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 front of Iraq, 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
fighting for the noble cause of establishing a regime based on equality,
fraternity and justice. Tomorrow I want to teach a lesson to these Roman
"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 Sufyan.
"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 the
Muslims", retorted Abu Sufyan.
"No, not at all. In reality, I want
to save the valuable lives of the 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 and it was agreed 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
Khalid bin Waleed with 59 companions fought a memorable battle unparalleled
in the history of military warfare against 60 thousand Christians. The
battle raged all 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-u-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. The victory established Arab's superiority over the
Romans despite their exceptional inferiority in numbers and equipment.
Abu Sulaiman, Khalid bin Waleed Al-Qarshi
belonged to the most respectable Quraysh clan. His father, Abdush
Shams Al-Waleed bin Al-Mughaira, was considered among the wisest men of
Quraysh and 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
battle of Uhud 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 300 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. Taking a
tough rear guard action, Khalid 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 Quraysh
of Mecca led to the invasion of the Holy city in which Khalid was entrusted
with the command of the right flank of the 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 (ie
of Mecca), 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
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 (sws) had assigned to Osama 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 the 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 in establishing the dwindling military
prestige of Islam.
Khalid bin Waleed, the Sword of God,
as the Prophet (sws) 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, Musailma, the impostor and Malik bin Nawera, were defeated
one after the other after hard fighting. According to the early historians
of Islam, the campaign against the forty thousand sturdy coilers, led by
Musailima, was the hardest ever fought by the warriors of early Islam in
which the extra ordinary 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 neighboring 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 the
Persians who ruled over Arabian Iraq and were acknowledged as overlords
by the Nomad Arabian tribes inhabiting the neighboring areas. The Persians
instigated these tribes to rise against Islam. Such machinations on the
part of the Persians against Islam, obliged the kind hearted virtuous Caliph,
Abu Bakr, to despatch forces under the command of the 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. He advanced strategically on Al 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 flight, pursuing them to the
bank of the Euphrates', ("The Caliphate --- Its Rise, Decline and Fall").
The battle was called `Zaat as-Salasil' (Mistress of the Chains) because
a major portion of the Persian army was tied 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 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 force, much superior in number and organization.
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 arm 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 an 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 force at Ulles in May 633. A.C. Leaving a strong detachment
at Al-Hafir, to guard his rear, Khalid hastily marched forward to meet
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 seventy thousand dead on the battle-field.
In a single combat, Khalid had 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
neighborhood of Al Hira, was surprised by Khalid. The Caliph when apprised
of these victories of the Muslim armies, cried out `O, Ye Quraysh,
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. Al 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, the 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 eighty 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 neighborhood of Anbar, was also captured
by the Muslims.
Khalid had now reached Al 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
The victories of Islam over the Persians
established the supremacy of Islamic arms and the invincibility of Khalid
bin Waleed, the Sword of God. Khalid stayed in Iraq for about fourteen
months and during this period he fought and won fifteen 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 lightening victories of Khalid
in Iraq which paralyzed 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 area, 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 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 attempted to secretly perform Hajj. Sir William Muir in his
well-known work "The Caliphate--Its Rise, Decline and Fall", writes: `The
season for the Mecca 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 Al Hira. Then 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
Mecca with the like despatch, and re-entered Al 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 Al Firad, and now was journeying
slowly back. Even Abu Bakr, 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 (sws). 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
realized the great danger looming on the Syrian horizon, requested the
Muslims to enroll themselves for active service on the Syrian front. More
than a thousand Companions of the Prophet (sws), 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, as quoted by Sir William
Muir: `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; 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.'
Three divisions comprising five thousand
soldiers each were despatched to the Syrian front under the command of
Shurjil bin Hasana, Amr bin Aas, and Yazid bin Abu Sufyan. Abu Ubaidah
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 neighborhood of Yermuk which was ten times stronger than
that of the 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,
Muqaddasi and Ballazuri, the Caliph had appointed Khalid as Supreme Commander
of the Muslim forces on the Syrian front. The lightning 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 sill bears the name `Thanniyat ul Ukab' (the Pass of the
The Muslim army in Syria was divided
into four corps which were operating under the command of four Generals
in different sectors. Abu Ubaidah was in command of the division of Hems,
with Headquarters at Jabia, Amr ibn Aas was in command of the Damascus
Division and Sharjil ibn Hasana was in command of the Division operating
in Jordan. On the advice of Umar, the Caliph Abu Bakr ordered the concentration
of the entire Muslim force at Jaulan near Yermuk in April 634 A.C. in order
to meet an enemy whose resources, wealth and supply of fighting material
were unlimited. The Romans, too, drew together all their corps, and the
huge Roman army encamped in the semi-circular loop of Yermuk river protected
on three sides by the river which they considered to be an ideal camping
ground. The Muslim army arrived later and occupied the bottle-neck. The
Romans realized their mistake but it was too late. The two armies watched
each other for two months when Khalid arrived on the scene. He was entrusted
with the Supreme Command of the Muslim forces. According to all authentic
historical sources, including that of Tabari, the army of Heraclius numbered
two lacs and forty thousand whilst the Muslims were only forty thousand.
The Roman army was commanded by some of their famous generals and warriors,
including Theodore the Sakkellarius, Bannes the American and Jarja (George).
