It is difficult to try to be neutral when describing the enslavement and rape of Safiyyah. I generally try to let the ahadith speak for themselves, which is bad enough, but I think that the story of Safiyyah needs to be told in a manner that portrays its repulsive nature. Feel free to cross-reference everything that I say with Islamic sources.
After years of virtual stalemate between himself and the Meccan army, Muhammad decided to plunder the Jewish village of Khaybar, to the north of Madinah. Khaybar was a fertile oasis filled with lush palm trees flourishing vegetation. Furthermore, the Jewish inhabitants, many of whom were expelled from Madinah by Muhammad just a few years earlier, were skilled craftsmen with stores of gold and valuable weaponry. Muhammad gathered his troops on the outskirts of the town. Preparing his armies for a surprise raid at dawn, he shouted “When we descend upon their precincts, terrible indeed shall be the morning of those who had been warned!”
With that, Muhammad’s men descended upon the sleeping town, wreaking havoc, cutting palm trees, killing men, and enslaving women. One of the men that was captured was Kinana. Kinana was rumored to have knowledge of the location of a great treasure. Muhammad had his men torture Kinana to learn the treasure’s location, threatening him with death if he refused to disclose it. After finding the treasure, Muhammad had Kinana killed.
As the village lay in defeat, the bloodied and bruised bodies of the dead scattered about the rode, Muhammad had his men tie up the women and force them into sexual slavery. The women, bounded by rope and completely distraught, were screaming, wailing, pulling at their own hair and rubbing their faces in dust. Walking by, Muhammad referred to them as “she devils.” He gave orders to his companions to “chose whatever women they wanted.”
One of those women was 17 year old Safiyyah Bint Huyay. Safiyyah was the daughter of the tribe’s chief. She was also the wife of Kinana, whom Muhammad had tortured and killed earlier. Once Muhammad learned of her status, and of her striking beauty, he ordered her to be reserved for himself. He threw his cloak over her to show that she was his property.
She was cleaned, beautified, and prepared for the pleasure of the 60 year old self proclaimed prophet—the same man who ordered the raiding of her village, the enslavement of her friends, the murder of her father, and the torture and death of her husband.
Al- Bukhari Narrates:
Narrated Abdul Aziz:
Anas said, "When Allah's Apostle invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer there (early in the morning) when it was still dark. The Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode too and I was riding behind Abu Talha. The Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of the Prophet. He uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of the Prophet. When he entered the town, he said, ‘Allahu Akbar! Khaibar is ruined. Whenever we approach near a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.’ He repeated this thrice. The people came out for their jobs and some of them said, ‘Muhammad (has come).’ (Some of our companions added, ‘With his army.’) We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah's Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.’ He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah's Apostle! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.’ So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’" Anas added: "The Prophet then manumitted her and married her."
Thabit asked Anas, "O Abu Hamza! What did the Prophet pay her (as Mahr)?" He said, "Her self was her Mahr for he manumitted her and then married her." Anas added, "While on the way, Um Sulaim dressed her for marriage (ceremony) and at night she sent her as a bride to the Prophet. So the Prophet was a bridegroom and he said, ‘Whoever has anything (food) should bring it.’ He spread out a leather sheet (for the food) and some brought dates and others cooking butter. (I think he (Anas) mentioned As-Sawaq). So they prepared a dish of Hais (a kind of meal). And that was Walima (the marriage banquet) of Allah's Apostle." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 367)
Ibn Hisham states:
“Safiyah was born in Medinah. She belonged to the Jewish tribe of Banu 'I-Nadir. When this tribe was expelled from Medinah in the year 4 A.H, Huyaiy was one of those who settled in the fertile colony of Khaibar together with Kinana ibn al-Rabi' to whom Safiyah was married a little before the Muslims attacked Khaibar. She was then seventeen. She had formerly been the wife of Sallam ibn Mishkam, who divorced her. One mile from Khaibar. Here the Prophet married Safiyah. She was groomed and made-up for the Prophet by Umm Sulaim, the mother of Anas ibn Malik. They spent the night there. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari guarded the tent of the Prophet the whole night. When, in the early dawn, the Prophet saw Abu Ayyub strolling up and down, he asked him what he meant by this sentry-go; he replied: "I was afraid for you with this young lady. You had killed her father, her husband and many of her relatives, and till recently she was an unbeliever. I was really afraid for you on her account". The Prophet prayed for Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Ibn Hisham, p. 766)
Believing in Jihad and Martyrdom
I lived my younger years wanting only one thing: martyrdom.
I wanted to die in battle, in the name of Allah.
I wanted the peaceful happy death that martyrs appear to experience with a smile on their face.
I didn't care who I fought or why, as long as I was fighting for Allah under Islamically justifiable conditions.
