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Oman From the Dawn of Islam

It is said that a massive human migration occurred during the earliest part of recorded history, from the north of the Arabian peninsula, south to Oman and its coastal periphery due to the drought affecting the interior of Arabia. The exact date of the migration has not been established, nor whether it took place as a single migration or a series. The migrants came from the Nazarene tribe, Adnani Arabs from the north. Arab sources relate how Oman was the focus of an intense influx from Yemen when, in the time of Sharhabil Yaafar al-Himyari in the mid 5th century AD, the Ma'rib Dam was breached and destroyed. As a result of an inability to repair the dam, the Lakhm and the Azd inhabitants fled the city to various parts of the peninsula. Some of the Azd travelled into the eastern part of Oman, while the Awas and the Khazrah settled in Yathrib. The Bani Amru bin Amer, who were descended from Mazin bin Al-Azd, headed north towards the hills of El-Sham. Al-Bilathuri describes how the Azd, after they had left their home country, went first to Mecca and there they separated to travel to Oman, As'Sirah, Al-Anbar and Al Hirah, and El-Sham.

The historian, Phil, refers to the Azd tribe which inhabited the Ma'rib at the end of the first century AD. He remarks that they fled from Ma'rib across the Hadramaut Valley, arriving at Saihout under the command of Malik bin Fahm who went on by sea to Qalhat and embarked on a series of battles with the Persians to liberate Oman. He thus became Oman's first independent overlord.

It is said that Malik was the first of the Azd to enter Oman. Malik crossed into Oman with an armed force of more than 6000 men and horses. Upon finding the Persians there, he retired to Qalhat and then engaged in a protracted and fierce battle with them. The Persians sought to terrorize the Arabs by bringing a number of their elephants to the front of their battle lines. But Malik's company were not intimidated and fell upon the animals with weapons, until the beasts fell and crushed many of the Persian troops.

Despite the Persians' spirited resistance, the Azdi tribesmen were victorious and the Persians were forced to sue for peace. Under this arrangement, Malik was to maintain peace for one year, while the Persians moved out of Oman. However, the Persian King, enraged by the defeat, reneged on his promise to move out and sent down reinforcements via Bahrain. Malik, despite an inferior force, attacked the 3000-strong army and routed them. Thus, Malik bin Fahm attained control of Oman and seized all the wealth and possessions of the Persians.

This showdown with the Persians made the Omani Arabs fiercely protective of their independence, Arab identity and lineage. They descended on Persia itself and succeeded in wresting control of Karman, which remained in Omani hands until the death of Selima bin Malik. The Persians inflicted defeat on the Omanis and regained possession of Karman. Thus, a portion of the Omani Arabs returned to Oman.

For a period before the Julanda came to power, the Azd tribe had been pouring steadily into Oman. Among the first to settle was Omar bin Amru bin Amer and his sons, Al-Hajar and Al-Aswad. From these two are descended many of the Omani tribes.

The Bani Al-Aswad took part in the Muslim Conquests after the emergence of Islam and a branch of them was to travel as far as Andalucia when they went down to Bajana seaport and partook in a jihad by sea. Of the Bani Maawiya bin Shams Al-Azdi were Gaifar and Abd, sone of Al-Julanda bin Karkar bin Al-Mustakbir bin Mas'ud bin Al-Jarar Abdul Azi bin Ma'wila bin Shams, King of Oman at the time of the Prophet. Ibn Hazm recounts how the Prophet sent them a dispatch inviting them to adopt Islam. This they did with full and complete conviction and along with them the people of Oman. This was in the eighth year of the Hegira, soon after Amr bin Al-A'as had adopted the faith.

It is reported that Amr bin Al A'as recounted his journey and events in Oman as follows:

"I travelled to Oman and visited Abd who was better than his brother and behaved himself. I told him that I am the messenger of Allah's Messenger to you and your brother. He replied, 'My brother is older than me and his rank is higher than my own. I will introduce my brother to you and he will read your letter.' Then he asked me, 'What are you going to say to him?' I replied that I would ask him to submit to Allah alone and nothing other than Allah and to believe that Mohammed is his servand and messenger. He said, 'O Amr, you are the son of your people's MasterHow did your father Al A'as bin Waa'el, whom we respect very much, decide?' I said that he died and did not believe in Mohammed. I wished that he was the Messenger's follower. I was like him before, until Allah - may He be exalted - led me to the right way and I converted to Islam.

