of Palestine

10 Rules of Abu Bakr

According to Tabari, before Usamah headed out, Abu Bakr advised Usamah with "10 things", which were like his rules of war.[6] The tradition about the 10 "things" of Abu Bakr are also mentioned in the Sunni Hadith collection Al-Muwatta.[7][8] The tradition mentioned many things, including leaving "monks" alone. Imam Shaffi (founder of the Shaffi school of thought) did not consider the tradition, about the 10 rules of Abu Bakr as authentic, but the same book which claimed he did not consider it authentic, also mentioned in another occasion that Shaffi considered it authentic (or partly authentic), and used it to justify killing monks only if they fought Muslims. But the same book explains that even if it was authentic, it does not mean that monks can not be killed, and claims that Abu Bakr's intention (according to Shaffi) was to only temporarily leave the monasteries alone. Shaffi concluded that "monks" are not included in his list of "non combatants".[9] Abu Yusuf mentioned a counter tradition about the instructions of Abu Bakr, which claimed that Abu Bakr ordered his commanders to lay waste to every village where he did not hear the call to prayer.[10]


Usama headed out with 3000 men, of which 1000 were cavalry soldiers. Abu Bakr accompanied Usama part of the way. Usama had also sent a spy, from which he learned that the inhabitants were still unaware of the imminent approach of the army.[4]

Islamic primary sources


The incident is mentioned in the Sahih Bukhari hadith collection:

It is also mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:745, Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:552, Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:744 and others.

Historical sources

The event is also mentioned by the Muslim scholars Ibn Hisham, Waqidi and Tabari.[4]

Tabari said about the event:

It is also mentioned by Tabari, that Abu Bakr gave Usamah 10 rules, before he was sent forth and raided the inhabitants:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gil, A history of Palestine, 634-1099, p. 31.
  2. Abu Khalil, Shawqi (1 March 2004). Atlas of the Prophet's biography: places, nations, landmarks. Dar-us-Salam. p. 249. ISBN 978-9960897714.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar (Free Version), p. 303
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gil, A history of Palestine, 634-1099, p. 32.
  5. Gil, A history of Palestine, 634-1099, pp. 31-32.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tabari, Al (1993), The conquest of Arabia, State University of New York Press, p. 16, ISBN 978-0791410714<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Al-Muwatta; Book 21, Number 21.3.10.
  8. Aboul-Enein, H. Yousuf and Zuhur, Sherifa, Islamic Rulings on Warfare, p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA, ISBN 1-4289-1039-5
  9. M. J. Kister. Non-combatants in Muslim Legal Thought, translation of Studies in Early Islam: Lectures delivered in honour of Professor M. J. Kister on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. p. 6. Regarding monks, two contradictory opinions are attributed to ShÁfi‘Ð. On one occasion, he accepts the tradition attributed to AbÙ Bakr prohibiting the killing of monks. Their lives are forfeit only if they actively fight against Muslims; but if they assist the enemy in other ways, they are to be punished but not executed. Elsewhere in the same book, ShÁfi‘Ð states that all infidel men without exception must convert to Islam or be killed; all men of the protected religions (ahl al-kitÁb) must pay jizya or be killed. He emphasizes that this rule applies to monks as well and denies the authenticity of the tradition attributed to AbÙ Bakr, which he himself had accepted on another occasion. Alternatively, he explains that even if the tradition from AbÙ Bakr is authentic, this does not mean that monks may not be killed. AbÙ Bakr’s intention, according to ShÁfi‘Ð, was that monasteries be left aside temporarily in order to concentrate on more important military targets first. ShÁfi‘Ð thus concludes that monks are not included in the lists of “non-combatants,” and they most definitely may be fought and killed. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (archive)
  10. Joseph Schacht (1959). Origins of Muhammadan jurisprudence. Clarendon Press. p. 145. ISBN 9781597404747. Abu Bakr instructed one of his commanders to lay waste every village where he did not hear the call to prayer. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Tabari, Al (25 Sep 1990), The last years of the Prophet (translated by Isma'il Qurban Husayn), State University of New York Press, pp. 163–164, ISBN 978-0887066917<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> online