Rufaida Al-Aslamia رفيدة الأسلمية – th Century – Medina, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Embroidered portrait of Rufaida Al-Aslamia, head and shoulders. She is staring straight ahead and wearing a blue and white hijab.

Rufaida Al-Aslamia is considered the first Muslim nurse and social worker.

Born in Medina sometime in the 7th century, Rufaida’s family were among the first to have converted to Islam and it is said that she knew the prophet Mohammed personally.

Her father was a physician by trade, and taught his daughter the skills needed to care for the sick and wounded. At a time in history defined by a number of holy wars, Rufaida’s help was invaluable on the battlefield, and she cut her teeth in desert field hospitals.

Rufaida was also an excellent organiser and clearly a charismatic personality – in the highly male dominated field of medicine she was able to flourish and thrive. She trained other women in nursing, and introduced the first documented mobile care units which aimed to stabilise the wounded after battles and prepare them for further procedures.

Rufaida’s team of volunteer nurses were so successful that following one battle Mohammed ensured that she receive the same portion of war booty due to soldier who had fought – one of the earliest examples of equal pay.

In addition to her role in battlefield healthcare, Rufaida was interested in disease and its causes among ordinary people. She is recorded as having personally worked in poor communities encouraging hygiene and attempting to alleviate social problems which led to poor health.


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