Sumayyah bin Khayyat RA - Female Companions of Rasulullah SAW
First woman who had played an important role in the early history of Islam. One woman who is well known by Muslims but does not always receive that much attention is Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Sumayyah was the first martyr of Islam and will be the focus of this post, the sixth in a series on important figures man Martyr of Islam.
Sumayyah binti Khayyat RA (Arabic: سمية بنت خياطّ, died 615 C.E.) is known in the Islamic traditions as the first person in history to be martyred for having embraced the faith of Islam, in pre-Hijrah Makkah. Sumayyah binti Khayyat RA was the wife of Yasir ibn Amir RA and the mother of Ammar ibn Yasir RA, both well-known early entrants to the faith. The earliest reference to the incident is found in Ibn Ishaq’s (died 761) biography of Muhammad, Sirahtul Rasulullah (Meaning: Biography of the Messenger of God).
By 615 C.E, five years after Muhammad’s declaration of Prophethood, persecution of followers of the new faith came to an active phase when the weakest members of the young community, such as the African slave Bilal bin Rabah RA, were subjected to torture and the local leaders proclaimed a ban of trade with the Muslims, prohibiting citizens of Makkah from providing food and medicine to members of the new movement. These were followed by the murder of Sumayyah binti Khayyat RA by a Makkan tribal chief Abu Jahl.
The name ‘Sumayyah’
The name of the person Sumayyah binti Khayyat RA is not explicitly mentioned in Ibn Ishaq. It is a deduction from the reference to her son as Ammar “ibn” Sumayyah, meaning Ammar “son-of” Sumayyah, in Ibn Ishaq.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA
Rasulullah SAW said:
“O People of Yasir! Be patient because your destination is Paradise.”
Three brothers set out from Yemen to go to Makkah. They heard about this city and wanted to experience its culture and to partake of its various social activities. One was named Yasir and the other two were named Harith and Malik. The latter two left to return home to Yemen after some time, but Yasir liked the live there so much that he decided to stay on permanently.
According to the custom of the time he got the sponsorship and support of Abu Hudayfah bin ‘Abdullah Makhzumi, and became his companion and partier. As they got to know each other better, they took a liking to each other. Abu Hudayfah had a very intelligent and sensible slave girl in his house, Sumayyah. In due course of time she got married to Yasir.
It was a happy marriage and soon they had a son whom they named ‘Ammar. Abu Hudayfah was a very kind, loving and generous man, and he liberated the family from his bondage; but he continued to keep good terms with them and very often helped them with cash as well. Yasir had two more sons, whom he named ‘Abdullah and Harith. The latter was murdered before the advent of Islam, and with this tragedy it seemed ill fortune started to haunt the family.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA was one of the first seven people to be enlightened by Islam and swear allegiance to Rasulullah SAW. She is among the foremost of greatest women Companions. Islam is unique in the sense that a person’s value does not depend on color, race, language, sex or nationality. The norms are purity of heart and goodwill towards all.
As Allah SWT says.
“Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who most pious.” (49:13)
Thus, a person who wishes for his fellow human beings what he wishes for himself, who is kind to his fellow human beings for the sake of Allah SWT is the one who fulfills the conditions of the test set by Him.
The Seven People Who First
Accepted Islam Were The Following
1. Abu Bakr Siddique RA
2. Ali bin Abi Talib RA
3. Khadijah bint Khuwailid RA
4. Zaid bin Harithah RA
5. Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA
6. Ammar bin Yasir RA
7. Bilal bin Abi Rabah RA
The Quraish of Makkah could not harm Rasulullah SAW because of the power and position of his uncle Abu Talib. Abu Bakr Siddique RA was also a very powerful man because of the wealth of his tribe and his own personal influence. But the common Muslim, whether man or woman was not spared any imaginable torture or torment.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA, her husband and her son ‘Ammar were very often the targets for the cruelty of the Quraish. On one occasion as Rasulullah SAW was passing by the marketplace he saw all three members of the family being put through the worst form of torture possible. But he was so helpless, that there was no way he could rescue them. He could only console them and said,
‘Be patient family of Yasir؛,
‘Saidina Uthman Ibn Affan RA also narrated that Rasulullah SAW used to say these words to comfort the family. Once, Ammar managed to escape and reach Rasulullah SAW. He then asked him when this persecution of the innocent Muslims would end, and when they would be able to breathe peacefully. Rasulullah SAW said that things were going way beyond all limits. Rasulullah SAW then comforted him with a prayer to Allah seeking protection and save the family of Yasir from the fire of Hell.
Abu Jahl gave Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA the worst kind of punishment, but she did not waver even for a second and remained as steady as a rock. He tried to pressure her, cajole with her and threaten her to recant, but she bluntly refused. He could not accept the fact that she could resist him so stubbornly, and in out of rag thrust his spear into her. This proved to be a fatal blow, and she died.
Sumayyah bint Khayyat RA had the distinction of being the first woman martyr of Islam. This incident took place seven years before the Hijrah. Then her husband also became victim to the torture of the Quraish, and he also died. After the martyrdom of both the parents, ’Ammar took a special place in the affections of Rasulullah SAW. Rasulullah SAW used to address him lovingly as Ibn Sumayyah. Rasulullah SAW often spoke of the family of Yasir in the highest terms of praise.
Thus, Sumayyah bint Khayyat became the first martyr of Islam, and became a symbol to not only all the Muslim women who would follow her, but also to Muslim men as well. She is a symbol of strength, courage, bravery, and faith. She is a battle against the image that Muslim women are oppressed, for her death resists the idea that Muslim women do not have a choice to choose Islam. She is an example to me, now, as I sit here on my laptop typing away that there is nothing more important than what you believe in, standing your ground, and of course most importantly, Islam.
What a high belief, patience, endurance and what a nice end. What a bravery not to keep silent against the oppressor. What a bravery to defend the right and to shout out everywhere. What a great strength belief is? A faithless heart is really a burden for the chest O Allah! Make us all activists of belief. Do not include us among the people that are deceived by the short life of this world. Always enable us to defend and help the truth. Include us among those who live and die believing in you!
May Allah grant Sumayyah bint Khayyat the highest level of heaven. And may we all learn from this heroic role model and attain even a fraction of her endurance and courage
Abdullah bin Ma’sud RA says Rasulullah SAW once said that when dissensions and disputes appeared among the people Ibn Sumayyah would always stand by the right and just.
This family sacrificed their lives, all in order to nourish the truth, and also to earn rewards for the Hereafter. It is about people like these that Allah says,
“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and’ their properties for (the price) that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah’s cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injil and the Qur’an. And who is truer to His covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain that you have concluded. That is the supreme success.” (9:111)