Heroines of islam


Khawla Bint Al Azwar
Khawla Bint Al Azwar was an
extraordinary woman from the early
years of Islam. Most of what history
tells us about her childhood and
environment is quite vague, but
provides rich information about her
courage that had most likely played a
role in strengthening the new religion.
Khawla became a legend during her
life and remains a legend to this day.
She 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.
The recorded history of that era
mentions repeatedly the feats of
Khawla in battles that took place in
Syria, Jordan and Palestine. In one
instance, she fought in disguise to
rescue her brother Derar after the
Romans captured him. Witnesses say
that she was in fact much braver than
many men. In addition to that, and
whenever she did not carry her sword,
she took the responsibility of
organizing medical care to treat the
wounded during the battles. This is 13
centuries before Florence Nightingale
did the same in Europe.
Khawla was the daughter of one of the
chiefs of Bani Assad tribe, and her
family embraced Islam in its first
days. Her father’s name is either
Malik or Tareq Bin Awse. Al Azwar
was his nickname. Her brother, Derar,
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 and she also became a
knight. Besides that, Khawla was a
poet who mastered that noble art. She
was a brunette, tall, slim and of great
Her name remained greatly unknown,
until the battle of Ajnadin, not far
from Jerusalem, where Derar lost his
spear, fell from his horse, and was
taken prisoner. She donned a male
knight’s attire, took her arms and rode
her mare through the Roman ranks,
using her sword skillfully against
whoever tried to stop her. The Muslim
soldiers, and their leader Khalid,
watched her with great admiration,
presuming that she was a man.
The Arab Historian, Al Waqidi, tells us
in his book “The conquering of Al
Sham (greater Syria)” that: “In a battle
that took place in Beit Lahia near
Ajnadin, Khalid watched a knight, in
black attire, with a big green shawl
wrapped around his waist and
covering his bust. That knight broke
through the Roman ranks as an arrow.
Khalid and the others followed him
and joined battle, while the leader was
wondering about the identity of the
unknown knight.”
Rafe’ Bin Omeirah Al Taei was one of
the fighters. He described how that
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. Rafe’ and others thought
that he was Khalid, who had won great
fame for his bravery and genius
military plans. But suddenly Khalid
appeared with a number of knights.
Rafe’ asked the leader: “Who is that
knight? By God, 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 arm to
attack as one man and to make sure
that they protect their hero(ine). 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
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.
“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.”
Khalid ordered his army to chase the
fleeing Roman army, with Khawla
leading the attack, looking in all
directions for her brother, but in vain.
By noontime, the victory was decisive.
Most of the Roman soldiers were
Knowing that the prisoners had to be
somewhere, Khalid sent Khawla with a
number of knights to find them. After
a hot chase, they managed to catch up
with a Roman detachment that was
taking the prisoners to their
headquarters. Another fight took
place, the Roman guards were all
killed and the prisoners saved.
In another battle in Ajnadin, Khawla’s
spear broke, and her mare was killed,
and she found herself a prisoner. But
she was astonished to find that the
Romans attacked the women camp and
captured several of them. Their leader
gave the prisoners to his commanders,
and order Khawla to be moved into
his tent. She was furious, and decided
that to die is more honorable than
living in disgrace. She stood among
the other women, and called them to
fight for their freedom and honor or
die. The others were enthusiastic to
her plan. They took the tents’ poles
and pegs and attacked the Roman
guards, keeping a formation of a tight
circle, as she told them.
Khawla led the attack, killed the first
guard with her pole, with the other
women following her. According to Al
Waqidi, they managed to kill 30
Roman knights, while Khawla was
encouraging them with her verses,
which in fact caused their blood to
The Roman leader was infuriated by
what happened, and led a detachment
of his knights against the women,
though he tried first to tempt them
with many promises. He told Khawla
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 a 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.”
In the ensuing battle, the ladies
proved their mettle, kept their
grounds for some time, encouraging
each other and driving off the
attackers with their long poles.
Suddenly, Khalid and the army
reached the battlefield. In the ensuing
fight, over 3.000 Romans were killed.
The women who took part in the
fighting were proud to say that
Khawla killed five knights, including
the leader that insulted her.
In another battle, the Muslims were
overwhelmed by a much bigger Roman
army. Many soldiers fled away, but
not for long. Khawla and the other
women met the fleeing soldiers,
questioning their claims of bravery
and forced them to return to the
battle. The men were stunned when
they saw Khawla drawing her sword
and leading a counter-attack. They
turned their horses and joined the
battle, which was eventually won.
One of the knights present that day
said: “Our women were much harsher
with us than the Romans. We felt that
going back to fight and die was much
easier than facing the fury of our
women later on”.
Following his succession as the fourth
caliph, Ali (may Allah be pleased with
him) married Khawla. She became a
legend during her life and remains a
legend to this day. Khawla set an
example to men and women alike that
one should fight for wh
at he or she
believes in, and never accept defeat.

Abu Juwairiya

Junior Member
Ma'shallah. This was a wonderful post. Jazakallah Khayrun for starting this thread and I look forward to other contributions of other inspiring Muslimahs in Islam from yourself in future posts. This should serve as a reminder to both brothers and sisters about the power of Imaan and trust in Allah.