The Heart's Witness Against Muhammad: Safiya and the Law of Booty
Safiya, in fact, is an example of how Muhammad had different categories of relationships with women
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.
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.
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