Written by Bassam Zawadi
Many anti Islamics attack the marriage of Prophet Muhammad to Safiyyah. They claim that the Prophet was brutal and unfair in marrying Safiyyah. This article is not for giving a biography of Safiyyah. This article’s only purpose is to show that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Prophet’s marriage to Safiyyah. This article is only providing sources that may be beneficial for the Muslims. If any Muslim happens to come across any anti Islamic site which criticizes the Prophet’s marriage to Safiyyah, then you should find the material in this article to be very useful. I have collected information from different sources and they have been all referenced appropriately.
The article will be divided into sections:-
- Safiyyah’s Attitude Towards The Prophet
- Safiyyah’s Character
- The Prophet’s Marriage to Safiyyah and It’s Wisdom
- The Prophet’s Attitude Towards Safiyyah
Safiyyah’s Attitude Towards The Prophet
The Prophet acknowledged the honesty of Safiyyah and what a great acknowledgement it was as it came from the most honest person on earth. Zayd ibn Aslam said, “When the Prophet was so sick and on the verge of death his wives gathered around him. Safiyyah bint Huyayyay said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, by Allah, I would like to be in your place.’ Hearing her utterance, the Prophet’s wives winked at her. The Prophet saw them and said, ‘Rinse your mouths.’ They said, ‘For what, Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘For your winking at her, by Allah, she is telling the truth.'” (Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, vol. 8, p.101, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.175)
Just see how much Safiyyah loved the Prophet.
Here is Umm al- Mu’minin, Safiyyah, relates those moments when she hated the Prophet for killing her father and her ex-husband. The Prophet apologized to her saying, “Your father charged the Arabs against me and committed heinous act,” he apologized to the extent that made Safiyyah get rid of her bitterness against the Prophet. (Al-Bayhaqi, Dala’il an-Nubuwwah, vol. 4, p. 230, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.166)
Yes, indeed Safiyyah was angry at the Prophet at first but she forgave him later on. This is mainly due to the fact that she always knew that Muhammad was indeed a Prophet.
Saffiyah says, “I was my father’s and my uncle’s favorite child. When the Messenger of Allah came to Madinah and stayed at Quba, my parents went to him at night and when they looked disconcerted and worn out. I received them cheerfully but to my surprise no one of them turned to me. They were so grieved that they did not feel my presence. I heard my uncle, Abu Yasir, saying to my father, ‘Is it really him?’ He said, ‘Yes, by Allah’. My uncle said: ‘Can you recognize him and confirm this?’ He said, ‘Yes’. My uncle said, ‘How do you feel towards him?’ He said, ‘By Allah I shall be his enemy as long as I live.'” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, vol. 2, pp. 257-258, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.162)
The story above illustrates Safiyyah’s awareness and intelligence. It also shows that the Jews had known of the Prophet’s prophethood, and knew him as well as they knew their children. Nevertheless they harbored feelings of hatred and bitterness for Islam and for the Prophet. The story in addition to this shows the great enmity and hatred that Huyayy felt against the Messenger of Allah. Safiyyah did not inherit anything from her father because Allah made her heart ready for Islam and prepared her soul for faith. (Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.162-163)
More regarding the importance of this story…
The significance of this conversation is evident when we recall that in the Torah for the Jews, it was written that a Prophet would come who would lead those who followed him to victory. Indeed before the Prophet Muhammad came to Madinah, the Jews used to threaten the idol worshippers of Yathrib, as it was then called, that when the next Prophet came to the believers were going to exterminate them, just as the Jews had exterminated other tribes who refused to worship God in the past. As in any case, of the Prophet Jesus, who had been clearly described in the Torah – but rejected by many of the Jews when he actually came – the next and last Prophet was accurately described in the Torah, which also contained signs by which the Jews could easily recognize him. Thus Ka’b al-Ahbar, one of the Jews of that time who embraced Islam, relates that this Prophet is described in the Torah….
To know a little bit more about Kab Al Ahbar read this link
Back to the article…
It was was thanks to these descriptions in the Torah, that the most learned rabbi of the Jews, Abdullah ibn Salam, had embraced Islam on seeing Muhammad and it was because of these descriptions that Huyayy ibn Akhtab was also able to recognize him. Huyayy, like most of the other Jews, was deeply disappointed that the last Prophet was a descendant of Ismail and not Ishaq, since the Jews of that time claimed exclusive descent from Ishaq, through the twelve sons of his son Yaqub, from whom the twelve tribes of Israel had originated. Not only did Huyayy resent the fact that the last Prophet had appeared amongst the Arabs, but also he did nto want to lose his position of power and leadership over his people.
It was for these reasons that Huyayy secretly decided to oppose and fight the Prophet Muhammad while……
Although Safiyya was Huyayy’s daughter, she had a pure heart and had always wanted to worship her creator and Lord, the One who had sent Musa, to whom she was related, and Isa, and finally Muhammad, may Allah be pleased with all of them. Thus as soon as the opportunity arose, not only to follow the last Prophet, but also to be married with him, she took it.
Safiyyah moved to the house of the Prophet. He loved, appreciated and honored her to the extent that he made her say, “I have never seen a good-natured person as the Messenger of Allah. (Abu Ya’la al-Mawsili, Musnad, vol. 13, p. 38, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.172)
Abd Allah ibn Ubaydah said, “A group of people gathered in the room of Safiyyah, a wife of the Prophet. They remembered Allah, recited the Qur’an and prostrated. Saffiyah called them saying, ‘You prostrated and recited the Quran but where is your weeping (out of fearing Allah)?” (Abu Nu’aym al Asbahani, Hilyat al-Awliya‘, vol. 2, p. 55, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.177)
This shows how much of a sincere worshipper to God Safiyyah was.
