Safiya bint Abd Al-Muttalib - A Valiant Defense
Lady Knights

Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Just outside of Al-Madinah where a few small forts were scattered about. Inside each fort, the women and children of the Muslim warriors had taken refuge. Ghazawat Al-Khandaq/Al-Ahzab (the Battle of the Trench/Factions) was raging and the Muslims had found to their dismay that their sworn ally, the Israelite tribe of Bani Quraiza had broken the long-standing alliance and betrayed their fellow townsmen to an implacable enemy bent on genocide, namely the Qurashis and their allies.

As a result, the Muslims found themselves being attacked by enemies from within Al-Madinah as well as from without. Nevertheless they did what they could to safeguard their homes and families and to keep the enemies from outside Al-Madinah at bay. The women and children were placed in forts to keep them safe and a great trench was dug between Al-Madinah and her approaching enemies.

In one of these forts, Safiya bint Abd Al-Muttalib who was the aunt of the Prophet Muhammad as well as a decisive woman who had weathered many a dark day, was patrolling restlessly at the top of the fort. One moment she'd be peering into the distance to try and see how the Muslim warriors fared. The next, she'd glance back at the women and children within the fort who were trying to act as normally as the threat of invasion and death would allow them.

Glancing down at the base of the fort, Safiya spotted a Bani Quraiza warrior circling the fort. He was stealthily looking for any sign of weakness in the fort's defenses that would allow him to breach the walls that separated him from the vulnerable women and children.

Safiya curled her lip in disgust. It wasn't enough that he was a foresworn alliance-breaker, she thought with derision, he had also crept away from the fighting and slunk over here to try and attack the women and children while the men were busy. With all the bravery that resided in Safiya's great heart, such cowardice was a source of thorough contempt to her.

Turning to Hassan bin Thabit, a poet and the only man in the fort, Safiya pointed out the cowardly warrior. "He may find a weakness in the walls," she said briskly, "Go kill him."

Dumbfounded, Hassan looked at Safiya, "God forgive you," he exclaimed, "I'm a poet! If I were capable of that, I would be out there fighting!"

Exasperated with the non-combative poet, Safiya snatched up a wooden pole to use as a weapon and rushed down to confront the man who wished to prey on women and children. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she was probably rushing to her death, but she pushed that thought back. A cornered lioness was a dangerous adversary and you couldn't get much more cornered that sitting helplessly in a fort waiting for an armed warrior to break in.

Just before she stepped out, she took a deep breath and thought grimly, she would show the coward just how weak and vulnerable a woman was! He would find no easy prey here!

The craven warrior was utterly surprised by Safiya's sudden appearance, a fact that Safiya took full advantage of. With a few feinted swings and a determined swish, Safiya managed to bludgeon her enemy who fell lifeless before her furious assault.

Shaking with adrenaline and reaction, Safiya left him lying where he fell and re-entered the fort amid a great deal of wide-eyed surprise and approbation on the part of the ladies within. Safiya accepted their congratulations as she tried to settle her nerves.

That was the first person she had ever killed. She did not regret it because it was not hard to imagine what the slinking warrior would have done had he managed to break in. But still...

Firmly shaking off these thoughts, the middle aged woman again took up her position of vigilance. If she had to defend herself and the people in the fort again, she told herself, then so be it.

Silence descended gradually in the fort as all eyes turned again to the distant fighting and everyone's thoughts strayed to the husbands, brothers and sons who may never return.

*Written by © 2012. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Hassan bin Thabit: حسان بن ثابت.
    • Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
    • Safiya bint Abd Al-Muttalib: صفية بنت عبدالمطلب الهاشمية.
  2. It is worth noting that not the whole of the Israelite tribe of Bani Quraiza broke the alliance. A couple of clans refused to join their brethren in their act of base treachery. They armed themselves and, as per the terms of the alliance, fought on behalf of their allies and fellow townsmen against both the invaders and the traitors. They refused to try and cause the death of a Messenger of God and they refused to lose their honor by becoming foresworn.
  3. Many writers like to omit Hassan bin Thabit's role in this story. I find that vexing in the extreme. What if he had acted with false bravado and gone down to confront the warrior? He most likely would have ended up dead. Hassan bin Thabit was a great poet not a great warrior. There's nothing wrong with that or with his frank awareness of it. I personally feel no lessening of respect for this historical figure simply because he was not a warrior, and he knew it and was not afraid to admit it.

  1. Al-Dhahabi, A. (2004 AD). سير أعلام النبلاء [Biographies of Notable Nobles]. Beirut: International Ideas Home. Volume 2. Page 2034-2035.
  2. Al-Suhaibani, A. (2004 AD, 1425 H). صور من سير الصحابيات [Brief Biographies of Lady Contemporaries]. Riyadh: Dar Aalam Al-Kutub Publishing and Distributing. Page 151.

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