Untold Stories: Khawlah bint al-Azwar

Not much is known about this total badass warrior’s early life. She grew up in a family that was one of the first to adopt Islam. She probably learned about swordsmanship from her brother Derar, who was a warrior poet and well versed in the art.

In the 7th century, when the Rashidun army was conquering much of the Middle East, Derar joined the army and Khawlah did too, as a nurse.

During a battle against the Byzantine empire, Khawlah was horrified to see her beloved brother captured by the enemy and dragged off as a prisoner.

What happened next is the stuff of legends.

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She immediately put on a suit of armour, wrapping herself in a loose black robe and green shawl to disguise herself. She rode straight into battle, armed with a spear and scimitar.

Soldiers report seeing a mysterious knight come out of nowhere, charging headlong into the Byzantine rearguard. The knight is swinging like a madman, and starts to lay waste to the entire battalion alone.

Many thought the knight was Khalid ibn Walid himself, until they saw their leader also staring at the furious knight in disbelief.

Khawlah fought her way through the army until she found her brother, rescued him and several other prisoners and brought them back to safety.

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After they won the battle, Khalid commanded Khawlah to reveal her identity. Reluctant, she removed her veil. Shocked to see her but impressed nonetheless, Khalid told her that she would now fight as a regular soldier in his army.

He was no fool because Khawlah was a kick ass warrior and skilled commander — and she never went down without a fight.

During the Battle of Ajnadin, her horse was cut from under her. It threw her to the ground, leaving her to be captured by the enemy. She was bound in a tent with a number of other Arab women who had been also taken prisoner.

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No way this was going to stop a woman like Khawlah.

She quickly organized the other woman and they devised a plan to escape.

At nightfall, the women broke free of their bonds. They grabbed the tent poles, pulled them out, and brought the whole tent down, the fabric collapsing right on top of them.

The guards ran over to see what was going on, but were taken by surprise when Khawlah and the women leapt out at them, wielding the sharpened tent poles as weapons.

The women fought and speared their way across the battlefield, finally making it to allied lines.

After this daring escape, Khawlah served for the rest of the war and won many more battles. She is now remembered as one of the greatest female Muslim warriors that ever lived.

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