Khalid was a member of the aristocracy in the Arabian trading city of Mecca.
When a local named Muhammad began claiming he was the Prophet of God, Khalid and his family fought tooth and nail to stamp out his movement.
Less than two years later Khalid was the highest ranking commander in the Muslim army, where his name alone spread fear through the Roman and Persian army.
Tune in to hear the story of the man responsible for the early expansion of Islam - Khalid ibn al-Walid, The Sword Of Allah (Sayfullah).
The year is 628AD. The empires of eastern Rome and Sassanid Persia, two titans of the ancient age, have worn each other down to the bone. Decades of unending conflict have pushed both of these juggernauts past breaking point. Their mighty armies broken and exhausted after eight years of war finally ending in a stalemate.
As the two exhausted prize fighters hammer out a peace treaty and start repairing, something happens, something that would change the world forever. From a rural backwater called Mecca came the thundering hooves of Arabian horses, carrying with them a message. It was a message that the rest of the world wasn't ready for, but would soon be forced to hear. Islam had entered the world stage.
Barely two decades later, the Sassanid Empire would cease to exist, taking its ancient religion, Zoroastrianism, to the crypt with them, while the Roman Empire, which had led the world for millennia, would look to the heavens for salvation, minting coins with the apocalyptic motif ‘Deus adiuta Romanis’ - May God help the Romans.
At the head of the charge was a man nicknamed Saifullah, a title bestowed on him by the prophet Muhammad. Brave, headstrong and bold, it was he that would lead the fledgling armies of Islam to victory against the most seasoned and professional troops on the planet.
You're listening to Anthology of Heroes, the podcast sharing the life of national heroes and villains throughout history. As usual, I'm your host, Elliot Gates, and in this episode, I'll guide you through the murky days of early Islam as a merchant named Muhammad struggles to get his movement off the ground. But most of all, I'll be focusing on his greatest general, the man almost single handedly responsible for the early expansion of the second largest religion in the modern world. Even if Islamic history isn't an interest of yours, the victories of this man have consequences that have changed the course of history. If it wasn't for him, the world may look like a very different place today. I'm talking, of course, about Khalid ibn al-Walid, the sword of Allah.
Guys, before we kick off, I just want to let you know I've now started a patreon page for the podcast. I've just bought a subscription to an audio library, so I can start including more varied sound effects and music for the show. You'll start hearing them on this episode, in fact. So if you'd like to have your voice immortalized in a podcast by reading some of the quotes for our episodes, or if you just like to help me out, you can find out info for our patreon rewards on our Instagram page at Anthology of Heroes all-one-word. Anyway, on with the show. And just a heads up for any Arabic listers, apologies for any names I mispronounce.
Under the shady palms of a manor garden, two fathers watched their young boys wrestle. Absentmindedly waving the dust out of their faces kicked up by the boys, the men chatted, sipping sweet tea from porcelain cups as servants darted back and forth, bowing to the men as they did so. Both men were big players in their own clans, part of the upper class that ran the city of Mecca. They were called al Walid and al-Khattab. And their boys wrestling before them were named Khalid and Umar. Like their fathers, they were friends, bonded together under tribal loyalty that ran deep as blood ties. But even from a young age, both the boys were full of ambition that had grown into a sibling rivalry.
Neither wanted to be outdone by the other. As the sparring continued, both boys dug their feet into the ground. Sweat dripped from their dirt covered bodies as the baking midday sun shone down on both of them. But neither was willing to surrender. With a grunt, Khalid broke the deadlock. He dug his arms under the armpits of Umar and flipped him over backwards. Umar landed on the ground with a crack and let out a hideous scream. The two older men dropped their teacups and ran over to see Umar's ankle bones sticking grotesquely through the skin. His father hushed him while al-Khattab scooped up his son and ran to go find a doctor.
Umar's broken bone would mend, but the rivalry between these boys would not. No one could ever guess that these two kids wrestling in the dirt in some nowhere town, would both change the course of history in their own way. Kalin ibn Ali and Umar grew up in the city of Mecca, a trading port on the Arabian peninsula. In Arabic, Ibn, or Bin means ‘son of’ so his name was Khalid, but his full title included his father's name, as is the custom.
