Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 17: Learned Defeat

Shawwal 2nd, 1663

"And what is the meaning of 'Qul huwa Allahu ahad?'" the old man asked. He leaned against the dusty wall, tugging at his orange, henna-dyed beard. An eager grin spread across his olive brown face as he watched his two young pupils. With the sun beaming down on his bald head, he sat cross legged in the tiny, roofless Masjid.

"Say He is Allah, One," a young adolescent boy spoke up. As his proud teacher nodded in approval, Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim flashed a happy smile. He pulled at the spare strands of light brown hair on his cream-brown face, mimicking his teacher and feeling wise. Beside him sat the younger, quieter Zayd ibn Abdullah. He fiddled with his fingers shyly, deep in his own thoughts.

"Very good, Ma Shaa Allah," his teacher beamed. "You are learning very fast now. In Shaa Allah one day you will be a brave warrior and a learned scholar of Islam."

"In Shaa Allah," Zubayr replied.

"Alhamdulillah, that is it for today's lesson. We will continue tomorrow. After we complete these last surahs of this Juz*, we will begin working backwards from Juz 29."

"I can't wait to learn it all."

"The whole thing?! Ma Shaa Allah, may Allah provide the means. Not many men can learn it these days. In the past, there used to be schools where the children could learn it all from a young age, but things are different now."

"When I grow up," Zayd peeped up in a shy voice, timid yet a determined look on his pale face. "I-I will teach my kids and open a school for all the other kids to learn too."

"Hayakallah*," the teacher replied with a warm smile. "And who will be the teacher?"

"You, Sheikh Sa'ad."

"And I can help too," Zubayr eagerly suggested. "I'm learning fast, right?"

"Yes, the both of you are excellent pupils. So long as you keep coming back, In Shaa Allah you will both learn so much someday."

"Zubayr, Zayd, Ummi* needs you back home," a young woman spoke from behind a curtained door.

"That's our sister," Zubayr said, rising to his feet along with his brother. "We have to go now."

"Yes, yes, go In Shaa Allah, I will see you tomorrow."

"Okay. As-Salaamu Alaikum."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh." Zubayr and Zayd headed towards the door to their waiting sister. Just then, Sheikh Sa'ad called Zayd back. "Actually Zayd, if I could have a quick word with you?"

"Yes, Sheikh?" Zayd said, slowly walking back over as Zubayr left.

"Tell me," Sheikh Sa'ad said, while he motioned for Zayd to sit beside him. "You knew the answer to that question, didn't you?" Zayd's eyes nervously shifted from side to side, before he finally looked to the ground and sighed. He nodded in the affirmative. "And what does it mean?"

"'Say He is Allah, One.'"

"No, no, no, what does it really mean?"

"Huh? But Zubayr said-"

"I'm not asking what Zubayr said. I'm asking what you know. You know more than that. Yes, it is 'Say He is Allah, One.' But what does that mean?" Zayd sighed. He looked up at his teacher and timidly looked back at the door, seeing that Zubayr and his sister had already begun wandering off towards their home. "Well?"

"It-it means He is the Only One. There are no gods or deities worthy of worship but Him Alone."

"Yes, excellent. And why did Allah tell us this? What is the purpose of this surah?"

"As the surah says in the last ayah, 'And there is none comparable to Him.' It's because some people worship others beside Him and say they're gods like Him. They say He had a family or sons and daughters, which is why Allah said 'Lam yalid wa lam yoolad; He begets not, nor was He begotten.' So this surah is teaching us about Tawheed*, the Oneness of Allah, which is why it's equivalent to one-third of the entire Quran, even though it's just four ayat."

"Ma Shaa Allah! You knew all this?! And you didn't say anything? Ya Zayd, why did you not speak this before when I asked?"

"I-I was... I was shy to."

"Zayd, you are my student; you are like a son to me. You do not need to be shy before me. Okay?"

"Okay," Zayd said in a low voice. Sa'ad ruffled his curly, brown hair playfully and smiled.

"Now, go on home before your mother sends for you again."

"Yes. As-Salaamu Alaikum."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam." Zayd got up quickly, running to the door as he fixed the small white kufi on his head. The sun shone brightly in his round, green eyes as he exited the Masjid, running after his adoptive brother and sister...

"Commander Zayd," a woman spoke, tearing Zayd from his daydream.

"Yes?" he asked, turning slightly to show his acknowledgment of her presence. His hands were dirtied with mud and clay, his arms outstretched as he smoothed another layer of mud onto a brick wall he was building up.

"I think you should have a rest; you've been out here all day."

"If I were to keep resting, this Masjid will never be completed."

"Let the workers complete their job. You are our governor; you do not need to reduce yourself to working in these menial tasks, getting dirty while there are men hired to do this."

"If this work was not beneath the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then why should I think I am any better? He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) worked beside the sahabah* to build his Masjid in Medina, why then should I think it is below me to help in building the community Masjid?"

"I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that."

"It's fine. However, I think that there is some purpose to your visit?"

"Yes, only, I have now forgotten it."

"Well, should you remember it; I will be here until Maghrib time."

"Thank you. As-Salaamu Alaikum."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh." The woman quickly walked away while Zayd reached for another of the dusty, brown bricks of mud. He wiped the running sweat from his brow and continued working.


Raindrops pattered the rocky mountains, stirring up a light cloud of dust. Standing outside his tent, Zubayr made ready to march out to battle. His eyes full of determination, his heart swelling with a fiery spirit. As lightning flashed in the distance and the loud boom of thunder roared in the background, Zubayr looked out over the path stretched out before him.

"The troops are ready to move out," Abdur-Rashid spoke to him as he stood beside him. Looking over his shoulder, Zubayr turned to his troops all lined up in the three divided clusters. There were ten men in each row of every cluster, with twenty men standing behind them for a total of two hundred men in every cluster. At the front of each cluster there were two men, carrying a white flag and a black flag, each bearing the Islamic testimony of faith, 'There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.' The flags hung down, the winds barely moving. "However," Abdur-Rashid continued. "I do not think this is our wisest move."

"When you said you will grant me command over the troops for the next move, did you not mean I would determine our course of action?" Zubayr spoke in a solemn tone, his eyes still fixed on the groups of men behind him. "Or have you gone back on that?"

"No, not at all, akhi. The troops are yours to command. I meant only to advise you."

"Are you certain? You know if you were to request I turn the leadership over again I would readily do so. I am not attached to power and control."

"Alhamdulillah, I know you aren't. Had I known you to be so, I would never have given you command in the first place. It was because of your bravery and strategic mind that I asked you to take command before."

"And if you trusted my strategies then, why do you question me now?"

"You're right. Should we set out now?"

"Yes, call to troops and we will set out to meet the army of Kilseh in the valley where we will push them back into the sea. Come, let us set out."

"O MY BROTHERS, WE ARE SETTING OUT!" The troops at once began marching forward in a collective motion. Step by step, the small army set out, marching on to eradicate the Muslim lands of all Kwaadi existence once and for all. The Kwaadi commander, Jurlo Kilseh had narrowly escaped death at the last skirmish. This time, Zubayr was determined to end it all.

The thundering herd of troops made their way through the valley and up the mountain. With Zubayr at the forefront, they were cautiously led over the slippery slopes and rocky paths. They marched on with persistence, knowing that soon they would meet the enemy forces at an encampment down below. A bolt of lightning lit the sky and a crackling boom shook the mountainside. Abdur-Rashid planted his feet firmly against the ground, keeping himself from falling over a small drop to a boulderous pit just below. All of the troops marching behind him had similarly frozen in their tracks. When the shaking had ceased, Abdur-Rashid looked up, only to see Zubayr marching on, his fists balled tightly, gripping his steely blade in his right hand. Abdur-Rashid sighed and signaled for the troops to continue marching.

Soon enough the army was near the enemy camp. Pillars of smoke could be seen rising in the distance. Zubayr's glare hardened with conviction as he looked on over the hills; just a short climb up and a path downhill would lead him straight to the enemy. He looked to his troops, not far behind and beckoned for them to move faster. "Don't become heavy footed when we are so near," he spoke loudly. "Or do you slacken towards Jannah?"

There were grunts and heavy breathing as the men pressed on, ready to give their all. Zubayr smiled and turned back around, eager to face the challenge ahead. He climbed up in between two large boulders, staring down at the enemy camp. The path down was wet from the pouring rain and there were many rocks and pebbles down the way. The slanted slope would cause a little trouble for anyone trying to move at a slowed pace, but Zubayr knew he could navigate it with ease, and he had no intention of going slow.

His eyes examined the camp carefully, scanning for any unaccounted enemies before he began the final push. The campground was small. There were tents planted close by one another, with less than ten fire spots. The weapons supply was placed right behind the tents, with shields and swords, spears and javelins all piled together neatly. That, along with the sleeping horses and camels, told of an army at rest.

