Hajra ASW: The Iron Lady of Islam

By Asma Anjum Khan

As children, we all have read that great civilizations are born near the rivers. Once upon a time, a civilization came walking to a source of water that was founded and preserved by a great woman. Do you know her?

She was Hajra ASW, the (chief) founder and patron of civilization at Makkah, the holiest place in Islam.

When we talk about Eid-ul-Azha, the talk usually revolves around the supreme sacrifice of Prophet Ibraheem. His wife Hajra ASW’s immense contribution towards this great feat of human endurance and patience was no less inspiring. Usually we don’t find as many extensive discussions about her paradigmatic role in this story, as we do about her husband. To begin with, her life was a roller coaster, a series of consistent ups and downs, mostly downs. But, surprisingly, she takes them on with a rare aplomb coupled with an unparalleled quiet grit and determination.

The couple met in the strangest of circumstances. Daughter of a King, she was gifted away to a man who was the father of all the prophets combined, Prophet Ibraheem ASW. He in turn quite promptly presented her in the service of his wife Sarah ASW. Prophet Ibraheem ASW was childless at the time. Sarah ASW being a generous woman asked her husband to marry Hajra, the younger girl, in the hope of an heir. She was not wrong.

The marriage of H. Ibraheem and Hajra ASW brought delight to both of them in the form of Isamel ASW, their first born son. But soon he was ordered to take the mother-son duo to an enchanted desert, where there was not a single human, nor a green leaf, nor a drop of water. This monumental event was the foundation stone for a supreme ibadah.

It is a desert where the sun blazes away angrily, wanting to melt everything that it set its eyes on. As her husband turns away, leaving them behind all alone, she calls him, enquiring where he was leaving them in that God forsaken desert. No response comes along, despite many heartfelt appeals. Prophet Ibraheem ASW didn’t want to look back, lest his heart softens and tends to make amends seeing his wife, his only son abandoned and disobey his Creator.

But Hajra ASW was a wise woman. Quickly modifying her strategy, she asked her husband, loudly:

Is this, Allah’s order? Are you doing this by His command?

Without looking back even once, the answer arrived sharply in the affirmative.

There was no pause. This is important to note.

The simple and plain answer assured her immensely and she replied back,

(In that case) Allah will not cause us any harm. (He will not forsake us.)

In a single statement, she dismissed the cloud of gloom that was hovering over ‘her desert’. She placed her supreme confidence and trust in her Creator. Not a word of complaint, of worry or of doubt.

Just simple and plain faith.

She was patience incarnate.

And look at the circumstances: a humongous desert where there was not a leaf of greenery, nor a drop of water, nor a soul to share a word with. The man she loved most and had married with trust becoming the mother of his child was abandoning her sans any explanation, sans a word. A husband means the entire world for the wife. Hajra ASW saw her loving husband leaving her abruptly. She could see, nay, she saw her husband going away. An ordinary woman would have lost her cool and howl, would think of herself and of her innocent child as the most unfortunate people in the world.

But not Hajra, not her. She didn’t shout, didn’t wail, and certainly didn’t complain.

Her strength was her Creator, who was her whole and sole source of comfort.

A little off the topic; yet related:

We women have a weakness for our husbands. The problem arises, when we place our entire trust in them, who too are weak humans, and when we make our husbands the sole source of our happiness. Sadly, then, we become most vulnerable and trapped in our own pathetic situation. Restlessness, irritability, and general pessimism start becoming the hallmark of our being. We tend to lose our focus, our cool, at the slightest of pretexts, at his slightest breach of protocol or our expectations. Feelings of disappointment and heartbreak gnaw at our heart. A vicious trap. Let’s learn from our mother Hajra and make our Creator our strength. Let’s put our Creator above everything else, also our entire trust in Him and Him alone. Our other relations should be subordinate to Allah, who is our Creator. Our Creator, who also happens to be our sincerest guide, our well-wisher, and everything.

Coming back to the desert, Hajra ASW bids adieu to her husband with a patience that is etched immortal in the annals of history.

