Sumayyah binte Khayyat is one of the most honoured and beloved women in Islam. She was a black woman who was formerly a slave in the possession of Abu Hudhaifah ibn al-Mughirah, a member of the Makhzum clan in Mecca. Her husband Yasir was also a slave, but they were both freed at some point and lived under Abu Hudhaifah's patronage. They went on to have 3 sons, all known for their exceptional morals and manners.
Sumayyah was one of the first people to accept Islam when the Prophet (S.A,W.) began publicly preaching his mission. She saw the beauty and wisdom of his message, and embraced Islam even knowing that it would put her at risk.
In pre-Islamic Mecca, many atrocities and violations were common, especially towards women and slaves. It was common practice to torture them for any perceived wrongdoings, and even to bury female children alive since they were supposedly incapable of passing on the bloodline.
When the Quraysh (the people of Mecca) found out about the stirrings of Islam, they ruthlessly persecuted Muslims of low social rank, who could not defend themselves. Sumayyah's family was vulnerable after the death of their patron Abu Hudhaifah, and without his protection the other members of the Makhzum clan tortured them to pressure them to abandon their faith.
She, Yasir and Ammar were forced to stand in the sun in the heat of the day dressed in mail-coats, tied down over hot coals, tied to trees and beaten, and other savagery. The Quraysh were relentless in their torture, and did not plan to stop until Sumayyah and her family renounced Islam.
They did not anticipate the strength of the family's will and conviction. When the Prophet (S.A.W.) saw Sumayyah, Yasir and Ammar being subjected to this violence, he said, “Patience, o family of Yasir, for you are destined for Paradise.” That promise was enough for them to remain strong and resilient in their faith.
(Credit : Tasnia Ullah)
Despite their conviction and faith, Abu Jahl, also a member of the Makhzum clan, especially would not give up on targeting Summayah and her family, as he wished to send a message to the Muslims of Makkah that they would either need to renounce their faith or die. This powerful man could not fathom how the faith of this old woman could not be shaken, which only enraged him further, and on one occasion he took the violence to an extreme length, more than anything that had been seen before Islam.
One evening, he began to insult her verbally. Sumayyah RA, weak from torture, used the remnants of her energy to spit at Abu Jahal from her position and humiliate him. This enraged him so much that he snapped, and killed her by stabbing and impaling her with his spear.
Although Sumayyah did not survive to see the Muslim community grow and thrive, her strength, courage and faith in a period of complete darkness and ignorance shows that Islam presented hope and salvation to the weakest members of society. Sumayyah chose to believe in the One God and faced the consequences of this belief in a pagan society – her powerful character continues to inspire Muslims around the world even today.
So as the first martyr of Islam, although she did not live to see the glory days of Islam, she preceded everyone from our Ummah to experience the promise of Allah SWT.
Sources : Wikipedia, amaliah.com