|This article does not cite any references or sources. (April 2010)|
Rufaida Al-Aslamia (also transliterated Rufaida Al-Aslamiya)(Arabic: رفيدة الأسلمية) Recognized as the first Muslim nurse. Her full name was Rufaidah bint Sa'ad of the Bani Aslam tribe of the Khazraj tribal confederation in Madinah. She was born in Yathrib before the migration of Muhammad. She was among the first people in Madina to accept Islam and was one of the Ansar women who welcomed Muhammad on arrival in Madina.
Rufaidah's father was a physician. She learned medical care by working as his assistant. Her history illustrates all the attributes expected of a good nurse. She was kind and empathetic. She was a capable leader and organizer, able to mobilize and get others to produce good work. She had clinical skills that she shared with the other nurses whom she trained and worked with. She did not confine her nursing to the clinical situation. She went out to the community and tried to solve the social problems that lead to disease. She was both a public health nurse and a social worker.
When the Islamic state was well established in Madina, Rufaidah devoted herself to nursing the Muslim sick. In peace time she set up a tent outside the Prophet's mosque in Madina where she nursed the sick. During war she led groups of volunteer nurses who went to the battlefield and treated the casualties. She participated in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaibar, and others. Rufaidah's field hospital tent became very famous during the battles and the Prophet used to direct that the casualties be carried to her.
At the battle of the trench (ghazwat al khandaq), Rufaidah set up her hospital tent at the battlefield. Muhammad instructed that Sa'd ibn Mua'dh who had been injured in battle be moved to the tent. Rufaidah nursed him, carefully removed the arrow from his forearm and achieved homeostasis. Muhammad visited Sa'ad in the hospital tent several times a day. Sa'ad was to die later at the battle of Banu Qurayza.
Rufaidah had trained a group of women companions as nurses. When Muhammad's army was getting ready to go to the battle of Khaibar, Rufaidah and the group of volunteer nurses went to Muhammad . They asked him for permission "Oh Messenger of Allah, we want to go out with you to the battle and treat the injured and help Muslims as much as we can". The Prophet gave them permission to go. The nurse volunteers did such a good job that Muhammad assigned a share of the booty to Rufaidah. Her share was equivalent to that of soldiers who had actually fought. This was in recognition of her medical and nursing work.
Rufaidah's contribution was not confined only to nursing the injured. She was involved in social work in the community. She came to the assistance of every Muslim in need; the poor, the orphans, or the handicapped. She looked after the orphans, nursed them, and taught them.
Rufaidah had a kind and empathetic personality that soothed the patients in addition to the medical care that she provided. The human touch is a very important aspect of nursing that is unfortunately being forgotten as the balance between the human touch and technology in nursing is increasingly tilted in favor of technology.
History has recorded names of women who worked with Rufaidah: Umm Ammara, Aminah, Umm Ayman, Safiyat, Umm Sulaim, and Hind. Other Muslim women who were famous as nurses were: Ku'ayiba, Aminah bint Abi Qays al Ghifariya, Umm 'Atiyyah al Ansariya, and Nusaybah bint Ka'ab al Maziniyya.
We have not come across any evidence that suggests that she used to go out in some battles to treat the injured. However, this matter is confirmed about other female Companions among whom was Umm ‘Atiyyah, Umm Sulaym, Hamnah Bint Jahsh, Layla Al-Ghifariyyah (the wife of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari), Umm Ayman, and Rubayyi’ Bint Mu’awwith.
Moreover, Anas ibn Mâlik said: “Muhammad used to go out to the battles taking Umm Sulaym and some other women of the Ansaar with him; when he fights in the battle, they [i.e. the women] would give water to the soldiers and treat the injured.”
Besides, when An-Nawawi commented on this Hadeeth, clarifying some of its benefits, he said: “This is evidence that women used to go out in battles and the men benefit from them as they give water to the soldiers and treat the injured and the like, but this treatment was for their Mahrams and their husbands, and if they were to treat other than their Mahrams and their husbands, they would not touch the body of the person except at the place of necessity [i.e. the place of injury].”
However, the permissibility of women treating men is conditioned upon the necessity or dire need, like if there is no male doctor, and there is a need for the woman to treat a man, and what those women did at the time of Muhammad was when men were busy in the battle.
In addition to this, precautions were taken in this regard as it was only the elderly women who would do so. Al-‘Ayni stated in his commentary (on Saheeh Al-Bukhaari): "Her statement “and we treat the injured…”, if you say ‘how would this be permissible’, I would say: this was permissible for the women who were elderly amongst them…. Also, one generally does not feel a desire by touching the place of injury.”