What is the real story behind the incident between Khalid b. Walid and Malik b. Nuwayra?

The Details of the Question
One of the issues that are discussed about Khalid bin Walid is the incident between him and Malik bin Nuwayra. Those who mention this incident accuse Khalid bin Walid. What is the real story behind this incident?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

One of the people who claimed to be prophets after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) during the caliphate of Hz. Ebu Bakr was a woman called Sajah, who belonged to the tribe of Sons of Tamim. When this woman claimed to be a prophet, her tribe, Sons of Talib and many Bedouins believed in her and followed her. After a while, Sajah marched toward Yamama with her army. She married Musaylima al-Kadhdhab, another fake prophet, and approved his prophethood.

Malik b. Nuwayra, the leader of Butah, believed in Sajah, exited the religion of Islam and became an apostate. When he believed in Sajah, his tribe followed him. When Sajah went to al-Jazirah, the north of Arabia, the tribe of Sons of Tamim returned to Islam and Malik hesitated. Meanwhile, a group of soldiers fighting under the command of Khalid b. Walid, who was a commander fighting against the apostates at that time, caught Malik b. Nuwayra and some of his important men, and took them to the presence of Khalid. Abu Qatada, who was near Khalid b. Walid and who was one of his soldiers said that Malik and his men called adhan and performed prayers hence they should not be harmed. Another soldier in the army of Khalid said that they did not call adhan and that they did not perform prayers. Hz. Abu Bakr, the Caliph, accepted calling adhan and performing prayers as a sign of Islam in the war against the apostates and ordered that such tribes should not be harmed.

It was a cold night. Khalid b. Walid probably hesitated about Malik b. Nuwayra and his men and wanted them to be imprisoned by acting cautiously. He called his officer and told him “to mudafaa” the prisoners. In Arabic, the word mudafaa is derived from the word dafaat, which means to heat, to warm. It also means to protect. Therefore, Khalid b. Walid’s order meant to imprison the men and to protect them from cold. However, the same word meant to kill in the language of the tribe of Kinana. Upon the order of Khalid b. Walid, Malik and his men were killed at night. When Khalid heard the screams, he came out but it was too late. Meanwhile, Khalid said, “When Allah wishes something, it happens.”

After this incident, Abu Qatada, one of the Companions, went to Madinah and told Hz. Abu Bakr about the incident. Hz Umar wanted Hz. Khalid to be removed of the duty of commander-in-chief. However, Hz. Abu Bakr summoned Khalid to Madinah and listened to him. He accepted Khalid’s excuse but he did not like it when he heard that he married Malik’s wife. Hz. Abu Bakr paid diyah from the Treasury for Malik b. Nuwayra and the other people who returned to Islam (the witnessing of Abu Qatada is accepted here) but who were killed by mistake. However, Hz. Umar wanted retaliation. Hz. Abu Bakr said, “Retaliation is not in question for killing a person by mistake.” Hz. Umar made the following offer: "At least, he should be removed of his duty." Hz. Abu Bakr opposed this offer by saying, “I will not sheathe a sword that Allah sent against the polytheists."

During his caliphate, Hz. Umar followed his governors and commanders closely and applied a very strict policy. However, Hz. Abu Bakr did not want to put much pressure on the administrators. He did not agree to unseat a commander due to a mistake made during a war.

When Hz. Umar became the caliph, he unseated Khalid b. Walid from the post of commander-in-chief during the Battle of Yarmuk and appointed Abu Ubayda b. Jarrah instead of him. Some people thought the reason for this was Malik b. Nuwayra but Hz. Umar wrote to his governors/administrators that it was not the reason for it as follows: “I did not unseat Khalid due to being angry with him or due to his treason. However, I feared that people would fall into mischief because of him and that they would rely on him (not Allah) due to achievements; therefore, I wanted people to know that the one that really does things is Allah.” (1)

1- Ibnl-Athir Ali b. Abdul-Karim, al-Kamil fit-Tarikh, I-VXII, Beirut nd. II, 353- 357; Abu Zayd Shibli, Khalid Ibnul-Walid, Maktabatul- Khanji, Egypt, 1952, p. 102- 105, 189- 193; Mustafa Fayda, “Halid b. Velid”.

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