By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
6 September 2021
The Prophet’s Marriage With Hazrat Safiyah: Was She Forced Into Marriage, And That Too Before The Completion Of Her Iddah Period?
1. Hazrat Safiyah chose to marry the Prophet [peace be upon him] rather than being forced to.
2. The relevant rule in the case of Hazrat Safiyah was not of ‘Iddah (waiting period), but that of Istibra' [the freeing of the womb] which could be obtained with a single menstrual cycle
3. A widow must wait for four months and ten days before she can remarry, or until her child is born if she is pregnant at the time.
4. A divorcee must wait three menstrual periods [about three months] before she can remarry or until the birth of her child if she is pregnant at the time
5. A captive lady must wait for one menstrual cycle or until the birth of her child if she is pregnant at the time
6. A captive woman’s marriage gets annulled unless she and her husband are taken as captives together
Some people in our culture have a predisposition when it comes to evaluating others. They neglect the truth and tightly hold the falsehood. They don't think twice about saying exaggerated and incorrect things to the praise of the people they care about. On the contrary, when they despise someone, they propagate untrue rumours to condemn him in public without investigating the facts. They don't want to know the truth. Their hatred has grown to the point where its intoxication precludes them from comprehending the truth.
In short, the biggest extremists among such hateful people are those who unjustifiably accuse the purest personality of the world and the most moral and honourable Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him). It would have been nice if these bigots had learned the truth before spreading their lies to the whole public.
In order to realise the very actuality, let us try to counter an objection made by nasty people about the marriage of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with Hazrat Safiyya bint [the daughter of] Huyay of the Nadir Jewish tribe. This objection is based on two points:
1. The wedding took place after the conquest of Khaibar, during which Safiyya's husband and other family members were killed, while her father had already been killed a few years before. They question how Safiyya could willingly marry someone who is responsible for her relatives’ death.
2. The Prophet (peace be upon him) wedded her well before the Qur'anic waiting period for a woman whose husband dies (i.e. four months and ten days). [The Qur’an 2:234] This circumstance is used to claim that the Prophet (peace be upon him) broke the law he himself established.
Expressing the above two points of the objection, they do the propaganda that it is difficult to understand how the Prophet's coercion of Hazrat Safiyyah into marriage for freedom could be considered ethical or humanitarian. [Ma’azallah, may Allah protect us from such erroneous thoughts]
Hazrat Safiyya chose to marry the Prophet and was not forced to do so: Proofs are listed below
They have speculated that she was forced into marriage since the Prophet (peace be upon him) took her as a slave, freed her, and then married her. To put it another way, it is stated that she had no choice but to marry the Prophet [peace be upon him] in order to live as a free person. This is completely wrong because of the reports and evidence preserving the details of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) offer to her after he had taken her from Dihya.
The report of Ja‘far b. Mahmud is the most detailed in this regard:
When Hazrat Safiyya approached the Prophet (peace be upon him), he said to her, “Among the Jews, your father did not stop in his animosity against me till Allah annihilated him.” She said, ‘O Allah's Messenger! Indeed Allah says, “No one will bear another's burden.” So the Prophet (peace be upon him) told her, “Make your choice; if you choose Islam, I will choose you for myself; if you choose Judaism, I will set you free and send you back to your people.” She said, ‘O Allah's Messenger, indeed I yearned for Islam and testified for you even before you extended this offer to me when I came to you. I don't have a Jewish guardian; neither a father nor a brother, and I prefer Islam to unbelief. I value Allah and His Messenger more than freedom returning me to my people.” [Ibn Sa‘d, Muhammad, Tabaqat al-Kubra, Vol.8, 97.]
The above report is also substantiated and reinforced by the reports recorded by the scholars of Hadith, for example, by Ibn Hibban [in his Sahih], Abd al-Razzaq al-San’ani [in his Musannaf], Ahmad b. Hanbal [in his Musnad]. They have reported through an authentic chain of narration that Hajjab b. ‘Ilat informed the Prophet’s uncle al-Abbas about the campaign of Khaibar as follows:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) had chosen Safiyya, Huyay's daughter, for himself and had given her the option of gaining her freedom and marrying him or joining in her family; she had chosen for him to free her and to be his wife.” [Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq, Hadith 9771/ Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal, Hadith 12409, Sahih Ibn Hibban, vol.10, p.392]
Both of the above accounts reveal that Safiyya was not forced to marry the Prophet (peace be upon him) in order to be freed from slavery; rather, she was offered the opportunity to join her Jewish relatives, but she gladly preferred the Prophet's (peace be upon him) company overall else.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not disobey the waiting period requirement mentioned in the Quran
The nasty people argue that, while the Quran prescribes a waiting period of four months and ten days for women whose husbands die, they are only allowed to remarry after this period has passed [The Quran, 2: 234-235], we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) married Hazrat Safiyya soon after her husband died, implying that the Quranic rule of the waiting period has been broken in her case.
