Al Shindagah Magazine Somaiya, The First Woman Martyr Of Islam

In our continuing series about exemplary women in Islamic history, Sheikh Faris Ali Al Mustafa turns the spotlight on Somaiya

A report in a Dubai newspaper the other day confirmed the dedication of our leaders to preserve the important traditions of our nation. The title of the article read "Maintenance Project for Brajeel". For the foreigners among us who may not know the meaning of brajeel, these are the famous wind towers of the Emirates, built to catch passing breezes to cool the interiors of houses. These structures are still seen scattered among the loftier skyscrapers which now dominate the skyline of Dubai.

The brajeel are not simply photogenic souvenirs of a remote past. They are vivid reminders of the cleverness of our grandfathers who managed not only to survive a harsh climate, but to lead simple lives of hard work and religious duty.

Whenever I retreat from Dubai's modern life to return to the desert, I continually come across objects which bring to mind the glorious past. I spy a stony path leading between the hills, and I relive the traumatic journey of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions from Mecca to Medina, feeling the difficulties which they encountered. A burnt palm stump reminds me of the early battles when the Believers struggled to establish the Word of God. A kneeling she-camel sets me to imagining the Prophet's camel kneeling at the site where his house was to be built. A old house I chance upon reminds me of the fortitude of the early companions who stood strong and steadfast during the tests sent their way.

And a lone pretty flower sprouting from deep within the sands brings to mind the blood cast on this earth by Somaiya, the first female martyr of Islam. It is a story of the suffering to which a body can be subjected and the fortitude of a soul offering its agony to God.

The story begins when a young Yemeni named Yasir travelled in caravan to distant Mecca with his two brothers. They were seeking another brother lost to them for many years, but the souqs of the old trading city offered no clues to reward their quest. Yasir's brothers lost spirit and decided to abandon the search. They departed back to Yemen, but Yasir remained behind as he had taken a liking to the city. The resourceful young man found a powerful family to employ and shelter him, and eventually married one of their slaves, Somaiya bint Khayyat. Two sons were born, Yasir grew old, and his sons became men.

Then a momentous event shattered the false rhythms of life in the pagan citadel. God revealed the Word and the Prophet Mohammed proclaimed it. The path to salvation was made clear and only a few brave souls stepped forward. The early Believers numbered not more than thirty, but still the old order felt threatened. The infidels inflicted on the first Muslims all the horrors that evil men can devise for the pure.

Yasir and his family were among the select. They would not deny the Word and instead practiced it openly. The merchant family sponsoring Yasir was scandalised to discover in their midst an unrepentant Believer. As a pillar of pagan Meccan society, the patriarch of the clan devised a public display of his piety. Yasir and his family were staked to broiling rocks at the hottest site of the Meccan desert. Father, wife and sons endured days of abject agony.

Only the passing shadow of the Prophet could relieve such heat and torture. Mohammed heard the dying groans of Yasir and called to Heaven. He turned to the suffering Muslims to comfort them, I have brought good tidings for you, family of Yasir. God has promised you a special place in Paradise.

The infidel patriarch came later to inspect the results of his harsh sentence, and dear Somaiya roused her last energy. When he approached, she spat the bitter dust in her mouth at him. He was so overcome by blind anger that he savagely speared her through her heart. The pure and innocent soul flew high to Heaven with the angels surrounding her. Somaiya was the first woman to enter the hallowed ranks of Islam's martyrs. Thus my thoughts as I gaze upon a little white flower sprouting from a desolate crevice in the desert. Should you find me at this moment, I won't be ashamed of the tears in my eyes! The blood of the Believers has nourished the earth and made even its most barren spot blossom. Such is our history and our religion that a mother was willing to offer her own life to God and endure the torture of her dearest so that they could enter eternal life together. Somaiya was truly a woman of distinction. She offers a provocative example to our modern day.