For a time, till it was said we would never separate.
We spent the best days of our lives, but before us
Death had destroyed the nations of Kisra and Tubba'.
When we parted it was as though Malik and I,
Despite long association, were never together for even a night."
[Mutammim bin Nuwayrah, mourning the death of his brother Malik.]1
When, after finishing with Salma and her followers, Khalid gave orders for the march to Butah against Malik bin Nuwaira, he had no suspicion that some of his own men would oppose his plan. Preparations for the move were carried out as ordered, but when the time to march came, a large group of his soldiers refused to move.
These were the Ansars. Their elders came to Khalid and said that they would not march to Butah. "What you plan now", they asserted, "was not included in the instructions of the Caliph. His instructions were to fight at Buzakha and free this region of apostasy. Thereafter we were to await his instructions."
Khalid was surprised at this statement. He had no intention of letting this group, even if it was a highly honoured group of Companions, deter him from conducting operations as he saw fit. "That may be the Caliph's instructions to you," he replied, "but his instructions to me were to operate against the infidels. In any case I am the commander of this force. I am better informed of the situation than you are. If I see an opportunity for which I have received no instructions, I shall certainly not let it slip by. Should we be faced with a challenge for which there were no instructions from the Caliph, would we not accept it? Malik bin Nuwaira is there, and I shall go to fight him. Let the Emigrants and those who are willing follow me. The others I shall not compel."2
Khalid marched off without the Ansars.
Hardly an hour had passed when the Ansars realised the seriousness of their error in refusing to march with the rest of the corps. "If they meet with success, we shall be left out of it", said one. Others added, "And if they come to grief, nobody will ever talk to us again." Their minds were soon made up. They sent a fast rider after Khalid to say, "Wait! We are coming." Khalid waited until they had joined him and then resumed the march to Butah.
During the first week of November 632 (mid-Shaban, 11 Hijri) Khalid arrived at Butah, all set for battle. But Butah had no opposition to offer. There was not a single warrior in sight.
When Sajjah the impostress left Arabia for Iraq, Malik bin Nuwaira began to have second thoughts about the part that he had played in the conspiracy against Islam. He received reports of how the Sword of Allah had destroyed the army of Tulaiha, and also heard of the swift and severe punishment Khalid had meted out to the murderers of Muslims. Malik was afraid. With the departure of Sajjah he had lost a strong ally, and he felt abandoned, betrayed.
He began to realise the seriousness of his action in making a pact with the impostress. His guilt of apostasy was clear and could not be disputed. Then came reports that Khalid had defeated Salma and was now marching in the direction of Butah. Malik was a brave man, but he did not feel up to fighting Khalid.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 6 P.394.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 501. From this exchange it would appear that Khalid's decision to march to Butah was his own and not part of the over-all plan of the Caliph, but again according to Tabari (Vol. 2, pp. 480, 483) Abu Bakr's instructions to Khalid definitely included Malik bin Nuwaira at Butah as the next objective after Tulaiha had been dealt with. Perhaps Khalid's men did not know that the Caliph had given this task to their commander.