Khalid Bin Walid

The ill-equipped and untrained Arab armies had fought on two fronts at the same time during the early regime of the Second Caliph. On the Iraqi front they engaged the large armies of Chosroes, the mighty Persian Emperor and on the Syrian front they were arrayed against the formidable forces of the Byzantine Emperor. The Arabs fought a battle all day long against the formidable Roman forces in Syria. The issue hung in balance. The Arab warriors assembled in their camp to review their day's progress. At last a gallant soldier stood up and addressed them in a resolute voice: "Brothers! God is with us. We are fight ing for the noble cause of establishing a regime based on equality. fraternity and justice. Tomorrow I want to teach a lesson to these Roman hordes." "What?" enquired a voice. 

"I propose to face the sixty thousand sturdy soldiers of Jabla, leader of Ghassans, with 30 Muslims only. " "Are you serious, Abu Sulaiman?" enquired the aged Abu Sufian. "Yes", replied Khalid bin Waleed whose nickname was Abu Sulaiman. "I think you have overestimated your strength. In this way you would be playing with the valuable lives of Muslims", retorted Abu Sufian. "No, not at all. In reality I want to save the valuable lives of Muslims. In this way I want to overawe the enemy who are proud of their superior strength and military equipment", replied Khalid bin Waleed. At last Abu Ubaidah, Commander of the Arab forces, intervened anJ it was compromised that the lion-hearted Khalid bin Waleed would face the sixty thousand well equipped sturdy soldiers of Jablah bin Ghassan with sixty Muslims instead of thirty. 

The next day KhaIid bin Waleed with 59 companions fought a memorable battle unparalleled in the history of military warfare against 60 thousand Christians. The battle raged all the day long and the sixty Arabs were lost in a sea of armed men, and fought like lions against the surging waves of enemy forces bent upon sweeping them off their feet. The occasional cry of Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) raised above the din of the battle proclaimed their existence to their fellow fighters who were watching the progress of the battle with great anxiety. At last with one last effort Khalid bin Waleed who was fighting like a hero, won the day and the Christians were routed with heavy losses. The invincible Khalid won a memorable battle unheard of in the history of warfare. This victory established Arab's superiority over the Romans despite their exceptional inferiority in numbers and equipments. 

Abu Sulaiman, Khalid bin Waleed al-Qarshi belonged to the most respectable Quraish c1;n. His father Abd Shams al-Waleed bin al-Mughaira was considered among the wisest men of Quraish who was known for his oratory and bravery throughout Arabia. Khalid who was hardly 17 years old at the birth of Islam, evinced keen interest in the science of warfare, including riding, lancing and archery, in which he soon earned a high reputation. His memorable charge in the battIe of Uhad against the Muslims from the rear was repulsed after hard fighting. Khalid bin Waleed accepted Islam in the 8th A.H. along with Amr bin Aas, another well-known figure in early Islam. His first appearance as a soldier of Islam was in the battle of Mauta, fought in the 8th A.H. in which he exhibited exceptional bravery and military skill. The Muslims, with barely 3,000 men faced a Roman army of 150 thousand well trained soldiers. 

The earlier Muslim commanders were killed fighting in the battle-field when the command of the Muslims was entrusted to Khalid bin Waleed who fought like a lion and broke eight swords in a single battle. Fighting a tough rear guard action, KhaIid bin Waleed exhibited a rare military skill and got his men safely out of the thick of the battle. The breach of agreement by the Quraish of Makkah led to the invasion of the Holy city in which Khalid was entrusted with the command of the right flank of Muslim army. The Muslims entered the Holy city without any resistance and the insurgents were granted free pardon by the kind-hearted Prophet of Islam. "The people themselves (i.e. of Makkah) however. were treated with special magnanimity", writes Phillip K. Hitti, "Hardly a triumphal entry in ancient annals is comparable to this". 

The other campaigns in which Khalid took active part during the lifetime of the Prophet are the battles of Hunain, Najran and the seize of Taif. The death of the Prophet caused gloom over the Muslims. With the disappearance of Central authority, the Arabian tribes rose in revolt against their new faith. Hazrat Abu Bakr who was elected as the First Caliph of Islam was adamant in his insistence on unconditional surrender by the seceders or war unto destruction. Khalid bin Waleed was the hero of these wars. "Within some six months of his Generalship he had reduced the tribes of Central Arabia to submission" (Hitti). Before his death, the Prophet had assigned to Usama the command of a campaign against the Romans. Hazrat Abu Bakr, on his election as the Caliph, was advised by his most trusted lieutenants not to despatch Muslim force outside the Capital which was threatened from all sides. But the pious Caliph declined to set aside the order of his deceased master and despatched the force under Usama which had a sobering effect on the recalcitrant Arab tribes and contributed immensely to establish the dwindling military prestige of Islam.

Khalid bin Waleed, the Sword of God, as the Prophet once called him, was the hero of the successive campaigns against the seceding Arabian tribes. He played a leading role in the pacification of Arabia. Toleiha, Musailima, the impostor and Malik bin Nawera, were defeated one after the other after hard fighting. According to early historians of Islam, the campaign against the forty thousand sturdy soldiers. led by Musailima. was the hardest ever fought by the warriors of early Islam in which the extraordinary bravery and military skill of Khalid won the day and Musailima was killed in an adjoining garden. This victory established once more the military superiority of Islam all over Arabia. 

The neighbouring Persian and Roman Empires, which, hitherto, scoffed at and underrated the Arabian military strength. now saw a threat to their interests in the rising power of islam. The pacification of Northern Arabia brought Muslims in conflict with Persians who ruled over Arabian Iraq and were acknowledged as overlords by the Nomad Arabian tribes inhabiting the neighbouring areas. The Persians instigated these tribes to rise against Islam. Such machinations on the part of Persians against Islam, obliged the kind hearted virtuous Caliph. Abu Bakr, to despatch forces under the command of invincible Khalid bin Waleed to Iraq on the 12th of Muharram 12 A.H. 

The first to oppose them was Hormuz, a tyrant hated by his Arab subjects who ruled over the Delta Region. Khalid divided his troops in three portions, placing Muthanna in command of the advance column, Adi, son of Hatim over the second and himself bringing up the rear, advanced strategically on AI Hafir, the frontier military post of the Persian Empire. "Thereupon Hormuz challenged Khalid", writes Sir William Muir, "to single combat and though he treacherously posted an ambuscade, was in the encounter slain. The Muslims then rushed forward and great slaughter put the enemy to (light, pursuing them to the bank of the Euphrates", (The Caliphate-Its Rise. Decline and Fall). 

The battle was called "Dhat as-Salasil" (Mistress of the Chains) due to a major portion of Persian army tried up with one another by chains to prevent their giving way. In another campaign near the great Canal of Tigris in which a small flying column under the command of Al-Muthanna was in great peril. Khalid, who arrived just in time to relieve his lieutenant. defeated the reinforced Persian army with heavy losses, a large number of enemy soldiers being either killed or drowned. The Persian Court was now alarmed at the unexpected victories of a handful of untrained and ill-equipped Muslims against their forces, much superior in numbers and organisation. 

The Persian Emperor raised a levy of the loyal Arab clans and hastily despatched a formidable force under the command of Bahman, a veteran Persian General. The two armies met at Al Walaja. near the confluence of the two rivers in April 633 A.C. Khalid who divided his army into three portions. marched forward his advanced columns to meet the enemy while he kept two columns in reserve and "surprised the exhausted enemy by ambuscade placed in the rear". Thus the superior tactics and the great military skill of Khalid won the day for the Muslims against the much superior Persian forces. A bitter feeling was aroused among the bedouin Christian tribes. who appealed to Ardashir, the Persian Emperor. to avenge their defeat. 

A large combined force comprising bedouins and Persians was hurriedly despatched under a tried Persian General Japan to meet the Muslim forces at VIles in May 633 A.C. Leaving a strong detachment at AI-Hafir, to guard his rear, Khalid hastily marched forward to meet the enemy. The battle was fiercely contested and for a long time the issue hung in balance. At last. after a fierce charge by Khalid, the Persians gave way and fled. leaving behind 70 thousand dead on the battle-field. In a single combat, Khalid had killed a Persian warrior. who was reputed to be equal to one thousand warriors. By this time the Persians were thoroughly disillusioned and their spirit was broken. Nevertheless. the bedouin Christians insisted on expelling the invaders. Amghisiya, a prosperous town in the neighbourhood of AI Hira, was surprised by Khalid. 

The Caliph when apprised of these victories of the Muslim armies. cried out, "0. Ye Quraish, verily your lion. the lion of Islam, hath leapt upon the lion of Persia. and spoiled him of his prey. Women shall no more bear a second Khalid". Khalid with a flying squadron hastened to the canal head to close the sluices to enable his grounded boats to ascend the canal. AI Hira was besieged by Muslims and capitulated shortly after. A treaty was signed with the residents of Hira in 633 A.C. which was later rectified by the Caliph of Islam. Hira was made the Headquarters of Islamic forces and from here Khalid started the consolidation of his gains. 

The beneficial reforms introduced by Khalid in consultation with the Caliph in favour of agriculturists and the common man inhabiting the conquered countries provided a striking contrast to the Persian feudalism hitherto prevailing in these regions. Hence Muslims were welcomed as benefactors replacing the tyrannical Persian overlords. For precautionary measures Muslim garrisons were quartered here and there and the troops were kept ready in movable columns. The next to be besieged was the fortress of Anbar, situated on the Euphrates about 80 miles above Babylon. The deep fosse adjoining the fortress was crossed by casting the bodies of worn out slain camels and the city capitulated without much resistance. Ain at Taur, a green spot in the neighbourhood of Anbar, was also captured by the Muslims.

