"You were better than a million people,
When the faces of men were downcast.
Brave? You were braver than the tiger,
Damr bin Jahm, father of Ashbal.
Generous? You were more generous than
The unstoppable deluge flowing between mountains."
[Lubabah the Younger, mother of Khalid, eulogising him]
"Have women ever stopped mourning for anyone like Khalid?"
[Umar bin Al-Khattab]
"Women will no longer be able to give birth to the likes of Khalid bin Al-Waleed."
Some time before his expedition to Marash, Khalid had a special bath. Just as he did everything well, Khalid also bathed well. He had with him a certain substance prepared with an alcoholic mixture which was supposed to have a soothing effect on the body when applied externally. Khalid rubbed his body with this substance and thoroughly enjoyed his bath, from which he emerged glowing and refreshed.
A few weeks later he received a letter from the Caliph: "It has come to my notice that you have rubbed your body with alcohol. Lo, Allah had made unlawful the substance of alcohol as well as its form, just as He has made unlawful both the form and substance of sin. He has made unlawful the touch of alcohol in a bath no less than the drinking of it. Let it not touch your body, for it is unclean." 2
This, pondered Khalid, was carrying the Muslim ban on alcohol a bit too far. Like all Companions, Khalid was thoroughly conversant with the Holy Book and knew that the Quranic verses on alcohol dealt only with the drinking of it, and that the injunction against strong drink was intended to eliminate the evils of drunkenness and alcoholism. The Quran said nothing about the external application of oils and ointments treated with alcohol. Khalid wrote back to Umar and explained the method of preparation of the offending substance with the alcoholic mixture and the cleaning of it by boiling. He added: "We kill it so that it becomes like bathwater, without alcohol." 3 In this matter of the interpretation of the Quranic verses on alcohol Umar was not on a strong wicket. So he contented himself with writing to Khalid: "I fear that the house of Mugheerah 4is full of wrong-doing. May Allah not destroy you on account of it!" 5 And there the matter rested. We do not know whether Khalid ever again had such a bath; probably not. But it is clear that the goodwill which Khalid had gained in the eyes of Umar as a result of the Battle of Hazir was washed away by Khalid's rejection of Umar's opinions regarding the external application of substances treated with alcohol.
Shortly after Khalid's capture of Marash, in the autumn of 638 (17 Hijri), Umar came to know of Ash'as reciting a poem in praise of Khalid and receiving a gift of 10,000 dirhams. This. was more than the Caliph could take. This, thought Umar, was the limit! He immediately wrote a letter to Abu Ubaidah: "Bring Khalid in front of the congregation, tie his hands with his turban and take off his cap. Ask him from what funds he gave to Ash'as. . . .from his own pocket or from the spoils acquired in the expedition? If he confesses to having given from the spoils, he is guilty of misappropriation. If he claims that he gave from his own pocket, he is guilty of extravagance. In either case dismiss him, and take charge of his duties." 6
This was no ordinary letter. Though the method described by Umar for arraigning the accused was the normal custom of the Arabs, the accused in this case was no ordinary accused. The instructions of the Caliph would have to be carried by a Companion of high standing, and Umar selected Bilal the Muazzin for the task. He entrusted the letter to Bilal, briefed him about how he was to proceed in the matter of Khalid, and ordered him to journey with all speed to Emessa.
Bilal arrived at Emessa and handed the letter to Abu Ubaidah, who read it and was aghast. He could hardly believe that this was to be done to the Sword of Allah; but the Caliph's orders had to be obeyed, and Abu Ubaidah sent for Khalid.
Khalid left Qinassareen without the least suspicion of what lay in store for him. He imagined that he was being called for another council of war, that perhaps there was to be another expedition to 'Rome' or even a full scale invasion of the Byzantine Empire. He looked forward eagerly to more battles and more glory. Arriving at Emessa, he went to the house of Abu Ubaidah, and here for the first time he came to know the purpose of Abu Ubaidah's call. The Commander-in-Chief briefly explained Umar's charge against him, and asked if he would confess his guilt. Khalid was astounded by Abu Ubaidah's statement, and saw it not as a simple matter of a question or a charge, but as an attempt on the part of his old rival, Umar bin Al Khattab, to bring about his undoing. He asked Abu Ubaidah for a little time to consult his sister, and Abu Ubaidah agreed to wait.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 7 P. 141.
2. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 166.
4. Mugheerah was the grandfather of Khalid.
5. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 166.
6. Ibid: Vol. 3, p. 167.
Khalid went to the house of his sister, Fatimah, who was then in Emessa, explained the position to her and sought her advice. Fatimah confirmed his suspicions. "By Allah," she said, "Umar will never be pleased with you. He wants nothing more than that you should confess to some error, so that he can dismiss you." 1
"You are right", said Khalid. He kissed his sister on the head, and returning to Abu Ubaidah, informed him that he would not confess. Thereafter the two generals walked in silence to a place where a large number of Muslims were gathered, most of whom rushed to shake Khalid's hand. At one end stood a raised platform, and on this Abu Ubaidah and Khalid sat down, facing the congregation. On one side of Abu Ubaidah sat Bilal the Negro.
For a few minutes there was complete silence. The Muslims had no idea of the purpose of the congregation; nor had Khalid. He did not connect Umar's charge against him with this gathering, for it never occurred to him that he would face a public trial. Bilal looked questioningly at Abu Ubaidah, but Abu Ubaidah turned his face away. He had obeyed the Caliph's instructions as far as he considered necessary. If a man like Khalid, who had rendered military services to the new Muslim State as no other general had done, was to be subjected to public humiliation, he, Abu Ubaidah, would have nothing to do with it. Bilal could do as he wished.
Bilal understood Abu Ubaidah's reluctance. He stood up, faced Khalid, and in a voice which could be heard by the entire congregation, called out: "O Khalid! Did you give Ash'as 10,000 dirhams from your own pocket or from the spoils?"
Khalid stared at Bilal in shocked silence. He could hardly believe his ears!
Bilal repeated his question; but Khalid, for once in his life, was left dumbfounded. When another minute had passed with no reply from Khalid, Bilal walked up to him, and with the words, "The Commander of the Faithful has ordered this", took off Khalid's turban and cap and with the turban tied Khalid's hands behind his back. Again the Caliph's messenger spoke: "What do you say? From your pocket or from the spoils?"
Only now did Khalid find his speech. "No!" he protested. "From my own pocket."
When he heard these words, Bilal untied Khalid's hands, replaced Khalid's cap, and with his own hands tied Khalid's turban on his head. He said, "We hear and obey our rulers. We honour and serve them." 2 Then he returned to his place and sat down.
For a few minutes pin drop silence reigned in the assembly. Abu Ubaidah and Bilal sat staring at the floor. Then Khalid stood up, still shaken by what had happened. He did not know the result of the trial, whether he was dismissed or still in command of his corps. Not wishing to embarrass the gentle Abu Ubaidah with questions, he walked away from the assembly, mounted his horse and rode to Qinassareen. 3
Bilal returned to Madinah and gave Umar an account of the proceedings. The Caliph now awaited a letter from Abu Ubaidah confirming that he had dismissed Khalid from command at Qinassareen; but when another week had passed and no such letter arrived, Umar guessed that Abu Ubaidah was reluctant to inform Khalid of his dismissal. The Caliph decided to deal with the matter of Khalid's dismissal himself, and wrote to Khalid to report to him at Madinah.
On receiving Umar's letter, Khalid came to Emessa and questioned Abu Ubaidah about his position. The Commander-in-Chief told him that he was dismissed from office by order of the Caliph. "May Allah have mercy upon you" said Khalid. "Why did you do this to me? You concealed a matter from me which I would have liked to know before today."
1. Ibid: Vol. 2, p. 624. Yaqubi: Tareekh, Vol. 2, p. 140.
2. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 167.
3. According to one version, which appears to be mistaken, Umar ordered Abu Ubaidah to confiscate half of whatever Khalid possesses; and Abu Ubaidah carried out the Caliph's instructions with such meticulous accuracy that a pair of shoes that Khalid wore, one shoe was taken away and the other left with him! (Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 625; Yaqubi: Tareekh, Vol. 2, p. 140).
