For in prophethood you have not been given a share.
You lied about Allah regarding His revelation
And your desires are the whims of a stupid fool.
Your people have indulged you instead of preventing you,
But if Khalid comes to them you will be abandoned.
Then you will have no stairway to the heavens
And no path to travel in the earth."
[Thumamah bin Uthal, a Companion from the tribe of Musaylimah]1
When Abu Bakr organised the Muslim forces into 11 corps at Zhu Qissa, he appointed Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl, as the commander of one of them. Ikrimah's orders were to advance and make contact with the forces of Musailima the Liar at Yamamah, but not to get involved in battle with the impostor. Abu Bakr knew better than most of his generals the power and ability of Musailima, and did not wish to risk fighting him with insufficient forces. Since Khalid was his finest general, the Caliph had made up his mind to use him to deal with Musailima after he had finished with the other enemies of Islam.
Abu Bakr's intention in giving Ikrimah this mission was to tie Musailima down at Yamamah. With Ikrimah on the horizon, the Liar would remain in expectation of a Muslim attack and thus not be able to leave his base. With Musailima so committed, Khalid would be free to deal with the apostate tribes of North-Central Arabia without interference from Yamamah. In selecting Ikrimah for this task Abu Bakr had picked a valiant man. Moreover, Ikrimah was anxious to prove his devotion to Islam and atone for his violent hostility to the Holy Prophet before his entry into the new faith.
Ikrimah advanced with his corps and established a camp somewhere in the region of Yamamah. The location of his camp is not known. From this base he kept the forces of the Bani Hanifa under observation while awaiting instructions from the Caliph, and the presence of Ikrimah had the desired effect of keeping Musailima in Yamamah. However, whether or not he had any intention of ever leaving Yamamah we do not know.
When Ikrimah received reports of the defeat of Tulaiha by Khalid, he began to get impatient for battle. The waiting irked his fiery temperament. Ikrimah was a fearless man and a forceful general, but he lacked Khalid's cool judgement and patience-qualities which distinguish the bold commander from the rash one.
The next development that Ikrimah heard of was that Shurahbil bin Hasanah was marching to join him. Shurahbil too had been given a corps by the Caliph with orders to follow Ikrimah, and await further instructions. In a few days Shurahbil would be with him.
Then came news of how Khalid had routed the forces of Salma the queenly leader of men. Ikrimah could wait no longer. Why let Khalid win all the glory? Why wait for Shurahbil? Why not have a crack at Musailima himself? If he could defeat Musailima single-handed, he would win glory and renown such as would eclipse the achievements of all the others. And what a delightful surprise it would be for the Caliph! Ikrimah set his corps in motion. This happened at the end of October 632 (end of Rajab, 11 Hijri).
A few days later he was back in his camp, having received a sound thrashing from Musailima. Chastened and repentant, he wrote to Abu Bakr and gave him a complete account of his actions, including the inglorious outcome. Shurahbal also heard the bad news and stopped some distance short of Ikrimah's camp.
Abu Bakr was both pained and angered by the rashness of Ikrimah and his disobedience of the orders given to him. He made no attempt to conceal his anger in the letter that he wrote to Ikrimah. "O son of the mother of Ikrimah!" he began. (This was a polite way of expressing doubt regarding the identity of the man's father!) "Do not let me see your face. Your return under these circumstances would only weaken the resolve of the people. Proceed with your force to Oman to assist Hudaifa. Once Hudaifa has completed his task, march to Mahra to help Arfaja and thereafter go to the Yemen to help Muhajir. I shall not speak to you until you have proved yourself in further trials."2 The three men to be assisted were among the 11 corps commanders.
1. Mukhtasar Sirat al-Rasul sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab.