The Conquest of Damascus sheds light on a rather interesting but lesser known figure of Islamic history. While this period is typically known for the Syrian campaign in which many glorious battles were fought by many well known leaders of Islam such as Khalid bin Waleed and Abu Ubaidah (may Allah be pleased with them both), one marginal figure aims to stand out for her courage and valour: Khaulah bint Al-Azwar.
In the year 634, the Muslim conquest of Syria rocked the foundations of the Roman Empire. Under the ever-watchful eye of one of Islam’s greatest military leaders Khalid bin Waleed, the Muslim army laid siege to the fortified metropolis. It was during this time that the dauntless Khaulah bint Al-Azwar made her mark.While little is known regarding her childhood and upbringing, what remains abundantly clear is that her father Al-Azwar raised her to be skilled in the art of swordsmanship alongside her brother Dhiraar, better known as The Naked Champion. Later, she went on to become a nurse and a front line warrior working to provide the wounded with medical assistance while accompanied by brother.
With the siege ongoing and the Roman Commander-in-Chief seeing hardly any relief in sight, the two sides met in the battlefield. It was in this battle that the bravery and courage of Khaulah bint Al- Azwar was displayed for it was here that she showcased her horsemanship and mastery of the lance.
In a fierce clash with the Roman force, her brother Dhiraar was captured and this loss severely dampened the spirits of the Muslims. However, Khaulah’s spirits remained high as she made a desperate attempt to rescue her brother. The Muslims were fatigued from days of fighting with little to no victory in sight when out of nowhere a lean figured dashed across the battlefield making deadly strikes at the enemy. Dressed completely in black with nothing exposed but for a pair of eyes and green turban, this awe-inspiring figure dealt the enemy a heavy blow to the extent that it caught the eye of Islam’s greatest military commander, Khalid bin Walid. Just imagine such a sight!
The youthful figure renewed the spirits of the Muslims through the ferocity of her attacks all while maintaining a hidden identity. When finally confronted, the realization that the figure was in fact the sister of Dhiraar inspired admiration in all that witnessed the spectacle for it was Khalid bin Walid himself who invited the determined Khaulah to attack with the Muslims and rescue those who had been captured.
Besides her courage, another striking characteristic of Khaulah bint Al-Azwar is her modesty. Despite fearing for the safety and well being of her brother, she maintained a Muslim identity dressed fully in hijab and niqab. The onlookers who observed her fierce fight were puzzled as to who the slim figure was.
From this, one can take two important lessons. Firstly, the hijab is an empowering symbol of the Muslim identity that is most importantly worn as a demonstration of submission to Allah and moreover, it is worn as a reminder of Islamic values such kindness, courage, and fortitude in times of difficulty. For Khaulah bint Al-Azwar, her hijab was a part of her identity that never left her regardless of the size of the task ahead of her.
Secondly, Islam as a religion in itself is a tool for empowerment no matter who you are or where you come from. From the story of Khaulah bint Al-Azwar this is quite clear. Despite her female identity, she was still invited to fight for the cause of Allah alongside her Muslim brothers.
A Story of Hope and Empowerment
This is a story of hope and empowerment that lends many useful lessons in terms of what it means to be a Muslim. From the story of Khaulah, one realizes that amidst all the troubles and darkness’s there is always hope. While the Muslims were fatigued and things on the battlefield seemed to yield no result, Allah made a way out. Allah says in the Quraan,
“Whoever fears Allah, He will grant a way out of every difficulty and provide for him from where he does not expect; Allah suffices for anyone who puts his trust in Him”(65:2-3)
And that is exactly what happened. Not a single soul from among the Muslim ranks expected for help to appear straight out of the nursing tents and none expected it to come in the form of Muslimah whose talent and skill far surpassed even the bravest of soldiers.
Her confidence in herself and willingness to go forward and break boundaries is something that the Muslims of today can learn from. Sometimes it is not enough to simply sit back and watch events play out. Instead, standing up and creating a positive identity for oneself and being a role model for others is what really matters.
Source- A.I Akram. Sword of Allah, https://www.amazon.in/Khalid-Bin-Al-waleed-Biographical-Greatest/dp/0954866525Khalid bin Waleed. A biographical Study of One of the Greatest Military Generals in History. (2009).