Friday, November 26, 2010

They are back from making Hajj

Asma, Zarreen and Greg are back now from making Hajj.  I can hardly wait to hear all about it.  They posted some great pictures on Facebook. 

From what I can see, they had a wonderful spiritual adventure.

They posted pictures of MacDonalds, Burger King and some of the other chain restaurants and there they all serve halal meat and ingredients. To eat Halal means to eat according to the dietary requirements of Islam.  The animals are treated well during their lifetime and when they are killed, there is a correct way to do it.  The Jewish faith has Kosher and the Islamic faith has Halal. Cheese has to be halal too, without rennet which is a pork product.  Both Muslims and Jews do not eat pork or pork products.

Zarreen had one picture taken of her where she is opening the MacDonald's box and eyeing the burger.  It was so funny.  Greg has posted some fantastic photos on his Facebook page.  Both of them look so happy and so spiritually rejuvenated.

They have now filled one of the requirements of Islam, if one is financially and physically able, one should make Hajj.  Some people save for this all their lives.  The young couple have been fortunate and blessed to do this pilgrimage when they are young.

When I saw the pictures, I was thinking what a different time we live in now.  At the time of Prophet Mohammad, pbuh, it would have been done by camel and foot.  Now there are lovely hotels and restaurants
there and the Kaaba is well lit and everything is highly organized.

By the way, the Kaaba is where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) went to sacrafice his elder son Ishmael.  According to the Holy Qur'an, this child is the first born, not of Sarah, but of Ibrahim and Hagar.  I believe the boy may have been about 14 years of age by the time little Isaac was born from Sarah. According to the Bible, Abraham had another wife as well Katura and she had many children for him.

As many of you will know, there are several versions of this story.  They are in the Torah and the Tanaka (the Jewish Scriptures), the Holy Bible (Old and New Testement) and the Holy Qur'an.  They all agree that Abraham was a faithful servant of God, obedient in every way.  They all agree that Sarah was his wife and that Hagar was her maidservant.  Only the Bible mentions Katura, the other wife. 

Please read the following for the Jewish version.

This Torah portion is read on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, September 30, 2008. The full reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah is Genesis 21:1-34 and Numbers 29:1-6.

Genesis 21:1-13

The Lord took note of Sarah as He had promised, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken. Abraham gave his newborn son, whom Sarah had borne him, the name of Isaac. And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me." And she added,

"Who would have said to Abraham

That Sarah would suckle children!

Yet I have borne a son in his old age."

The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, "Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you. As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed."

Torah reading is taken from Genesis. From THE TANAKH: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Copyright 1985 by the Jewish Publication Society. Used by permission.

It is most interesting to read the different versions of the story.  In the Holy Qur'an, the story of Ibrahim, Sarah and Hagar is told a little differently.
This may clarify the situation a little better.  I did a study on three women of the Old Testement and brought this topic to a ladies group when I did the meeting.

I thought it might be appropriate for us to look at three women who played a huge role in history as seen through the Jewish Tanaka, The Christian Old Testament and the Islamic Qu’ran.

Let’s talk about Abram’s wives.

First before we can do that, we need to talk about Abram, later called Abraham as seen in Genesis 17, vs. 5.

Abram was obedient to God’s call to leave his home land of Ur and go into unknown territory He walked by faith and trust and his adventures are related in the three books.

Abraham, as we will call him from now on, meaning “the father of many” came by this title honestly.

From what we can learn through the three sources, after his Dad Terah died, (check it out in Gen. 20, vs. 12)  he went on his big adventure of obedience to God. His greatness and also at the same time, his weakness are clearly shown through the three different books of Scripture.

For today, our main emphasis is on the three wives of Abraham, this being a womens' group. They were namely Sarai (Abraham’s half sister, his father’s daughter through another mother), Hagar, a daughter of the Pharaoh, maidservant of Sarah, and Ketura, Abraham’s last wife after Sarah died.

Of these three women, Keturah had the most children with Abraham, having six sons for him. No mention how many daughters she may have had. Please look up 1 Chronicles 1, VS. 32.

Women don’t seem to be of much importance when it comes to lineage. Hopefully, we have come a long way in this matter. Mind you, it was only in my lifetime when women were given the right to vote even here in Canada. Our country has come a long way in equal rights for women.

Anyway, back to our topic, according to the Midrash (Jewish compilation of commentaries on the Tanaka, the Hebrew Bible, Abraham married Ketura after Sarah died. Her nationality is unknown however. In the Bible, she is known as a concubine, but I find that difficult to understand since Sarah had already passed away and he was free to marry again.  Times were different then so we will probably never know.

I am also not sure how many wives a man could have, plus concubines at the time of Abraham.
IT SURELY IS AN INTERESTING THOUGHT – what man would want to take on all that responsibility of providing for not only wives but their children to be as well!

However, even today, in the Middle East, having many children is considered a real blessing from God and most families have numerous children. I remember one dear lady saying to me that she has five children, and when I inquired who was the other one, as I had never met him, she said “Her husband!” She was an Egyptian lady. I sure could relate to that! I bet some of you could too!

I digress, as usual, so we had better get back to our topic.

It may be that the word concubine was used to show that she was not as important as Sarah, who gave birth to Isaac, who was born to her at a time  in her life when it was impossible to have children anymore.

Ketura’s children were raised separately from Isaac and this happened during the lifetime of Abraham, which means he had full knowledge of this, which I also find odd.

It was due to Ketura’s sons that Abraham became the “father of many nations”.

Who shall we look at next? Sarai, or Sarah as she was later known as, was a very interesting lady. She was the half sister of Abraham, and also he was her husband which certainly goes against all the rules of civilization today! That also is an interesting point – what about genetics here?

