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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Book Discussion - Hagar, Sarah and their Children
The book for this month's Emerging Women book discussion is Hagar, Sarah, and their Children edited by Phyllis Trible and Letty Russell. The book is a collections of essays, originally presented papers, that examine the stories of Hagar and Sarah from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Feminist, and Womanist perspectives. I fully admit that the book was a dense read, but I found in it numerous treasures to ponder and new perspectives to consider. As Russell mentions, "There is a a long tradition of interpretation through rewriting. For instance, the church fathers followed Paul in using allegory to look for a deeper meaning of the story relevant to issues in their own times. Jewish writers made use of midrash in order to interpret the story with a new story. Claiming descent from Abraham and Ishmael for the tribes of the Arabian peninsula, the hadith or collected saying of Muhammad and his companions emphasized Hagar's role as pioneering woman and mother of the faith. Similar patterns of retelling the story are used by feminists of all three faiths as they reflect on their faith traditions, seeking ways to reconcile the two mothers."

Having grown up in the conservative evangelical church, my exposure to the stories of Hagar and Sarah were limited and from a certain narrow perspective. I appreciated the overview Trible and Russel gave in chapter 1 of the various uses and interpretations of their stories. It is a wide tradition and Sarah and Hagar have been pushed into a variety of molds over the centuries. Many of the essays in this collected shocked me as they told how the story had been twisted over time. I found too that reading essays from a theological perspective that assumes a priori very different assumptions about the Bible than I was used to was a refreshing experience. Encountering and growing from this wide range of traditions has been a blessing.

I'm not entirely sure how to jump into this particular discussion. I have a feeling that it is a very small group that read the book this time, but as always the conversation is open to all. And while the book is packed with fantastic details that all deserve exploration, I've decided to limit my initial questions to a few more application oriented ones. Feel free to take this conversation wherever you would like, but here are a few questions to get us started.

1. The personal question. What did you like about the book, what didn't you like? What did you learn? What detail, quote, or story stood out to you?

2. What has been your exposure to the story of Hagar and Sarah? What interpretation(s) and applications of their story have you been taught? Did this book change your perspective on them?

3. Throughout the essays we were presented with the numerous ways this story has been interpreted and applied. From Paul claiming Hagar represents the law and Sarah the Christians, to church fathers similarly calling Hagar the synagogue and Sarah the church, to other church fathers using them support theologies of chastity and monogamy these two women have been forced into the molds others have created for them. Instead of letting their stories be told, they were used as examples to shore up some point the interpreter already believed. It made me consider how women in general have been used as pawns to prove/support a man's theology. What has been your experiences with this?

4. In Letty Russell's chapter "Twists and Turns in Paul's Allegory" the point is made that even as Paul was attempting to convey liberating concepts in his allegory of Hagar and Sarah in Galatians, he did so at the expense of some of those he was trying to help (namely women and slaves). Do you see that in the passage? Have you experienced unintended hurt (racism, sexism, ageism...) even when someone is trying to help?

5. As a result of the various interpretations of Hagar's story, Phyllis Trible notes that "Hagar has become a symbol with whom oppressed and rejected women can identify. She is 'the faithful maid exploited, the black woman used by the male and abused by the female of the ruling class, the surrogate mother, the resident alien without legal recourse, the pregnant young woman alone, the expelled wife, the homeless woman, the welfare mother." Do you resonate or find hope in these interpretations?

Feel free to add your own questions. I look forward to our discussion.
posted by Julie at 9:07 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 2/15/2007 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I have only made it through half of the book at this point. I will attempt to put into words what I think at this point.

    It has been "deep" read for me. I know this sounds bad, but I haven't even read in my own Bible these stories, other than the bits and pieces I read in Sunday school as a child.

    To answer a couple of questions:

    I have realized in reading this book, and others recently, that the "minimal" exposure I have had in the "Christian" world doesn't even begin to scrape the surface. I also, appreciated the summary, and found many things very thought provoking. I am always amazed when I realize that a little tidbit can take on a whole different meaning or view than what I was given.

    I realized how much I really didn't know about the "other" faith traditions, especially the Muslim side. The more sensitive I have become of these faith traditions, my perspectives have greatly changed, along with many stereotypes I had been taught.

    I had been exposed to these stories, but ironically, in reading this book, I realized I had never really thought much about them. I had been taught these stories over and over, and yet it felt as if I was reading it for the first time. I think I was the most impacted thinking about Hagar. I had mixed emotions. I had a hard time realizing that she really had been disregarded as a living human being. Not just in the narrative, but even within my faith tradition. She was just a slave, just a "thing". We may have felt bad for her, but it's as if no one ever really thought of being in her shoes, position etc. I never had thought much about the connection of God with Hagar nor the promise of blessings. Neither had I really thought of the differences between Sarah in the narrative and Hagar. So much has been about "Father Abraham" and God's blessing through him -in direct connection with "my" faith tradition-that had been the "important thing". Again, so many things I just had never even thought about.

