The first woman martyr in Islam, Sumayya bint Khayyat
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Women have played an important role in the history of Islam from its beginnings. One such lady who is well known by Muslims but does not always receive that much attention is SumayyahbintKhayyat. She was a black-skinned person from Africa, who was treated as a slave by the light-skinned Arab infidels of Mecca. In 615 CE, on hearing of the declaration of the universal message of Islam by Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), Sumayya, along with her husband, Yasser IbnAmmar and son, Ammar, believed in his mission, and became Muslim. This angered the Arab infidels and they started active persecution of the small Muslim community.
The first to be targeted were those who did not have tribal protection. Sumayyah, Yasser, and Ammar were among this group. All three were tied up and beaten. Sumayyah was then stabbed by the archenemy of Islam Abu Jahl, when she refused to recant her faith, making her the first martyr of Islam. Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was very troubled by the persecution of the Muslims, especially Ammar’sfamily. He comforted them by giving them tidings of Paradise for their steadfastness in faith.
Although Sumayyah did not live long to enough to see the Muslim community grow, she is remembered for her strength, courage, and faith in a period when the Muslims were heavily persecuted. She is important because her active commitment to her faith dispels the image of Muslim women nowadays that they are oppressed and do not have choice in regards to how they practice their faith. Sumayyah chose to be a Muslim and stood against the Meccans, even risking her life, and had strength that would inspire Muslim men and women later on as they struggled to establish a Muslim community.
It is for this reason that she is considered to be a role model for all Muslims. Her husband Yasser was also martyred after being severely tortured by the pagan Arabs. Their son, Ammarresisted torture, and in order to escape certain death, it is reported that he contradicted his faith verbally, but at heart was a staunch Muslim. This concealment of faith, which made the pagans release him from torture, is an example of taqiyyaor dissimulation in face of adversity. The holy Qur’an also cites taqiyya in the case of the monotheist believer in the court of the tyrannical Pharaoh in Egypt, who concealed his faith and saved the life of Prophet Moses (PBUH).Thus Ammar only verbally agreed to whatever the pagans told him to express, because he was being tortured so horribly.
After the persecution of Muslims was over, the Prophet’s uncle Hamzaalong with other companions went to the location where the torture and persecution took place; they found every persecuted Muslim dead except Ammar, who had survived the torture. Ammar’s parents, Yasser and Sumayya, were both among the group of persecuted Muslims who achieved martyrdom. As a matter of fact, his mother Sumayyah, is considered the first Muslim martyr.Ammar, who was about the same age as Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was known for his steadfast faith. The Prophet said in explicit words that wherever truth goes, Ammar follows it, and one day he will be killed by a group of renegades from Islam.
After the passing away of the Prophet, Ammar stayed loyal to the Prophet’s divinely-decreed successor, Imam Ali (AS). He was greatly respected amongst the Muslims, and used to fearlessly criticize whenever he saw deviation, as is his criticism of the 3rd caliph, Osman ibnAffan, who ordered the severe beating of Ammar in violation of the Prophet’s command. The pagans who had become Muslims in name such as Mu’awiyyaibn Abu Sufyan, used to intensely hate Ammar.
He finally achieved martyrdom at the age of 90 during one of the battle of the War of Siffeen in Reqqa, Syria, by the forces of Mu’awiyya, as foretold by the Prophet. Alas, the present day heretics, the Salafis, who with the help of the Zionists and the Crusaders have occupied Aleppo and Reqqa, recently blew up the holy mausoleum of Ammaribn Yasser, the Martyr, and the son of the first two Martyrs, Sumayya and Yasser.