Safiyah Bint Huyay Ibn Akhtab Mother of the Faithful

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The circumstances that made Safiyah one of the mothers of the faithful are very important. They are strongly related to the movement of the historical course of the Da'wah of Islam. Therefore, we need to discuss these circumstances and glorify them without any boring elaborations or faulty details.

Her father Huyay ibn Akhtab was, for Islam and the Muslims, one of the most maliciously and treacherously dangerous Jewish leaders in Madeenah. He was the leader of Banu Nadeer, one of the three biggest Jewish tribes that were living in Madeenah. These tribes had their distinctive districts and fortresses. Other two major tribes are Banu Qaynuqa' and Banu Quraydhah.

The Messenger of Allah (SAW), when he arrived at Madeenah on his Hijrah and started organizing the new society, had entered into pacts and treaties with the Jews, doing so separately with each Jewish clan.

But since the Jews are naturally treacherous, it was not long before they broke the treaties. Banu Qaynuqa' was the first to act treacherously, followed by Banu Nadeer.

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) came to them one day along with a group of his Companions seeking their help in paying the blood-money (diyah) of two persons who were mistakenly killed. He did so because of the alliance that was between him and them. Outwardly, they welcomed him and they stood up for deliberations.

Their leader, Huyay ibn Akhtab then suggested that they should take the opportunity of Muhammad's presence in their midst and the fewness of his Companions that were with him to betray him and kill him. Most of them agreed on this suggestion and efforts were made to execute this evil plan.

It was here that Angel Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and informed him of what was being planned against him. The Prophet (PBUH) then stood up quietly and left leaving behind, even, his Companions.

The Jews of Banu Nadeer were taken by surprise that their evil plan had failed. As for his Companions who were with him, they thought that he only left them to meet some of his needs. But when they noticed that he had been away for a long time, they traced him, and when they finally saw him he told them of what had happened.

As a punishment for their act of treachery, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) commanded the Jews of Banu Nadeer to leave Madeenah, and he gave them a period within which they should do so. They refused to leave and rather fortified themselves in their forts. The leader of the hypocrites in Madeenah, 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool supported them and promised them help.

When the period ofgrace expired, the army ofIslam, under the able leadership of Muhammad (SAW) besieged them and Ibn Ubayy, the hypocrite let them down and disappointed them. Then the Messenger of Allah (SAW) forced them to evacuate Madeenah? So they went out of the city to Khaybar without anyone pitying them.

From here, Huyay ibn Akhtab went about spreading his malicious venoms anew and arousing the polytheists' anger against the Prophet (PBUH); shuttling between Khaybar, Makkah and Madeenah.

These efforts of Huyay, culminated in the Battle of the Confederates, known otherwise as the Battle of the Trench. This was followed by the Battle of Banu Quraydhah who allied themselves with the polytheists and broke the treaties they made with the Messenger of Allah (SAW).

The presence of Huyay ibn Akhtab in the midst of Banu Quraydhah was coincidental with the time that the Muslims were in war with them. So he was killed along with the fighters against whom Sa'd ibn Mu'adh gave a judgment that they should be killed. They themselves appointed Sa' d as the arbitrator between them and the Messenger of Allah (SAW) hoping that he would be lenient with them because he was their former ally. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) told him, "You have indeed judged among them with the judgment of Allah from above the seven heavens."

In the light of the above, Khaybar, the source of problem and conspiracy against the Muslims had to be conquered. In spite of severe hardships from its many forts and powerful fighters, it eventually fell into the hands of the Muslims.

Safiyah bint Huyay fell, as a captive, in the share of Dihyah ibn Khaleefah al-Kalbi. But a number of the Companions vied with one another for her; each of them wanted to have her for she was amazingly beautifully and she is the daughter of the king of Banu Nageer and the wife of Khaybar chief, Kinanah ibn Abi al-Huqayq.

To put an end to this dispute, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) chose her for himself and made it a condition upon her that she should accept Islam and be set free. She accepted. He positioned her at the rear and wore his garment on her. By this the competitors were calmed.

The above were the circumstances that led Safiyah to the household of the Prophet (PBUH) as one of the mothers of the faithful.

She had played roles in the personal life of the Prophet (PBUH) and in thecourse of his calling people to Islam. This gave her backgrounds worthy of being recorded for remembrance and lessons:

One: When the Messenger of Allah (SAW)commanded Bilal to bring her, he brought her in the company of a female cousin of hers. Bilal made them pass by the killed Jews. When her cousin saw them she struck her face and screamed and heaped soil on her head. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) heard her and he said, "Keep this female devil away from me." He then rebuked Bilal, "Was mercy removed from your heart that you make the women pass by their killed people?"

He was indeed absolutely the Prophet of mercy. You will never find his equal among humans until Allah inherits the earth and all that is on it.

Two: When the Messenger of Allah saw that Saniyah’s eyes were green, he asked her of the reason and she said: "When I was a bride for Kinanah ibn Abi al-Huqayq, I saw as if the sun descended upon my chest. I told my husband and he slapped me very hard and said, 'Are you wishing to be the wife of the king of the Arabs?

This reminded us of Prophet Yoosuf's dream when he (AS) said: 

Verily, I saw [in a dream] eleven stars and the sun and the moon - I saw them prostrating themselves to me. (Qur'an 12: 4)

[They are] descendants, some of them from others.

