بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
“Khawla, come quickly, they’re bringing your sheep,” my mother called. I began rushing outside pondering over my namesakes. I know my name isn’t a very common name but did you know that there were atleast 2 Sahaabiyaat named Khawla who were both very strong women. My parents chose this name for me hoping that I too will be a strong person not phased and overshadowed by obstacles in life.
Khawla bint Al Azwar (radhiyallahu anha) was a courageous leader, and set an example to men and women alike that one should fight for what they believe in, and never accept defeat. She stayed true to her principles and feared nothing but Allah. Her brother, Diraar (radhiyallahu anhu), was the knight and poet of his tribe, and was well-known as well for his wisdom. His love for his sister and confidence in her capabilities were legendary. In fact, the brother and sister were so attached to each other that she was his companion wherever he went. He trained her in all arts of swordsmanship.
Her name remained greatly unknown, until the battle of Ajnadin. This is a battle where even Khaalid bin Waleed (radhiyallu anhu) the sword of Allah was outshone. The Muslim soldiers, and their leader Khalid, watched this man with great admiration. This knight scattered the enemy ranks, disappeared in their midst, reappeared after a while with blood dripping from his spear. He swerved again and repeated the deed fearlessly, several times. All the Muslim army was worried about him and prayed for his safety. Rafi’ (radhiyallahu anhu) and others thought that he was Khalid (radhiyallahu anhu), who had won great fame for his bravery and genius military plans. But suddenly Khalid appeared with a number of knights. Rafi’ (radhiyallahu anhu) asked the leader: “Who is that knight? By Allah, he has no regard for his safety!”
Khalid answered that he didn’t know the man, though he greatly admired his courage. He called on the army to attack as one man and to make sure that they protect their hero. They were fascinated as they watched the knight appear with a number of Roman knights chasing him. Then he would turn around and kill the nearest before resuming his attacks.
The Romans eventually lost the battle and fled, leaving many dead and wounded in the battlefield. Khalid looked for the knight until he found him. By then he was covered in blood. He praised his bravery and asked him to remove his veil. But the knight did not answer, and tried to break away. The soldiers wouldn’t let him do that. And everyone asked him to reveal his identity.
When the knight found that there was no way to avoid that, he 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. she replied, “I am Khawla Bint Al Azwar. I was with the women accompanying the army, and when I learnt that the enemy captured my brother, I did what I did.”
Whoever said, ‘Women are weak and cannot fight,’ has certainly not heard of Khawla bint Al Azwar (radhiyallahu anha) and whoever said that only men can cut sheep has certainly not heard of me. If my brother could do it then so can I! Yeah I’m a typical tomboy who believes any thing my brother can do so can I. I guess this has to do with the fact that we’re only 2 siblings. I am determined to cut my own sheep myself this year.
I saw them waiting for me holding down the sheep and waiting for me to come and slaughter it. The poor sheep looked very restless and kept trying to get up. I recalled my cousin telling me that last week their father recited the Takbeer into the ears of the sheep and the sheep ran to the place where they usually slaughter and laid down ready to be slaughtered. The sheep remained there like that until their father went and picked him up. ‘Subhanallah’
I stroked my sheep and began reading the Takbeer in its ear while giving it water to drink and was and was amazed at how quickly this same sheep just a few seconds ago was restless and struggling to escape was now so calm and still as if waiting and wanting to be slaughtered.
I recited ‘Bismillahi Allahu Akbar’ and slaughtered my sheep. I returned the knife back to my father and only then did the reality set in ‘I had actually taken the life of an animal! I was the one who had put the knife to its throat and slaughtered it! ‘No Khawla,’ I told myself, ‘this is not you, you are not a girly girl who gets hysterical over little things. You have a namesake to live up to, a woman who actually fought in Jihaad and you fretting over cutting a sheep! You forgetting its the command of Allah, you forgetting that it could have been your brother or your son, you forgetting that you did it as humanely as possible, you forgetting that you eat mutton not knowing who slaughtered it and how they slaughtered it!’ Refusing to dwell on it any longer I called out to my brother “Come we have a mountain of platters filled with chows to go through. Race you to the Burfee!”