All women will love this story of Hajar, the maidservant of Sara. However, it will especially speak to the Muslim or Christian woman who is struggling with rejection or feeling abandoned. The message of Allah’s love, for each woman, is clearly told.
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- Jamile Mansour Al-Kindi
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A Spring of Promise
Copyright © 2018 GC WM
Hajar – A Spring of Promise
Authored by Jamile Mansour Al-Kindi
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Illustrations by Carlos Seribelli and Paula Lobo
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A Spring of Promise
“Is this what it feels like to die?” Hajar collapsed on the burning sand, hopeless sobs wracking her body. No tears flowed from her beautiful eyes. Her body had no more moisture to spare. Hajar and her son had drunk the last drops of water and now, abandoned in the desert, awaited their last moments. “What did I do wrong? Oh, Allah, hear me—!”
Sprawled upon the ground, Hajar’s desperate, screaming mind replayed the events of the last years over and over again. Born and raised in Egypt, she remembered her first encounter with the strange foreigners who came in a long caravan. The noble, broad-shouldered prophet Ibrahim led his tribe with an air of dignity, but nothing could hide the fact that these strangers were different—they wore foreign clothing, spoke a strange language, and Hajar heard rumors that they worshipped only one God. Events had transpired quickly, and almost before she could comprehend the new twist of fate, Hajar left Egypt with Ibrahim’s tribe—becoming a maidservant to his wife, Sara.
Life serving Sara had been good—pleasant, even. Ibrahim and Sara owned hundreds of servants, and treated them with respect and fairness. Those early days had been memorable. In that time, Hajar never would have predicted that one day she would be rejected and sent away to die in the wilderness.
It all began because of a baby.
Crumpled on the mercilessly hot sand, panting with thirst, Hajar couldn’t help but replay for the millionth time the day Sara had come, requesting that Hajar bear a child for her. Sara carried herself with regal grace, conscious of her status as the only wife of Ibrahim, leader of one of the most powerful nomadic tribes in Canaan. Her face was still beautiful, though framed with gray hair and lined with age. Everyone knew that Ibrahim’s ardent devotion to her had prevented him from taking a second wife, though she had failed to bear even a single child. But lately, attitudes had been changing. In a vision, Allah had promised to send Ibrahim a son that would be father to a great nation. Sara, fearing that her age would prevent the fulfillment of the promise, requested Hajar to become a second wife to Ibrahim.
Ah, how everything had changed so rapidly! Leaving the servants’ quarters with her few possessions—a few items of clothing, a small pot of kohl—she entered a new, private tent, erected for her to share with Ibrahim. Immediately, her status within the group shifted. No longer Hajar, the handmaid of Sara, now she was Hajar, the second wife of Ibrahim. A different maid carried the basins she had once borne and now the servants bowed their heads respectfully when she happened to pass them in the camp.
Then she had become pregnant. Gossip erupted among the servants and relatives: how could Hajar become pregnant almost immediately, while Sara had been wed for decades to Ibrahim without the slightest hint of fertility? Had Allah caused Sara to be barren? Hajar heard the discussions and joined them with a heady rush of pride. Allah had taken her, a lowly maid, and lifted her up, soon to be the mother of a powerful nation. The feeling of triumph was electrifying.
Then came the counter-rumors from Sara’s side. Since Hajar was Sara’s legal property, the child would belong to her mistress. Hajar was only a surrogate mother, a nameless body who could materialize a baby for Sara’s bosom to embrace. Hajar felt the blow keenly. As a mistress, Sara could demand Hajar’s time and labor, but she felt that no one had the right to take the fruit of her body! She knew she should cherish feelings of pity for Sara and should try to seek for peace, but in her heart, she began to thoroughly despise her mistress.
A Deathly Feud
Ironically, though both women feared Allah, a horrible feud began between them. Bitter words were exchanged, threats were made, and on one occasion Hajar’s desperation became so intense that she ran away. She remembered the angel that had met her in the wilderness and advised her to return and bide her time submissively under Sara. “For you will bear a son and name him Isma’il,” the angel said, “Allah has seen your affliction, and will make your son a great nation.” Clinging to the angel’s promise, Hajar had returned and given birth to the promised Isma’il. Great rejoicing attended his birth, for now Ibrahim had an heir.
Hajar felt secure for some time until the sudden, astonishing news: Sara was pregnant. Sara? Pregnant? The camp buzzed with gossip again. Impossible! But it really was true, a miracle from Allah. Sara gave birth to a son, Ishaaq—and the bitter feud began to boil once again. Who would be Ibrahim’s heir: the firstborn, or the son of his favorite wife? It was Sara who, in a bold, irresistible stroke of power, demanded that Hajar and Isma’il be banished from the camp. No questions were asked. Reconciliation was impossible—Sara insisted they be exiled.
