Inspirational People

Inspiring Muslim Women Throughout Islamic History – Rufaida Al-Aslamia

This month’s post is about Rufaida, who was the first nurse and surgeon in Islam and her work was considered so important that it is still used today. She drafted the world’s first code of Nursing Conduct and Ethics for preventing sickness and it is still used today. While we are often taught about Florence Nightingale and the things she accomplished, Rufaida has been forgotten and even though she was doing incredible work even before Florence.

She lived in Medina and even before Islam she was already learning about the human body and treating people as her father was a doctor and she learnt from him. When she heard about the Prophet and his message she was one of the first people to go to him and become Muslim. Because of this she was present as a healer from the beginning of the call.

She took part in all the battles that happened and was in charge of taking care of the injured soldiers. She was given her own tent, which was essentially a mobile care unit, to treat those injured and the Prophet (pbuh) himself would praise her abilities and tell people to send the injured to her to treat them. Not only did she treat people herself she also trained other women and was in charge of them during battles too.

Outside of battles she continued to treat people regularly and was even given permission to set up a tent to work from in the Prophet’s (pbuh) masjid. She ran a clinic where she cared for everyone especially those who would not be able to go anywhere else to get help including the poor and orphans.

She was known to be kind, generous and empathetic, a great teacher and organiser and also trained Aisha (ra) in nursing. She taught many health education and even did social work going out into the community to help prevent the spread of diseases. She expressed the importance of hygiene and stabilising a patient before any surgical procedure and more.

She not only revolutionised how people were treated by creating new practices to prevent sickness but also taught many women so that they could continue her work. She was an incredible woman who empowered generations of Muslim women.

Inspirational People

Inspiring Women Throughout History – Queen Zubaydah

This post is dedicated to one of two women who is known as one of the Two Queens of Baghdad.

Her name was Zubaydah bin Ja’far and was an Abbasid queen and wife to Harun ar-Rashid. We often hear about him and what an incredible man and Caliph he was but we don’t hear about his wife who was just as incredible. It is often thought that Zubaydah and Harun are one of the main inspirations behind 1001 Arabian Nights though some do say that his mother, Al-Khayzarun, is the inspiration behind Shahrzad.

She was known for her courage, beauty and wisdom and was a patron of the arts and even wrote poetry herself. She was also eloquent in her speech and charming. Not only was she passionate about the arts but she also gave substantial money towards it to try to bring more poets and literary figures and scientists to Baghdad. She also sponsored teachers to teach Islamic studied to students. She had memorised the Quran and was a student of hadith and Arabic literature.

She had a lot of influence during her rule and was able to make some incredible achievements. Her husband regularly spoke to her and asked her for advice regarding all matters regarding running the court and kingdom and he always believed her decisions were wise and correct.

While her husband was away with his army, she had the authority to run the kingdom. She also accompanied her husband on his military excursions and also went to perform Hajj with him. While they were at Hajj she noticed that pilgrims had difficulty accessing clean water so she had engineers build tunnels along the road to Makkah to provide clean water, this is still known as Zubaydah’s river. Because of this, more and more people started using the road as there was access to water and this road became known as Zubaydah’s road.

This wasn’t merely just tunnels though, she had shelters with deep wells and water pools built along with guest houses, masjids and more to provide safety and security for travellers and their caravans and animals. There was also minarets built along the road which lit fires at night to guide travellers. This was all built travelling in the direction of Makkah. These were so well built that they survived for centuries. This road became an area where people from different places could meet and trade and also exchange stories and histories which allowed the area to flourish and become more a built up. She spent billions building this so that people could benefit for centuries to come.

Inspirational People

Inspiring Women Throughout History – Sumayyah (ra)

Before I begin, I want to share that this discusses torture and murder so please only continue if you are okay to read about these topics.

This is a woman who suffered so much because she became Muslim and was eventually murdered by Abu Jahal. Sumayyah is the Aasiyah of our Ummah and she was murdered by the firawn of our ummah. She was about 60 years old when she died. We don’t know much about her life except after she became Muslim.

She was an Abyssinian woman, from modern day Ethiopia, and was a slave woman to one of the most powerful tribes of Makkah. Her master gave her in marriage to Yasir, who was under the protection of the tribe. She had a son, Amar, who was around the same age as the Prophet (pbuh).

The tribe that her family were in service to were the people who were most resistant to Islam and the Prophet (pbuh). When she became Muslim she was 60 and one of the first seven people to accept Islam publicly. Because she was a slave she had no protection or status to protect her and her master tortured her to try to get her to stop being Muslim.

TW: discussions of torture

She was forced to wear mailcoats under the blazing sun and was beaten publicly to deter others from becoming Muslim. She was tortured in many ways from physical torture of beatings, whips and more but also emptionally tortured by being forced to watch her husband and son (who also became Muslim) being tortured. They all had to watch each other being tortured and because of they were slaves there was no one to stand up for them.

