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Exemplary Respect


(Sayyidah Safiyyah [radhiyallahu ‘anha] - Part Two)

When Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was departing from Khaibar, and his camel was brought, He (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) placed his blessed foot on the ground and knelt, offering Sayyidah Safiyyah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) his thigh, so that she could place her foot on his thigh and mount the camel. However, she declined to place her foot on his blessed thigh, out of respect, and instead placed her knee on his blessed thigh in order to mount the camel.

Initially, some Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum), who did not witness the nikaah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to Sayyidah Safiyyah (radhiyallahu ‘anha), were not sure regarding whether Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had kept Sayyidah Safiyyah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) as his slave or had taken her as his respected wife. Due to the fact that hijaab and niqaab is necessary on free women, not on slave women, these Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) said, “If he conceals her, she is his wife. If not, she is his slave.” 

When she mounted the camel, seated behind Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), he covered her body and face with his shawl, concealing her as he would conceal all his pure wives. Hence, these Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) realized that she was the respected wife of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and not his slave girl.

(Tabaqaat Ibni Sa’d vol. 8, pg. 121 and Saheeh Muslim #3500)


1. This incident highlights the consideration and compassion that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) showed his respected wife as well as the exemplary respect that Sayyidah Safiyyah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) displayed for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Although there was a need for her to step on the blessed thigh of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) in order to mount the camel, especially due to her short stature, she did so without compromising her respect for Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). Respect (adab) is an integral part of our Deen, but it is unfortunately becoming extinct. A dedicated effort needs to be made to acquire this respect and instil it in our children.

2. The statement of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum), “If he conceals her, she is his wife. If not, she is his slave,” clearly shows that covering the body and the face is the hallmark of a free woman, whereas exposing the body, face, hair, etc. is the trademark of women who are enslaved. Hijaab and niqaab thus give a woman value and true freedom, whereas exposing herself cheapens her and enslaves her to the world around her.