Safiyya bint Abdulmuttalib (r.anha)
During the Era of Bliss, there were some women who did not drop the torch of Islam from their hands, who struggled sacrificing their lives so that Islam would conquer hearts and who did not fall behind their husbands and sons. One of those Companions who would live in hearts as long as the world existed was Hz. Safiyya, the paternal aunt of the Prophet.
Hz. Safiyya took care of her nephew, the Prophet, with the compassion of a mother, when she was very young and did not hesitate to make sacrifices so as not to make him feel that he was motherless. She loved her nephew very much. She guessed that she would have a high rank among people in the future and looked forward to seeing those days.
Years passed and her beloved nephew was given the duty of prophethood. He called people to Islam. Hz. Safiyya did not hesitate to believe; she became one of the first Muslims. After that, she increased her material and spiritual support to him. She worked very hard to spread Islam.
However, it is irony of fate that her brother, Abu Lahab, was one of the leaders of the enemies of her beloved nephew. Abu Lahab took pleasure in torturing and agonizing the Muslims, primarily the Prophet. Hz. Safiyya was very sorry for this unfair treatment of her brother; she could not bear it.
Once, she heard that Abu Lahab hurt the Messenger of Allah. She went to Abu Lahab and warned him harshly: “Does it fit you to leave your nephew and his religion helpless? The scholars of the People of the Book say that a prophet will come from the descendants of Abdulmuttalib. That prophet is our nephew Muhammad.”
However, Abu Lahab did not have the eyes that could see what was right and true. His heart was occupied by fury and hatred. He answered the warning of her sister with the following sentence reflecting the state of women in the Era of Ignorance:
“The words of women are hindrance for men.”
Realizing that it was impossible to persuade Abu Lahab, Hz. Safiyya left his house sadly.
Hz. Safiyya could not persuade her brother to help the Messenger of Allah but she did her best to bring up her son Zubayr as a mujahid for the Messenger of Allah. She was a disciplined mother. She sometimes beat her son slightly. When she was asked why she beat him, she said, “I am beating him to train him because he will command armies in the future.” Indeed, Hz. Zubayr, who was brought up and trained by his mother, became a heroic mujahid. The Prophet praised him by saying, “Every prophet has a disciple and assistant. My assistant is Zubayr.” He also gave the glad tiding that Zubayr was a person of Paradise. Thus, Hz. Safiyya was honored to be the mother of one of the 10 Companions who were given the glad tiding while they were alive that they would be in Paradise.
When the Prophet migrated from Makkah to Madinah, his beloved aunt did not leave him alone. She migrated to Madinah with her son Zubayr. Thus, she also had the privilege of migrating in the way of Allah.
Hz. Safiyya did not hesitate to risk her life for the sake of Allah and His messenger. She became the first Muslim woman to kill an unbeliever in the history of Islam. The incident took place during the Battle of Uhud.
When the Prophet left for the Battle of Uhud, he placed the women, girls and boys in the house of Hz. Hassan. The Prophet did not take Hz. Hassan to Uhud because he was too old and ill; so, he stayed at home.
While the mujahids were fighting at Uhud with their swords, a Jewish man wanted to make use of this situation and approached the house that was full of women and children slyly. His aim was to martyr defenseless people and to become a hero. Hz. Safiyya narrates the incident as follows: “We had no contact with the Messenger of Allah. Besides, the Messenger of Allah and the Companions were not in a position to come to help us. When I saw that a Jew was walking around the house, I went over to Hassan and told him about the situation. I asked him to kill the Jew. Hz. Hassan was both old and ill. He said, ‘O daughter of Abdulmuttalib! May Allah be pleased with you! You know that I am not strong enough to do it.’ Then, it was my duty to do it. I did not have a weapon. I took a big piece of wood. I went out slowly. I hit the man with the wood on his back. He fell down. Then, I hit him until he died.”
After preventing such a big danger, Hz. Safiyya went up to a high place and started to watch the battlefield. She felt worried. She was scared that the ferocious Muslims would harm her beloved nephew. Meanwhile, the news that “the Muslims were defeated” came as a shock. Hz. Safiyya could not wait any longer. She went to Uhud with some women. She asked the first mujahid she saw about the health of the Messenger of Allah. She found out that the Messenger of Allah was alive but that her brother Hamza was martyred. She wanted to see the dead body of Hz. Hamza. When the Prophet (pbuh) saw that she was coming, he told her son Zubayr, “Tell your mother to go back. She should not see the dead body of her brother.” Hz. Zubayr met her mother and asked her to go back. He said the Messenger of Allah wanted her to do so. However, Hz. Safiyya wanted to see the dead body of her brother. She said to her son showing reliance in Allah and patience,
“If you want me to go back lest I should see what was done to my brother, I know that my brother was mutilated. My brother was killed and mutilated in the way of Allah. Is there a greater rank than this? We are ready to suffer more in the way of Allah. I am determined to show patience. I hope to get the reward of it only from Allah.”
Hz. Zubayr was astonished when he saw the resoluteness of his mother, whom he had feared that would faint when she saw the dead of her brother. He thanked Allah Almighty for being the son of such a mother. Then, he went the Messenger of Allah and told him what his mother had said. The Prophet believed that his paternal aunt was sincere. He said, “Then, let her see him.” Then, he put his hand on her chest and prayed for her.
Hz. Safiyya then went to the dead body of Hamza. His body was in pieces. Some of the organs were cut off. Hz. Safiyya was quite calm at this terrifying sight. She did not have any signs of complaint. Besides, it was impossible for a person like that to oppose qadar. After all, it would be of no use. Then, the only thing she could do was to pray to Allah to elevate his rank. He prayed as follows:
“O Allah! We are all Your slaves and will return to You. Forgive my brother's mistakes if he had any!”
This patience and resoluteness of hers rejoiced the Prophet very much. He gave her the following glad tiding, which would strengthen her patience:
“Jibril came to me. He told me that Hamza was written as ‘Hamza is the lion of Allah and His Messenger’ at the abode of angels.”
This news was really pleasing. She wiped her tears with her hand and left.
Hz. Safiyya took care of the Prophet with the compassion of a mother until he died. She did her best so as not to make him feel that he was motherless. However, it was time for the Messenger of Allah to leave this ephemeral world and to rejoin his Lord. Hz. Safiyya was standing next to the Prophet and crying. The Prophet warned her and her beloved daughter as follows:
“O Fatima bint Muhammad! O Safiyya, the paternal aunt of the Messenger of Allah! Do good deeds that will be accepted by Allah. Do not depend on me because I cannot save you from Allah’s punishment.”
A little while after these words, the Prophet passed away.
Along with her resoluteness and heroism, Hz. Safiyya was also known for her poetry. After the death of the Messenger of Allah, she wrote the following poem:
“O Messenger of Allah! You became our source of hope,/ You did us favors; you did not agonize us./ You protected, guided and taught us,/ Anyone can cry for you today./ O Messenger of Allah! May my mother, maternal aunt, paternal uncle, my maternal uncle and my own self be sacrificed for you!/ If the Lord of people had allowed the Prophet to live with us more,/ we would have been happy but the order of Allah is valid./ Peace and greetings from Allah be upon you./ May Allah be pleased with you and put you in the gardens of Adn (Eden)!”
Hz. Safiyya, who lived 10 years more after the death of the Prophet, died during the caliphate of Hz. Umar in the 20th year of the Migration. She was buried in the Cemetery of Baqi in Madinah.
May Allah be pleased with her!
Tabaqat, 3: 101-103; 8: 41; Usdu'l-Ghaba, 5: 493.