Allah appeared to Ibrahim in a vision and assured him that this was His plan. He would make two great, innumerable nations from both of his sons. For now, though, they must be separated. Tearfully, but with faith in Allah’s plan, Ibrahim embraced Hajar and Isma’il, gave them water and a bit of food, and sent them away.
They had wandered in the desert for days, exhausted, hopeless and dangerously dehydrated. After the last drops of water ran out, Hajar rolled young Isma’il under a scraggly bush where he could at least have a cool shadow during his dying moments. Wailing in anguish, she collapsed on the sand a little distance away, thinking to herself, Let me not see the death of my child. In every direction, nothing met her eyes but dry, sandy wilderness. The glaring sun overhead gave no indication of relenting. In wretched, clawing suspense, she wept, waiting to die.
A Voice of Promise
Suddenly, Hajar heard a strong, ringing voice. “Hajar, what is wrong?” She froze in wonderment; in the barren stretches of wilderness she could see no one, but the voice came clearly to her ears. “Don’t be afraid,” the invisible speaker continued, “Allah has heard the voice of your boy. Get up, pick up your child and hold him, for I will make him a great nation.” At the sound of these words, Hajar’s body coursed with new energy again: she may have been expelled by her rival, but she had not been forsaken by Allah!
Rising from the place of her tears, Hajar wiped her eyes and smiled resolutely. Allah would provide, even if she could see no immediate solution. She scanned the horizon again, as she had done many times before. Still, she saw no sign of any source of help: no caravan, no tribal settlement, no faraway oasis that promised the needed source of water. The words rang in her ears: I will make him a great nation! She kept looking, clinging to the promise with every desperate thread of her being. I will make him a great nation! If Allah had promised to make her beloved Isma’il a great nation, He must provide water! Allah, in His great and magnificent power, could provide in any way He desired: Hajar looked up to the sky—would the cloudless, desert sky begin to rain? She looked to the horizon—would pelicans fly to them from a distant oasis with water in their pouches? She looked to the ground—would the earth open up to share its deep bounties of hidden sustenance?
Her heart beat faster—what was that trickling sound? She ran towards her child, where the sound issued forth. There, upon the ground she had traversed and gazed upon many a time, a tiny well of water bubbled up from the ground. With a shout of joy, Hajar threw herself to the sand and gazed into the clear fountain. Touching her fingers first to the water and then to her lips, she tasted the pure, sweet water, as if it had flowed directly from the throne of Allah. Rapidly filling her water flask, she brought it to Isma’il’s parched lips and helped him to drink. Allah had opened her eyes just at the last moment: they were saved!
It’s beautiful to notice that even before Hajar discovered the well of life-giving water, Allah reiterated His two-fold promise to her: her son would become father of a great nation, and also she, Hajar, was greatly beloved in the sight of Allah. Not many women can say they have received messages from the angels of Allah. Maryam, mother of Isa al-Masih, was another woman who received an angelic message, but most of us do not have neighbors or friends that hear God’s words through an angel. This is something extremely rare and special. Hajar stands as a special woman, beloved by Allah, who yet represents millions of women throughout history.
Promises for Today
Many women today can identify closely with Hajar’s struggles. She was not the only woman to be rejected, hated, and driven from her home. There continue to be women who struggle against feeling unappreciated in their communities and even among their own families. The promise given to these women is the same that came clearly to Hajar: “Don’t be afraid. Allah has heard your voice. Get up and be strong! I have a beautiful future for you if you just trust in Me.”
Sometimes the future looks bleak and dry, a desert with no water. You might be feeling the encroaching pangs of emotional death. Rejection, abandonment, and relational strife seem to have strangled the joy of life out of you. Maybe you have already given up; you’ve thrown your “son”—whatever it is that makes life meaningful to you—under a bush in despair, hopelessly convinced that you must give up on everything. But don’t do that. Not yet. If you listen carefully, there’s a voice calling out to bruised and wounded women, a voice that has echoed throughout the long corridors of history. Don’t be afraid.
Will you, like Hajar, trust Allah with your future, even in times when you feel alone, unappreciated and misunderstood? Will you let Him unfold His beautiful plans for your life? He’s saying to you now: “Don’t be afraid. I have heard your voice. Get up and be strong! I have a beautiful future for you if you just trust in Me.”
In the eyes of her abuser, Hajar was only a slave — but Allah saw her as the mother of a great nation. In this narrative, the mother of Prophet Ismail finds recognition, honor, and validation as her life is snatched back from the brink of death.
More stories from the Tawrat and Injeel:
Abigail / Jochabed / Naomi / The Woman at the Well
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