Khalid ibn al-Walid

Khalid ibn al-Walid ibn al-Mughira al-Makhzumi (Arabic: خالد بن الوليد بن المغيرة المخزومي, romanized: Khālid ibn al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīra al-Makhzūmī; died 642) was an Arab Muslim commander in the service of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the caliphs Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) and Umar (r. 634–644) who played a leading role in the Ridda wars against rebel tribes in Arabia in 632–633 and the early Muslim conquests of Sasanian Iraq in 633–634 and Byzantine Syria in 634–638.

Khalid ibn al-Walid
Native name
Arabic: خالد بن الوليد بن المغيرة المخزومي, romanized: Khālid ibn al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīra al-Makhzūmī
Other name(s)Sayf Allah (The Sword of God)
Abu Sulayman
BornMecca
Died642
Medina or Homs
Possible burial place
AllegianceQuraysh (625–627 or 629)
Muhammad (627 or 629–632)
Rashidun Caliphate (632–638)
Service/branchRashidun army
Years of service629–638
Commands held
  • Field commander in Najd and the Yamama (632–633)
  • Supreme commander of Muslim armies in Syria (634–636)
  • Field commander in northern Syria (636–638)
  • Military governor of Qinnasrin (c.638)
Battles/warsAgainst Muslims:

For Muslims:
Battle of Mu'tah (629)
Conquest of Mecca (629/30)
Battle of Hunayn (630)
Ridda wars

Muslim conquest of Syria

Spouse(s)Asma bint Anas ibn Mudrik
Umm Tamim bint al-Minhal
ChildrenAbd al-Rahman
Muhajir
Sulayman

A horseman of the Quraysh tribe's aristocratic Makhzum clan, which ardently opposed Muhammad, Khalid played the instrumental role in defeating the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud in 625. Following his conversion to Islam in 627 or 629, he was made a commander by Muhammad, who bestowed on him the title Sayf Allah (the Sword of God). Khalid coordinated the safe withdrawal of Muslim troops during the abortive expedition to Mu'ta against the Arab allies of the Byzantines in 629 and led the Bedouin contingents of the Muslim army during the capture of Mecca and the Battle of Hunayn in c.630. After Muhammad's death, Khalid was appointed to suppress or subjugate Arab tribes in Najd and the Yamama (both regions in central Arabia) opposed to the nascent Muslim state, defeating the rebel leaders Tulayha at the Battle of Buzakha in 632 and Musaylima at the Battle of Aqraba in 633.

Khalid subsequently moved against the largely Christian Arab tribes and the Sasanian Persian garrisons of the Euphrates valley in Iraq. He was reassigned by Abu Bakr to command the Muslim armies in Syria and he led his men there on an unconventional march across a long, waterless stretch of the Syrian Desert, boosting his reputation as a military strategist. As a result of decisive victories against the Byzantines at Ajnadayn (634), Fahl (634), Damascus (634–635) and Yarmouk (636), the Muslims under Khalid conquered much of Syria. He was afterward demoted from the high command by Umar for a range of causes cited by traditional Islamic and modern sources. Khalid continued service as the key lieutenant of his successor Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah in the sieges of Homs and Aleppo and the Battle of Qinnasrin, all in 637–638, which collectively precipitated the retreat from Syria of imperial Byzantine troops under Emperor Heraclius. Umar dismissed Khalid from his governorship of Qinnasrin afterward and he died in Medina or Homs in 642.

Khalid is generally considered by historians to be one of early Islam's most seasoned and accomplished generals and he is commemorated throughout the Arab world until the present day. The Islamic tradition credits Khalid for his battlefield tactics and effective leadership of the early Muslim conquests, but accuses him of illicitly executing Arab tribesmen who had accepted Islam, namely members of the Banu Jadhima during the lifetime of Muhammad and Malik ibn Nuwayra during the Ridda wars, and moral and fiscal misconduct in Syria. His military fame disturbed some of the pious, early Muslim converts, including Umar, who feared it could develop into a personality cult.