The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 31: The Unkind Cut

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


Page: 2

But one youth who was present could not contain himself and leapt to his feet. "Do you dismiss a man", he shouted at Umar, "in whose hand Allah has placed a victorious sword and with whom. Allah has strengthened His religion! Allah will never forgive you, nor will the Muslims, for sheathing the Sword and dismissing a commander whom Allah has appointed to command."

Umar knew this youngster, he was from the Bani MakhDhulm-the clan of Khalid. He could also sense the mood of the congregation and knew that its reaction to his announcement was anything but favourable. He decided not to say any more on the subject for the moment., He merely retorted: "The young man is angry on account of the son of his uncle." 1 and walked away from the mosque.

Over the day Umar reflected a great deal on the matter of Khalid's dismissal. He came to the conclusion that he would have to explain his action to the Muslims in order to convince them of its justice. Such a dazzling light as Khalid could not be extinguished without offering adequate justification. The following day he again addressed the Muslims:

"I am not averse to Khalid being in command. But he is wasteful and squanders his wealth on poets and warriors, giving them more than they deserve, which wealth could be better spent in helping the poor and the needy among the Muslims. Let none say that I have dismissed a strong man, and appointed a mild man to command, for Allah is with him (i.e. Abu Ubaidah) and will help him." 2

This time no one said anything.

The messenger carrying the fateful letter arrived at Damascus while the siege was in progress and the action against the Roman relief column was still a few days away. He knew the contents of the letter, and being an intelligent man guessed that its effect on the embattled Muslims would be far from healthy. So he told everyone whom he met that all was well and that reinforcements were on their way. Arriving at the tent of Abu Ubaidah, where no one else was present, he handed over the letter.

Abu Ubaidah read the letter and was astounded. He would not have wished this to happen to Khalid. He knew that Khalid was the idol of the army and his presence as commander-in-chief was a factor of the highest importance in making the Muslims so confident of victory against all odds. The impact of the change of command would be most adverse, especially whilst the Muslims were engaged in a stubborn siege which showed no sign of turning in their favour. It would be difficult to convince them of the justice of Khalid's dismissal or the wisdom of its timing. Moreover, Abu Ubaidah did not feel inclined to take over command in the middle of the operation when Khalid had everything so well organised. He therefore decided to say nothing about the death of Abu Bakr or the change of command until after the siege had been successfully concluded. The messenger, on being questioned, assured him that he had not divulged the contents of the Caliph's letter to anyone; and Abu Ubaidah cautioned him to keep the matter to himself.

The Muslims at Damascus remained ignorant of the change of command during the rest of the siege. Even on the day of conquest Abu Ubaidah made no reference to it in his altercation with Khalid, for doing so would have amounted to hitting below the belt and would have belittled Khalid in the presence of friend and foe. Thus it was Khalid who signed the pact with the Damascenes and not Abu Ubaidah. In fact it was not until a few hours after Khalid's return from the raid at the Meadow of Brocade that Abu Ubaidah drew him aside, told him of the death of Abu Bakr and the appointment of the new Caliph, and gave him Umar's letter to read.

1. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 622.