Khalid, like Umar, was born into one of the leading families in the area. This clan plus two others came together to govern and lead the affairs of a tribe called the Quraysh. The Quraysh were merchants at heart who made their money through trade. Slaves, ivory, incense, spices, and everything in between would flitter through Mecca towards the grasping hands of the European elite. The tribal members helped merchants keep their caravans safe as it moved through hostile lands. They'd also arrange for translators, camels or food supplies, whatever the merchant needed, really. And for that they'd take a fee. And when they weren't trading, they were busy raiding. For all the security they would afford merchants using their services, the Quraysh would regularly ambush other rival tribes who were doing the same thing back to them.
Raids and ambushes were part and parcel of the rough tumble life of a desert Arab. Every man had to be able to hold his own in battle. Khalid’s father, the chief of the Banu Makhzum, was not one to pamper his son, regardless of their riches. He wanted the boy to learn to fight and win for the glory of their clan and for their gods. As a young boy, Khalid would have taken his father's hand and wandered through the dusty streets of Mecca. While they walked, al Walid would have impressed upon young Khalid his extensive family history. He, like most other Arabian families, could supposedly trace their lineage back to Adam. As in Adam and Eve.
In their silken robes, they would make their way to the center of town, to the structure of where their gods lived, the Kaaba. The Kaaba was a cathedral for the people of Mecca. A dark stone building a little over 10 meters long from wall to wall in the dusty sandstone streets, it stood out like a diamond in the rough.
Once they reached it, the two would circle around the building several times and while they did so, they would chant:
"By Allat and al-'Uzza,
And Manah, the third idol besides.
Verily they are the most exalted females
Whose intercession is to be sought”
Khalid would stare at the other people, men and women who had come from far and wide to see the cabbage in person. Many of them would take a small stone home with them to venerate in their own homes. Brushing the canopy aside, Khalid and al Walid would enter inside the structure, their eyes slowly adjusting to the darkened room and cooler temperature. As the light settled, Khalid's eyes would have been drawn to the shelves full to the brim with statues of gods and idols, one for each day of the year. There was Ri’Am, a forgotten god of a tribe that had since converted to Judaism who would communicate with worshippers through telepathy. There was Isaf and Na' ilah, two horny pilgrims that were turned to stone after having intercourse as punishment for their adultery. And then there was Hubal, a rippling, muscular man whose right hand was made of solid gold. The pair watched as an old man approached the glowing red figure ‘Hubal, my son wishes to marry a poor woman that he is in love with, knowing full well that I have already chosen him a wife from a wealthier family. Who should he marry?’
The old man threw an arrow at the foot of the statue, pointing to a symbol on the ground. Hubal had spoken.
But towering Hubal, Isaf, Na’ilah and all others was Al Uzza, and her twin sisters Manat and Al-Lat. The holy daughters of God.
As the favorite god of almost all of the Quaryish. It was Al Uzza, and her sisters who had the most visitors, the most sacrifices, the most questions.
Many Arabs had named their children after her. And before battle her name was on the lips of every fighter begging her protection. Turning to leave, Al Walid was greeted respectfully by all who passed as one of the custodians of the Kaaba, his was a face that many recognized.
Every pilgrim had paid a fee to be in here and his family took a cut of that fee. The Kaaba was more than just a religious building. To the family of Khalid, it was a cash cow. As young khalid grew up, he took a more active involvement in the affairs of his clan. His competitive edge naturally led him to the military. Long days Learning to ride, fight and parry under the hot Arabian sun soon transformed the lanky teenager into a broad shouldered, lean young man with a thick black beard, Roman nose and dark eyes.
