Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) and Eid Al Adha are the
greatest and most unique occasion and holiday for
Muslims. However, the joy and celebration are based on
sacrifice and suffering.
This great holiday
of Eid al-Ad'ha is related to a unique event, the Hajj;
a unique city, Mecca; and a unique family, Ibrahim
(Abraham), Peace Be Upon Him, and his wife Hajar (Hagar)
as well as their son Ismail (Ishmael). Indeed, what the
Quran refers to as the Milla (faith) of Ibrahim is
essentially based on the legacy of this family.
Allah say in the
Quran: "God speaks the Truth: follow the
Milla of Ibrahim, the True in Faith; he was
not a Pagan."
The story began
when Ibrahim settled for some time in Hirran where he
got married to his cousin Sarah. And because of his
people’s renunciation of his divine mission, Ibrahim
decided to migrate. The Quran quotes him saying: “I am
fleeing to my Lord, surely He is the Mighty, the Wise.”
towards Al Sham (Greater Syria) known then as the Kanaan
Land where he stayed there for s short time. He was then
forced along with some people to leave Al Sham due to
severe distress that afflicted him. So he moved to Egypt
from which he returned to Palestine along with his wife
Sarah and a female slave called Hajar.
Sarah was a barren
old woman and Ibrahim wanted to have a son. So, he
called Allah to bestow upon him a pious son. Sarah felt
what was in his mind. She asked him to marry Hajar, so
Allah may endow him with a son. Indeed, Ibrahim got
married to Hajar and was blessed with a son whom he
The infant filled
the father with joy. Hajar could not hide her feeling of
being much luckier than Sarah. And Sarah was tormented
by jealousy. She soon reached the point that she could
no longer tolerate seeing Hajar and the child, so she
asked her husband to send them to a remote place that
there would be no news of them.
Ibrahim, by God's
command, accepted Sarah's request. He took Hajar and
Ishmael with him and began journeying until, under the
guidance of God, they entered a barren land away from
any inhabited area in the place where the Kaaba would be
built later on.
Hajar was not just
a wife of Ibrahim; she was deeply loved by him. However,
once again, to fulfill the wish of God, he decided to
return to Sarah and leave Hajar along with Ismail there,
where there was no water and food.
Hajar followed him
and tried several times to win over his sympathy, but he
went on his way back. She asked him (as the Prophet
Mohammad PBUH told): “Oh Ibrahim, where are you going,
leaving us here in this valley where neither human nor
any other creature can survive?”
She repeated her
plea many times, but he did not look back at her. Then
she asked, “Has God instructed you to do so?” He
realized that Allah had ordered Ibrahim to leave her and
the boy there and she was contented with that. With the
same nobility and dignity of faith as it ran in that
family, she said, “Then God will not neglect us. I am
pleased to be (left) with God.”
Ibrahim went back
and his heart was broken. He yielded to his God while,
according to the Quran, saying: “Oh our Lord! I have
settled some of my offspring in a valley uncultivated
near Thy Sacred House, our Lord, that they may keep up
prayer; therefore make the hearts of some people yearn
towards them and provide them with fruits; so they may
be grateful. Oh our Lord! Surely Thou know what we hide
and what we make public, disclose, and nothing in the
earth nor any thing in heaven is hidden from Allah.”
Hajar, the helpless
woman with her baby, was left alone in that waterless
and bare desert far from any populated land. But Hajar
had learned from Ibrahim how to trust in and rely on
God. So, supported by her faith in God, she kept
patient. She lived on the provisions that she had until
they were consumed up. Hunger and thirst overcame her.
Her milk dried up, leaving her baby hungry and thirsty.
Hoping to find
water to save her baby's life, Hajar rushed to look for
water in this barren land but found nothing. Helplessly,
she returned to Ishmael and found him crying. Seeing her
baby in this condition broke her heart. She, too, began
weeping; she didn't know what to do. The baby was
overcome with weakness; it seemed that he was with his
She climbed a hill
known later on as Al Safa, but she couldn’t find a trace
of water. Weary, she descended it as thirst started to
wear them out. She then climbed another hill called Al
Marwa and also could not find any water Hajar ran seven
times back and forth in the scorching heat between Al
Safa and Al Marwa, looking for water until,
completely disappointed and with tear-filled eyes, she
Standing beside her
baby, weeping and wailing, Hajar was watching that
heartbreaking scene. God then sent the Angel Jibril (Gabriel),
who scraped the ground, where a fresh water gushed out
and flowed under Ishmael's feet.
God saved the lives
of the mother and her baby. Little by little, birds came
to use the water of the spring. The tribe of Jorhom,
discovered the existence of the water thanks to the
birds. Hajar became acquainted with the new comers. Her
fear and loneliness were over. The tribe settled there
where Ismail grew up among them. He learned their
language, Arabic, and got married to one of their girls.
In this way, the
prayer of Ibrahim to God was answered; when he left them
in the desert. The spring that burst forth when Gabriel
struck the ground on the orders of God still exists
today and is called the
Ibrahim did not
forget his son and wife. He kept visiting them
frequently. Once, Ibrahim dreamed that Allah was
commanding him to slaughter Ismail. Again, Ibrahim
decided to carry out this divine command. So, he put
forth the matter to his son to test his faith. Ismail
asked his father to do whatever he is commanded to do
and that he will stay patient to his content.
As the family
surrendered to Allah command, Ibrahim began to slaughter
him but the knife did not cut. At the last moment, Allah
redeemed the son with a great ram, and so Ibrahim passed
Allah test and won his son.
Again Ibrahim went
back to Ismail when they were commissioned by Allah to
build the Kaaba. As they were building they were
supplicating to Allah: "And when Ibrahim and Ismail
raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! Accept
from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing;"
until they completed building the Kaaba’s walls.
The character and
story of Hajar has a significant symbolic value in the
world' cultures. A character named Hajar is prominently
Song of Solomon.
W. C. Handy's song "Aunt Hajar's Blues"
immortalizes Hajar as the "mother" of the
Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Shylock said:
"What says that fool of Hajar’s offspring, ha?"
The story of
Hajar's expulsion to the desert has acquired some
political connotations in modern Israel, being taken up
as a symbol of the massive expuslsion of
Palestinians during the War of 1948, being
depicted as such by some Israeli writers.
It was also the
subject of a famous debate in the
Knesset between two women parlimentarians,
Shulamit Aloni, founder of
Meretz (Civil Rights Movement) and Geulah
Cohen of Tehiya (National Awakening Party), who argued
about whether the interpretation of the Bible in general
and Hajar's story in particular should be taught in
Since the 1970's
the custom has arisen of giving the name "Hajar" to
newborn female babies. The giving of this name is often
taken as a controversial political act, indicating the
parents as being leftists and supporters of
reconciliation with the Palestinians and Arab World, and
so it is something that cause anger among nationalists
and the religious.
Women in Black movement has unofficially
renamed Paris Square in Jerusalem, where the movement
has been holding anti-occupation vigils every Friday
since 1988, as "Hajar Square". The name commorates the
Hajar Rublev, a prominent Israeli feminist
and peace activist, who was among the founders of these
Contemporary writings in the west often discuss the
tension among women that is induced by linking women's
status to their sons. Unlike her significance in the
Islamic culture, Hajar in the Christian world is often
used as example of the silently victimized, since her
only statement attributed to her is a plea for death.
Feminism traditions were identified with
Hajar for these reasons. The conflict between Sarah and
Hajar is often shown as a classic example of conflicts
between women under patriarchal systems.