June 23, 2024
hebrew hajirah
The Hebrew Hajirah (peace be upon her), also known as Hagar in some Hebrew traditions, was the second wife of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in the Judeo-Christian tradition), peace be upon him.

The Hebrew Hajirah (peace be upon her), also known as Hagar in some Hebrew traditions, was the second wife of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in the Judeo-Christian tradition), peace be upon him. She is a significant figure in Islamic, Christian, and Jewish traditions. Hajirah is best known for her role in the story of Ibrahim’s family and her son, Isma’il (Ishmael). She was not Ibrahim’s concubine, as some Biblical narratives claim, but his second wife.

Ibrahim and Sarah (peace be upon them) in Egypt

According to some authentic Islamic traditions, Sarah (peace be upon her) and Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him, traveled to Egypt during a time of famine. Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was concerned that the Egyptians might kill him to take his wife Sarah because of her beauty. To protect themselves, Ibrahim, peace be upon him, asked Sarah (peace be upon her) to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. When they arrived in Egypt, the Egyptian king, usually referred to as a Pharaoh in these narrations, was captivated by Sarah’s beauty and wanted to take her as his wife.

In some versions of the story, the Pharaoh indeed tries to take Sarah against her will. However, before he can do so, Allah intervenes miraculously. In some accounts, it’s described that the Pharaoh’s hand becomes paralyzed or withered when he tries to touch Sarah against her will. This event serves as a divine intervention to protect Sarah’s honor and to demonstrate the power of Allah. [Sahih al-Bukhari: H#3358]

Ibrahim Marries Hajirah–the Princess (peace be upon them)

Some translations of the Hadiths confuse the descent of Hajirah (peace be upon her), declaring her a handmaid. Verily, Hajirah (peace be upon her) was not a handmaid originally but a pharaoh’s daughter. According to Islamic traditions, Hajirah (peace be upon her) was an Egyptian princess, the daughter of a pharaoh, given to Ibrahim’s first wife, Sarah (Sara in some traditions), as a gift. When Sarah (peace be upon her) was unable to bear children, she offered Hajirah to Ibrahim to marry to have offspring. Ibrahim agreed, and he married Hajirah.

The Midrash is a genre of Jewish literature that consists of non-legalistic interpretations, stories, and commentary on the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). It often fills in gaps in the biblical narrative, provides moral lessons, or offers deeper insights into the characters and events described in the text. The passage from Genesis Rabbah 45 (Gen. R. xlv.) is one such example where the Midrashic tradition expands on the story of Hagar.

According to this Midrashic interpretation, Hagar was the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. The Pharaoh witnessed the miracles that God performed for Sarah’s sake, particularly in protecting her from harm when she was taken into the Pharaoh’s household (Genesis 12:17). Recognizing Sarah’s special status and the divine favor upon her, the Pharaoh concluded that it would be better for Hajirah (peace be upon her) to serve in Sarah’s household rather than to be mistress in her own house. This decision was made out of respect for the divine miracles associated with Sarah (peace be upon her) and as a gesture of deference to her elevated status.

In this interpretation, Hagar’s name is given significance as it is interpreted to mean “reward” or “this is the reward” (from “Ha-Agar”). This interpretation suggests that Hagar’s placement in Sarah’s household was seen as a reward or blessing, both for her and for Sarah (peace be upon her).

Additionally, the Midrash portrays Hagar as initially reluctant to marry Abraham at Sarah’s request. Despite Sarah’s authority over her as her handmaid, Hagar hesitated. However, Sarah persuaded her by emphasizing the saintly qualities of Abraham (peace be upon him) and the privilege of being united with such a righteous man.

This Midrashic interpretation provides a richer narrative surrounding Hagar’s background and her relationship with Sarah (peace be upon her) and Abraham (peace be upon him). It emphasizes themes of divine favor, respect for the chosen people, and the importance of righteousness. Like many Midrashic stories, it aims to provide moral and theological insights into the biblical text while expanding on the characters and events described therein.

