5. This Woman Truly Was Her Brother’s Keeper
Khawla bint al Azwar’s brother kept getting into trouble that required his sister to take up arms and rescue him. A few months after saving him at the Siege of Damascus, Khawla’s brother was once again captured at the Battle of Ajnadayn. Once again, Khawla rushed to his aid, covering her face and charging in alone until reinforcements arrived. By the time the Byzantines were beaten, Khawla was drenched in blood. The army’s commander, Khalid ibn al Walid, unaware of her identity or gender, ordered her to remove the shawl from her face. When she finally relented, he ordered her to the rear. He soon changed his mind, however, and placed her in command of a mobile column to pursue the fleeing Byzantines.
On another occasion, Khawla was herself captured during a raid on the Muslim camp, and taken prisoner along with other women. They were taken to an enemy general’s tent, who divided the captive women among his officers as slaves and concubines. Khawla, determined to free herself or at least die exacting vengeance instead of accept dishonor, roused the captives. Seizing tent poles, they fell upon their captors, and during the confusion, she made her escape. To this day, she is remembered as one of the greatest female warriors in the history of Islam, with hardly any sizeable city in the Muslim world that does not have at least one school or other public building after her.