WIDELY regarded as one of the most consequential Muslim military leaders of all time, Khalid ibn al-Walid was an Arab Muslim commander in the service of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the caliphs Abu Bakr (RA) (r. 632–634) and Umar (RA) (r. 634–644).
He was born in the year 583CE to the horsemen/cavalry tribe of Quraysh, from the Banu Makhzum clan, who ardently opposed Muhammed (PBUH) while he was living in Makkah.
From his early age, he developed competent skills in cavalry and archery. He was able to draw the arrow while mounted on the move with accuracy and used the spear which he used as a strong weapon against his opponents in later years but his sword skills and speed was his forte which was a blessing from Almighty Allah.
Before his conversion to Islam, In 624 AD, a 30,000 strong Qurayshi Meccan army marched towards the Muslim stronghold in Madinah. They were met in a valley near Mount Uhud, in present-day Saudi Arabia, by a Muslim army one-tenth its size. Although outnumbered, Muslim archers took control of high ground and forced the Meccan army to retreat. Seeing the enemy fall back, the archers left their posts to loot the Meccan camp thus weakening the Muslim army’s flank. Khalid, commanding a small contingent of 700 soldiers, capitalized on the Muslims’ mistake and led his men to a decisive victory – inflicting on his Muslim enemy the only serious battlefield defeat they suffered during the course of the entire Muslim-Qurayshi war.
He was 43, when he converted after reading his brother’s letter urging him to convert and telling him that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked about him and said that Khalid’s stature would still be reserved if he converted. In the eighth year of Hijra, Khalid traveled to Madinah to meet the Prophet and announce his acceptance of the Islamic faith. It is said that the first thing he had asked Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was to pray to Allah to forgive anything he had done to the Muslims.
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH told him that his acceptance of Islam meant that all his past sins were forgiven by Allah. Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) called him Saifullah.
Khalid’s first military expedition under the Muslim banner was at Muta (modern day Jordan). The military encounter was between the Muslim and Byzantine armies after the latter killed Muslims in the Levant region. The Romans mobilized 200,000 warriors for the battle, while the Muslim army was made up of 3,000 fighters.
Three Muslim commanders were named by the prophet to succeed one another and carry the army’s banner. All three were killed during the battle, and it was about to fall until a companion of the prophet, Thabit ibn al-Arqam hurried and gave the army leadership to Khalid ibn al-Walid for his vast military experience.
Khalid (RA) hesitated to accept the role and said that Thabit was more worthy of the leadership. Khalid saw himself as unsuitable because he is a recent convert to Islam. But Thabit and the rest of the Muslim warriors insisted that Khalid lead the army.
At that point, the Muslims were edging closer to defeat. Khalid had no choice but to retreat with lesser losses.
He smartly reshuffled the right and left flanks of the Muslim army and introduced forward a division from the rear in a bid to cast fear in the hearts of the Byzantines, making it seem like new reinforcements had arrived. He then retreated with the army safely back to Madinah.
It was in this battle that the prophet described Khalid as Saifullah or the Sword of Allah.
While Khalid (RA) was nearing his death on his bed. Somebody said to Khalid ”O Khalid, don’t you understand. The day Muhammad (PBUH) dubbed you the Sword of Allah, it was impossible for you to die on a battlefield. If you died on the battlefield, that would have meant that the sword of Allah was broken by the enemy.
And the Sword of Allah could never be broken. Khalid (RA) , contrary to his desire, died upon his bed.
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