Life is treasured by all. In fact, had eternity been a commodity to buy, everyone would have sacrificed every other bounty to secure it. But we all must die. Some will die natural deaths, while others will sacrifice their lives for a noble course. It is the latter who, in essence, has given his earthly life in lieu of a much superior life. They are the martyrs in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.
Sayyidah Sumayyah radiya Llahu ‘anha is recorded as the very first martyr in Islam. The entire African continent is justly proud of the fact that the first martyr for Islam came from its soil. A prestige Africans ought to be proud of. Had she had no other virtue besides this, it would have been sufficient to earn her high ranks of nobility in Islam.
Sayyidah Sumayyah bint Khubbat radiya Llahu ‘anha was a slave girl of Abu Hudhayfah ibn al Mughirah al Makhzumi. Sayyidina Yasir radiya Llahu ‘anhu was an ally of his, so he got him married to Sayyidah Sumayyah radiya Llahu ‘anha who gave birth to his son, ‘Ammar. Consequently, Abu Hudhayfah freed her.
Only a handful were chosen by the Knower of the hearts to become the foundation of this faith. Sayyidah Sumayyah radiya Llahu ‘anha was one of these fortunate souls. In the sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, she was special. She is recorded as the seventh individual to enter the faith.
وَالسَّابِقُوْنَ الْأَوَّلُوْنَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِيْنَ وَالْأَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِيْنَ اتَّبَعُوْهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوْا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِيْ تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِيْنَ فِيْهَا أَبَدًا ذٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيْمُ
And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.
In fact, her entire family were divinely selected. Mother, father, and son were from the forerunners of the faith. They are a household of Islam. She is also from the first seven to openly declare their Islam in Makkah along with Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Abu Bakr, Bilal, Khabbab, Suhayb, and ‘Ammar.
After declaring her faith, she was mercilessly tortured to renounce her religion. Beaten, deprived of food and water, thrown in the scorching heat of Makkah, and tortured in unbecoming ways. She was mocked and jeered at and treated like a piece of filth. Physical torture coupled with psychological torment and emotional hurt. She could bear all of this, but she could not part with her faith. As Hiraql stated to Abu Sufyan in the famous Hadith recorded in Sahih al Bukhari, “This is true faith. When its delight enters the heart and mixes with it completely, nobody can be displeased with it.” The faith of Sayyidah Sumayyah radiya Llahu ‘anha only increased as the torture increased. With a heart brimming with iman, she continued ascending the levels of proximity to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. What you sacrifice for, becomes more and more beloved to you.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would advise her and her family, “Persevere, O family of Yasir. Your abode is Jannat.” Her faith in Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had reached such a high level that no amount of torture could change her conviction. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would pass by her when she was persecuted and would announce these glad tidings, “Rejoice O family of ‘Ammar and O family of Yasir, for certainly your abode is Jannat.”
Allah is the greatest! A guarantee of Jannat. They are the favoured ones of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Others will envy their lot due to their exalted ranks and aspire to reach them. Says Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in the glorious Qur’an:
وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللّٰهَ وَالرَّسُوْلَ فَأُولٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِيْنَ أَنْعَمَ اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِّنَ النَّبِيِّيْنَ وَالصِّدِّيْقِيْنَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِيْنَ وَحَسُنَ أُولٰئِكَ رَفِيْقًا
And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favour of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs, and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions.
Then came the fateful day when she met her covetous end. The infamous pharaoh of this ummah, Abu Jahl, began torturing her frail body. Despite her old age, she was patient. Abu Jahl in a fit of rage pierced her with his lance and she fell to the ground, as the first martyr of Islam. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala be pleased with her.
An old frail woman sacrifices her life for Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala sake. Her martyrdom serves as a lesson for us, who are not prepared to forsake even the forbidden for Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala pleasure. Indulgence in vice has blackened the heart and destroyed the senses. Let us repent and return to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and develop this level of submission.
 Surah al Tawbah: 100.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 3 pg. 68.
 Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, vol. 7 pg. 537.
 Sahih al Bukhari, vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith: 49.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 3 pg. 64 on the strength of Ibn Ishaq.
 Al Mujam al Awsat, Hadith: 1566; Ma’rifat al Sahabah, Hadith: 6664; al Mustadrak, Hadith: 5666; al Dala’il, vol. 2 pg. 282; al Tabaqat, vol. 3 pg. 249; Ibn ‘Asakir, vol. 43 pg. 371; Majma’ al Zawa’id, vol. 9 pg. 293.
 Surah al Nisa’: 69.
 Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 3 pg. 64 referenced to Dala’il al Nubuwwah, vol. 2 pg. 282; Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, vol. 8 pg. 329; al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 8 pg. 264; Usd al Ghabah, pg. 1535, Biography: 7024; al Isabah, vol. 7 pg. 712.Back to top