Safiyyah bint Huyay
It is our duty as Muslims to know the names, attributes and life stories of the Ummahat al Mu’minin. They are the noble Consorts, great women, and guiding stars. Discussing their lives is discussing the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the most virtuous of discussions. Here is a glimpse into a life of another one of these stalwarts of Islam who Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had elected his spouse. Umm al Mu’minin Safiyyah bint Huyay ibn Akhtab radiya Llahu ‘anha, she converted to Islam from a Jewish clan, her father the chief of the clan—the Banu Nadir—who are descendants of the Prophet Harun ‘alayh al Salam.
Umm al Mu’minin Safiyyah bint Huyay radiya Llahu ‘anha relates an incident of her childhood before her Islam. She says:
كنت أحب ولد أبي إليه ، وإلى عمي أبي ياسر ،. قالت : فلما قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة ، ونزل قباء ، ، غدا عليه أبي أبو ياسر ، مغلسين . قالت : فوالله ما جاءانا الا مع مغيب الشمس . قالت : فأتيا كالين ساقطين يمشيان الهوينى . قالت : فهششت إليهما ، فوالله ما التفت إلي واحد منهما ، مع ما بهما من الغم . قالت : وسمعت عمي أبا ياسر ، وهو يقول لأبي: أهو هو ؟ قال : نعم والله ؛ قال : تعرفه بنعته و صفته ؟ قال : نعم والله ، قال : فما في نفسك منه ؟ قال : عداوته والله ما بقيت ابدا
I was my father’s favourite and a favourite of my uncle Yasir. When the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to Madinah and was in Quba’, my father and my uncle went to see him. It was very early in the morning and between dawn and sunrise. They had gone to see this man, if he is true in his claim of prophethood and what his attributes and qualities are. They did not return until the sun was setting. They came back worn out and depressed, walking with slow, heavy steps. I smiled to them as I always did, but neither of them took any notice of me because they were so miserable.
I head Abu Yasir ask my father, “Is it him?”
“Yes, it is,” he replied
Abu Yasir then asked, “Can you recognize him? Can you verify it?”
“Yes, I can recognize him well,” my father answered.
“What do you feel towards him?” Abu Yasir asked.
My father replied, “Enmity, enmity as long as I live.”
These are the Jews. The name Muhammad is clearly mentioned in the Torah just as the name Ahmed is clearly mentioned in the Gospel, but oh such disdain, denial, and rejection.
أَمْ لَمْ يَعْرِفُوْا رَسُوْلَهُمْ فَهُمْ لَهُ مُنكِرُوْنَ
Or did they not know their Messenger, so they are toward him disacknowledging?
الَّذِيْنَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُوْنَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُوْنَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فَرِيْقًا مِّنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُوْنَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُوْنَ
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it].
On the of day Khaybar, a battle between the Muslims and Jews took place in which Kinanah the husband of Safiyyah was killed. She was taken with the other prisoners of war and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took her for himself, giving her the option of becoming a Muslim or remaining on her religion.
He said to her thus, “Choose between Islam and Judaism, if you do become a Muslim I intend to marry you and if you choose to remain on your religion I will free you and you can return to your people.”
She replied, “O Rasulullah! I love Islam and have deemed you to be true before you even spoke to me and gave me the choice between Kufr and Islam. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and his Messenger are more beloved to me than returning to my people.”
This intelligent woman then came into the fold of Islam after which she was freed and married to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who stipulated her freedom as her dowry. The walimah meal consisted of dates, dried yoghurt, and butter. An easy blessed marriage. The intent of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam marriage to her was to raise her status, honour her, and replace her loss of family and clan with that which was better. Together with this another objective was to build relations with the Jews, perhaps it might lessen their enmity and bring them closer to accepting the truth.
Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu says,
رأيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يحوي لها وراءه بعباءة ثم يجلس عند بعيره فيضع ركبته وتضع صفية رجلها على ركبته حتى تركب
I saw Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam preparing a seat for her behind his seat using a sheet, thereafter kneeling beside the camel with his knee extended as Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu would take support whilst mounting the conveyance.
When the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saw Safiyyah’s radiya Llahu ‘anha eye was slightly green (i.e. bruised), he asked her why this was so, to which she responded, “When I was the wife of Kinanah, I saw the sun (in a dream and it was) as if it had descended in my lap. 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?’”
When Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took ill it had a profound effect on her and she wished she could be in his place suffering for him to be at ease. Ibn Sa’d has reported on the authority of Zaid ibn Aslam radiya Llahu ‘anhu who said:
The Prophet’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam wives gathered around him when he was in his sickness, (the same sickness) due to which he passed away.
يا نبى اللَّه ! لوددت أن الذي بكَ بي. فتغامزت زوجات النبي، فقال صلى الله عليه وسلم واللَّه إنها لصادقة
Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha said, “O Prophet of Allah! I wish I was suffering from that which you are suffering from!”
Upon hearing this, the Prophet’s wives began winking towards each other.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam turning to them said, “By Allah! She is truthful.”
She was a woman of outstanding qualities, from a noble lineage, and the beauty which her family was famed for had reached its pinnacle in her features. It was this beauty that kindled the sentiments of possessiveness in the other wives of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. This did not go unnoticed by him and now and again he would pacify her. On one such occasion our mother Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anha slighted Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha because of her Jewish ancestry and this was simply due to the possessiveness co-wives feel from time to time. After some time Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to her home and found her crying. Upon inquiring the source of her sorrow, she related the incident of Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anha calling her the daughter of a Jew. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then said to her:
إنك لابنة نبي وإن عمك لنبي وإنك لتحت نبي ففيم تفخرعليك ثم قال اتقي الله يا حفصة
Certainly, you are the daughter of a Prophet (Harun), your uncle is a Prophet (Musa), and you are married to a Prophet (himself); so what is she boasting to you about?”
Subhan Allah! This was the character of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his household, resolving disputes between his wives with a few well delivered words of wisdom. He wiped her tears, brought out her brilliant smile, and gave her a reason to take pride in which the other wives could not attain. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not stop there, he reprimanded Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anha saying to her, “Fear Allah O Hafsah!”
Her forbearance and intelligence shines through in an incident recorded in the books of history thus, once a slave girl she owned went to the Amir al Mu’minin ‘Umar and said, “Amir al Mu’minin! Safiyyah loves the Sabbath and maintains ties with the Jews!” ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu asked Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha about that and she said, “I have not loved the Sabbath since Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala replaced it with Friday for me, and I only maintain ties with those Jews to whom I am related by kinship.”
Subhan Allah her character does not allow her to break ties with them even after her Islam. She then asked her slave girl what had possessed her to carry lies to ‘Umar and the girl replied, “Shaitan!” Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha said, “Go, you are free.”
Can we claim to recompense evil with good as she had? Not many can claim such noble character, these are great people indeed.
She was not one to hold back in advising and guiding people as can be ascertained from the following. Some people gathered at her home remembering Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and reciting the Qur’an till they reached a verse of prostration upon which they prostrated. From behind the veil they heard her voice admonishing them, “I hear recitation of Qur’an and prostration, alas where are the tears that go with it?”
She lived through the lives of the rightly guided Khalifas’ till the era of Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu wherein she came to her appointed time and left this world for the next in the fiftieth year of the hijrah. Her life, one of worship and kinship. Not forgetting the love she shared with her co-wives, leaving a bequest of a thousand gold coins for Aisha al Siddiqah radiya Llahu ‘anha. She was laid to rest in the Baqi’ graveyard. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala be pleased with her and all the Ummahat al Mu’minin.
NEXT⇒Fatimah al Zahra
 Sirah Ibn Hisham: vol. 2 pg. 363.
 Surah al Mu’minun: 69.
 Surah al Baqarah: 146.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d vol. 8 pg. 132.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 1539; Sahih Muslim, 1365.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 2120.
 Sahih Ibn Hibban, 5199; al Tabarani in al Kabir, 24/177-67, al Bayhaqi, 18168.
 Tabaqat ibn Sa’d: vol. 2 pg. 313/ vol. 8 pg. 128; al Isabah, vol. 7 pg. 741; Musannaf ‘Abdul Razzaq, 20922.
 Jami’ al Tirmidhi, 3894.
 Al Isti’ab, vol. 1 pg. 605
 Hilyat al Awliya’, vol. 2 pg. 55
 Sunan al Kubra of al Bayhaqi, 12431.