Ustadha Zaynab Ansari on Women of the Quran: Sarah

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, in partnership with Muslimah Media, speaks in a 6-part series about women who are documented in the Quran.

Sarah, wife of Ibrahim

Sarah, wife of the Prophet Ibrahim, is the oldest historical figure mentioned in the Quran. She appears both in the Quran and in the hadith traditions. In Islam, she is understood to be very different from how she is portrayed in other religions.

Rather than portraying her as a bitter and jealous woman, we know that, despite enduring hardships, she was confident that she would be a part of Allah’s miracles. She did have to watch her husband take a second, younger wife who gave birth to a son, Ismael. However, she displayed the character of a true believer by remaining patient and steadfast. Eventually, Allah rewarded her with a child of her own. She was an elderly woman by then, but Allah made it possible through his Mercy and Will.

A relatable woman

Many women can relate to Sarah. She was challenged with infertility, and her struggle is documented in the Quran. After a lot of struggle and patience, Allah granted her a miraculous child.

A group of angels, on their way to the people of Lot, stopped at the house of Ibrahim. They delivered the good news of a child to Sarah. Out of delight, she laughed out loud. This laugh of hers was mentioned in the Quran.

Her child was Ishaq, or Isaac, who became a Prophet just like his father. His son was Yaqub (Jacob), whose son was Yusuf (Joseph), upon them be peace. Therefore, Sarah became the matriarch of a glorious line of Prophets. These Prophets were followed, and are still followed, by countless believers.

Resources for Seekers

"We tell you the stories of the Messengers so we may make firm your heart" – Ustadh Salim Mauladdawila

The stories told by and of the Messengers of Allah are not for mere entertainment and neither are the rituals Muslims perform as part of their religious practice. Each one is pregnant with meaning as Ustadh Salim Mauladdawila explains.

Of the recorded events in the lives of the prophets, one of the most historically significant is certainly the migration of the prophet Ibrahim with his wife Hajar, and infant son Ismail. Ibrahim, following God’s command, took his family from their home in the Levant to settle in the desert valley of what would become the holy city of Makkah. Fully aware of the difficulty of their task, he would leave them in that uncultivated valley to God, with only some dates and water for nourishment, before leaving and praying to God for their protection. When they inevitably ran out of water Ismail began to cry, and out of sheer despair Hajar climbed the nearest mountain, Safa, desperate to see someone in the area, but no one was to be seen. She descended Safa and, as Imam al-Bukhari relates the Companion Abdullah Ibn Abbas saying, “When she reached the valley she lifted the hem of her dress and ran as a distressed person runs, crossing the valley and reaching [the mountain] Marwa. She ascended and looked out, but she didn’t see anyone. She [travelled between them] seven times. The Prophet said, ‘That is why people run between [Safa and Marwa].’ When she reached Marwa [the final time], she heard a voice. She told herself to be silent, and she listened. Again she heard the voice and said, ‘I have heard you. If you have [aid], aid!” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), until water appeared”.

The prophet Muhammad ﷺ narrated this story to his companions not as mere entertainment, but, as is said in the Quran, “We tell you the stories of the Messengers that we may make firm your heart” [11:120]. Stories in hadith and the Quran serve as examples, encouraging us in our faith and connecting us to our fellow believers in eras beyond our own.