He asked me, 'When did you follow Mohammed?' I said recently and he then asked, 'Where did you convert?'. I told him that I converted before Al-Najashi and I told him that Al-Najashi had already converted to Islam. He asked, 'What was the attitude of your people?' I told him that they approved and that they had followed suit. He then asked, 'What about the Christian priests and bishops?' I replied that they also had converted. He replied to me in disbelief saying, 'Look Amr, what you say is not more than a lie.' I said that I told the truth and that lies were prohibited in our religion. He then said, 'Did Hercules know about Al-Najashi's submission to Islam?' I told him that he did. He asked, 'What was the outcome?' I told him that Al-Najashi used to pay tax to Hercules, but when Al-Najashi placed his faith in Mohammed (peace be upon Him) and submitted to Islam, he decided and swore by Allah that he would never pay Hercules, even if Hercules asked him to pay a single drachma. Hercules was told about what Al-Najashi had said and Hercules' brother asked him, 'How come your slave has decided not to pay you tax and to believe in a new religion?' and Hercules replied, 'What can I do for a man who chooses his religion? In the name of God, if I was not the country's leader, I would do what he did.'

He then said to me, 'Think Amr, about what you are saying.' I replied, in the name of Allan I have told you the truth. Then Abd asked me, 'What is his advice and from what does he want the people to desist?' I said, He wants everyone to be obedient to Allah - may He be exalted. He forbids disobedience and has ordered us to do everything that is good and to be good to relatives. He forbids oppression and injustice. He also forbids adultery, alcoholic drinks and the worshipping of stones, as well as the prohibition of praying to idols and the cross. Abd replied, 'What a great thing he is leading the people to. If my brother agrees with me, we will travel to, and will believe in, Mohammed. But my brother is selfish with his property and would not wish to become a follower.' I said, if he submitted to Islam, then Allah's Messenger will assign him to be the leader of his people and will take the alms from the rich and give it to the poor. He said, 'It is really a wonderful story, but what are the alms?' I told him that Allah's Messenger had imposed a certain amount of tax on the wealthy people. When I mentioned the cattle, he asked me, 'Do you mean that some of the pasturing cattle will be taken?' I replied that they would. He said, 'My God, I don't think that all my people will accept such a rule.'"

Amr bin Al-A'as remained at this city and continued his narrative, thus:

"My mission was conveyed to Abd's brother who in turn invited me to visit him where he lived. His soldiers took my arm and he told them to enter. When I went in, they refused to allow me to sit. I looked into his eyes and he asked me, 'Tell me what you want?' I gave him the closed letter. He took it and finished reading the letter and passed it over to his brother to read it. Then he said, 'Would you tell me what Qureish did?' I said, they trusted and followed Him, whether through sincere belief in the religion or whether forced by the sword to accept it. He then asked, 'Who supports him?' I replied that the people who accepted and chose Islam as their religion understood Islam with the help of Allah. They were in darkness and that I did not know anyone left in the area who did not believe in Islam, except him. If he did not submit to Islam and follow it, the horses would crush him and destroy his followers, If he submitted to Islam, then he would be assigned the leader of his people and the horses and the soldiers would not enter his place. He replied, 'Give me one day to think and come back tomorrow.'

On the next day, I returned to him, but he did not allow me to enter his room. I went to his brother and told him that they did not allow me to see him. He came with me and entered the room, and Gaifar said to me, 'I have reflected upon what you demanded but I should be the greatest weakling of all the Arabs if I were to give another man rule over all that I possess.' I told him that I was leaving tomorrow. When he was certain that I was really leaving, he went to have a private talk with his brother. On the next morning, he called me and dedicated himself to Islam, together with his brother and his people. They paid their alms and ruled their people. They helped me and stood side by side with me against any opposition. Both submitted to Islam and many people followed them too."

Another branch of the Omani Azd came from Al-Hodan bin Shams, brother of Ma'wila bin Shams. A delegation of these approached the Prophet after Mecca had fallen to the Muslims under Maslia bin Mazin Al-Hadani. Another detachment of them then migrated to Basra and others stayed in Oman.



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