Khawlah bint al-azwar
Warrior poet of early Islam 7th century
The rider in black had surprised everyone. The forces of early Islam were on a mission to rescue their comrade Dirar from the Christian Byzantines, when a mysterious soldier clad in black and green rushed forth, mowing down Romans like grass. When the commander finally tracked down the soldier, drenched in blood like “a crimson rose petal”, their identity was uncovered: Khawlah bint al-azwar, sister of the captured Dirar. She went on to help free her brother and then settled back down a bit, helping out as a nurse. That is until she, too, was captured by the Byzantines, along with a group of middle-aged women. While her fellow captives were resigned to their fate, she rallied them, suggesting they uproot the poles holding up their tent and fight their way out. As they did so, they let loose with diss poems such as “We have decided that today we will rectify your brains with these tent-pegs and shorten your life-spans, thus removing a spot of disgrace from your ancestors’ faces”. Her escape so impressed the Byzantine commander that he offered to marry her on the spot and be her master. Her verbatim reply: “You wretched unbelieving son of an unchaste adulterer! By Allah! I will take this peg and gouge your eyes out. You are not even worthy of herding my camels and sheep, let alone claim to be my equal!” If you’re thinking at this point that you want to be best friends with her, well, get in line.
Many streets, schools, and even military units across the Middle East bear her name