The Syrian Prologue
The Islamic legends of Abraham begin with his extraordinary birth and childhood in Mesopotamia. 1 Our study takes up the story at the time of Abraham's emigration 2westward toward Syria 3 and his subsequent journey to Egypt and eventually, Mecca. This is also the point at which the characters of Hagar and Ishmael enter the story.
The sources are not all in accord about the chronology of events following Abraham's emigration. Most agree, however, that Abraham marries Sarah either in the land of his birth or in Haran, where he resides briefly on his way westward. When they continue their journeys, Abraham and Sarah are confronted by a tyrant or king who would possess Sarah sexually because of her stunning beauty. The tyrant is foiled with the help of God, and gives Hagar to Sarah as a maidservant in compensation for his misdeed. Sarah, it turns out, is barren and cannot provide an heir for Abraham. She allows Abraham to have sexual relations with Hagar, who consequently gives birth to Ishmael. By this time, Abraham and his family are living in Syria at the well of Beersheba, where a conflict ensues between him and the native inhabitants. As a result, Abraham moves his family away from Beersheba. In their new abode, Abraham and Sarah are visited by angels on their way to destroy the people of Lot. 4 At about this time, Abraham brings Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca.