Taariq Ibn Ziyaad is one of the most prominent commanders who recorded his name in the glorious Islamic history which includes names like Khaalid Ibn Al-Waleed, S`ad Ibn Abi Waqaas, `Amr Ibn Al-`Aas, Salaahuddeen and Muhammad Al-Faatih.
Through Taariq Ibn Ziyaad, a Muslim state was established in Andalusia, known nowadays as Spain and Portugal. This state lasted for eight centuries. This great hero was not originally an Arab, rather he was one of the Berbers who lived in Morocco. Many of these Berbers embraced Islam, including `Abdullaah, the grandfather of Taariq. `Abdullaah is the first Arab Muslim name in his family but the rest of his grandfathers were Berbers who were distinctly tall and blond.
Taariq Ibn Ziyaad started out his life just like other Muslim children. He learnt how to read and write and memorized some Qur'anic chapters and Prophetic narrations. His love of military life made him join the army commanded by Moosaa Ibn Nusayr, the Commander in charge of Morocco. Taariq participated in the Islamic conquests and he displayed superior courage and excellent commanding skills that attracted the attention of Moosaa Ibn Nusayr. Moosaa Ibn Nusayr admired his skills and abilities and appointed him as the ruler of Tangier, a Moroccan city on the Mediterranean.
An opportunity to conquer Andalusia
Andalusia was ruled by an unjust king, Ludrique, who was hated by his own people who were thinking of deposing him and revolting against him. They sought the help of the Muslims who were ruling the North African region, especially after they heard how fair the Muslims are. Count Julian, ruler of Ceuta near Tangier, intermediated in order to convince the Muslims to help the Andalusians. Julian contacted Taariq Ibn Ziyaad and offered him his assistance in order to get rid of Ludrique. Taariq welcomed this offer and found it a good opportunity to resume Jihaad and conquests and to spread Islam and allow people to know about its noble teachings. Taariq sent to Moosaa Ibn Nusayr, in Morocco, in order to take permission to conquer Andalusia. Moosaa asked Taariq to wait until he sends to the Caliph of the Muslims, Al-Waleed Ibn `Abdul-Malik in order to take his permission to conquer Andalusia and explain the situation to him. The Caliph gave him permission but instructed Moosaa Ibn Nusayr to send a reconnaissance campaign first in order to discover what is going on in Andalusia before sailing towards them.
Tareef's reconnaissance expedition
In response to the command of the Caliph, Taariq started to prepare a small campaign in order to cross the Mediterranean to Andalusia. The campaign was under the command of a Berber commander called Tareef Ibn Maalik. It consisted of five hundred of the best Muslim soldiers who moved in order to check the status quo in Andalusia. The campaign marched out in Ramadhaan 91 A.H., July 710 A.C. They crossed the sea in four ships offered by Ct. Julian. They landed on the opposite bank in an area which was later named Tareef Island after the commander of the campaign. This small campaign examined the country well. They did not encounter any resistance, and they returned with generous spoils of war.
The expedition of Taariq Ibn Ziyaad
The results of Tareef's expedition encouraged Taariq to prepare for the invasion of Andalusia. After less than a year following Tareef's expedition, Taariq Ibn Ziyaad marched out with seven thousand soldiers, most of them were Muslim Berbers. He crossed the Mediterranean to Andalusia and the Muslim Army was assembled near a mountain that was known later as Jabal Taariq (the mount of Taariq or Gibraltar) on the fifth of Rajab 92 A.H., the 27th of April 711 A.C.
Taariq stayed in this area for several days. He built a castle to act as a military base near the mountain. He assigned some soldiers to guard it and protect the back lines of the army in case he was forced to withdraw.
Supported by Ct. Julian, Taariq Ibn Ziyaad marched with his army penetrating the nearby area. He headed towards the "Green Island" province and occupied its castles. At this point, Ludrique came to know about the invasion. He was busy fighting some rebels in the north. He stopped fighting them and returned to Toledo, the capital of the country, and prepared himself to encounter the Muslim army.
Taariq Ibn Ziyaad marched north towards Toledo. His forces camped in a wide valley between Tajo river in the east and Albarracin river in the west. At the same time, Ludrique completed his preparations and recruited a tremendous army of one hundred thousand warriors armed with the most powerful weapons. Ludrique marched to the south and he was quite sure that he will be victorious.