They couldn’t even be bought by anyone to free them from this torture as their tribe refused to sell them. They experimented with different torture techniques on her but she refused to say that she would stop being Muslim or insult the Prophet (pbuh). When they tortured her she would respond with remembrance of Allah.

When she became Muslim she said to the Prophet (pbuh): I bear witness that you are the messenger of Allah and that your promise is true.

This is what she held onto as she was being tortured. Because she refused to do what they wanted when they tortured her, they became more and more angry with her. Eventually Abu Jahal became so mad with her that he speared her, killing her in front of her family. She was the first person to die for Islam. She may have spent her whole life as a slave and spent her last days being tortured but she was the first of this ummah to enter paradise.

This is a woman who had such strength in her faith that no matter what she went through she refused to say what her master wanted her to say about Islam. She died so early on in the call to Islam that she knew very little about it, she only saw the persecutions of the Muslims yet her faith remained true.

Inspirational People

Inspiring Women Throughout History – Hafsah bint Umar (ra)

Hafsah was a wife of the Prophet (pbuh), before marrying him (pbuh) she was married to Hisn ibn Hudhafah he passed away after the Battle of Badr and then she married the Prophet (pbuh).  

She was an incredible woman who had a fiery personality. Her name derives from the Arabic word for lion and it is said that she lived up to her name! She had a strong personality and wasn’t afraid to speak up and give her opinions.

She was one of the few people who could read and write as at that time most people couldn’t as they had an oral tradition. She had memorised the Quran and was given the responsibility of being the  guardian of the Quran as all the verses which had been revealed were written down and it was her who was given the responsibility of looking after it. This was so important as this was how later the companions were able to piece all of it together for us to have the Quran that we read today. Without her it may not have been possible. She and all that she had kept safe were the primary sources when Uthmaan (ra) made the Quran into a single book.

She was also known for her wisdom and being able to give great advice. Her father was the second Caliph and when she found out that he hadn’t said who would succeed him as the next Caliph she went and advised him to choose to avoid fighting and division amongst the people.

Her and Aisha (ra) were known to be really close despite when she first married the Prophet (pbuh), Aisha felt jealous but eventually they became really close as they tended to always agree on the same matters and it was as if they were sisters. Hafsah supported Aisha when the hypocrites tried to attack the Prophet (pbuh) by spreading slander and lies about Aisha being unfaithful.

She was someone who loved to learn and spent a lot of time studying and had an inquisitive nature who often spent time discussing the finer points in Islam with the Prophet (pbuh). Sometimes she would even question him or argue her point, not to be rude, but because she was the type of person who just needed to know the answer. Her father once told her off for arguing with the Prophet (pbuh) but another wife came to her defence asking him why he is interfering in matters between a husband and wife.

She was an incredible woman who was entrusted with the most important thing at the time, the papers which had all the verses of the Quran and was integral in ensuring that the verses and chapters were all correctly bound together. She was fiery and passionate and did not shy away from asking difficult questions. She was opinionated and stood her ground.

Inspirational People

Inspirational Women throughout History – Lubna of Cordoba

There are so many amazing women that we never hear about unless we go looking and it is honestly so heart breaking that these women are not known to the majority of people. I hope that these posts inspire you to go look up more about them and find even more women who achieved amazing things.

Today I am going to share a little bit about Lubna of Cordoba who lived in Andalus in the 10th Century. She was born a slave but rose to become the personal secretary to the Sultan Abdur Rahman and also his son Al-Hakim. As she was not nobility it showed how much faith and trust they had in her ability and knowledge. Not only was she the personal secretary to the Sultan but also a mathematician, a poet and library master and she excelled in all these areas. Her role was even more extradordinary because not only was she a woman who excelled in a male dominated court but she also rose to such great heights while being born a slave.

She oversaw the royal library which had over 500,000 books and she was also one of the first female solo travellers. She travelled all over the middle east to acquire books for her library and also went to places like Baghdad and Cairo. Her library was one of the most famous and important libraries of her time. Not only did she acquire books for her library but she also also transcribed and annotated many books that she had acquired and also translated many books including important historic Greek texts.

She was also known as one of the greatest mathematicians and even taught children maths and it was well known that she loved maths. She was a scholar and known for her knowledge and skill not only in math but also sciences and became one of the most influential people in the palace.  

She was a strong, independent woman whose intellect and determination allowed her to rise to achieve amazing things and left a lasting legacy. We don’t know much about her but what we do know shows that she was incredible woman who excelled in many fields.

A famous Andalusian scholar, Ibn Bashkuwal said, “She excelled in writing, grammar, and poetry. Her knowledge of mathematics was also immense and she was proficient in other sciences as well. There were none in the Umayyad palace as noble as her.” 

I also have blog posts on several other Muslim women in this series which you can find here