The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 31: The Unkind Cut

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Slowly Khalid read the letter. It was quite clear: he had been sacked! Abu Ubaidah was the new Commander-in-Chief. Perhaps he should have expected that this would happen if Umar became Caliph; but he had not expected it because he had never considered the possibility of Abu Bakr's death or of Umar's becoming Caliph.
From the date on the letter Khalid saw that it was more than a month old and must have reached Abu Ubaidah at least three weeks before now. He looked up at Abu Ubaidah and asked, "Why did you conceal this from me? May Allah have mercy upon you!" Abu Ubaidah replied, "I did not wish to weaken your authority while you were engaged with the enemy." 1

For a few moments Khalid remained lost in his thoughts-thoughts of Abu Bakr, his friend, guide and benefactor. Abu Ubaidah looked at him, partly in sympathy, partly in embarrassment. Then Khalid remarked: "May Allah have mercy upon Abu Bakr! Had he lived, I would not have been removed from command." 2 Slowly, with bowed head, the Sword of Allah walked away to his tent.

That night Khalid wept for Abu Bakr. 3

The following morning, October 2, 634 (3rd Shaban, 13 Hijri), the army was assembled and informed of the two changes-in the Caliphate and in the command in Syria. On this day the Muslims in Damascus took the oath of allegiance to the new Caliph.

If any resentment or bitterness existed in Khalid's heart-and some must undoubtedly have existed-he showed no sign of it. He remarked casually to his friends, "If Abu Bakr is dead and Umar is Caliph, then we hear and obey." 4 There was nothing that Khalid could do to air his grievance without causing serious harm to the Muslim army and the Muslim cause in Syria, for any anti-Umar action would probably have split the army, and this was the last thing that the true soldier and true Muslim would wish.

Once a commander-in-chief is dismissed from his command, he normally does not serve, if he serves at all, in the same theatre where he has been in command. He retires. Or he asks to be transferred or is transferred anyway in consideration for his feelings. Sometimes he is "kicked upstairs." But it was Khalid's destiny to fight and to conquer, and nature had gifted him with all the military virtues needed to fulfil that destiny. Thus we see here the remarkable phenomenon of the greatest general of the time (indeed the greatest general of the first millennium of the Christian Era) being prepared to serve in a lower capacity, even as a common soldier, with the same drive and zeal which he had shown as an army commander. This willingness to serve also reflects the Muslim spirit of the time. And all this became evident a fortnight later in the crisis of Abul Quds.

A week after Abu Ubaidah assumed command of the army, a Christian Arab, seeking the favour of the Muslims, came to the new Commander-in-Chief and informed him that in a few days a great fair would be held at Abul Quds. At this fair visitors and merchants from all the lands in the Asian zone of the Byzantine Empire would come with costly wares to buy and sell. Should the Muslims wish to acquire more spoils, they only had to send a raiding column to pick up all the wealth they wanted (Abul Quds is now known as Abla and lies at the eastern foothills of the Lebanon Range, near Zahle, about 40 miles from Damascus on the road to Baalbeck.) 5 The informer could not say if there would be any Roman soldiers guarding the fair, but there was a strong garrison at Tripolis, on the Mediterranean coast.

Abu Ubaidah spoke to the warriors who sat around him, and asked if anyone would volunteer to take command of a column and raid Abul Quds. He was hoping that Khalid would offer his services for the task, but Khalid remained silent. Then a youth, on whose face the beard had only just begun to grow, volunteered himself with bubbling enthusiasm. This boy was Abdullah, son of Jafar, the Prophet's cousin who had been martyred at Mutah. This young nephew of the Prophet had only just arrived from Madinah and was anxious to win glory in the field. Abu Ubaidah accepted the youth's offer and appointed him commander over a body of 500 horsemen.

1. Balazuri: p.122
2. Yaqubi: Tareekh, Vol. 2, p. 140.
3. Waqidi: p. 62.
4. Waqidi: p. 62.
5. Gibbon (Vol. 5, p. 321) calls this place Abyla. It may have been so named in his time, but it is now called Abla.