Khalid bin Waleed, realizing the superiority of the Romans in numbers and
arms, resorted to his usual tactics and divided his army into thirty eight
equal corps, each commanded by tried warriors. On August 30, 634 A.C. the
Romans, inspired by the priests, came out from their camp to encounter
the Arabs. A terrible carnage ensued and the Romans were defeated with
fearful slaughter. According to Tabari, more than one hundred and twenty
thousand Romans perished in the valley of Wakusa and were drowned in the
river. With this memorable victory in the Battle of yermuk, the whole of
Syria lay at the feet of the Muslims. In this memorable battle Khalid bin
Waleed exhibited a super military skill, extraordinary chivalry and rare
strategic moves. When the news of the disaster was conveyed to the Byzantine
Emperor Heraclius at Antioch, he said, `Farewell Syria, my fair province.
Thou art enemy's now'; and he quitted Antioch for Constantinople. Khalid
declared `Syria sat as quiet as a camel'. But before the decision of the
battle of Yermuk, the Caliph Abu Bakr died and was succeeded by Umar. Immediately
after his election as Caliph, Umar issued orders for the deposition of
Khalid from the Supreme Command. The letter delivered to Khalid in the
heat of battle of Yermuk was kept a secret till the issue was decided.
Khalid gladly bowed down to the orders of the Caliph and till his death
fought as an ordinary soldier in the armies of Islam. He exhibited a sense
of discipline scarcely shown by a General of his calibre. Disregarding
all the humiliation which this order might have caused him, he continued
to serve with unflagging zeal as a faithful solder of Islam in all the
campaigns fought in Syria thereafter.
During the Caliphate of Umar, Muslim
forces won brilliant victories in Syria, Iraq, Persia and Egypt and the
Islamic banner was carried to the western extremities of Egypt in the West
and to the shores of the Caspian in the North. The siege of Damascus lasted
for more than two months and one night when the birth of a child of the
Lord Bishop was being celebrated in the city, Khalid along with his associates
scaled the walls and opened the Eastern gate. The cry of Allah-u-Akbar
rent the air, and the feasters having understood the critical situation
capitulated to Abu Ubaidah, the Muslim Commander guarding the Western gate.
The two armies --- one led by Khalid claimed to have captured the city
and the other commanded by Abu Ubaidah which had accepted capitulation
of the city on certain terms, met in the heart of the city. At last, the
terms of the capitulation accepted by Abu Ubaidah were held good for the
entire city and it was ratified by Caliph Umar.
Khalik took part in several campaigns
fought in Syria, including those of Hems and Kansarain. With the conquest
of Kansarain, the last stronghold of the Byzantines in Syria, the rule
of Byzantines in Syria came to an end and the Emperor Heraclius retired
to Constantinople never to return. The exceptional valour exhibited by
Khalid in the campaign of Kansarain obliged Umar to change his view about
him. He acknowledged openly : `God may bless Abu Bakr. He had greater sense
for the right type of men than myself'.
The respect shown by the Muslim conquerors
towards the conquered races in Iraq and Syria was to a great extent, responsible
for establishing a stable government and sound administration in these
regions. Writing in "Caliphate ---Its Rise, Decline and Fall", Sir William
Muir acknowledges: `Had the Muslims ill-treated the people of Syria or
persecuted their religion, their position would have been desperate indeed;
but their leniency towards the conquered and their justice and integrity
presented a marked contrast to the tyranny and intolerance of the Romans.....the
Syrian Christians enjoyed more civil and political liberty under their
Arab invaders than they had done under the rule of Heraclius and they had
no wish to return to their former state....The Muslims, when they withdrew,
returned the taxes which they had collected, since they were no longer
able to fulfil their part of the bargain in guaranteeing security of life
and property. A nestorian Bishop writes about the year 15: The Talites
(Arabs) to whom God had accorded in our days the dominion, have become
our masters; but they do not combat the Christian religion; much rather
they protect our faith, they respect our priests and our holymen, and make
gifts to our churches and our convents'. Thus, Muslims in Syria ruled both
over the body and the heart of their subjects in Syria and Iraq.
The reason behind the deposition of
Khalid was not malice on the part of the great Caliph Umar. He was too
great a person to be associated with such acts. As Sir William Muir puts
it: `The Military Chief had to give place to the civil functionary; sword
to pen; Khalid to Abu Ubaidah. There is no occasion to seek any ulterior
motives which might have led Umar to replace Khalid by Abu Ubaidah. Least
of all can personal dislike have influenced him. Umar was too great for
that.' Umar tried to remove the misunderstanding created among the people
about the deposition of Khalid bin Waleed. He sent a rescript to the various
provinces announcing that he had not deposed Khalid because of any fault
on his part, but because people had begun to repose greater trust in Khalid
than in God.
According to the celebrated historians
Tabari and Ibni Asakir, Khalid bin Waleed, the Sword of God, died in Hems
in 21 A.H. (644 A.C.).
Thus passed way the hero of hundreds
of battles with an unrealized wish for martyrdom on his dying lips. `Alas',
he murmured, `I, who fought hundreds of battles and have innumerable battle
scars on my body, could bot be blessed with martyrdom --- the greatest
ambition of all true Muslims'. On hearing the news of his death, Caliph
Umar exclaimed, `The death of Khalid has created a void in Islam which
cannot be filled.'
`The military campaigns of Khalid
bin Waleed and Amr ibn al Aas' writes Philip K. Hitti, in his monumental
work. "The History of the Arabs" which ensued in Iraq, Persia, Syria and
Egypt are among the most brilliantly executed in the history of warfare
and bear favourable comparison with those of Napoleon, Hannibal or Alexander'.
(Extracted from "The Hundred Great Muslims")