Meet the first Muslim nurse, Rufaydah al Aslamiyah, who introduced the idea of healthcare we see today!

Let's look into the history of Islamic hospitals and health centers to find out.

Healthcare workers have become heroes worldwide due to Covid-19.

Ever since the pandemic began, health workers in every corner of the world have taken up the role of frontline warriors. Thousands of these doctors and nurses have sacrificed their own life in performing their line of duty.

The global crisis of Covid-19 has brought us face to face with the significance of competent hospitals and health care workers. Now that the third wave of Covid-19 continues to engulf Pakistan, these institutes and individuals are back in focus.

Have you ever wondered how did these medics and infirmaries come into existence?

Let’s look into the history of Islamic hospitals and health centers to find out.

The Greeks are credited for being the originators of medicine; however, they did not have hospitals. Physicians used to treat patients at home – a practice that continued for hundreds of years until separate buildings for the sick and ailing were constructed.

The Romans first provided the word “hospital”. It comes from the Latin word “hospes” for host or “hospitium,” meaning a place to entertain.

In the lifetime of the Holy Prophet pbuh, the first Islamic care center was set up. Muslim doctors, nurses, and health workers came together to push the boundaries of healthcare.

At the forefront of this initiative was a Muslim woman called Rufaydah al Aslamiyah, who made pathbreaking and contributions to science and medicine in the early days of Islam. In Islamic history, she is regarded as the first female Muslim nurse.

Rufaydah al Aslamiyah was also among the first people in Medina to accept Islam. She was among the women who showed love and respect towards the Holy Prophet pbuh and welcomed him to Medina.

How did Aslamiyah set up a healthcare center?

In 620 AD, Rufaydah al Aslamiyah was born into the Bani Aslam tribe of the Khazraj tribal confederation in Medina. Her father, Saad al Aslami, was a physician who trained her to be a distinguished healer.

Aslamiyah, along with other nurses, would go to battlefields in times of war to tend the wounded. She participated in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaibar, and others.

The Holy Prophet pbuh would occasionally appreciate Aslamiyah’s role in improving the public health of the people of Medina. He once rewarded her with a share from the spoils of war; the share was equivalent to that of all the soldiers who participated in combat.

When the wars ended and peace came to the region, Aslamiyah focused on humanitarian work, helping needy people, and taking care of the poor and orphans. She helped resolve various social problems that came with different diseases. She also played a leading role in training other women in the field of nursing.  

Aslamiyah is recognized as the first nurse in Islamic history to set up a tent outside the Prophet’s mosque, which was exclusively meant to treat people with wounds and diseases. 

According to reports, the Holy Prophet pbuh would order people to carry casualties to Aslamiyah’s tent to treat them with her medical expertise. At the tent, Aslamiyah would primarily focus on hygiene. She would try to revive sick and wounded patients and then move onto more invasive medical procedures. This tent was at that time known for the work that takes place in a modern-day hospital.

The first Muslim nurse – Rufaydah Al Aslamiyah.

Rufaydah al Aslamiyah recognition

A building at the famous college of nursing at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan is named after Aslamiyah. Every year an annual Rufaydah al Aslamiyah prize for nursing is awarded at the University of Bahrain.

What are your thoughts on this? Please share with us in the comment section below.

  • “First muslim nurse” since when did we start inquiring about a nurses religion? Whenever I have gone to a hospital….the nurse or doctors religion is the LEAST of my concern. Oh wait….we are dealing with a bunch who first verify a persons religion and then appoint them at important positions (Atif Mian)…laanti log bringin religion into every sphrere of life

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