Women of the Bible: Siti Hajar (Mother Hagar): A Muslim’s Perspective
Guest post by Nora Mansor-Clark. Nora is a Sunni Muslim who lives in Brisbane, Queensland with her husband, a daughter and a cat. Her passion is in peace, multiculturalism and literacy for all. Her priority is always her family and she truly believes that one day through learning and understanding of one another’s cultural and beliefs, ignorance will be eradicated. Originally from Malaysia, Nora has lived in the UK and Australia. She works for Brisbane City Council in the Library Information and Services. She loves travelling, reading, cooking and spending time with her great circle of friends.
Editor’s note: Don’t go there. We have zero tolerance for anything anti-Islam.
Siti Hajar (Mother Hagar) is one of the most revered women figures in Islam. She is the symbol of bravery, piousness, sacrifice, determination and submission to the Lord (Allah in Arabic). Not only that, to Muslim women, she is one of the mothers of feminism, of whom they are very proud. A daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt from Hyksos Dynasty (King Salatis) and she was chosen by Sara (the first wife of Abraham) as his second wife (as a servant, initially). Hagar was welcomed by Sara into their household as she, could not bear a child. She was hoping Hagar would bear a descendant for Abraham and that exactly what happened. Sadly, the happiness in their household did not last long as Sara (as anyone would) was rather jealous of Hagar when she gave birth to a son, Ismail (Ishmael). Hence, to avoid the prolonged jealousy and unhappiness, Abraham decided to take both of them away to the Desert of Paran, which is Mecca in the present day. As mentioned in the holy Qur’an (Koran):
“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by thy sacred house. O our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer: So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits so that they may give thanks.” (Qur’an, Ibraaheem (Abraham) 14:37)
Mother Hagar and Ishmael were left in the shade of a Palm tree with a bag of water and dates in the Valley of Paran. When questioned by Hagar of the reason for her and their son to be left in the middle of nowhere, Abraham answered ‘the Lord has commanded me to commit this’. Some people would have gone berserk and protested against this, but the ever obedient and pious, Hagar replied ‘then the Lord will look after us!’ After Abraham left, Hagar fed Ishmael and after a while she realised that the water and dates would not last long. They too were in the Valley, which is enclosed by hills on all sides. In other words, they were in a natural isolation hence, it would not be that easy for them to spot or to be noticed by the caravans, which would pass through the Valley.
When Ishmael was crying of thirst, mother Hagar started to run around between Al-Safa and Al Marwah hills looking for water. She was running between these two hills as she thought she was seeing water near them. However, it was only the fata morgana of it. There were never water around there. By the seventh time running between these two hills and her tireless efforts to provide her little child, an angel appeared and guided her towards Ishmael, who was lying down on the driest and most scorched ground with natural spring sprouting underneath his feet. As mentioned in holy Qur’an:
“for to anything which we have willed, we but say the word, be! And it is.” (Qur’an Al Nahl 40:16).
This confirmed Hagar’s faith in the Lord whose promise in itself the truth as there is no interposition of time and condition between his will and its consequences as he is the ultimate creator and provider. By seeing this, mother Hagar exclaimed ‘”Zam! Zam!”, which means “Gather! Gather!” (That was how the spring well that is referred as Zam Zam Well was created, became the holy source of water and still is located in the same spot in Mecca today.) From then on, many caravans stopped in this little oasis in this used to be a bleak and isolated valley and many of them decided to settle, start trades, and have families. Mecca since then, had become a certainly different place compared to when mother Hagar and Ishmael first arrived. It flourished to become one of the most significant and triumphant cities in the era till present day. To Muslims, this is so significantly close to their heart as it was how Mecca was founded and continued to be the birth place of Islam.
In the Muslims’ eyes, mother Hagar is the symbol of strengths, mother’s love, a powerful woman and submission to our Lord. Her endless and tireless effort in searching for water to provide for her little child portrays that weakness has never been a part of a woman’s (or human being’s in general) life. Not for once, she thought of giving up and by mercy of the Lord she triumphed and conquered her worries and doubts of the bleak future. She had truly submitted her fate in the hand of the Lord and was rewarded, abundantly. As one of the summaries in the holy Qur’an illustrates it:
“This life is uncertain and variable: goodness and virtue are better and more durable. For the day of Reckoning will come, with its mercy and its wrath.” (Qur’an Al Kahf 18:23-44).
This has certainly proven by mother Hagar who was once a princess, then a slave, before becoming the bearer of Abraham’s descendant and in the end became one of the most admired and celebrated figures in Judaism, Christianity and Islamic beliefs.
As a tribute and to mark her glory and determination, during the pilgrimage to Mecca, (as one of the five principles of Islam) Muslims cannot complete their journey without mimicking what mother Hagar had to go through during her struggle to provide for her child. They must travel (either running, walking, being pushed on the wheelchair or carried by someone) between the two hills, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah for seven times. Without her sacrifice, determination and her arduous journey to fulfil the Lord’s commands, the glory of the three biggest beliefs (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) would be at standstill.
Despite living in the time when a woman was seen and deemed as week and inferior to a man, Mother Hagar proved that she could survive the harsh reality of her life. Most importantly, she emancipated on her own strength to remind the world that she was living in that a woman too could be an independent, equally intelligent, resourceful and determined to overcome all the obstacles and fear to be just as powerful and successful. Even though in Islam there are other women figures who are seen as equally powerful and influential, such as Khadija Khuwaylid, Lubna of Cordoba and Aishah Abu Bakar, Mother Hagar proved that a woman is not weak and she too possesses all the might to succeed as well as to initiate something greater than a conqueror of an empire. Hence, Mother Hagar always will be remembered as a triumphant feminist figure as well as a glorified person in propagating the foundation of belief in the whole wide world of the three religions. Be it, Judaism, Christianity or Islam. As the Qur’an mentions:
“Oh ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other and fear your Lord; that you may prosper.” (Qur’an Al Imran 3:200)