Hajirah and Ismail (peace be upon them) at Makkah

Hajirah (peace be upon her) and Ibrahim had a son named Isma’il. However, later, Sarah (peace be upon her) miraculously conceived and bore Ibrahim (peace be upon him) a son named Ishaq (Isaac), peace be upon him. This led to tensions within the family. Sarah (peace be upon her) eventually asked Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to send Hajirah (peace be upon her) and Isma’il away. Ibrahim, following divine instruction, took Hajirah (peace be upon her) and Isma’il to the region of Makkah (Mecca), where he left them with some provisions, including water.

The story continues with Hajirah and Isma’il settling in Makkah, where the well of Zamzam miraculously emerged, providing water for them and future travelers. This well later became a vital source of water for pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Narrated Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him): The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka`ba under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Makkah, nor was there any water. So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water and set out homeward. Ishmael’s mother followed him saying, “O Abraham! 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 ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka`ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers: ‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Ka`ba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37) Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of 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 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 the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zamzam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill 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, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Ka`ba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around 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, “Ishmael’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, “Ishmael’s mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there.

[Sahih al-Bukhari: H#3365]

The same story has been narrated in the Bible, Genesis 21:8-21, sharing the common incidents, but with striking differences in attributes.

It is generally accepted in Islamic traditions that Hajirah (peace be upon her) was Hebrew in origin. When she saw that water sprang out of rocks miraculously, she tried to scope the water saying to the water, “Zamzam“, from this phrase the scared well got its name. The phrase Zamzam (זמזום) has its roots in Hebrew. How Hajirah (peace be upon her) could speak Hebrew? Simply because it was her mother tongue. Allah knows the best.

The Hebrew Hajirah (peace be upon her) was not only the founder of Makkah, but mother of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as he was among the descendants of Prophet Ismail (peace be upon him). Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) is believed to have married into the local Arab tribe Banu Jurhum, and from his descendants came many prominent Arab clans, including the Quraysh tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) belonged.

Hajirah (peace be upon her) and Hajj

Hajirah’s story of obedience, faith, and resilience holds a significant place in Islamic tradition, particularly during the Hajj pilgrimage rituals, where her actions are commemorated through the Sa’i, the ritual of walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa.

  1. Obedience: When Ibrahim, the Prophet, was commanded by Allah to leave his wife Hajirah and their infant son Isma’il in the barren valley of Makkah, Hajirah demonstrated unwavering obedience to the divine command. Despite the challenges of the harsh desert environment and the isolation they faced, she trusted in Allah’s wisdom and followed Ibrahim’s instructions without hesitation.
  2. Faith: Hajirah’s faith in Allah’s providence and mercy is evident throughout her ordeal. When faced with the daunting task of searching for water in the desert to sustain herself and her son, Hajirah turned to prayer and supplication. Her unwavering belief in Allah’s assistance and provision exemplifies the essence of faith in Islamic teachings.
  3. Resilience: Despite the immense hardships she encountered, Hajirah remained resilient and steadfast in her determination to care for her son and fulfill her responsibilities. She did not succumb to despair or lose hope but instead remained determined and resourceful in the face of adversity.
  4. Commemoration during Hajj: The Sa’i ritual during the Hajj pilgrimage symbolizes Hajirah’s desperate search for water in the desert. Pilgrims retrace her footsteps by walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa, just as she did in her quest for sustenance. This ritual serves as a powerful reminder of Hajirah’s unwavering faith, resilience, and trust in Allah’s mercy, inspiring pilgrims to emulate her virtues in their own lives.

Overall, Hajirah’s story serves as a timeless example of obedience, faith, and resilience in the face of adversity. Her legacy is celebrated in Islamic tradition, particularly during the Hajj pilgrimage, where her actions continue to inspire millions of Muslims worldwide.

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