"We were like the drinking-mates of Jadhimah
For a time, till it was said we would never separate.
We spent the best days of our lives, but before us
Death had destroyed the nations of Kisra and Tubba'.
When we parted it was as though Malik and I,
Despite long association, were never together for even a night."
[Mutammim bin Nuwayrah, mourning the death of his brother Malik.]1
When, after finishing with Salma and her followers, Khalid gave orders for the march to Butah against Malik bin Nuwaira, he had no suspicion that some of his own men would oppose his plan. Preparations for the move were carried out as ordered, but when the time to march came, a large group of his soldiers refused to move.
These were the Ansars. Their elders came to Khalid and said that they would not march to Butah. "What you plan now", they asserted, "was not included in the instructions of the Caliph. His instructions were to fight at Buzakha and free this region of apostasy. Thereafter we were to await his instructions."
Khalid was surprised at this statement. He had no intention of letting this group, even if it was a highly honoured group of Companions, deter him from conducting operations as he saw fit. "That may be the Caliph's instructions to you," he replied, "but his instructions to me were to operate against the infidels. In any case I am the commander of this force. I am better informed of the situation than you are. If I see an opportunity for which I have received no instructions, I shall certainly not let it slip by. Should we be faced with a challenge for which there were no instructions from the Caliph, would we not accept it? Malik bin Nuwaira is there, and I shall go to fight him. Let the Emigrants and those who are willing follow me. The others I shall not compel." 2
Khalid marched off without the Ansars.
Hardly an hour had passed when the Ansars realised the seriousness of their error in refusing to march with the rest of the corps. "If they meet with success, we shall be left out of it", said one. Others added, "And if they come to grief, nobody will ever talk to us again." Their minds were soon made up. They sent a fast rider after Khalid to say, "Wait! We are coming." Khalid waited until they had joined him and then resumed the march to Butah.
During the first week of November 632 (mid-Shaban, 11 Hijri) Khalid arrived at Butah, all set for battle. But Butah had no opposition to offer. There was not a single warrior in sight.
When Sajjah the impostress left Arabia for Iraq, Malik bin Nuwaira began to have second thoughts about the part that he had played in the conspiracy against Islam. He received reports of how the Sword of Allah had destroyed the army of Tulaiha, and also heard of the swift and severe punishment Khalid had meted out to the murderers of Muslims. Malik was afraid. With the departure of Sajjah he had lost a strong ally, and he felt abandoned, betrayed.
He began to realise the seriousness of his action in making a pact with the impostress. His guilt of apostasy was clear and could not be disputed. Then came reports that Khalid had defeated Salma and was now marching in the direction of Butah. Malik was a brave man, but he did not feel up to fighting Khalid.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 6 P.394.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 501. From this exchange it would appear that Khalid's decision to march to Butah was his own and not part of the over-all plan of the Caliph, but again according to Tabari (Vol. 2, pp. 480, 483) Abu Bakr's instructions to Khalid definitely included Malik bin Nuwaira at Butah as the next objective after Tulaiha had been dealt with. Perhaps Khalid's men did not know that the Caliph had given this task to their commander.
Feeling helpless and forsaken, Malik decided to save what he could from the wreckage. He would atone for his crimes by repentance and submission, which was also a political necessity, for there was nothing else that he could do. Malik gathered the clan of Bani Yarbu' and addressed them as follows:
"O Bani Yarbu'! We disobeyed our rulers when they called upon us to remain steadfast in faith. And we prevented others from obeying them. We have come to no good."
"I have studied the situation. I see the situation turning in their favour while we have no control over it. Beware of fighting them! Disperse to your homes and make peace with them." 1
Under these orders his warriors dispersed. Malik then went quietly to his house, not far from Butah, to be consoled by the charming Laila.
In one more gesture to show his change of heart, Malik collected all the tax that was due to Madinah and sent it to Khalid, who was on the march to Butah when the envoys bringing the tax met him. Khalid took the tax, but did not accept this as sufficient atonement, for the tax was in any case due as an obligation.
"What made you enter into a pact with Sajjah?" Khalid asked the envoys. "Nothing more", they replied, "than a desire for tribal revenge against our feudal enemies." 2
Khalid did not question the envoys further, but retained his suspicions. This could be a trick to lull him into a false sense of security and draw him unsuspecting into an ambush. Ever since the ambush at Hunain, Khalid had never relaxed his vigilance. He continued the advance as a military operation against an armed opponent.
Khalid found Butah undefended and unmanned. There was no army to fight-not even an occasional group of soldiers. He occupied Butah and sent out mounted detachments to scour the countryside and deal with the apostate clans of the tribe of Bani Tamim. To the commanders of these detachments, he repeated the instructions of the Caliph-on approaching any clan, they would call the Adhan, if the clan responded with the Adhan, it would be left alone; if it did not, it would be attacked.
The following day a detachment commanded by Dhiraar bin Al Azwar got to the house of Malik bin Nuwaira, where Dhiraar seized Malik and Laila and a few men of the Bani Yarbu'. The other detachments had no trouble, for all the clans submitted without opposition.
Malik and Laila were ushered into the presence of Khalid, Malik appearing as a rebel and apostate chief on trial for crimes against the State and Islam. He looked defiant, true to the nature of a proud, noble?born chieftain who faced the trials of life with dignity. He could not be humble.
Khalid began to talk. He spoke of the crimes that Malik had committed and the damage that he had done to the cause of Islam. Then Khalid asked him some questions. In his reply, Malik referred to the Holy Prophet as "your master". Khalid was angered by the unrepentant and supercilious attitude of the accused. He said, "Do you not regard him as your master?" 3
Khalid felt convinced that Malik was guilty, that he remained an unbeliever. He gave the order for his execution. Dhiraar took Malik away and personally carried out the sentence. And it was the end of Malik bin Nuwaira.