He became an easily recognized figure around Mecca, especially to the ladies, and Khalid recognized them right back. Besides warfare, the man liked nothing more than to splash around his cash in a company of gorgeous women, both of which would get him in lots of trouble later on. If you're picturing an Arab version of Mark Antony, then you're on the right track. His childhood rival, Umar had come a long way also. Umar had followed a more academic pathway. His father was well known for his wisdom and expected nothing less from his son. Umar had big shoes to fill and if his dad ever thought he was slacking off of him as learning, he'd give him a thumping. Umar had learned to read and write both rarities among the people of Mecca. These talents had opened up a new world to him and he traveled extensively through the vast empires of Rome and Persia. While Khalid's talents were in the saddle, Umar’s were on a podium. Paler than the average Arab, tall and muscular with hair dyed with henna, he too was recognizable by his long mustaches that whipped back and forth during the impassioned speeches he was known to give. Straight talking and determined, if Umar had something to say, you are going to hear it. While both these guys had gone down different paths since wrestling as kids, they were clan brothers of the Quraysh. And the Quraysh had a problem.
His name was Muhammad.
Muhammad was a 40 year old merchant and a member of a different but still important clan of the Quraysh. After being orphaned as a child, his early life passed with nothing too extraordinary happening. He was known to be a man of good character, especially in his trustworthiness. But in the year 610 he began to receive revelations from God himself while meditating in a cave outside Mecca. This occurred numerous times and over time Muhammad's confidence in his own message grew. Soon he came outright and said it. He was the final prophet of God, or Allah in Arabic. At first, the Quraysh tried to ignore the man's ramblings. It was easy to dismiss him as a lunatic or a soothsayer. But slowly he began to amass a small but dedicated core group of followers. As his message resonated with more and more people, Muhammad went from an annoyance to a threat. And that's because with his claim of being the Prophet came his proclamation: that there is no God except God. That's God. Singular. Apart from upsetting the social order where men like Khalid and Umar held sway, his message threatened a valuable pilgrim route. If there was only one god.
What were all those things in the Kaaba then? The families of both Khalid and Umar tried everything to shut Muhammad up. At first they sat down with his uncle, a prominent Quraysh leader much like themselves. They said, look, your nephew is making things hard for us. It's in your best interest as well as ours to silence him. The Prophet's uncle was polite but firm. He was not going to stop his nephew proclaiming his new religion. They tried again and again with his uncle, at one point even offering him a new nephew to adopt if he gave them permission to kill Muhammad. Well, you can imagine how well that went down. Umar, Khalid and the rest of Quraysh tried heckling Muhammad in the market as he preached. They tried boycotting his tribe and even had his followers beaten up and tortured. But the pull of his religion was a strong one.
A story goes that one day Umar watched a ragged looking group of refugees leaving Mecca. He asked them where they were going and they told him they were going to Ethiopia. Umar asked them why. What are you going all the way to Ethiopia for?
And they told him it was because they were Muslims and they were leaving to escape persecution that he and his family were putting them through. Another one of the Quraysh watched the interaction and seemed to notice some pity, perhaps even a little regret in Umar. As he watched the sorry lot shuffle away from the protection of Mecca and into the unknown. He turned to his friends and asked, hey, do you think Umar will become Muslim? His friend rolled his eyes and said, Umar will become Muslim when his father's Donkey, becomes a Muslim. As Muhammad's sermons continued, the time for talk was done. Regardless of his status, he was threatening to tear up the social order of Mecca. A plot was hatched to murder the Prophet and Umar was their guy. With his sword by his hip in the hot desert sun, Umar scoured the streets of Mecca looking for Muhammad and his entourage. Turning the corner, he bumps into a friend of his. This guy sees that Umar is just full of rage and asks him Where are you going? Umar says something along the lines of, I'm going to find the man who has betrayed our religion, insulted our intelligence and disrespected our gods. His friend, who had secretly converted to Islam, rebuffs him, saying, Mate, what are you talking about? You can't just kill Muhammad! You think his clan is just going to let you live? After the two guys really get into each other, yelling at each other and almost coming to blows, Umar gets really up in his face saying, you know what, I actually think you're secretly a Muslim and if I find that you are, I'll kill you as well. And the other guy spits back at him, you should be more concerned with your family than me. Your sister and her husband are Muslims and you don't even know it. At this point, Umar is saying, red, right? So he goes over to his sister's house, pretty much barges in, just as her and her husband are studying a scrap of parchment with some teachings from Muhammad on it. Well, Umar just loses it. His own family betraying their religion behind his back. He grabs his brother in law by the beard and shoves him into the ground. And when his sister tries to intervene, he smacks her across her face, drawing blood. She picks herself up and pretty much says, hit me all you want. We become Muslim. Deal with it. And Umar kind of pauses for a second, a bit stunned that they've admitted it.
