Woman of Courage: Lessons from the story of Hajar

Muslims from all around the world flock to Makkah to perform Umrah and Hajj every year; although many centuries back, you would not find a single person in the lonely valley of Makkah. Surrounded by rock mountains and with a bed of sand for ground, it offered no vegetation and no water. Yet, this was about to change.

The change was not brought about by a king or an army, but by a woman — a woman of exemplary faith and courage. This woman was none other than the wife of Ibrahim عليه السلام and the mother of Isma’eel عليه السلام, Hajar, may Allah have mercy on her. 

Let’s go back in time and get inspired by her story….

Ibrahim عليه السلام brought his wife and her son Isma’eel عليه السلام while she was suckling him to a place near the Ka’bah under a tree at the highest place in the mosque. In those days, there was no human being in Makkah nor was there any water. He placed near them a leather bag containing some dates and a small waterskin containing some water, and set out homeward.

Isma’eel’s mother followed him saying: “O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him: “Has Allah commanded you to do so?” 

He said: “Yes.” 

She said: “Then He will not neglect us.” 

She returned while Ibrahim عليه السلام proceeded onwards. 

Having reached the Thaniya, where they could not see him, he faced the direction of the Ka’bah, raised his both hands and supplicated:

“O our Rubb! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka’bah at Makkah) in order, O our Rubb, that they may perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.” (Qur’an, 14:37).

Isma’eel’s mother went on suckling Isma’eel عليه السلام and drinking from the water which she had. When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She looked at Isma’eel عليه السلام, 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 stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from 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 Mount Al-Marwa where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between As-Safa and Al-Marwah) seven times. 

Ibn ‘Abbas رضي الله عنه‎‎ further related: 

The Prophet ﷺ said, “This is the source of the tradition of the Sa’y (i.e., the going of people between the two mountains). When she reached Al-Marwah (for the last time), she heard a voice and she exclaimed: ‘Sh sh!’ (Silencing herself) and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said: ‘O (whoever you may be) You have made me hear your voice; have you any succour for me?’ And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or with his wing), till water flowed out from that place. 

She started to make something like of a basin around it, using her hands in this way and began to fill her waterskin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out until she had scooped some of it.” 

The Prophet ﷺ further said, “May Allah bestow mercy on Isma’eel’s mother! Had she let the Zamzam flow without trying to control it (or had she not scooped in that water) while filling her water-skin, Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” The Prophet ﷺ further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. 

The angel said to her: ‘Do not be afraid of being neglected, for this is the site on which the House of Allah will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah will never neglect His people.’ The House of Allah (the Ka’bah) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. 

She continued living in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum passed by her and her child. As they were coming from through the way of Kada’, in the lower part of Makkah where they saw a bird that had a habit of flying around water and not leaving it. 

They said: ‘This bird must be flying over 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 the water.”

The Prophet ﷺ added, “Isma’eel’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.” The Prophet ﷺ further said, “Isma’eel’s mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them. 

“The child (i.e., Isma’eel) grew up and learnt Arabic from them, (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty, they gave him one of their daughters in marriage.” (Al-Bukhari, no. 1867)

Lessons from Hajar

1. Hear and obey

One of the most inspiring things about Ibrahim عليه السلام was that he carried out his duty without any delay. He was commanded by Allah to leave his family in Makkah and he did so. In the same way, we need to learn to follow the commands of Allah and fulfill his obligations without hesitation, In sha’ Allah.

2. Allah is the Most Wise

It would have been heartbreaking for Ibrahim عليه السلام to leave his family all alone in a desert, that too without any protection! Yet he did it.  Allah is the Most Wise, as by this sacrifice of Ibrahim عليه السلام and Hajar, Allah brought out the stream of Zamzam, made Makkah a flourishing city, and made Muslims follow the footsteps of Ibrahim and Hajar both, during Hajj and Umrah, subhanAllah

We don’t know ultimately what is good or bad for us. An accident may actually be a blessing in disguise, and a blessing a trial for us. Only Allah has full knowledge of all things.  

3. Don’t think too much! Just do it! 

Some things are more difficult than the others. If something is difficult we will find as many excuses as possible not to do it. We will complain, argue, keep questioning… “It’s too hot to wear a Hijaab!” “beard is for the elderly!”, “what if they make fun of me?” 

When Ibrahim عليه السلام was commanded he did not once question, “Why?”, nor did he complain. He obeyed Allah and did what he was told to do. Nor did Hajar question or complain or lament. Both knew it was a command from Allah, and became content with it, because they knew Allah would not neglect them while they are being obedient towards Him. 

This is a special characteristic we need to cultivate within ourselves. Whether the command is difficult or easy, let’s do it without falling into the whispers of shaytaan. 

4. Have Tawakkul upon Allah

The only supplies that Hajar had were a bag of dates and some water. How long was it going to last? Not only that, even Ibrahim left her on her own with an infant in a desert. She was devastated at first when she saw Ibrahim leaving! She followed him and tried to know what was he doing and why? 

When she heard it was the command of Allah she was at rest. Her faith was profound in Allah, and knew that Allah would never neglect them. She put her complete trust and reliance upon Allah, knowing that Allah would take care of them in this desert. And He did in the best of ways. SubhanAllah!. Stronger the faith, greater is the reward. 

5. Your patience will be rewarded 

Ibrahim and Hajar had to go through a very difficult trial. Ibrahim عليه السلام had to leave his wife and son in the desert, and Hajar with her infant son had to survive the desert alone. Yet, both did not lose hope, and showed patience during the difficulty. And Allah rewarded them for their patience in a way that they would not have ever imagined. 

Allah send down Jibreel عليه السلام to relieve her from her distress, who dug the earth, from which came Zamzam, flowing till today. Allah made them a role model for us to follow. 

5. Make du’aa

Have trust in Allah, have faith in Him, have patience, but also make du’aa. A believer’s weapon is his du’a, through which he can open doors. After Ibrahim عليه السلام left his family, he made du’aa to Allah:

“Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.” (14:37) 

6. Action!

Having tawakkul is not enough. We need to act too. Hajar did not simply sit there for Allah to provide for her but made her own effort too. She ran between Safa and Marwa seven times, looking for water, after which Allah made the waters of Zamzam flow for her. 

Anas رضي الله عنه‎‎ reported that a person asked the Prophet ﷺ: “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allah for her protection) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul?” Rasool Allah ﷺ replied, “Tie her and have Tawakkul.” (At-Tirmidhi)

7. Keep doing good deeds

Make the effort to do good deeds even if they are small, and be sincere while doing them, because you never know which action will be accepted by Allah and will be so pleasing to Him that it may become a source of great reward in the future.

8. Allah is Almighty and All-Powerful

Allah can do anything. All we need is to have strong faith in Him. If Allah could bring out Zamzam from a desert, will He not help you in the most adverse situations? Will He not make things easy for you? Yes He will and He can, be cause Allah is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and can do anything. SubhanAllah! 

9. Having a good opinion about Allah

“Why me?!” “What have I done to deserve this?” 

These are some common reactions when we face a trial. Is it not better for us to have patience and think good about Allah? Is it not known to us that Allah only does what is good for us? We should always keep a good opinion of Allah, whatever circumstances we might fall in. That’s what Hajar did — when calamity hit she said: “Allah will not neglect us.” 

Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه‎‎ related that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah says, ‘I am as My servant thinks of Me. If he thinks good of me then so it shall be, and if he thinks ill of me then so it shall be.’” (Ahmad)

10. Allah looks after His servants 

Allah is our Rabb, the Nurturer,the Nourisher, the Caretaker and He will never leave us alone when we are facing a trial. He will open doors, make things easy and will lead you to a path. He was the one who looked after Hajar and Isma’eel when Ibrahim left the valley. He was the One who quenched the thirst of Hajar and Isma’eel, who honored Hajar and made Isma’eell a prophet. And we think we are alone? Absolutely not! 

11. You are not alone

We are not alone when we face a trial or a calamity. Everyone goes through something or the other. If someone loses a job, then some other might have lost his beloved one. Nobody is exceptional. Even the prophets faced trials as we see in the case of Ibrahim عليه السلام and Hajar. So let’s face every trial with patience, faith and remain steadfast and let our faith not waver in a storm In sha’ Allah.

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