How Hajar's (Peace Be Upon Her) Perseverance Inspires Us Today

Olfar Sakr
June 15, 2024
Olfar Sakr
Registered Psychotherapist (RP), Ruh Care
Olfar Sakr
Clinically Reviewed
How Hajar's (Peace Be Upon Her) Perseverance Inspires Us Today

Recently, I had several people share with me how they felt a mixture of hopelessness, helplessness, and depression because of what is happening in Palestine, Sudan, Congo, and Yemen, to name a few places. Questions like “What’s the point?”, “Can we really do something impactful?”, and “Will change really happen?” were on people’s minds. Others shared similar sentiments due to what they are experiencing in their own personal lives as well.

As I reflect on these conversations, I am reminded of the story of Hajar’s (peace be upon her) perseverance against all odds. How do we respond to hardship in our own lives and how do we begin to become more like Hajar (peace be upon her)?

Lessons from Hajar (Peace Be Upon Her) on Responding to Hardship

Often when we read about the amazing lives of the Prophets, their families, and companions, we forget that they too were human, that they also experienced joy, pain, and hardship. When Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) turned to leave Hajar (peace be upon her) and their infant son, Ismail (peace be upon him), in the desert, and told her that this was a command from God, she said, “Then indeed, He will not let us perish.” Her faith was unwavering.

As she waited for God’s decree to unfold, she ran out of water in the waterskin, she became thirsty and so did her son. Imagine what she must have experienced, and felt, watching her baby writhing and kicking. She got up, trying to find anyone who could help them. She went to the hill, Safa, nearest to her and stood on it, but didn’t see anyone in the valley. She then descended from Safa, hastened to make it across the valley until she came to the hill of Marwah and looked about, trying to find help. Again, she could not see anyone.

She could not see the solution or the way out of the predicament she was in. And yet, she did not give up. She went back and forth seven times trying to find assistance. She must have been exhausted and dehydrated.

What was going through her mind and heart? Although there was no one in sight, she did not give up. Eventually, she heard a voice and saw Angel Jibreel dig through the sand until water gushed forth and she was able to drink and suckle her son.

How Our Perceptions Shape Our Reality

Gabor Maté, a renowned Canadian-Hungarian expert on trauma, addiction, stress and childhood, talks about how our minds are constantly creating the world. Creating, not in a literal sense, but our perception of the world and how we experience it. We see the world through the filter of our thoughts and beliefs. However, these beliefs are not always correct. For example, when we experience depression or anxiety, it impacts our perception of our interactions, how we see ourselves, how we see others, how we see the world, and even, how we see God, thus affecting how we respond.

He adds that “before our mind creates the world, the world creates our mind.” Here, he refers to our early childhood experiences that shape our thoughts and beliefs. If we are unaware of this dynamic, we will be trapped in stories and patterns governed by unhealed core beliefs that are on a subconscious level.

I once had a client, who, when she was a child, her parents only mentioned God when she did something wrong. Her child’s brain translated this to “God is only present when I do something wrong, and He is angry at me.” This was not something her parents had intended. As an adult, she knew on an intellectual level, that Allah is closer to us than our jugular veins, that He is the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Yet, the core belief that she was not aware of overrode that, and it was the lens through which she unconsciously interpreted her lived experience and her relationship with God.

Another client had a core belief that he was not good enough, so he overcompensated by being a perfectionist in his studies and work because, he thought, “if I do things perfectly, I will be worthy of X or Y” even when those around him praised him for the quality of his work. We respond not to what is happening necessarily, but to our perception of what is happening.

Becoming Aware of Our Reactions

Eckhart Tolle says, “be at least as interested in your reactions as in the people or situations that evoke those reactions.” Our reactions are clues to what is unconscious. If we become aware, we can make decisions that are not driven by thoughts, beliefs, and dynamics that are unconscious. Two important ingredients as you begin peeling the layers to uncover what’s underneath are curiosity and compassion.

Practical Steps to Cultivate Awareness

Here are some ways to cultivate this awareness:

  1. Journaling:
    In our tradition, we are encouraged to engage in muraqaba, being introspective and self-aware. Journaling is a tool that can help accomplish this. The process of writing can help reveal things that we were not aware of.

  2. Seeking support from a mental health professional or a chaplain:
    Sometimes we need an outside perspective, someone who can be a mirror for us to reflect back what we cannot see clearly. This can help us to get out of the inaccurate stories we tell ourselves.
  1. Gaining knowledge and reflection:
    Knowledge helps correct faulty thoughts and beliefs while reflecting on the knowledge we gain helps us internalize it and transform us rather than our minds only consuming information.

  2. Mindfulness and Presence:
    When we engage in dhikr, remembrance, and recitation of the Qur’an with focus, we reorient ourselves and our being to Allah and what is nourishing instead of being stuck in our headspace and our limiting perceptions. Remembrance of Allah through the Qur’an and dhikr also contain the reminders that we need to challenge our misperceptions and faulty thinking.

Unhealed core beliefs hold us back from reaching our full potential, from being in tune with our fitrah, innate nature, and negatively impact our relationship with God. Just like sins create layers around our heart, so do unhealed wounds, pain, and trauma. If Hajar (peace be upon her) was not grounded in who she was as a person and as a servant of Allah, if faulty core beliefs impacted her perception, would she have been able to persevere and not give up?

This groundedness and seeing reality for what it truly is led to her not only finding the sustenance she needed, but Allah also honored her by making pilgrims walk between the two hills commemorating her journey. Her striving benefited a whole community of people and their descendants. Pilgrims to this day quench their thirst by drinking water from the very same source that quenched her thirst. People find healing from drinking zamzam water. Her descendants include the best of creation, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Could she have imagined or anticipated the ripple effect of her perseverance?

May Allah grant us openings during these blessed days. May we shed beliefs that do not serve us. May we increase in knowledge of Him and nearness to Him. Ameen.

Olfar Sakr
Olfar Sakr
Registered Psychotherapist (RP), Ruh Care
Olfat Sakr is a Registered Psychotherapist passionate about cross-cultural dialogue and peacebuilding. With a Master in Pastoral Studies from the University of Toronto, she offers a spiritually integrated, trauma-informed approach. Olfat is dedicated to helping clients heal and thrive by providing compassionate emotional and spiritual support.

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