The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 1: The Boy

 Part I: In the Time of the Prophet (SAWS)

 

Page: 2

The great tribe of the Quraish that inhabited Makkah had evolved a clear-cut division of privilege and responsibility among its major clans. The three leading clans of the Quraish were the Bani Hashim, the Bani Abduddar (of which the Bani Umayyah was an offshoot) and the Bani Makhzum. The Bani Makhzum was responsible for matters of war. This clan bred and trained the horses on which the Quraish rode to war; it made arrangements for the preparation and provisioning of expeditions; and frequently it provided the officers to lead Quraish groups into battle. This role of the Bani Makhzum set the atmosphere in which Khalid was to grow up.

While still a child he was taught to ride. As a Makhzumi he had to be a perfect rider and soon acquired mastery over the art of horsemanship. But it was not enough to be able to handle trained horses; he had lo be able to ride any horse. He would be given young, untrained colts and had to break them and train them into perfectly obedient and well-disciplined war horses. The Bani Makhzum were among the best horsemen of Arabia, and Khalid became one of the best horsemen of the Bani Makhzum. Moreover, no Arab could claim to be a good rider if he only knew horses; he had to be just as good on a camel, for both animals were vital for Arab warfare. The horse was used for fighting, and the camel for long marches, in which horses were tagged along unmounted.

Along with riding, Khalid learned the skills of combat. He learnt to use all weapons-the spear, the lance, the bow and the sword. He learnt to fight on horseback and on foot. While he became skilful in the use of all weapons, the ones for which he appears to have had a natural gift were the lance, used while charging on horseback, and the sword for mounted and dismounted duelling. The sword was regarded by the Arabs as the weapon of chivalry, for this brought one nearest to one's adversary; and in sword fighting one's survival depended on strength and skill and not on keeping at a safe distant from the opponent. The sword was the most trusted weapon.

As Khalid grew to manhood, he attained a great height-over six feet. His shoulders widened, his chest expanded and the muscles hardened on his lean and athletic body. His beard appeared full and thick on his face, With his fine physique, his forceful personality, and his skill at riding and the use of weapons, he soon became a popular and much-admired figure in Makkah. As a wrestler, he climbed high on the ladder of achievement, combining consummate skill with enormous strength.

The Arabs had large families, the father often having several wives to increase his offspring, Al Waleed was one of six brothers. (There may have been more, but the names of only six have been recorded.) And the children of Al Waleed that we know of were five sons and two daughters. The sons were Khalid, Waleed (named after the father), Hisham, Ammarah and Abdu Shams. The daughters were Faktah and Fatimah.

Al Waleed was a wealthy man. Thus Khalid did not have to work for a living and could concentrate on learning the skills of riding and fighting. Because of this wealthy background, Khalid grew up to disregard economy and became known for his lavish spending and his generosity to all who appealed to him for help. This generosity was one day to get him into serious trouble.

Al Waleed was a wealthy man. But the Quraish were a surprisingly democratic people and everybody was required to do some work or the other-either for remuneration or just to be a useful member of society. And Al Waleed, who hired and paid a large number of employees, would work himself. In his spare time he was a blacksmith 1 and butcher 2 , slaughtering animals for the clan. He was also a trader, and along with other clans would organise and send trade caravans to neighbouring countries. On more than one occasion Khalid accompanied trade caravans to Syria and visited the great trading cities of that fair province of Rome. Here he would meet the Christian Arabs of the Ghassan, Persians from Ctesiphon, Copts from Egypt, and the Romans of the Byzantine Empire.

Khalid had many friends with whom, as with is brothers he would ride and hunt. When not engaged outdoors they would recite poetry, recount genealogical lines and have bouts of drinking. Some of these friends were to play an important part in Khalid's life and in this story; and the ones deserving special mention besides Umar, were Amr bin Al Aas and Abul Hakam. The latter's personal name was Amr bin Hisham bin Al Mugheerah, though he was to earn yet another name later: Abu Jahl. He was an elder cousin of Khalid. And there was Abul Hakam's son, Ikrimah, Khalid's favourite nephew and bosom friend.

Al Waleed was not only the father and mentor of his sons; he was also their military instructor, and from him Khalid got his first lesson in the art of warfare. He learnt how to move fast across the desert, how to approach a hostile settlement, how to attack it. He learned the importance of catching the enemy unawares, of attacking him at an unexpected moment and pursuing him when he broke and fled. This warfare was essentially tribal, but the Arabs well knew the value of speed, mobility and surprise, and tribal warfare was mainly based on offensive tactics.

On reaching maturity Khalid's main interest became war and this soon reached the proportions of an obsession. Khalid's thoughts were thoughts of battle; his ambitions were ambitions of victory. His urges were violent and his entire psychological make-up was military. He would dream of fighting great battles and winning great victories, himself always the champion-admired and cheered by all. He promised himself battle. He promised himself victory. And he promised himself lots and lots of blood. Unknown to him, destiny had much the same ideas about Khalid, son of Al Waleed.

1. Ibn Qutaibah: p. 575.
2. Ibn Rusta: p. 215.