The Hajj, a spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims who are physically or economically able once in their lifetime.
Most western Christians know much more about the annual pilgrimage known as the Super Bowl than we do about the Hajj, one of the five pillars’ or sacred requirements of Islam. The Islamic traditions of the Hajj are based partially on the passages in Genesis and part on the Koran. (Sura 22 of the Koran is titled Al-Hajj).
In Genesis, we are told that at Sarah’s insistence, Abraham reluctantly sent Hagar and Ishmael into the Negev Desert. They would have had no chance of survival without God’s intervention.
In the Genesis account, Hagar continues as far as she can until she runs out of water. Facing the death of her son, she places him under a bush and moves away so that she will not see his suffering. She is then roused by some message and finds a spring she had not seen before. She was able to offer her son, Ishmael, water and they survived. The location is believed to be at present day Mecca in Saudi Arabia. As promised by God, Ishmael lived to become the father of a great nation the Arabs.
Although neither Hagar nor Ishmael are mentioned in this portion of the Koran, Abraham accompanies his second wife and firstborn son to the same location, where he leaves them with minimal provisions. Running out of water and in desperation, the woman (Hagar) runs seven times back and forth between two hills separated by about 400 yards. The hills are called Safa and Marwah and are known as signs of God in the Koran.
Realizing that her desperate quest for water was hopeless, Hagar turned everything over to God. God provided. The boy (Ishmael) struck his heel to the ground and a spring came forth. This well or spring, known as Zamzam, still provides water today.
As a part of their Hajj pilgrimage, Muslims still make the seven passages between the sites of the two hills as a symbol and in remembrance of Hagar’s complete faith in God.
The two hills are now located inside the perimeter of the Great Sacred Mosque located in Mecca. Over 2 million pilgrims make the pilgrimage to Mecca each year. To those of us in the west, we know about this massive pilgrimage more from the casualties that take place as the faithful rush to the Kaaba, established by Abraham and Ishmael according to Islamic belief. We’ll talk more about that in a future blog.
Although she is not named in the Koran, the Egyptian maidservant Hagar is central to the history and traditions of Islam.
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