How many years later did the Byzantines defeat the Iranians, which is mentioned in the chapter of ar-Rum?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"The Roman Empire has been defeated-In a land close by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious-Within a few years. With Allah is the Decision, in the past and in the Future: on that Day shall the Believers rejoice-With the help of Allah. He helps whom He will, and He is exalted in might, most merciful. (It is) the promise of Allah. Never does Allah depart from His promise: but most men understand not." (ar-Rum, 30/2-6)

The Roman Empire has been defeated.

When Muhammad (pbuh) was sent as a prophet, the Roman Empire and Iran were the two biggest states of the world. As Sulayman Nadawi of India states in the history of the Era of Bliss, those two neighbors and rivals started a bloody war in 613, in the fifth year of the prophethood. Iran was ruled by Chosroes II and the Roman Empire was ruled by Heraclius. Their borders met on the rivers of Tigris and Euphrates. Palestine, Syria, Egypt, one part of Iraq and Anatolia belonged to the Roman Empire. The Iranians attacked the Byzantines from two sides. They attacked from the Tigris and Euphrates on Syria, and from Azerbaijan and Armenia on Anatolia. 

The Iranian armies forced the Byzantine armies to retreat and followed them until they were thrown into the sea. They captured all of the holy cities in Syria. They captured the whole Palestine and Jerusalem in 614. During this invasion, all churches were demolished and all religious buildings were destroyed. Twenty-six thousand Jews that joined the Iranians killed more than sixty thousand Christians with swords. The skulls of the thirty thousand people that were killed were displayed in the palace of the Iranian king.

This invasion did not stop there; they also attacked Egypt. The Iranians invaded the Nile valley and reached Alexandria; on the other hand, they captured all Anatolia and reached the Bosporus coast of Istanbul. They appeared before Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire; they spread their sovereignty to Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Anatolia. The Iranians built fire temples everywhere they entered, and thus spread fire-worshipping (Zoroastrianism) in places where Christianity emerged. In the face of this defeat of the Eastern Roman Empire, many provinces that were subject to it revolted; the countries in Africa, the cities on the European side, and even the cities near Istanbul wanted to get out of the sovereignty of this state and did so. In short, the Eastern Roman Empire was devastated and destroyed.

When the news of this defeat reached Makkah, the idolaters became very happy and revealed the joy of their defeat in the presence of the Muslims. They said, “You and the Christians are the People of the Book. We and the Persians are illiterate. Our brothers defeated your brothers and we will defeat you.” Thereupon, those verses were sent down as a miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): The Romans were defeated but in the closest place of the earth, that is, in the land closest to Makkah, closest to Arabia, in Damascus, or it may mean close to the Byzantine capital, that is, in Anatolia around Istanbul, they are both true, they will be victorious. The Eastern Roman Empire became so devastated; there were internal revolts; its army was scattered and its treasure was emptied; Heraclius, the emperor even thought of leaving Istanbul and fleeing to Carthage. The victorious commanders of the Iranians made the following peace offer with the euphoria of drunkenness: The emperor would have to give anything to be desired by the Iranians. They wanted one thousand loads of gold, one thousand loads of silver, one thousand load of silk, one thousand horses. The Byzantine Empire had to accept all of those derogatory conditions and sent delegates to sign a peace treaty based on those principles.

When the delegates arrived in Iran, Chosroes said, "This is not enough. The Emperor Heraclius must come here in chains and worship fire and sun instead of his crucified god."

The defeat was a defeat like that. Let alone saying that the Roman Empire would be victorious, it was impossible even to imagine that the Romans, who were in such a downfall, would gather strength again and beat the Iranians.

However, in such a situation, Allah gave His Messenger (pbuh) the following news: Nevertheless, they will definitely be victorious after this defeat. They will be victorious in a few years. The word “bid’” expresses a number between three and nine. As a matter of fact, when those verses were sent down, Hz. Abu Bakr addressed those polytheists who were very happy as follows:  

"Allah will not allow you to be happy for a long time. The Prophet informed us. I swear that the Byzantines will definitely defeat the Iranians in a few years." Thereupon, Ubayy b. Khalf said,
"You are lying. Let us determine a time period and place a bet."

They placed a bet for ten camels and determined the period as three years. Hz. Abu Bakr informed the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about it. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, 

"Bid' means between three and nine. Increase the number and lengthen the period."

When Hz. Abu Bakr left, he met Ubayy on the way. Ubayy said, "You seem to regret." Hz. Abu Bakr said,

"No. Let us increase the number of the camels and lengthen the time period: nine years and a hundred camels." Ubayy said,

"All right.

