Safiyya bint Huyayy

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Safiyya bint Huyayy (Hebrew: צפיה בת חייSafiyya bath Huyayy , Arabic: صفية بنت حيي‎) (c. 610 – c. 670) was a Jewish woman taken from the Banu Nadir tribe at age seventeen,[1] who became Muhammad's wife. She was, along with all other wives of Muhammad, titled Umm-ul-Mo'mineen or the "Mother of Believers".[2]

After Muhammad's death, she became involved in the power politics of the early Muslim community, and acquired substantial influence by the time of her death.[3]

Early life[edit]

Safiyya was born in Medina to Huyayy ibn Akhtab, the chief of the Jewish tribe Banu Nadir. Her mother, Barra bint Samawal, was from the Banu Qurayza tribe. She was the granddaughter of Samaw'al ibn Adiya from the Banu Harith tribe. According to a source, she was married off to Sallam ibn Mishkam, who later divorced her.[3]

When the Banu Nadir were expelled from Medina in 625, her family settled in Khaybar, an oasis near Medina.[3] Her father and brother went from Khaybar to join the Meccan and Bedouin forces besieging Muhammad in Medina during the Battle of the Trench. When the Meccans withdrew Muhammad besieged the Banu Qurayza. After the defeat of the Banu Qurayza in 627 Safiyya's father, a long-time opponent of Muhammad, was captured and executed by the Muslims.[4]

In 627 or early in 628, Safiyya married Kenana ibn al-Rabi, treasurer of the Banu Nadir; she was about 17 years old at that time.[3] Safiyya is said to have informed Kenana of a dream she had in which the moon had fallen from the heavens into her lap. Kenana interpreted it as a desire to marry Muhammad and struck her in the face, leaving a mark which was still visible when she first had contact with Muhammad.[2][5]

Battle of Khaybar[edit]

Main article: Battle of Khaybar

In May 629, the Muslims defeated several Jewish tribes (including the Banu Nadir) at the Battle of Khaybar. The Jews had surrendered, and were allowed to remain in Khaybar on the provision that they give half of their annual produce to the Muslims. The land itself became the property of the Muslim state.[6] This agreement, Stillman says, did not extend to the Banu Nadir tribe, who were given no quarter.[7] Safiyya's husband, Kenana ibn al-Rabi, was also killed, after having been tortured by fire to reveal the whereabouts of the treasure, according to Ibn Ishaq.[8]

In the aftermath, the female captives were divided amongst Muhammad and his followers.[6] Dihya Al-Kalbi seeked Muhammad's permission to get a few female captives as his wife or slave. Muhammad said to him "Go and choose whoever suitable for you amongst the captives". Dihya chose Safiyya as she was very beautiful but his happiness was short-lived. One of Muhammad's men told Muhammad, "Why did you give Safiyya to Dihya? She is only fit for yourself". Muhammad replied, "Bring Dihya and Safiyya to me". When they were brought forth and Muhammad witnessed the beautiful Safiyya, he commanded Dihya, "Go and choose another woman". Muhammad then instructed his female helper to prepare and clean up Safiyya. Muhammad then proceeded to copulate with Safiyya on the same day her father, husband (of one month in marriage) and many of her tribe members killed by Muslim army. Safiyya was only 17 years old when Muhammad (of 62 years old) consummated with her. Umm Salamah described Saffiya, "I have never seen a more beautiful woman than Safiyya". [9] Safiyya was converted to Islam, thereby becoming Muhammad's wife; her dowry being her emancipation.[10] Thereafter, Muhammad held a banquet of dates and butter in celebration of the marriage, and then returned to Medina.[11]

Marriage to Muhammad[edit]

According to Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muhammad stayed for three days between Khaybar and Medina, where he consummated his marriage to Safiyya. His companions wondered if she was to be considered a captive (Arabic: ma malakat aymanukum‎) or a wife. The former speculated that they would consider Safiyya as Muhammad's wife, and thus "Mothers of the Believers", if Muhammad ordered her to veil herself, else she would be his servant-girl.[12]

Muhammad suggested that Safiyya convert to Islam, and she agreed, thus she become Muhammad's wife.[13] Safiyya did not bear any children to Muhammad.[14]

Despite her conversion, Muhammad's other wives teased Safiyya of her Jewish origin. Doubts about Safiyya's loyalty to Islam and the suspicion that she would avenge her slain kin are themes in the Sirah Rasul Allah (biographies of Muhammad).[15] In these stories, Muhammad or Umar express great displeasure at such doubts and reaffirm her loyalty.[2][3]

