Hastily the Muslim army was mobilised, given into the leadership of Zeid, who with Jafar and Abdallah was commissioned to resist the infidels to the last and to continue their attack upon the foe until they were either slain or victorious. The army marched to Muta in September, 629, and while on the way heard with alarm of the massing of the foe, whose numbers daunted even their savage bravery.
At Muta a council of war was called at which Zeid and Abdallah were the principal speakers. After the peril of their position had been discussed and the reasons for retreat given, Abdallah rose from among his fellows, determined to rally their spirits. He pressed for an immediate advance, urging the invincibility of Allah, the power of their Prophet, and the glory of their cause. It was impossible for those warrior spirits not to respond to his enthusiasm, and the order was given. The Muslim marched to Beleea by the Dead Sea, but finding themselves in no good strategic position and hearing still further news as to the immensity of their opposition, they retired to Muta, where at the head of a narrow ravine they offered battle to the Roman auxiliaries, who far outweighed them in numbers and efficiency.
The Roman phalanx bore down upon them, and Zeid at the head of his troops urged them to resist with all their strength. He was cut down in the van as he led the opposing rush, and instantly Jafar, leaping from his horse, maimed it, as a symbol that he would fight to the death, and rushed forward on foot. The fight grew furious, and as the Muslim army saw itself slowly pressed back by the enemy its leader fell, covered with wounds. Abdallah seized the standard and tried to rally the Faithful, whose slow retreat was now breaking into a headlong flight. At his cry there was a brief rally, until in his turn he was cut down by the advancing foe. A citizen sprang to the standard and kept it aloft while he strove to stem the tide, but in vain. The Muslim ranks were broken and dispirited. They fell back quickly, and only the military genius of Khalid, in command of the rear, was able to save them from annihilation. He succeeded in covering their retreat by his swift and skilful moving, and enabled the remnant to return to Medina in safety.
Mahomet’s grief at the loss of Jafar and Zeid was great. Jafar had only lately returned from Abyssinia, and was just at the beginning of his military career. He was the brother of Ali, and the martial spirit that had raised that warrior to eminence was only just now given opportunity to manifest itself. His loss was rightly felt by Mahomet to be a blow to the military as well as the intellectual prowess of Islam.