A mother’s spirited sacrifice: the story of Hajar


Hajar’s story of selfless perseverance helps Eren Cervantes-Altamirano to see the bigger picture.

Image: Dreamstime
Image: Dreamstime

As a convert with a non-religious background, Hajar’s story has always warmed my heart. In her I see a strong role model, whose sacrifices are the reason that I write today as a convert to Islam. Hajar is depicted not only as a victim of oppression (she is a slave girl), but also as a woman who is faced with difficult choices. In spite of this, she is one of the most committed believers known in history.

Image: AFP Photo / Roslan Rahman
Image: Roslan Rahman / AFP

For me, Hajar’s story has always been one of hope. Unlike other wives and mothers, her situation is in constant flux. She goes from being a slave girl, to joining Prophet Ibrahim’s household, and bearing him a son. Later, due to tensions in the prophet’s home and Allah’s orders, she is abandoned in the middle of the desert. As she strives to feed her child and save him from dehydration, she displays complete trust and commitment to Allah. In return, she is rewarded for her faith, her conviction and her services to Allah’s plan. The well of Zamzam is Hajar’s remuneration, and its waters remind us to follow in the steps of this blessed mother of Islam.

Hajar is an icon of faith and a strong woman. A woman who fights and loves with all her soul. She is not only a mother who protects her child, but also a committed believer who seeks and awaits guidance despite her own despair. Her image reminds us that Allah oversees everything, and that every moment of hopelessness has its place in the bigger scheme of things.

In the Qur’an, the first wife of Prophet Ibrahim and mother of Prophet Ishaq is unnamed, but many Muslims ascribe to the hadith that give her name as Sarah. Prophet Ibrahim and Sarah were barren for many years, so Sarah allowed her husband to take her slave, Hajar, as a second wife. When Prophet Ibrahim and Sarah had reached an advanced age, he received tidings from Allah that his first wife, Sarah, would give birth to Prophet Ishaq and later, Prophet Ya’kob (11:71-72).

Upon my conversion, Hajar’s character helped me understand the meaning of sacrifice. She devoted her life and her energy to believing in Allah’s plan, Ibrahim’s prophethood and Ismail’s destiny. Yet she was not a passive observer or an accidental character. Her sacrifices shaped many of Islam’s rituals today, and brought along the promise of life through the well of Zamzam in the middle of an empty desert.

As a character, Hajar is a woman who is given limited room to make choices, as she is primarily the object of Sarah and Prophet Ibrahim’s decisions. Once she is given the chance, however, Hajar shows that she has it in her to sacrifice her life for that of her son. Running back and forth between the two mountains of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa while Ismail sits and waits in between, Hajar proves that sacrifice comes in many shapes and forms, and that we are all tested according to our own situations and capabilities.

Her actions show us that her success depends on her strength, her patience and her willingness to trust Allah. By doing that, she sacrifices her own life and everything she previously knew to give her son a chance to fulfil his destiny. For me, Hajar’s sacrifice is more than merely a motherly instinct. It is clear acceptance of her circumstances and willingness to take on the challenge.

The well of Zamzam
The well of Zamzam is situated in the compound of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. It is believed by most Muslims to have sprung at the moment when Hajar was desperate for water to give to her son in the valley between Safa and Marwa.The well continues to flow today. It is protected behind glass panels in Masjid al-Haram, and its water is pumped throughout the compound to fountains and dispensing containers. The water is available for free, and cannot be commercially exported from Saudi Arabia. It is believed to have spiritual and curative properties by many Muslims around the world.

While I have experienced few difficulties as a new Muslim, Hajar’s actions remind me of the importance of accepting one’s circumstances even while changing them. Her example calls me to put my challenges into perspective and accept them as small sacrifices that are part of a bigger plan. Despite the problems that we all face once in a while, conscious sacrifices enhance our faith and are rewarded in different ways.

As Muslims prepare to perform the hajj, one of the biggest symbolic sacrifices of all, I encourage you to remember Hajar, and her story. Let this hajj be a time filled with the spirit of sacrifice that Hajar brought to life by protecting her child, seeking the means to feed him and finally raising him as a prophet. And for those who are unable to perform hajj, do not forget that every little challenge is a source of sacrifice, and a direct link to Allah’s divine plan.


This article originally appeared in the October 2013 Gratitude issue of Aquila Style magazine. You can read the entire issue free of charge on your iPad or iPhone via the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android tablet or smartphone via Google Play

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