During the month of Ramadan, Al Arabiya English is publishing a series of profiles on prominent historical figures in Islamic history.
Saffiya was the daughter of Huyay ibn Akhtab, the leader of Bani Nadheer, one of three Jewish tribes living in Madinah at the time.
Her father, brother and husband were killed in a war between Muslims and Jews. So, how did Saffiya end up marrying Prophet Mohammed, the man behind the death of her father and her other male relatives?
The story narrated in Islamic history says that when the Prophet came to Madinah he had to apply treaties with its three main Jewish clans. It did not take long until two Jewish tribes broke the treaty, by wrongfully killing two Muslims. The Prophet came to them seeking blood money for those killed as the treaty stipulates. But the tribes of Bano Nadheer and Banoo Qaynuqaa had refused.
As a punishment, the prophet ordered them to depart Madinah and gave them a specific time to do so. But they didn’t. Instead, they fortified themselves and remained in place. So the Prophet ordered their forceful eviction.
They moved to Khaybar, but remained to incite hostilities against their neighboring Arab clans. The Muslim army later conquered Khaybar, and it was during that war that Saffiya’s father Huyyay, her brother, husband and all other male relatives were killed.
She then became a captive, as per a general rule in that era in which the women of the enemy were taken as captives.
Given that she was the first lady in her tribe, it is narrated that it was not going to be suitable to let Saffiya marry any normal Muslim man.
Thus, it is narrated that the prophet presented Islam to her, and she willingly accepted it. He then released her from slavery and married her.
Marrying the Prophet
By marrying Prophet Mohammed, Saffiya became a Mother of Believers, just like his other wives. It is narrated that Prophet Mohammed had apologized to her several times on the killing of her father and relatives, explaining why he had done that.
Given her beauty, several wives of the prophet, were jealous of Saffiya.
It is narrated that Saffiya said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered my house when it had reached me that Aishah and Hafsah used to say they were dearer to the Messenger of Allah than me, and that they were his wives and cousins.”
When she mentioned this to the Prophet, he said to her: “You should have told them, ‘How can you be better than me when my husband is Mohammad and my father is Haroon and my uncle is Moses?’“