Due to her strong faith and piety, God ensured that Hajar, whose actions would indirectly affect the course of human history, would be a woman remembered by believers thousands of years after her passing. Everyone who has ever had their thirst quenched by Zamzam has Hajar to thank, and the millions of believers who would travel to Makkah from throughout the world tell her story.
Uniquely out of our religious acts of worship, the Hajj was not sanctified by the actions of the prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Indeed, the prophet Muhammad himself was ordered to perform the Hajj as we do, following in the footsteps of the prophets, messengers, and believers who lived before him. Hajj is not only a gathering of Muslims from all walks of life in our lifetime, but it connects us to the very first believers, the last believers, and to the believers in the celestial and unseen realms. In the Hajj, we see that our own belief is but a fruit of believers thousands of years before us.
The prophet Ibrahim would later return to the valley he left his family, and go on to rebuild the Kaaba, aided by his now mature son Ismail. As God says, “And when Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House” [2:127]. Explaining this verse, scholars of Quranic exegesis have said that the archangel Gabriel manifested himself to Ibrahim, and ordered him to rebuild the Kaaba from the original foundations laid by the prophet Adam AS.
When Adam, the first human, was created, God told the angels the reason behind his creation, stating, “I will create a vicegerent on earth” [2:30]. Interestingly, God always intended for humans to live on Earth, as evidenced here, yet resided our forefather in heaven. An effect of this and his expulsion from heaven was that he was imbued with a longing for his Lord’s pleasure and for the celestial.
Subsequently, as Adam roamed the Earth, Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi narrates that he complained to God of his loneliness. It was then that he was ordered to build the Kaaba, establishing on Earth a physical place of connexion to the heavens for himself and all believers after him. God says in the Quran, “Verily the first House established for humanity was that at Bakka: blessed, and guidance for the worlds” [3:96], Bakka being one of the names of Makkah. Adam’s longing for the divine forms a part of our fitra, or inherent nature, spoken about by God, “So direct your face toward the religion completely; the fitra of God upon which He has created all people” [30:30]. Fath al-Mousili, the Iraqi gnostic, remarked on the topic, “We were a people of heaven, then Satan cursed us to the Earth. Thus we only have worries and sadness until we return to the abode we were expelled from”.
Imam al-Baghawi relates that once the prophet Adam completed construction of the Kaaba and had circumambulated it, the angels informed him that they themselves had built the Kaaba and performed Hajj 2000 years prior to him. Further, all prophets after Adam were to perform Hajj and circumambulate the Kaaba, it being rebuilt as necessary over the passage of time. This continued, as stated by al-Tabari in his landmark work of Quranic commentary, until the time of the flood of Nuh, when the Kaaba was raised to the heavens. Thus the Earth was bereft of its Kaaba until it was rebuilt by Ibrahim.

The Kaaba, then, is not simply an ancient architectural curiosity, dwarfed by modern architectural wonders; it is our prime place of connecting to our Lord and reconnecting with countless believers who have walked the Earth before us. God says, “We made the House [the Kaaba] a place of assembly for people and [a place of] safety. And take the place where Ibrahim stood as a place of prayer” [2:125].

The Kaaba unites all Muslims not only across the barriers of wealth, race, and ideology, but also across time, and even species. Numerous hadith mention the presence of angels at the Kaaba, and al-Fakihi recounts in his book on the history of Makkah that even animals have travelled there to worship. Imam al-Bukhari narrates that located in the seventh heaven above the Kaaba is its likeness in the celestial realm, al-Bait al-Ma’mur, “where 70,000 angels pray daily, and when they leave, they never return”, and Abi Dawud relates that the Mahdi, the promised redeemer of Islam of whom the Prophet told us about in rigorously authenticated hadith, will come forth in Makkah. And the Kaaba isn’t alone in bringing us this profound unity: the “place where Ibrahim stood” is the stone he stood on when building the Kaaba, and God ordered us to pray there; we walk between Safa and Marwa retracing the footsteps of Hajar; we throw stones at the Jamaraat during Hajj emulating the prophet Ibrahim, who threw stones at the devil there; the sacrificial animal slaughter is done commemorating the story of Ibrahim and Ismail; and we gather at Arafat, on the same day of the lunar year where believers have been gathering annually for over 1000 years. All of these sacred places and their religious rites have meanings far greater than their outward forms.
Entering this blessed month of Hajj, we should know that it was made sacred by God even before he created humans: “Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the book of God, [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred” [9:36]. We are now but the latest people to have been blessed with this realisation. Islam is a living tradition, one which began thousands of years ago before the prophet Adam and will continue for untold generations to come. We, Muslims living 1425 lunar years after our prophet’s passing, are the present link in that tradition, and the need for us to realise its importance is arguably more important now than ever before. Unfortunately, when Islam, and religion in general, is under attack from so many directions, it is easy for one to lose their bearings. When we are portrayed as a foreign belief and something that should be feared, it is easy to forget that we are not at all strange. It may be lost to us that the very first of creation were all believers, and we are simply trying to following in their wake. We are a link which, according to a recent Pew survey, makes up 23% of the world’s population, and the Hajj is calling us to unity: unity in belief in God, and unity amongst ourselves.
The Prophet is quoted as saying, “Verily God has ordered me to make my speech, remembrance; and my silence, contemplation; and [what I look at], a lesson”. The believer, then, should endeavour to derive benefit from everything that is around them, and now is a prime time for contemplation, reflection, and connexion.

To paraphrase Goethe, if we cannot draw from thousands of years of our history, we are living from hand to mouth. Knowing the stories behind religious rituals and seeing their meanings allows us to unite with all Muslims, strengthening our individual and communal identities with centuries of belief. Being grounded in our religious tradition brings well-needed perspective into our lives; we begin to understand the value of this blessing of faith, and we begin to understand why we believe.

