The walls comfort us. Our gadgets are our nerve endings into the Universe. Loved ones are always nearby: within reach or a click or a phone call away. Imagine for a moment that there was nothing and that there was no one there. No one. You cannot update your facebook status from there either: “Help! I am alone in the desert. I am going to die!” What would that moment of absolute loneliness do to you? How would you react? Would the desolation from within make the emptiness of your soul more stark? Or would you feel at peace? Would you find Allah close in that helpless, homeless state? More importantly as you stood in that desolate wilderness, with your soul exposed where would you stand with Allah? There was one who was left alone and she was marked out by Allah as a remarkable individual by the sheer strength of her will power and the bewildering beauty of her eeman.
Hajrah is not completely alone in the desert though. There are two others on the deserted scene. But one of them is rapidly vanishing from sight. As the hot winds swirl little eddies of sand through her clothes and sting her eyes, she strains to see the speck disappearing over the horizon. I wonder if tears rolled down her cheeks or was she too resolute to let them flow? The warm bundle in her arms squirms and gurgles and draws her back to the reality of her plight.
Did she think of running after him? She had followed him initially and asked, “O Ibraheem! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” But he continued walking away. Realizing that Ibraheem would not leave them needlessly, she asked, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,”
It is important to understand that she choose to remain in that uninhabited and unforgiving terrain as an act of obedience to Allah. She could have followed him all the way home. He was Ibraheem aleyhi salaam ‘awwahun haleem,’ he would not have pushed her away. Allah subhanwatala testifies to the tenderness of his character:
But she understood the meaning of ‘We hear and we obey’ in a way that we can only imagine. This was a woman who had truly submitted her will to the Will of the Creator. So as her beloved husband disappeared, she stood her ground in the shifting sands and trusted that Allah would not neglect her and her child.
As the dates and water that Ibraheem had left for her ran out, and baby Ismail started to cry from hunger, she began running between the hills of Safa and Marwa. Why did she run between the hills? Why did she run so many times? Once she had looked over Safa and Marwa once she did not sit down and mope and wail, “Why did I have to marry this pious husband? How come Sara gets to stay at home?” The truth is that she was an extraordinarily determined woman with amazing insight. She understood that the help of Allah comes but one must strive for it. Even if that striving means running between hills in the middle of a desert when there is absolutely no hope.
She was not aware that Ibraheem alayhi salaam did help his family in the best possible manner. He paused when he was out of sight and made the dua,
She was not aware that the Angel Jibrail would precede the humans in coming to their aid.
In that suffocating seclusion the only sound was the rustling of her clothes as she rushed anxiously from Safa to Marwa and back and the agonizing cries of a starving child. “When she reached Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam Zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”
We still reach out our hands to drink the Zam Zam that first flowed through her fingers. Its blessing and bounty brought with it people and eventually the establishment of the city of Mecca. The story of Hajrah’s homelessness ends there. Then it is the story of Ismail and Ibraheem and the Kaabah and Hajj. It is the story of millions who make hajj annually. It is our story as we run between the hills of Safa and Marwa. We walk on the cold marble floors, surrounded by millions of people, with Zam Zam flowing freely around us and we try to aspire to her stature, but we can’t. With all the knowledge we have we cannot recapture the power of her presence in that desolate wilderness. For her is the unique honor of having millions of men and women retrace her footsteps upon the command of the Creator. As we walk between Safa and Marwa we are forced to ask ourselves, “She believed with certainty. Do you?”
· Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583