During the month of Ramadan, Al Arabiya English is publishing a series of profiles on prominent historical figures in Islamic history.
Initially an enemy of the Muslim army, how did Khalid ibn al-Walid the fierce warrior from Quraysh become one of Islam’s greatest military leaders of all time, earning a title by Prophet Mohammed as the "Sword of Allah"?
Before his conversion to Islam, Khalid was behind the bitter defeat of the Muslim army in the battle of Uhud. In this military encounter, the tribes of Makkah wanted to seek revenge for their defeat in the battle of Badr, when almost 300 hundred Muslims managed to defeat their army of thousands of fighters.
The Muslims’ defeat in Uhud was masterminded by Khalid, given his ability to turn imminent war losses to glorious victories. It is said that the prophet placed a group of archers on a nearby hill to give protection to the back of the Muslim army, specifically instructing them not to leave their posts under any conditions.
And as the Muslim army edged closer to victory, the archers thought they could leave their positions, signaling to Khalid an important opportunity to retaliate.
With a group of fighters, Khalid positioned his army on the hill and attacked the Muslims.
‘The Sword of Allah’
On 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 from Prophet Mohammed was to pray to Allah to forgive anything he had done to the Muslims.
Prophet Mohammed told him that his acceptance of Islam meant that all his past sins were forgiven by Allah.
The battle of Mu’tah was Khalid’s first fight along the ranks of the Muslim army. 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 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 Sayf-ul-llah or the Sword of Allah. On the leadership of the Muslim army, the prophet said: ‘Then it was gripped by a sword of the swords of Allah.’