If we can sneak in and secure their weapons supply, we can force them to surrender, Zubayr cleverly thought to himself. We can successfully send them off from the land and attain total victory. A smirk appeared on his face as he plotted out his next steps. He looked back at his men who were now standing at his feet. Abdur-Rashid was already peeking through the gap of the rocks and knew exactly what Zubayr was planning. He gave a nod of approval to Zubayr and began to ascend the boulder beside him.

"Take four of the men and surround their weapons supply," Zubayr commanded Abdur-Rashid. Abdur-Rashid nodded his agreement and summoned four men from the frontlines. Zubayr placed a hand on his shoulder and spoke one last time. "Be careful, I see no guards and I think that perhaps there is a danger lurking for us somewhere."

"Understood," Abdur-Rashid replied. He gripped his sword tightly in his left hand and navigated down the rocky path. The four men followed close behind, while Zubayr watched over it all. Cautiously, Abdur-Rashid led the men down the way, stepping sideways to avoid slipping from the rain or giving way to the forces of gravity. They remained close by the mountainside, with a wall of rocks to their left and open space to their right, leading straight down onto a rocky fall.

As the small group reached the bottom, the mountain opened up and they at last reached the open valley. Zubayr's eyes narrowed as he watched them sneaking through the enemy camp. Just as the path to the weapons seemed clear cut, a silent arrow darted through the air. With a stifled whistle, the arrow pierced right through the neck of one of the soldiers. As the soldier's body hit the floor, Abdur-Rashid caught a glimpse of slight glimmer of light. He barely managed to move aside before an arrow skimmed right past him.

"Idaawk idaawk idaaaaaaawk" a shrill voice filled the air from behind the mountainside. Within a moment hundreds of men emerged from the tents and the hidden sides of the mountain, armed with swords and spears shouting in some foreign dialect of their own. The ground below shook as the swarms of Kwaadi warriors flooded the battlefield. Zubayr immediately mobilized his troops once more, calling for them to charge onward. He stood atop the boulder, commanding their assault. To his frustration, the troops were approaching the enemy in a slowed, cautious manner, passing through the way holding on to the walls and descending the mountain in slowed steps so as not to fall over.

Zubayr leapt off the boulder, sword and shield in hand, and rolled over before making his own descent down the mountain. “ALLAHU AKBAR,” he shouted as he raced down the mountain, hopping between the rocks and dashing down towards the enemy. His excellent footwork allowed him to move in speedy and yet meticulous and precise movements. He reached the enemy and began cutting away at their frontlines.

He rammed his shield right into the face of one man while slicing at the throat of another. As the first man fell, Zubayr turned and stabbed his sword through the second one. He brought his sword up backwards in a slanted angle, slashing at the midsection of a third man. Another Kwaadi soldier approached, Zubayr readied himself. The man swung down his sword, and Zubayr raised his shield to block him. Immediately after repelling the attack, Zubayr thrusted his boot into the man's stomach. With the man toppled over holding himself, Zubayr made his next move. He slammed down the pointed bottom of his shield, crushing the back of the man's neck and knocking him to the ground.

Zubayr turned his attention to another man, charging at him with a spear held out. Zubayr side stepped the stabbing spear and caught hold of the wooden shaft. He swung his sword down, cutting through it in one quick cut. He brought the sword back up and sliced the hands of the man still holding onto the now shortened staff. The man cried out in pain and defeat before Zubayr stepped in and jammed his sword through his heart from below. He withdrew his sword and the man fell over, blood spewing from his large wound.

Zubayr wiped a splat of blood from his face and continued his assault. He stepped over the man and cut down the legs of another man, knocking him onto his back where another Muslim soldier then stabbed him in the chest. He swung down and cut the neck of another man before spinning around and blocking an incoming attack with his powerful shield. He stepped back before springing forward to stab through the man with a forceful blow.

Before he could withdraw his own weapon, Zubayr felt the cold steel of another blade slicing down his flesh. An enemy soldier had managed to land a hit, even penetrating his armor and cutting his bare flesh. Ignoring the searing pain in his left shoulder, Zubayr yanked his sword from the lifeless body of the felled soldier and turned to face his attacker. Before he could swing a retaliatory attack, Zubayr saw the man fall to his knees, blood spilling from a gushing wound on his neck.

Behind the man stood the large, bearded warrior, Abdur-Rashid, now wielding a sword in his left hand and a long whip in his right. He flashed Zubayr a friendly smile before his face returned to one befitting a fierce warrior engaged in combat. He stepped on, past Zubayr, to fight more enemies. Using his large mass to topple other fighters over, Abdur-Rashid plowed through the enemy ranks, receiving only a few minor cuts and scrapes.

Back on the mountainside, the rest of the Muslim warriors were not faring nearly as well. They were struggling to hold their grounds against the incoming swarms of enemy soldiers. The pouring rain and muddy earth were more than challenging to maneuver through, especially for the more timid soldiers. That, coupled with the force of gravity and the enemy soldiers pulling at them, made the fight much more difficult than anticipated. The Kwaadi warriors were easily cutting through their ranks, yanking the Muslims to the ground and trampling over them in crowds until someone stabbed them and moved on. Many of the Muslims were brutally slaughtered by the quick, overpowering waves of the Kwaadi warriors.

Down below, Zubayr, Abdur-Rashid, and the other Muslim soldiers who'd managed to make their way down the mountain in time, were holding their own against the Kwaadi forces. They were, however, unable to attain any sort of victory or deal any decisive blows, not without the aid of the remaining soldiers on the mountain. Frustrated, Zubayr cut down another Kwaadi man and turned his eyes back towards the mountain. His anger boiled over when he saw that the vast majority of his soldiers were still up on the mountainside, with many of them dead or wounded. What are they doing? He thought to himself. Why haven't they made their way down yet?

Punching a man to the ground, Abdur-Rashid stepped beside Zubayr. "The soldiers haven't been able to make their way down," he said, concern evident in his voice. "They're being massacred up there."

"I can see that," Zubayr said, slashing the face of a Kwaadi man before pummeling him back with his shield. "This is ridiculous! We need backup down here, and they're all still stuck on the mountain!"

"Perhaps a strategic retreat wou-"

"Retreat?! You know me better than to think I would behave so cowardly. I would rather die!"

"This isn't about you and I and what we are willing to do. This is for the sake of our goals and the entire purpose of the war on this front. These soldiers are unable to do battle under these conditions, it's clear that we are not going to win this Zubayr. We must turn back in order to fight another day, perhaps under better circumstances when we have the advantage."

"Fight another day? If we die here, there are still more to come. They will-"

"If you and I die here, who will lead them? One from amongst themselves? Do you not see how poorly they are faring there? It would be a greater disaster then than even now. We must retreat and-" Abdur-Rashid caught sight of an eavesdropping Kwaadi soldier. Angrily, he snapped his whip across the man's face before he stepped in and slashed at his neck, easily beheading him. The headless body fell on its side and a familiar, metal-plated pair of boots stepped over it. A powerful spiked mace came swinging through the air right at Abdur-Rashid's head.

There was a loud clank as the mace collided with the iron shield of Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim, stepping in just in a nick of time to save his comrade. Looking from under his shield, Zubayr's eyes looked upon the smug face of the towering giant known as Jurlo Kilseh, the Kwaadi Commander. His wounds had healed and he was fiercer than ever. His height alone made him a difficult opponent to combat, with his size dwarfing even Abdur-Rashid's husky stature. It was miracle they had nearly killed him last time; there was no such guarantee this time.

Zubayr pushed back the mace and planted his feet firmly in the ground, his stance strong and sturdy. Kilseh held the mace lazily over his shoulder, his confidence radiating from his casual stance. He smiled a smug, arrogant smile as he looked at the two warriors before him. "Your friend is right," the man spoke in a grim voice. "You had better retreat while you still can."

"I'm not afraid of you," Zubayr replied to his taunting.

"You ought to be."

"We will never fear you," a Muslim soldier shouted as he charged the giant. Zubayr and Abdur-Rashid both reacted in the same manner, reaching their arms out and shouting at him to stay back. Unfortunately, he did not respond or heed their call in time. There was a loud cracking sound as the spiked ball of metal broke through several of the man's ribs and tore a hole into his chest as Kilseh threw him back with a powerful blow. The man's body flipped over in the air before slamming down hard on the ground.

Zubayr and Abdur-Rashid looked on with a mix of anger, disgust, and horror boiling inside them. Zubayr gritted his teeth as he stared down the giant man, planning his attack. "I know that look," Abdur-Rashid spoke to Zubayr. "Don't do it akhi, we can't afford it. Look around you; our troops are already falling apart! Our flagmen have been felled and the people are confused and weakened. We must retreat."

"We can take him," Zubayr said with determination. "I know we can."

Abdur-Rashid sighed. He'd known Zubayr long enough to see when words would not persuade him to give up on something he'd set his mind to. Zubayr was set on taking down Kilseh, hoping to revive the lost morale and inspire his troops to keep fighting until victory. He would take Kilseh on with or without Abdur-Rashid. Tossing aside his whip, Abdur-Rashid gripped the hilt of his blade with both hands and stood beside Zubayr. "Let's get this over with."