There was sorrow in the eyes of Abu Ubaidah, and a great deal of affection and commiseration, as he replied, "By Allah, I knew that this would hurt you. I would never hurt you if I could find a way." 1
Khalid went back to Qinassareen, got the Mobile Guard together, and addressed the warriors whom he had led to victory and glory in battle after battle-warriors who had followed him with unquestioning loyalty and faith. He informed them that he had been dismissed from command, and that he was now proceeding to Madinah on the instructions of the Caliph. Then he bade farewell to the Mobile Guard-a body of men which under Khalid had not known the meaning of defeat.
From Qinassareen he rode again to Emessa, said his farewells, and then continued his journey to Madinah. He was going to Madinah not as a hero returning home from the wars to receive honours from a grateful government, but as a man under disgrace.
Khalid arrived at Madinah and proceeded towards the house of the Caliph. But he met Umar in the street. As these two strong men drew closer to each other-the greatest ruler of the time and the greatest soldier of the time-there was no fear in the eyes of either. Umar was the first to speak. He extemporised a verse in acknowledgement of Khalid's achievements and recited it:
You have done;
And no man has done as you have done.
But it is not people who do;
It is Allah who does. 2
In reply Khalid said, "I protest to the Muslims against what you have done. By Allah, you have been unjust to me, O Umar!"
"Whence comes all this wealth?" countered Umar.
"It is what is left of my share of the spoils. Whatever exceeds 60,000 dirhams is yours." 3
Umar had a check made of all Khalid's possessions, which consisted mainly of military equipment and slaves, and found that it was valued at 80,000 dirhams. He confiscated the surplus of 20,000 dirhams.
When this had been done, Umar said to Khalid, "O Khalid! By Allah, you are honourable in my eyes, and you are dear to me. You will not have cause to complain of me after this day." 4 The point was academic, however, for there was not much more that could be done to Khalid!
After a few days, Khalid left Madinah for Qinassareen, never to return to Arabia. Hardly had he left, when the people of Madinah came to Umar and appealed to him to return Khalid's property to him. To this Umar replied, "I do not trade with what belongs to Allah and the Muslims." 5 But after this, according to Tabari, Umar's heart was 'cured' of Khalid.
Very soon it became evident to Umar that his treatment of Khalid was being deeply resented by the Muslims. It was openly said that Khalid had suffered because of Umar's personal hostility towards him. This popular disapproval of Umar's action became so widespread that the Caliph found it necessary to write to all his commanders and administrators:
I have not dismissed Khalid because of my anger or because of any dishonesty on his part, but because people glorified him and were misled. I feared that people would rely on him. 6 I want them to know that it is Allah who does all things; and there should be no mischief in the land. 7
In this letter Umar, unwittingly paid, Khalid the highest compliment that any general could hope to earn: that his men regarded him as a god! But Khalid returned to Qinassareen an embittered man. The Destroyer of the Apostasy, the Conqueror of Iraq and Syria, came home as a nobody-dismissed and disgraced. As his wife greeted him at the door, he said: "Umar appointed me over Syria until it turned to wheat and honey; then dismissed me!" 8
1. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 167.
2. Ibid: Vol. 3, p. 168.
3. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 167.
5. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 625.
6. i.e. rather than Allah, for victory.
7. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 167.
8. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 99.
Khalid's campaigning days were over. The Sword of Allah-the sword that Allah had drawn against the infidels-which Abu Bakr had refused to sheathe, was at last sheathed by Caliph Umar.
Little remains to be told. After his dismissal Khalid had less than four years to live, and these were not very pleasant years. Financially, though not impoverished, he was severely restricted. In 15 Hijri, Umar had started the institution of allowances to all Muslims, varying in extent according to their position in Islam and the services rendered by them in war. All those who had accepted the Faith after the Truce of Hudebiya and before the Apostasy received an annual allowance of three thousand dirhams, 1 and this category included Khalid. The sum was enough to enable a man and his family to live modestly; but with Khalid, born an aristocrat and accustomed to giving away thousands of dirhams on an impulse, it did not go far. He took his family to Emessa, where he bought a house and settled down to retirement.