Khalid had now reached AI Firad, a place on Syrian Iraqi borders, which was divided by a river. The Syrian frontiers were guarded by a strong Byzantine garrison, which being alarmed at the success of Khalid, made a common cause with Persians and bedouin Christians in order to defeat the Muslim invaders. 

A long and severe conflict ensued, in which Muslims were victorious and the enemy lost more than one lakh soldiers. The victories of Islam over Persians established the supremacy of Islamic arms and the invincibility of Khalid bin Waleed, the Sword of God. KhaIid stayed in Iraq for about 14 months and during this period he fought and won 15 engagements against an enemy which was far superior in men and arms. The Arabs, who hitherto, considered themselves much inferior to the Persians in all walks of life and acknowledged them their overlords, now shed off their inferiority complex and regained their self-confidence. 

The lightning victories of Khalid in Iraq which paralysed the vast and resourceful Persian Empire in such a short space of time, may rank among the most glorious campaigns in the annals of military warfare and have placed him amongst the greatest Generals of all times. He had devised several new tactics which were hitherto unknown to the world, including the charge by the reserve force. He also proved to be a good administrator who consolidated his gains, stationed military garrison at suitable places to secure the rear, effected agrarian and other reforms advantageous to the common man which endeared the Muslims to the locals in contrast to their previous feudal Persian overlords. The Muslims with their democratic and socialistic leanings were preferable to Persian bureaucrats. 

After the defeat of the combined forces at Firad in January 634 A.C. the season for Hajj pilgrimage having drawn close, Khalid made a secret rites. Sir William Muir in his well-known work "The Caliphate-Its Rise, Decline and Fall': writes: "The season for the Makkah pilgrimage being now at hand. Khalid formed the singular resolve of performing it incognito unknown even to his Royal master. So, having recruited his army for ten days on the well fought field, he gave orders to march slowly and by easy stages back to AI Hira. Then making as though he remained behind, he set out secretly with a small escort on the pious errand. Without a guide he traversed the devious desert route with marvellous sagacity and speed. 

Having accomplished the rites of pilgrimage, he retraced his steps from Makkah with the like despatch, and re-entered AI Hira in early spring, just as the rearguard was marching in. So well had he kept his secret, that the army thought he had been all the while at AI Firad, and now was journeying slowly back. Even Abu Bah. who himself presided at the pilgrimage, was unaware of the presence of his great General", The attitude of the Byzantine armies on the frontiers bordering Syria was equally threatening since the time of the Prophet. 

The Byzantine armies had made frequent incursions into the Arab territories bordering Syria and carried away their cattle and other belongings. Khalid who was stationed on the Syrian frontiers, met with some success against the Byzantine armies. Caliph Abu Bakr, having realised the great danger looming large on the Syrian horizon, requested the Muslims to enrol themselves for active service on the Syrian front. More than a thousand Companions of the Prophet, including one hundred who had participated in the battle of Badr volunteered themselves. The Caliph in person went up to the plain of Jurf to bid farewell to each brigade bound for Syria and gave the following command; 

"Men, I have ten orders to give you, which you must observe loyally: Deceive none and steal from none; betray none and mutilate none; kill no child, nor woman, nor aged man; neither bark nor burn the date palms; cut not down fruit trees nor destroy crops; slaughter not flocks, cattle nor camels except for food. You will also meet with men living in cells; leave them alone in that to which they have devoted themselves". Instructions of a more general character were given to the leader-to promise good government to the invaded people, and to keep his promise; not to stay much at a time, and always to be straightforward; to respect ambassadors, but not to detain them long lest they become spies; to preserve secrecy where necessary, to make the round of sentinels by night and by day; and never to be slack." (The Caliphate-Lts Rise, Decline and Fall). Three Divisions comparising 5,000 soldiers each were despatched to the Syrian front under the command of Shurjil bin Hasana, Arnr bin Aas, and Yazid bin Abu Sufian. 

Abu Obaidah, the would-be Supreme Commander on the Syrian front, was also entrusted with the command of a separate Division. But the Byzantines had mustered a force in the neighbourhood of Yermuk which was ten times stronger than that of Muslims. This necessitated the transfer of Khalid bin Waleed to the Syrian front. The wise Caliph Abu Bakr ordered Khalid to hurry up to the Syrian front with half of his forces, leaving the second half in Iraq under the command of Al-Muthanna. According to historians Tabari, Moqaddasi and BalJadhuri, the Caliph had appointed Khalid as Supreme Commander of the Muslim forces on the Syrian front. The lighting march of Khalid and his men through a trackless, waterless and impassable desert lying between Iraq and Syria, is one of the most daring feats ever recorded in living history. He crossed the desert in five days and the eminence on which he stood still bears the name 'Thaniyat al Okab '(the Pass of the Eagle).

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Greatest Generals Throughout Islamic History Part 1

By The Islam Shop

Published on April 11, 2019

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