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How Muhammad Married Safiya Bint Huyay

 Introduction

It is claimed that Muhammad; the prophet of Islam, married women who were mostly widowed, old, ..etc. This claim is generally false. In this article, I show that this claim does not stand critical scrutiny when it comes to Muhammad’s marriage to Safiya bint Huyay; a Khaibar Jewish leader.

The Story behind the story

Muhammad’s marriage to Safiya came about after he attacked Khaibar successfully and unprovoked. Here are some quotes to illustrate the circumstances behind and surrounding Muhammad’s Khaibar attack (all Hadith quotes are from Bukhari, most authentic source of prophetic tradition):

Volume 1, Book 8, Number 367:

Narrated Abdul Aziz:
Anas said, ‘When Allah’s Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there yearly in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet. He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet. When he entered the town, he said, “Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined.” Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight), then evil will be the morning of those, who have been warned.’ He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, ‘Muhammad (has come).’ (Some of our companions added, ‘With his army.’) We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.’ He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostles! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.’ So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’ Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.?

Thabit asked Anas, ‘O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr)?’ He said, ‘Herself was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her.’ Anas added, ‘While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet. So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, ‘Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.’ He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-SawTq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walrma (the marriage banquet) of Allah’s Apostle.’

First, he attacked Khaibar for no reason at all. In above hadith, Muhammad said, as reason for the attack: “…evil will be the morning of those, who have been warned.” So, Muslims may argue that the attack motivated by their rejection of Islam even after warning. So what? People reject religions all the time; it’s their right. Is that a cause to attack them, harm them, kill them..? Only a Muslim with no rational thinking will see this as an acceptable justification to attack other people.

Second, Muslims attack because of greed. It is all about the booty. In the attack 93 Khaibarites lost life, Safiya’s husband was captured, brutally tortured and then killed:

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 437:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet came to Khaibar and when Allah made him victorious and he conquered the town by breaking the enemy’s defense, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was mentioned to him and her husband had been killed while she was a bride. Allah’s Apostle selected her for himself and he set out in her company till he reached Sadd-ar-Rawha, where her menses was over and he married her. Then Hais (a kind of meal) was prepared and served on a small leather sheet (used for serving meals). Allah’s Apostle then said to me, ‘Inform those, who are around you (about the wedding banquet).’ So that was the marriage banquet given by Allah’s Apostle for (his marriage with) Safiya. After that we proceeded to Medina and I saw that Allah’s Apostle was covering her with a cloak while she was behind him. Then she would sit beside his camel and let Safiya put her feet on his knees to ride (the camel).

Please note that Safiya was ‘distributed’ amongst Muslims. She belonged to Dihya. However, this did not last as Muhammad changed his mind and wanted her for himself. Why is that? Is it because she was a widow? Being a ‘widow’ is a good excuse for Muslim apologists to show that poor Muhammad was such a ‘hearty feely’ kind of guy. He just wanted to help those poor widows. Let us investigate why Muhammad changed his mind and took Safiya from Dihya. Here are some hadiths that can help:

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 431:

Narrated Anas:
Amongst the captives was Safiya. First she was given to Dihya Al-Kalbi and then to the Prophet.

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 437:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet came to Khaibar and when Allah made him victorious and he conquered the town by breaking the enemy’s defense, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was mentioned to him and her husband had been killed while she was a bride. Allah’s Apostle selected her for himself and he set out in her company till he reached Sadd-ar-Rawha, where her menses was over and he married her. Then Hais (a kind of meal) was prepared and served on a small leather sheet (used for serving meals). Allah’s Apostle then said to me, ‘Inform those who are around you (about the wedding banquet).’ So that was the marriage banquet given by Allah’s Apostle for (his marriage with) Safiya. After that we proceeded to Medina and I saw that Allah’s Apostle was covering her with a cloak while she was behind him. Then he would sit beside his camel and let Safiya put her feet on his knees to ride (the camel).

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 143:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet said to Abu Talha, ‘Choose one of your boy servants to serve me in my expedition to Khaibar.’ So, Abu Talha took me letting me ride behind him while I was a boy nearing the age of puberty. I used to serve Allah’s Apostle when he stopped to rest. I heard him saying repeatedly, ‘O Allah! I seek refuge with You from distress and sorrow, from helplessness and laziness, from miserliness and cowardice, from being heavily in debt and from being overcome by men.’ Then we reached Khaibar; and when Allah enabled him to conquer the Fort (of Khaibar), the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was described to him. Her husband had been killed while she was a bride. So Allah’s Apostle selected her for himself and took her along with him till we reached a place called Sad-AsSahba, where her menses was over and he took her for his wife. Haris (a kind of dish) was served on a small leather sheet. Then Allah’s Apostle told me to call those, who were around me. So, that was the marriage banquet of Allah’s Apostle and Safiya. Then we left for Medina. I saw Allah’s Apostle folding a cloak round the hump of the camel so as to make a wide space for Safiya (to sit on behind him) He sat beside his camel letting his knees for Safiya to put her feet on so as to mount the camel. Then, we proceeded till we approached Medina; he looked at Uhud (mountain) and said, ‘This is a mountain, which loves us and is loved by us.’ Then he looked at Medina and said, ‘O Allah! I make the area between its (i.e. Medina’s) two mountains a sanctuary as Abraham made Mecca a sanctuary. O Allah! Bless them (i.e. the people of Medina) in their Mudd and Sa (i.e. measures).’

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 512:

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet offered the Fajr Prayer near Khaibar, when it was still dark and then said, “Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed”, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight), then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned.’ Then the inhabitants of Khaibar came out running on the roads. The Prophet had their warriors killed, their offspring and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives. She first came in the share of Dahya Alkalbi, but later on she belonged to the Prophet. The Prophet made her manumission as her ‘Mahr’.

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 522:

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).

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 523:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet stayed with Safiya bint Huyai for three days on the way of Khaibar, where he consummated his marriage with her. Safiya was amongst those, who were ordered to use a veil.

Above Hadiths show that Safiya was a young (aged 17) and beautiful girl, when Muhammad ‘married’ her. She was taken to bed by Muhammad as soon as she became clean of her menses; given her situation as captive girl, she had no choice but to submit to Muhammad’s lust, despite the fact that her husband and adult male relatives and tribesmen had just been killed.

Muslim apologists see Muhammad’s marriage to Safia as a valid marriage, and gesture of kindness: giving status of wife to helpless widow. But I call it rape. No woman would ever sleep with you willing, after you have killed her husband and many adult men in her immediate and extended family, let alone marry you.

It’s all about the Booty

In early Islam, Muslims attacked other groups of people mostly because of their greed. It is all about the booty:

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 540:

Narrated Abu Musa:
We came upon the Prophet after he had conquered Khaibar. He then gave us a share (from the booty), but apart from us, he did not give to anybody else, who did not attend the Conquest.

Rape was a non-issue for Muhammad and early Muslims

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 432:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
…that while he was sitting with Allah’s Apostle he said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interrupt us?’ The Prophet said, ‘Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.’

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Posted by on Aug 25 2010. Filed under Women in Islam. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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