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19 April 2021

Hajar (as) and the Miracle of Zamzam

Safa Faruqui
Hajar (as) and the Miracle of Zamzam

Every Monday in Ramadan 2021, we'll be sharing a Story of Hope from the Qur'an and Sunnah with you. Follow us on social media or subscribe to our email newsletter (enter your email on the left) to receive these inspirational stories straight to your inbox!

Our first Story of Hope was about Prophet Sulaiman (as). This week, we're telling the story of Hajar (as), the mother of Ismail (as), and how Allah (swt) sent her the gift of water in the middle of the desert. What lessons can we draw from the life of Hajar (as) and the miracle of Zamzam?

1. Hajar's background

Hajar (as) was the second wife of Prophet Ibrahim (as). He and his first wife, Sarah (as), had been unable to have children for many years, as they carried the message of Allah through the land of Shaam (Greater Syria).

When Ibrahim (as) and Sarah (as) were both very old, they would eventually be blessed with a son named Prophet Ishaq (as). In fact, the news of this birth would be brought to Sarah (as) by angels [The Noble Qur'an, 11:71]! But the couple had no idea that this baby lay in their future, and Sarah (as) did not want Ibrahim (as) to grow old without children.

So, while they were living in Egypt, she suggested that Ibrahim (as) should marry her servant Hajar (as). Thus, Ibrahim (as) was finally gifted with his first child: Prophet Ismail (as).

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'If Allah wills good for someone, He afflicts them with trials'. [Bukhari]

Allah tests the people whom He loves, and Ibrahim (as) was so beloved to Allah that he was nicknamed Khalil, or intimate friend. Allah had already sent him many tests: his father's rejection of him, his people's persecution of him, the test of being displaced and the difficulty of not having children.

Now, Ibrahim (as) would be tested with his beloved and long-awaited child - and Hajar (as) would also experience this immense test.

2. Alone in the desert

The story of how Ibrahim (as) left Hajar (as) in the desert is well-known, but it is emotional every time we hear it! It is truly astonishing what both of them were willing to do for Allah's sake.

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Ibrahim (as) travelled to Bakkah (known today as Makkah), which was the site of the Ka'bah. At the time of the Prophet (saw), Makkah was flourishing; the Quraish were the custodians of the Ka'bah, respected throughout Arabia, and they grew prosperous through the trade of their winter and summer caravans. But when Ibrahim (as) brought his wife and son there, Makkah was an empty desert. No one had settled there, nor was there any water.

Ibn Abbas (ra) narrated, 'He (Ibrahim) made them sit over there (near the Ka'bah) and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and he set out homeward. Ismail's mother followed him saying, "O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there any thing (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do?" He said, "Yes". She said, "Then He will not neglect us", and returned, while Ibrahim proceeded onwards…' [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

SubhanAllah, it is impossible to imagine both the strength of Ibrahim (as) in walking away, and the absolute trust of Hajar (as) when she realised it was a command from Allah. She did not hesitate for a second in surrendering to His plan. Without any doubt that He would take care of them, she turned and walked back to her spot next to the Ka'bah, to a pouch of dates and a few drinks of water, and sat down beside her baby, completely certain that Allah would never abandon her.

Allah says, 'And whoever puts their trust in Allah, then He will suffice him' [The Noble Qur'an, 65:3] - and the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, He would provide for you just as He provides for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs and return full'. [Tirmidhi]

Hajar (as) truly believed that Allah was sufficient for her and that He would provide for her, just as He provides for birds. She knew that, although she and Ismail (as) appeared to be alone in the desert, Allah was actually close by.

3. Safa and Marwa

So what happened after Ibrahim (as) left Hajar (as)?

Ibn Abbas (ra) narrated, 'Ismail's mother went on suckling Ismail and drinking from the water. When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him tossing in agony - and she left him, for she could not endure looking at him. She found that the mountain of As-Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land'. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

Ibn Abbas (ra) continued, 'She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from As-Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, until she crossed the valley and reached the Al-Marwa mountain, where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody'. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

Hajar (as) ran between Safa and Marwa seven times, and each time she searched the desert, expecting to see somebody. SubhanAllah, despite being in the midst of an unsettled and uncultivated desert, she did not lose hope that Allah would send her help.

The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest ties Allah has created. Hajar (as) could not even bear to look at Ismail (as) when he was thirsty, and we cannot imagine the pain she must have felt. Equally, it is impossible to imagine holding onto hope in that situation, and firmly believing that Allah would not neglect them.

But Hajar (as) continued to run between the two mountains, believing her situation would change. It was an act of trust so powerful that the Ummah of Muhammad (saw) commemorate it to this day, every year at Hajj.

4. The miracle of Zamzam

When Hajar (as) had run between the mountains seven times, she heard a voice as she was standing on Marwa. She forced herself to be quiet and she heard the voice again. So she called out, 'You have made me hear your voice, have you got something to help me?'

After calling out, she saw an angel at the place where the Zamzam water well now stands. It was Angel Jibril (as), and he was digging the earth with either his heel or his wing. Hajar (as) was amazed to see water flowing out of the earth! She raced down to the valley and started pushing the earth around the water to make a basin, and then she filled up her water-skin with her hands. As she scooped up the water, it continued to flow, so she said 'Zome, zome', which meant 'Stop, stop' - as she was worried the water would run out!

Angel Jibril (as) said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects his people' [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]. He thus reminded her that, no matter how long they remained in the desert, she could continue to have confidence that Allah would provide for her, just as He had sent her water when she had thought the ground was barren.

