The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah which is an obligation upon every financially and physically able adult Muslim to perform at least once in a lifetime. During the Hajj, there are a number of mandatory rites and rituals. Many of them date back to the time of Prophet Abraham and his wife Hajar (sometimes spelled Hagar), the mother of Prophet Ismail. Hajar is a celebrated and respected woman in Islamic history, as is Sarah, who was Abraham’s first wife. Sarah and Abraham struggled to have a child, and so Sarah encouraged Abraham to marry Hajar so he could have a child. Later on, Sarah also gave birth to Abraham’s son Isaac. Both of these women’s trust in God and their sincerity in obeying His command is one Muslims strive to emulate.
Hajar’s Trust in Allah
The story of Hajar is one of great importance and inspiration in Islam. She is the mother of Prophet Ismail, and it is through this lineage that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came. After the birth of Ismail, God commanded Abraham to take his wife Hajar and baby to a barren land in what is today present-day Makkah. When she repeatedly asked her husband why he was leaving them there, she did not receive a reply until she asked, “Did Allah command you to do this?” to which Abraham replied, “Yes!” Thereafter, a comforted Hajar confidently said, “Okay. He won’t ever let us perish!” (Bukhari).
When baby Ismail became thirsty, Hajar went searching for water. She climbed up and between a pair of mountains called Safa and Marwa seven times as her baby cried. She hoped to find someone that could help, but there was no one in sight. In her moment of desperation with her starving child, the Angel Gabriel came to her and hit the earth with his heel. Water gushed forth. Hajar drank and was then able to nurse her child to his fill. This water is known as Zam Zam, and it is available around Makkah today for all the pilgrims. As the water flowed, birds began to flock. These birds were seen from afar by travelers who eventually inhabited the land, and now Makkah is truly the city that never sleeps. Every moment of every day, there are people at the Kaba worshiping Allah.
Impact on Hajj
When Muslims today go to perform the pilgrimage, one of the rituals is called Sa’ee. This involves running to and fro between the same two mountains, Safa and Marwa, seven times as Hajar did. The mountains are not as big as they were during her time, and now they are enclosed in an air-conditioned building attached to the main mosque that houses the Kaba. While the accommodations are made for today’s pilgrims to be comfortable while performing Sa’ee, they are encouraged to remember the hardships Hajar endured while keeping her trust in Allah. Additionally, scholars advise that while performing the physical act of Sa’ee, one should supplicate to have a blessed progeny like Hajar did, have trust like Hajar did, and have acceptance from God the way Hajar did. Millions of Muslims have followed in her footsteps for hundreds of years, and that in itself is a clear indication of her high status in Islam and starkly contrasts the stereotype often spewed today about how Islam oppresses and downplays the value of women.
The travel to Makkah for Muslims is often dubbed the journey of a lifetime or a transformative experience that changes life forever. Many return to their homes with a newfound emphasis on spiritual practice and belief. While in Makkah, the stories of Hajar and Ibrahim run very deep. Their footsteps are mandated for Muslims to follow in order to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. Their status is clear, as their stories are on everyone’s minds as they work to complete their Hajj in the most sacred land. It is an honor specific to Hajar and Ibrahim. Their obedience to God was clearly accepted, and a Muslim’s hope is to benefit from those same blessings and favors from their Lord by following in their paths hundreds of years prior.
Husain, Habeeba. (2021, July 16). Hajar the Wife of Abraham: An Example for All. Retrieved from https://www.whyislam.org/women-in-islam/hajar/