The Muslim is not a single, lone human carried to and fro by aimless tides. We are not the flotsam of civilisation; we are here with purpose. When we see that we were created as “a vicegerent on Earth”, we can understand the responsibility that is upon us as individuals and do our best to live up to it. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said in a hadith narrated by al-Tabrani, “The most beloved people to Allah are the most beneficial of them for the people”. Let this, then, be the starting point from where we begin everything we do, and the more we are united, the more beneficial we can be.

Resources for seekers

Food for the Soul All Ramadan – Right Here at Ramadan Hub

Compared to a decade ago, there is now a plethora of Muslim television channels in the English language. The quality varies considerably but one thing unites them all: Ramadan is a time for aggressive fundraising, and MashaAllah, hundreds of millions is raised for worthy causes.

Fundraising appeals often displace regular programming so what if you’re looking for spiritually uplifting content? SeekersHub has this to offer: for free, online, for anyone, anywhere. You’ll find it livestreamed every day at Ramadan Hub, and you’ll find them listed below.

We have a very gifted scholar, Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al-Azhari in residence for Ramadan this year. This is what’s in store:

Supplications From the Qur’an Explained

Faith Breeds Safety: Surat al-Baqarah (verse 126). Watch. Listen.

Prayer of a Concerned FatherSurat al-Baqarah (verses 127-128). Watch. Listen.

A Smart Prayer: Surat al-Baqarah (verse 201)Watch. Listen.

Patience: Lost Ingredient: Surat al-Baqarah (verse 250). WatchListen.

Recognizing Human Weakness: Surat al-Baqarah (verse 286)Watch. Listen.

Steadfastness in a Challenging World: Surat Āl-Imran (verse 8)Watch. Listen.

What Better Replacement: Surat Āl-Imran (verse 16)Watch. Listen.

A List of Honour: Surat Āl-Imran (verse 16)Watch. Listen.

Divine Promise vs. Fake Promises: Surat Āl-Imran (verse 193, 194)Watch. Listen.

Divine Pleasure; Guarantee of Success: Surat Hūd (Verse 47)Watch. Listen. Attend.

The Responsibility of a Question: Surat Hūd (verse 47). Watch. Listen.

Prayer: Bond of Believing Generations: Surat Ibrahim (verses 40 -41)Watch. Listen.

Unfulfilling Payment & Circle of Care: Surat al-Isrā’ (verse 24)Watch. Listen.

Power at Times of Tribulation: Surat al-Kahf (verse 10)Watch. Listen.

Tools of an Effective Da’iyah: Surat Ṭahā (verses 25 to 29). Watch. Listen.

In a Rush, You will always Crush: Surat Ṭahā (verse 114). Watch. Listen.

Arrows of Light Amidst Plight: Praying with Prophet Yunus (as): Surat al-Anbiyā’ (verse 87). Watch. Listen.

Praying for a Trust Bearer: On Child-Bearing, Surat al-Anbiyā’ (verse 89). Watch. Listen.

Chains of Grace, Surat al-Aḥqāf (verse 15). Watch. Listen.

Joining the Caravan of the Selfless, Surat al-Ḥashr (verse 10), Watch. Listen.

Who is doing disservice?, Surat al-Mumtaḥanah (verse 5), Watch. Listen.

The Truly Enlightened Ones, Surat al-Taḥrīm (verse 8). Watch. Listen.

Watch Every Breath, Surat al-Falaq (verses 1-5). Watch. Listen.



Stories of the Prophets from the Qur’an


Prophet Moses: A Man of Many Tasks. Watch. Listen. Attend.

Prophets David and Solomon: Wisdom with Power. Watch. Listen. Attend.

Maryam: Blessed Mother & Child. Watch. Listen. Attend.

Prophet Yunus: Trials of Prophethood. Watch. ListenAttend.

Prophet Abraham: the Sound of Unity, 17th July 2015. (media coming soon) Attend.


Daily Reflections and Tafsir of each Juz of the Qur’an before Tarawih






Juz 1. Watch. Listen.

Juz 2. Watch. Listen.

Juz 3. Watch. Listen.

Juz 4. Watch. Listen.

Juz 5. Watch. Listen.

Juz 6Watch. Listen.

Juz 7Watch. Listen.

Juz 8Watch. Listen.

Juz 9Listen.

Juz 10Watch. Listen.

Juz 11Watch. Listen.

Juz 12Watch. Listen.

Juz 13Watch. Listen.

Juz 14 & 15Watch. Listen.

Juz 16Watch. Listen.

