Kashif Hafeez Siddiqui

May 12 – International Nurses Day

In Islam - A Study on May 12, 2010 at 6:09 am
Historical Roots of the Nusring profession In Islam

By Prof. Dr. Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.

Hazrat Rufaidah (RA), the first professional nurse in Islamic history. She lived at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the 1st century AH/8th century CE. Her history illustrates all the attributes expected of a good nurse. She was kind and empathetic. She was a capable leader and organiser able to mobilise 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 a public health nurse and a social worker. Rufaidah is an inspiration for the nursing profession in the Muslim world.

Rufaidah bint Sa’ad, is recognized as the first Muslim nurse. Her full name was Rufaidat bint Sa’ad of the Bani Aslam tribe of the Khazraj tribal confederation in Madinah. She was born in Yathrib before the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She was among the first people in Madina to accept Islam and was one of the Ansar women who welcomed the Prophet 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 battle-field 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 battle-field. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed that Sa’ad bin Ma’adh who had been injured in battle be moved to the tent. Rufaidah nursed him, carefully removed the arrow from his forearm and achieved hemostasis. The prophet visited Sa’ad in the hospital tent several times a day. Sa’ad was to die later at the battle of Bani Quraidhat.

Rufaidah had trained a group of women companions as nurses. When the Prophet’s army was getting ready to go to the battle of Khaibar, Rufaidah and the group of volunteer nurses went to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 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 the Prophet 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’ayibat, Amiinat bint Abi Qays al Ghifariyat, Umm ‘Atiyyah al Ansariyat, and Nusaibat bint Ka’ab al Maziniyyat.


Islamic Ethics Of Nurses

By Dr. Hatem al-Haj

It goes without saying that Islam urges decency and modesty and that the general Islamic principles aim at preserving people’s dignity and honor. Yet, the application of such general rules should be referred to scholars. In other words, Muslims are  required to learn the Islamic etiquettes pertaining to their professions from trusted scholars; but they are not supposed to act according to their own understanding, because this can lead to serious mistakes, even when one is generally observing the general rules of Islam.

As it is clarified below, the case at hand has many dimensions and complications that could be handled only by a knowledgeable scholar who is aware of the nature of this work.

There are two different principles that one has to consider with regard to this issue:

1. The impermissibility of looking at or touching of the ‘awrah (parts of the body that must be covered) of anyone, whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex. Certainly, this is more emphasized when it comes to the `awrah of a member of the opposite sex. Islam greatly emphasizes this because it represents a fortress that is meant to protect social cohesion, prevent moral deterioration, and prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

2. The need of treating the sick, which is a societal obligation on Muslims. It is also an act of charity to be extended to all people. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The kind treatment extended to any living creature is an act of charity.” (Al-Bukhari)

In light of this, it becomes permissible for health-care workers, whether physicians or nurses, to treat members of the other sex, but a nurse or physician from the same sex should be sought whenever possible. This is stated in decision 81 (8/12) of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which advises health authorities to do their best to encourage women to enter the field of medicine to limit the need for male physicians in the treatment of female patients.

This is also the position of members of the Standing Committee for Islamic Research and Ifta’ in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In their answer to a question about female nurses’ washing of male patients, they stated that this is permissible when a male nurse is not available.

In his book Ar-Rawd Al-Murbi`, Al-Buhuty states, “It is permissible for physicians and their likes to look or touch [the `awrah of patients] when there is a [medical] need.” In his commentary on the book, Ibn Al-Qasim says, “[This is] like the one who looks after a male or female patient, and helps him or her with wudu‘ [ablution] or istinjaa [washing of the private parts].”

These positions are in accordance with the balance between the basic principles mentioned above and the various authentic reports indicating that female Companions such as Ar-Rubayi`, Umm `Atiyyah, and `A’ishahwho  would follow Muslim armies to provide soldiers with water and treat the wounded. It was also reported that the Companions used to examine the pubic area of guilty persons to spare them of due punishment if they were found to be children.

As for the case in question, since there is no possibility to follow the guidelines provided above, including seeking of a nurse from the same sex in principle, it seems that this encounter will be a routine for female nurses, not an exception that may be tolerated for the greater benefit of giving comfort to a patient who, otherwise, wouldn’t find a same sex nurse to help them. Therefore, It would be recommended that the following guidelines for the female nurses who are faced by this dilemma:

1. They should seek appointment in specialties or settings where they would not encounter this problem.

2. If they work in fields that involve washing male patients, and they cannot arrange with male colleagues to exchange duties, where they can handle female patients and their male counterparts handle male patients, then they should:

a. Perform the job that is considered part of their obligation as nurses.

b. Look at and touch only that which is necessary for the performance of their job.

c. Use barriers, such as gloves, which are required anyway by the standards of health-care work.

d. Avoid seclusion.

e. Limit interaction to the professional aspect of their job.

f. Perform what is required while avoiding socializing with patients from the opposite sex.

Almighty Allah says, (Sofear Allah as much as you can.) (At-Taghabun 64:16)

May Allah guide all of us to what pleases Him


Dr. Hatem al-Haj is associate professor of Fiqh at Shari`ah Academy of America and Islamic University of Minnesota. Also, he is a member of the Islamic Fatwa Committee of AMJA (Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America).

Source : http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1264249909218&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar


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