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The Prophet's Wives Series

From Judaism to Islam – Safiyyah bint Huyayy

Part Ten

From Judaism to Islam – Safiyyah bint Huyayy
Safiyyah came from a family that held a significant amount of power. Her father, Huyayy ibn Akhtab was a leader of one of the largest Jewish tribes living in Madinah.

We often are introduced to the people around the Prophet (PBUH) through his life and perspective.

While there is good reason for this, it can also be of great benefit to learn about the companions of the Messenger as individuals. They were the people who Allah (SWT) calls in the Quran, “[…] the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind”. (Quran 3:110)

It can be especially important to look to the lives of the honorable and honored wives of the Prophet (PBUH) to understand that they too were human beings who lived, ate, laughed, and struggled to please Allah (SWT). After the Prophet, can there be a better example for us than the Mothers of the Believers who were all promised paradise?

Continuing in our journey to find out if our mothers were funny, sensitive, outgoing, introspective, self-doubting, or fearless, we take a look at Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, Safiyyah bint Huyayy (May Allah be please with her-RA)

Among the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wives, Safiyyah bint Huyayy (RA) was humble, helpful, and she showed grace under pressure.

Safiyyah was humble

Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) came from a family that held a significant amount of power. Her father, Huyayy ibn Akhtab was a leader of one of the largest Jewish tribes living in Madinah. Safiyyah narrates:

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.” [i]

Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) was shocked by this reaction of her father and uncle after meeting the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). They confirmed that this man was truly a messenger of God, but instead of following him they decided to fight him. She later explained that it was due of their sense of superiority because of lineage that they refused to accept an Arab Prophet.

But for Safiyyah, this experience was life changing. She knew from her father and uncle that Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by Allah (SWT) as a prophet. And she didn’t let a false sense of superiority get between her and her Lord.

So, when the Prophet (PBUH) invited her to accept Islam, she remembered this experience and embraced it with an open and willing heart refusing the arrogance her father exhibited. [ii]

Safiyyah was a true helper

After the Muslims defeated Huyayyay’s Jewish tribe, who had plotted to destroy the Muslims and murder the Prophet (PBUH), Saffiyah accepted Islam and then married the messenger of Allah (PBUH).

The Prophet (PBUH) waited for his new wife to finish menstruation and they travelled a short distance from Khaybar. But when he went to his new wife to consummate their marriage, she refused him.

The Prophet (PBUH) was confused by her refusal because she herself had chosen to marry him. They continued to travel farther from Khaybar the next day and halted once again. Then Safiyyah  had her hair brushed, was perfumed, and she went to her husband. It was narrated that:

Safiyyah was the fairest of all women. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) consummated the marriage with his wife. In the morning, I asked her about what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said to her and she replied, “He asked me: ‘What made you refuse to halt and lodge in the first place?’ And I said, ‘I feared for you, for the Jews were near that place.’” [iii]

She refused her need for intimacy after already having waited for the end of her menstruation out of fear for the well being of her new husband. Only when she felt it was safe for the Messenger (PBUH), did she consummate her marriage.

Safiyyah felt deeply for others, especially those she loved. And seeing the Prophet (PBUH) on his death bed affected her greatly. 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.” [iv]

Often Safiyyah (RA) scarified for others. Many years later after the death of the Prophet (PBUH), when Uthman, the third Caliph, was under siege, Safiyyah got her horse and headed into danger to defend Uthman. But she was turned around by one of Uthman’s attackers.

But this did not deter Safiyyah’s desire to help Uthman (RA) . She made a passage between her house and Uthman’s, through which she could send supplies to Uthman’s family. [v]

On a number of occasions, Safiyyah (RA) put other’s safety and needs before her own. She had the heart of a compassionate helper.

Safiyyah showed Grace under duress

After the Prophet’s (PBUH) death, Safiyyah’s (RA) servant went to Umar (RA) and said:

‘Amir al Muminin! Safiyyah loves the Sabbath (a day of religious observance for Jews) and maintains ties with the Jews!’ Umar asked Safiyyah 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 slave girl what had possessed her to carry lies to Umar and the girl replied, ‘Shaytan!’ Safiyyah said, ‘Go, you are free.’ [vi]

In the face of slander, instead of taking retribution from someone Safiyyah (RA) had power over, she gave the best gift one could receive, freedom.

Safiyyah (RA) never showed arrogance, was always seeking ways to help people, and she returned hurtful comments with that which is better. She is a great example of excellent character for us to model ourselves after.

[i] 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

[ii] http://www.alsiraj.net/English/albayt/html/page08.html

[iii] http://idealmuslimah.com/personalities/sahaabiyaat/194-safiyah-bint-huyay-ibn-akhtab.html

[iv]  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

[v] http://www.alsiraj.net/English/albayt/html/page08.html

[vi] http://www.answering-christianity.com/bassam_zawadi/safiyyah_the_wife_of_the_prophet.htm

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About Theresa Corbin

Theresa Corbin is a New Orleans native and Muslimah who converted in 2001 after many years of soul searching and religious study. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and the Washington Post, among others publications.Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discuss the intersection of culture and religion.

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