    3. Even though I know that many of Paul's writings or interpretations of his writings greatly impacted my view of "being a Christian", I have realized how much I had not directly studied all of these implications myself. I am somewhat grateful that I haven't, in that, now that I have opened to other thinking, I feel I can approach those writings with a different eye. My experience, however, within many of my churches is that Paul and his writings were "extremely important". Sometimes, I feel that if compared with Jesus' teachings, Paul's writings would override Jesus.

    Men have through time certainly twisted many concepts to fit their own ideas. I find it refreshing to hear from a feminine perspective, as men in general, especially in ancient times, wrote within cultural context as well as their own personal context.

    As for 4 and 5:

    I will add briefly.
    I definitely have been hurt even when someone was trying to be helpful. We all are human, and make mistakes. I feel Paul has been put so far on top, that people forget he was a human, with human feelings, thoughts, opinions, and judgements.

    Hagar has definitely taken on a different image in my mind. I feel more sensitive to "others" and she has become much more than the mowed over slave.

    As a last comment, I appreciate these books and discussions. I have read more than ever. Books such as this are extremely challenging and "deep". I sometimes feel they are way over my head. Each step of the way, however, I have taken away some new thoughts, considerations, and perspectives. Other worlds have opened that I find completely fascinating...worlds I never thought I would enter.

    While reading this book, I heard about a lectureship being presented through one of the local Jewish temples. The first night was held at our local university. The speaker was a Jewish professor who was speaking from a feminist perspective. The night I attended was called "Adam & Eve: Did they Fall or were they Pushed." She was a wonderful speaker, and I learned so many things that night. From translation differences to differing views between the differing faiths. It was awesome.

    The only downside was when (always have to have at least one jerk!) a young man, asked her if she had "penis envy". At that point I was snapped back to the reality, that it doesn't matter which faith tradition you come from, views outside of patriarchal thought, die hard.

  • At 2/15/2007 07:58:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Julie, great introduction; Michele, I love the way you have of putting things in context of your own journey in a way that people can connect your process with their own thinking and journeying.

  • At 2/15/2007 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    1. One of the things I liked best about this book is that it gives validation to alot of things I have and wrestled with over time in a lonely, angsty sort of way; namely the character of God portrayed in the first testament. There are some things seem okay to question and some that are just pushing it too far for most people, even in more progressive Christian circles, and so it was a relief to feel, "okay, I am not crazy for asking these questions and having these concerns about the text." This quote in particular stood out from pg 58:

    "In pursuing the divine purpose, God behaves in diverse, indeed conflicted ways toward both the chosen and the other. this deity afflicts innocent Pharaoh and lets guilty Abrahaham go free (Gen 12:17-20); consigns Hagar to affliction while heeding her affliction (Gen 12:17-20); excludes Ishmael from the covenant while blessing him (Gen 17:18-21);reprimands Sarah for disbelief while designating her the only woman who can bear the son of the covenant (Gen 18:13-15); favors the rich (Abraham and Sarah) over the poor (Hagar and Ishmael); the master over the slaves, while giving comfort, care, and life to these outcasts; allows Ishamel almost to die before rescuing him with water (Gen 21:15-20); abuses the chosen-child Isaac and then spares him (Gen 22). Truly compassion and cruelt contend within the character of God. These competing 'impulses'go unresolved, even if the overall tilt is toward blessing."

    I am curious if anyone else has experienced "God dissonance" and confusion and what they have done with it, as well as reactions to this particular text.

  • At 2/15/2007 09:50:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks Jemila. The passage you mentioned also stood out to me. I have felt for a while, why don't more Christians question those perceptions of God, even when Jesus appears to do the opposite and even says he does what the Father does. The picture Jesus paints of God is so different than the God in many of the Old testament stories.
    I remember my father and others questioning "conflicting ideas and texts" within the Bible, and others absolutely appalled that that would be suggested. I heard more bad explainations for the "appearance of Conflicting ideas" than I would like to admit.
    Why not just admit we don't understand everything, we don't live in those times, and do the best to wrestle honestly with these texts.

  • At 2/16/2007 06:40:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Amen, Michelle!

    We are finite minds trying to comprehend and infinite GOD.

    So, ask away as questions arise and concurrently get comfortable with ambiguity and with dissonance because that is the result of who we are and who GOD is.