When Taariq Ibn Ziyaad was informed about this large number of soldiers, he sent a message to Moosaa Ibn Nusayr telling him about the situation and asking for support. Moosaa Ibn Nusayr sent five thousand of the best soldiers. Thus the total number of the Muslims reached twelve thousand.
The big encounter
Ludrique marched towards Shadhunah where he completed his preparations. Then he headed in order to encounter the Muslims.
A decisive battle took place between the two armies near Shadhunah. The battle started on the 28th of Ramadhaan 92 A.H., the 18th of July 711 A.C. and continued for eight days. The Muslims were courageous fighters, and were as firm as mountains in the battlefield, although their enemy who were well-equipped outnumbered them. The Muslims were not afraid of the enemy's power or large number. The Muslims were victorious over their enemy through excellent preparation, deeply-rooted faith, sincerity, and the ardent desire to be killed as martyrs for the sake of Allaah.
On the eighth day of the battle, the Muslims were victorious. Ludrique, the last of the Visigoth kings, fled after the battle, and no trace of him was found; it seems that he lost his life in the battle in which he had also lost his kingdom.
The aftermath of victory
After this resounding victory, Taariq chased the defeated army and he marched out with his army conquering the country. He did not encounter considerable resistance on his march to the north. On his way to Toledo, the capital of the Visigoth, Taariq sent small military expeditions in order to conquer cities such as Cordoba, Granada and Malaga.
Taariq continued his march northward penetrating the hills of Andalusia until he reached Toledo after a long, harsh journey that covered more than six hundred kilometers away from the battlefield.
When Taariq reached Toledo, he treated its people kindly and he did not touch their churches. Then he marched further north until he reached the Bay of Biscay. He returned again to Toledo and wrote a message to Moosaa Ibn Nusayr informing him of his victorious conquest. He asked for more men and equipment in order to continue his march, spread Islam in these areas and help its people get rid of the injustice of the Visigoths.
Moosaa Ibn Nusayr and his participation in the conquest of Andalusia: Moosaa Ibn Nusayr was following up the march of the Islamic army under the command of Taariq Ibn Ziyaad. He realized that Taariq is in need of help and support, especially after the martyrdom of many Muslims in the battles they fought. Commanding eighteen thousand soldiers, he crossed to Andalusia in Ramadhaan 93 A.H., June 712 A.C. He marched taking a different route other than the one taken by Taariq so that he could have the honor of conquering new areas. He marched until he reached Toledo where he met Taariq Ibn Ziyaad.
After a short rest in Toledo, the two commanders restarted invasion again and they conquered Zaragoza, Tarragona and Barcelona as well as other cities. Then, each commander took a different route until they conquered all of Andalusia.
The Return to Damascus
While the two commanders were conquering these areas, they received a message from caliph Al-Waleed Ibn `Abdul-Malik in which he asked them to stop the conquest and return to Damascus in order to submit a report on the progress of the conquest. The two commanders organized the affairs of the places they conquered and took Seville as capital of Andalusia due to its closeness to the sea.
The two commanders left Andalusia and marched towards Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad caliphate. They reached Damascus and found that Al-Waleed died and his brother Sulaymaan Ibn `Abdul-Malik has become caliph. They submitted a complete report on the conquest. The caliph ordered them to stay in Damascus. Taariq Ibn Ziyaad stayed there and the caliph was satisfied with his great conquests that made him immortal among the great Muslim commanders.
The character of Taariq Ibn Ziyaad
Taariq Ibn Ziyaad was a great commander who managed, through his faith, patience, decisiveness and determination, to reach this high position.
He managed to achieve all these victories because he used to think over every step he takes, and he never rushed in taking decisions. He used to collect information before he moves; for example, before he crossed to Andalusia, he sent a reconnaissance expedition in order to check the status quo of Andalusia.
He was also a faithful believer and he was quite sure that Allaah's victory will be in his side even in the most critical moments. For eight days, he continued to fight an enemy that excelled his army in terms of number and equipment, but with the Grace of Allaah he managed to achieve victory at the end.