A spirit rousing Poet, a skillful doctor, a fearless warrior and a loyal sister. But most of all, a Muslimah with amazing character.
This is Khawla bint Al-Azwar, and it is for these diverse virtues she still stands for till this day. May Allah be pleased with her.
Not much is known of her youth but three episodes are famous from her life.
It was an encounter in battle of Ajnadin with the Romans in the conquest of Al-Shaam (Greater Syria).
Khalid ibn Walid (ra), the commander of the Muslim forces watched a knight, in black attire, with a big green shawl wrapped around his waist and covering his bust. That knight broke through the Roman ranks as an arrow. Khalid and the others followed him and joined battle, while the leader was wondering about the identity of the unknown knight.
Someone fighting beside Khalid said, "I swear by Allah, I myself am amazed by the bravery that this person exhibits. O Amir, this is surely a strange person who goes right in the midst of the roman army and from right and left kills the soldiers."
Khalid rallied his fighters to fight behind this strange knight as he was delving deeper into the enemy ranks.
When the battle was over and the Romans had been defeated, Khalid approached this strange knight along with some other fighters.
He praised the knight for valour and bravery, and asked, "Who are you?"
Then the knight spoke. It was a female voice.
“Ya Ameer,” she began, “I was not intending to disobey you when I did not answer you, but I was too shy to answer as I am of those who wear hijab and live life in hijab. However, I came here because of the pain in my heart and the grief is what brought me here”.
“I am the sister of imprisoned Dirar ibn Al-Azwar, Khawla bint A-Azwar. I was sitting among the women of the tribe of Mazhaj and nursing the wounded when I found out about the imprisonment of my brother. Instantly, I got on my horse and reached this place and did what you see me do.”
This touched Khalid so much that he wept. “We should all do a joint attack and I am hopeful, in shaa Allah, that we will reach to where your brother is and we will free him.”
Khawlah replied, “I too will participate in the attack, in shaa Allah.”
She was at the forefront of that charge and her brother was rescued.
In another battle in Ajnadin, Khawla's spear broke, and her mare was killed, and she found herself a prisoner.
What she found most shocking was the Romans attacked the women’s camps and captured several of them.
Their leader gave the prisoners to his commanders, and order Khawla to be moved into his tent. The commander, Darwan, offered to marry her and make her the Lady of Damascus.
This was her response:
“I wouldn’t even accept you to be a shepherd of my camels! How do you expect me to degrade myself and live with you? I swear that I’ll be the one to cut off your head for your insolence.”
She was returned to the tent where all the other women were being held captive, and it is from the game changed.
She addressed the women:
“Oh daughters of Himyar and remnant of the ancient kings of Yemen, are you content to have the Roman barbarians as your sires and your children slaves in Byzantium? Where is your heroism and surpassing skill that the Arab tribes and Arabian town and village speak so much of? I believe you are the furthest of people from such subjugation. I think you would love to die more than bear this bondage and servitude, which the Byzantines have afflicted you with.”
The women all agreed with her but asked her how they can escape without weapons? The answer: Tents have poles. So the women take the tent poles as spears and the pegs as daggers. Khawla, being experienced in war, tells the women to hold together strong like a wall with their arms linked and use the tent poles to break the ranks of the Romans. Khawla walked in front of them fighting off the Roman men on her own while the women walked behind her strong. In that way, Khawla and the women were able to hold off till the Muslim forces came as reinforcements.
That commander who offered to marry her, Khawlah had made his pay with his neck.
When Ali (ra), the cousin of the Prophet, became Khalifa, he offered to marry her and she accepted.
Which man would have been more befitting at the time?
Now take a moment to think of the type of children she would have raised.
May Allah be pleased with her.
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