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Safa and Marwa – Significance and History

by | Nov 11, 2010

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Sai is one of the essential rituals of Hajj and Umrah. It refers to the practice of walking back and forth seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwa. 

Safa and Marwa are two hills located outside the Masjid al-Haram, close to Kaaba in Makkah, and connected to the Abu Qubais Mountain. It holds great significance in Islamic culture. 

Muslims who perform the Hajj must run between Safa and Marwa. It is one of the obligations while performing Hajj. This is in memory of a great woman, a mother who sacrificed for her son.

Story of Safa and Marwa:

The memorization of Safa and Marwa is associated with the search for water by Ibrahim’s wife, Hajar, for their son Ismail. Ibraheem brought Hajira and her son Ismaeel to a place near the Kaabah under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, the highest place in the mosque at the order of Allah Almighty. During those days, there was nobody near her in Makah, nor was there any water. So he made them sit over there, placed near them a leather bag containing some dates and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward.

Hazrat Hajira followed him, saying:

 “O Ibraheem! Where are you going to leave us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything?”

She repeated this many times. But he did not look back at her. 

Then she asked him: “Has Allah ordered you to do this?”

He said, “Yes.” 

She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” 

And then she returned while Ibrahim (A.S) went on his way.

When he reached al-Thaniyyah, where they could not see him, he faced the Kaaba and, raising both hands, prayed to Allah in the following words:

Dua of Ibrahim (A.S)

رَّبَّنَآ إِنِّىٓ أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِى بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِى زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ ٱلْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ فَٱجْعَلْ أَفْـِٔدَةً مِّنَ ٱلنَّاسِ تَهْوِىٓ إِلَيْهِمْ وَٱرْزُقْهُم مِّنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ

“O our Lord! I have made my offspring dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Kabah at Makah) in order. Our Lord that they may perform As‑Salah (Iqamat‑as‑Salah). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them. and (O Allah) give them fruits so they may give thanks.” [ Ibrahim 14:37]

Ismael’s mother went on feeding Ismael and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty, and her child also became thirsty. Then she started looking at her child tossing in suffering. 

Desperate to find water, she first climbed the closet hill Safa to look at the surrounding region. When she did not see anything, she ran towards the mountain of Al-Safa, the nearest mountain to her on that land. 

When she did not see anything, she ran towards Marwa to look around to find some water source or somebody, but she could not see anybody.

Then she ran toward al-Safa, and when she reached the valley. She tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble till she crossed the valley and reached al-Marwa. Where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody. But she could not see anybody. She ran back and forth between both hills a total of seven times. 

From Ibn Abbaas

“This is the source of the tradition of the walking between them (i.e., Safa and Marwa). When she reached Marwa (for the last time), she heard a voice, and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, “O (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice. have you got something to help me?”

And she saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing) till water flowed from that place. She made something like a basin around it, using her hand this way. And started filling her water skin with water with her hands. And the water started flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”

Narrated by Ibn Abbaas, The Prophet (P.B.U.H) added:

“May Allah bestow Mercy on Ismael’s mother! Had she left the Zam-zam alone (flowing without trying to control it)? (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water skin). Zam would have been a stream flowing on the earth’s surface.” The Prophet (P.B.U.H) further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her: ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected. It is the House of Allah that this boy and his father will build. Allah never neglects His people.’

Significance of Safa and Marwa:

Allah so much loved this act of running between Safa and Marwa by a woman. Almighty Allah has made running between Safa and Marwa compulsory for every man and woman who performs Hajj and Umrah. Allah mentioned in the Quran:

 إِنَّ ٱلصَّفَا وَٱلْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَآئِرِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ ٱلْبَيْتَ أَوِ ٱعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ

Indeed, as-Safā and al-Marwah are among the symbols of Allāh. So whoever makes Hajj [pilgrimage] to the House or performs ‘umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allāh is Appreciative and Knowing. 

[Surah Baqara:158]

Today we drink from Zamzam – the ever-flowing water. When you go for Hajj, remember the struggle of this great woman and how Allah Almighty dignifies her struggles until doomsday. 

Facts about Safa and Marwa

  • What is Safa and Marwa?

Safa and Marwah are the two small-historical hills connected to the more prominent mountains, Abu Qubais and Qaiqan, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.   

  • What is the Distance between Safa and Marwa?

The distance between Safa and Marwa is about 450 meters, roughly 3.6km. 

  • Where Are Safa and Marwa Located?

Safa and Marwa are two hills located outside the Masjid al-Haram, close to Kaaba in Makkah, and connected to the Abu Qubais Mountain.

  • How long Does it take to walk from Safa and Marwa?

It almost takes ten minutes to walk from Safa to Marwa means one lap and vice versa. 

  • What to Recite between Safa and Marwa?

أَبْدَأُ بِمَا بَدَأَ اللهُ بِهِ. لَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَ اللهُ أَكْـبَر لَا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ، لَهُ المُلْكُ وَلَهُ الحَمْدُ وهُوَ عَلى كُلِّ شَيءٍ قَديرٌ، لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ أَنْجَزَ وَعْدَهُ، وَنَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ وَهَزَمَ الأَحْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ

I begin with what Allah began with. Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. No one has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, without a partner. To Him belongs all sovereignty and praise, and He is over all things omnipotent. None has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone. He fulfilled His promise, aided His Servant, and single-handedly defeated the allies.

  • Why are Safa and Marwa important?

Running between Safa and Marwa is one of the main rituals of Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages. It marks the action of Hajar, who walked between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water. 

  • How many Safa and Marwa rounds do we complete? 

4 rounds Safa to Marwa and 3 rounds Marwa to Safa. 

  • What is the running between Safa and Marwa called?

The ritual during the Hajj and Umrah of running back and forth seven times between both Safa and Marwa is called Sa’i


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