His dismissal was a terrible blow to him. But as if this were not enough, Khalid suffered even more grievous losses in the plague which struck soon after his return from Madinah, and which claimed most of those nearest and dearest to him.
The plague started at Amawas in Palestine in Muharram or Safar, 18 Hijri (January or February 639), and spread rapidly across Syria and Palestine, striking down Christians and Muslims in its path. The Caliph was deeply grieved by the sufferings of the Muslims in Syria and concerned especially about Abu Ubaidah, and thought to save the Trusted One of the Nation by asking him to visit Madinah. But Abu Ubaidah saw through Umar's letter and knew that the Caliph would detain him in Madinah until the epidemic had spent itself. The man who had not abandoned his soldiers in the thick of battle was not going to abandon them in the plague. He refused to visit Madinah, and for his loyalty to his men paid with his life.
Thousands of Muslims died in the Plague of Amawas, and these included the noblest and best: Abu Ubaidah, Sharhabeel, Yazeed, Dhiraar-Khalid's dearest friends. And yet this was not the end of his sufferings, for he lost 40 sons in the epidemic! The terrible pestilence thus took away most of those whom Khalid loved, those who could have added comfort and cheer to his years of retirement. We only know of three sons who survived Khalid: Sulaiman, who fell in battle in the latter part of the Egyptian Campaign; Muhajir, who fought and died under Ali at Siffeen; and Abdur-Rahman, who survived to live to a mature age and appeared to be endowed with his father's military prowess. But he too met an untimely death at the hands of a poisoner in 46 Hijri, during the caliphate of Muawiyah. It is recorded that the assassination was engineered by Muawiyah, who was jealous and fearful of the great prestige of the son of the Sword of Allah. 2 The assassin was later killed, as an act of vengeance by Abdur-Rahman's son. We do not know how many daughters Khalid had, but the male line of descent from Khalid is believed to have ended with his grandson, Khalid bin Abdur-Rahman bin Khalid.
After the death of three of the original corps commanders, Amr bin Al Aas took command of the army and immediately dispersed it in the hills of Syria and Palestine. By so doing he was able to save much of the army, but not before 25,000 Muslims had fallen before the foul breath of the plague. The epidemic had not yet ended when Umar appointed Ayadh bin Ghanam as military governor of Northern Syria, and Muawiyah of Damascus and Jordan, while Amr remained in command in Palestine.
When Abu Bakr was planning the Campaign of the Apostasy, he discussed with Amr bin Al Aas the appointment of various generals as corps commanders. The Caliph said, "O Amr, you are the shrewdest of the Arabs in judgement. What is your opinion of Khalid?" Amr replied, "He is a master of war; a friend of death. He has the dash of a lion and the patience of a cat!" 3
But the patience of a cat was not enough for a man of Khalid's temperament at this stage of his life. What makes patience possible and bearable in a cat is the prospect of a victim for supper. If there were no victim in sight even a cat could not bear to be patient; and Khalid now had no prospects, nothing to be patient for. He could fight no more battles, kill no more enemies. In enforced obscurity Khalid mourned the loss of his comrades and his sons.
1. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 109. Balazuri: p. 437.
2. Tabari: Vol. 4, p. 171; Isfahani: Vol. 15, pp. 12-13.
3. Yaqubi: Tareekh, Vol. 2, p. 129.
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.
Khalid was the only man who inflicted a tactical defeat on the Holy Prophet-at Uhud. He was the first Muslim commander to leave Arabia and conquer foreign lands; the first Muslim to humble two great empires, one after the other. Almost all his battles are studies in military leadership, especially Uhud, Kazima, Walaja, Muzayyah, Ajnadein and Yarmuk. His finest battle was Walaja, while his greatest was undoubtedly Yarmuk.