According to what Tirmidhi states in his Sahih, the Byzantines defeated the Iranians on the day of "Badr". Hz. Abu Bakr took the camels from the inheritors of Ubayy. When he took the camels to the Prophet (pbuh), he said, "Give them away to the poor."

The order (command) belongs to Allah all the time; it should not be thought that that order, will and command will belong to the Byzantines when they become victorious. The order belongs neither to the Byzantines nor to the Iranians before and after their defeat. He defeated them before and can defeat them again. The believers will rejoice on that day, that is, when the Byzantines defeat the Iranians. That is, when the Byzantines defeat the Iranians there, the believers will defeat the polytheists with the help of Allah. However, they will rejoice not because of the victory of the Byzantines but because of the help of Allah that will make them victorious in particular. The help promised to the believers like that is the victory of "Badr". As a matter of fact, Tabari stats the following in his tafsir: "It is the victory of the believers over the polytheists at Badr."

Indeed, according to the narration by Tirmidhi, the Byzantines defeated the Iranians on the day of "Badr". However, the explanation of the victory in detail took place when the Muslims were in Hudaybiyya and Hz. Abu Bakr got the camels from Ubayy’s inheritors, not Ubayy himself; therefore, some people thought this day of rejoicing was the day of Hudaybiyya. Sulayman Nadawi of India determines it as follows in the history of the Era of Bliss:

"As the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) pointed out, this victory took place nine years later and coincided with the victory of "Badr"."

According to some, this news took place in the sixth year of the Migration during the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. However, this is not true. The reason for this misunderstanding is as follows:  According to what is explained in Sahih Bukhari when the envoy carrying the letter sent by the Prophet (pbuh) to Heraclius arrived in Syria, Heraclius was celebrating his victory. Since this envoy was sent during the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, many people thought they had won the victory at that time. However, Heraclius had already won the victory and went to Syria to celebrate it. According to the Roman calendar, the prophethood of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) started in 609 and the enmity between the Eastern Roman Empire and Iran began in 610. 13-14 years passed with wars and the Romans were defeated in 616.  They attacked the Iranians in 622, started victories in 623 and had the decisive victory in 625. As nine years passed between the beginning of the defeat and the start of the victory, the period between the final defeat and the final victory is nine years.

Since the Migration of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was in the thirteenth of year the prophethood (623), it coincided with the second year of the Migration, which is the year of "Badr". Thus, the Byzantines started to win the war in the seventh year of their defeat and the second year of the war; when they began to win, the Muslims rejoiced by defeating the polytheists on the day of "Badr". However, the war continued for two more years, during which the Byzantines recovered all of the provinces occupied by the Iranians and drove their enemies behind the Tigris and the Euphrates. Thus, exactly nine years later, they attained victory and the news "they will soon be victorious within a few years" given by the Quran occurred exactly.  

In that case, when the Quran uses the expression "a few years" related to nine years before it, that is, seven years before the Migration, the seventh year of the prophethood, which is an ambiguous phrase, it includes a deep and comprehensive eloquence. For the phrase "bid’i sinin" (a few years) indicates three years, which is the period of victory, seven years, which is the first victory coinciding with “Badr” and nine years, which is the decisive victory. If one of them had been expressed clearly, not all phases of the event would have been shown, and hence this comprehensive style of conciseness would not have existed.

Besides, what is meant by this explanation is the indication of the determination of the date when the Muslims would rejoice rather than the victory of the Byzantines. For, "a few years" is ambiguous but "the day" when the victory takes place is certain. Therefore, the miracle of the verse showing the day of rejoicing is more important that the miracle informing about the victory of the Byzantines. 

Nevertheless, it is saddening that many people are unaware of it. Yes, the following is stated in the Quran:

"After (this) defeat of theirs, the Roman Empire will soon be victorious -Within a few years. With Allah is the Decision, in the past and in the Future: on that Day shall the Believers rejoice-With the help of Allah."

Do not say, “How can it happen?” He helps anybody He wishes and makes anybody He wishes victorious. That is, His help does not depend on causes; causes depend on His will. He gave victory to the Iranians yesterday and He can make the Byzantines victorious tomorrow. He can make the believers who are thought to be very weak victorious over all of them at an unexpected time. He is the Mighty one and the all-Merciful one. Only He is the owner of the power that can never be defeated. He is the only one that shows mercy. Therefore, He makes the defeated ones victorious when He wishes and gives victory to believers.  

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