Laila became a young widow, but not for long. That same night Khalid married her! She had hardly made up her mind to mourn her departed husband when she became a bride again, this time of the Sword of Allah!
When Khalid announced his intention of marrying Laila some Muslims did not take kindly to the announcement. Some even began to suggest that perhaps Malik was not really an unbeliever but had returned to the Faith, that perhaps Khalid had ordered his execution in order to be able to have Laila for himself. One man in particular, Abu Qatadah, a Companion of high standing, remonstrated with Khalid, but Khalid put him in his place with a few well-chosen words. Feeling slighted and angry at what he regarded as Khalid's high-handedness, Abu Qatadah next day mounted his horse and set off at a gallop for Madinah. On arrival at the capital, he went straight to Abu Bakr and told him that Malik bin Nuwaira, was a Muslim and that Khalid had killed him in order to be able to marry the beautiful Laila. This Abu Qatadah was the same man who, shortly after the conquest of Makkah, had ridden to the Holy Prophet and complained that Khalid had ruthlessly killed the Bani Jazima despite their surrender. His disapproval of Khalid was not new.
Abu Bakr, however, was not pleased to see Abu Qatadah, especially as he had left the army without his commander's permission. "Return at once to your post!" ordered the Caliph; and Abu Qatadah rode back to Butah.1
But even before he had gone his words were all over Madinah. They were heard by Umar who leapt to his feet and rushed to Abu Bakr. "You have appointed a man to command", he said, "who kills Muslims and burns men alive." 2 Abu Bakr was not impressed. He had clear evidence of Malik's distributing the tax money on getting news of the Prophet's death and of his pact with Sajjah. There was no doubt about Malik's apostasy. As for burning men alive, the Caliph had himself ordered that those apostates who had burnt Muslims alive would be treated in like manner. 3 Khalid had burnt no others.
Umar continued: "There is tyranny in the sword of Khalid. He should be brought home in fetters. Dismiss the man!"
Abu Bakr knew that there was little love lost between these two great men. "O Umar", he replied firmly, "keep your tongue off Khalid. I shall not sheathe the sword that Allah has drawn against the infidels." By now Khalid was being commonly referred to as the Sword of Allah.
Umar persisted: "But this enemy of Allah has killed a Muslim and taken his wife!" 4 Abu Bakr agreed to go into the matter. He sent for Khalid.
By now Khalid had come to know of the resentment that his actions had aroused. He shrugged it off with the words: "When Allah decides a matter, it is done." 5 Anyway, a little criticism did not worry Khalid. Then came the summons of the Caliph to present himself at Madinah. Khalid guessed that this was connected with the allegations against him, and was now more than a little worried.
On arrival at Madinah, Khalid went straight to the mosque. In those early days the mosque was not merely a place of worship. It was also a meeting place, an assembly hall, a school, a place of rest, and the centre of civic activity. Khalid was wearing an arrow in his turban as an adornment, and this made him look a bit of a dandy, for most Muslims preferred simplicity in their dress and avoided all forms of ostentation.
Umar was in the mosque and saw Khalid. Livid with anger, he walked up to Khalid, tore the arrow from Khalid's turban and broke it in two. "You killed a Muslim and snatched his wife", Umar shouted. "You ought to be stoned to death." 6 Khalid knew that Umar had much influence with Abu Bakr, and fearing that the Caliph might have similar opinions, he turned away in silence.
He next went to see Abu Bakr, who demanded an explanation. Khalid told him the whole story. After due consideration, the Caliph decided that Khalid was not guilty. He did, however, upbraid his general for marrying Laila and thus leaving himself open to criticism, and since there was some possibility of a mistake, as certain people believed that Malik was a Muslim, Abu Bakr ordered the payment of blood-money to the heirs of Malik.
Khalid came out of the house of the Caliph. His step was light and his manner carefree as he walked to the mosque where Umar sat conversing with some friends. This time Khalid was surer of his position and could afford to repay the compliment. He called to Umar, "Come to me, O left-handed one!" 1 Umar guessed that the Caliph had acquitted Khalid. He stood up and without a word marched off to his house.
This matter of Malik and Laila has been the subject of much dispute in Muslim history. Some, quoting sources like Abu Qatadah, have said that the household of Malik had called the Adhan and that Malik had returned to the faith before he was taken captive. Others have said that Khalid never ordered the killing of Malik, that the weather was chilly and Khalid had said, "Warm your prisoners", that in certain dialects the same word is used to denote 'warming', and 'killing', thus Dhiraar misunderstood Khalid's order and went and killed Malik.
These versions of the story are, in all probability, not true. They have been offered by factions-one to explain away Umar's hostility towards Khalid and the other to clear Khalid of the possible guilt of murdering a Muslim.
There is no doubt about the apostasy and sedition of Malik bin Nuwaira, his distribution of the tax money, his pact with Sajjah, and the participation of his warriors, on his orders, in the depredations of Sajjah. All historians have, without exception, reported these incidents as facts. There is also no doubt, in the mind of this writer that Khalid ordered the killing of Malik and did so with the honest and sincere conviction that Malik was an apostate and a traitor. But suspicion continued to lurk in the minds of some Arabs, certainly in the mind of Umar, that this was a crime de passion. Umar was further encouraged in this belief by the brother of Malik, who came to see him and told him what a wonderful man Malik was and how tragic it was that he had fallen a victim to Khalid's lust!
The long and short of the whole affair was that Malik was killed and the beautiful Laila with the gorgeous eyes and the lovely legs became the wife of Khalid bin Al Waleed. He would one day pay a very high price for the pleasure!