Although many of us might have grown up knowing that Sumayyah bint Khayyat (R.A.) was the first martyr of Islam, first person to give her life in the name of Islam, we were unaware that she was from Habashah, modern-day Ethiopia, or Abyssinia. She was a weak, elderly woman of about 60 years old at the time of her martyrdom and was born roughly 20 years before the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
MashaAllah, Sumayyah (R.A.) was one of the first seven people to embrace Islam. Let’s learn how she gained the honor of becoming the First Martyr in Islam.
A Family in Peril
At that time, Meccan society was very tribalistic. Yasir was married to Sumayyah, a slave.
Yasir was a Yemeni man who traveled to Makkah in search of his missing brother.
During that time, he made the decision to relocate to Makkah and asked Abu Hudhaifah al-Mughirah for security.
After that, Abu Hudhayfah proposed the marriage of Yasir to his favorite female slave, Sumayah. So, after her master had manumitted her, Yasir married Sumayah bint Khubbat. The Makkan society rejoiced at the marriage of one of its well-mannered allies and an honorable former slave.
After that, the couple gave birth to Ammar and Abdullah. Ammar (R.A.) was roughly the same age as the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
That indicated that they were neither free nor slaves. They had no clan or community to rely on because of their limbo status, making them quite vulnerable. The family served Abu Hudhaifah’s family and the Banu Makhzum tribe.
The family spent all of its time raising them to resemble young Quraysh males in general.
Sumayyah (R.A.) showered the two boys with love and attention until they reached the level of maturity their parents had always envisioned. Even though Quraysh youth were the most highly regarded youth in the entire Arab Peninsula for their exceptional moral code, ‘Ammar and ‘Abdullah stood out among them for their intelligence and fine manners. The family underwent a new phase following Abu Hudhayfah’s passing, which it managed to get through despite its grief.
The Oppression of Muslims
One of the most dominant tribes in Makkah was the Banu Makhzum. Because Banu Hashim, the tribe that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam hails from, is their enemy, this tribe had strong opposition to Islam.
They used to claim that they could compete with the Banu Hashim in terms of generosity, money, and other factors, but if they conceded that Prophet Muhammad was a Prophet, they would have to confess that the Banu Hashim were superior to them.
Who else was a native of Banu Makhzum?
Abu Jahl was from Banu Makhzum tribe.The physical stature of Abu Jahl was similar to Sayyidina Umar’s. He had a reputation for assaulting persons who converted to Islam. He genuinely wanted to make an example out of the early Muslims and sought to put down any dissent.
Sumayyah (R.A.)’s Martyrdom
The family of Makhzum immediately showed their deepest hate for the new faith as soon as the word of the revelation hit Makkah like thunder. Abul Hakam bin Hisham, a.k.a. Abu Jahl, was the clan’s leader.
Yasir and all the Makkan family heard the news. They were aware of how Banu Makhzum and Abu Jahl, their supporters, felt about Islam.
Yasir met the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) in Dar Al-Arqam because he wanted to learn about the new religion directly from its leader. He expressed his belief in what the Prophet had spoken after listening to it in awe. He quickly went to Sumayyah (R.A.) after that, and after listening to her husband’s justification, she too accepted Islam.
After that, they had a conversation with their sons on Islam, and the sons then took their parents’ lead. The entire family hurriedly proclaimed their faith in Islam to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Some of the early Muslims persisted in publicly revealing their conversion to Islam despite the fact that the Islamic da’wah was underground as a result of the Quraysh’s severe torturing of Muslims. When it was revealed that Yasir, his wife, and his son ‘Ammar were among them, Banu Makhzum became outraged.
The Banu Makkzum leaders contacted the Yasir household and inquired,
“Oh, our dearest allies, is what we have heard about you true?”
Yasir asked, “What have you heard about us?”
“We have heard that you swore allegiance to Muhammad?
“Yes, we did.”
“Don’t you know that he insults our idols, degrades our beliefs, and criticizes our ancestors?”
“And you followed him despite this?”
“Yes, we believe in Allah and what His Messenger brings.”
“Have you ceased to believe in our idols, Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Hubal?”
“Yes, we have ceased to believe in Al-Lat, Al- Uzza and Hubal.”
Sumayyah was then asked by the Makhzum clansmen if she agreed with her husband, and she replied, “I affirm my belief in Allah as my god and Muhammad as His Messenger.”
They said, “Then, we will torture y0u severely.”
The Yasir family wept. “Do whatever you want, By Allah, we will never go back from the right after we have come to know it,”
Recall the first seven Muslims who embraced Islam. Only Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidatina Khadijah had their tribe to defend them out of the seven. The remaining five were Sumayyah (R.A.), her son Ammar (R.A.), Bilal (R.A.), Khabbab (R.A.), and Suhayb (R.A.). They were all tribeless.
The five of them, as well as other early Muslims like Sumayyah’s partner Yasir, were brutally tortured in front of the public. They were made to wear metal armor before being thrashed in the blazing sun.
Particularly Sumayyah (R.A.) was adamant and infuriated Abu Jahl the most. She made zikr and grinned in Abu Jahl’s face more as he subjected her to various forms of torture.
Although the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, was powerless to stop the torturing, he would pass by and remark, “Be patient, O family of Yasir. You have a place in Jannah.
All members of this lovely family, who were bound to the tree trunks, could see one another. Yasir seemed to be on the verge of passing away after torturing them for days.
“Your husband will pass away before you”, Abu Jahl said as he turned to face Sumayyah (R.A.). “Since you adore Muhammad so much and intend to wed him once your spouse dies away, you will probably be pleased when he does.”
Sumayyah (R.A.) spat in Abu Jahl’s face in response to this insult, saying, “May Allah disgrace you, O enemy of Allah. What a vile, disgusting person you are. You are smaller to me in my eyes than a beetle that I would step on in the ground.”
When Abu Jahl heard this, he became so furious that he grabbed a spear and stabbed Sumayyah (R.A.) in the abdomen, making her the first martyr in Islam.
As a result, Abu Jahl is clad in shame, both in this world and the next, whereas Sumayyah (R.A.) died as the First Martyr in Islam. “Oh Allah, do not admit any of the family of Yasir to Hellfire,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) pleaded for the Yasir family to Allah.
Sumayyah (R.A.) was elevated to Allah’s presence, where she will be waiting for the Prophet (peace be upon him) in paradise as he had promised. The fact that a woman was the First Martyr in Islam is very magnificent for all Muslim women and men.
The Willpower of Sumayyah (R.A.)
Sumayyah (R.A.) is a role model for many things, not the least of which is her courage and persistence in spite of her old age. Sumayyah (R.A.) had the confidence to persevere because she trusted the Prophet’s promise would come true.
Abu Jahl intended to torture the early Muslims and make them publicly curse Prophet Muhammad. In a moment of weakness, Ammar cursed the Prophet, and later, he felt ashamed to be in his presence and would run away from him.
The Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, would then tell him that, in addition to being pardoned, he should curse the Prophet if they did it to him again.
This was due to the Prophet’s assertion that someone under duress was not responsible for speaking anything that would save his life because the Prophet already knew what was on his heart.
However, Sumayyah (R.A.) refrained from cursing the Prophet in order to appease Abu Jahl. She wanted other Muslims to maintain their faith because she was aware that they would feel threatened by the display. Her martyrdom not only inspired the other Muslims back then, but it still inspires us, generations later!