I am here with a story which I don’t yet know will be a short story or a novel. Though the prologue has a religious touch to it, yet the story has nothing to do with religion. It’s just a story of a girl who shares her name and perhaps fate to one of the matriarchs of history who is known for her courage in bleak times.
Those were the ancient times when people kept slaves. I was one of those brought from my land. A woman presented me to his man so I could bear fruit for them which she couldn’t do herself.
She was my mistress, my son belonged to her. But then, it so happened; God bestowed her a son of her own. My son was no longer needed. I was thrown out along with my son, left alone in the desert. I was a mother led by courage with faith in God. It was Him who heard my son cry and blessed us with a well out of nowhere to survive.
Slowly, people came. They requested to settle near water. I consented for I could help them the way God had helped me once. Once disowned by a clan, now I had a clan of my own.
I was Hajar, slave of Sarah, and mother of Ishmael. I was Hajar, destined to wander but I was also Hajar, the one dissociated from any evil. With trust in God, and courage at heart, I was Hajar who gave life to the lineage of Arabs.
And, I am Hajar… of this time where people are no longer slaves of people, but of prejudices and presumptions or if nothing else, their own bias and fear. I am Hajar, with no family of my own; trying to be brave, trying to fight my fears. Hajar, who is not an outcast, not quite yet… but will the society accept me and not throw me out, once they know and once they decide to look down upon me for reasons pre-contrived.
So, when you know me and when you decide to loathe; remember! I am Hajar and I have no sin. It is my tale; of exploitation, betrayal and abandonment. However, it is my faith that stays. Amongst abuse and degradation, hope and inspiration, I seek Him, I blame Him, and then I make peace with Him.
The Fire of Hajar
Poem by Syrian-American Poet Mojha Kafh
For one short span, she was our Hajar,
my bright young bride, the helpmeet
of a lonely aging couple.
How she grew from round cheeked girl
capable, aproned, baby strapped to her high hip,
into a woman beyond our ken, strange giant
straddling rocks cape, midwifing a new earth!
Twice Sarah put Hajar’s hand in mine,
as God willed, first to marry, then to desert her.
But it was I who let her hand drop.
Our last night we spent alone in God’s wilderness,
our last time to circle, in the crook of my body, hers,
the baby nestled between her breast and belly
my arm around them both.
Then I dropped her supple, girlish hand and freely
I admit the tears that wet my dusty beard,
fell brackish into that dry ground
as I walked, willingly to the slaughter
of my own bared neck, my Hajar-love,
I walked away.
She called, “Ibrahim!” She knew
what I had to do, but still she called,
let me hear my name shaped by her lips
one last single time, “Ibrahim!”
At the pierce of that cry, I wanted
to bundle her up and carry her home again,
protect her from the howling barren land.
I turned around. But one look at her face
She was already fiercer, older, a woman
I do not know. She chose too.
“To whom do you leave us?
She said quietly.
For a minute I could not answer. Fire
like the fire of the trials of my youth, this fire!
God who made the fire cool and safe for me
will make this scorched desert for Hajar
a garden surely.
When I said “God is here,”
she took my words and threw them back
at me, “Then I’ll take God. I’ll take the God
of the wilderness over your home and your city.”
She turned away. I know that turn.
I as a young man I chose to accept from God
a hard vocation. But an old man knows
what it means to drop the supple hand.
I walked away bent, nearly double, picking my ragged path back home to Sarah
I took one last look.
Hajar was walking into her own
Soul-searching days, head on,
far from me now, her shadow thrown
by the lowered sun across a wild country
turning into something stark and strong.
Be cool and safe for Hajar, fire!