Islam And Judaism On Female Prophets – OpEd


The Talmud says that 48 male prophets and 7 female prophets prophesied in Israel. The female prophets were Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Queen Esther.

Should Hagar the Egyptian, be considered a Prophet of the Lord (God)?  When Hagar runs away from Sarai, the angel agent of the Lord finds her in the wilderness (Genesis 16: 7) and tells her to return to her mistress: Genesis 16:9 “And the agent of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress, and submit to her harsh treatment.”

Even more important, the agent speaks for the Lord in the first person: Genesis 16:10 “And the agent of God said to her, “I will greatly increase your offspring, and they shall be too many to count (Muslims today number over two billion).” 

Hagar’s response to this incident also indicates that she believes she has been speaking with the Lord: Genesis 16:13 “And she called the Lord who spoke to her, “You Are El-roi,” by which she meant, “Have I not gone on seeing after my being seen!”

The historical answer to those who ask if “Hagar the Egyptian, should be considered a Prophet of the Lord (God)” is of course not. Hagar was an Egyptian and a woman, and thus has a double reason that keeps her from being considered a Prophet of the Lord (God). 

However, the Torah says specifically that Miriam, the older sister of Prophets Moses and Aaron is also a Prophet (Exodus 15:20): “Then Miriam the Prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the (Hebrew) women followed her, with timbrels and dancing” 

Also, the Qur’an states specifically that the Lord spoke to Mary through a messenger agent angel (Qur’an 3:45-49) “She (Mary) said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And He (God) will teach him (Prophet Jesus) writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel. And (make Jesus) a messenger (agent) to the Children of Israel”…)

Thus, if we can overcome our sexist prejudice, we can see that both non-Jews like Prophet Muhammad, and non-males like Prophet Miriam can be and are possible and actual prophets. 

Abraham’s wife Hagar is indeed a female non-Jewish prophet and her name for God is El-Ro’ee. El Ro’ee means A Self-reflecting God or A God Who Sees (literally mirrors) Me. “Then she (Hagar) called the name of YHVH, who spoke to her, ‘El Ro’ee’, ‘You are a God who sees me’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’ So the well was named Beer-laHai-roee; well of the Living One (Al-Hayy) who sees me.”  (Genesis 16:13-14) 

Neither Sarah nor Hagar/Ha-jar are mentioned by name in the Qur’an, but the story of Ha-jar’s exile from Abraham’s home is traditionally understood to be referred to in a line from Ibrāhīm’s prayer in the Qur’an (14:37): “I have settled some of my family in a barren valley near your Sacred House.” 

Muslim tradition relates that when Hā-jar ran out of water, and Ismā’īl, an infant at that time, began to die; Hā-jar panicked and ran between two nearby hills, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah repeatedly searching for water. 

After her seventh run, Ismā’īl hit the ground with his heel and caused a miraculous well to spring out of the ground called Zamzum Well. It is located a few meters from the Kaaba in Mecca.

Perhaps this previously unique Torah name of God, El Ro’ee or Hai Ro’ee; which are Hagar’s names for God, meaning A Self-reflecting God or A God Who Sees Me, and the name for the well ‘Beer-laHai-ro’ee’ the well of the Self-reflecting God; can help bring Christians, Jews and Muslims together to see themselves in the eyes of each other better, and thus come closer together in the future. That would be an excellent example of the power of just one of the many names of the One God to make us better people and lovers.

Thus, this one name of God that few Christians and Jews know or use today, is a name that I believe will become more important in the future as Christians, Jews and Muslims learn more about each other’s religions. This name, El Ro’ee, only appears twice in the Hebrew Bible and, as far as I know, is not used at all in the Talmud. 

God willing the universal name and concept of El-Ro’ee will spread in future generations among believing Christians, Jews and Muslims and El Ro’ee which means A Self-reflecting God or A God Who Sees (literally mirrors) Me” will become the One who keeps us all alive: “Then she (Hagar) called the name of the Lord, who spoke to her, ‘El Ro’ee’, ‘You are a God who sees me’; for she said, ‘I have even remained alive here after seeing Him.”

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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