  • At 2/16/2007 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Irim

    Michele, wonderfully put. You've really put your finger on how we're shaped by the *interpretations* handed down to us.

    Jemila, I *love* that phrase, "God dissonance"! Here's my take on it: God is so far beyond our understanding, S/He's like a great black box, or a huge blank screen to us. We know God is creator of all, and the choreographer of the cosmic dance, but is so immense we don't even know where to start. So we do the most normal thing - we look around us and start drawing conclusions from creation: there is light and dark, joy and sorrow, heartstopping beauty and animals that are so oddly put together you have to laugh. So God MUST encompass all these things. You can't have something in a creation that isn't somewhere part of the Creator.
    Once we start ascribing qualities in our language that can only touch part of what is going on, when God's hand becomes known in our story, we do the next most natural thing: ascribe motives. And since God is that black box or blank screen, projection is the easiest thing in the world. The Israelites felt threatened by the bigger groups around them, so God is avenging and possessive and protective of His tribe - they created God in their own image, and they saw God manifest in the forms they expected and missed God's hand in the ones they didn't. Christians and Muslims have done the same. It's so very human...if we do it with others, who we can see and try to understand, how much more so with God.
    Another image I like is that of God as a MASSIVE diamond - each religion is up close to a different facet or set of facets and understands that area very well, but can't see the rest. If we all got talking and put all those understandings together, we'd be a lot further down the road.

    Does that work for you at all?


  • At 2/16/2007 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    The way the authors in this book dealt with the concept of conflicting texts was a new experience for me. I grew up being told that it was impossible for the bible to be in conflict with itself - end of discussion. In recent years, I've come to accept that our interpretations can make the bible conflict with itself and if there is a conflict the issue is with our interpretations. It was a learning experience for me to read authors who admit that there are conflicts in the bible and that its okay. We don't need to play with the interpretations until they all line up but instead read each letter as it was meant to be read in its particular culture. Paul in trying to be all things to all people very well could have contradicted himself as he did whatever he could to get the gospel out to each individual community. It's an interesting way to approach the text that I'm going to have to think about some more.

  • At 2/16/2007 11:21:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I like that description, and it is similar to what I have wondered/thought for awhile now.

    Julie, I agree changing the way we read the Bible is hard. I stepped away for a little while, because I realized I read it only through "literal" eyes. As I encountered other ideas and opinions, I have slowly begun to read again, reminding myself that I was taught to see things only one way. That being said, I realize that others had the same experience, just in a different form of seeing the text.

  • At 2/16/2007 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Irim, I resonate with much of your conceptualization, with the complicating addition that I really do believe that *sometimes* G-d really does speak and connect and do miracles, but it seems so...hodgepodge and arbitrary. So I have no idea how to sift what really happened in terms of God speaking and acting in the first testament from people's projections of God onto the situations of their lives in a given cultural/personal context. So yes, I bow to the mystery, and at the same time, I crave to know how much of the core story of my tradition reflects my creator. And there is such a fine line between becoming arrogant and saying God couldn't/wouldn't XX and Y because of such and such, when I have no clue as to the whole big picture, and using the whole "God's ways are not our ways" to rationalize accepting theologies that would deny both our minds and our most basic instincts for Good.

    Julie, thanks for your comment about your exegetical journey in terms of your assumptions about scripture and how you hold old and new ideas. It seems a relief to me to let the text speak frankly without trying to contort it around our predetermined theological conclusions, and yet what next? How do we understand (or live with non/understanding) of God?

  • At 2/17/2007 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Irim


    Hi...just to clarify, b/c I'm not sure I was as clear as I wanted to be. Thanks for coming back to me on that and giving me a chance to try again!

    What you've said about God speaking and performing miracles - I am so with you there. That was what I meant by creator and choreographer. What I meant was that I believe God is doing that ALL the time, but WE filter out the miracles and words that don't fit our framework, and pay attention to the ones that do. Then we ascribe motives other than love to God, b/c we've created Him in our own image. Hence, the Israelites noted God's miracles when it came to smiting their enemies, but were remarkably silent on all the other miracles and whispers of God going on around them. In my Islamic religious education, it seemed that Muslims noted them in Muhammad's life and their victories, but not otherwise. And so on. Think of how often we selectively hear or see what we want to about others and situations in our lives.

    Thus, it *seems* arbitrary b/c we're cherry picking, as it were. If we took it all in, we would probably see a consistent and beautiful pattern.

    What I was struggling to say was that we only notice a narrow swathe of God's words and miracles until we do what God really means for us to do: broaden our horizons to meet His, not narrow His to meet ours.