Juz 17Watch. Listen.

Juz 18Watch. Listen.

Juz 19Watch. Listen.

Juz 20Watch. Listen.

Juz 21:  Watch. Listen.

Juz 22Watch. Listen.

Juz 23 & 24Watch. Listen.

Juz 25 & 26Watch. Listen.

Juz 27Watch. Listen.

Juz 28: Watch. Listen.

Juz 29: Watch. Listen.

Juz 30Listen.



The Qur’an and I


Reflections on Growing up with the Qur’an
20th June 2015. Watch. Listen. Attend.

Jewels of the Qur’an, Part 1
21st June 2015. Watch. Listen. Attend.

What is the Qur’an: From Revelation to Book
27th June 2015. Watch. Listen. Attend.
Jewels of the Qur’an, Part 2
28st June 2015. Watch. Attend.
Approaching Allah’s Book with Open Heart
4th July 2015. Watch. Listen.
Jewels of the Qur’an, Part 3. Listen.
“A night worth 80 years in worship and 80 years in sins forgiven” – Laylatul Qadr. Watch. Listen

Beyond Ramadan: Keeping the Qur’an in our Everyday Life. Watch. Listen.

Jewels of the Qur’an, Part 4. Listen.

David & Solomon: Wisdom with Power

What Happens when power is not in the hands of the wise? Total destruction indeed. The story of both Prophets David and Solomon are very relevant today as we need wisdom to bring peace and calmness to the troubled world.

This is part of a series of remarkable Quranic stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them), retold by Shaykh Ahmad Saad al-Azhari, a master of the Quran and scholar in residence at SeekersHub this Ramadan.

All SeekersHub programming during this blessed month is freely available at the Ramadan Hub. Your financial support is crucial to our #SpreadLight campaign, which seeks to provide truly excellent Islamic learning to at least 1,000,000 seekers of knowledge in the coming year! This will serve as an ongoing charity (sadaqa jariyah) so please donate today.

Prophet Moses: A Man of Many Tasks

Reading the Story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is very crucial as his mission was not only to introduce his Message to the Children of Israel but to save people from persecution, lead and educate them. He was a man of many tasks, patience and leadership. There are many lessons that we can learn from his rich life.

This is part of a series of remarkable Quranic stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them), retold by Shaykh Ahmad Saad al-Azhari, a master of the Quran and scholar in residence at SeekersHub this Ramadan.

All SeekersHub programming during this blessed month is freely available at the Ramadan Hub. Your financial support is crucial to our #SpreadLight campaign, which seeks to provide truly excellent Islamic learning to at least 1,000,000 seekers of knowledge in the coming year! This will serve as an ongoing charity (sadaqa jariyah) so please donate today.

Prophets, Messengers, and the Sunnah

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: I am researching Islam for class and I have the following questions:
Q1. What is the count of the prophets and messengers that Allah sent? Is it 124,000?
Q2. Out of this count, how many are messengers?
Q3. How many were from Arabs? And what are their names?
Q4. List all the Messengers that were mentioned in Qur’an. Are those the 25 Prophets mentioned from Adam to Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings?
Q5. What are the types of Sunnah?
Q6. Is Sunnah part of Revelation (like Qur’an)?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

Jazakum Allahu Khayr for your questions.

[1] We don’t know the exact number of Prophets and Messengers (Allah bless them all and give them peace). However, we know that ‘and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them.’ [35:24]

[2] We don’t know the exact number of Messengers who were sent. However, the Messengers we know who had a full scripture revealed to them were four: Dawud, Musa, `Isa and Muhammad (Allah bless them all and give them peace).

[3] From the twenty five prophets we know the names of, six were Arab: Salih, Nuh, Shu`ayb, Muhammad, Lut and Hud (Allah bless them all and give them peace)

[4] Yes, that’s correct. The twenty five prophets that we are obliged to believe as prophets are: Adam, Idris, Nuh, Hud, Salih, Lut, Ibrahim, Isma`il, Ishaq, Ya`qub, Yusuf, Shu`ayb, Harun, Musa, Dawud, Sulayman, Ayyub, Dhul Kifl, Yunus, Ilyas, al-Yasa`, Zakariyya, Yahya, `Isa and Muhammad (Allah bless them all and give them peace).

[5] There are two types of sunna: [a] confirmed sunnas; and [b] non-confirmed sunnas.

[6] Yes, the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is regarded as a non-recited revelation. Allah Most high says, ‘He does not speak out of (his own) desire. It is but revelation revealed (to him).’ [53:3-4]

And Allah knows best.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani