One of my favourite posts to date is a story I wrote to commemorate Hagar’s struggle to find water in the desert.
I made the argument that under the pomp and circumstance associated with Abraham, the importance of the sacrifice and the religious weight of the Hajj season, she is often overlooked despite the fact that she is one of the most important women in Islamic history. She found the very well that allowed Mecca to flourish and become the centre of the Muslim world. Through her keen management sense and power she established a thriving community. She is the only woman to have a religious rite attributed to her life story. And it’s her womb to which Muslims trace their lineage.
She deserves more than passing acknowledgments. It’s rare to find just one piece out of the dozens of gawking, interfaith, revering, Islam 101 or cultural curiosity media coverage published at this time, that will actually mention her. Rarer still to hear her life mentioned at the mosque outside of the Hajj season, or without being overshadowed by her prophetic and revered husband.
Since writing that piece, I’ve heard wonderful sermons extolling the virtues of her patience and faith and personal accounts of friends — men and women — returning from Hajj 2010 who were told to truly reflect on Hagar and what she symbolises as they made their jog, completing the ancient rite by reenacting her search for water.
Now that Hajj is starting this week Friday insha’Allah, I’d love to hear more. Leave your thoughts, suggestions or finds in the comments.
Here’s an exert from my original piece:
The only sounds breaking the silence were of their feet grinding against the rough sand, an occasional gurgle from the baby at her breast, and the faint tinkling of her leisso. As her husband led them deep into the Paran wilderness, she removed her girdle — a colourful, woven cloth secured tightly to support her core as she recovered from the birth of her son. But tied loosely around her waist, dragging behind her, the leisso’s decorative beads bounced and chimed against the ground, covering their footprints. “If that barren woman wants me out of her home, then I’m surely not showing her where we’ve gone.”
After some time crossing a plain between two rocky hills, her husband stopped near a gathering of shrubbery and a lonely sarha tree. He unloaded a sack of dates from his back and untied her leather skin water jug from his waist. He set them down neatly at the tree’s base and turned to kiss her forehead. Before she could say anything he walked away.
At first she thought he was going to go meditate and wanted her to rest. So she removed the baby from his sling and held him while she sat down on the rough ground, took a sip of water and surveyed her surroundings. A tree. The two rocky hills. No people. No settlements. Nothing. There was nothing here.
The nothing stretched out in every direction meeting the horizon wherever she looked. In the distance two dust devils danced in a light wind — their dance made languid by shimmering heat waves rising from the ground. The oppressive silence surrounded her. Panic settled in when she glanced back at her husband disappearing in the distance and realized he was walking home. She untied the leisso and made a quick nest for the baby.
Running after her husband she shouted frantically, “where are you going? There is nothing in this forsaken valley! Stop!” Then, as realization of her situation set in, “To whom are you leaving us?” He slowed, and then stopped. His shoulders were slumped as if in pain. When he turned his head to reply, she thought she heard his voice break. “To God.”