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Dhul Hijjah: The Story of Hajar and Divine Acceptance

by Musa Bukhari

Sabr (Patience) vs. Rida (Divine Acceptance)

Sabr is to restrain one’s negative emotions in the face of hardship or affliction so as not to upset Allah by contesting His decree. When the Prophet (SAW)’s son, Ibrahim, died in infancy, he (SAW) cried profusely. The Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with all of them) expressed surprise at his tears and the Prophet (SAW) replied, “The heart is sad and the eyes shed tears, but we only say that which pleases Allah.”

This was a prime example of how the Prophet (SAW) showed beautiful sabr in a time of sadness and hardship. He accepted Allah’s decree and had rida (acceptance) over it, but it was his humanness that caused the tears to flow from his eyes. He did not become stoic and unfeeling; rather, he (SAW) showed us that it’s okay to feel and cry, but it is not okay to make complaints against Allah and express discontent at His decree.

Ibrahim (A) and Hajar’s Conversation

Ibrahim (A)’s life was filled with trials and tests. And it wasn’t just him that was tested–it was his family too. Hajar’s story (may Allah be pleased with her) is one of the most powerful stories in our tradition. It is a story of strength and perseverance. And it teaches us everything we need to know about tawakkul in Allah and having rida (acceptance) over what Allah decreed.

Hajar (A) was Ibrahim (A)’s young wife and they had an infant son. Her source of provision and safety was her husband, Ibrahim (A). This is the situation that many of us may find ourselves in. We may be reliant upon another human being financially. But Hajar (A) knew that the Ultimate Provider, the True Safety Net, is Allah. He is the One Who feeds us, clothes us, and takes care of our every need—be it physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual. Allah is the One upon Whom we rely on since before birth till after our death, into eternity itself. Our reliance on Him never ends, whether we realize it or not.

When Hajar (A) was being left in the desert by Ibrahim (A), she questioned him,

“Where are you going? Why are you doing this?”

He didn’t answer.

His heart was full of emotion but he could not disobey His Lord so he ignored her questions and kept walking further away. She continued to ask and he continued to ignore her pleas…until she asked a different question. Let’s pause for a moment. First, Hajar was questioning Ibrahim (A) because she, in her humanness, wanted to know why she was being left in a place all by herself, with her baby, without any provisions. She couldn’t wrap her head around why this was happening to her. But then it occurred to her to ask the right question:

“Did Allah ask you to do this?”

SubhanAllah. Her mind focused and settled on Allah. She needed confirmation of whose choice this was.

Ibrahim (A) replied to her, “Yes.”

Her acceptance of the divine decree was present in this powerful statement:

“Then HE will take care of us.”

Hajar’s Response

Hajar (A)’s response contains so many lessons for all of us as believers. She did not complain and whine to Ibrahim (A) about his choice to obey Allah. She did not tell him to stay. She did not pressure him into changing his decision. Once she confirmed that it was indeed Allah who wanted her to be in this position in the desert, she increased in tawakkul and expressed sabr (patience and self-restraint) and rida (acceptance) for her situation. “Then HE will take care of us.”

She let go of the means (her husband). She let go of any expectations of return. She put her trust in Allah and made up her mind to persevere in the situation.

Sabr - what it is and what it is not

Many people think that sabr (patience) means that we must give in to our circumstances and not do anything about it. Many women have unfortunately felt forced to stay in abusive situations as a result. But Allah forbade oppression upon Himself and He forbade it upon us to oppress ourselves or each other. We must not succumb to oppression.

Having sabr is required in situations where we truly cannot change anything like when we are severely ill (while seeking treatment of course, but we cannot control how long it will take to get better) or when someone passes away (because we obviously cannot bring them back).

When it comes to situations we can change, however, WE MUST WORK TO CHANGE THEM. This lesson is one of the most important lessons learned through the story of Hajar (A).

Hajar (A) ran out of the few provisions she had with her and as a result was not able to provide milk for her baby, Isma’il (A). She laid him on the ground and RAN between the hills of Safa and Marwa–not once, not twice, but seven times.

She ran seven times. In the desert heat. Under the sun. Imagine the blisters on her feet. Imagine her baby crying on the ground, waiting to be picked up and nourished. But she ran until Allah sent Angel Jibril (A) who struck his wing under the feet of Isma’il (A) and provided them both with the water of ZamZam.

It was a miracle. It was a gift from Allah as a reward for her rida (acceptance of His Will) and her striving (sa’ee).

Our Whole Life is a Sa’ee (Striving)

When we go to Hajj and Umrah, we cannot complete our pilgrimage without doing Sa’ee (running/walking) between Safa and Marwa 7 times. This is in commemoration of Hajar (A) and her struggle, but it is also a reminder of how we ought to live our lives–seeking and striving for the help of Allah.

Allah says in Surah Al-Balad: “Laqad khalqnal-insaana fee kabad” (We have certainly created man into hardship and struggle). (90:4)

This ayah teaches us the nature of this life: we will always have problems. We will always have to strive to overcome those problems. Some people go through problems over and over without learning anything. This is because they have neither the correct understanding nor the correct response. They just complain as they go from one problem to another.

Others, however, walk in the footsteps of Hajar (A)--literally and figuratively. They embody acceptance (rida) of Allah’s decree and they have firm faith that Allah will help them. And then they strive. They strive with all they have. They struggle. They overcome. And just like Allah rewarded Hajar (A) with the miracle of ZamZam, Allah also gives these people their own ZamZam–the lessons, the perspective, and the gifts.

May Allah make us people who are content in His decree in times of ease and in times of hardship. May Allah protect us from all the trials of dunya and akhirah. May Allah give us the tawakkul and the ridaa of Hajar (A). May Allah keep us and our families and all the Muslims in aafiyah. Ameen.

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