Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 14, 2022

Spiritual Tarbiya Lessons from Khalid ibn al-Waleed (ra)

Spiritual Tarbiya Lessons from Khalid ibn al-Waleed (ra)

There are few individuals in history whose mark and record put them in a category of their own. Khalid ibn al-Waleed (radiallahu anhu) is one of those individuals. It is one of the miracles of Islam that we had our own Alexander the Great. In his military career, he was undefeated, and there are almost no other military leaders in all of history with such a record. I found two lectures on Khalid ibn al-Waleed (radiallahu anhu) and I uploaded their highlights to my youtube channel.
In awe, I could barely wrap my head around his achievements. Now, I started to glean and reflect on Khalid ibn al-Waleed (radiallahu anhu)’s successes. Surely, I could never be at that level, but maybe I can learn from his success. How did he overcome such great odds?

Khalid (radiallahu anhu) fought the Sasannian Persians and there was a point where he was told to come back, but he decided to keep going. What was a short period turned into years and numerous battles. Whatever forces he had he just kept going defeating the Persians over and over again. With the help of Allah, you can keep going, because there is no limit to divine assistance. 12 days now after Ramadhan and I thought, what if like Khalid (radiallahu anhu) I keep going with the fasting, Qur’an and late night prayers? What was it that said to him, keep going?

Picking the Best Steed
Why did Allah give the Arabs the fastest and toughest horses in the world? That should give us pause. Divine assistance surrounds the Muslims, even after the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam). I mean, Muslims discover coffee which fuels their intellectual progress and they create Damascus steel and Greek fire with Arabian horses which makes them unstoppable. Khalid (radiallahu anhu) used the fastest and most durable steed for his battles. His tribe of Makhzum were trained to be the best horsemen. Likewise In our ibada, we should pick the furthest reaching good deeds that will survive the arduous journey to Jannah, and train to perfect those forms of ibada. Khalid (radiallahu anhu) was also a blacksmith so he knew what sword to use and knew how to stay sharp in battle and know how to best maximize use of his tools.

Surrounding the Enemy
Repeatedly, in the battles of Khalid (radiallahu anhu) we see the unorthodox military tactic of approaching the enemy from different sides. He overcame the Muslims in Uhud by flanking them and surprising them from going around the mountain. Like Iblis, who swears in the Qur’an, he will attack the believers from front and behind to overwhelm them, Khalid (radiallahu anhu) overcame the combined forces of Sasannian Persians and Byzantine Romans in the Battle of Firaz by breaking his soldiers into three groups and attacking them from multiple sides at once. We too cannot easily overcome a foe such as our nafs and shaytan by attacking from one place. We need to make sure we can be righteous in different settings from different angles. If we come at it in a predictable way, then the nafs will counter it easily, but if we approach it with surprise tactics then it is not a matter of force but direction. If we have multiple good acts running at the same time, they will eventually combine in a way that will make us victorious.

Piecemeal Warfare
In three of the battles Khalid (radiallahu anhu) faced against the Persians he decided to break his army into 3 groups to travel separately and arrive at the same time against the smaller groups of Sasannian Persians who were yet to meet with the rest of their soldiers to combine their forces to attack Khalid. He acted fast before they could combine. In this way, his group of 15,000 would break into 5,000 and then meet where they would surprise 20,000 Persian soldiers and catch them off guard and take them out with no loss to the Muslim forces. Like the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) hiding and changing his destination in battle from the hypocrites, Khalid (radiallahu anhu) and the Muslims were undetectable as smaller groups, traveling as fast as they could in coolness of night, to arrive at a meeting point of success. Today, we would call this something like covert operations, but even those don’t involve huge armies which is what Khalid (radiallahu anhu) did something impossible to replicate today. As Muslims, we cannot approach our obstacles all at once or we risk burning out, but we have to break it up into smaller battles we can overcome. We don’t need to pray all of tahajjud at once, we can take breaks and do it slowly. We don’t need to recite Qur’an all at once, but can break it up here and there.

Blocking the Enemy
Similar to the piecemeal approach of battle, Khalid (radiallahu anhu) would block his enemies escape using the environment. In the Battle of Yarmouk, he used the ravines and rivers to block the Byzantine Roman’s escape. By blocking the enemy and their escape, he maximizes his advantage and limits the damage the enemy can cause by bringing reinforcements or escaping. We don’t need to win on the terms of our enemy, we need to realizing winning in the face of difficult odds can only happen on our own terms. Khalid (radiallahu anhu) pulled his army away from all the different places it was defending to combine at Yarmouk for larger numbers. This was the final push on driving Byzantine Romans out of Arabia. Over the course of the battles, he detected his army was afraid and weakening in parts and he strengthened his flanks to withstand the repeated push of the Byzantine Romans. When the Byzantine Romans realized they won’t overcome the Muslims that easily and wanted to negotiate, Khalid (radiallahu anhu) refused and used a surprise attack to take them out. When your nafs wants to bargain it is because it is losing. By shifting the field, our surroundings to limit the sinning, to limit the escape routes of our nafs, we can corner our bad habits and sinful conduct. If we then withstandd the blows on our iman with resolve, we can surprise it. If we let our nafs have an escape route, it will surely take it. But if we give it an impasse, and immobilize it, we are in control and it is just a matter of using another tactic to overcome it.

There is surely more to reflect on Khalid (radiallahu anhu)’s military career…maybe there is a spiritual meaning to Khalid (radiallahu anhu)’s knowledge of terrain, when Khalid (radiallahu anhu) tried to impersonate Umar (radiallahu anhu) only to be discovered by the Christians, or when he made an oath to Allah to do Hajj if he wins, or the fact he thought he would die a martyr but he did not, that even the Sword of God, cannot be killed but must submit to the decree of God. The lessons are plentiful, even in secular worldly pursuits, the stamina and genius of Khalid (radiallahu anhu) is something we Muslims take for granted and don’t appreciate as much as we should. We cannot have another Khalid ibn al-Waleed (radiallahu anhu), but we can surely learn from his genius and apply it in our own endeavors and the endeavors of the Muslim community.


  1. Great article

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