The waiting-time restriction inherent in the Quran [2: 234-235], however, does not apply in situations like Safiyah’s. The reason for this is that after a conquest, Hazrat Safiyya was taken as a slave, and her marriage was pronounced null and void because her husband had not come. Even if her husband Kinana had escaped death and captivity, Islamic law would have ruled his marriage to Safiyya null and void. [see Al-Jassas, Abu Bakr, Ahkam al-Qur’an, Vol.5, 328-331/ al-Sarakhsi, Muhammad b. Ahmad, al-Mabsut, Vol.5, 50-53/ ‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, I‘la’ al-Sunan, Vol.11, 107-109]
As a result, the relevant rule in the case of Hazrat Safiyya was not of ‘Iddah (waiting period), but that of Istibra'. Istibra' refers to ensuring that a woman's womb is empty. This assurance could even be obtained with a single menstrual cycle, as happened in the instance of Hazrat Safiyya, according to credible records.
According to a narration of Anas bin Malik, “the Prophet (peace be upon him) chose her [Hazrat Safiyya] for himself and started off with her, and when we arrived at a place called Sadd al-Sahba', Safiya became lawful (i.e. free of menses) and the Messenger of Allah married her.” [Sahih Bukhari Hadith 2893/3974/2235/ 4211/, Sahih Muslim Hadith 1365/, Fath al-Bari Vol.7, 480]
According to another narration of Anas bin Malik, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) avoided (intimacy with) Safiyya until she was free from her monthly cycle”. [Al-Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq, Hadith 13109/ Tabarani 69/24/Musnad al-Harith, 502/Fathul Bari li Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, vol.4, p.494/ Sunan al-Kubra lil Baihaqi, Hadith 15688/ Bughyah al-Bahith ‘an Zawa’id Musnad al-Harith by al-Haithmi, Hadith 502/1005]
According to these Ahadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have intercourse with Hazrat Safiyyah prior to her 'iddah period. Because Hazrat Safia was taken as a captive lady, her 'iddah was limited to one menstrual cycle.
This was not an uncommon occurrence. On another occasion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made the same judgment in a similar situation. Regarding the slave captives taken at Awtas, Hazrat Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri traced the following statement to Prophet (peace be upon him):
“There shall be no intercourse with a pregnant woman until she gives birth to her child or with a non-pregnant woman till she menstruates once.” [Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 2157]
It has been narrated by Hazrat Ruwaifi bin Thabit al-Ansari: Should I tell you what I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say on the Day of Hunain? “It is not permissible for a man who believes in Allah and the Last Day to have sexual relations with a captive lady until she is free from her menstrual period. [Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 2158]
Imam Muslim (1365) narrated from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) (in which it is said that) the Prophet [peace be upon him] entrusted her [Hazrat Safiyah] to Umm-e-Sulaim so that she might embellish her and prepare her (for marriage) with him. He (the narrator) said: He had been under the impression that he had said that so that she might spend her period of 'Iddah in her (Umm-e- Sulaim's) house.
According to Imam Nawawi, here 'Iddah’ refers to ‘Istibra' [i.e. the freeing of the womb from pregnancy] because she was imprisoned in battle. Istibra 'was obligatory in this case. During this istibra the Prophet kept her in the house of Umm-e-Sulaim. When the istibra was completed, Umm-e-Sulaim prepared her for the Prophet (peace be upon him), that is, she adorned her and prepared her for marriage. [The commentary on Sahih Muslim, 9/222]
Al-Jassas (d. 370/980) writes on this subject:
“There is no distinction among jurists from all the regions that a captive woman must be free of one menstrual course” (before establishing conjugal relations).”
Captives’ marriages are invalidated the moment they are taken captive. Hazrat Safiyah’s (may Allah be pleased with her) former husband had waged war against the Prophet (peace be upon him) and killed one of his companions; he was taken into prison, and thus his marriage was annulled. If his former wife later desired to marry, she would not follow the widow’s waiting period (four months and ten days), but rather that of a captive woman because her marriage was annulled and she is neither a widow nor a divorcee. The normal Iddah period for a divorced woman or a widow does not apply here since Hazrat Safiyah’s (may Allah be pleased with her) position was unique, as she was a prisoner of war and her husband was still alive at the time of her capture and therefore her marriage was automatically annulled and only one menstrual cycle was enough for the Prophet [peace be upon him] to marry her and be intimate with her.
The following summary provides extremely clear information regarding the waiting period mandated for widows, divorcees, and captive women:
A widow must wait four months and ten days before she can remarry, or until her child is born if she is pregnant at the time.
A divorcee must wait three menstrual periods [about three months] before she can remarry or until the birth of her child if she is pregnant at the time
A captive lady must wait for one menstrual cycle or until the birth of her child if she is pregnant at the time
A captive woman’s marriage gets annulled unless she and her husband are taken as captives together
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is a Classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.
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