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The Heart's Witness Against Muhammad: Safiya and the Law of Booty

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
October 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Muhammad's sexual behavior and his multiple marriages are not the kind of thing we would expect in someone whom was supposedly revealed as a perfect human being and prophet of God.  Some of Muhammad's sexual behavior and treatment of women, however, goes even beyond what is unseeming to what is clearly abhorrent under any standard of civility and morality, modern or ancient.  The story of Muhammad's relationship with his wife Safiya bint Huyayy ibn Akhtab is one such incident. 

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - As we discussed in our last article on Muhammad, the sheer number of marriages and concubines that Muhammad had sexual relations with offers sufficient evidence of a man who did not conform himself to the natural moral law in regard to marriage and family life.  Apologists for Muhammad's life find themselves in losing battles trying to justify this aspect of their alleged prophet's life.

As we mentioned in our last article, Muhammad lived a life of clear monogamy with his first wife Khadija, but after her death engaged during the last ten years of his life in relationships with other women of a variety of categorizations, but all of which have one common denominator: Muhammad had sexual access to these women. 

According to the Islamic scholar Montgomery Watt, Qur'an 33:50 (a supposed revelation which addresses Muhammad's unique law of marriage and sexual relations separate and apart from the law of marriage allowed to Muslims in general), describes a number of categories of women who were sexually allowed to Muhammad.  These included: (i) wives for whom Muhammad paid ujur [dowry or hire] (ii) those "whom your right hand possesses--whom Allah has given to you," meaning captives of war or slaves, (iii) the daughters of paternal and maternal uncles and aunts (i.e., cousins), (iv) those who emigrated with Muhammad, (v) believing women who gave themselves to the prophet, provided the prophet wanted to marry them, and (vi) a privilege special for Muhammad apart from the other believers, the khalisatan la-ka min dun al-mu'minin.

Muslim apologists defend Muhammad's multiple sexual relations by arguing that he was not motivated by lust, but rather by pure motives.  This seems disingenuous in light of the evidence to the contrary.  According to Muslim sources, Muhammad seems to have been afflicted with a voracious sexual appetite or perhaps merely delusions associated with it.  It is hard to tell, and the sources appear to conflict.  Either way it is unseemly.

For example, we might cite to the hadith evidenced in Sahih Bukhari and related by Muhammad's wife 'A'isha : 07.71.660: "Magic was worked on Allah's Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not . . . ." 

There is evidence, however, that there was something that mere magic here and mere delusions.  In Sahih Bukhari (01.05.268) we read: "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.  I asked Anas, 'Had the Prophet the strength for it?' Anas replied, 'We used to say that the Prophet was given the [sexual] strength of thirty (men).' . . . ." 

There is further evidence that Muhammad lacked control in the area of the sexual urges.  Three hadith found in Sahih Muslim suggest impulsivity.  As reported by Jabir, Muhammad once saw a woman who sexually fascinated him and captivated his heart, "retiring in the shape of a devil."  So he went home to his wife Zainab as she was tanning leather and had sexual intercourse with her to relieve himself of his desire.  His instructions to his Companions were that when any of them were to have such an urge he "should come to his wife, for that will repel what he feels in his heart."  08.3240, 08.3241, 08.3242. 

Muhammad's sexual behavior and his multiple marriages are not the kind of thing we would expect in a perfect human being and supposed prophet of God.  Some of his sexual behavior and treatment of women, however, goes even beyond what is unseeming to what is clearly abhorrent under any standard of civility and morality, modern or ancient.  The story of Muhammad's relationship with his wife Safiya bint Huyayy ibn Akhtab is one such incident. 

Safiya was a seventeen-year-old Jewess who lived in the town of Khaibar with her husband Kinana bin al-Rabi' bin Abu'l-Huqayq.  After Muhammad's troops captured the city of Khaibar, Muhammad ordered Kinana to be tortured to death to make him reveal where the treasure of the town was kept.  (For those who might be curious, no doubt with the instructions or approval of Muhammad, Khaibar was tortured by having a fire lit on his chest and then killed by decapitation.)  (Ibn Ishaq, pp. 515-17)

According to the Muslim biographer of Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, after Muhammad and his followers captured the town of Khaibar, Safiya would have been led past the bodies of her Jewish tribesmen, which would have included the mutilated and decapitated body of her husband, Kinana.  Safiya displayed tremendous control and behaved stoically, unlike her cousin whose sorrow so consumed her that she was inconsolable, and Muhammad, irritated by her crying, called her a she-devil and asked her to be taken away from him.