Everything in this world was worthless in comparison. You die in the name of Allah, and you get a free pass from all the pain and suffering that awaits everyone else on Judgement Day. You go straight to heaven, and all your sins are forgiven. You believe there is nothing in Islam that's praised as much as Jihad and martyrdom. In fact, it is said in a Hadith that the only person who would ever wish to leave heaven would be the martyrs, who would rather come back to this world only to be martyred again and again.
I was conditioned from a very young age to think like this. My father believed that there was nothing nobler than to fight and be killed in Jihad.
Almost everything he talked about would lead me in that direction, whether directly or indirectly.
Talking about the worthlessness of this life and the impending destruction that awaits civilization made me lose interest in having a normal life.
Talking about the suffering and torment that awaits the unbelievers in the afterlife made me live in complete terror of losing my faith.
And finally, talking about the joys of martyrdom made it seem like the only thing in life that's worth fighting for.
This all happened over the course of the first 18 years of my life, in which I lived with my parents.
It left me with nothing to live for, except the hope that an apocalyptic war would break out, opening the doors to Jihad, and giving me the chance to fulfil my destiny.
This was all about my selfish desire for martyrdom, but there is another aspect of my personality that this ideology took advantage of, which is my empathy.
My sense of empathy was twisted to suit these views.
A lot of radical Muslims, especially the Jihadists among them, would cheer at the idea of unbelievers being sent to hell. I wasn't like that. I didn't even want to believe in the existence of hell, but I never dared to question it. Yet still, I would cheer when I heard about a terrorist attack, such as the 9/11 atrocity. The death of innocent people didn't matter. We're all going to die one day, and these people might as well die now in the name of a great cause. The suffering of their families is nothing compared to what awaits in the afterlife.
Think about it like this: the eternal fate of just one person is a far more important matter than the temporary suffering of the thousands of people that are killed in these attacks. I would rather save one person from being tortured in the worst way possible for trillions and trillions of years than to prevent the premature death of the thousands of lives that are lost in these attacks. The idea of eternal hell was so terrible that everything else paled in comparison.
But who exactly would we be saving through these actions? I didn't know, but I trusted that God's plan had to be a merciful one. In this view, Jihad is the only way of establishing Islam's dominance, and Islam's dominance would be the ultimate salvation for mankind.
More people would go to heaven, and fewer people would go to hell.
Isn't that the greatest possible kindness I could do for mankind?
It also helped that I believed that Islam's dominance would bring peace and prosperity to all of mankind, and whatever the price was, it'll be worth it.
It doesn't take a genius to see how extremely fragile the logic of it all is, but I had to believe it. That is how I justified the morality of the Jihadist ideology, but the truth is, the purpose of Jihad is not meant to be mercy. The official purpose of Jihad, as stated in the Hadith, is so that Allah's word would be dominant.
The scary thing is that, even though most Muslims don't think like that, there are traces of this deadly ideology in more Muslims than you'd think, because it is taught in the Quran and the Hadith.
I've seen children talking about murdering unbelievers, and their parents thinking it's cute. I've heard clerics praying for death and destruction upon all unbelievers, as everyone in the mosque says "Amen". I've seen that even level-headed Muslims may go berserk when their religion is insulted, and call for the death of the blasphemer.
It's also worth mentioning that a significant percentage of Muslims would say that they would rather see their children die than apostate, and the extremes they might go to stop that from happening are dreadful.
Jihadists are also often obsessed with Islam's version of the end-of-days scenario, particularly the appearance of the Mahdi (the Sunni version), since that's supposed to be the first of the major signs of Judgement Day.
The Mahdi is supposed to show up when things are most difficult for Muslims. He will lead Jihad, and bring peace to the world. The worse things get for believers in this ‘dunya’, the more hopeful they become that the time for the Mahdi's appearance is just around the corner. It's a very clever device that prevents them from despairing. I remember hearing people talk about how their dreams imply that the Mahdi was already born, and speculating that he had already arrived in the form of various living Muslim figures.
It was exhausting, resisting reality that way, but I was willing to hold on to my beliefs. I believed that Allah has made it clear for us that we're on the right path.
One of the most compelling aspects of Jihadism is the miracles of Jihad and martyrdom. There are so many stories about them. The people who survived Jihad have all kinds of stories to tell, about miracles they experienced in battle. The corpses of martyrs are often said to be immune to decomposition. Some martyrs are said to smell of musk as their blood is spilled. Some die with a peaceful smile on their faces.
Sometimes all it takes to 'convert' someone is to show them pictures of smiling martyrs, or a video using them to propagate martyrdom. They tend to have an impact powerful enough to make a lot of people say: "I wish I were in their place".
My worldview only started changing after I left home and became part of a more diverse community, and more so after regular exposure to various non-Islamic cultures through the internet.
