Hagar in Islam
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Hājar (Arabic: هاجر), the Arabic name for the biblical Hagar, was the wife of the patriarch and Islamic prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) and the mother of Ismā'īl (Ishmael). She is a revered woman in the Islamic faith. According to Muslim belief, she was the daughter of an Egyptian king and she was gifted to the prophet Abraham from the king of Egypt. Although not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, she is referenced and alluded to via the story of her husband. She eventually settled in the Desert of Paran with her son Ishmael. Hagar is honoured as an especially important matriarch of monotheism, as it was through Ishmael that Muhammad would come.
The story of Hagar
Abraham was childless. He was a prophet of Allah and, having left his native land, he was concerned over who would continue the prophetic office after him and whether he would indeed be a father one day. Pharaoh gave him his daughter Hagar as a slave. Hagar subsequently bore a child, and named him Ishmael, meaning "God will hear".
Hagar in the desert
Islamic scholars and sources state the following using the Arabic name Haajar for Hagar; "After Haajar gave birth to Ismaa’eel, Saarah began to feel jealous, so she asked Ibrahim to send them away from her. Allah revealed to Ibrahim that he should take Haajar and the infant Ismaa’eel and take them to Makkah. So he took them and left Haajar and her child Ismaa’eel in a bleak, isolated place in which there was no water, then he left them and went back to Canaan (Parts of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestinan territories). Haajar said to him, 'For whom are you leaving us in this forsaken valley?' But Ibrahim went and left her, and she said, 'Has Allah commanded you to do this?” He said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Then Allah will not cause us to be lost.'
Abraham submitted to the command of his Lord and patiently bore the separation from his wife and child. Then he turned towards where they were at the Sacred House and prayed for them in the following words (interpretation of the meaning):
'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivatable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah). 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, Ibraaheem 14:37]
Because of the scarcity of water in the desert, it was not long before both mother and son suffered immense thirst. Thus, Hagar ran between the Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills in search of water for her son. After the seventh run between the two hills, an angel appeared before her. He helped her and told her that God had heard Ishmael's crying and would provide them with water. At that point, God caused a spring to burst forth from the ground, where Ishmael's heel lay, and thereafter Mecca became known for its excellence and abundance of water. The well was subsequently named Zamzam, and become a holy source of water.
Construction of the Kaa'ba
Islamic sources state that Abraham would go between Palestine and Mecca (in Arabia) and later Abraham and his eldest son Ishmael constructed the Kaaba in Mecca. "Then Ibraaheem stayed in Palestine for a while, then he returned to Makkah for an important reason. Allah had commanded him to build in Makkah the first House to be built for the worship of Allah. So Ibraaheem undertook this task of construction, and his son Ismaa’eel was lifting up the stones to him. When the walls grew higher, Ibraaheem stood on a rock, and this is the Station of Ibraaheem (Maqaam Ibraaheem) which is to be found in the vicinity of the Ka’bah. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
'And (remember) when Ibraaheem (Abraham) and (his son) Ismaa'eel (Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah), (saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower’'
[Qur'an, al-Baqarah 2:127]
When Ibraaheem built the House, Allah commanded him to call mankind to perform the Hajj, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
'And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj)'
[Qur'an, al-Hajj 22:27]
Legacy of Hagar
Hagar is honoured by Muslims as a wise, brave and pious woman as well as the believing mother of the Adnan Arab people. The incident of her running between the Al-Safa and Al-Marwah hills is remembered by Muslims when they perform their pilgrimage (Hajj) at Mecca. Part of the pilgrimage is to run seven times between the hills, in commemoration of Hagar's courage and faith in God as she searched for water in the desert (which is believed to have then miraculously appeared from the Zamzam Well) and to symbolize the celebration of motherhood in Islam as well as the leadership of women. To complete the task, some Muslims also drink from the Zamzam Well and take some of the water back home from pilgrimage. Many Muslims believe Hagar and her son, Ishmael, are buried beside the Kaaba, in a semi-enclosed area which Muslims circumambulate during Hajj.
- IslamQA website: "Ibrahim (peace be upon him)" IslamQA retrieved June 22, 2013
- Genesis 21:17-19: "And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink."
- Muhammad, Martin Lings, Chapter 1. The House of God, Suhail Academy Publishing
- Prophet Ishmael at Islam101.com