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Amr ibn al-Aas RA

Apr 08, 2019
(Arabic: عمرو بن العاص‎) (born c.573 – d. January 6, 664 CE) was an Arab military commander who is most noted for leading the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. A contemporary of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), and one of the Sahaba (“Companions”), who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8AH (629 CE). He founded the Egyptian capital of Fustat, and built the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As at its center — the first mosque on the continent of Africa.
 
Early Life: He belonged to the Banu Sahm clan of the Quraysh. Assuming he was over ninety years old when he died, he was born before 573.

He was the son of Layla bint Harmalah aka “Al-Nabighah”. Before his military career, Amr was a trader, who had accompanied caravans along the commercial trading routes through Asia and the Middle East, including Egypt. Amr ibn ul Aas was born in Makka, Arabia and died in Egypt. He was a sharp, highly intelligent man who belonged to the nobility of the Quraysh. He fought with the Quraysh against Islam in several battles. He went to fight the Muslims when he saw them praying with the prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), he got highly interested and tried to find out more about Islam. He was determinedly hostile to Islam. In fact he was Quraysh’s envoy to the Negus, the ruler of Abyssinia. Once he converted to Islam with Khalid ibn al-Walid, he became a great commander fighting for the Islamic cause. Amr ibn ul aas mosque, the first mosque in Africa, was built under the patronage of Amr ibn ul aas. He came to Egypt as the commander in chief of the Arab troops in 640 AD.

Like the other Quraysh chiefs, he opposed Islam in the early days. ‘Amr headed the delegation that the Quraysh sent to Abyssinia to prevail upon the ruler, Ashaama ibn Abjar (possibly Armah), to turn away the Muslims from his country. The mission failed and the ruler of Abyssinia refused to oblige the Quraysh. After the migration of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to Medina ‘Amr took part in all the battles that the Quraysh fought against the Muslims.

Battle of Uhud: He commanded a Quraish contingent at the battle of Uhud.

Treaty of Hudaybiyyah: Amr ibn al-Aas was married to Umm Kulthum bint Uqba, but he divorced her when she embraced Islam. She then re-married Umar RA (Umar ibn al-Khattab).

Conquest of Makka: In the company of Khalid ibn al-Walid, he rode from Mecca to Medina where both of them converted to Islam. He was seeking the right path to Medina and he became Muslim.

Dhat as-Salasil: Abu Bakr RA, Umar RA and Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah RA served under Amr ibn al-Aas RA in the campaign of Dhat as-Salasil and had offered their prayers behind him for many weeks. At that time, Amr ibn al-Aas RA was their chief not only in the army but also as a leader in religious services.

Amr RA was dispatched by Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to Oman and played a key role in the conversion of the leaders of that nation, Jayfar and ‘Abbād ibn Julanda. He was then made governor of the region until shortly after Muhammad’s (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) death.

There are some hadith regarding him and his fathers will.

Abu Bakr’s era:
Amr RA was sent by the Caliph Abu Bakr RA with the Arab armies into Palestine following Muhammad’s (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) death. It is believed that he played an important role in the Arab conquest of that region, and he is known to have been at the battles of Ajnadayn and Yarmouk as well as the siege of Damascus.

Umar’s RA era: The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As in modern-day Cairo – Following the success over the Byzantines in Syria, Amr RA suggested to Umar RA that he march on Egypt, to which Umar RA agreed.

The actual invasion began towards the end of 640, as Amr RA crossed the Sinai Peninsula with 3,500-4,000 men. After taking the small fortified towns of Pelusium (Arabic: Al-Farama) and beating back a Byzantine surprise attack near Bilbeis, Amr RA headed towards the Babylon Fortress (in the region of modern-day Coptic Cairo). After some skirmishes south of the area, Amr RA marched north towards Heliopolis, with reinforcements reaching him from Syria, against the Byzantine forces in Egypt, under Theodore Trithyrius. The resulting Arab victory at the Battle of Heliopolis brought about the fall of much of the country. The Heliopolis battle resolved fairly quickly, though the Babylon Fortress withstood a siege of several months, and the Byzantine capital of Alexandria, which had been the capital of Egypt for a thousand years, surrendered a few months after that. A treaty of peace was signed in late 641, in the ruins of a palace in Memphis. Despite a brief re-conquest by Byzantine forces in 645 which was beaten at the Battle of Nikiou, the country was firmly in Arab hands.

Needing a new capital, Amr RA suggested that they set up an administration in the large and well-equipped city of Alexandria, at the western edge of the Nile Delta. However, Caliph Omar refused, saying that he did not want the capital to be separated from him by a body of water. So in 641 Amr founded a new city on the eastern side of the Nile, centered on his own tent which was near the Babylon Fortress. Amr also founded a mosque at the center of his new city—it was the first mosque in Egypt, which also made it the first mosque on the continent of Africa. The Mosque of Amr (Mosque of Amr ibn al-As) still exists today in Old Cairo, though it has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries, and nothing remains of the original structure.

After founding Fustat, Amr RA was then recalled to the capital (which had, by then, moved from Mecca to Damascus) where he became Muawiyah’s RA close advisor.

Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) had told Amr RA “that when you conquer Egypt be kind to its people because they are your protege kith and kin”.

Muhammad’s (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) wife, Maria al-Qibtiyya (the Copt) was an Egyptian, and Hagar the maidservent of Abraham (Ibrāhīm) and mother of Ishmael had come from Egypt. After Amr Ibn Al Aas conquered Egypt, he informed Mikakaus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, who retorted that “Only a Prophet, could invoke such a relationship!”

Later life: After his military conquests, Amr RA was an important player in internal conflicts within Islam. He died during Muawiya’s RA reign.

Following the murder of Uthman ibn Affan RA and the dispute between the supporters of Ali RA and the supporters of Muawiyah RA as successors, Amr RA represented Muawiyah RA in the arbitration as opposed to Abu Musa Ashaari RA who represented Ali RA.

Further reading
* Butler, Alfred J. The Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Last Thirty years of Roman Dominion Oxford, 1978.

* Charles, R. H. The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Zotenberg’s Ethiopic Text, 1916. Reprinted 2007. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-87-9. Evolpub.com

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