Regarding Safiyya's Jewish descent, Muhammad once said to his wife, "If they discriminate you again, tell them that your husband is Muhammad, your father was the prophet Aaron and your uncle was prophet Musa. In this case I'm superior to you."[2]

Legacy[edit]

In 656, Safiyya sided with caliph Uthman ibn Affan, and defended him at his last meeting with Ali, Aisha, and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. During the period when the caliph was besieged at his residence, Safiyya made an unsuccessful attempt to reach him, and supplied him with food and water via a plank placed between her dwelling and his.[3]

Safiyya died in 670 or 672, during the reign of Muawiyah, and was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi graveyard.[16] She left an estate of 100,000 dirhams in land and goods, one-third of which she bequeathed to her sister's son, who followed Judaism. Her dwelling in Medina was bought by Muawiyya for 180,000 dirhams.[3]

Her dream was interpreted as a miracle, and her suffering and reputation for crying won her a place in Sufi works. She is mentioned in all major books of hadith for relating a few traditions and a number of events in her life serve as legal precedents.[3]

See also[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Safiyya bint Huyay, Fatima az-Zahra by Ahmad Thompson
  2. ^ a b c d Stowasser, Barbara. The Mothers of the Believers in the Hadith. The Muslim World, Volume 82, Issue 1-2: 1-36.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Vacca, V (1995). "Safiyya". In P. J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam 8 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. p. 817. ISBN 9004098348. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  4. ^ Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad: Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah.
  5. ^ "It is related that she bore the mark of a bruise upon her eye; when the Prophet (Peace be upon him) asked her tenderly the cause, she told him that, being yet Kenāna's bride, she saw in a dream as if the moon had fallen from the heavens into her lap; and that when she told it to Kenāna, he struck her violently, saying: 'What is this thy dream but that thou covetest the new king of the Ḥijāz, the Prophet, for thy husband!' The mark of the blow was the same which Moḥammad saw." cf. Muir (1912) pp. 378-379
  6. ^ a b Veccia Vaglieri, L. "Khaybar". In P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  7. ^ Stillman (1979) p. 18
  8. ^ Ibn Hisham. Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya (The Life of The Prophet). English translation in Guillame (1955), pp. 145–146
  9. ^ Hadis Sahih Bukhari Vol. 1, Book 8, #367; Vol.2, Book 14, #68; Vol.3 Book 34, #431 and Hadis Sahih Muslim, Book 8, #3325, 3328 & 3329
  10. ^ Watt (1964) p. 195
  11. ^ See:
    • Awde; Nicholas (2000) p. 85
    • Le Gassick (2000) p. 288
    • "Narrated Anas bin Malik: We arrived at Khaibar, and when Allah helped His Apostle to open the fort, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtaq whose husband had been killed while she was a bride, was mentioned to Allah's Apostle. The Prophet selected her for himself, and set out with her, and when we reached a place called Sidd-as-Sahba,' Safiya became clean from her menses then Allah's Apostle married her. Hais (i.e. an 'Arabian dish) was prepared on a small leather mat. Then the Prophet said to me, "I invite the people around you." So that was the marriage banquet of the Prophet and Safiya. Then we proceeded towards Medina, and I saw the Prophet, making for her a kind of cushion with his cloak behind him (on his camel). He then sat beside his camel and put his knee for Safiya to put her foot on, in order to ride (on the camel)" Sahih Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:522
  12. ^ Al-Bukhari, Al-Sahih, vol. 7.1
  13. ^ Ibn Saad, al-Tabaqat, pp.120-123.
  14. ^ Peters, F. E., Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, State University of New York Press, 1994, pp.179, ISBN 0-7914-1876-6. "At Medina he also married Umar's daughter Hafsa, Hind, Zaynab daughter of Jahsh, 16 Umm Salama, Juwayriyya, Ramla or Umm Habiba, Safiyya, and Maymuna. None of them bore him children, however, though he had a son, Ibrahim, by his Coptic concubine Maria. Ibrahim died an infant."
  15. ^ Abu Dawud vol.3 no.4588 p.1293
  16. ^ Al-Shati', 1971, p. 181

Further reading[edit]

  • Awde, Nicholas Women in Islam: An Anthology from the Qur'an and Hadits, Routledge (UK) 2000, ISBN 0-7007-1012-4
  • John Esposito and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Islam, Gender, and Social Change, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-511357-8
  • Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical roots of a modern debate, Yale University Press, 1992
  • Valentine Moghadam (ed), Gender and National Identity.
  • Karen Armstrong, “The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”, London, HarperCollins/Routledge, 2001