Irene (Augusta), the empress of Byzantium (the eastern Roman Empire) had concluded a treaty with the Abbaasi (Abbaside) Khalifah Mahdi. In the year 182 Hijri, she had blinded her son and seized the throne. After five years of rule, she was deposed and exiled. Nicephorus (known to Muslims by the name, Niqfoor) became the emperor. On his ascension to the throne, he violated the treaty which had been concluded between Irene and the Muslims.
Niqfoor dispatched an insulting letter to the Abbaasi Khalifah Haroon Rashid. His letter read:
“From Niqfoor, the emperor of Rome to Haroon Rashid, the king of the Arabs. The empress before me had accorded to you the status of a rook and placed her as a pawn (as in the game of chess). She had obsequiously transferred considerable wealth (taxes) to you. This was due to the feminine attribute of weakness and their folly. On having read this letter of mine, return all that wealth which you had received from her otherwise the sword shall decide your defeat and our victory.”
Haroon Rashid was furious when he read this insolent letter. His faced darkened with so much anger that no one at that time dared to speak with him. His ministers out of fear dispersed. No one dared offered Haroon Rashid any counsel on that occasion. Then on the reverse side of Niqfoor’s letter, he wrote:
“From Haroon. The Commander of the Faithful (Mu’mineen), to Niqfoor the dog of Rome. O son of a Kaafirah! I have read your letter. The answer you shall see, not hear.”
Haroon Rashid sounded the war drums the very same day. He set out personally with his army the very same day, not stopping enroute at any place. He penetrated Roman territory, and sacked and destroyed the cities of the Romans. The battle with Niqfoor took place at Hereclea where the Romans were decisively defeated. Niqfoor petitioned for peace. He pledged to pay an increased tax annually. Haroon Rashid accepted.
However, when Haroon Rashid with his army reached Rakkah in Shaam (Syria), Niqfoor having underestimated the Khalifah, violated the treaty. He had gained the impression that Haroon Rashid would not return to do battle so quick in so inclement a season. As soon as Haroon Rashid was informed of the violation he set off to punish the Roman dog.
The Roman emperor was shocked with astonishment and fear by the rapid march of Haroon Rashid who braved the snow in mid-winter. In the battle, Niqfoor having been wounded, fled. Haroon Rashid entered the emperor’s palace and tied his horse in the courtyard. Niqfoor sued for peace, and again Haroon Rashid accepted. The tax on him was trebled.[Hazrat Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai]