Monday, March 19, 2012

Khalid Al Walid, The Drawn Sword of Allah (2/2)

In Part 1, we have revised the analysis sketched about Khalid.  He was not dismissed because of lavish handout to his followers, as my friend painted, but because Umar did not want him to be revered excessively by the people. 

His misery after being dismissed was not due to the little stipend received, which was below his standard to live comfortably, having been born into an aristocratic family, as A.I. Akram seemed to suggest.  It was because he was stripped of what he was: a born general meant to lead the war and lived an active, not a passive life.

It would not be too wrong to postulate that a man like Khalid was specially chosen by God himself to appear at the age his service was most wanted.  If Islam did not burst into the scene, Khalid would have been a nobody.  If Khalid did not lead the war, first against the apostasy, then against the Persians and the Romans, Islam would perhaps not spread as fast it did.  The twain were meant for each other.

It was not for sports that the Prophet gave him the title the Drawn Sword of Allah.

In this part, we shall analyze, in passing, what was really going on between Umar and Khalid.

Prior to Khalid's death, Umar realized his mistake and wanted to reinstitute Khalid into the service, but the latter died somewhat prematurely, at the age of 50 according to most accounts. The news of Khalid's death broke the heart of the people in Madinah and the womenfolk wailed.

Now, wailing for the dead was forbidden by the Prophet and Umar was about to whip those women who wailed. But before he took that action, Umar was seized by grief himself, seeing the wailing women, not only among the Makhzom clan where Khalid belonged, but other women as well, including his daughter Hafsah, the widow of the Prophet, one of the Mothers of Believers.

So, instead of whipping them, he said: "Let the women of the Banu Makhzom say what they will about Abu Sulaiman (Khalid), for they do not lie. Let the weepers weep over the likes of Abu Sulaiman."

After Khalid was long gone, one day in the company of his companions, someone mentioned about Khalid, and Umar said: "By God, he was Islam's shield against the enemies, his heart was pure from every animosity". Ali, who was there, reportedly said: "Then why did you dismiss him from military services?" Umar replied flatly: "I was wrong".

Yes, Umar admitted that he was wrong.

That of course did not make Umar any less great, for he was not an angel, free from making mistake. For instance, he also dismissed Abu Hurairah from governorship of Bahrain upon finding that the latter had become quite rich while in the service. He asked Abu Hurairah where the latter got his wealth from, to which Abu Hurairah replied from horse breeding and gifts he received while in the office.

Umar whipped Abu Hurairah, stripped him of his governorship and asked the latter to return all his wealth to the baitul mal (literally the house of wealth, but more appropriately the state treasury). Abu Hurairah did as told. When Umar wanted to reappoint him as the governor, Abu Hurairah refused. When asked why, he simply replied: "So that my honor would not be besmirched, my wealth taken and my back beaten."

Furthermore, according to one of the famous contemporary authors, Hussein Haykal, on Umar's deathbed, among the names he mentioned would have been chosen as his successors, was Khalid. The strict, highly principled and scrupulous man like Umar would not have chosen someone whom he thought unfit for the office of the caliphate.

As we know, Umar was austere, strict, and stern, but he was a just leader. He did not lack the warmth and compassion, especially to the poor and the weaklings. He was feared, but not hated. His close companions would often complain that he was too strict, especially at the beginning of his caliphate, but they all respected him highly, because if he was strict with others, he was more so with himself. He did not ask others what he himself was not willing to do.

But to his family members, he went an extra mile in his strictness. None of his close family members was appointed to important position, although many of them were more than qualified. He practised what may be called "reversed cronyism."  If one happened to be his family member, or a close relative, then he would be the least favored by Umar.

Khalid happened to be his cousin. Al Walid, the father of Khalid, was the brother of Umar's mother. Those who viewed Khalid as Umar's rival, including A.I. Akram, was missing the point. Khalid never aspired to be the caliph. He simply wanted to do what he did best, as a military general.

Umar too did not aspire to be the caliph. When Abu Bakar felt that his time was ending, he had asked all leading companions about the idea of making Umar his successor. They all agreed that Umar was the best man for the job.

When Abu Bakar called Umar and made known of his intention, Umar flatly turned down the offer. The stern Umar, however, could not match the mild but decisive Abu Bakar. His choice, which had been decided upon the consultation with leading companions, was non-negotiable, and Abu Bakar was in no mood for negotiation, so he asked Umar to take the sword hanging on the wall and brought it to him.

"What do you need it for?" Umar asked.

"So that I can kill you for disobeying my order." Said Abu Bakar in all seriousness, and continued, "you had forced me to take this job and put me into all the trouble, but when my time is over, you refuse to shoulder similar responsibility."

And that settled it. Umar got the job he did not want.

Knowing the character of both men, there was no place for rivalry between the two. Each tried to do his best within his own capacity. One as a caliph, and the other as a general.

The only fault between the two was that they were cousins. That relationship would have been a plus point for others, but Umar was unlike any other. Neither was Khalid.

It took a while for Khalid to appreciate what his cousin had done to him.  Though he harbored no hard feeling towards his cousin, he was greatly disappointed with the latter's decision.  After much thought thereafter, for he had all the time in the world to think, since he no longer led an active life at the battlefield, Khalid came to realize that his cousin had to do what he had to do.

On his deathbed, he bequeathed all his properties and his family to the care of Umar, his cousin.  That should be enough to measure the kind of man Khalid was.

On his part, the day when the news of the Khalid's death reached him, Umar was so grief stricken that he muttered a word: "Have women ever stopped mourning for anyone like Khalid?"

Well, he too was mourning like those women, except that he did it quietly.  Mourning quietly, as we know, is more melancholic than mourning in public, openly.  That should tell how he felt about his cousin. 

These are the things we need to understand when we talk about the leading companions, especially those of Khalid and Umar's stature.  As the Prophet said, the leading companions are like stars guiding our path in this world.   Our views about them, therefore, have to be worthy of their merit.

I rest my case.

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