(Windsor, ON, Canada)
Khalid ibn al-Walid was a born soldier and it was little wonder then that he turned out to be a great military leader. He was a Meccan from the Quraysh tribe from which Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) also came. The Quraysh was the powerful tribe that controlled Mecca and the Ka’aba, the first house of prayer built on earth at the behest of Allah (God) Al-Mighty, by the Patriarch, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him — (pbuh).
Khalid ibn al-Walid did not believe it, as did most of the Meccans then, when Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) asserted to the people of Mecca that “He was the Prophet and Messenger of God”. Khalid, who already enjoyed fame as a skilled and fearless fighter among his Quraysh clan, understandably, lined himself against the Prophet. He was, sure, on the opposite side fighting against Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) at the Battle of Uhud (625 A.D.), which the Prophet’s side lost as a result of a last-minute stratagem devised by Khalid ibn al-Walid himself.
However, Khalid ibn al-Walid would soon see the ‘light’ and believe in the truth of the Prophet Muhammed’s divine Message and Mission — which called for “the worship of ONE God (Allah)” and the acceptance of the fact that “Muhammed (pbuh) was God’s Prophet and Messenger”. So much so, soon after the historic ten-year peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah (628 A. D.) signed between Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) on behalf of his followers and the pagans of Mecca, Khalid ibn al-Walid in 627 A.D., accepted Islam and became a Muslim and a staunch defender of the Muslim umma (community) and ever remained one of the great shahabas (companions) of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh).
He would become an ardent defender of Islam and, after the demise of Prophet Muhammed in 632 A.D., he was ever up-front participating in expeditions and military campaigns, helping deal with conflicts within the umma – and also playing a front-rank role in the expansion of what would become the Caliphate of Islam. In fact, Khalid ibn Walid led the forays against the first battle that pitted the Muslims against the Romans – the Battle of Mutah. It is said that in the intense battle that ensued, he broke nine swords. Upon hearing that, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) conferred upon him the title of “The Sword of Allah” – (Saif’ullah) — title by which history remembers him till to-day.
Besides, Khalid ibn al-Walid was also upfront when Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) led the charge at the head of an army of 10,000 Muslim men, to wrest the City of Mecca from the Meccan pagans and cleanse the Ka’aba – Islam’s holiest shrine – of all the idols that the pagan Meccans had stacked there and which they worshipped.
Khalid ibn al-Walid was born in 585 A.D. in a noble Meccan family and died in 642 A.D. in Holms, Syria, where he is also buried. After the death of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), Khalid would serve as a military Commander under Caliph Abu Bakar and helped him consolidate the umma (community of Islam) when some groups and provinces sought take advantage of the change at the helm of the umma in the wake of Prophet Muhammed’s death and rose in rebellion and wanted to break away and be on their own. Caliph Abu Bakar sent Khalid ibn al-Walid to get those leaders in line and keep the umma united and strong. Khalid ibn al-Walid did as he was told and, in the process, laid the foundation of what would later become the Islamic Empire as all the countries of the Middle East would slowly fall under the banner of Islam.
Khalid ibn al-Walid would serve the umma faithfully and, after Caliph Abu Bakar’s death, he also served Caliph Umar al-Khattab. As a matter of fact, it would be under the leadership of Khalid ibn al-Walid that the whole of Arabia would be united under a single political entity – the Islamic Caliphate. Khalid ibn al-Walid, who was a great military strategist and skillful Commander, would successfully lead the campaigns against the Romans in Syria as well as the Sassanid Arab kingdom of Al–Hirah and later, in 636 A.D., defeated the Sassanid Persian forces and inflicted on the Byzantine army a decisive defeat at the Battle of Yarmouk which led to the conquest of Syria and Palestine.
Khalid ibn al-Walid was in full campaign in Syria, when Caliph Umar al-Khattab, successor of Caliph Abu Bakar, suddenly, relieved him of his command. Khalid was disappointed but complied although he would remain the de facto leader of the Muslim forces that was then facing the powerful Romans and Byzantine forces.
Why Caliph Umar relieved him of his command has remained unclear? It was said that Caliph Umar had become concerned that Khalid ibn al-Walid had become too famous and was receiving too much adulation as a military man, which to Caliph Umar was tantamount to shirk (idolatry). As Caliph Umar, himself explained:
“I have not dismissed Khalid because of my anger or because of any dishonesty on his part, but because people glorified him and were misled. I feared that people would rely on him. I want them to know that it is Allah who does all things; and there should be no mischief in the land.”
However, Khalid ibn al-Walid remained loyal to the Islamic umma and the Caliphate and whenever he was consulted, he never failed to offer his advice and guidance. In fact, he would leave his mark in all the campaigns he participated, following the death of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), and which resulted in the rapid expansion of Islam in the countries of the Middle East and of North Africa.
Khalid ibn al-Walid’s name is a household name in the Middle East and he was more than a military man. He was an astute army leader and strategist and participated in over fifty military campaigns and never lost one. He left his imprint on the rapid rise of the Islamic Caliphate after the death of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Many of his observations about life and war have passed into history and are often repeated by folks in the Middle Eastern countries. Here, below, are a few of his memorable reflections.
To the conquered, his advice was:
“Submit to Islam and be safe. Or agree to the payment of the Jizya (tax), and you and your people will be under our protection, else you will have only yourself to blame for the consequences, for I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life.”
Or Khalid ibn al-Walid, the commander’s advice to his soldiers:
“Do not say that! How few are the Romans and how numerous are we! An army’s strength lies not in the numbers of men but in Allah’s help, and its weakness lies in being forsaken by Allah.”
Indeed, his faith in Allah was ever unshakable. He never despaired in the tightest of situations. In fact, he is reported to have advised his fighters if ever they felt down and despaired, they should …
“Wait a while; there will come to you mounts, carrying lions in shining armour, battalions followed by battalions.”
Khalid ibn al-Walid remains an iconic giant in the history of Islam and of the Middle East, much honoured and revered. He was an unvanquished hero, who stands tall and, among others, with like of the legendary Salah-ud Din Ayubi, who took on the Crusaders head on and re-conquered Palestine and the city of Jerusalem in 1187 A. D.