He then asked to see the scrap of parchment that they've been looking at. Perhaps the zeal with which Muslims defended their faith sparked something within him. Then he heads over to Muhammad's house and officially becomes a Muslim. And just like that, Islam gained its most vocal supporter.
While Umar's conversion made waves around Mecca, it didn't change anything for Khalid. Him and his Quraysh buddies dialed up the pressure on the Muslims, eventually forcing them to leave Mecca and head north to a city called Medina. From Medina, Muhammad is free to preach. And his words fall on fertile ground. Remember the trading caravans we mentioned earlier? Well, now, away from the clutches of the Quraysh , Muhammed’s followers start raiding caravans heading towards Mecca, which eventually turns into an all out battle. As the Quraysh rushed out to defend them, the Muslims, badly outnumbered, managed to defeat the Quraysh.
A few months later, the two sides meet again on the battlefield. There's a bit of new blood in the leadership and Khalid lands the command of a cavalry detachment. In the eerie moments before the battle commenced, Khalid would have looked across the lines ahead of him. Through the stagnant desert air he would have seen many friends, many he knew from childhood, now staring back at him, fully prepared to die for this man, that Khalid was there to kill.
All of the wives of the Quraysh come out for battle, and in a raspy chorus, they sing this song from the side loads that goes like: ‘Defenders of our homes - We are the daughters of the night, we move among the cushions, if you advance we will embrace you - but if you retreat we will forsake you, with loveless separation’ - No pressure, guys.
As the armies clashed under the sweltering desert sun, it soon became clear that the Muslims again had the advantage. Prior to the battle, Muhammad had placed a handful of archers on a hillock on the side, the archers withered the Meccan lines. Pressed from the front by the cavalry and in the flanks by the archers. The Quraysh troops began to route the Muslim archers. Despite being ordered by the Prophet not to move, no matter what they beeline for the Quraysh camp, hoping to get a head start of the looting.
As the battle seemed over, Khalid, keenly noticing the archers rushing towards the camp, charged after them and called to his retreating men that the pivotal hill was now unoccupied. Seeing as the archers were now dispersed, the retreating cavalry wheeled around, roaring out For Al Uzza! For Hubal! and charged back into the Muslim lines. The battered lines held, but with such severe fighting that Muhammad himself was wounded. Under a hail of arrows and rocks, Muhammad lost teeth and had his forehead gashed open. As the Prophet shielded himself, another arrow whizzed towards him, but was stopped at the last minute by a devoted friend who blocked it with his hand, tearing off his finger with the impact.
With rumors of his death now creeping through the shaky battle lines, Muhammad ordered a retreat while he still could. The Quraysh had managed to salvage a stalemate from a disastrous loss. Thanks to Khalid’s quick thinking. This kind of bold yet patient style of leadership would be his calling card for all of his future campaigns. The aftermath of the battle for the Quraysh was a time of soul searching. As more and more people drifted under the sphere of Muhammad, khalid began to question his own position. After another bloody battle between the two cities ended in a stalemate, muslim pilgrims began to flood into Mecca, brimming with pride over a few of their recent victories. They no longer prayed behind closed doors. They no longer feared the reprisals of the Quraysh. It was clear that the tide had shifted. Hubal was out and Allah was in.
Closing the door to the family, religion and a steady stream of income, Khalid ibn al-Walid went to Muhammad and formerly embraced Islam.
Khalid's conversion was not some spiritual epiphany. The man just didn't work like that. He saw in Muhammad a shift in the tide, an opportunity for him to make a name for himself. He saw a man that could inspire scores of people to stand and die with only his promise of an afterlife for compensation. And he wanted in
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In 630 Ad, Khalid marched back into his home. Mecca had changed profoundly since the carefree days of his youth. Marching behind a man he now acknowledged as the messenger of God, perhaps his column passed the very spot where he had wrestled with Umar, who was now a trusted advisor of Muhammad's inner circle.
As the black shining Kaaba loomed ahead, Khalid knew what was coming. Following Muhammad's lead, he ducked under the soft silken barrier and entered. The familiar cool air and peaceful stillness took him back to a simpler time. Walking together, they stopped at the foot of Al Uzza and her two sisters. He looked up at the delicate stonework and at her feet, where the paint had been worn away by the hands of thousands of pilgrims. The prophet turned to Khalid, motioning him forward.
If the young man had any second thoughts, he didn't show it. With one hard push, the statue of Al Uzza came crashing down. What did she ever done for him anyway? As the idol hit the ground and shattered into thousands of pieces, it signaled the beginning of a new period for humanity. The Quraysh knew that life would never be the same again.
But 3000 km away, a massive war had just concluded. Purely to ensure things would always be the same again, the bickering between two Arab clans in the backwater of his Empire would not have even made it to the footnote of a report for Emperor Heraclius.
And why should it? He was flying high. Through his leadership, The Roman Empire had just recovered all their territory, which was just recently lost to Khosrow II and The SassanidEmpire. Both of these two titans were the main players on the world stage. You wouldn't find a power close to them until you reached China, in the Far East.
The two empires fought sporadically throughout their existence. But it was like a game of checkers. A town lost here, a border shifted a few hundred kilometers there. In 15 years, we'll do it all again in reverse. But this war was different. It had dragged on for 24 long years. At one point it looked like Rome would topple losing a huge portion of his empire to the Sassanids permanently. But with his back to the wall, Heraclius pulled a rabbit out of the hat and at the 11th hour turned the tide, clawing back Roman cities. One brutal battle after another. A bloody handshake later and maybe we'll get them next time.
And it was done. The result was a stalemate. All occupied Roman territories were returned. And on paper both empires looked more or less the same as they did before the war. Heraclius was the hero. And if it wasn't for the events that were about to transpire, he would be remembered as one of the greatest Roman emperors of all time.
But history isn't always so kind... Just a few years later, one of these empires would cease to exist for good, while the other would limp on, carrying with it scars that would never heal.
With his hold on Mecca and Medina complete, Muhammad looked across the Arabian peninsula. To the north was a tribe called the Ghassanids, christian Arabs loyal to the Roman Empire. When Muhammad had sent one of his men to open up diplomacy, well, the Ghassanids had him killed. Killing an envoy was a big deal, and Muhammad, needing to assert Islam, had sent an army to punish the tribe. But the army had arrived right as Rome had started sending freshmen into the newly reclaimed territories. A much larger Roman army bore down on Muhammad's smaller force, mincing them up and spitting them back out. The broken army was limping back to Mecca with Rome in hot pursuit.
News of the disaster reached Muhammad, who knew that he could not afford his entire army annihilated after only just consolidating his power. Turning to Khalid, he asked him to head north and do whatever he could to salvage the situation. A few days later, Khalid returned, marching what was left of the army back through the streets of Mecca. As the injured warriors shuffled through the street, a crowd gathered, booing and throwing sand in Khalids face and taunting him: you have fled from the way of Allah!
Muhammad dashed in front of his broken army and scolded the crowd of Muslims, insisting that the men would return to fight if God willed it. Putting Khalid into the spotlight, he announced to the crowd that this man was a hero. No one else would be able to salvage a situation like this. And for this, he gave him the title Saifullah, Sword of God. Khalid was quickly becoming Muhammad's goto man for any missions that seemed too difficult for other commanders. To Muhammad, men like Khalid or the outspoken Umar were quickly becoming core members of his council. But Muhammad, for all his vision and leadership, could not live forever. The mental toll of administering his new empire and religion were taking its toll, as were the wounds that he had suffered in the early days of his battles with the Quraysh. In the year 632, Muhammad died in the arms of his favorite wife, Ayesha. He was about 62 years old.