Kilseh chuckled to himself, gripping his mace and assuming a slightly more cautious stance. Zubayr drew a deep breath before pressing forward. He ran full speed towards Kilseh, holding his shield out in front of him and the sword held in the air behind him. As Zubayr grew near, Kilseh gripped his mace tighter. He swung down, swiping at Zubayr's head. Zubayr ducked down low, barely evading the attack and he charged into Kilseh with his shield crashing first, knocking him back a few steps. As Kilseh stumbled back, Zubayr slashed at his armor. The sword dented his metal covering, but didn't quite cut through.

Zubayr's eyes widened a bit with surprise, but he didn't have much time to ponder it, Kilseh had regained his footing and was coming back with his own attack. He swung his mace down again with a mighty force and Zubayr raised his sword to block. The force of the impact knocked Zubayr back and nearly tore the sword from his hand. Zubayr sighed, looking at the smug look of arrogance on Kilseh's face. As strong as this man was, and his armor as well, Zubayr knew he would need to pull all of his strength into his attacks and defense. He slid his arm free of the shields inner handles, and it fell to the ground. He now gripped his sword with both hands.

"Your shield," Abdur-Rashid said, questioningly.

"You be my shield," Zubayr replied, keeping his eyes on the enemy before them.

"Zubayr I-"

"Let's move!" Zubayr shouted, launching himself forward again. He held the sword low and to his side as his feet carried him forward with speedy and powerful steps. He leapt up and brought the sword up and over, slashing down at Kilseh, who quickly brought up his mace to block. Zubayr landed, his attack deflected, and brought the sword back to try a thrusting attack. He stabbed straight out at Kilseh's stomach, but just barely missed when Kilseh stepped over to the right. The sword pierced through the side of the armor, scraping but not injuring Kilseh himself. As Zubayr began to tug at his sword, a heavy fist came up, punching him back.

He freed his sword before he flew backwards, landing on his side. Kilseh charged forward, ready to stomp down on Zubayr with his large, booted feet. As he raised his foot up, Kilseh was knocked back by Abdur-Rashid swinging his heavy sword at his leg. Zubayr quickly got to his feet and stood beside Abdur-Rashid. "Thanks,” he said, wiping blood and mud from his face. "But where were you a second ago when I got hit? Had you gotten him then, I could have finished him."

"I cannot keep up with you Zubayr."

"Yes you can, just try harder."

"Zu-"

"Let's try this again!" Zubayr raced forward, Kilseh watching with an eager smile. He prepared himself for an attack to counter Zubayr. He gripped the mace with both hands and swung it out at Zubayr once more. Zubayr, however, slid down low, dodging the attack completely and even sliding past Kilseh himself. Caught off guard, Kilseh was unprepared for Zubayr's next move. Standing from the mud, Zubayr leapt up onto the giant man's shoulders, wrapping his arms under Kilseh's shoulders to keep them restrained. "Now Abdur-Rashid!" Kilseh rustled around, trying to shake Zubayr off before Abdur-Rashid could attack. "Quickly man!" He couldn't see, but Abdur-Rashid was struggling with his own issues. A group of Kwaadi warriors were surrounding him and coming in one after another to fight with him. He could not make his way through to attack Kilseh. He was instead calling for the few Muslim soldiers around that were coming to his aid to fight with Kilseh instead. They fearfully approached him, inching towards him while Zubayr struggled to hold on.

Zubayr held on tightly, restraining the giant man but was losing his grip. He knew eventually he'd be thrown off or worse, so he decided on releasing himself, so that least he'd control his own landing. He let go and kicked off the back of the Kwaadi warrior. He landed on the ground and was just about to attack when a powerful elbow strike to the face sent him flying backwards. He landed on the ground a short distance back, coughing up a little blood as he hit the ground.

He grunted as he sat up, one eye closed, and his vision a little blurry in the second. He looked forward and saw the large figure of Kilseh tearing away at the small group of Muslims. Man after man, Kilseh brutally beat down the Muslim soldiers with his powerful mace. He pulverized their faces and bodies with the spiked ball of metal, tearing the flesh from them and beating through their armor and bones. They were slipping in the mud, blinded by the rain, and being beaten by the Kwaadi warriors. He turned his attention briefly to the mountain where he saw the ravenous crowds of Kwaadi warriors slaughtering the unbalanced soldiers with ease. The blood flowed down the rocks along with the drops of rain that so complicated their struggle.

What is wrong with these men? He thought to himself. Why won't they fight harder? Why are they letting little inconveniences steal away our victory? I won't allow it, I'll finish this!

Zubayr stood up, taking his sword in his hand. He charged right after Kilseh and leapt up to slash him again. Using both hands, he slashed down Kilseh's back, slicing through the thick armor and finally breaking skin. Kilseh roared in pain and swung his heavy arm back as he twisted around. Zubayr ducked down, dodging the attack in a split second. The others, however, were not so fortunate. A heavy, powerful fist swung back and knocked several of the soldiers back.

Zubayr came up with another slice at Kilseh’s large, muscular legs, piercing the armor and knocking the giant forward. Kilseh turned in anger, swinging his mace wildly at every target in sight. Zubayr leapt back, dodging the attacks right and left. The other soldiers tried their best but were unable to completely avoid the attacks, with some slashed across the face or beaten into the ground.

"What is the matter with you?" Zubayr questioned as he watched some of them take on the full force of Kilseh's wrath.

"Your pathetic men are no match for the pride of the Kwaadi," an enemy soldier shouted as he charged at Zubayr. Zubayr parried his attack and flipped him onto his back.

"Then I guess I will have to erase that pride from you, won't I?" He struck his sword right through the stomach of the beaten Kwaadi warrior before turning his attention back to Kilseh. There were only three men left surrounding Kilseh. They stood before him, knees quivering, eyes wide, and hands shaking. Their boots covered in mud, with the blood of their brothers mixed in, they stood before the giant as he angrily approached them. He walked up to them with a devilish grin on his face as he raised up the bloody mace, the spikes holding pieces of flesh within themselves.

"Move, you fools," Zubayr shouted. The men were unresponsive. "Attack, back away, do something!" They neither moved forward, nor did they flee. They were frozen in fear. It seemed as if they were waiting to die, knowing any sort of fighting would be futile. That was, until suddenly a crackling sound could be heard from the side. Within an instant Abdur-Rashid had broken through the crowds of men and came to the defense of his comrades. He lashed his extended whip in every way until finally he snapped it at Kilseh.

The whip lashed at his face and peeled away at his flesh. Abdur-Rashid swung again, but this time Kilseh grabbed hold of the whip. He began tugging at it but Abdur-Rashid planted his feet firmly in the muddy ground. He pulled with all his might, struggling against the strength of the giant. And as he had hoped, Kilseh fought back to tear the whip from his hands. Seeing the struggle, the three men snapped out of their daze and ran to aid Abdur-Rashid. "Run," Abdur-Rashid said between grunts. They stared almost in confusion. "I SAID RUN!"

"We coul-" one of the men tried to offer before Abdur-Rashid cut him off.

"RETREAT, NOW! I AM COMMANDING YOU, DO NOT DISOBEY MY ORDERS!" The confused men stood still, unsure of the orders. They slowly turned their heads towards Zubayr, as if to question who was the commander here.

"Do as your commander tells you," Zubayr shouted. "All of you men, retreat to the mountains at once! Regroup and defend yourselves. Head back, NOW!" At this the Muslims took heed and began to reluctantly flee the battlefield. The Kwaadi men gave chase, and many more Muslims were slain in trying to defend the lines for the others to escape. Zubayr took up arms against some of the pursuing Kwaadi men, but his aim was to reach to Abdur-Rashid and relieve him of the struggle.

Alas, he was ultimately unable to rescue his comrade in time. Kilseh, soon gained the upper hand and charged at Abdur-Rashid, delivering an unforeseen blow to his side and knocking him flying into the air. Zubayr had barely driven his sword through the leg of a Kwaadi man before he looked up to see Abdur-Rashid sliding in the mud, Kilseh walking up to him. Zubayr withdrew his sword and slashed at the man's unarmored neck before running straight after Kilseh.

With his sword upside down in his right hand, Zubayr sped through the mud until he reached just beside Kilseh. He leapt up and gave a spinning slice to Kilseh's side before landing in the mud below and sliding backwards. Letting himself fall over, Zubayr tumbled over backwards beside Abdur-Rashid. He caught hold of his arm and helped him to his feet. Kilseh stomped heavy as he approached the two warriors. He smiled at the chaos brewing all around; the Muslims fleeing and the Kwaadi chasing after them, the pouring rain the splashing puddles, the running blood and the shouting soldiers. Kwaadi calls of pride and victory filled the air, much to his delight.