She still underwent difficulties after the death of the Prophet. Once a slavegirl she owned went to the Amir Al Muminin Umar and asked, “Amir al Muminin! Saiffya loves the Sabbath and maintains ties with the Jews!” Umar asked Safiyya about that and she said, “I have not loved the Sabbath since Allah replaced it with Friday for me, and I only maintain ties with those Jews to whom I am related by kinship.” She asked her slavegirl what had possessed her to carries lie to Umar and the girl replied, “Shaitan!” Safiyya said, “Go, you are free.”
This shows and proves that Safiyyah remained a loyal Muslim even after the Prophet’s death.
Safiyyah established a warm and sympathetic relation with the Prophet’s household. She presented Fatimah az-Zahra’ a gift of jewels expressing her affection to her, and she also gave some of the Prophet’s wives gifts from her jewels that she brought with her from Khaybar. (Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, vol.8, p.100, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.172)
Safiyyah was a humble worshiper and a pious believer. About her ibn Kathir said, “She was one of the best women in her worship, piousness, ascetism, devoutness, and charity. (Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, vol. 8, p. 47, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.177)
Safiyyah was a very charitable and generous woman. She used to give out and spend whatever she had for the sake of Allah to the extent that she gave out a house that she had when she was still alive. (Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, vol. 8, p. 102, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.178)
The Prophet’s Marriage to Safiyyah and It’s Wisdom
As for the accusation that Safiyyah was coerced into marriage or taken advantage of, as alleged by a known Islamophobic, this claim has no basis at all. It is known that Safiyyah(R) remained loyal to the Prophet until he passed away. (An account of how Safiyyah’s loyalty was affirmed by the Prophet(P) himself is recorded in Muhammad Husayn Haykal, op. cit., p. 374, of which an online document can be found, Cited in http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/index.php/articles/umm-ul-mukminin-safiyyah-the-jewish-wife-of-muhammadp)
We have in fact the Prophet(P) making the following offer to her, as recorded by Martin Lings:
He [the Prophet Muhammad – Ed.] then told Safiyyah that he was prepared to set her free, and he offered her the choice between remaining a Jewess and returning to her people or entering Islam and becoming his wife. “I choose God and His Messenger,” she said; and they were married at the first halt on the homeward march. (Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based On The Earliest Sources (George Allen & Unwin, 1983), p. 269, Cited in http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/index.php/articles/umm-ul-mukminin-safiyyah-the-jewish-wife-of-muhammadp
The marriage to Safiyyah(R) has a political significance as well, as it helps to reduce hostilities and cement alliances. John L. Esposito notes that
As was customary for Arab chiefs, many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection. (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, pp. 19-20, Cited in http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/index.php/articles/umm-ul-mukminin-safiyyah-the-jewish-wife-of-muhammadp)
This significant act of marrying Safiyyah(R) was indeed a great honour for her, for this not only preserved her dignity, it also prevented her from becoming a slave. Haykal notes that:
The Prophet granted her freedom and then married her, following the examples of great conquerors who married the daughters and wives of the kings whom they had conquered, partly in order to alleviate their tragedy and partly to preserve their dignity. (Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad (North American Trust Publications, 1976), p. 373, Cited in http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/index.php/articles/umm-ul-mukminin-safiyyah-the-jewish-wife-of-muhammadp)
With marrying Safiyyah, the Prophet aimed at ending the enmity and hostility adopted by the Jews against him and against Islam, all the way long, but alas they went on with their hatred for Islam and for the Prophet simply because it was their natural disposition to be malicious and stubborn. ( See Muhammad M. as-Sawwaf, Zawjat ar-Rasul at-Tahirat wa Hikmat T’adudihinn, pp. 76-79, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.168)
The Prophet’s Attitude Towards Safiyyah
Indeed, when Bilal ibn Rabah(R), a Companion of the Prophet, brought Safiyyah along with another Jewess before him(P) by passing through the Jews that were slain in the battle, Muhammad(P) personally chided Bilal and said “Have you no compassion, Bilal, when you brought two women past their dead husbands?” (A. Guillaume (trans.), The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah (Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 515, Cited in http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/index.php/articles/umm-ul-mukminin-safiyyah-the-jewish-wife-of-muhammadp)
There was once a situation when Zaynab bint Jahsh and Safiyyah went with the Prophet on one of his travels and the camel of Safiyyah fell sick. The Prophet said to Zaynab, “The camel of Safiyyah has fallen sick, what about giving her one of your camels?” She said, “Never should I give it to such a Jewish woman”. The Prophet became angry with her and he did not approach her for two months. (Ahmad, vol. 6, pp. 336-337, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.173)
The Prophet used to treat Safiyyah with courteousness, gentleness and affection. Safiyyah said, “The Messenger of Allah went to Hajj with his wives. On the way my camel knelt down for it was the weakest among all the other camels and so I wept. The Prophet came to me and wiped away my tears with his dress and hands. The more he asked me not to weep the more I went on weeping. (Ahmad, vol.6, p. 337, Cited in Muhammad Fathi Mus’ad, The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad: Their Strives and Their Lives, p.176)