The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 37: Farewell to Arms

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq


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"You were better than a million people,
When the faces of men were downcast.
Brave? You were braver than the tiger,
Damr bin Jahm, father of Ashbal.
Generous? You were more generous than
The unstoppable deluge flowing between mountains."
[Lubabah the Younger, mother of Khalid, eulogising him]

"Have women ever stopped mourning for anyone like Khalid?"
[Umar bin Al-Khattab]

"Women will no longer be able to give birth to the likes of Khalid bin Al-Waleed."
[Abu Bakr]1

Some time before his expedition to Marash, Khalid had a special bath. Just as he did everything well, Khalid also bathed well. He had with him a certain substance prepared with an alcoholic mixture which was supposed to have a soothing effect on the body when applied externally. Khalid rubbed his body with this substance and thoroughly enjoyed his bath, from which he emerged glowing and refreshed.

A few weeks later he received a letter from the Caliph: "It has come to my notice that you have rubbed your body with alcohol. Lo, Allah had made unlawful the substance of alcohol as well as its form, just as He has made unlawful both the form and substance of sin. He has made unlawful the touch of alcohol in a bath no less than the drinking of it. Let it not touch your body, for it is unclean." 2

This, pondered Khalid, was carrying the Muslim ban on alcohol a bit too far. Like all Companions, Khalid was thoroughly conversant with the Holy Book and knew that the Quranic verses on alcohol dealt only with the drinking of it, and that the injunction against strong drink was intended to eliminate the evils of drunkenness and alcoholism. The Quran said nothing about the external application of oils and ointments treated with alcohol. Khalid wrote back to Umar and explained the method of preparation of the offending substance with the alcoholic mixture and the cleaning of it by boiling. He added: "We kill it so that it becomes like bathwater, without alcohol." 3 In this matter of the interpretation of the Quranic verses on alcohol Umar was not on a strong wicket. So he contented himself with writing to Khalid: "I fear that the house of Mugheerah 4is full of wrong-doing. May Allah not destroy you on account of it!" 5 And there the matter rested. We do not know whether Khalid ever again had such a bath; probably not. But it is clear that the goodwill which Khalid had gained in the eyes of Umar as a result of the Battle of Hazir was washed away by Khalid's rejection of Umar's opinions regarding the external application of substances treated with alcohol.

Shortly after Khalid's capture of Marash, in the autumn of 638 (17 Hijri), Umar came to know of Ash'as reciting a poem in praise of Khalid and receiving a gift of 10,000 dirhams. This. was more than the Caliph could take. This, thought Umar, was the limit! He immediately wrote a letter to Abu Ubaidah: "Bring Khalid in front of the congregation, tie his hands with his turban and take off his cap. Ask him from what funds he gave to Ash'as. . . .from his own pocket or from the spoils acquired in the expedition? If he confesses to having given from the spoils, he is guilty of misappropriation. If he claims that he gave from his own pocket, he is guilty of extravagance. In either case dismiss him, and take charge of his duties." 6

This was no ordinary letter. Though the method described by Umar for arraigning the accused was the normal custom of the Arabs, the accused in this case was no ordinary accused. The instructions of the Caliph would have to be carried by a Companion of high standing, and Umar selected Bilal the Muazzin for the task. He entrusted the letter to Bilal, briefed him about how he was to proceed in the matter of Khalid, and ordered him to journey with all speed to Emessa.

Bilal arrived at Emessa and handed the letter to Abu Ubaidah, who read it and was aghast. He could hardly believe that this was to be done to the Sword of Allah; but the Caliph's orders had to be obeyed, and Abu Ubaidah sent for Khalid.

Khalid left Qinassareen without the least suspicion of what lay in store for him. He imagined that he was being called for another council of war, that perhaps there was to be another expedition to 'Rome' or even a full scale invasion of the Byzantine Empire. He looked forward eagerly to more battles and more glory. Arriving at Emessa, he went to the house of Abu Ubaidah, and here for the first time he came to know the purpose of Abu Ubaidah's call. The Commander-in-Chief briefly explained Umar's charge against him, and asked if he would confess his guilt. Khalid was astounded by Abu Ubaidah's statement, and saw it not as a simple matter of a question or a charge, but as an attempt on the part of his old rival, Umar bin Al Khattab, to bring about his undoing. He asked Abu Ubaidah for a little time to consult his sister, and Abu Ubaidah agreed to wait.


1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 7 P. 141.
2. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 166.
3. Ibid.
4. Mugheerah was the grandfather of Khalid.
5. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 166.
6. Ibid: Vol. 3, p. 167.