The first female martyr of Islam


Yasir, a young Yemeni, travelled in a caravan to distant Makkah with his two brothers, Harith and Malik, seeking another brother lost to them for many years. The search was futile and Yasir's brothers having lost their quest for the search decided to abandon it. They returned to Yemen but Yasir remained behind as he had taken a liking to the city. The resourceful young man found the support and sponsorship of Abu Hudhaifah ibn Al Mughairah, a powerful family then. It was here that Yasir met the African (Abyssinian) slave girl of the household, Sumayyah bint Khabbat.

In due course of time, they got married. It was a happy marriage and soon Ammar was born. Abu Hudhaifah was kind and generous to them. He liberated the family from bondage but continue to keep the good relationship between them. The couple were blessed with two more sons, Abdullah and Hareeth. But both perished before the advent of Islam.

The momentous event shattered the false rhythms of life in the pagan city of Makkah. Allah SWT revealed the Word of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. proclaimed it. The path to salvation was made clear. The early believers numbered not more than thirty, but still the Quraish of Makkah felt threatened.

Sumayyah bint Khabbat r.a was one of the first seven people to be enlightened by Islam and swear allegiance to the Prophet S.A.W. She was among the foremost of the greatest women companion. Islam is unique in the sense that a person's value does not depend on colour, race, language sex or nationality. The norms are purity of heart and goodwill towards all. As Allah says “ Verily the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who is most pious”. (Hujraat:13)

The seven people who first accepted Islam were the following: Abu Baker Siddique, Ali bin Talib, Khadijah, Zaid bin Harith, Sumayyah bint Khabbat, ‘Ammar bin Yasir, Bilal bin Abi Rabiah ( not set in order)

The Quraish of Makkah could not harm the Prophet S.A.W. because of the power and position of his uncle Abu Talib. Abu Bakkar Siddique was also a very powerful man because of the wealth of his tribe and his own personal influence. But the common muslims whether man or woman was not spared any imaginable torture or torment.

Sumayyah, her husband and her son Ammar were very often the targets of the cruelty of the Quraish. They were staked to broiling rocks at the hottest site of the desert and endured days of abject agonies. But they were steadfast in their faith and belief. Sumayyah herself used to be tortured by the Al-Mughirah clan when their attempts to force her to leave Islam and return to idol worship failed. Only the passing shadow of the Prophet S.A.W. could relieve the heat and torture that the family endured.

On one occasion as the Prophet S.A.W. was passing by the market place, he saw all three members of the family being put through the worst form of torture possible. But the Prophet S.A.W. was so helpless and there was no way he could rescue them. He could only console them and said, “be patient o family of Yasir! For your final destination is Paradise” Masya Allah to be informed of that by the Prophet S.A.W. himself!!!!

Abu Jahl subjected Sumayyah to the worst kind of punishment, but she did not waver even for a second. She persevered and remained patient, steadfast, her faith as steady as a rock. He tried to pressure, cajoled with and threatened her to recant her deen, but she bluntly refused. He could not accept the fact that she could resist him so stubbornly and in blind rage he thrust his spear into her, a fatal blow that took her life, an old and helpless woman.

On that day, Sumayyah bint Khabbat met Allah, the first in the family and the first woman in the entire Ummah to die as a martyr. Despite the agonies of the horrendous tortures inflicted upon her, despite her weak and frail condition, she refused to denounce Islam, her deen, even until the last minute of her life.

This incident took place seven years before Hijrah. Yasir also succumbed to the endless and unspeakable torture of the Quraish and died a matyr too.

Sumayyah. A story of the suffering to which a body can be subjected and the fortitude of a soul offering its agony to Allah.

Sumayyah. Truly a woman of immense distinction. She offers a provocative example to our modern day.

Resources:

1 - Qur'an al-karim
2 - A short history of Islam - Dr A. Rahim
3 - Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabir - Muhammad Ibn Sa'd
4 - The Women of Madina - Translated by Aisha Bewley
5 - Miscellaneous articles

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