At dawn the Muslim corps lined up for prayers under their respective commanders. As soon as the prayers were over, every man rushed to his assigned place. By sunrise both armies stood in battle order, facing each other across the centre of the Plain of Yarmuk, a little less than a mile apart.
There was no movement and little noise in the two armies. The soldiers knew that this was a fight to the finish, that one of the two armies would lie shattered on the battlefield before the fight was over. The Muslims gazed in wonder at the splendid formations of the Roman legions with banners flying and crosses raised above the heads of the soldiery. The Romans looked with something less than awe at the Muslim army deployed to their front. Their confidence rested on their great numbers, but during the past two years the performance of the Muslims in Syria had instilled a good deal of respect in the hearts of the Romans. There was a look of caution in Roman eyes. Thus an hour passed during which no one stirred and the soldiers awaited the start of a battle which, according to the chroniclers, "began with sparks of fire and ended with a raging conflagration", and of which "each day was more violent than the day before."2
Then a Roman general by the name of George emerged from the Roman centre and rode towards the Muslims. Halting a short distance from the Muslim centre, he raised his voice and asked for Khalid. From the Muslim side Khalid rode out, delighted at the thought that the battle would begin with himself fighting a duel. He would set the pace for the rest of the battle.
As Khalid drew near, the Roman made no move to draw his sword, but continued to look intently at Khalid. The Muslim advanced until the necks of the horses crossed, and still George did not draw his sword. Then he spoke, in Arabic: "O Khalid, tell me the truth and do not deceive me, for the free do not lie and the noble do not deceive. Is it true that Allah sent a sword from heaven to your Prophet ? … and that he gave it to you ? … and that never have you drawn it but your enemies have been defeated?"
"No!" replied Khalid.
"Then why are you known as the Sword of Allah?"
Here Khalid told George the story of how he received the title of Sword of Allah from the Holy Prophet. George pondered this a while, then with a pensive look in his eyes, asked, "Tell me, to what do you call me?"
"To bear witness", Khalid replied, "that there is no Allah but Allah and Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger; and to believe in what he has brought from Allah."
"If I do not agree?"
"Then the Jizya, and you shall be under our protection."
"If I still do not agree?"
"Then the sword!"
George considered the words of Khalid for a few moments, then asked, "What is the position of one who enters your faith today?"
"In our faith there is only one position. All are equal."
"Then I accept your faith!"3
To the astonishment of the two armies, which knew nothing of what had passed between the two generals, Khalid turned his horse and Muslim and Roman rode slowly to the Muslim army. On arrival at the Muslim centre George repeated after Khalid: "There is no Allah but Allah; Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah!" (A few hours later the newly-converted George would fight heroically for the faith which he had just embraced and would die in battle.) On the auspicious note of this conversion began the Battle of Yarmuk.
Now came the phase of duels between champions and this suited both sides, for it acted as a kind of warming up. Scores of officers rode out of the Muslim army, some on instructions from Khalid and others on their own, and throwing their individual challenges, engaged the Roman champions who emerged to fight them. Practically all these Romans were killed in combat, the honours of the day going to Abdur-Rahman bin Abi Bakr, who killed five Roman officers, one after the other.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 7 P. 20.