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Story of Sumayyah: Finding Empowerment & Dignity in Islam

The First Martyr in Islam

Sumayyah Bint Khayyat was an amazing woman. She lived during the time of our beloved Prophet Muhammad. And she was one of the first to accept Islam.

She was a black slave woman. As a slave, she did not have any family relations or tribe affiliation in Makkah. That meant that there was no tribal or kinship protection for her. As a woman, she experienced additional discrimination and maltreatment. As it was, many times Sumayyah was victimized by the rich and influential people of Makkah.

Sumayyah’s Background

Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with her) was a slave woman. Some scholars are of the opinion that she was from the area of present day Ethopia. She was the slave of Abu Hudhayfa ibn al-Mughira who later freed her.

However, the stigma of slavehood, her low rank in society and her poverty stayed with her. She was married to Yasir ibn Amir, who also converted to Islam and was also killed for his belief. They had a son named Ammar, who was one of the immigrants to leave Makkah for Madinah.

Islam Means Hope

When our beloved Prophet Muhammad proclaimed the new religion, Islam, Sumayyah saw hope. Sumayyah saw light. She found empowerment and dignity in Islam. I imagine that for her, the vision of equality and justice found in Islam must have given her great hope for the betterment of humanity.

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Through Islam, Sumayyah understood that this world was only temporary. She understood that all the grief, all the pain and all the darkness she experienced in this world will vanish. And she lived in such harsh social conditions that it must have felt like living in absolute darkness.

When Islam came, it must have felt like the bright shining sun finally reaching the darkness of her heart-rending life. Sumayyah accepted Islam wholeheartedly. And she never regretted it. She boldly proclaimed her faith.

The torment, the torture she endured with a smiling face. She did not have any person to protect her. No family. No tribe. Allah was her sole and only refuge. She solely put her trust in Allah.

Being tortured and enduring unimaginable pain, she still did not move from her strong conviction. The name of Allah always being on her tongue and giving her comfort, hope, and peace.

Raised to High Ranks

And she was awarded for her endurance. The Prophet Muhammad promised her that she will enter paradise.

From being looked down upon by society, being treated worse than a stray dog by the people around her, she was raised by Allah to the highest ranks. She was raised to the highest rank a normal human being can achieve in the eyes of Allah. She was the first to die in the path of Allah. Sumayyah, a former black slave woman, the lowest in the eyes of the disbelievers of Makkah was the first martyr of Islam.

Sacrifice for the Love of Allah

Sumayyah sacrificed her life for her religion. That is the greatest sacrifice a person can make. Her deep faith and extreme conviction helped her to endure the horrendous torture. Her extreme trust in and love for Allah made her look ahead. She knew that the sacrifice in this world is only temporary but that reward from Allah will be eternal.

Sumayyah’s strength and conviction transmitted to her surroundings. It helped strengthen other Muslims’ faith. And it leaves us astouned about her profound trust and extreme love for our most Merciful Creator.

Allah says in Quran that the believers are extreme in their love for Him. Sumayyah was one of these believers with extreme love for our Creator. Allah was dearer to her than her ownself.

Her story motivates us to try and draw closer to Allah, to please Him more, to love Him more. May Allah grant us some of this love for Him and may He accept our small sacrifices on gaining His pleasure. Ameen.

And Allah knows Best.

About Claudia Azizah
Claudia Azizah is originally from Germany and mother of two children and writer. She served as Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia until August 2019. She is co-founder of the Ulu-Ilir-Institute in Indonesia. She regularly writes for the German Islamic newspaper. She is interested in Islamic spirituality, art and Southeast Asia. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: #clazahsei