Zubayr gripped his sword tightly, he wasn't beaten yet. He could still fight on. But then, could Abdur-Rashid? As Kilseh drew nearer, Zubayr contemplated his next move. To flee and fight another day, or to fight and take down the enemy commander while risking the life of his own commander? No. He wouldn't. He couldn't. His eyes gave an angry stare as he watched Kilseh come closer and closer, until he stopped, as if to declare victory yet again.

Zubayr couldn't let the anger boiling inside him take over his senses and judgment. He slung Abdur-Rashid's arm over his shoulder and raised him up a little higher, wrapping his own arm under Abdur-Rashid's side. Kilseh crossed his arms and gave a wry smile in return. "Do you not see?" he spoke, his voice full of pride and arrogance. "The events of our last encounter were merely the results of misfortune. Now you have seen the truth, and did your God help you? Where was this merciful and powerful God of yours during this battle? Flee now, while you still can. Go and warn your people that the truth is coming, and we cannot be stopped. Your soldiers cannot stop us, your beliefs cannot stop us, we are the Kwaadi, bringers of a higher enlightenment. Submit to what is higher than yourselves, and let this be a reminder to you of our greatness."

"There is no greatness in what you believe, you arrogant fool," Zubayr replied. "And we have submitted to the One whom none is Higher than! Break our bones, our bones will heal; cut our skin, our wounds will seal; and there remains that which you could never kill. Our faith. Know this, wicked man, you evildoers and mischief-makers will be cleansed from the Muslim lands, until truth prevails and all your falsehood is destroyed. I assure you, this victory here will mean nothing for you then! We will return and we will wipe you out!"

Kilseh grinned, the words running past him like the rain down his face. He would not be distressed by the words of a defeated man. In fact, in his sick mind, he wanted to see it. He wanted to see another battle. And so it was then that he made his decision. He called to one of his horsemen as Zubayr and Abdur-Rashid cautiously stared him down. He ordered that the man turn over his horse to the men, and let them ride to safety. He then ordered that all of his troops return to camp while the Muslims fled home. The battle was over. The Kwaadi had won.


The midday sun was bright and hot, the air humid and heavy. There were goat droppings and hay all around the large gated area. There were nine goats in total, all very large in size. Unbeknownst to them, they were set to be slaughtered for the Eid ul Adha* holiday as a sacrifice to God and their meat would be shared amongst the many families of the village. The largest of the goats, a male with outstanding horns and strong, muscular legs, stood calmly, chewing on the dried hay before him.

A short distance away, a young and energetic Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim was crouching down low, waiting with anticipation. He carefully, and quietly, crept his way past the goat. "Not yet," he said beneath his breath, his eyes skimming past the large goat whose attention he'd caught. "First I'm taking the others, then you." Armed with a small wooden staff, the boy crept up on the group of goats resting in the corner. A few steps behind him was his brother, Zayd ibn Abdullah. "Remember, stay low," he advised Zayd. "When you stand tall, they know they can outmaneuver you, and work their way around you. When you stay low and keep your arms out, they're more reserved and you've got them trapped."

"Right," Zayd nodded. He hunched over a little and spread his arms out to the side, following his brother's orders. As they approached the goats, the two began to spread out a little. They would need to surround the goats. Zayd kept his eyes on Zubayr, mimicking his movements to the slightest details. Unfortunately, his path was not the same as Zubayr's, and so it happened that he stumbled over a small stump in the ground, startling the animals.

The animals stood up immediately and began a collective movement of trying to get around. Zubayr smiled. It was going to be a challenge capturing one, but he knew he could do it. "Alright, now that they're alert, we're gonna have a little fun with them. Get ready to run."

"Run?"

"Pick a goat."

"Uh, that one," Zayd said, pointing to a medium sized goat, about one hundred and fourty lbs. in weight and brown in color.

"Alright, you ready?"

"I-"

"Let's move!" Zubayr sprung forward into the crowd of goats. They dispersed, all fleeing in different directions, kicking up dust and the pungent odor of their feces filled the air. Zayd faced the few incoming goats, planting his feet firmly and keeping his arms extended. He shifted side to side as the goats tried to make their way past him. Up from behind, Zubayr leapt at the specified goat. His arms extended, he caught hold of the goat and wrapped around its body. The goat cried out loud, bleating in panic as it struggled to break free. Zubayr quickly caught hold of its four legs, taking the two hind legs in one hand the front two in the other, and he slung the goat over his shoulders, still holding its legs.

"Nice catch," Zayd complimented him.

"Thanks. I'm going to take this one over to Raihanah and Asiyah for slaughtering. Wait back here, alright?"

"Yes." Zubayr pushed open the wooden gate and exited the goat pen before promptly kicking it back shut before any goats could escape. He walked out the short distance between the pen and the small shed in which his sisters were waiting. He kicked the door to alert the girls inside that he was coming in, and the door swung open as he was greeted by the sight of four girls sitting on the bales of hay, talking and laughing. Behind the door stood Raihanah, the oldest child and one of the only two real blood sisters of Zubayr. She stood a few inches taller than Zubayr, with her curved form leaning against the wall now.

"Brought another," Zubayr said, setting the goat down.

"Lovely," Asiyah, the third oldest of the girls sarcastically said, getting to her feet. She was more on the heavy side, with a larger frame and puffy cheeks. The maroon skin of her chubby face glistened with sweat from the burdensome work. She crossed her arms across her chest and walked over slowly. "Tell me again why WE have to do the slaughtering?"

"Because I'm not about to be in the hot sun chasing goats around in a pen full of dust and goat crap," Raihanah replied. "I'd rather just do the slaughtering, while Ummi does the skinning, and the boys do the catching. It's much easier this way."

"Yes, but it's so messy," Qamraa’, the second oldest whined. She held out the sides of her light brown abaya from her thin body. It had red and brown stains all along the bottom and splatters of blood on the sleeves. She pouted her thin, pink lips as she looked down on her abaya with her large green eyes. "All that blood everywhere, it's so awful."

"Well no one told you to wear light colors like a fool. You should've worn something black or blue like the rest of us. And what're you complaining for anyways? You've barely done anything."

"Not true, I slaughtered that one goat that was wandering around."

"Oh, you mean the tiny one that just laid itself down for you to slaughter? That was hardly anything. Asiyah and I have dealt with worse."

"Yeah," Asiyah butted in. "And I got kicked in the leg by the last goat."

"We could help if you'd let us," Amatullah, the youngest girl peeped up. She and Amatur-Rahman were the youngest of the bunch. They'd yet to even reach the age of covering, and were still small children. They were alike in their childish play and naivety; and their eagerness to help made them both a delight and a nuisance at times.

"For the last time Amatullah," Raihanah groaned. "No, just sit where you are and be quiet please. Ummi was very clear when she said you two can watch but are not to get involved; you'll end up getting hurt."

"Fine," Amatullah sighed. She crossed her arms in defeat.

"If you want," Zubayr offered. "You can come and watch Zayd and I catch the goats. You have to stay outside the pen of course, but you can see how we wrestle them and bring them in."

"Cool!" Amatullah and Amatur-Rahman both leapt up from their seats and rushed over to Zubayr with gleaming smiles.

"Thanks for taking them off our hands," Raihanah said, patting Zubayr on the back as she turned him towards the doorway. “No returns accepted. Have a good day." She pushed him and the two girls out the door and went back to work. As Zubayr and the two young girls walked away, they could hear the goat bleating a little, and Raihanah shouting at Asiyah and Qamraa’ to hold the goats legs still. Zubayr chuckled to himself as he lead the two away.

"This will be much nicer," Amatullah said, almost questioningly.

"Right?" Amatur-Rahman finished.

"Of course. We're just chasing them. It's not really anything like it is in there."

"Good, so the goats won't get hurt then?"

"Nah. And you know, they're not really getting hurt in there either."

"They're not?"

"Nope."

"Well they're sure screaming like it," Amatullah said matter-of-factly.

"Well yeah, that's because they're scared a little. But the truth is, it doesn't hurt them that much. When we slaughter, we have to be kind and merciful to the animals. That's why Islam teaches us even little details like you can't let one animal see the other die, or you can't show the animal the blade you're going to kill it with, you have to give it a drink of water as a final mercy before you slaughter it. Then you gently lay it down and when you're ready, you bring out the knife, still careful it doesn't see it. You always slaughter in Allah's name, so we say Bismillah wa Allahu Akbar, then cut the two jugular veins. With one strong, quick slice, the animal is dead and the pain is over in an instant. They feel nothing afterwards, even though the body is still moving because of the nerves and all of that. But that's about it. Let the blood drain so the meat is clean and edible, then get to skinning and cutting. It's simple."

"Well it didn't seem simple the way they were doing it in the shed."

"Yeah," Amatur-Rahman agreed. "The goats were kicking and screaming before they could even lay them down."

"Yeah they'll do that sometimes," Zubayr laughed. "But it's just a natural thing. They don't like being held against their will. Even if you weren't taking them to be slaughtered they'd be like that and- HEY!" Zubayr shouted as he reached the goat pen. "What are you doing man?" He walked up to the fence watching his brother who'd thrown a rope around a goat's body and was pulling it in. Zayd released the goat and turned to Zubayr, not sure what to say. "Who told you to do this man?"