Khalid was essentially a soldier. He also administered the territories which he conquered, but this he did as a routine responsibility of a high-ranking general, who had not only to conquer territory but also to rule it as a military governor. His plans and manoeuvres show a superb military intellect; but towards such things as learning and culture he was in no way inclined. Khalid was pure, unadulterated, undiluted, unspoilt soldier. It was his destiny to fight great battles and vanquish mighty foes.... to attack, kill, conquer. This destiny became apparent only when, with the rise of Islam, the prospect of holy war arose in Arab lands. And it was only after he had accepted the new faith and submitted to the Prophet that this destiny came into full play. Wherever Khalid marched, enemies stood up to oppose him, as if some unkind fate had condemned them to death by his sword. Wherever Khalid passed, he left behind a trail of glory. From the Battle of Uhud up to the time of his dismissal, over a period of 15 years, Khalid fought 41 battles (excluding minor engagements), of which 35 were concentrated in the last seven years. And he never lost a single one! Such was Khalid, the irresistible, all-conquering master.
It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if he had remained in command of the Muslim army in Syria and had been launched to conquer the Byzantine Empire, Since Khalid never lost a battle, there is no doubt that he would have taken the whole of Asia Minor and reached the Black Sea and the Bosphorus. But it was not to be. By the end of 17 Hijri Khalid's race was run. Thereafter the stage of history was crowded by other players.
In 641, Ayadh bin Ghanam died. In this year, too, died Bilal the Muazzin and Khalid's defeated foe, Heraclius, Emperor of Rome. The following year it was Khalid's turn to go.
Some time in 642 (21 Hijri), at the age of 58, Khalid was taken ill. We do not know the nature of his illness, but it was a prolonged one and took the strength out of him. As with all vigorous, active men upon whom an inactive retirement is suddenly thrust, Khalid's health and physique had declined rapidly. This last illness proved too much for him; and Khalid's sick bed became his death bed. He lay in bed, impatient and rebellious against a fate which had robbed him of a glorious, violent death in battle. Knowing that he had not long to live, it irked him to await death in bed.
A few days before his end, an old friend called to see him and sat at his bedside. Khalid raised the cover from his right leg and said to his visitor, "Do you see a space of the span of a hand on my leg which is not covered by some scar of the wound of a sword or an arrow or a lance?"
The friend examined Khalid's leg and confessed that he did not. Khalid raised the cover from his left leg and repeated his question. Again the friend agreed that between the wounds farthest apart the space was less than a hand's span.
Khalid raised his right arm and then his left, for a similar examination and with a similar result. Next he bared his great chest, now devoid of most of its mighty sinews, and here again the friend was met with a sight which made him wonder how a man wounded in so many places could survive The friend again admitted that he could not see the space of one hand span of unmarked skin.
Khalid had made his point. "Do you not see?" he asked impatiently. "I have sought martyrdom in a hundred battles. Why could I not have died in battle?"
"You could not die in battle", replied the friend.
"You must understand, O Khalid," the friend explained, "that when the Messenger of Allah, on whom be the blessings of Allah and peace, named you Sword of Allah, he predetermined that you would not fall in battle. If you had been killed by an unbeliever it would have meant that Allah's sword had been broken by an enemy of Allah; and that could never be."
Khalid remained silent, and a few minutes later the friend took his leave. Khalid's head could see the logic of what his visitor had said, but his heart still yearned for a glorious death in combat. Why, oh why could he not have died a martyr in the way of Allah!
On the day of his death, Khalid's possessions consisted of nothing more than his armour and weapons, his horse and one slave-the faithful Hamam. On his last day of life he lay alone in bed with Hamam sitting in patient sorrow beside his illustrious master. As the shadows gathered, Khalid put all the torment of his soul into one last, anguished sentence: "I die even as a camel dies. I die in bed, in shame. The eyes of cowards do not close even in sleep." 1
Thus died Khalid, son of Al Waleed, the Sword of Allah. May Allah be pleased with him!
