In our continuing series abot exemplary women in the Islamic history Sheikh Faris Ali Al Mustafa turns the spotlight on Saifyya
The contribution of Islam to human history far exceeds that of any other civilization, this glorious man-made school of thought, no matter its historical, intellectual or technological pedigree.
Take note, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and Bill Gates! Any doctrine or invention of men, no matter its complexity or number of adherents, will never match the power of the eternal message offered by god to mankind.
Consider if you will the case of the status of woman. Her fortunes have fluctuated madly at the whim of tyrants and ideologues, but the invaluable female half of our human race has never had a more comprehensive grant of rights as that bestowed by Islam. Many women have joined in the excited babble about the approaching millennium. Beyond being much ado about a phantom anniversary of a dubious date, one wonders about the excitement of the female observers concerning the passage of history. Surely there cannot be any expectation that their lot in the net century could be any century by a secularized and materialist society?
The lesson for women should be that history can only be served with dignity by clinging to the belief in One God. How the suffering of the non-believers is magnified without faith! We need not look far to discover dramatic evidence of this sad fact. Find it on the streets of even many Arab cities. When the dictatorship of the non-believers imploded in the Soviet Union, the restraining walls collapsed and we leaned the result of a godless society. A plague of money grabbing prostitutes descended upon the Islamic world like a pestilence of disease-bearing flies to spread corruption and sickness.
Do our scientifically trained friends think that Satan does not show his face any more in today’s so-called modern world? He tempts the Believers at every opportunity! The only weapon to defeat him and his blandishments in the power of the Word. The struggle between good and evil does not occur only when munching popcorn at a special effects extravaganza in the cinema. The struggle is in our everyday lives, and daily we must choose good or evil. But dear Believers, fear not, we know that darkness will be vanquished and light will prevail.
The society whose women are brought up to emulate the exalted of their gender has a strong foundation indeed. The Believers are fortunate enough to have wonderful role models from our long history, among the most exemplary of which are women of distinction. We need look no farther than the wife of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.
Safiyya bint Huyay was herself a descendant of the Prophet Aaron, one of the great Jewish men of God, who was from the exalted tribe of Lawi, the son of Jacob, the son of Prophet Abraham. Safiyya was a Jewess, hailing from the stronghold of the Jews near Mecca which was called Khaibar. Her family was prominent, and she grew to be a young woman of honour, wisdom and beauty. These qualities caught the eye of one of the young lords of Khaibar, who could have had the hand of any maiden of the town. The two were married with great fanfare, but only several days later, the hand of God intervened.
The historical context of Saifyya's life was the struggle of the early Muslims to establish the Word. The Jewish tribes had deceived and betrayed the Prophet. God’s wrath descended upon them in the form of the sword-wielding Believers, and Khaibar fell. Many were slaughtered, including the father of Saifyya, many other members of her family, and her new husband.
In the chaos, which ensued, we can only imagine the suffering of the young woman. From what we would later learn of her character, however, we can surmise that she carried herself with dignity and honour. In one of the reliable Hadith, the stories from the life of the Prophet, it happened that the Prophet himself learned of her. He expressed his interest to her directly, “ Would you be interested to marry me? “ Her reply was also a question, “ I wished to marry you when I was still blasphemous, so can you imagine how interested I am now as a Muslim? “
Saifyya soon came to be respected by all the Believers for the wisdom and dignity which the Prophet had appreciated in her. It came to be said that her unbounded reasoning ability was beyond description. Her strength was all important as a support for the difficult tasks confronting her husband. Her vision enabled her to comprehend the terrible fate of her people, as she knew that members of her Jewish tribe had been untruthful and deceitful, not keeping their vow with the Prophet. They had declared war on God and they were vanquished. The defeat of Khaibar had been a crucial step in the destiny of the Believers.
Much has been written about the devotion and piety displayed by Saifyya. Certainly the Prophet himself played the crucial role in polishing and perfecting her faith. Another Hadith recounts the day that a group of Muslims gathered in her house to praise God and read the verses of the Book. She watched them in amazement and asked, “With all of this praying and reciting the words of God, how is it that I do not see you weeping? “ Saifyya herself trembled in fear and amazement in her submission to God, and demonstrated that in words and action, in form and substance.
There are many other stories which portray the piety of this mother of the Believers. The example which she offers to today’s women is that of a wife and mother willing to sacrifice anything and everything to come closer to God. She took real pleasure in serving her God and His Prophet. Her joy was in having won the eternal prize of paradise. The challenge of women everywhere is to emulate her shining example.