Khalid ibn al-Walid was, like Omar, a companion of the Prophet who had fought against Muhammad’s followers in the early days of the revelations—notably, at the Battle of Badr. Ibn al-Walid was destined to convert and become one of Islam’s greatest generals. The broad-shouldered soldier’s soldier and genius battlefield tactician whose nickname was the “Drawn Sword of Allah,” ibn al-Walid did not exactly inspire humility in his men. He was confident in his abilities and reassured as his armies won victory after victory on the battlefield.
Despite his cousin’s extraordinary success, Omar recalled him, worried that Muslims would begin to romanticize the general or worse, view him as infallible. To Omar’s mind, Islam’s extraordinary successes on the battlefield were because Allah looked favorably upon the Muslims. This in mind, Omar wanted to make sure the young ummah (Islamic community) stayed humble. In other words, Omar attributed the Islamic state’s rapidly expanding borders to “thoughts and prayers” while discounting the efforts of battle-hardened soldiers led by a military genius and motivated by a potent mix of lust for gold and religious fervor. It would be irresponsible to omit the fact that in its early days, the Islamic army offered a generous profit-sharing plan when it came to splitting the plunder!
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Special thanks to Andrew Hall who runs the Patheos blog Laughing in Disbelief!