The news of Khalid's death broke like a storm over Madinah. The women took to the streets, led by the women of the Bani Makhzum, wailing and beating their breasts. Umar had heard the sad news and now heard the sounds of wailing. He was deeply angered. On his very first day as Caliph, he had given orders that here would be no wailing for departed Muslims. And there was logic in Umar's point of view. Why should we weep for those who have gone to paradise? the blissful abode promised by Allah to the Faithful! Umar had enforced the order, at times using his whip. 2
Umar now heard sounds of wailing. He stood up from the floor of his room, took his whip and made for the door. He would not permit disobedience of his orders; the wailing must be stopped at once! He got to the door, but there he paused. For a few silent moments the Caliph stood in the doorway, lost in thought. This was, after all, no ordinary death; this was the passing away of Khalid bin Al Waleed. Then he heard the sounds of mourning from the next house-his own daughter, Hafsa, widow of the Holy Prophet, was weeping for the departed warrior. 3
Umar turned back. He hung up his whip and sat down again. In this one case he would make an exception. "Let the women of the Bani Makhzum say what they will about Abu Sulaiman, for they do not lie", said the Caliph. "Over the likes of Abu Sulaiman weep those who weep." 4
In Emessa, to the right of the Hama Road, stretches a large, well-tended garden which has lawns studded with ornamental trees and flower beds and is traversed by footpaths. At the top end of the garden stands the Mosque of Khalid bin Al Waleed. It is an imposing mosque, with two tall minarets rising from its north-western and north-eastern corners. The inside of the mosque is spacious, about 50 yards square, its floor covered with carpets and the ceiling upheld by four massive columns. Each of the four corners of the ceiling is formed as a dome, but the highest dome is in the centre, at a considerable height, and from this dome several chandeliers are suspended by long metal chains. In the north-west corner of the mosque stands Khalid's shrine-the last resting place of Abu Sulaiman.
The visitor walks up the garden, crosses the courtyard of the mosque, takes off his shoes and enters the portals. As he enters, he sees to his right the shrine of Khalid. The actual grave is enveloped by an attractive domed marble structure which gives the impression of a little mosque within the larger one. The visitor, if so inclined, says a prayer and then loses himself in contemplation of the only man who ever carried the title of the Sword of Allah.
And if the visitor knows something about Khalid and his military achievements, he lets his imagination wander and pictures of an attack by Khalid flicker through his mind. He sees a long, dark line of horsemen emerge from behind a rise in the ground and charge galloping at a body of Roman troops. The cloaks of the warriors fly behind them and the hooves of their horses pound the earth pitilessly. Some carry lances; others brandish swords; and the Romans standing in the path of the charge tremble at the sight of the oncoming terror, for they are standing in the way of the Mobile Guard, whom none may resist and survive to tell the tale. The line of charging horsemen is not straight, for it is impossible to keep it straight at such a mad, reckless pace. Every man strives to get ahead of his comrades and be the first to clash with the infidel; strives to get ahead of all but the Leader, for no one may, or possibly could, overtake the Leader.
1. Ibn Qutaibah: p. 267.
2. Tabari: Vol. 2, p. 614.
3. Yaqubi: Tareekh: Vol. 2, p. 157.
4. Isfahani: Vol. 19, p. 89.
The Leader gallops ahead of the Muslims. A large, broad-shouldered, powerfully-built man, he is mounted on a magnificent Arab stallion and rides it as if he were part of the horse. The loose end of his turban and his cloak flutter behind him and his large, full beard is pressed against his chest by the wind. His fierce eyes shine with excitement-with the promise of battle and blood and glory- the glory of victory or martyrdom. His coat of mail and the iron tip of his long lance glint in the clear sunlight, and the earth trembles under the thundering hooves of his fiery charger. Perhaps beside him rides a slim young warrior, naked above the waist.
The visitor sees all this with the eyes of his mind. And with the ears of his mind he hears, just before the Mobile Guard hurls itself at the Romans in a shattering clash of steel and sinew, the roar of Allah-o-Akbar as it issues from the throats of the Faithful and rends the air. And rising out of this roar, he hears the piercing cry of the Leader:
I am the noble warrior;
I am the Sword of Allah
Khalid bin Al Waleed!