    As Scully said in my favourite X-Files: "It scares me...because it makes me think that maybe God is speaking - but no one's listening."


  • At 2/17/2007 12:37:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yo. I hear you, Irim. Beautifully put. But how is God smiting ANYBODY'S enemies in accord with Jesus' command to love our enemies and Jesus saying that we are to be like our Father (Mother) in heaven?

  • At 2/17/2007 06:01:00 PM, Blogger Irim

    Testify, sister. I can't even say the parts of the psalm about 'smite our enemies and make them suffer' out loud during Mass or Vespers anymore.

    Hmm. *Scratches head* I kinda get stuck there too, except I've often wondered about the veracity of those stories/attributions, even when I was young. I have ALWAYS struggled with God drowning thousands of Egyptian soldiers.

    But I guess I've always assumed that God is both Light/Dark, Creator/Destroyer (Kali/Shiva), because that is reflected in creation, and that God's reality is far more immense than we can imagine - in which case, the angry God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament aren't mutually exclusive - just different facets of that huge diamond and the seemingly madly inconsistent behaviour is consistent within a larger pattern. I can't even BEGIN to guess what that might be.

    I just sense that God is more than just 'Light' or 'Good' by our definition, and that "God is love" must mean so much more than we can imagine.

    A cop-out, perhaps, but it's how I manage.


  • At 2/17/2007 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Thanks Irim, you have echoed my thoughts and struggles and non/conclusions. I have heard some argue that "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect" as better translated, "Be complete," or "Be whole." And in the human psyche, completeness/wholeness includes an knowledgment of the shadow and an embrace of the compost in order to grow that which is lifegiving within ourselves and offer it to others in healthy ways. Is it possible that in this way we are also made in the image of God? And is it possible (brace yourselves, this is going to come out ridiculously heretical) that just as our children think we are perfect until they reach a certain age, and then realize we are not and think the worst of us, and then come eventually around to realizing we are both still on a journey (meaning not perfect) but more complex and relatable and having something precious to offer than when we were just objects of assumed perfection, that something is similar occurs in our evolving relationship/conceptualization of God? Could God be learning how to be God in relationship to us, her creation, just as when we become parents we have to go through a learning process of how to be parents to our particular children in various settings? I hope not to smited tonight. I am probably very wrong. But whether partially right, mostly wrong, or utterly misguided in even asking these questions, I am convinced that God is MORE than what I can fit in my mind, and yet I long to understand to better love God.

  • At 2/18/2007 03:21:00 AM, Blogger Irim


    YES YES YES! And I keep forgetting it's ok to say "She", my preferred pronoun.

    I really resonate with that, and if you're smited (smote? smitten?), well, I'm going to be next in the queue. I *LOVE* the idea of God/our relationship with God evolving.

    And now, I'm about to move myself ahead of you in the 'to be smote/smited/smitten' queue - as a Jungian at heart, I'm a huge fan of the theory that the God/Satan dichotomy is artificial - that Satan is basically God's shadow. It's just easier to cope with if it's Loki, Satan, etc.

    I mean, God created a world with Light/Dark; a universe that is dynamic, not unchanging; all of creation evolves. Why shouldn't She have all of these characteristics Herself?

    I think you have articulated that fabulously well, even if I've just gone a step past it.


  • At 2/18/2007 08:17:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Makes me think of passages describing the torment of King Saul -- in one passage it says an angel of God tormented him and in another it says an angel of Satan did.

    My CPE supervisor (who is a Junian) argues that many Jews have long held that Satan is merely the "left hand of God."

    Don't know what to make of that. My supervisor also says that in his personal life Jung was a jerk. So I guess he was speaking from experience about the shadow!

  • At 2/23/2007 05:42:00 PM, Blogger Ahmedinajad

    Dear Sir,

    The following issue can destroy ISLAM or ISRAEL; study it thoroughly to see if there is any truth to it.

    READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

    The COVENANT with Abraham and his DESCENDANTS is central to JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.

    Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

    Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link


    Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

    GENESIS 16:16
    And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
    GENESIS 21:5
    Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

    At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

    NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

    100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


    Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

    GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
    So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

    The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

    This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

    Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

    I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

    For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ ANTI-WAR

    HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122

    101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

    102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"

    103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

    104. We called out to him "O Abraham!

    105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    106. For this was obviously a trial-

    107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

    108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

    109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"

    110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

    112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

    113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

    114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

    115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

    116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

    117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

    118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

    119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

    120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"

    121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    122. For they were two of our believing Servants.


    Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.


    Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
    Narrated Ibn Abbas:
    The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! 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)?" 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 so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
    'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
    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 (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. 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 Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
    The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the 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."
    The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel 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.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael'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." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.


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