The story of Hagar in the Old Testament is sorrowful. She was a maid to Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Hagar was forced by Sarah, who was unable to conceive, to have a child with Abraham, and when Sarah conceived a child herself, Hagar was driven away to the wilderness.
Lee Seung-woo’s novel “Hagar’s tears” depicts such a sad story. The novel unfolds with a lowly, outcast woman at the center, illustrating the psychology of the woman, abandoned with her son, Ishmael. Hagar is resentful of the world: Sarah, who had once implored Hagar to bear a child, but changed at an instant when she herself conceived a son; Abraham, who only listened to what Sarah said and kicked out Hagar and his own young son; and even God, who stopped Hagar, when she fled to the wilderness, after having been teased by Sarah who was jealous of Hagar being pregnant. Everyone was so harsh on her. However, being bitter about them is of no help to Hagar who is in a life-or-death situation. The mother and child have already eaten up a loaf of bread and water a long time ago. Ishmael collapsed. Hagar desperately looks for water and prays to God: “Lord, I beg for your slightest mercy. Please kill me and save my son.” Hagar’s earnest prayer was heard by God. A well emerged before her eyes. The novel ends with Hagar finds out God’s love.
To ascertain how Hagar’s story passed down to the generations to come, one must go to the Islamic world. Where Hagar was wandering, looking for water, was a valley between two hilllocks, Safa and Marwa, not so far from Mecca. It is the valley that is described as “God’s sign” in Qur’an. Hagar went around the valley seven times, looking for water. The Muslims perform a ritual called Sai, which is to circle the valley seven times as Hagar, the Mother of Mecca, did, remembering her sobbing and God’s love. Prophet Muhammad also circled the valley when he was alive.
Anybody would have sympathized with Hagar, sobbing and desperately looking for water in the wilderness, and would have willingly created water. Maybe that was God’s will.