Two of Prophet Ibrahim’s wives are alluded to in the Qur’an. They are Sarah and Hajjar, may Allah be pleased with them all. The Bible says he had at least one other wife named Keturah.
She was the mother of the people of Midian and we mentioned her when we discussed the story of Prophet Shuayb. However, this article is only about Sarah and Hagar.
Some of the information we’re going to cover is definitely in the Quran. But the truth is that the Hadith give us much more detail about these two women.
Additionally, we will also refer to the Bible to fill in some gaps. Just keep in mind, that we take a special approach when it comes to discussing history from the Bible.
We cannot accept any Biblical accounts that reject the Quran and authentic Hadiths. That’s an absolute no-no.
But there are many things in the Bible that do neither oppose nor support what is in the Quran and Hadiths. For these things, we first turn to established historical and scientific fact.
Obviously, if any Biblical verses contradict history and science, then we must leave that alone as well. That is not a religious obligation; that is just common sense.
But if the Biblical accounts do not contradict Islam, and it do not contradict history and science, but there is no proof of it one way or the other, then we neither reject it nor accept it.
We may consider it as a possibility. But otherwise, we simply say “Allah knows best.”
Prophet Abraham’s (Ibrahim) first wife was named Sarah. The Bible says she was his half-sister. This is something we’re going to reject. It is not appropriate that a Prophet of Allah would commit incest with his own sister.
The name Sarah means “Princess” in Hebrew.
We mentioned in the article about Prophet Lot and the People of Sodom how Lot, Sarah, and Ibrahim fled Babylon after they tried to burn Ibrahim alive.
Somewhere along the way, as they traveled throughout the Levant, Lot was called by Allah to preach to the people of Sodom. Meanwhile, Prophet Ibrahim and Sarah continued on to Egypt.
Both the Hadith and the Bible mention a story where a king in Egypt tried to rape Sarah. The hadith can be found here.
Basically, when Ibrahim and Sarah entered the land, they learned that the king would capture any women traveling in his territory and kill her husband. To avoid this, Ibrahim pretended to be her brother.
The king still captured Sarah and then tried to take advantage of her. But every time he approached her, he was struck with a seizure of some sort.
Finally, after being hit with the seizure three times, he decided it would be best to let Sarah go about her business. As recompense, he gave her a female slave of his named Hagar (Hajjar in Arabic).
So now it was three of them, Ibrahim, Sarah, and Hajjar, traveling through the Levant. They eventually settled in what is now modern day Palestine.
Over the years, Sarah remained barren and did not give birth to any children. As she was getting older, she suggested Ibrahim have a child with her slave Hajjar.
The result of this union of Ibrahim and Hajjar was his first son, Ismail who would also become a Prophet of Allah.
The Bible mentions that tension grew between these two wives of Ibrahim as Sarah was jealous of Hajjar having a son. The Islamic tradition also holds that Hajjar had to use a girdle to cover her footsteps from Sarah.
Eventually, Allah commanded Ibrahim to send Hajjar and their son Ismail away into the desert of Arabia. This seems to have been before Sarah received the news of her own son Ishaaq (Isaac).
Hajjar and Mecca
Ibrahim took Hajjar and Ismail, who was still a baby, to a valley in the western part of the Arabian Peninsula known as Bakkah. The Bible says this area was known as Paran.
At first, Hajjar was reluctant about being left alone in this barren desert. But when she learned this was the decree of Allah, she accepted it.
Ibrahim left her there with a few provisions, but eventually she ran out of water. So she began searching for water between the two mountains of this valley called Saffa and Marwah.
She ran between these two mountains a total of seven times in her search for water. This is commemorated in the Muslim Hajj ritual of Sa’ee where the pilgrims do something very similar, albeit in much more comfortable conditions.
While she was running for water, she left her baby behind in the valley. He was near death and she didn’t want to see him suffer. But then she heard a noise coming from where she had left him.
She looked back to see an angel near Ismail either tapping on the ground with its foot, or digging in the sand with the tip of its wing.
She ran back to the baby, and where the angel had been before, was now a spring of water gushing up from the sand.
The water was coming out so fast, Hajjar had a difficult time containing it. She tried to build a barrier of sorts using the sand as she cried out “Zom! Zom!” meaning “Stop! Stop!”
Now that she had enough water to care for herself, Hajjar settled in the valley. Eventually the water attracted bugs, animals, and birds.
Some Bedouins from the tribe of Jurhum were traveling nearby when they saw the birds flying in the distance. They knew these birds were attracted to water, but they also knew there was no water in this area.
They went to investigate and found Hajjar near the spring of Zamzam with her son Ismail. They asked for permission to stay which she granted but insisted they could not have ownership of the well.
And this began the settlement of Mecca.
Birth of Ishaaq
Back in Palestine, Ibrahim was still living with Sarah who was still childless. However, that was soon to change.
A couple of angels visited Ibrahim and Sarah and informed them of their dual mission.
One mission was to give them the news of their son Ishaaq. The other mission was to destroy the People of Sodom.
The Quran mentions how Sarah laughed when she heard this news. Scholars are divided as to whether she was laughing at the news of the birth or the news of the destruction of Sodom.
Eventually, Sarah did give birth to Ishaaq, which in Hebrew is Yitzhak. This means “He is laughing.”
Several years later, Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son. Most Muslims say that the son to be sacrificed was Ismail, and there is evidence of this in the Bible as well.
However, there is a small group of Muslims who say Ishaaq was to be sacrificed. The Quran does not confirm either one, but Islamic tradition holds that it was Ismail.
Jews, naturally unanimously say it was Isaac. This event in their tradition is called “Akedah.”
Whichever son it was, the Islamic tradition also mentions how the mother of the boy, whether it was Sarah or Hajjar, was approached by the Devil. He suggested that she dissuade Ibrahim from sacrificing her son.
However, due to her strong faith in Allah’s decree, she rejected the devil’s suggestions and instead, threw a rock at him.
There is no evidence in either the Quran or Sunnah about the deaths of these two women. Nonetheless, it is believed by many Muslims that Hajjar was buried under or near the Kaaba.
Once agan, Allah knows best.