Human history witnessed bravery and skills of many great commanders and military generals who effectively marshaled their troops in wars and executed brilliant tactics to triumph over their enemies but very few are renowned for being military genius who despite being outnumbered in wars overcame their enemies and changed the course of history by dint of better strategy, war tactics and exploitation of circumstances on the battleground. These very few military commanders can be counted on fingers of one hand i.e. Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, Caesar, Napoloean, Genghiz Khan. Accounts of these military commanders are found abundantly in the writings of Western scholars, however, they have been unjustified and biased to one of the greatest military general Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) for not giving due space to him.
Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was a bold, daring and a daunting Muslim Arab military general (592-642 AD) who fought more than a hundred battles in his life and was never defeated. He was a skillful warrior and knew the art of attacking his enemies shock them. He was like a thunderstorm emerging out of Arabia and prevailed over his enemies like a horrible death. He marched his troops through the deserts at an unprecedented speed and went into battles one after the other and never allowed his enemies to rest. His rivals had absolutely no answer to his strategies in war. He was one of those Generals who would annihilate the enemy armies as if they never existed. He would bring those surprises to his enemies which they never expected. He always marshaled his troops in an efficient manner and exhibited outstanding maneuvers and tactics to overcome his enemies. He proved to be the best military mind to deal with internal and external security threats to nascent Islamic State of Medina.
As Commander-in-Chief of Muslim army, he restored the political control and stability of the nascent Islamic State over Arabia by defeating all the Arab tribes who revolted after death of Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in Ridda or Apostasy wars. After stabilising the Islamic State internally inside Arabia, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) played a key role in defeating the two great powers of the time i.e. Persian Empire and Byzantine Empire despite being heavily outnumbered with scarce resources against professionally well organised, well equipped and trained armies.
After embracing Islam in 629 AD, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) served in Muslim army under three rulers i.e. Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) till his death in 632 AD, Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA), the 1st Rashidun Caliph of Islam as Commander-in-Chief of Rashdun army from 632 to 634 AD and then 2nd Rashidun Caliph Hazrat Umar (RA) as a Commander from 634 to 638 AD. Rashidun army was not an army of a rich state and had no proper military training institute and lacked weapons and resources due to poor economical condition of the nascent Islamic State of Medina.
During the era of Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was sent to Battle of Mu’tah against Byzantine army and Ghassanid Arabs in September 629 as a soldier. This was his first battle as a Muslim. All the three nominated commanders of the Muslim army embraced Shahadat in the battle. Muslims were heavily outnumbered and Muslim army was in a state of chaos. Then troops appointed Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) as their commander and he fought with utmost bravery and courage and showed what he was capable of. He saved tiny Muslim army of 3000 from slaughter by gigantic enemy army of 100,000 troops and fought courageously. The next day he retreated to Medina safely. He broke nine swords in the battle and was granted title of Sword of Allah by Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) due to his bravery. He is, perhaps, the only military officer who was appointed as commander by the troops. From there, he rose to prominence and his military career started in the Muslim army.
After the death of Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA) became the first Caliph and made Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) the commander-in-chief of Rashidun army (Muslim army under Rashidun caliphs). Nascent Islamic state of Medina faced the challenge of apostasy and rebel Arab tribes along with false claimants of Prophethood i.e. Muslaymah, Sajjah and Tulayha. Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was instrumental in suppressing these rebel tribes. He inflicted heavy defeat upon these rebel Arab tribes and punished those claiming Prophethood during a long and laborious military expedition in Arabia from 632 to 633 AD. These Ridda wars or apostasy wars ended successfully and all the rebel Arab tribes were subdued and integrated in Islamic state of Medina. Had the instability due to apostasy not been controlled, internal security threat would have proved fatal to the newly established and fragile Islamic state. Successful military campaign of Ridda wars restored political stability in Arabia under central authority of Medina which was very crucial at that stage. This campaign gave a new social and political system to Arabia.
