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Khalid ibn al-Walid |

Khalid ibn al-Walid is drawn from Chapter Six, beginning on page 165, of Volume Five, The Sword of Islam of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit www.TheChristians.info.

Khalid ibn al-Walid’s military genius carried the Muslim armies to astonishing success, but the general’s extravagance and excess caught the critical eye of the caliph Umar

Khalid ibn al-Walid - The ‘Sword of God’ loses his edge

Khalid ibn al-Walid – The ‘Sword of God’ loses his edge

As the military genius whose historic achievements had enriched the rapidly expanding Muslim world, Khalid ibn al-Walid’s share of the plundered empires made him wealthy beyond measure. Many friends flocked to his residence in northern Syria seeking the customary largesse. In about 638, one delighted Bedouin chieftain of the Kinda tribe received the princely sum of one thousand gold pieces. Scandalously, Khalid also indulged on occasion with a bath in water mixed with wine, a prohibited practice.1 Unfortunately, stricter Muslims sniffed the fragrance of the forbidden grape clinging to Islam’s foremost warrior.

Word of these extravagances filtered back to the imperious caliph Umar in Medina, a man alert to the corrupting tendency of riches, who also feared the rise of potential military aspirants to political power. So Umar decided to act. He ordered his governor in Syria to summon the great general to the mosque at Hims, where an Arab assembly had gathered. Before it stood the black Bilal, tall and gaunt, who had served as muezzin to the Prophet himself. As Umar’s emissary, Bilal posed Khalid with a direct question: Where did the one thousand gold pieces come from?

The accused Khalid, unprepared, stood silent–not necessarily implying guilt, considering the state of accountancy among the desert conquerors. But as the assembly looked on, hushed, embarrassed and shocked, Bilal stepped forward and removed the helmet and cloth headpiece of Islam’s most renowned military hero. He then used that kerchief to bind his wrists. In his stentorian voice, Bilal again demanded an answer, citing the caliph’s authority. “The money was my own,” Khalid finally answered. With relief, the Syrian governor came down from the pulpit and released the esteemed veteran’s hands.

Summoned by Umar to Medina, Khalid obeyed promptly. The caliph stripped away twenty thousand gold pieces from his general’s fortune of eighty thousand, and deposed him from any role in government. However, an announcement sent to all provinces of the Arab Empire proclaimed that the “Sword of God,” as Khalid was known, was still held in high official esteem. His removal from power, Umar explained, merely illustrated the spiritual principle that Muslims should trust in Allah, rather than in any human “arm of flesh,” no matter how talented.

Khalid retired in Syria, where his manner of life appears to have been lavish. During a period of serious plague, the Arab paladin reportedly lost forty sons. Even his financial fortunes later ebbed, reports British historian William Muir (The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall). “The hero who had borne Islam aloft to the crest of victory and glory ended his days in penury and neglect.” Khalid died in the eighth year of Umar’s caliphate, his fate a testimony to the fleeting nature of this world’s rewards.

1. The custom of bathing in water, dear to the classical world, diminished across much of barbarian Europe, but was retained by the Muslims. Arabs also had a traditional passion for both alcohol and scents, later inventing the process of distilling them into liquor and perfumes.

As the military genius whose historic achievements had enriched the rapidly expanding Muslim world, Khalid ibn al-Walid’s share of the plundered empires made him wealthy beyond measure. Many friends flocked to his residence in northern Syria seeking the customary largesse. In about 638, one delighted Bedouin chieftain of the Kinda tribe received the princely sum of one thousand gold pieces. Scandalously, Khalid also indulged on occasion with a bath in water mixed with wine, a prohibited practice.1 Unfortunately, stricter Muslims sniffed the fragrance of the forbidden grape clinging to Islam’s foremost warrior.

Word of these extravagances filtered back to the imperious caliph Umar in Medina, a man alert to the corrupting tendency of riches, who also feared the rise of potential military aspirants to political power. So Umar decided to act. He ordered his governor in Syria to summon the great general to the mosque at Hims, where an Arab assembly had gathered. Before it stood the black Bilal, tall and gaunt, who had served as muezzin to the Prophet himself. As Umar’s emissary, Bilal posed Khalid with a direct question: Where did the one thousand gold pieces come from?

The accused Khalid, unprepared, stood silent–not necessarily implying guilt, considering the state of accountancy among the desert conquerors. But as the assembly looked on, hushed, embarrassed and shocked, Bilal stepped forward and removed the helmet and cloth headpiece of Islam’s most renowned military hero. He then used that kerchief to bind his wrists. In his stentorian voice, Bilal again demanded an answer, citing the caliph’s authority. “The money was my own,” Khalid finally answered. With relief, the Syrian governor came down from the pulpit and released the esteemed veteran’s hands.

Summoned by Umar to Medina, Khalid obeyed promptly. The caliph stripped away twenty thousand gold pieces from his general’s fortune of eighty thousand, and deposed him from any role in government. However, an announcement sent to all provinces of the Arab Empire proclaimed that the “Sword of God,” as Khalid was known, was still held in high official esteem. His removal from power, Umar explained, merely illustrated the spiritual principle that Muslims should trust in Allah, rather than in any human “arm of flesh,” no matter how talented.

Khalid retired in Syria, where his manner of life appears to have been lavish. During a period of serious plague, the Arab paladin reportedly lost forty sons. Even his financial fortunes later ebbed, reports British historian William Muir (The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall). “The hero who had borne Islam aloft to the crest of victory and glory ended his days in penury and neglect.” Khalid died in the eighth year of Umar’s caliphate, his fate a testimony to the fleeting nature of this world’s rewards.

1. The custom of bathing in water, dear to the classical world, diminished across much of barbarian Europe, but was retained by the Muslims. Arabs also had a traditional passion for both alcohol and scents, later inventing the process of distilling them into liquor and perfumes.

This is the end of the Harems category article drawn from Chapter Six, beginning on page 162, of Volume Five, The Sword of Islam. To continue reading more about Harems from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at www.TheChristians.info