It might be noted that this was not the first time Muhammad had ruined Safiya's peace.  Safiya's father, Huyayy ibn Akhtab, had been one of the chiefs of the Jewish Banu al-Nadir tribe.  He was, moreover, an implacable foe of Muhammad, and he suffered death at Muhammad's bloody hand.

Similarly, her uncle Abu Yasir suffered death at Muhammad's sanguinary policies.  Huyayy and Yasir and their tribe, which would have included Safiya, had been forced to emigrate from Medina and settled at Khaibar. 

Eventually, Huyayy was captured, taken to Medina, and, bound hand and neck by rope and in a tattered flowered robe, put to death (by decapitation) along with between 600 to 800 of his fellow tribesmen.  Safiya's relationship with her father and her uncle had been close, as based upon her testimony, she was the favorite of both her father and her uncle.

According to Sahih Bukhari 2.14.68, Safiya was captured at the battle of Khaibar and allotted to Dihya al-Kalbi, but the nearly sixty-year-old Muhammad made arrangements to have this young, attractive seventeen-year-old to be given to him, apparently being struck with her great beauty.  (See Sahih Muslim 8.3329, Sahi Bukhari 3.34.437) 

Safiya, in fact, is an example of how Muhammad had different categories of relationships with women.  Originally, his sexual rights over her were as a result of her being a captive of war.  She was one of those whom his right hand possessed. QurŽan 33:50.  Subsequently, she became one of Muhammad's wives, apparently his ninth, her freedom or manumission being considered the dowry or mahr since all her family was slain and so no one could pay her dowry.  (Sahih Bukhari 5.59.524, 1.8.367)  Although it is not clear when Muhammad married her, it was shortly after his conquest of the town of Khaibar.  This means that he would have had sexual relations with Safiya by right of capture prior to that marriage and while the death of her husband and his beheaded and burnt corpse was fresh on her mind. 

It is impossible to believe that the seventeen-year-old captive Safiya engaged in sexual relations with the nearly sixty-year-old Muhammad, murderer of her father, her uncle, her husband, and her male kinsmen of her own free will and happily.  It is not likely that her marriage (and her conversion to Islam) was much of a choice either.  These were survival tactics of a woman who had no real choice.  Muhammad's behavior toward Safiya is nothing less than exploitative and clearly a form of rape. 

Indeed, Ibn Ishaq relates how there was initially some fear for Muhammad's life from this relationship, though Muhammad seemed oblivious to it.  On the night of her marriage to Muhammad, the faithful Abu Ayyub stood guard outside the tent of Muhammad, and when Muhammad saw him and inquired why Abu Ayyub did so, the latter replied: "I was afraid for you with this woman for you have killed her father, her husband, and her people, and till recently she was in unbelief, so I was afraid for you on her account." (Ibn Ishaq, pp. 241-42).  Had Safiya loved Muhammad, or had she been pleased with her situation, whence this fear on the part of Abu Ayyub?

Particularly abhorrent is Muhammad's self-justification, nay, self-adulation regarding his treatment of Safiya.  Apparently, the nearly sixty-year-old Muhammad believed that in emancipating the seventeen-year-old Safiya (a woman whose father, uncle, and husband he had caused to be killed, whom his men had captured, and whom he then traded for and treated as a captive over whom he had sexual rights) and in marrying her he was building himself two rewards in Paradise. 

Abu Musa reported according to Sahih Muslim 8.3327, that Muhammad maintained that he who freed a slave woman and then married her would obtain two rewards in paradise.  The self-adulation of Muhammad in his doing wrong is evidentiary of an utterly blind conscience and an errant, perhaps narcissistic personality.

Poor Safiya who was forced to satisfy the sexual yearnings of Muhammad, the slaughterer of her father, uncle, husband, male kinsmen and tribesmen, and the captor and trader of her female cousins and friends, who handed them out to his minions as if chattel.  But-when it comes to female "booty"-Allah knows best, Alahu 'a'lam, the natural law notwithstanding.

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Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

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