Monday, July 30, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 11 - The legendary knightsperson, Khawla bint al-Azwar


One of my favorite stories of all time - Khawla bint Al-Azwar is someone whom I only recently learnt about and totally inspired me. Her story is about faith in Allah, sibling love, and courage. As a sister to three brothres, I like to imagine her relationship with her brother and how he taught her to be one of the best knightsperson of her time (might I add, whether male or female)! 

Khawla and her brother:
Khawlah was the daughter of one of the chiefs of Bani Asad tribe. Her brother, Dirar, was the knight and poet of his tribe, and was well known for his wisdom. He had great faith in his sister's capabilities and their fondness for each other was exemplary. Khawla would accompany her brother wherever he went and he taught her his skills of swordsmanship and poetry.

The famous story from the battle of Ajnadin: 
In the battle of Ajnadin, near Jerusalem, against the Romans, Dirar fell from his horse and was taken prisoner. Moved by the need to save her brother, and wearing male knight's attire, Khawla bint Al-Azwar took her arms and rode her horse shshe donned a male knight's attire, took her arms and rode her mare through the Roman ranks bringing down any one who came her way with her skillfull swordsmanship. The Muslim soldiers, along with their leader Khalid, were in awe of her skills and bravery, thinking she was a man. They had no idea who this brave knight was but prayed for safety.

The Romans were eventually defeated suffering great loss of lives. Khawla had been amazing on the field but by now covered in blood. According to an Arab Historian, Al Waqidi, narrates in his book "The conquering of Al Sham (Greater Syria)," when Khalid asked her to unveil herself, she tried not to respond and escape. But the soldiers did not allow her to escape and finding herself stuck, she replied in a feminine voice:

"My prince, I did not answer because I am shy. You are a great leader, and I am only a woman whose heart is burning."

"Who are you?" Khalid insisted.

"I am Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar. I was with the women accompanying the army, and when I learnt that the enemy captured my brother, which lead me to do what I had to do."

Although Khalid ordered the army to chase the Romans under Khawla's leadership so that they could retrieve her brother Dirar, they were unsuccessful in finding her brother. Khawla, after a heated chase, was able to catch up with the Roman guards, defeat them and save all the prisoners!!

The women revolt:
In another battle in Ajnadin, this time Khawla was taken prisoner by the Romans. The Romans had also attacked the women camp and captured many of them. Khawla, altough captured from the battle field was also placed in the same camp. Furious at the disgrace of the women, she called on all the other women, inspiring them to fight for their freedom. Under her instructions, the women took the tents' poles and pegs and attacked the Roman guards, while maintaining a tight circle.

According to Al Waqidi, they managed to kill 30 Roman knights, while Khawlah used her poetic verses to encourage the women and infuriate the enemies. The Roman Leader infuriated tried to tempt the women with promises, as well as eventually to attack them. He told Khawlah that he planned to marry her and make her the first lady of Damascus. But she answered him calmly and with great contempt:

"I wouldn't even accept you to be the 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."
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