Satiyah was a woman from the noble Hashimite family. Her father, 'Abdul Muttalib, was the son of Hashim, the unparalleled chieftain of the Quraysh. Her brother was Hamzah bin 'Abdul Muttalib, who earned the title "The Lion of Allah and His Messenger." Her husband was Al-'Awam bin Khuwaylid, the brother of Khadijah, Mother of the Faithful. Her son was Az-Zubayr bin Al- 'Awam, a Muslim cavalryman and Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was among the ten given the good tidings of a place in Paradise. And last but not least, she was the aunt of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the noblest of Adam's descendents and the Seal of Prophets and Messengers. This labyrinth of kinship demonstrates how Safiyah was encompassed by honor, not to mention her own firm and eloquent manners, which were typically Hashimite.
But her husband died leaving her and little Az- Zubayr. From then on, she wanted her son to be mature, courageous, and famously heroic. Therefore, she treated him with a firmness that exposed her to criticism, even from men.
The boy's uncle criticized her for hitting him and told her, "The boy should not be hit like that. You are beating him in a hard way as if you hate him." But Safiyah, who perceived that the firmness would make a gallant man out of him, answered the uncle in the following lines of poetry:
To say I hate him is false and silly.
I only hit him to be smart and witty,
To be ardent in wars and defeat his enemy,
To be generous and never to hide his money,
And not to eat all the dates and still be hungry!
This was how Safiyah wanted her son to be: erudite, generous, and unselfish. The following incident portrays the maturity that Az-Zubayr acquired from his upbringing. As a little boy, he once quarreled with a well-built man. Az-Zubayr overcame him and broke one of his legs. When Safiyah hurried to see the commotion, she saw a huge man carried by people and learned what had happened to him at the hands of her son. With motherly pride she addressed the man, "How did you find Az- Zubayr? A cat or a hawk?"
Safiyah was among the first group of people who embraced Islam. The special place she held in the Prophet's heart (peace be upon him) was emphasized when Allah revealed the following to His Messenger:
(And admonish thy nearest kinsmen)
As he (peace be upon him) stood before the people to advise and warn them, the Prophet (peace be upon him) elucidated this to the people nearest and dearest to him by saying, "O Satiyah, aunt of Allah's Messenger! I cannot save you from Allah's punishment. O Fatimah bint
Muhammad, ask me anything from my money but I cannot save you from Allah's punishment?
Hence, both his daughter Fatimah and his aunt Satiyah were the dearest to his heart. Being one of those chosen by Allah to build the nascent Muslim society, she emigrated to Madinah with her son. And it was this society which formed the cornerstone of the Islamic state and was instrumental in the spread of Islam.
The struggle between belief and disbelief had begun. When the believing army defeated the army of polytheists, the Quraysh and Jews were furious, thus causing them to become allies of one another in their mission to stand in the way of Islam. The Jews, who lived in Madinah with the Muslims, acted as spies and informers for the Quraysh, only inciting them to war. The Quraysh made the necessary preparations and proceeded towards Madinah in order to vanquish -as they thought-the Muslims. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prepared to meet the enemy and led the Muslim army to Uhud. All the men went to war and some women followed them as medical aides. Those who remained in Madinah joined in supplication to their Lord.
That battle was meant to be a test for the believers. A large number were martyred, among them Hamzah bin 'Abdul Muttalib, Safiyah's brother and an intrepid fighter. He had killed many important Quraysh figures, and so in their fury they mutilated and disfigured his dead body.
When Safiyah learned about the martyrdom of her brother and the fate of his corpse, she hurried to the soldiers who were burying their dead. The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw her approaching in a hurry and said to her son, "Let her go back so she that doesn't see what
befell her brother, Hamzah bin 'Abdu1 Muttalib."
Az-Zubayr hurried and stopped her saying, "O mother, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) commands you to go back."
"Why'?" she questioned. "I've already heard that , my brother's body was disfigured after death. This is but a humble thing to sacrifice for the cause of Allah. I'm quite contented with what happened, and l'll be patient with Allah's will."
Such was the condition of a believing woman, deep in her faith and strong in her patience. When she was first shocked, she uttered the words of faith and patience. The Prophet (peace be upon him) learned about her reaction and wise words and told her son, "Let her go."
She approached the corpse of her brother, looked at him, and prayed Allah to forgive him. Then she murmured, "To Allah we belong and to Him we return." Safiyah remained by him till the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered his burial. And she lamented soto voce, neither crying nor slapping her face. Her grief was profound but within the bounds of Islam.
As a poetess she recited the following elegy for her brother:
Allah has invited you to His happy Paradise.
I'll never forget you. Neither will my eyes
Stop shedding tears with my heart that cries
With every breeze of Saba and with sunrise.
I hope my bones are eaten by hyenas,
And in the stomachs of vultures my body lies.
The Jews thought that this assault could be repeated and that one more attempt would result in the final blow to the Muslims. They sought alliance with the Quraysh and the other Arab tribes against the Muslims and succeeded in building the largest army in the Arab Peninsula to that point in time. In their bellicose manner, they set forth to fight the Muslims.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) took protective measures before the tremendous army. He dug a trench around the city and made a truce with the Jews of Banu Qurayza. The women were well protected in the fortress of Hassan bin Thabit, who was asked to take care_ of them. Safiyah bint â 'Abdul Muttalib was one of them, and with her usual spirit she encouraged the others and tended to the children:
The enemy's siege of Madinah lasted a long time, which was difficult for the Muslims. But what made it more trying was that the Jews of Banu Qurayza broke their covenent with the Muslims and joined forces with the Quraysh. In their mean and low manner, the Jews sent one of their people to the house of Hassan bin Thabit to check if the women were well-guarded.
Safiyah happened to see him lurking around the site trying to climb over it. She grabbed a plank of wood and struck him to death. The Jews felt that the man's absence was too long, so they sent someone to check up on him and found him drowned in his own blood, which induced them to keep clear of the site, as they thought it was fortified and protected by Muslim fighters. Thus, Safiyah managed to save the lives of the women and children with her cleverness and courage. No one could imagine what would have happened to the Muslims in siege had their women and children been attacked.
Victory upon victory for the Muslims followed after the Battle of the Trench, until Makkah itself was conquered. But soon after that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) died, which shocked Safiyah greatly. She composed his elegy:
O mine eyes! Shed tears on the noblest
Of all who were buried in the dust,
And with the deep grief of your heart
Cry for Al-Mustafa's death and lament.
To people he was merciful
And for their guidance was the best.
May Allah reward him both in life
And with Paradise after his death.
Saiiyah lived until 'Umar's leadership. When she died, 'Umar prayed for her and buried her with the Prophet's Companions in Al-Baqi'.