The passing of a ruler is not an easy time for a kingdom, and that's even when there are rules that govern succession. For Muhammad's fledgling movement, it could have easily been a death blow. But the guy who came out on top of the pile was a man called Abu Bakr. A close friend of the Prophet and one of his first converts. Abu Bakr became the first caliph, which is an Arabic word meaning successor. Abu Bakr gets a bit of slack from some sources, with many calling him too soft hearted, a bit too doe eyed to really hold the reins and make the tough decisions for the good of the movement. Physically, he was not as imposing as Muhammad either. He was smaller, slender and pale, with a stooping posture and thin, delicate features and sunken, caring eyes.
But in my mind, Abu Bak was exactly what the movement needed. While not having the stage presence of Muhammad, the education of Umar or the leadership of Khalid. He knew a good man when he found one. Abu Bakr doubled down on Muhammad's legacy, surrounding him with people who were experts in their own field and just leaving them to do their thing. Most of all, this provided stability. As such an early convert and close friend of the Prophet, few could argue that anyone had a greater right to lead the movement other than him.
But outside Mecca and Medina, it was a different story. Even though most Arabian tribes had embraced Islam, many had done it at the sharp end of the sword. Now, with the Prophet gone, many tribal leads said, hey, I gave my allegiance to Muhammad, not Abu Bakr. But more worryingly, a couple of other tribal leads who were a bit more crafty claimed that they too were Prophets, actually, come to think of it. Muhammad was one of the prophets. They were the next one. They told Abu Bakr, hey, we agree, muhammad good guy, definitely a prophet, but he's gone now, so it's my turn. As you can imagine, there was no way that was going to fly. The first of these shonky false prophets was your Charles Manson type of prophet. He loved to keep an aura of mystery surrounding him, always keeping his face veiled, leading to his nickname, The Veiled Prophet. Apparently people were a bit easier to impress back then. His popularity among his people seemed to have started after he trained a donkey to bow before him. No small feat. I mean, if I saw this happening at circus today, I'd probably clap. But would I worship the ringmaster? Probably not.
Whatever the case, the party trick led many to refer to him as ‘Dhu al-Himar’, literally the master of the ass. I'm going to let that one sit with you for a moment.
After the assassination of The Ass Master came a guy called Tulayha. Tulayha was a sound military commander and had fought beside Muhammad himself at many of the earlier battles. After his death though, he decided all bets were off. Over on his side of the peninsula, he had built up a bit of a confederacy of tribes with him at the top of the pyramid. Confident in his own power, he thought Abu Bakr was a toothless old tiger, soft hearted and unworthy of Muhammad's legacy. So he sends a delegate to Mecca saying pretty much, Look, Muhammad was a great guy and knew him well. We'll keep praying for him, but we're going to stop sending you taxes.
The delegates were apparently taken back by Abu Bakr's fiery response: ‘By Allah, if you withhold a single ounce of what is due from you, I shall fight you!’
And withhold they did.Tulayha then doubled down, claiming, “did I mention I'm prophet too? Sorry, I probably should have said that earlier.”
After an invasion by Abu Bakker ended in stalemate, Khalid was sent in to finish the job.
Khalid was well known as a pretty Nononsense sort of guy by now and. So he challenged the false Prophet to a duel, beating him easily and sending him packing. The two armies engaged, and even though the Muslims were outnumbered, the false Prophet's army eventually broke.
Tulayah escpaed into the desert, but many years later he would return to the fold of Islam and serve loyally.
But these guys were nothing on our last contender. With the charisma of the Ass Master, battlefield skill of Tulayah, and the kind of personal magnetism that neared Muhammad himself came a man called Musaylimah.
Musaylimah had been around for a while. His tribe had accepted Islam, but even before the Prophets death, he claimed to be a prophet like Muhammad. In fact, he even told Muhammad that and even had the gall to suggest that they could both be prophets and rule together.
