The First Female Teacher in Islam: Al-Shifa bint Abdullah

Name
Shifa bint Abdullah bin Abd Shams bin Khalaf bin Shadad al-Qurashiyah al-Adawiyah was from Makkah. It is said her real name was Laylah, and her Kunyah was Umm Sulaiman, however she became well known as al-Shifa perhaps due to her healing some people with the permission of Allah (the Exalted).
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Early Life
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah married Abi Khaithamah bin Hudhayfah bin Amir al-Qurashi al-Adawi, and embraced Islam at an early stage in Makkah. She perservered and exercised patience along with the other early Muslims with the distress caused to them by the Quraysh. This was until Allah (the Exalted) permitted these persecuted muslims to migrate from Makkah to Madinah, and she migrated along with them.
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Literacy: A Rare Quality
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah al-Adawiyyah was one of the few individuals who knew how to read and write during the time of Jahiliyyah, having been blessed by Allah with a sharp intellect and beneficial knowledge. She was skilled in the art of Ruqyah (healing supplications) even at the time of Jahliyyah. When she embraced Islam she did not perform ruqyah until she spoke to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) and recited to him what she would read, and He (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) granted her permission to perform ruqyah.
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Teaching in Madinah
Al-Shifa then continued to practice ruqyah, healing the muslims, and taught it to the mother of the believers Hafsah (Allah be pleased with her). This is known from the hadith where it is mentioned that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) entered upon the mother of the believers Hafsah bint Umar, and found al-Shifa bint Abdullah with her. He said to her: Teach Hafsah the ruqyah al-namlah like you taught her to write. Along with this she also taught other muslim women how to read and write seeking the reward and pleasure of Allah, and making her the first female teacher in Islam.
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Respect of Umar
Biographical works have not mentioned much detail of the life of al-Shifa bint Abdullah. Ibn Hajar however did describe her in al-Isabah as being from the intelligent and notable women.
It is reported that Umar bin al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) trusted her view and judgement such that he gave her view precedence over others. It is also said that Umar made her responsible for some matters in the market place, some mentioning it could have been to do with proper conduct in the market place.
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Hadith Narration
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah narrated from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless Him and give Him peace) and from Umar bin al-Khattab. Her son Suleiman bin Abi Khaithamah in turn narrated from her along with some of her grandchildren. Al-Bukhari cites a narration of hers in Kitab al-Adab and Kitab Afal al-Ibad, alongwith Abu Dawud and al-Nasai.
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Passing Away
The first female teacher in Islam passed away during the time of Umar bin al-Khattab in the year 20 Hijri. May Allah reward her the best of rewards for her service to this ummah, not least her healing the sick and teaching of women.
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8 comments

  1. MASHALLAH, your site is fantastic and clear. Inshallah it will lead others to islam and help to break down the barriers that people have about it. Keep up the good work.. I have linked to you..

  2. IN THE NAME OF ALLAH-THE BENEFICENT-THE MERCIFUL;SAY;HE,ALLAH IS ONE.ALLAH IS HE ON WHOM ALL DEPEND.HE BEGETS NOT,NOR IS HE BEGOTTEN.AND NONE IS LIKE HIM.[QUR'AN;112]-AS-SALAMU-ALAIKUM,ALHAMDULILAH FOR THIS RELEVANT ISLAMIC INFORMATION.IT IS IMEPERATIVE TO KNOW ISLAMIC HISTORY ESPECIALLY THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF WOMEN AND YOUTH WHICH IS GENERALLY OVERLOOKED AND NOT DEALT WITH AMONGST MUSLIMS IN THEIR KHUTBAH,TALEEM ETC.TAIF’TUL’ISLAM-P.O.BOX 338-COMPTON,CA.90223

  3. Assalam O Alaikum all of you. I have read the article and appearantly it seems good. I thought of this Sahabiya being learned in “ayyaam al jahiliya” as there were not so many and they could be counted on fingures. As per the article, she embraced Islam before Hijra. These two facts made her such a powerful icon among the female Sahabiyat. But to my suprise, and i looked on internet for any reference that can be found but unluckily, i am unable to find any references. If anyone knows about any book written by our “Aslaaf” in which she is mentioned as portrayed in the article because i am afraid that this story should not result in a hoax. I looked into “Tarikh ibnu Jarir” as it is mentioned on internet that she died in 20 Hijri, but such an icon could not take a place in the history books written by most high scholars. Please investigate if this is true instead of just reading and believing.

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