The more time I spent with people from ‘the other side’, the harder it became to believe the things I did.
It took about 8 years for me to finally rid myself of all that brainwashing.
I could have easily gone a different way had the wrong people stayed in my life.
I was lucky to have found my way out of that darkness. It's not always the case, but sometimes all it takes for a person to recover from such destructive beliefs is to be given the chance to appreciate the humanity of non-believers, and the beauty of life, which is probably why the founders of Islam did their best to discourage that.
Islamic extremists are continually told that disbelievers are inferior to believers, that they are less than animals, and that life is ugly. When we begin to see things differently, when we are exposed to the diversity of the world, the humanity of others, the free exchange of ideas, the extremist world view starts to fall apart.
Apostasy and the Sinister Zakir Naik
If only George Orwell were alive to chronicle the age in which the owner of a channel called "Peace TV" speaks regularly of how ex-Muslims deserve to die.
It is normal for Islamic literalists and chauvinists to pervert language to try to present their poison as honey. Zakir Naik exemplifies this perfectly.
However, sometimes the elephant in the room does get pointed out. Recently, the British broadcasting regulator OFCOM ruled against Peace TV and Zakir Naik after he broadcast the following words:"One group of scholars, they say that if a Muslim, if he becomes a non-Muslim [inaudible] he should be put to death. There is another group of scholars who say that if a Muslim becomes a non-Muslim and propagates his new faith against Islam then he should be put to death. I tend to agree more with the second group of scholars, who say that a Muslim, if he becomes a non-Muslim and propagates his new faith against Islam, that is the time this penalty is applied."
The elephant in the room was also pointed out earlier, by Home Secretary Theresa May, who banned Zakir Naik from entering Britain on the grounds of his hate preaching. This preaching has included statements of solidarity with Osama bin Laden and disquisitions on the fate of critics and apostates of Islam. Naik stated that under sharia law it is appropriate to crucify, dismember or exile those who "wage war against Allah
", and that it is correct to kill former Muslims who "propagate his new faith against Islam
Ex-Muslims must be grateful for these small mercies from OFCOM and Theresa May. Apostates from Islam are the only group in British society of whom it can be stated openly that they deserve to be killed, and there is so little reaction or condemnation of such hate speech.
Even though Naik himself has been banned from Britain, his media machine, which is Saudi funded and peddles a literalist, Wahaabi version of Islam saturated with bigotry, misogyny, intolerance of non-Wahaabi Muslims, and all non Muslims broadcasts unimpeded in the UK. As a result, Naik's teachings, which disseminate a worldview hostile to science and liberal education, continue to gain popularity.
As recently as 2009, Zakir Naik was employed by the BBC to give a series of "Ramadan Reflections" on the Asian Network. Thankfully, his reflections on the BBC didn't include what elsewhere he has said should be done to apostates, but it is a dispiriting sign of his relative popularity among some Muslims that the BBC chose him to represent Islam.
Who will point out to Muslims the elephant in the room that is Zakir Naik?
Sadly, there are as of yet few signs that Zakir Naik and his formidable machine of evangelism faces any significant organised opposition. On the contrary, dissent is relatively muted, and his lectures and ideas are increasingly finding currency amongst Muslims in Britain.
One of the problems is that as horrific as you may find his attitude towards ex-Muslims, he is expressing mainstream Islam's scripturally-based discourse regarding apostasy.
For a Muslim to criticise Naik's attitude would open that person to claims that he is criticising the religion itself which, in one of the grimmest Catch 22 aspects of Islam, could make the Muslim vulnerable to accusations of being one of the disbelievers (or "Kuffar
"), and thus subject to the very same demonisations and threats that are thrown at apostates.
There is much we will be saying about the teaching on apostasy in Islam in the future. A recent comment from our forum touches on one of the main apologia that is made for the "death to ex-Muslims" rhetoric that Zakir Naik asserts as a reasonable and righteous teaching of Islam.
The "apostasy = treason" rhetoric begs the question: Is Islam intrinsically a political entity first and foremost? Muslims like to say that Islam is not inherently political but has been "misinterpreted" or used that way. Yet when they support the death penalty for apostasy (which, to be fair, not all Muslims do) it is implicit in that stance that Islam is firstly a political state, not a religion which does not necessarily have to be political or state-based, but a set of personal beliefs.
Perhaps it is understandable that many Muslims do not want to discuss the issue of apostasy in Islam. Doing so means having to confront the ethical flaws and contradictions within Islamic teachings. For many Muslims, this is too expensive a cost, but for ex-Muslims it is a cost we will see and pay in full. We cannot afford not to. We will continue to point out the elephant in the room until only the most willfully blind and obtuse refuse to acknowledge it.