Sumayyah bint Khubbat - The First Female Martyr
سمية بنت خطّاب‎

[ compiled by Mutmainaa ]


Sumayyah, the first female martyr of Islam. It is a story of the suffering to which a body can be subjected and the fortitude of a soul offering its agony to God.

The story begins when a young Yemeni named Yasir travelled in caravan to distant Makkah with his two brothers. They were seeking another brother lost to them for many years, but the souqs of the old trading city offered no clues to reward their quest.

Yasir's brothers lost spirit and decided to abandon the search. They departed back to Yemen, but Yasir remained behind as he had taken a liking to the city. The resourceful young man found a powerful family to employ and shelter him, and eventually married one of their slaves, Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Two sons were born, Yasir grew old, and his sons became men.

Then a momentous event shattered the false rhythms of life in the pagan citadel. Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala) revealed the Word of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) proclaimed it. The path to salvation was made clear and only a few brave souls stepped forward.

The early Believers numbered not more than thirty, but still the old order felt threatened. The different clans inflicted on the first Muslims all the horrors that evil men can devise for the pure. Yasir, Sumayyah, and their son Ammar were in a particularly vulnerable position. They had no tribal affiliation, and so were essentially "foreigners" in Makkah. As a result, there was no-one to protect them.

Sumayyah bint Khubbat (radiAllahu anha) became Muslim early on, before Hijrah (Migration). She was was the mother of Ammar bin Yasir, a Companion of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), and the wife of Yasir - who also suffered and died fi-sabillilah. She was the servant of Abu Hudhayfah and she was tortured to renounce her deen (Islam).

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Yasir and his family were among the select of new Muslims. They would not deny the Word and instead practiced it openly. The merchant family sponsoring Yasir was scandalised to discover in their midst an unrepentant Believer.

As a pillar of pagan Makkan society, the patriarch of the clan devised a public display of his piety. Yasir and his family were staked to broiling rocks at the hottest site of the Makkan desert. Father, wife and sons endured days of abject agony.

Sumayyah, herself, was the seventh person to embrace Islam, thus, one of the very first believers. The Al-Mughirah clan used to torture her in the attempt to force her leave Islam and return to idolworship.

When Abu Jahl heard of her Islam and her husband Yasir and her son Ammar, he whipped them all and beat them. She was aged, and weak too.

People used to pass by and witness her being tortured by the side of her son and husband in the hot sands of Makkah.

Only the passing shadow of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) could relieve such heat and torture. Muhammad heard the dying groans of Yasir and called to Heaven.

He turned to the suffering Muslims to console and comfort them,
"I have brought good tidings for you, Be patient, O family of Yasir. God has promised you a special place in Paradise".

At that time in Makkah, slaves and those without family connections, were easy targets for the Quraysh (unbelievers), since their harassment did not result in tribal repercussions.

New Muslims like Bilal, Khabbab ibn al-Aratt, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, Suhaib ar-Rumi, Ammar ibn Yasir (Sumayyah's son) and his father (radiAllahu anhum), all suffered extreme hardship which tested their faith, but they persevered and remained patient, steadfast and staunch, knowing that the road to Jannah is disguised with difficulties.

Subhan'Allah, if we took time to familiarise ourselves with the details of their experiences, then the difficulties we face in our societies will seem insignificant by comparison.

As Abu Jahl beat and tortured Sumayyah one day, she refused to recant her Deen, something that enraged Abu Jahl. The patriarch came later to inspect the results of his harsh sentence, and dear Sumayyah roused her last energy.

When he approached, she spat the bitter dust in her mouth at him. He was so overcome by blind anger that he savagely took a spear as she lay on the hot burning sand, looking up to the sky, and he speared her through her midsection.

She was the first of her family and the entire Ummah to meet Allah as a Martyr.

The pure and innocent soul flew high to Heaven with the angels surrounding her, and with the promise that she would have a place in Paradise.

On the day that she was bayoneted by Abu Jahl, she surrendered her life for her belief in Allah and His Messenger (salAllahu alayhi wasalam). Despite her weakness as an old and frail woman, she refused to do so until the last minute of her life.

Such is our history and our faith that a mother was willing to offer her own life to God and endure the torture of her dearest so that they could enter eternal life together.

When Abu Jahl was killed in the battle of Badr, the Blessed Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said to Ammar ibn Yasir, "Allah has killed your mother's killer."

While Yasir and his wife Sumayyah were killed when they refused to denounce Islam, their son Ammar ibn Yasir was saved when he accepted to denounce Islam.

Regarding this incident Allah revealed the below mentioned verse of surat An-Nahl;

"Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with Faith but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom."
[Surah An-Nahl: 106]

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

RadiAllahu anha.

Qur'an al-karim
A short history of Islam - Dr A. Rahim
Kitab at-Tabaqat al-Kabir - Muhammad Ibn Sa'd
The Women of Madina - Translated by Aisha Bewley
Miscellaneous articles
Please do not reproduce without permission and acknowledgement.

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