"No one," Zayd answered back. "I figured that it might be easier to capture them like this. I can lasso them in by the horns or around their neck and-"

"Around the neck? They're going to struggle and you'll end up choking them. Why didn't you just do it the way I showed you?"

"Well I can't really-"

"Of course you can. Here, I'll show you one more time." Zubayr climbed over the fence and walked over to Zayd's side.

"But what about him," Zayd said, pointing to the large male. "Whenever I get close to some of the goats he starts looking at me and snorting, and one of the times it seemed as though he would charge me."

"That's what you have this for," Zubayr said picking up the stick. "Now, I'm going to bring in one of the others, and then you'll try it." Zubayr hunched over and began sneaking towards a small broker group of the goats in one corner of the pen. He stepped slowly and cautiously, his every step precise and calculated. The goats were none the wiser as Zubayr closed in on them. When he felt that he was near enough, he tossed caution aside and raced towards the goats. They dispersed, desperate to flee before he could catch them.

Zubayr reached out one end of the stick to his right and held his left arm stretched out. He'd cornered one of the goats and was making a steady approach as the confused animal danced about in panic. Desperate, the goat decided on ramming Zubayr instead of being captured. Seeing the charging animal, Zubayr lowered himself and gripped the stick with both hands. He held it out horizontally at the charging goat. Just in nick of time, the goat came in and Zubayr managed to lodge the staff at an angle between its two horns. He now had the goat trapped. It could neither pull itself free, nor ram into him.

The stubborn goat struggled to keep pushing, and for a moment its large 265 lb. body was easily pushing Zubayr back. However, Zubayr planted his feet firmly and began offering up resistance himself. The others watched on in anticipation as Zubayr wrestled with the large animal. A smile hid the struggle away, as Zubayr battled with the goat.

The goat stood on its hind legs and pressed harder, making Zubayr take a step back to retain his balance. Zubayr caught sight of his small audience. His two sisters watched with eager smiles from beyond the pen. Zayd was standing a bit behind him, watching with careful attention. From the corner of his eyes, he could see another figure approaching in the distance. He decided to pin the goat before whoever it was coming came so he could be free to greet them.

Raising the right end of the staff while lowering the other, Zubayr twisted the goats head over slightly. He then stepped forward and spun the entire thing over, knocking the animal over onto its side where he then released the staff and pounced on its body. The goat kicked and cried loudly while Zubayr wrestled over it, trapping its legs beneath his body and catching hold of its horns.

After a minute of struggling, the goat gave up, ceasing its wild fighting. With the goat subdued, Zubayr slowly stood up, dragging the beast to its feet by the horns. He walked the goat over to Zayd with a successful grin. "You see," Zubayr said, pausing to catch his breath. "That's how you do it. It's much more fun, and he didn't really get hurt much. And, if he fights, he doesn't get strangled by a rope or anything, so this is less risky. You just have to be willing to work a little harder." Zayd nodded in understanding. "You stay here and work on catching the next one, I'm going to go ahead and take this one in to Raihanah." Zayd agreed and walked over to the staff as Zubayr headed out the pen with yet another goat.

As he walked out, his eager young sisters walked up to him with cheers and smiles. "That was so amazing," Amatullah shouted with her arms in the air. Amatur-Rahman walked over to the other side of Zubayr and placed a hand on the goats back.

"Careful," Zubayr warned her. "I don't want him getting angry and acting crazy again."

"Okay," Amatur-Rahman sighed, stepping to the side a little.

"Actually, why don't you two stay here and watch Zayd catch the next one? Tell me how good he does when I get back okay?"

"He won't do as good as you."

"I don't think anyone could do as good as you, Zubayr," Amatullah beamed loudly.

"Hey, that's not true," Zubayr replied. "I'm sure Zayd's plenty strong and can manage just as well."

"If you say so."

"Of course I do, now go see what he can do. I'll be back." Zubayr lead the goat off, pulling it by the horns as the goat trotted along. As he neared the shed, Zubayr noticed the figure he'd seen was actually headed in the same direction. The glare of the sun made it difficult for him to see, and so he paused in his tracks and squinted at the approaching figure.

Within moments he could just make out the pale skin of a tall young man from the dark clothing he was wearing. He could see a beaming smile on the man's face, his icy blue eyes laughing with excitement. The man wore a plain white ghutrah over his curly blonde hair, its top standing out over his hair while its loose ends were reaching down below to his chest, with the right end thrown over his left shoulder. He had a small, neatly groomed beard lining his squared jaw.

As the man drew nearer, his fanciful clothing became more apparent. He was dressed in a dark blue thobe that reached a little beneath his knees. Over that, he wore a long black crossover coat, with light blue lining the sleeves and button crossing. The cuffs were similarly lined with the light blue, as were the shoulder areas and in the back there was a connected V-shape filled with intricate designs of blue and white.

He raised his hands and waved before coming closer where he formally greeted Zubayr with salaams. "Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," Zubayr replied, shaking hands with the older man. "Eid Mubarak.* What are you doing here Aadil?"

"Eid Mubarak," Aadil ibn Usayd replied warmly. "I finished with my sheep earlier and I've just gone to deliver some of the meat to other families. I then recalled that your family is slaughtering goats for some of the families for payment, and I figured I would come and help you."

"Jazakallahu Khairun. Right now I'm taking this stubborn goat in to be slaughtered. This one is for our neighbors. He's got a lot of fight in him, I can see why they were scared to slaughter him themselves."

"A tough guy huh?" Aadil chuckled. "Here, let me help you with him."

"It's fine, we're almost there."

"Okay then." The two continued walking, and chatting, until they reached the door of the shed. Once more Zubayr knocked loudly on the door.

"Just a moment Zubayr," Asiyah called out. "Qamraa’ has to get covered."

"So do you and Raihanah," Zubayr replied. "Brother Aadil is with me."

"Aadil?!" Raihanah cried in a squealing voice. Suddenly there were loud fumbling sounds and other curious noises coming from inside the shed. Aadil gave a questioning look as the two heard whispering voices and could just make out the argumentative voice of someone inside. Zubayr shrugged his shoulders and turned back towards the door.

Soon enough the door slowly creaked open, with Raihanah standing there with a dopey smile. "As-S-Salaamu Alaikum, Aadil," she spoke in muttered speech.

"Wa Alaikumus salaam," he replied, his smile beaming like the sun. "Eid Mubarak."

"Ei- Eid Mubarak to you too." She stood, looking up at the man, her eyes glazed with excitement.

"Umm, can we come in?" Zubayr finally asked.

"Uh sorry." Raihanah stepped aside and motioned for the two to enter. Aadil entered first, with Zubayr following close behind, dragging the goat along. Stepping inside, the heavy heat and thick the odor of blood flooded their senses like a surging wave. Aadil carefully stepped over a puddle of blood, which had a trailing mess leading to a bale of hay. Zubayr looked up to see Asiyah and Qamraa’ kneeling behind the hay and he shook his head. Asiyah gave him an innocent smile before she was nearly kicked in the face by the hoof of a flailing goat behind the hay.

"Are you okay?" Aadil asked immediately.

"He missed," Zubayr answered for her. "But why is he still kicking? Didn't you slaughter him when I first brought him?"

"No," Asiyah spat, shooting a reprehensive look at Qamraa’. "Someone didn't want to help hold the feet even though it was her turn."

"Sorry," Qamraa’ apologized.

"Don't apologize to me, Raihanah's the one that got cut."

"She what?" Zubayr asked with concern as he and Aadil turned to Raihanah. Sure enough she had been cut. Her left hand was wrapped in a small piece of cloth torn from an old abaya. She hid her cloth wrapped hand in shame, placing both arms behind her back.

"Hey that wasn't my fault," Qamraa’ spoke up defensively. "She freaked out because Aa-" her speech became muffled babbling as Asiyah covered her mouth with her free hand. Qamraa’ shot her an angry stare as she finally stopped talking. Aadil looked to Zubayr again and received a shrug in reply. Raihanah sighed in relief and mouthed a silent 'thank you' to Asiyah.

"Well, if you guys aren't done with that one I guess I'll take this one back," Zubayr said.

"It's fine," Raihanah replied. "That one will stop moving soon and they'll take it to Ummi. Go ahead and leave this one here, we'll handle him next. You can go back to help Zayd in the pen."

"Are you sure you don't need me to help? This one is kind of strong and he's much larger than that other one. You've already gotten hurt; we don't need any more injuries."

"Zubayr, I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Aadil cut in. "I can take a look at it if you like, my mother is a medic and I've learned a few things from her."

