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The expansion of the Islamic rule during early Islamic era was quite impressive. Before 629, Muhammad's rule was limited to one city Medina. 15 years later, at the end of Umar's rule, the Caliphate more or less conquered the whole Persian Empire, and took over most of the Byzantium except probably Anatolia and Greece.

Perhaps there are many possible factors for this, including leadership, zeal, unity, the exhausting of the Persian and Byzantine empires, or some people would claim divine intervention.

But my question is more about the Muslim military manpower at that time. What kind of military training was available for the Hijaz (or Arabian) population at that time? Did they have compulsory training in combat, tactics, etc? I imagine, as powerful and mature empires during that time, Persia and Byzantium must have an advanced military knowledge and training for its armies. How about the Muslims?

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I'd put it down to zeal - the Rashidun Muslim armies were literally fearless and welcomed death. Any reference to Muslim armies of the period by Rome/Persia noted their fearlessness. There was a strong sense of camaraderie down command chain, in that the lower ranks of soldiers knew what they were fighting for. Compare this to the Persian system which utilized a lot of slaves.

Khalid al-Walid is one of the most brilliant generals throughout history, and his strategies pivotal to the early grand victories against the Byzantines/Persians. Khalid was undefeated, even when fighting against the Muslims earlier on. One such notable battle was the Battle of Mut'ah, where Khalid's leadership led 3,000 soldiers to defeat well over 100,000 Roman soldiers. Or the Battle of Yarmouk, where Khalid defeated about a hundred thousand Persians with around twenty thousand soldiers.

While Khalid was later sacked, his victories had already crippled the military engines and morale of Byzantine/Persia.

The Muslims at the period were also very experienced in warfare. They started with a single city-state (Medina), and through wars and diplomacy conquered the Arabian peninsula. After Muhammad's death, the Arabians under Caliph Abu Bakr had to take back the region from rebels and 'false prophets'. The Ridda Wars involved over a dozen battles within a year, spread throughout the Arabian peninsula.

I could find little note of military during the early Islamic era, but with the very tight timeline between Muhammad's migration to Medina, their conquest of the Arabian Peninsula, and the wars during the Rashidun Caliphate, it would be fair to assume that the Muslim armies had on the job training!

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Feels like fanfic. You could be right on all points, but it needs more data to back it up. – New Alexandria Apr 24 '13 at 16:48
It's summarized from over 2000 pages of reading of reading on the subject matter. However, the firsthand sources themselves are written by the victors, and may well be fanfic. And the second sources are often biased as well and in Arabic. Which is why I've mostly cited Wikipedia on this as it's a more neutral source. – Muz Apr 25 '13 at 15:26
I think it's true the Arab Muslims are quite experienced in war. Besides having to wage war on "false prophets" after Muhammad's death, the Arab tribes themselves, even before the rise of Muhammad and Islam, were already familiar with battles. This subject is touched briefly in Reza Aslan's There is no god but God. Each Arabic tribes had three important individuals: the hakam who settle disputes, the kahin who acted as spiritual mediator, and the qa'id who acted as war leader. – deathlock May 3 '13 at 11:40
Arab tribes sometimes get into battles with each other when there are disputes that can't be solved. The losing tribes are merged into the winner clan. This kind of battles usually happen between nomadic tribes which don't have cities where they could settle in (unlike their settled merchant friends). As with the Muhammad's rise, the nomadic tribes (which already familiar with battles) are the majority of the population. At least according to Robert Betts' Christians of the Arab East. So I suppose during the Rashidun caliphate they are only continuing stuff that have been familiar for them. – deathlock May 3 '13 at 11:44
An analogy for a more common view was like the pre-Genghis Khan Mongol tribes. There were lots of inter-tribe fighting and it took an ambitious leader to redirect those tribes towards a greater goal. Once united, they directed their military experience outwards. And like other rapidly expanding military empires, they collapsed to infighting when they ran out of enemies. – Muz May 3 '13 at 16:46

A good point of departure is the wiki page on the Rashidun Army, which gives an overview of early Islamic infantry and cavalry. Also, the Military Legacy section of the Khalid ibn al-Walid wiki entry has some great info on the organization and makeup of his armies.

The "Mobile Guard" is especially famous - the exceptionally quick Islamic light cavalry.

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"The Muslims at the period were also very experienced in warfare" said Muz, and I think that is the key, even on day one of the period. If you can lead a caravan of spice across the desert, defending it from other tribes, you already have all the cavalry skills you need. In exactly the same way, the Souix in their day were called the world's finest light horse, and they learned from hunting buffalo and raiding other tribes. Don't underestimate the training value of fighting amongst brothers.

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Umm. Arab tribalism is utterly unlike Native American tribalism, and the Rashidun army was recruited largely from urbanized and well established Arabian city-states, not mercenary nomads. – RI Swamp Yankee Apr 28 '13 at 0:15
@RISwampYankee They were hardly 'well established, the Rashidun empire was a very young one. A lot of their early military experience involved raids and skirmishes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_expeditions_of_Muhammad – Muz Apr 28 '13 at 23:45

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