Muhammad never really got around to settling the score with him before his passing, and now it fell on Abu Bakr to silence him. Now, Musaylimah was a very interesting guy. Unlike the others, he genuinely seemed to think he was really getting revelations from God. And perhaps this was how he managed to gather such a huge following. On a spiritual level, his ideas were pretty out there. He denied the Kaaba was holy in any way, as God was everywhere. He also disagreed with Muhammad about how he carried himself.
He thought that the Prophet was running a little too close to being worshiped himself. And to him, all veneration should be reserved for God alone.
And his rules for his followers on earth were even more radical. Equality for women and men, a big tick for premarital sex. No polygamy, no cousin marriages or no circumcisions. And if you're a slave and you convert it to his religion, you are free. Not a bad deal.
Apart from this, he knew how to draw a crowd. Remember how a friend earlier could make a donkey bow? Well, if Musaylimah was performing at the same venue, The Ass Master would have been on the street begging for change. Musaylimah go-to trick was putting an egg in a bottle without cracking it. And if that didn't impress you, he knew how to pluck a bird of all of his feathers and stick them back on so that the bird was able to fly like normal.
I love how specific these party tricks are and how they've come down to us after all this time shows that there probably wasn't all that much to do back then. Anyway, While P.E.T.A probably wouldn't approve of his tricks, the people of Arabia did. By the time Abu Bakr had him on his radar, he had drawn around 40,000 people to his religion, a number to rival even the Muslims themselves!
The battle was Khalid's most hard fought yet. His army was pushed back at first, and as the various tribes bickered and blamed each other, khalid realized that forcing tribes with age old rivalries into one cohesive fighting group was unnatural. He and his men were Arabs, not Romans. They did things differently. So he reorganized the army corps to be split upon tribal lines. And with that, the army attacked with renewed zeal, each group wanting to outdo the other. Musaylimah and his men stood firm but were eventually overwhelmed by Khalid's army.
Unlike the other false prophets, Musaylimah fought to the very end, refusing to desert his men until being killed by a javelin to the stomach. The victory was their hardest won yet and the location of it today is still known as the gully of blood. Despite his death, Musaylimah’s ideas persisted for an incredible amount of time. 1100 years later in India, the Mughal court would still be mulling over Musaylimahs teachings and whether he was onto something.
As the news reached Abu Bakr, he received it with great relief. The last false prophet had been killed. On a spiritual level, there was now no one left to contend for the legacy of Muhammad. The Caliph also noted the power that holding the pages of the Quran could have.
Musaylimah had gathered many followers by using words Muhammad had translated. Whoever physically owned the holy words could claim a sense of legitimacy going forward. He did his best to track down and compile all the holy pages he could find. And this would be the beginning of the modern Quran. All across Medina, Khalid, the sword of Allah, was becoming a household name. It was as if, no matter the challenge, khalid would soon march back through the streets, leading his victorious troops and throngs of prisoners. And for Khalid, it was what he was born to do! While others lost control of their bowels during a cavalry charge or ran when the tide of battle turned, it was during these moments where he felt most alive. In a quote attributed to him, he says quote “When I am in the battlefield, I love it more then my wedding night with the most beautiful of women”. The people loved him, his soldiers loved him and the Caliph loved him. But there was one guy who didn't. His old child rival, Umar. Umar held the prestige of being one of the first 20 converts to Islam. Nothing could take that away from him. But still Khalid’s popularity irked him.
While Umar was slowly becoming more conservative and religious, Khalid’s rise to power had not changed his ways. He grew up in money and he liked to splash it around. His men knew that a campaign with The Sword Of Allah was good for their wallet, just as good as it was for their soul. For all the prestige he held for the time being, Umar could do nothing more than glare from the sidelines as crowds of people cheered for Saifullah. With the false prophets now put to rest, Abu Bakr sent Khalid north to a tribe that had refused to pay taxes.
Just to call out, the facts on this story vary. And I know Shia and Sunni Muslims have different opinions on it, so please go easy on my inbox. I'll try and be as impartial as I can.
