• Khālid b. al-Walīd (d. 642CE/21AH) is among the most distinguished Arab commanders from the period of the early Islamic conquests, and features prominently in the conquests of Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Syria. Among the most famous tales surrounding Khālid is the story of his desert march from Mesopotamia to Syria intending to relieve the Muslim armies there, during which he is said to have led an army on a dangerous five-day march across an extremely inhospitable desert.

    This paper considers the Arabic tradition regarding Khālid’s desert march. It suggests that it was likely a literary ploy by some – but not all – of the ‘Abbasid-era historians working to make sense of the great many local traditions that remembered Khālid as their conqueror. In so doing, these historians attempted to synthesize the many accounts of the conquests of these regions into one cohesive narrative with Khālid at its center. They present the early Islamic conquests as an extremely organized, singular affair with deep caliphal oversite, while also promoting the image of Khālid as the ideal Muslim warrior.