Synopsis: The episode begins by showing an absolutely massive Persian force, with cavalry and elephants, led by the general Rustam heading out to meet the smaller Muslim army encamped at al-Qadisiyya. In the Muslim army, led by Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, we learn that al-Muthanna ibn Harith has passed away and in his last words he left advice for how the Muslims could best combat the Persians and defeat them. The next scene then goes to Medina where Umar is walking through the streets. Two women approach him with a grievance. Apparently one of them has been divorced by her husband for no just cause and seeks reprieve; Umar is outraged and seeks out the husband and rebukes him for doing such a thing. Umar then goes back to walking around the city and comes across another man who he stops. He tells him that he has heard that someone has come to ask for his sister’s hand in marriage but he (the brother) has refused. The man responds that the potential groom is from a lower tribal group and that his own family is from Quraysh; therefore, such a match cannot be realized. Umar rebukes him and reminds him that all human beings are descendants from Adam and, thus, tribal standing is of little value. Umar then speaks to all those assembled in the city square and talks about the importance of Muslim unity and the need to remain as one community, rather than small, isolated groupings in society.
The next scene goes back to al-Qadisiyya where Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas is lying ill in bed, apparently suffering from some sort of sickness. He tells his wife he doesn’t know what to do while battle lies ahead. She suggests that he designates someone from the army to lead and report back to him about the developments. The famed poetess al-Khansa’ then enters upon Sa’d to check upon his condition and tells him her story of her encounter with Umar ibn al-Khattab, whom she praises as one of the most understanding and sincere people she has ever met. Back in Medina, Umar is consulting with Uthman and the other Companions about his ideas about expanding the mosque in Medina, since the population of the city has vastly increased. While in the midst of these discussions, a man comes to him and asks if he can help him with a problem; Umar is annoyed and tells the man that he is busy, pushing him away. The man, saddened, walks away. Umar is upset with himself for how he reacted and so summons the man back to his presence. Umar demands that it is only just that the man push him in the same manner that he did previously; the man refuses and tells the caliph that he forgives him. The next scene shows Umar in his house praying to God and asking for His mercy and forgiveness.
Back at al-Qadisiyya, the Persians and the Muslims are assembled across the battlefield from one another. The Muslims shout the takbir several times. The Persians send out one of their champions, who is met by one from the Muslim army. The Muslim wins and kills his opponent. The Persians send out another of their champions, who is met by another Muslim warrior, who easily slays his opponent. The Muslim infantry and cavalry then charge against the Persian army, who respond by sending out their own infantry and elephants against the Muslims. The elephants inflict major damage on the Muslim army. As the Banu Tamim and Banu Asad (both former Ridda tribes) join the fight, the odds begin to even for the Muslims. The next scene shows the first day of fighting over and the wounded being healed and the dead being gathered from the battlefield. Al-Khansa’ finds that all four of her sons (‘Amr, ‘Amrah, Yazid, and Mu’awiyah) are alive and well and she prays for their victory against the Persians. Meanwhile, the force commanded by al-Qa’qa’ from Syria reaches Iraq and marches towards the battlefield. The strategy devised is to divide the forces into 10 groups of 1000 who would march behind each other in order to give both the Muslims and Persians at the battlefield that the numbers of Muslim reinforcements were endless. As wave after wave of the Muslim cavalry reinforce the main army at al-Qadisiya (the battle now in its second day), the Muslims are elated while the Persians begin to get anxious. Al-Qa’qa steps forward and asks for the Persians to send out their champion…Rustam sends out one of the Persian generals. With difficulty, al-Qa’qa’ defeats and kills him. Al-Qa’qa’ demands the Persians to send out another of their champions; they send out two. These two are also defeated and killed. Meanwhile, the reinforcements from Syria continue to arrive and strengthen the Muslim army. The two armies eventually both charge against one another. During the battle, heavy casualties are inflicted on both sides and all four of al-Khansa’s sons are killed.
Review: This episode was done well, although it was not as exciting as the others. As with the previous ones, I was glad they struck a balance between events in Medina and the battlefields in the Iraq/Syria. I enjoyed the scenes with Umar, since they once again underscore his style of leadership and his own sense of justice and fairness. The episode also raised several important social issues about marriage and divorce which are relevant to the modern audience, so I thought that was quite good.
With regard to how they portrayed the first two days of the Battle of Qadisiyya, I was satisfied. I was grateful they mentioned the participation of the tribes of Banu Tamim and Banu Asad, both of whom were key tribes during the Ridda uprising in Arabia. By doing so, not only were they faithful to the traditional accounts which emphasizes these tribal groups’ participation in the battle, but also shows the wisdom of Umar in reintegrating these tribes into the framework of the Islamic military and state. I thought the inclusion of al-Khansa’, perhaps the most famous Arab poetess of the seventh century, into the story was important and a nice touch. Her presence at al-Qadisiyya is well-attested historically, as is the fact that all four of her sons were killed in the battle. Upon receiving the news, she apparently said “Praise be to God who honored me with their martyrdom. And I have hope from my Lord that he will reunite me with them in the abode of his mercy.” The battle-scenes were not as well-executed as the previous sequences in the series, but I expect they’re saving that for the climax of the battle.