After the Battle of Khaybar in which the Muslims defeated the Jews, two women were brought before Mohamed. One was screaming, shrieking, and placing dust upon her head while the other was mute with horror. The silent one was Safiyya, the daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, the chief of the Banu Nadir the other was her cousin. Safiyya could trace her lineage back to Aaron, the brother of Moses. Mohamed asked to have the screaming one attended to, then took his cloak and placed it over the silent one. It was a gesture of pity, but from that moment she was to be honored and given the highest respect in the Muslim community.
Mohamed spoke to Bilal who had conducted the two women to him, saying,
"Bilal, has Allah plucked mercy from your heart that you let these two women pass by the slain of their men folk?"
This was considered a severe reprimand, for the Messenger very rarely criticized the behavior of those who served him. Anas ibn Malik said,
"I served the Messenger of Allah for eight years. He never once scolded me for something I did or for something that I neglected to do."
Like Umm Habiba, Safiyya was the daughter of a great chief. The only person who could save her from becoming a slave after having enjoyed such a high position was Mohamed. Her father had planned to assassinate Mohamed and he had conspired to exterminate all the Muslims in the Battle of the Trench, but it was characteristic that Mohamed bore no grudges. For those who did wrong, he felt pity rather than anger. He felt even more for the innocent who had to suffer in consequence. So he would not leave Safiyya after her father was killed amid a hostile people of a different religion.
"Could you care for me?" he asked her later.
"Yes, Messenger of Allah," she said.
So Safiyya entered into Islam and entered into Mohamed's house with the honored title,
"Mother of the Believers".
One may wonder how Safiyya could accept entering into Islam and become the wife of the Messenger when her father had been his bitter enemy, and when bloody battles had taken place between the Jews and the Muslims.
The answer may be found in what she relates of her early life as the daughter of the chief of the Banu Nadir. She said,
"I was my father's favorite, and also a favorite with my uncle Yasir. They could never see me with one of their children without picking me up. When the Messenger of Allah came to Medina, may Allah bless him, my father and my uncle went to see him. It was very early in the morning between dawn and sunrise. They did not return until the setting of the sun. They came back worn out, depressed, and walking with slow, heavy steps. I smiled to them as I was used to do, but neither of them took any notice of me for they were very miserable. I heard Abu Yasir tell my father,"
"Is it he?"
"Yes, it is."
"Can you recognize him? Can you verify it?"
"Yes, I can recognize him, all right."
"What do you feel towards him?"
"Enmity, enmity as long as I live."
The significance of this conversation is evident when we recall that in the ancient books of the Jews it was written that a prophet would come who would lead those who followed him to victory. The Jews used to threaten the idol worshippers of Medina that when he came they were going to exterminate them as they had exterminated other tribes before. This prophet was accurately described in their ancient texts which also contained signs by which they could recognize him. That was the reason their most learned rabbi, Ibn Salam, entered into Islam on seeing Mohamed. Huyayy ibn Akhtab could also recognize him, but while the rabbi did not hesitate to enter into Islam and give up worldly power, Huyayy who was not a man of God resented very much that the Prophet should appear among the Arabs, and moreover he had no intention of giving up worldly power. Even from the first meeting he had decided to oppose the Messenger. At the time the Messenger was making treaties with the Jews that gave them security and rights equal to the Muslims and made them citizens of Medina, they were already planning to destroy the Prophet when they got the opportunity.
Although Safiyya had in Mohamed a most kind and considerate husband, she was not happy, for his other wives were Qurayshi ladies of noble birth who considered her only a Jewess. One day she went to him in tears, and he said to her,
"But did you not answer them? Did you not tell them, how can you be better than me when Mohamed is my husband, Moses my (great) uncle and Aaron my great grandfather?"
These words were a balm to her wounded pride and from then on she felt inferior to no one.
Years later when Mohamed died, she mourned for him deeply and sincerely.
"Messenger of Allah," she said,
"I wish I was suffering instead of you."
And all her days after it, Safiyya served Islam with deep faith and sincerity.