On the other side, it confirmed the Jews' discussions in their secluded assemblies about the Prophet hood of Muhammad (SAW), and that some of them believed in it. The story of 'Abdullah ibn Salam's embrace of Islam is a vivid example in this regard.

Also, the symbolic fall of the sun upon Safiyahs chest has its own indications. For, she has yearning, from the depth of her heart that is full of Eeman, for the person of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (SAW).

Certainly, the life of Safiyahs in the household of the Prophet (PBUH) and after the Prophet's death confirmed the great love that she had for him and the depth of her faith in Allah (SWT).

According to historical narrations:

"The Messenger of Allah (SAW) did not leave Khaybar until Safiyah was clean from menstruation. He carried her on a mount behind himself and when he arrived at a place, six miles from Khaybar, he wanted to consummate the marriage with her. She refused, and that annoyed him.

And when he arrived at Sahba, a place that is some miles from Khaybar, he halted and lodged with her there. Umm Sulaym combed her hair and perfumed her.

Umm Sinan al-Aslamiyah said:

"Safiyah was the fairest of all women. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) consummated the marriage with his family. In the morning, I asked her about what the Prophet (PBUH) told her and she said, '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 the place.' This answer increased her status in his estimation.

This is Safiyah whose father was killed in captivity during the Battle of Banu Quraydhah, whose husband, Kinanah ibn Abi al-Huqayq was killed during the campaign of Khaybar and who have seen her people suffered massacres, and yet, fearing for the life of Muhammad (SAW) that the Jews might harm him?!

This is a stand and an event that need reflections. However deep we try to go to unravel the mystery of this stand of hers, we cannot come out but with only one result: It is the emanation of the light of faith that filled the nature and overwhelmed the emotion.

Safiyah was the perfect example of this and the Messenger of Allah (SAW) who is the leader of mankind testified to this.

Ibn Sa'd narrated on the authority of 'Al& ibn Yasar that he said:

"When Safiyah arrived from Khaybar, she lodged at a house belonging to Harithah ibn an-Nu'man. The Ansar women heard of that and they came looking at her beauty and 'A'ishah also came wearing her face veil. When she came out, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) asked her, 'What did you see?' She said, 'I saw a Jewish woman!' He then told her, 'Do not say that.

For, she has embraced Islam and practises it perfectly."

The women's jealousy did not stop with 'A'ishah. Some of the Prophet's wives were also jealous of her.

Ibn Sa'd narrated on the authority of 'A'ishah:

"That the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was on a journey and a camel for Safiyah became ill and Zaynab bint Jahsh had an extra camel. So the Prophet (PBUH) told her, ‘Safiyah’ camel is ill, can you please give her a camel?' But Zaynab said, 'Should I give (camel) to that Jewish woman?' So the Messenger of Allah (SAW) deserted her for Dhul Hijjah and Muharram, two or three months without coming to her. Zaynab said, 'Until I gave up all hope in him."

It was also reported that the Prophet's wives used to say many other things about her.

Her servant Kinanah narrated that she (Safiyah) said:

“The Prophet (PBUH) entered my house while it had reached me that 'A’ishah and Hafsah used to say they were dearer to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) than her and that they were his wives and cousins. When she mentioned that to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) he told her, 'You should have told them, 'how could you be better than me while my husband is Muhammad and my father is Aron and my uncle is Moses?"

Some of her most prominent qualities are intelligence, forbearance and nobility. A maid of her plotted against her in the presence of 'Umar and informed him that she loved Saturday and that she was kind with the Jews.

'Umar sent for her and asked her about that. She said, "As for Saturday I no longer love it since Allah have substituted it for me with Friday. As for the Jews, I still have kith and kin among them. So I have to be kind to them."

Safiyah knew that it was her maid who plotted against her and she asked her, ''Why did you do this?" The maid said, "It was Satan." Safiyah then told her, "Go, you are free."

I believed that Safiyah freed her maid because she had said the truth and asserted that the cause of this plot was Satan. This act of Safiyah is an indication of her forbearance and excellence.

Her intelligence and farsightedness also contributed to her freeing of the maid. For, this maid that had once succumbed to the temptations of Satan could do so once more or many times more. So keeping her away from such temptation through freeing her is a protection for her against it.

"She is truthful."

This is another testimony for Safiyah from the Messenger of Allah (SAW). It was in fact, a testimony from the one who never talked out of his own desire.

Ibn Sa'd reported with a Hasan chain of transmitters on the authority of Zayd ibn Aslam who said:

"The Prophet's wives gathered when the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was in his sickness in which he died. Safiyah said, '0' Prophet of Allah! I wish I were suffering from that which you are suffering from!' Upon hearing that, the Prophet's other wives winked at one another. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) commanded them, 'Go and rinse your mouths.' And they said, 'From what?' He said, 'Because of your wink at one another to mock her. By Allah! She is truthful (in what she said).'"

Safiyah lived as a mother of the believers, honoured and abundantly respected.

She died in the year 52 A.H. during the caliphate of Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufiyan. 

She memorized many hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH) and she narrated and people narrated from her, may Allah be pleased with her!

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