"Well..." Raihanah paused for thought. "If you really think it needs to be examined....I mean, your mom is a medic...so maybe just a quick look. Just to make sure I'm fully okay." Raihanah walked over with a sheepish grin, Asiyah and Qamraa’ shaking their heads at her. She unwrapped the black cloth from her brown hand and held her arm high enough for Aadil to see the wound. There was a thin line of red reaching down her hand from the back of her thumb to the bottom of her wrist.

"That looks painful. How'd this happen?" Raihanah gave no answer. She was in a daze, her eyes locked on the cooling blue in Aadil's. His golden curls were reaching down from the top of his head with a few spread across his forehead and some reaching to his eyebrows. His long eyelashes beat repeatedly as he questioningly stared back at her. "Sister? I said, how did you get this cut?"

"Huh?" she asked, snapping out of her daze.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. Sorry, you're just hot and- I MEAN IT'S HOT! IT'S VERY, VERY HOT TODAY. I sometimes uh, I blank out when it gets hot like this and I have to be covered all day. I'll be fine In Shaa Allah. Thank you for asking."

"Okay then. Well, if you're feeling fine, just keep the cut covered to stop the bleeding and also keep it clean to prevent infection. I'll be leaving now so you can be relieved of your covering." Aadil turned to Zubayr and nodded towards the door. "You coming?"

"Yeah," Zubayr replied. "Let me just make sure things are fine here with the other goat before I leave this one. I don't want it to see its dead friend over there."

"Okay," Aadil replied, heading towards the door. "I'll be waiting outside."

"Okay." The door shut and Raihanah sighed in relief. Asiyah and Qamraa’ burst into laughter as Zubayr looked at the three of them with an arched eyebrow. "What was all that?"

"Nothing Zubayr," Raihanah sighed as she walked over to grab the goat's horns from Zubayr. "Go ahead and leave."

"Okay well, don't cut yourself again."

"I'll try not to." Zubayr made his way for the door as Asiyah and Qamraa’ teased Raihanah with whispers and laughter. "Hey it's not my fault," he heard Raihanah whisper. "It's that smile, and those gorgeous eyelashes."

"Lower your gaze," Asiyah whispered back before Zubayr exited the room shaking his head. He looked around and saw Aadil leaning against the wall of the shed. Aadil stood and the two began walking towards the pen where the others were.

"So how've you been?" Aadil asked, making conversation. "It's been a few months since I've seen you all."

"Yeah, it has. I've been good Alhamdulillah. Still studying with Sheikh Sa'ad. I'm really making progress though."

"That's good. Have you been keeping up with your training?"

"Yeah, as if I could take a break. My dad makes sure Zayd and I train for at least four hours every day."

"Oh, he's back in town? I thought he was away on a military expedition again."

"He is. He sends letters to my mother and every time he asks about our training."

"Oh. So when is he coming back anyways? I need to talk with him about something."

"Really? What?"

"Oh it's nothing. But when's he coming back?"

"I'm not sure, he's only been gone for two months. Most of his military journeys last much longer than that."

"Oh. Well, when he comes back, let me know immediately, okay?"

"Will do."

"Shukran*."

"Afwan*."

"Hey, you're back," Amatullah happily declared as Zubayr and Aadil approached the walls of the pen.

"Yes, indeed I am."

"As-Salaamu Alaikum," Aadil said with a smile. "Eid Mubarak.

"You have a pretty smile," Amatullah cheerily replied, forgetting to return the greeting. "And cool blue eyes!"

"Thank you."

"Can you really melt peoples' hearts with them?" Amatullah curiously asked.

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, my sister said-"

"Hey how's Zayd been doing?" Zubayr cut in quickly.

"Oh, he's been doing fine I guess," Amatur-Rahman answered. "The big one tried to charge him once but he got away."

"That's good."

"Yeah. But he hasn't been able to catch any of the others yet. Every time he has them cornered, the big one starts acting crazy and he has to retreat."

"Why doesn't he just take the big one down if he's really causing that much trouble?"

"That's a really big goat," Aadil observed. "I don't think anyone can just take him down so easily."

"Nonsense. I've done it before when we first brought him here. I'm sure Zayd can do it too. Let me tell him to. ZAYD," Zubayr called out, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Take the big guy down first so he doesn't cause you anymore trouble." Zayd looked back questioningly at Zubayr, but ultimately decided to follow his instructions. He turned his attention away from the other goats and faced the large male in the corner.

Creeping closer, Zayd gripped onto the staff with both hands and crouched low to the midlevel. He walked over, inching closer to the irritated goat. The animal called out in a loud bleating voice as he stared back at Zayd. Determined to not disappoint, Zayd squeezed the staff tighter and walked in closer and the goat snorted and puffed. He danced about, trying to find a way around him before he got too close, but saw no escape. Digging his hooves into the ground, the goat lowered his head until his large horns were aimed straight at Zayd.

Zayd readied himself for the goat's attack. For a split second he'd wished he could've just used the lasso and tied the goat up. But he remembered Zubayr's bravery in the face of the other goats, and decided he would similarly take this goat down with his hands. His heart beating in anxious anticipation, Zayd eyed the angry goat, waiting for it to make its move. Sure enough, the goat charged.

Zayd pressed his feet firmly in the ground. He held the staff out and locked his arms into place. He was determined to hold the goat back. BAM! The goat came crashing through, his horns cracking through part of the staff. Zayd slid back a little as he struggled against the overwhelming force of the charging goat. He managed to lodge the staff between its horns just as Zubayr had done with the other goat.

Excited cheers could be heard from outside the pen. His sisters, Aadil, and even Zubayr were all excitedly voicing their support. For a moment, Zayd almost felt the struggle leave him and a proud feeling of accomplishment enter his mind. He glimpsed at his small audience to see Zubayr motioning for him to flip the goat over and wrestle him into submission. Zayd turned back to the goat and let out a heavy breath.

He grunted as he began pushing back against the mighty beast. He stepped his right foot forward, just as he'd watched Zubayr do earlier, and began twisting the staff over. The goat bleated loudly as it fought to stay upright. Zayd pressed harder and harder, using all his strength to overcome the goat just as Zubayr had done. Then, with a sudden crackling sound, the staff gave way and broke right in half.

The goat rammed right on through, knocking Zayd back several feet before charging again to try and trample him. Zubayr and Aadil immediately hopped over the fence and came rushing to the aid of Zayd. They chased the goat away and Zubayr immediately dropped to his brother's side. He lifted his head from the dusty ground and held him up. Zayd was holding his hand to the side of his stomach, and they immediately noticed a red stain growing on his shirt.

"HE'S BLEEDING!" Zubayr cried.

"Let me see," Aadil said, coming over quickly. He took a look at Zayd's side and gasped in horror. He'd been impaled by the goat's horn. Aadil quickly snatched off ghutrah and pressed it against the wound to slow the bleeding. "Quickly, we need to get him inside and get this taken care of!" Zubayr nodded and he helped Zayd to his feet. Holding the cloth to his stomach, Zayd limped out of the pen with Zubayr and Aadil helping him. He didn’t speak a word or cry out in pain. Only his eyes welled with tears...tears of defeat and inferiority...

Hours later, Zayd had been properly cared for. His wound was cleaned and bandaged by Aadil and his ‘mother.’ Zayd was lying in bed, his concerned sisters all around him. He could hear his "mother," Atiyah bint Abu Masaih, yelling at Zubayr just outside the room. "What were you thinking?" she angrily shouted. "Why weren't you helping him?"

"I had just gotten back from taking in another goat to Raihanah," Zubayr offered in his defense.

"Why would you tell him to take on the biggest one by himself though?"

"I thought he could handle it."

"Why would you think that? No one can handle that beast alone!"

"I-I did."

"You?"

"I wrestled with him when we brought it over and a few times after that. I thought he would be able to handle it was well; I didn't know he'd get hurt."

"Zubayr," Atiyah sighed, now calming herself down. "Zubayr, that's you. There are some things and abilities Allah has Blessed you with that everyone can't always match up to."

"I-"

"You can't always expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can. Hold yourself to the same standards you expect from everyone else, but do not hold everyone to the same standards as you hold yourself."

"But I didn't just- I mean he wanted to try. And-"

"Zubayr, sometimes, no matter how hard people try, it's just not within their capabilities. You have to take that into consideration whenever you're tasked with working alongside others. And just because you think or they think that they can keep up or match with you, doesn't mean they can. You nearly got your brother killed today. You need to be more considerate, you understand?"

"Yes, Ummi."

"Good. Now I'm going to go and speak with the neighbors to explain why we couldn't finish all the goats today, round up the others for salat. And Zubayr?"

"Yes?"

"Apologize to your brother." Atiyah turned and walked away, wrapping a hijab over her head.

Zubayr turned to the door and sighed. He reached up a hand to open it, before noticing a small stain of blood right above the handle. His mind replayed the messy scene earlier when he and Aadil rushed Zayd in through the door. He recalled the terrified screams of his mother as Zayd limped through, his eyes blank and empty. 'You nearly got your brother killed today,' the words rang through his head. 'You need to be more considerate. Do not hold everyone to the same standards as you hold yourself. You can't always expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can. You can't always expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can. You can't always expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can...'

