Most of us know the story behind the hajj ritual of walking swiftly between Safa and Marwa. There are lots of lessons to learn from it. (This is an excellent article on it.) Specifically, what are the parenting lessons that we can glean from it?
This is the story as narrated by Ibn Abbas:
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ismail. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Ibrahim brought her and her son Ismail 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.
Ismail's mother followed him saying, "O Ibrahim! 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 Ibrahim 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)
Ismail's mother went on suckling Ismail 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. Ismail) 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 Ismail'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.' (Al Bukhari)
1. Whatever dire situation you find yourself and your children in, rely completely on Allah.
Do not complain, whinge or nag to others about it. Have patience. Remember that patience is in the first moments of the calamity, meaning your first reaction to it.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, passed by a woman who was crying over a grave and said, “Fear Allah and be patient.” She said, “Away from me! My calamity has not befallen you and you are not aware of it.” The woman was later told that it was the Prophet (who had advised her). She came to his door where she found no doorkeeper. She said, “(I am sorry) I did not know you.” Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Patience is (becoming) only at the first (stroke) of grief”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
When Hajar realised that her situation was Allah's plan for her, she accepted it and had complete faith that Allah would not neglect her and her child. She did not berated or pleaded with Prophet Ibrahim nor did she questioned Allah and said, "Why me? Why did I deserve this?" - which are what we are often prone to do when we find ourselves in a desperate situation. For Hajar, she accepted and turned back to where he had left her without questioning.
2. Do something, don't despair.
Put your trust in Allah and go find possible solutions. Imagine seeing your child literally dying of thirst. would you sit around lamenting in despair? Some people would but not Hajar. She got up and went to look for possible solutions. She didn't just put her trust in Allah and sat back and waited for His Help. She went and actively looked for it.
Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī) Tying the camel means that you do what it takes to keep your camel safe and you rely on Allah to keep it safe. This was what Hajar did, she did what she could to find water and help for her child while relying on Allah to bring that help.
3. Be persistent and patient.
Don't give up, keep doing what needs to be done. The fact that Hajar went from one mountain to another and back again seven times shows her persistence and patience. She didn't give up after a few times of trying, she persisted until the solution showed itself.
When you're in a trying situation with your child, how many times do you persist before you give up? Most of us would probably try up to three times and certainly not seven times. We want solutions quickly and if it doesn't come soon then we're likely to give up on the situation, give up on ourselves and give up on our children, and possibly even give up on Allah.
Since we don't know when the solution to our problems will come or in what form it will come in, we need to persist with a patient perseverance. Allah says: “…but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere – who say, when afflicted with calamity: ‘To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return’ – they are those on whom [descend] blessings from their Lord, and Mercy and they are the ones that receive guidance” (Quran, al-Baqarah 2:155-7)
I pray that we can all be like Hajar in our reliance on Allah, in actively seeking solutions and in patiently persevering. Ameen.