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Al-Shabeka Graveyard

Jahiliyyah cemetery entrance
Jahiliyyah cemetery entrance

The Al-Shabeka Graveyard lies south-west of Masjid al-Haram, close to the new King Abdullah extension. Prior to the advent of Islam some of the pagan Arabs used to practice the jahiliyyah act of burying their daughters alive, believing them to be a sign of disgrace. They are said to have been buried in the Al-Shabeka Graveyard. It’s also reported that Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها) is buried here. She was the first person to be martyred in the cause of Islam.

The practice of femicide in pre-Islam Makkan society

  • One of the evil practices of pre-Islamic society was the burying alive of the firstborn child if it was a girl. The elite did not do this, because their women had a lot more status than even men in middle/lower class society This happened in mainly middle to lower class society. 
  • If their firstborn child was a girl, they would bury her alive as an offering to their pagan gods. She was seen as a liability, to be raised up and then given away in marriage. Allah (ﷻ) mentions in the Qur’an the reaction of such fathers upon hearing of the birth of a daughter:

Whenever one of them is given the good news of a baby girl, his face grows gloomy, as he suppresses his rage. He hides himself from the people because of the bad news he has received. Should he keep her in disgrace, or bury her ˹alive˺ in the ground? Evil indeed is their judgment!”

Surah an-Nahl 16:58-59
  • On the Day of Judgement the innocent girl will be asked the reason for being slain. She will tell her story how cruelly she had been treated by her barbaric parents and buried alive:

And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed”

Surah At-Takwir 81:8-9
Burial place of Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها)
Inside view of the cemetery

The ‘Hanif’ Zayd Ibn Amr ibn Nufail

  • Among the Makkan society was an elderly man called Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufail who, although regarded as being eccentric, was respected among the Quraysh. He was among the ‘Hunafa’, people who rejected idol worship and believed in the one, true God. Zayd would often say, “My God is the God of Ebrahim. My deity is the deity of Ebrahim. My religion is the religion of Ebrahim. That’s all I know.”
  • Zayd would go around trying to prevent these girls from being buried alive. If he heard of a couple that recently gave birth to a firstborn girl and the parents were intending on killing the baby, Zayd would step in and say to the parents, “Listen, if you want no part of this girl, just hand her over to me. You don’t have to worry about her anymore. You can consider her dead or buried or whatever you want. Just let me take care of her. Please don’t kill this innocent child.”
  • Zayd would take care of the girls himself or find someone else to take care of the girls. In this manner he is said to have saved hundreds of girls.

Sumayyah Bint Khabbat (رضي الله عنها)

  • Sumayyah Bint Khabbat (رضي الله عنها) was one of the earliest converts to Islam. Born into slavery, she later gained freedom and married Yasir Ibn Amir (رضي الله عنه) who had come from Yemen. 
  • Their son Ammar accepted Islam through Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and would sneak out at night to sit with the Prophet (ﷺ) and pray with him in Daarul Arqam. His parents noticed his absences and became very worried about the repercussions if his accepting Islam was discovered. Ammar (رضي الله عنه) used the opportunity to give them da’wah. He shared with them the Qur’an and the message of the Prophet (ﷺ), both were deeply affected and also accepted islam at the hands of the Prophet (ﷺ). Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها) was one of the first to openly display her Islam.

The family endure torture for their acceptance of Islam

As a former slave, she did not enjoy tribal protection, Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها) faced brutal oppression from the Quraysh for her conversion to Islam. When Abu Jahl found out that this little family of three, whom his tribe had given protection, had the audacity to accept this new religion, he set out to torture them. He tied up the family to poles and left them standing there for days and would torture them in front of each other to try and force them to apostate. This went on for a very long time. The Prophet (ﷺ) would walk by with tears in his eyes and would say, “Patience, O family of Yasir! Congratulations, O family of Yasir, you will all be reunited in Jannah.”

Martyrdom of Sumayyah and Yasir (رضي الله عنهم), the first martyrs in Islam

  • One day, Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها) told Abu Jahl, “No matter what you do Abu Jahl, you can’t deter us from our faith. We will not disbelieve. You can’t do anything to us.” Abu Jahl became so infuriated from this display of courage from Sumayyah (رضي الله عنها), that he threw her down in front of her husband and son and thrust his spear into the most private part of her body, killing her. She became the first martyr in Islam, a woman. She is believed to be buried in the Al-Shabeka Graveyard.
  • Some narration says that Yasir (رضي الله عنه) eventually died from prolonged torture, while others say that he was so beside himself at the sight of his wife being murdered in front of him, that he started to scream, fight, & squirm to free himself. Abu Jahl became enraged; he threw Yasir (رضي الله عنه) to the ground & began to kick him until he was also killed. 
  • Ammar (رضي الله عنه) saw both of his parents murdered in front of him. He was tied to a pole, so was helpless to do anything. He was eventually freed and would later migrate to Madinah where he established Masjid Quba, the first mosque built in Islam. Ammar (رضي الله عنه) also later died as a martyr in the Battle of Siffin in 657 CE. 

Maqbarah al-Shabeka

  • The Al-Shabbeka Graveyard is known locally as ‘Maqbarah al-Shabeka’

References:  Local Makkan guide