A resolute and fearless woman. The first woman to kill a polytheist fighting in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. She gave birth to and raised the first person to unsheathe his sword for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, Zubair ibn al ‘Awwam radiya Llahu ‘anhu. A blessed woman of strong character, Safiyyah bint ‘Abdul Muttalib al Hashimiyyah al Qurashiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha. The paternal aunt of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the full sister of Hamzah ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The only aunt of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who embraced Islam and migrated to Madinah.
Honoured by her lineage, family, and offspring. Her father, ‘Abdul Muttalib the chief of the Quraysh. Her mother, Halah bint Wuhayb, the cousin of Aminah bint Wahab—the mother of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Her first husband was Harith ibn Harb, the brother of Abu Sufyan, who had passed away. Her second husband was ‘Awwam ibn Khuwaylid, the brother of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Her sons were Zubair ibn al ‘Awwam—the acclaimed disciple of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and one of the receivers of glad tidings of paradise—and Sa’ib ibn al ‘Awwam—who had participated in Badr, Khandaq amongst other battles and was martyred in Yamamah.
When Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala sent Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for the guidance of mankind till the end of time with the true faith, he commanded him to begin preaching to his relatives.
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيْرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِيْنَ
And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred.
The Beloved salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stood addressing at the top of his voice:
يا معشر قريش اشتروا أنفسكم لا أغني عنكم من الله شيئا يا بني عبد مناف لا أغني عنكم من الله شيئا يا عباس بن عبد المطلب لا أغني عنك من الله شيئا ويا صفية عمة رسول الله لا أغني عنك من الله شيئا ويا فاطمة بنت محمد سليني ما شئت من مالي لا أغني عنك من الله شيئا
O people of Quraysh! Save yourselves (from the Hellfire) as I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment; O Banu ‘Abd Manaf! I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment, O Safiyyah, the Aunt of Allah’s Apostle! I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment; O Fatimah bint Muhammad! Ask me anything from my wealth, but I cannot save you from Allah’s Punishment.
In this proclamation of propagation, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam singled out his aunt Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha due to her high stage and close bond with him. It was not long that she subjected herself to the truth and came into the fold of Islam. She was from amongst those who accepted Islam in the early days, being the only aunt of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to accept the creed, adding to her sublime lineage the honour of Islam. She, with the other female Companions took the pledge of allegiance at the hand of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam—never once did his hand touch the hand of a female Companion taking the pledge—which had a profound effect on her life. Her faith in Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam spurred her on to achieve heights in goodness to her spouse, trustworthiness, and sincerity in action and speech.
When we talk of this great woman, our minds relive her resolute demeanor and strong personality. She was not one to drag her heels, always in the forefront affirming her faith.
She had a strong personality and was therefore inclined towards sternness and harshness. Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha devoted all her attention to her sons, especially the younger one Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu who she would occupy in repairing bows and arrows from a young age. Making him face his fears and when sensing trepidation, she would sternly rebuke him, and discipline him to make him strong and firm.
When one of the members of her husband’s family passed by her while she was treating her son in this way, he undermined her intentions saying, “This is not how children are treated, you are hitting him with hatred not with motherly sentiment.” She retorted with a poem:
من قال قد أبغضـتـه فــقـد كـذب
وإنـمـــا أضـــربـــه لـــكي يلــــب
و يهزم الجيش و يأتي بالسلــب
Whoever claims I hate him has lied;
I hit him, so he may one day rally,
the forces and return victorious with the spoils of war.
Delving into the occasions of her assisting her faith and protecting her Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, will leave one with much reading as the books of history are replete with such examples. We will suffice on one example which celebrates her bravery, fearlessness and determination in her faith.
The Battle of Uhud was raging, with her amongst other women carrying water to the thirsty, repairing arrows, and surveying the battlefield. When the Muslim army suffered a temporary lapse in judgement and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had very few around him fighting, she feared the polytheists may have an opportunity to launch an attack on the Messenger of Allah. She leapt, a lioness grabbing a spear from one of the fallen and splitting row after row of the polytheists formation smiting their faces with her spear. She angrily remarked, “Are you leaving the side of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam?” When the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saw her, he called her son Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu to take hold of her lest she be harmed or see the body of her brother Hamzah radiya Llahu ‘anhu who had been slain and mutilated. He called out to her to leave the battlefield, she disregarded his voice until he told her it was the instruction of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. “My mother, Allah’s Messenger is ordering you to go back!” said Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
It is here that Safiyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha distinguished herself from other women and it is here that the personality of this strong, believing, and persevering woman is vividly manifested. She told her son Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
ولم وقد بلغني أنه قد مثل بأخي وذلك في الله عز وجل قليل، ان ذلك في الله، لقد رضيت بقضاء الله والله لأصبرن ولأحتسبن إن شاء الله
Why should I go back since I have heard that my brother was mutilated in the cause of Allah? I am pleased with the decree of Allah. I will bear it with patience and I hope to get the reward from Allah, if he so wills.
She placed the spear down and stood at the body of her brother, nose and ears cut off with an abdomen gutted. No word of unhappiness left her lips. Complete submission to the will of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. A poetess she composed the following eulogy:
|إلى جنة يحيا بها وسرور لحمزة||دعاه إله الحق ذو العرش دعوة|
|لحمزة يوم الحشر خير مصير||فذلك ما كنا نرجِّي ونرتجي|
The owner of the Throne, the true Lord has called him; to paradise living there in bliss Hamzah,
Our desire and hopes are of Hamzah; on the day of judgement entering paradise.
A lesson left for us by this great woman of the Islamic struggle. Patience and perseverance when met with hardship. No shrieking and lamenting as the people would in the age of ignorance. No self-harm and great display of grief. A display of pleasure at the decree of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and submitting to his wish. Truly Safiyyah is a unique example for the Muslim woman. True to herself, resolute, brave, intelligent, and fearless. No amount of difficulties would shake her resolve.
Her demise was in the 20th year of the hijrah during the era of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu at the age of seventy-three. Her funeral prayer was led by ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu and she was buried in the Baqi’ graveyard.
May Allah be pleased with her.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 41.
 Al Isabah, vol. 4 pg. 115.
 Surah al Shu’ara’: 214.
 Sahih al Bukhari, 2602; Sahih Muslim, 206. Narrated by Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 2 pg. 270.
 Al Isabah fi Ma’rifah al Sahabah, vol. 4 pg. 7/8. The chapter regarding whose name is Zubair. Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 45.
 Sirah al Nabawiyyah of Ibn Kathir, vol. 3 pg. 118.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 2 pg. 271.Back to top