SubhanAllah, the Zamzam well continues to provide water to millions of pilgrims every year. And the best of creation (saw) himself prayed for Hajar (as):

5. Allah sends people to Hajar (as)

Of course, even with the life-giving Zamzam water, Hajar (as) and Ismail (as) still had no companions in the desert. But that was soon to change.

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, some people from Bani Jurhum, a Yemeni tribe, were passing through what is now Makkah, when they saw a bird which had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. So they realised that there must be water nearby, even though they had never seen water during the previous journeys to this part of the desert. They sent some scouts to search for it and when the scouts found the Zamzam well, they brought the rest of the group to it.

The Prophet (saw) said, 'Ismail's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, "Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, "Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water". They agreed to that'. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

The Prophet (saw) further added, 'Ismail's mother was pleased with the whole situation, as she used to love to enjoy the company of people'. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

SubhanAllah, the last sentence is especially moving. Remember, Hajar (as) had specifically asked her husband, 'O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy?' She was someone who liked to be around other people, and Allah sent a tribe of people to settle in the middle of the desert so Hajar (as) wouldn't be alone! 

And this was not just any tribe - they were from the people of Yemen, who are so beloved to Allah that He mentions them in the Qur'an:

Thus, Allah sent His beloved people to two of His beloved servants. And even in their first interaction, we can see the pure nature of the people of Bani Jurhum, who asked Hajar (as) for permission before settling in Makkah, and who instantly agreed that she had the rights to the Zamzam well. Despite the fact that she was a woman with no family to back her up and no proven rights to the water, she was completely safe with these blessed people.

Truly, as the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'The people of Yemen have the gentlest minds and softest hearts'. [Ahmad]

This group from Bani Jurhum sent word to their families to come and join them, and they settled as permanent residents in Makkah. Ismail (as) grew up among them and learned Arabic from them and Ibn Abbas (ra) narrates that '(his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up'. [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

This reminds us of the du'a of Ibrahim (as) for his son: 'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in an uncultivated valley by Your Sacred House, in order, O our Lord, that they may establish Salah (prayer). So fill some hearts among people with love towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they might be grateful'. [The Noble Qur'an, 14:37]

Some scholars say Ibrahim (as) made the above du'a when he left Ismail (as) as a baby, while others say it was after building the Ka'bah. It is thus possible that the Bani Jurhum (whose hearts were filled with love towards Ismail) were the answer to this du'a. 

Later, Ismail (as) would marry a woman from Bani Jurhum and he would remain with them even after Hajar (as) had passed away. He and Ibrahim (as) would eventually rebuild the Ka'bah and it would become a sanctuary and an honour for their descendants.

Because of the miraculous Zamzam well, an entire community blossomed in this uncultivated desert, transforming Bakkah into the flourishing city of Makkah, home to the Quraish and eventually the Prophet (saw), and a destination for pilgrims from across the world, until the end of humankind.

6. Lessons from this Story of Hope

Here are just a few things we can learn from Hajar (as) and the gift of Zamzam:

  1. Allah tests those that he loves. We have no doubt that the family of Ibrahim (as) were beloved to Allah, yet they experienced an incredibly painful situation. They were separated for many years, with Hajar (as) raising Ismail (as) alone in an uncultivated desert. This is a reminder to us that our own painful situations are tests which draw us closer to Allah, not signs that Allah has abandoned us.
  2. Even if you can't find a solution, Allah will give you a way out. Hajar (as) ran between Safa and Marwa seven times, each time expecting to see a sign in the empty desert. Her absolute trust in Allah gave her certainty that He would send her a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem.
  3. Trust in Allah - but put in effort yourself. Hajar (as) could not trek across the desert until she found people, nor could she dig the barren ground until she struck water. There was little she could do in that situation to quench her baby's thirst. But she did not limit herself to only making du'a; she also made an effort to help herself, running to the top of two mountains to search for a sign of life.

Before you go, we'd like to invite you to a blessed opportunity this Ramadan.

As we can see from the story of Hajar (as), water is a truly life-saving gift, especially for women and children. Around the Zamzam well, the Bani Jurhum and the tribe of Quraish flourished, and it is into this community that our beloved Prophet (saw) was born.

You can revive a community this Ramadan! By giving safe water, you can improve health, education, livelihoods and agriculture, ultimately saving lives. It is thus an incredible Sadaqah Jariyah, which we should definitely not miss out on this Ramadan!

Our water projects include:

  • Tube Wells: Up to four families will benefit from this safe water source, located next to their homes.
  • Dig-a-Wells: Up to 35 families will benefit, and it will be built in a communal place such as a village centre, school or masjid.
  • Community Wells: It will serve more than 200 families as well as providing enough water for livestock and crops.
  • Yemen Water Wells: This covers the rehabilitation and construction of water wells in blessed Yemen, and it is a project we are particularly honoured to be a part of, as the Yemeni people will be the first to drink from the Prophet's Basin! In fact, he (saw) said, 'Indeed, on the Day of Judgement, I will surely be at the centre of my Basin (Haud) pushing back (other) people for the people of Yemen. I will strike away from it with my staff until it pours upon them (i.e. the people of Yemen)'. [Muslim]

You can set up a monthly payment plan to build a well by calling our team at 0115 911 7222. Or you can give any amount to the Safe Water Fund, to be a part of this life-saving Sadaqah Jariyah!

Muslim Hands is an award-winning charity, established in 1993 to help those needing emergency relief and tackling the root causes of poverty. If you enjoyed this article, check out our Stories of Hope Gift Pack - it's the perfect gift to inspire your child this Ramadan!


Muslim Hands UK

Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an aid agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict and natural disaster in over 20 countries worldwide.