Hajar (as) was the wife of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) and the mother of Prophet Ismail (as). So she was a member of a great family, and in fact was the great great great great…grandmother of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)! So we already know she must be a special person. But to really appreciate the courage, intelligence, and strength of our mother Hajar, we should look a bit more closely at her amazing story, which is directly connected to the History of Hajj and Makkah.
A few 1000 years before the Prophet (saw) and before the Quraysh, Makkah was an empty desert land where no one was living.
The Prophet Ibrahim (as) was instructed by Allah to travel with his wife Hajar and new born son Ismail into Arabia. Ibrahim (as) arrived at the area that is now Makkah, but which was empty in that time. In fact there was not even any animal living there, or any plant growing – it was an uninhabitable place. But Ibrahim (as) had been given the knowledge that this place was sacred – it was where Adam (as) had first built the foundations of the Ka’abah, and it was where it would be rebuilt again. Ibrahim (as) then left his wife and son with some dates and water and…walked away! He was leaving them.
Hajar knew that Ibrahim (as) would be leaving them – his mission as a prophet required him to travel far and wide spreading the message. But she had no idea it would be in a place like this! She followed him and asked:
‘Ibrahim, are you going to leave us in a place where there is no cultivation and there is no one living?’. Ibrahim (as) did not answer. She asked this another 3 times and again no answer. Then finally Hajar said: ‘Did Allah tell you to do so?’ to which Ibrahim (as) replied ‘yes’. To this Hajar (as) gave this amazing response:
‘Then Allah will take care of us’. Meaning – if this is a command from Allah, then I have trust in His decree and He will look after us, and won’t neglect us. Look at the incredible level of Tawakkal (trust) that our Mother had.
When Ibrahim (as) had walked a certain distance when he could no longer see his family, he turned around facing towards their direction (where the Ka’abah would later be built) and made a special du’a to Allah:
‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Ka’bah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among people with love towards them, and O Allah provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.’ [Al-Qur’an 14:37]”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) mentioned the story of Hajar (as) in a long hadith, narrated by Ibn Abbas (ra). Here is a part of it:
“Ismail’s mother went on suckling Ismail and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water skin had been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (Ismail) tossing in agony. She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of as-Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land.
She climbed on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended for as-Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble till she crossed the valley and reached the mountain of al-Marwa. There she stood and started looking expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that running between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times.”
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said:“When she reached al-Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively.
She heard the voice again and said, ‘O whoever you maybe! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?’ And behold, she saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing) till water flowed from that place.
She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water skin with water.”
The Prophet peace be upon him added:
“May Allah bestow mercy on Ismail’s mother! Had she let the Zamzam flow without trying to control it, or had she not scooped from that water to fill her water skin, Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the Earth.”
The Prophet peace be upon him continued:
“Then she drank water and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ …
“She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child as they (the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Ka’bah.
They landed in the lower part of Makkah where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’
They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water and returned to inform them of the water. So they all came towards it. Ismail’s mother was sitting near the water.
They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?’ She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that. Ismail’s mother was pleased with the whole situation, as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people, so they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (Ismail) grew up and learned Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up”. When he was older he married a woman from amongst the people of Jurhum.
*** Lessons from the story ***
- Hajar (as) had a very high level of trust – as soon as she realised her situation had been instructed by Allah, she did not complain or question. This shows the highest level of submission, the highest level of trust in Allah, and patience.
- Ibrahim (as) also showed his high level of submission in obeying Allah. Leaving his wife and son was not an easy thing for him to do, but he was of those who submitted completely to Allah.
- Look at the du’a that he made for his wife and children. Before anything else he made du’a for their spiritual needs (the establishment of prayer), and then for their social needs (for Allah to give them a caring community) and lastly for material needs (food). This is a great lesson for us all in how to make du’a – Ibrahim (as) understood our priorities in life: it is to serve Allah. So that came first – how often is that the last thing in our du’a, if we remember to pray for it at all? And at the same time Ibrahim (as) didn’t neglect asking for the other important things either. But notice that even then, he asked Allah to provide his family with fruits, so that they may be grateful. So even the material things were connected to worshipping Allah – this is how it should be for all of us.
- Look at Hajar (as)’s effort – instead of sitting there just watching her child and despairing, she decided to try something, anything. She knew there was no one around in the desert, but it didn’t stop her from putting the effort in. Many times it is not about whether your effort is going to make any difference or not – the results are in Allah’s Hands, we just need to do our bit and try.
- She must have been exhausted and heart-broken, but she persevered and never gave up – in fact she probably would have carried on running if she hadn’t heard the voice of the Angel Jibril (as). She showed she had physical strength too – a believer should be mentally AND physically strong.
- Hajar (as) was intelligent enough to act quickly – she scooped a basin around the flowing water of Zam Zam so that it didn’t end up sinking into the ground, and thus it was turned into a well. A believer should be resourceful and able to make good decisions at important times.
- Hajar (as) showed courage and intelligence when dealing with the tribe of Jurhum as well. Deep down she wanted the tribe to settle there because she and her son would be all alone otherwise. But she understood the importance of negotiating, of protecting your rights, and your dignity. Keeping possession of the well meant that the tribe would have to treat her and her son well. That was a smart thing to do!
- It also shows that Hajar (as) was thinking about the long-term situation – she was thoughtful and showed great wisdom.
- Finally, a huge lesson we can learn from this beautiful story is how Allah rewards patience and trust. The Prophet (saw) confirmed that it is because of our mother Hajar that we now all follow her actions in the Hajj, performing the Sa’iy between Safa and Marwa, 7 times. What a beautiful gift from Allah to His servant! When she was going through that incredibly difficult trial, Hajar (as) had no idea what was in store for her. She had no idea that after her, until the Day of Judgment, Muslims from all parts of the globe would be making pilgrimage to that spot and would be remembering her and her actions during the greatest days of the year, Dhul Hijjah. If she had known, she would have ran between the mountains with a big smile on her face. 🙂
- When you’re going through a test, a really difficult test, remember that Allah has not abandoned you. Allah has something great in store for you. And maybe you will never even know the full extent of the reward – just like Hajar (as); she saw the blessing of Zam Zam and how the place became a flourishing town, but she never knew her actions would be remembered on Hajj! So keep persevering, never give up. And this Dhul Hijjah, let’s remember our wonderful Mother Hajar (as) and her beautiful example – a true inspiration for all believers.