Zubayr flew out of his bed like a bolt of lightning. He tossed his covers to the ground and looked around his tent, his breathing heavy as if he'd been under a strenuous activity. He could hear voices speaking outside his tent and see the figures of a band of soldiers sitting beside a fire. He tossed on a woolen thobe on his and headed out to join them.

Emerging from his tent into the dark night, Zubayr was welcomed to the orange glow of a warm fire and company of his men. There were five men in total, all gathered around the fire to keep warm. The rain had died out but the cold and wetness had remained still. The men sat on stones and dirt, hands outstretched to keep warm as they determined to keep watch over their commander. Zubayr walked over casually and sat in the dirt beside them. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," he spoke absentmindedly.

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam," they all replied simultaneously.

"What are you all doing here?"

"Abdur-Rashid sent us," one man spoke. "He told us to keep watch over you and ensure that you were okay as three of us are medics."

"Subhaan Allah, that man. He's the injured one, and yet he sends you to me? Subhaan Allah. Nonetheless, I am fine Alhamdulillah."

"That's good."

"How is your commander doing himself?"

"You are our commander. Abdur-Rashid ordered it so."

"What? At the battlefield I returned the command to him."

"And before going to rest he ordered that all of us obey whatever commands you give without question."

"What? But...And what does he expect that I will command this time?"

"We have asked just the same. He only smiled to us and told us not to lay down our arms yet."

"Hmm..."

"Before sending us away, he said that the day of battle is not over, and that war is deceit. We have been discussing what this means until you have just woken now."

"I see. And what have you determined it to mean?"

"We have reached no conclusion."

"Mmhm. And do you swear to me that these were his words? That you did not invent them yourselves or take them from the other men?"

"Yes, Wallahi. The other men are busied among themselves."

"Then it is certainly clear what he meant. Tell me, what are those men doing?"

"He ordered that they all return to their tents, but do not sleep except for the deeply wounded."

"As expected."

"And what does this all mean, sir?"

"It means exactly what he said. The day of battle is not done. We are heading back to battle."

"Pardon?"

"Do you take issue with that?"

"No, I meant only to-"

"Good. Abdur-Rashid has placed me in command and so these are my orders: go forth to all of the tents and gather the unwounded and able bodied men from among them. Take the torches and assemble the men at the mountainside. Gather them into separate groups."

"Yes sir." The man rose from his spot and began his task.

Zubayr turned to the others. "The rest of you, search for and bring to me Nuh ibn Umar and his brother Shu'aib, as well as Ali ibn Abduz-Zahir." The men nodded and quickly departed. Zubayr sat, staring into the dancing flames, stroking his beard as he quickly formulated an attack plan. "War is deceit," he repeated to himself continuously.

Soon enough, Zubayr looked up to see that the summoned soldiers had gathered before him. He stood up and dusted himself before addressing them. "As-Salaamu Alaikum, my brothers."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam, Commander."

"I'm not going to waste time with long explanations, but I have summoned you so that we may strike the Kwaadi once again."

"But that-" Shu'aib began before his brother, Nuh, elbowed him in the side.

"Nuh, I am sending you and a small band of men to sneak into the enemy camp ahead of the others. You will scope out the entire area, checking for any guards and watchmen. If you are able to disarm and remove them, do so; however if they are more than what you are capable of, do not engage them. Rather in that case, you are to report back to me their positions. If you do take out the guards, assume their positions until we arrive, then give the signal when it is clear to attack. Understood?"

"Yes sir," Nuh answered.

"Excellent. You are dismissed, and I have your men waiting for you at the mountainside. Shu'aib, you will lead the first infantry in a frontal attack. Take two hundred and fifty men from the soldiers and march forth into camp. Do not engage the enemy until you have descended the mountain. Once you have the signal from Nuh, storm their tents with your greatest force. Set fire to all that you can, trap whomever you are able to. You must overcome the enemy at all costs. Understood?"

"Yes sir," Shu'aib replied.

"Excellent. You are dismissed, go and gather your men." Shu'aib nodded and turned on his heels, marching off into the darkness. Zubayr turned his attention to Ali.

"I do not mean to question your judgment sir," Ali began "However, I can see that he will not be able to manage that task you have assigned. It would have been better had you assigned a larger infantry or sent a cavalry instead."

"Ah, Ali. Your father's wisdom dwells within you indeed. As for your statement, I have already decided. I am sending you in command of cavalry band. Take one hundred and ten horsemen and ride out after them as reinforcements. Give them the span of the horizon before following, we must lead Kilseh to believe as we wish."

"I see," Ali replied with a smirk. "Your genius is undeniable. May Allah grant victory and success through your planning and our fighting."

"Ameen. Now, go, take the horsemen and prepare them to set out."

"Yes, sir." Ali left and there remained only Zubayr by himself. He stared into the fire, feeling eagerness burning inside himself. He clenched his fists, a steely conviction in his eyes. He was determined not to fail again...

Later, when all the troops had marched out, Nuh's lookout division had finally arrived down the mountainside. He ordered his men to put out their torches and rely on the moonlight. They followed orders and followed close behind him, seeing the tall, thin silhouette of his body creeping along the mountainside, his thick afro of hair keeping him from vanishing completely.

Soon enough Shu'aib's infantry came marching in. They looked to the hillsides and camp outskirts for any sign of the guards. In their place they spotted Nuh and several of his men spread out. Nuh was standing atop a large boulder on the cliffside, overlooking the entire camp ground. Shu'aib halted his men as he looked to his brother for permission to continue. Nuh held his hand out, advising they wait and he lowered his hand to warn them to lower their torches lest they be seen. He then turned and looked over by the tents and saw a lone soldier from the Kwaadi emerging from his tent. The man stood and drowsily looked around. He raised his hand to scratch his head before an arrow came piercing through his neck. His lifeless body fell over with a thud.

Nuh turned back to Shu'aib and waved him in. Shu'aib and his men descended the mountain with caution, and once the final man had reached the bottom they took to running. "Bismillah wa Allahu Akbar," they shouted as they stormed the Kwaadi encampment. Their swords at the ready, they raided the camp with fierce determination, setting fire to the tents and knocking over food supplies and weapon stocks. The roaring flames lit up the sky as the tents caught ablaze. The screams and shouts of the burning Kwaadi soldiers filled the air. Many rushed out of the tents only to be slain by a waiting Muslim soldier standing by.

Riding in on horseback, Ali and his cavalry descended the mountain and rushed to the battlefield. They were met with the burning stench of death and the tortured screams of dying men. The fighting had begun as some of the Kwaadi soldiers managed to make it out from their tents and take up arms before being slain. Ali raised his sword into the air and called out into the night, "Allahu Akbar!" He raced forward into battle, swiping at the necks of the Kwaadi soldiers.

Nuh and his men watched over the entire scene, making certain there were no reserve forces or hidden soldiers to come from anywhere like last time. He watched carefully, occasionally turning his attention to his younger brother Shu'aib. Shu'aib was down below excitedly battling with the rest of the men. The energetic youngster was running about slashing down at numerous Kwaadi soldiers with his sword and spreading flames to more and more of their property with his torch. Shu'aib spotted a charging Kwaadi soldier and prepared himself to attack. Just as the man came swinging his large sword, an arrow struck him in the temple and he fell over backwards. Shu'aib looked at the dead soldier, then looked back to where the arrow had come from. Nuh was standing with a bow in his left hand and a quiver of arrows on his back. He smiled and waved to his brother mockingly. Shu'aib shook his head and went back to fighting.

Nuh watched on, longing to be down there in the midst of the battle. Alas he was better served as a watchman, no one else could reach up to the highest points like him, nor did they possess the tall height and sharp eyes that he did. It seemed he would just have to deal with being a guard for this mission and see action only through firing arrows down at the soldiers from time to time. At least, it seemed, the Muslims had the upper hand this time. They were taking out Kwaadi soldiers left and right, only suffering a few casualties themselves.

That was, until Jurlo Kilseh made his way onto the battlefield. There were prideful shouts of the Kwaadi as their great warrior marched onto the field. The terrified screams of frightened soldiers were heard before being silenced by the brutal bashing of their skulls by Kilseh's mighty mace. He walked onto the battlefield with an arrogant swagger, beating away the Muslim soldiers with ease. Bodies flew as he smacked them every which way he could.

Nuh looked to his brother, who was far away from Kilseh. He then looked to Ali who had been knocked from his horse but was still fighting with a group of men. He sighed in despair as he watched some of the Muslims fleeing away from Kilseh. Those that dared approach him were crushed and beaten, their bones crunched and their flesh torn away. "Where is Zubayr?" Nuh said to himself. "He would call them back to fight."

