By Sabeen Khan
Al-Shifa: Knowledge and Healing
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah al-Adawiyyah was born in Mecca; her real name was Laylah, but she was called Al-Shifa as tribute to her knowledge of and skill in healing. She was married to Abi Khaithamah bin Hudhayfah bin Amir al-Qurashi al-Adawi. She was an extremely intelligent and wise woman. Very few people were literate in pre-Islamic Mecca, but she was one of them. Al-Shifa bint Abdullah embraced Islam early on and struggled with the rest of the Muslims under persecution in Mecca. She was one of the many who migrated to Medina. [Click here to learn more about early Muslim life in Mecca and Medina.]
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was many things. She is said to be the first woman in Islam who was a teacher. Because she was literate, she taught many other people how to read and write. Notably, she taught Hafsah bint Umar, a wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was also a healer. She was particularly skilled in the art of Ruqyah, or spiritual healing. In Medina, Al-Shifa bint Abdullah practiced and taught others medicine.
Overall, Al-Shifa bint Abdullah was very intelligent, and became the public administrator when Umar was caliph – possibly the first Muslim woman to hold office. She was in charge of making sure that all business practices matched with the rulings, teachings, and values of Islam. She is also known to have advised Caliph Umar on many occasions about numerous different things; he always took her very seriously. [Read more: Umar, the Great]