After dealing with internal security threats, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was tasked to lead Military expedition against Persian Empire in the North East. He led an army of 18,000 troops and invaded Persian Empire in April 633 AD starting from North Eastern border of Arabia. Till December 633 AD, he had defeated Persian Army in many battles namely Battle of Chains, Battle of River, Battle of Walaja, Battle of Ullais, Battle of Ain-al Timar and finally ended his campaign at Firaz. He had conquered whole Euphrates region of lower Mesopotamia within eight months after intense battle with numerically superior army. Worth mentioning here is his pincer attack or double envelope movement in battle of Walajah where he lured the enemy inside his formation during feigned retreat of his center which shows great discipline in his troops for the tact. When Sassanid army had pushed itself forward and felt the victory, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) surprised them with his pincer movement and attacked by maneuvering his light cavalry and encircled them from rear. Sassanid army could not resist this havoc and was literally annihilated at Walajah. Before Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA), double envelop maneuver of pincer attack was used by Carthaginian military general Hannibal Barca at battle of Canae against Romans in 218 BC. Surely, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed had no knowledge of Hannibal and used this tactic independently.
After the conquest in lower Mesopotamia, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was tasked to move North West to Syria for colliding with Byzantine Empire. His invasion of Byzantine Empire started in 634 AD and he remained thundering the Byzantine Empire with the hooves of his horses and troops from city to city and from battle to battle defeating everyone including many well known Military Commanders of Byzantine army by using his military genius and maneuvering tactics in wars. He conquered Syria and was knocking at the doors of Armenia and Anatolia at the end of his career in 638 AD. His finest battle with Romans was the battle of Yarmouk in 636 AD where Hercules gathered an army of 150,000 against 40,000 Muslim soldiers. Romans had best military generals in this battle and intense battle continued for six days. Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) again did the marvel and knocked out his enemy by his quick and robust maneuver of light cavalry to rout them. He had already placed a team of 500 men under a brave commander in the possible escape route of Roman army. When Romans attempted to flee, they were under attack of this team and when they retreated back to battlefield, Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was there with his army. He annihilated them at Yarmouk. This was his finest victory ever.
Not only Hannibal Barca was a great military mind, he also had a well equipped and trained army of Carthage. Also, he was defeated by Romans many times. Similarly, Alexander the Great, won many battles and he was one of the world’s finest military general. He was son of King Philip of Macedonia and he had proper and well trained Macedonian army to start with. Alexander also met defeat many times. Also, Julius Caesar, another military general had more resources and well trained army of the time. Genghiz Khan made the world’s largest contiguous empire stretching almost 10 million miles using his light cavalry and swift army but he was merciless and killed some 40 million people which make him a genocidal ruler and savage killer of human beings rather than a military genius. During his reign, whole population was wiped out from many cities.
Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) did nothing like this. He commanded Muslim army, most of who were tribal people, and with very scarce resources. However, they were true believers and did not fear death. He never feared the death and fought ahead with his infantry like a common soldier. Had he served for more in Rashidun army, he would have abolished Romans completely. None of his contemporaries had any answer to his war tactics. Even joint coalition armies of great Persian & Roman empires could not overcome his genius at battle of Firaz.
Without religious bias, it may be conferred that Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was a better military general than Alexander, Hannibal, Julius Caesars etc because he defeated two enemy empires of his time i.e. Persian & Byzantine empires and consolidated the rule of the Caliphate inside Arabia despite being outnumbered with scarce resources within 9 years of his service in Muslim army whereas all others in the list (except Genghiz Khan) had well established trained armies. He spent five years in enemy territory out of his total nine years tenure in Rashidun army whereas Genghiz Khan remained active for more than 25 years and all others named above remained active for larger periods of time than Khalid Bin Waleed (RA).
However, comparing these great men is not appropriate as they lived in different ages and faced different circumstances and came from different backgrounds. However, each of them was a man of courage and history should give due space to them as per level of their displayed valour, courage and military skills and role in history. Khalid Bin Waleed (RA) was one of the finest military generals born ever without any doubt and rightly so he was titled Sword of Allah.