Did Prophet Muhammad go against the established waiting period for a widow by marrying lady Safiyyah?
Critics claim that when Prophet Muhammad married Safiyah (a captive), who was a widow, that it went against the chapter of Baqara 2:234-235 which says waiting period for widows is 4 months and 10 days. Is there any Hadith which gives the exception for captive widows? Could you also enlighten me on what earlier scholars said about this ruling?
There is no contradiction between the Prophet's action and the verse because the 'idda [waiting period] of a war captive is one menstrual cycle.
Evidence from sunnah
- Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said regarding the female captives of 'Awtas: "Do not have intercourse with a pregnant woman until she gives birth or with a non-pregnant woman until she has had one menstrual cycle" [Recorded by Imam Ahmed, Abu Dawud. Al-Hakim declared it authentic in Al-Mustadrak).
- Ruwayfa' Ibn Thabit al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said on the Day of Hunain, "It is unlawful for a person who believes in Allah and the Last Day to have intercourse with a pregnant woman; it is unlawful for a person who believes in Allah and Last Day to have intercourse with a non-pregnant woman until her non pregnancy is established; it is unlawful for a person who believes in Allah and Last Day to sell [war] bounty until it is divided" [Recorded by Imam Ahmed and Abu Dawud.)
This means that the 'idda of a pregnant war captive ends when she gives birth.
There are no reports or scholarly opinions that contest the fact that Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) consummated his marriage to Safiya after she had one menstrual cycle, thus establishing that she was not pregnant. Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) reached a place called Sidd As-Sahba`, Safiya was clean from her menses, and he married her" (Recorded by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih(.
In another phrasing of this hadith, Imam Muslim said in his Sahih, "Then, he [the Prophet] gave Safiya to Um Sulaim to prepare and adorn her for him. Or I think he said: "To spend her 'idda in Um Sulaim's house.]
In his commentary on this hadith, Imam al-Nawawi said: "[Spend the 'idda] means: to verify that she is not pregnant. If she is a war captive, it is obligatory to establish her pregnancy status. Safiya spent this period in Um Sulaim's house. When her 'idda expired, Um Sulaim] prepared and adorned her after the fashion of brides at that time.]