Small Wars Journal

Amr ibn al-A’as, a Realistic Examination of an Early Islamic Military Strategic Planner

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American military planners must take the time to discover military campaigns not usually taught in America’s war colleges and service academies.  These campaigns should embrace not only the study of insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also explore historical conflicts including the campaigns of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. 

Muhammad (570-632 CE) forever altered warfare in the Arabian Peninsula.   From the time of Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, to the year 711 CE, Islamic armies had reached the Iberian Peninsula.  However, before delving into the early conflicts of Islam, it is important not to fall into the trap of Islamist militancy by viewing Muhammad from the singular lens of warlord.  Regrettably, Islamist militants and al-Qaida mythologize the example of Prophet Muhammad and his companions without truly understanding the challenges and human issues involved in the lives of these men. To gain an understanding of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, and in particular those involved in the conquest of the Levant and Egypt, it is important to study and analyze Arabic sources. 

This paper will highlight an excellent Arabic biography of Amr ibn al-A’as, a Meccan who opposed Muhammad in Mecca.  Amr ibn al-A’as would go to Abyssinia as an emissary of the Meccans, his mission was to retrieve Muslims who sought asylum with the Christian Emperor Najashi.  He would eventually convert to Islam and become the conqueror of Egypt and founder of what would become Cairo.  The author, Dr. Abdel-Raheem Muhammad Abdel-Hameed Ali (hereafter referred to as the author) is a Jordanian historian whose doctoral thesis was transformed into a book entitled, Amr ibn al-A’as al-Qaeed wal Siyasi (Amr ibn al-A’as, the Commander and Politician).”  This Arabic book was published in 1998 by Dar al-Zahran in Amman, Jordan and is 174 pages.  Another objective of this chapter is to highlight excerpts of this book to demonstrate the importance of Arabic books in the education of future American military planners.

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About the Author(s)

CDR Aboul-Enein teaches part-time at the National Intelligence University and National Defense University.  He is the author of “Militant Islamist Ideology,” and “Iraq in Turmoil,” both published by Naval Institute Press. His first book goes paperback this September and was named among the top 150 most influential titles on terrorism and counter-terrorism by the journal, Perspectives on Terrorism.