Sarai was a beautiful woman according to the Tanaka, and in their travels, she had to be hidden from view in a chest so that other men might not desire her. Unfortunately, in Egypt, some customs men checked the chest and found her. Even the Pharaoh of Egypt wanted her for his harem.

In the Bible, there is much more history of Sarah than of the other two women. When she was taken before the Pharaoh, she lied to him and said that Abraham was her brother. In reality, it was a half truth, he was her half brother and yet he was her husband as well.

This most likely saved his life.

As he thought Abraham was only her brother, the Pharaoh showered him with gifts, which included Hagar, a daughter of the Pharaoh. Hagar, became the maid servant of Sarah. Sarah was taken into the harem and whenever the Pharaoh approached her physically, he was afflicted by boils.

Put yourself in Hagar’s position. Here was her Dad giving her away to an old man! She had no say in the matter. It shows us how little rights women had in those days.

We also know that in the Bible, Sarai asked Abraham to take her maidservant Hagar as a concubine so that Sarai could have children by her. In the Qur’an, it calls Hagar a co-wife not concubine which gives her a lot more dignity and stature than she would have had as a concubine.

When Hagar became pregnant, problems started between the two women with jealousy rearing its ugly head.

Here is where it gets very interesting in the Jewish Bible. It says that Sarai told Abram that Hagar was not being respectful to her and Abram told Sarai to do what she wanted to Hagar. Well, she did, and the treatment was so harsh that Hagar ran away. According to the Tanaka she ran to where there was a stream of water in the wilderness and an angel of the Lord spoke to her there and told her that she must return and submit herself to the harsh treatment of Sarai. At that time, she was informed that she was pregnant and would have a son and his name would be called Ishmael.

It gets even more complicated here when 13 or 14 years later, Sarai becomes pregnant. At that time, Sarai’s name changed into Sarah.

Sarah, had only one son, Isaac, who was born to her at the advanced age of 90 years. Hagar, the Egyptian, had only one son with Abraham, Ishmael, who was about 13 or 14 when Isaac was born. Thus, Ishmael was in actuality, the first born of Abraham.

According to the Bible, Isaac is the first born of the promise  In the Bible, very little is said about Ishmael and the other half brothers by the other two women.

In the Qur’an, the story of Hagar and Ishmael is told this way.

I got this information from my good friend Asma and she did some research for me as she is more familiar with the Qur’an than I am and can find things in it faster and easier. This is how she told it to me via the internet.

Hajar did not leave because Sarah wanted her to leave. Ibrahim (pbuh) was told by God to leave her and his first son Ishmael in the Baka vally. This is the Islamic version and has a great significance in the life of Ibrahim, Ishmael and Hajar. Sarah was not a jealous woman according to Islamic traditions.  Also note the spelling of Hagar which is a little different than in the Bible.

Hajar is a very highly respected woman in Islam and is NOT considered a concubine but the second wife. Also, she was not a slave of Sarah, but her relative (probably a cousin) who was raised by Sarah's family.

Personally, I find it very interesting to see the different versions of the same story but told in three different Holy Books. All versions do confirm that Ishmael was born first to Hagar, then about 14 years later, Sarah had a child when it was impossible to have a child at her age. He was called Isaac, and the Bible and the Tanaka both confirm the information about Keturah. The Qur’an says nothing about Keturah.



1. Abraham walked by faith and not reason. God rewarded him with many material goods, prestige, and children.

2. Sarai, a beautiful and wise lady, had to wait well past her child bearing years in order to see her miracle happen. THAT TEACHES US PATIENCE IN WAITING FOR GOD TO ACT. Sarai tried to rush things by getting a baby through her maidservant but that certainly caused much trouble for all concerned. Her son Isaac became very important and he also had children and so her line continued throughout the ages.

3. Hagar, in spite of the terrible things which happened to her, from being the privileged daughter of a Pharaoh(depending on which story you read) to becoming a maidservant, then a concubine and bearing a child under much stress and in a hostile environment, was still helped by God through the angel who came to her at the stream of water. He promised her that her son would have many descendents. Yes, she had to suffer a lot, and I don’t think any of us would have liked to be in her position, but her life was part of God’s plan.

4. Keturah, all I can find on her was that she was the wife(concubine) depending on the source, of Abraham after Sarah died and she bore 6 sons. I wish I could have found out more details on her life.

The only thing I could see for her was that she had great honour as she had many children and in her culture this would be a great thing. She was also the wife of a great man.

Let us close with a quote by Abraham, which was taken from Surah 14, vs. 37 in which he says:

“Praise be to God who has given me Ishmael and Isaac in my old age! All prayers are answered by Him.”

Again, it shows the faith Abraham had, but at the same time it raises other questions. Why didn’t he thank God for his other six sons by his wife Keturah?

We shall close on that mystery. The story of Abraham and his three wives answers some questions, but throws up many more questions as you go deeper into the study.

I would like to challenge you to take some time and do some research on these fascinating people who literally changed the world as we know it.

I hope that you have found this study interesting. History has always been a favourite subject of mine.

In any event, hope you enjoyed reading this blog today.  It all came about because of my dear friends making Hajj and brought back memories of a talk and study I did on Abraham and his wives.

Studying history is essential so that we can learn from other people's mistakes, but the reality is, we oftentimes do not learn when we should have seen the warnings from the past history.

Thanks for reading.



princess-anna said...

Yes a very interesting story and well researced and written

annaken said...

Thank you for your kind words, Princess-anna.

It was a very interesting subject to research and as a writer, I enjoyed making the story come alive to the readers and in the case of the talk, to the listeners.