In the Footsteps of Hajar and Mariam

We are a few days away from celebrating Eid al-Adha. It is a day in which we commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice to Allah (swt). Prophet Ibrahim as well as his family were tested with extremely difficult tribulations. His first wife, Sarah, could not bear children until she had become very old and then had her son, Isaac. Prophet Ibrahim was denounced by his own father, thrown into a blazing fire, left his second wife and only son at that time (Ismael) out in the desert, and also had a revelatory dream about sacrificing his son. One thinks about these hardships and our hardships shrink in comparison. Hajar, who was initially a servant to Sarah ended up marrying Prophet Ibrahim after Sarah’s insistence since Sarah was not able to bear any children at the time. Afterward, Allah instructs Prophet Ibrahim to leave Hajar and baby Ismael in a deserted area with no food or water. Prophet Ibrahim made dua for them by saying,

“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivated valley by Your Sacred House (the Kabah at Makkah); in order, O our Lord, that they may stand in prayer, 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, Surah Ibrahim, verse 37)

I cannot even imagine how difficult it was for Prophet Ibrahim to part with his wife and child, but his faith was so unshakable that Allah declares him to be a nation onto himself. When he left Hajar and Ismael, Hajar followed him and asked, “O Ibrahim! To whom are you leaving us?’ He replied, ‘To Allah.” She said, “I am satisfied to be with Allah.”

Wow. She has no shelter, no money, and a child she must care for. However, her faith was strong enough to find comfort in being left in Allah’s care. After the water in her water-skin was depleted, she started to search for people who may help her. Baby Ismael was beginning to cry out of hunger and thirst. Out of desperation, she began to run between two hills, the Marwa and Safa. She knew that Allah would care for them, but she also knew she had to exhaust all her options.

According to the hadith by Ibn Abbas, Angel Jibreel came and “hit the earth with his heel like this (Ibn ‘Abbas hit the earth with his heel to Illustrate it), and so the water gushed out. Ismael’s mother was astonished and started digging. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “If she had left the water, (flow naturally without her intervention), it would have been flowing on the surface of the earth.” Ismael’s mother started drinking from the water and her milk increased for her child. Afterward, some people of the tribe of Jurhum, while passing through the bottom of the valley, saw some birds, and that astonished them, and they said, “Birds can only be found at a place where there is water.” They sent a messenger who searched the place and found the water, and returned to inform them about it. Then they all went to her and said, “O Ismael’s mother! Will you allow us to dwell with you?”(And thus they stayed there.)

She exerted herself as much as she possibly could and relief came to her in the form of water, which is still flowing today and enjoyed by millions in Mecca and Madina. The parallels of Hajar and Mariam (peace be upon both of them) are remarkable. When Mariam conceived Prophet ‘Isa, she went to a far place. She too had left civilization relying only on the care of Allah (swt). When she was in labor, the contractions were so unbearable that Mariam declared,

“Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” (Qur’an, Suraht Mariam, verse 23)

After she had exerted all her efforts, Angel Jibreel declares,

“Grieve not! for your Lord has provided a rivulet beneath you; And shake the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool your eye,” (Ibid, 24-26)

Even though Mariam was feeling so much pain and going through this whole process by herself, Allah wanted her to go a little further by shaking the date tree. She, like Hajar, was rewarded with water (as well as dates). These two women are prime examples for us. Sometimes, when we think we are about to suffocate with problems, we just have to dig a little deeper, push a little further, run a bit faster, and we find the mercy of Allah descending upon us.

Today, Muslims from around the world every single day of the year, and especially during the time of Hajj, run between the Safa and Marwa emulating the footsteps of Hajar (may Allah be pleased with her).

Today, millions of expecting moms listen and recite Suraht Mariam (may Allah be pleased with her), and we proudly declare her to be the best woman of all time.

All praise is due to God who gives us beautiful examples of both men and women striving for His cause and seeking only His protection.

Marwa Aly
Marwa Aly is a mother to one lovely toddler and currently serves as a university Muslim chaplain. She occasionally blogs at, where this post was originally published.
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