No sooner did the words leave his lips then did he see a large force of men marching in, with Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim at the forefront. Zubayr reached the peak of the mountainside, and stood atop the boulders as before. He quickly scanned the battlefield to see the turnout. He glanced to the highest peaks of the mountain, seeing the figures of Nuh and his men. Nuh gave a waving salute to him and Zubayr nodded back. With his turban waving in the wind behind him, Zubayr turned back and looked to his men.

"Fight with all that you are capable of," he encouraged them. "The victory is near, and indeed the greater victory is Jannah. So strive for either of the two and you will be successful In Shaa Allah. Now, let us join our brothers! Let's move! ALLAHU AKBAR!"

"ALLAHU AKBAR!" the men shouted back as the raced through the spaces and down onto the mountainside. They marched through the mud carefully but hurriedly and when they reached the bottom they took to running. Zubayr remained standing atop the boulder and watched until the last man had made it through at the speed he was most able to. Thereafter, Zubayr leapt from the boulder and raced down the mountain as well.

A Kwaadi soldier came charging after him as he descended the mountain. Zubayr turned to the side and slid down in the mud before leaping from the edge of a rock that jutted out from the mountain. He spread out like a flying eagle as he soared through the air. Before the soldier could even think to move, Zubayr came crashing through. He tackled the man with a powerful force and struck his sword right through his chest, spraying blood all over himself.

Zubayr stood up in a circle of oncoming Kwaadi soldiers. Wiping the blood of the other man from his beard, Zubayr grinned as he leapt up to take on the others. The Kwaadi soldiers ran in horror, screaming that he was a ferocious monster of some sort. Alas for them, he was indeed ferocious and he was much faster than all of them. He slashed down their backs and stabbed through their spines, cutting them down like a fierce tornado blowing through.

Zubayr had just felled the last of those men when he noticed his own men fleeing in his direction. He looked beyond them and through the flames he could see a tall figure surrounded by smaller men. Bodies were flying through the air all around that tall soldier and Zubayr immediately knew it was Kilseh. "I can take him," Zubayr said to himself. "If they just fight harder with the others I can take him on." Then he looked to his soldiers and sighed. 'You nearly got your brother killed today' the words rang through his head. 'You can't hold everyone to the same standards as you hold yourself. You can't always expect everyone to be able to do something just because you can.'

"No," Zubayr said to himself. "I must fight with them. If we fight harder and take out his army, he will have nothing left. One man alone cannot do it all, and all cannot do as one man." Zubayr lifted his sword up and raced into a group of clashing soldiers. He gave a passing smile to his soldiers as he worked alongside them to defeat their opponents. He sliced and stabbed his way through the crowd, spilling blood and slaying enemies with every movement.

Soon, it came to be that he and the small group of men who'd come to following him, made their way to Kilseh and his band of men. Zubayr cut through the shoulder of one man before spinning around slashing upwards through his midsection. He brought his sword back and stabbed right on through the chest of another. As he withdrew his sword, he looked up to see Kilseh standing a few feet away from him.

"You do well with the weak and pathetic," Kilseh taunted him. "But let's see you try taking me on!"

"Those weak and pathetic are your men," Zubayr spat. "And they are broken and defeated."

"What do I care? I am still here, I can still fight."

"You are only as strong as your weakest man, and the weakest man cannot be the strongest, even if his heart fervently desires it."

"You're spewing nonsense at me! Your weaklings are unable to fight me and so you berate my men with a slew of insults? What strategy is that?"

"You don't see it, do you? I know my men can't handle you, but what you don't know is that we already have you defeated. Look around you Jurlo; you're beaten! How can you conquer when you have no men? No camp? No supplies? You have no army because you were your own army and your men could not be that."

"What?!" Kilseh turned his eyes to the greater battlefield, seeing the burning flames and the lifeless bodies of his men. The bleeding corpses lined the fields and charred supplies choked up smoke. His surviving men stood beside him, bloodied and wounded, and greatly outnumbered. "This, this is impossible! We had you beaten! We saw you flee with all your dead and wounded. You were broken! How could you have come back?!"

"You saw what you wanted to see. We are very much alive, even though it displeases you. Allah is the One who gives victory, and He promised victory to the Believers. You are not welcome in these lands O Disbelievers, so turn away and flee whilst you can. This is the home of the God-Conscious, and you are the Deniers. Turn and return to your homes, leaving your properties and dead comrades behind. You have lost this day, and you will be greater losers on a Day to come, unless Allah has Mercy on you and you change your ways. Now go, flee before I send you meet that which you deny!"

"And you would allow me to escape? Not fearing that I would do as you have done?"

"I will not let it be said that the Kwaadi have more mercy than the Muslims. Thus, I allow you to leave with your lives. But I will not let it be said that the Muslims are fools either. Thus I command that you drop your weapons and leave everything behind. Either you leave taking only your own lives, or you stay with us taking your lives instead."

Kilseh gritted his teeth in frustration. Here was he was, the pride of the Kwaadi, being talked down to by the Muslim commander. He would not have it. Surrender? Never. Defeat was not an option. "You talk very bravely," he spoke in gritty voice. "Let's see if your soldiers can match your bravery!" Kilseh gripped his mace and lunged at the group of soldiers standing by.

Acting quickly, Zubayr kicked up burning coals into Kilseh's face. The man roared in agony as he lifted his hands to his charred face. Zubayr, alongside Ali and Shu'aib charged straight for him and all struck their blades through him at once. They pulled out their swords and stepped back, with Kilseh dropping to the ground in defeat. His wide eyes shifted back and forth in disbelief.

"They don't need to fight as brave as me," Zubayr spoke lowly to Kilseh. "When I can fight as they do." Kilseh fell over on his side, his life bleeding out. Zubayr turned his eyes to the remaining Kwaadi soldiers. "If the rest of you wish to take us on and meet a similar fate, come forth now. Otherwise, drop your weapons and armor, and board your ships. Do not return to this land, ever again."

At once the cowardly Kwaadi soldiers began removing their armor and laying down their arms. Zubayr entrusted Ali and Shu'aib with the task of overseeing their proper surrender. They were to ensure nothing was hidden and check the ships they were sailing for any supplies. Every single possession of the Kwaadi army was to be turned over to the Muslims and collected as war booty. Zubayr turned and marched out into the distance. His eyes were stern and serious, but a victorious smile crept onto his face. "Alhamdulillah," he said to himself. "Alhamdulillah for the victory of learning from defeat..."


"I'm sorry about your injury," the young Zubayr spoke to his wounded brother, lying on bed. "I didn't mean to push you into-"

"It's fine," Zayd replied, his eyes sorrowful but his heart forgiving. "It wasn't your fault. It was m-"

"It was my fault. And I'm sorry for it. I nearly got you killed."

"Alhamdulillah I'm fine. I'll live through it maybe be tougher in the end."

"Ah, that's great. You're already tough as it is, I can't wait to see you then. And hey, when you get better, maybe you could teach me that lassoing thing."

"Wh-what?"

"Your lasso technique. It's a neat trick actually. I didn't say anything earlier because I was hyped up on energy and wanted to get down and dirty doing hands on work. But that lasso thing was very clever of you to figure out."

"R-really? But you said it would stran-"

"Yeah I know, but I wasn't thinking it through as well as you had. The goats wouldn't be stupid enough to tug when they couldn't breathe, and plus, I notice now that you had just enough slack that the goat could breathe and move but couldn't pull itself free. That takes great thought and strategy. I want to learn it."

"You want to learn from me?"

"Yeah, why not? We're brothers, we can learn from and teach each other as a mutual friendship, can't we?" The weary look in Zayd's eyes began to give way to a victorious smile. He nodded in agreement and Zubayr smiled back, reaching out a hand to shake with him. Zayd accepted and Zubayr leaned him giving him a quick embrace and pat on the back. "Alhamdulillah. Isn't this great we will both learn from this defeat?

"Yes," Zayd replied calmly. "Alhamdulillah for the victory of learning from defeat..."


GLOSSARY/TRANSLATIONS

Juz: Any one of the thirty parts the Quran is divided into, with the chapters further dividing within.

Hayakallah: God Bless you

Ummi: My Mother

Tawheed: Belief in the Oneness of God, without associating partners with Him. Tawheed is of three branches, Al-Uluhiyyah (His Godship and right to be Worshipped), Ar-Rububiyyah (His Lordship as the Creator, Sustainer, and Controller of all that exists), and Al-Asmaa wa Sifaat (The affirmation of all the Divine Names and Attributes of God in a manner that suits His Majesty, as mentioned in the Quran). Tawheed is the core belief of Muslims and was the central Message of all the Prophets from Adam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) down the line to Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and lastly Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Without proper belief in Tawheed, one cannot be a Muslim.

Sahabah: The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)

Eid ul Adha: The second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year. It honors the willingness of the prophet Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ishmael (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as an act of submission to God's command and his son's acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with a lamb to sacrifice instead.

Eid Mubarak: One of many different Eid greetings Muslims around the world use. This is just a way to wish someone a "Blessed Eid"

Shukran: "Thanks"

Afwan: Has a few different meanings, but here, its meaning is "You're welcome."


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