Sumayyah: The First Martyr from the Companions

During Black History Month, I have the intention of writing brief summaries, not in depth biographies, of some of the early figures in Islamic history who were black.  My usage of the word black, for the sake of what I plan on writing, will not be restricted to Nubians and Abyssinians but also for Arabs who had black and brown colored skin in which in contemporary times would be perceived as black such as Sudanese who are both Arabs and blacks.

The early history of Islam in Makkah is marked by many stellar and courageous women. One of the foremost of them during this era was Sumayyah bint Khayyat (RA).

Sumayyah (RA) was enslaved by Abu Hudhayfah bin Al-Mughirah to be later emancipated after her marriage to Yasir (RA), who was an Arab. Through her union with Yasir, she birthed a son named Ammar. Like Sumayyah, who was described as black, her son Yasir was described in several sources — including Siyar A’lam An-Nubala by Adh-Dhahabi — as having black skin with kinky hair.

Mujahid bin Jabr (RH) stated that Sumayyah was one of the earliest persons to accept Islam in Makkah, and she was one of the oppressed who was routinely tortured along with other non-Qurayshi Muslims such as Bilal (RA) and Khabbab (RA). When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would pass by them being tortured by Quraysh in the intense heat, he would say to them,

“Patience Oh Family of Yasir, for your destination of paradise.”

On one of these days of torture, when Sumayyah and her family were being brutally mistreated for not recanting Islam and refusing to submit to worshipping idols, Abu Jahl, the uncle and archenemy of the Prophet, stabbed Sumayyah.

On that fateful day, Sumayyah became the first companion of the Prophet to become martyred.

This post is republished from Dawud Walid, a leading voice for Muslims and Islam in Michigan, as part of his series on Muslims of Black History Month. We will be regularly featuring parts of his series on