The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

Main Index
Chapter 37: Farewell to Arms

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 5

The conquests of Islam continued. After the plague, in 18 Hijri, Ayadh again invaded the Jazeera; and by the end of the following year had completed its subjugation, after several battles, as far north as Samsat, Amid (now Diyar Bakr) and Bitlis. He even raided successfully as far as Malatya. (See Map 29) News from the eastern front was just as thrilling. By the time of Khalid's dismissal, Sad bin Abi Waqqas had conquered most of what is now Iraq and parts of present-day South-Western Persia-Ahwaz, Tustar, Sus. On this front further advances were made, though the last great battles against the still formidable Persians were not fought till after Khalid's death. In 640 (19 Hijri) Caesarea surrendered to the Muslims and Amr bin Al Aas invaded Egypt.

Like all Muslims, Khalid gloried in the conquests of Islam; but each victory also reminded him that he had not taken part in the battle. The news that reached him at Emessa was, to him, bitter-sweet. He was like an ardent lover who sees his beloved before him but is unable to move towards her. Thus lived, for the last few years of his life, the man whom Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has described as "....the fiercest and most successful of the Arabian warriors." 1

Fortunately, in Khalid's relations with Umar there was a marked change for the better. Umar was no longer the harsh, impetuous, hot-tempered man that he had once been. With the burdens of the caliphate on his shoulders, he had mellowed and grown more patient. He was still stern and puritanical, but he imposed no burden upon others which he did not carry himself. He was strict with the strong, kind to the weak, generous to widows and orphans. He sat with the poor and often spent the night sleeping on the steps of the mosque. At night he would walk the streets of Medina with a whip in his hand, and Umar's whip was feared more than the sword of another man. He lived on salted barley bread, dry dates and olive oil, and allowed no better fare to his family. His clothes were made of the poorest material, patched in many places. Unshakeable in his resolve to do justice, he had his own son, Ubaidullah, whipped for drinking.

Khalid, now having more time for reflection, saw the great virtues and enviable qualities of his old rival. He forgave him. One day he said to a visitor, "Praise be to Allah who took Abu Bakr away. He was dearer to me than Umar. Praise be to Allah who appointed Umar in authority He was hateful to me, but I grew to like him." 2 This change in attitude was so great that when he died, Khalid named Umar as his heir, to receive whatever he left. Time, mercifully, healed the wounds.

Khalid spent a good deal of his time thinking of his battles, as old soldiers are wont, to do. He would relieve the battles and duels in which he had challenged the greatest champions of the world and made them bite the dust. He was naturally proud of his victories, but there was no vanity or conceit in Khalid's mind. He attributed his victories to the help of Allah and to his red cap, in which was woven the hair of the Holy Prophet. When not thinking of his battles, his mind would be occupied by memories of his fellow generals-Abu Ubaidah, Sharhabeel, Yazeed, Amr bin Al Aas; and his valiant champions like Abdur-Rahman bin Abi Bakr, Raafe bin Umairah and the incomparable Dhiraar bin Al Azwar, whose feats of skill and daring, like his own, would glow for ever in the pages of history. He did not, however, know his place in history as we do now.

Khalid was the most versatile soldier history has ever known-a true military genius. He had the strategical vision of a Changez Khan and a Napoleon, the tactical brilliance of a Timur and a Frederick the Great, and the individual strength and prowess of the half-legendary Rustam of Persia. In no other case in history do we see such diverse military virtues combined in one man. Khalid was one of only two great generals in history who never suffered a defeat. The other was Changez Khan, but Changez Khan was not a champion fighter like Khalid, even though his conquests covered a far greater region of the earth. Combined with Khalid's strategical and tactical genius was the extreme violence of his methods. To him a battle was not just a neat manoeuvre leading to a military victory, but an action of total violence ending in the total annihilation of the enemy. The manoeuvre was only an instrument for bringing about the enemy's destruction.

 

1. While some sources have stated that Khalid fought under Ayadh in the Jazeera, most early historians have quoted other sources to indicate that after death of Abu Ubaidah, Khalid did not serve under anyone. I accept the latter version as correct.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 598.