She couldn’t even mourn her loss. Where did she have the time? She had to attend to her young child. She focused on the situation at hand, instead of cribbing about heat, thirst, and discomfort. She tended to her infant, most lovingly. Here we can see her as a mother ready to make any sacrifice for her offspring. Her persona is seen primarily as a mother. But for me the aspect of her persona that is most remarkable is her staunch belief. Her trust in Allah could not be shaken, even by the worst of situations. Not even abandonment and putting up into a lonely desert could deter her from the right path of worshipping One God. Doubts didn’t dare come near her. But her ordeal had just begun. When the water she had started getting depleted, she became desperate. When water, the biggest nymah/blessing of God, finished completely, one expected her to lose her hope. But she was Hajra ASW; she didn’t lose heart. And the greatest of all, her trust and hope in her Creator didn’t wane a bit, even for a second. She was unrelenting in her effort. She didn’t sit idle beside her thirsty child, weeping, wailing, and ruing her fate, cursing her husband for having put her into this situation, like most of us women might do. Instead, she put up a fierce struggle to better her situation.

Our mother Hajra was not among those who sit idle, doing nothing, and just wishing for their lot to improve or ordeal to end. She was a woman of action, a fighter. Being very anxious to save her infant son Ismael from possible death, our mother began searching for help to quench his thirst. Caravans passed through the desert, which might have provided her the elixir – a few drops of water. There were two small mountains around. She ran up to one and climbed it hurriedly, looking for help. Not once, nor twice, she ran between them seven times. Her desperation, her panic, and her alarm were to be seen to be believed. Her Creator, who was watching, loved her effort because it reflected her trust in Him until the last moment. He loved it so much that he ordered it to be made part of the greatest of ibadah for the Muslims, the hajj pilgrimage.

The world, sometimes, seems to have tuned out her part in the lore of Ismael, wholly, but her Creator didn’t.

The Creator never fails to grant the wishes of those, who place their total trust in Him and stay firm like a rock on it. Jibaraee’l ASW, the leader of all the angels was sent over to help this mother. When the angel, it is said, shoved his feet on the dry sand, water bubbled out in a gush. A miracle had just happened. Our mother in her delighted excitement called out to the water, asking it to stop flowing, at once. And it did. Apprehensive of the water getting drained away, she uttered those immortal words, Zam-zam. Her little hands rushed forward, to secure the water, and build a tenuous sand wall around it. She had the presence of mind, even in those tremendous nerve-wrecking moments, where humans usually collapse. She was sharp enough to safeguard the water with her little hands and barricade the new aquatic spring.

As she didn’t forget and trusted her Creator, He, in return, didn’t forget her and help was sent to her via the leader of all the angels.

Tell me, which woman gets the honor of being visited by Jibaraee’l ASW? The same Jibra’eel, who brought revelation to the Prophets and messengers. Our mother Hajra ASW was highly regarded by the Creator for her patience, determination, and positive thinking, so that He sent over the king of all angels, Jibraee’l ASW, himself for saving her and her child from a terrible fate of lonely death by thirst in the desert.

One more honor was yet to come her way. She would lay the foundation of a new city at the same place, where she was once abandoned along with her young child. That city was named Bakkah [Makkah], where even the proudest of the people bowed their heads and the hardest of egos were broken. This would become the safest place of dwelling all over Hijaz/Arab. She allowed a tribe, which was passing by, to benefit from the water. The tribe settled there and the foundation of the holiest site in Islam was laid and the First Home of God was built by the son and husband of our mother Hajra ASW.

Hajj rituals are predicated upon the surrender to Allah’s will by this trinity of the Father, Mother, and the Child. They performed their roles to perfection in tandem and with willing consent of each other. So it’s about shared honours. Abraham the Patriarch anchored the unfolding of the story, while Bibi Hajra provided the locale (helping found Mecca) and the wherewithal (an inexhaustible spring Zam-zam) to sustain life and commemorate the ideal, and Ismael ASW carried the legacy forward.

Let’s re-acknowledge her supreme sacrifice, perseverance, fighting spirit, enduring hope, and her ‘unique’ ability to look at the bigger picture. There is a lot to emulate here, from this iron-willed woman, our mother Hajra ASW.

Dr. Asma Anjum Khan, based in Maharashtra, teaches English. Speaking and writing are a passion with her. She has written for various prestigious national and international publications and websites on social, ethical, and gender related issues. She runs an NGO, FEEL (Foundation for English and Ethical Learning) that wants to bring change by equipping people with the language of English. Twitter: @AsmaAnjumKhan

Disclaimer: Views expressed here are author’s own and don’t reflect the views of Cafe Dissensus.