ḎŪ QĀR

watering place near Kūfa in Iraq where a battle was fought between Arab tribesmen and Persian forces in the early 7th century.

 

ḎŪ QĀR, watering place near Kūfa in Iraq where a battle was fought between Arab tribesmen and Persian forces in the early 7th century. In the 6th century the Sasanians relied on the Arab Lakhmid dynasty, with its capital at Ḥīra in Iraq, for defense of their southwestern frontier against incursions by Arab tribes. Nevertheless, in the second half of the century Arab tribes sometimes defeated Lakhmid forces and also attacked Persian caravans (Jād al-Mawlā et al., pp. 2-5, 94-98, 107-08; Ḥellī, p. 367; Simon, p. 30). In 602 Ḵosrow II Parvēz (590-628, with interruption) imprisoned the Lakhmid Noʿmān b. Monḏer and abolished the dynasty, appointing Īās b. Qabīṣa, an Arab of the tribe of Ṭayyeʾ, as governor. Subsequently, at an indeterminate date, an open clash between the Persians and their Arab auxiliaries, on one hand, and Arab tribesmen, on the other, occurred at Ḏū Qār. According to certain Muslim traditions, the battle took place in the year 1/623 or 2/624 (Ḥellī, pp. 158, 192). Ebn Ḥabīb (p. 360) dated it earlier, between 606 and 622, but modern scholars have narrowed this range to 604-11 (Rothstein, p. 123; Caussin de Perceval, p. 184; Bosworth, p. 608).

In the Arab sources the Persian force is numbered at 2,000 soldiers, with 3,000 Arabs led by Īās b. Qabīṣa. The enemy was from the Bakr b. Wāʾel, a large tribal confederation whose territory extended from southwestern Iraq into the eastern Arabian peninsula (Donner, pp. 16-18, 28; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 1030-31; Ḥellī, pp. 410-11). The most prominent constituent tribe was Šaybān, the other groups being Banū Ejl, Banū Ḏohl, Banū Qays b. Thaʿlaba, Banū Taym-Allāh b. Thaʿlaba, and Banū Yaškor. These groups do not seem to have coordinated their efforts on the battlefield, nor did they have a single commander-in-chief. Rather, leadership seeems to have shifted among various warriors. Nevertheless, the Bakrīs defeated the combined Persian and Arab forces.

Arab authors pieced together elements from disparate traditions on the battle of Ḏū Qār. The outlines of two main versions are discernible, one ultimately traceable to Abū ʿObayda (d. 209/824), the other to Ebn Kalbī (d. 204/819). According to Abū ʿObayda’s more anecdotal version, Ḵosrow Parvēz was angry with the Ḥīran king Noʿmān for refusing to give him his daughter in marriage and insulting Persian women; he therefore imprisoned Noʿmān, who died in prison. Subsequently Ḵosrow sent armed forces against the Šaybānī leader Hānīʾ b. Qabīṣa, who refused to hand over to him Noʿmān’s family and armor, but these forces were defeated at Ḏū Qār. According to Ebn Kalbī’s version, when Noʿmān was deposed Bakrī tribesmen raided Persian territory in Iraq. The Šaybānī Qays b. Masʿūd made an agreement with Ḵosrow by which he received tracts of land in return for preventing Arab incursions into Persian territory. Qays’s rivals within his own tribe deliberately continued the raids in order to foil this contract, and, indeed, Ḵosrow imprisoned Qays and demanded Bakrī hostages as a condition for his release (or as a guarantee against further incursions). The Bakrīs refused to give such hostages, and Ḵosrow sent armies against them, meeting with defeat at Ḏū Qār. Modern scholars generally prefer Ebn Kalbī’s version, on the grounds that it is less colorful and therefore more plausible. Persian sources on the Sasanian period are silent about this battle; the relatively small number of soldiers involved, as well as the Persian defeat, may explain this silence.

Religious, as well as Arab, sentiment must have played a part in shaping accounts of Ḏū Qār. The Prophet Muḥammad (allegedly) said “This is the first battle in which the Arabs took equitable vengeance on the Persians, and they achieved this victory through me” (Ṭabarī, I, 1031; Mottaqī Hendī, no. 30301; Eṣfahānī, XX, p. 138). Ignaz Goldziher (p. 100) noted the connection between Arab disdain for Persians and elaboration on the victory at Ḏū Qār.

Some scholars, apparently influenced by the Muslim tradition (e.g., Ḥellī, p. 422; Yaʿqūbī, II, p. 46), have interpreted the battle of Ḏū Qār as part of a prolonged Arab rebellion against the Persians, which culminated in the Muslim conquest of the Persian empire. As Šaybānī tribesmen, led by Moṯannā b. Ḥāreṯa, assisted in the conquest of Iraq, it has been argued that the Bakr, and especially the Šaybān, had followed a distinct anti-Sasanian policy since Ḏū Qār. Fred Donner has shown (pp. 28-30), however, that the Šaybān who supported the Muslims and those who were prominent at Ḏū Qār belonged to different, even rival clans; some Šaybānī leaders allied themselves with the Persians after Ḏū Qār, and others even opposed the Muslims during the conquest of Iraq. The battle of Ḏū Qār thus appears to have had ideological and symbolic meaning for the Arabs far beyond its military and political significance.

 

Bibliography:

(For cited works not found in this bibliography and abbreviations found here, see “Short References.”) Abū Helāl ʿAskarī, Ketāb al-awāʾel, Beirut, 1987, pp. 289-91.

Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, II, pp. 1098-1137.

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C. E. Bosworth, “Iran and the Arabs before Islam,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/1, pp. 593-612.

A. P. Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l’histoire des Arabes II, Paris, 1847, pp. 171-85.

F. Donner, “The Bakr b. Wāʾil Tribes and Politics in Northeastern Arabia on the Eve of Islam,” Stud. Isl. 51, 1980, pp. 5-38.

Ebn al-Balḵī, pp. 105-06.

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Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīḵ I, Beirut, 1960 (esp. pp. 215, 225), II, Beirut, 1960 (esp. p. 46).

(Ella Landau-Tasseron)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: December 1, 2011

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Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, pp. 574-575