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By Habtoor Information & Research Department

  The 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.”

  Ibrahim headed 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 named Ismail.  

  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 replied, “Yes…”

  Hajar finally 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 last breath.

  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 settled down.

  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 Zamzam Well.

  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 featured in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon.

  W. C. Handy's song "Aunt Hajar's Blues" immortalizes Hajar as the "mother" of the African Americans

  In William 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 Israeli schools.

  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.

  The Israeli 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 late Hajar Rublev, a prominent Israeli feminist and peace activist, who was among the founders of these Friday vigils.

  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.


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