The leader of this tribe was a man called Malik ibn Nuwera. Now, Malik was a bit of a big deal. Apart from being a tribal leader, he had been appointed by Muhammad himself. So dealing with him required a bit more delicacy than Khalid’s previous missions. Khalid had marched with his army, ready for a fight. But once he got there, he found Malik had not even ordered his men to muster. The inhabitants of his city seemingly were just going about their business.
By some accounts, they found a city of Muslims. Following the prayer schedule and other rules set up by Muhammad, the citizens even questioned Khalid's troops, quote ‘we are Muslims. Why do you arm yourselves against us?’. Other sources say that the citizens were not true Muslims, noting the trademark Islamic call to prayer was missed. Whatever the case, something was fishy colored. Khlaid ordered Malik bought before him, and with him came his stunning young wife. Perhaps a little triggerhappy Khalid observed that Malik referred to The Prophet as ;your master’ rather than ‘our master’. And with that, he ordered Malik killed and married his beautiful young wife.
Immediately after, the news of Khalid's actions reached the ears of Abu Bakr before Khalid and his army arrived home. And this time, he found a very different atmosphere. As usual, The Sword Of Allah was dressed brilliantly, expecting the same reception. He had three arrows stuck through his gleaming turban as a sign of victory. He was received coolly from Abu Bakr, whose council was divided on whether or not Khalid had done the right thing. But the ever outspoken Umar was not. Storming out to Khalid in full view of his army, Umar grabbed the three arrows from Khalid's turban and snapped them, spitting at him.
Quote ‘what a hypocrite you are. You kill a Muslim, make intercourse with his wife, and call yourself a Muslim hero? By God, I will stone you!’ Perhaps Khalid had overplayed his hand this time. Skirting around his confrontation with Umar, he met up with Abu Bakr, who scolded him for what he had done. But the Caliph wasn't as hot headed as Umar.
With enough victories to fill a book and huge popularity with his men, Abu Bakr paid off the family of Malik and dismissed Umar's calls for Khalid's death, admitting that, yes, killing Malik had been an error in judgment, but stating that he would not, quote ‘sheath the sword of Allah’. Once again, for anyone interested in this event, I encourage you to do your own research and make up your own mind.
With all of Arabia now firmly under the Caliphate, Heraclius and Khosrow had begun to take note. Probably hoping that maybe this rebel army may give their old enemy a good shake before disappearing back into the desert, they both waited to see what would happen.
The first Christian sources mentioning Muhammad came out just after his death. They’re sometimes just smudged footnotes, calling him a Saracen heathen or a dangerous false prophet or a heretic or something like this.
We've also got the letters that were supposedly sent from Muhammad to Heraclius Khosrow and about five others. The historical accuracy of these is pretty debatable. They all kind of follow the same vibe. I'll read you out one that was supposedly sent to Heraclius:
In the name of God, the Gracious One, the Merciful
From Muhammad, servant of God and His apostle to Heraclius, premier of the Romans:
Peace unto whoever follows the guided path!
Thereafter, verily I call you to the call of Submission to Islam.
Submit and be safe.
And submit as God shall compensate your reward two-folds.
But if you turn away, then upon you will be the guilt of delusion of the peasantry.
Sealed: Muhammad, Apostle of God
There's lots of stories about Heraclius actually wanting to convert to Islam and his council talking about it, but I mean, I really have my doubts. Heraclius had just won a major victory, which he probably attributed largely to divine favor.
If Muhammad's letter even made it to him, it probably would have just been sent to the royal lavatory.
The point was, Islam was strong enough, or they believed they were strong enough to start playing with the big boys…
And that is where we leave it for part one. Coming up in part two is the beginning of the end for Sassanid, Persia. They had no way of knowing it now, but the ancient fires of Zoroastrianism were about to be extinguished. While Heraclius was about to learn the hard way, this was not just a raiding party whipped into a short term frenzy by a once off event.
The old world order was about to be shattered. Islam was coming, ready or not.
“Hell was a more beautiful sight to behold.”
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