The first Muslim nurse in history – Rufaida Al-Aslamiyah

Many have heard of the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale, who was the founder of modern day nursing. She came to prominence during the Crimean war in the 1850’s, where she tended to injured soldiers, trained nurses and encouraged social reform. Her contribution to humanity is undoubtedly remarkable. Many centuries before Florence Nightingale, a virtuous woman from amongst the Ansar (Helpers) of Madinah emerged as an expert practicing nurse. Her name was Rufaida Al-Aslamiyah. Rufaida Al-Aslamiyah was the first professional Muslim female nurse in history. She was an amazing woman from the Ansar (Helpers) of Madinah and an exemplary female companion of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.  Rufaida Al-Aslamiyah was born into the Bani Aslam tribe in Madinah. It is for this reason that she was called Al-Aslamiyyah. Her family had strong ties with the medical community,. In fact, her father, Sa’ad Al-Aslamiy, was a physician, whom she gained much of her knowledge growing up alongside. She was amongst the first people in Madinah to accept Islam and was honoured to witness the arrival of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ into Madinah during the Hijrah (migration from Makkah to Madinah). She practiced as a nurse at the time of the Prophet ﷺ and held the prestigious title of being the first Muslim nurse in history.  The Prophet ﷺ gave Rufaida permission to erect a tent inside the Prophet’s mosque (Al-Masjid An-Nabawi) in Madinah to provide nursing care and to train Muslim women as nurses. As such, she became a pioneer in her field, devoting her life to the development and improvement of nursing. Some reports also suggest she was the first female surgeon in Islam.  When Sa’ad Ibn Muadh was injured in the Battle of Al-Khandaq (The Trench), the Prophet ﷺ ordered that he be placed and treated in her tent. When the Muslim army was getting ready to go to the Battle of Khaibar, Rufaida and a group of fellow Ansar women went to the Prophet ﷺ and asked him for permission to go with the army to the battle, to treat the injured and help in any way that they could, which he accepted. The Prophet ﷺ gave them permission to go. The nurse volunteers did such a good job that Prophet Mohammad ﷺ assigned a share of the spoils of war to Rufaida. Her share was equivalent to that of the soldiers who had actually fought. This was in recognition of her exceptional nursing and medical work. She was a highly charismatic and capable nurse with extensive clinical skills and medical knowledge. She was kind and empathetic woman, often looking after children in need, orphans and the poor. Rufaida Al-Aslamiyah proved that Muslim women were able to contribute to science and society at large and pursue knowledge in fields that extend beyond the home. She became distinguished in her work and admired by her community. She is a great role model to all women today.  May Allah reward her good deeds and raise her rank in paradise.