The History of Sa’i
The rite of Sa’i commemorates the actions of Hajar عليها السلام, the wife of Ibrahim عليه السلام who walked between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times in search for water for her son Ismail عليه السلام.
Tradition states that Ibrahim was living with his wife, Sarah عليها السلام and her slave girl Hajar in Palestine. According to al-Rabghuzi, the famous Turkish author of Qisas al-Anbiya (Stories of the Prophets), Hajar was the daughter of the King of Maghreb and a descendant of the Prophet Salih عليه السلام. After her father was killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh, she was taken into slavery and later given to Sarah.
As the years passed and as she grew older, Sarah remained childless so she suggested to her husband that she should have a child with her slave girl Hajar.
Not long thereafter, as a result of their union, Hajar gave birth to a son, Ismail عليه السلام who was to become the father of the Arabs and the forefather of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.
Soon after Hajar had given birth, conflict and strife arose between Sarah and Hajar, so Sarah requested Ibrahim to take her away. In response to a divine revelation, Ibrahim brought Hajar and Ismail to Makkah (then known as Bakkah) and left them under a tree with a water skin and few provisions.
Initially, Hajar was reluctant at being left alone in the desert but after she learnt that it was a divine instruction, she became satisfied and put her trust in Allah. Ibrahim then recited the following supplication after leaving them in Makkah:
رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ
Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.
[Surah Ibrahim, 14:37]
After a while, the water in the water-skin ran out and Hajar, who was still nursing Ismail, could no longer produce milk. As a result of the thirst, Ismail began having seizures and was close to death before Hajar desperately started looking for water in the desert.
In her desperation, she climbed the hills of Safa and Marwah, to get a better view of the area and to seek out any passing desert travellers, before running between them seven times.
After returning to check the state of her son, she heard a voice which turned out to be that of the angel Jibril عليه السلام, who was scratching the ground with his heel (or with his wing, according to other narrations), bringing forth water. Hajar immediately started drinking from this spring and was able to feed her son thereafter, saving his life. She later dug a well around the spring, which came to be known as the well of Zamzam.
Jibril عليه السلام assured Hajar that she shouldn’t worry about perishing and informed her that her son and his father will someday build the House of Allah at that location.
Not long thereafter, a group of people whose water supplies had run out were travelling through the desert. In search of water, they noticed that the birds were flocking to a particular area and being aware that birds flock to water sources, they headed in that direction.
When they arrived, they sought permission from Hajar to drink from the well of Zamzam, to which she obliged. This group of people, known as the tribe of Jurhum, settled in and populated this area, bringing about the establishment of Makkah al-Mukarramah.
The Significance of Sa’i
Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ
Indeed, Safa and Marwah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs Umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and Knowing.
[Surah al-Baqarah, 2:158]
Providing commentary on this verse, Ibn Kathir رحمة الله عليه writes:
Whoever performs Sa’i between Safa and Marwah should remember his meekness, humbleness and need for Allah to guide his heart, lead his affairs to success and forgive his sins. He should also want Allah to eliminate his shortcomings and errors and to guide him to the straight path. He should ask Allah to keep him firm on this path until he meets death, and to change his situation from that of sin and errors to that of perfection and being forgiven, the same providence which was provided to Hajar.
Sa’i symbolises the ongoing struggle that we encounter throughout our lives, as Hajar had experienced. However, through her unwavering Tawakkul (reliance on Allah), her supplications were answered and her needs were met.
How to Perform Sa’i
Istilam of al-Hajr al-Aswad
Prior to performing Sa’i, it is a Sunnah to perform Istilam of al-Hajr al-Aswad. You will be performing Istilam for the ninth time, following the eight times you performed Istilam during Tawaf. This Istilam is only applicable if you’re going to perform Sa’i immediately after.
If you’ve forgotten to perform Istilam prior to Sa’i, or you’re finding it difficult to return to the line of al-Hajr al-Aswad due to crowds or tiredness, it may be left out. However, it can also be performed in the Masjid, as long as you are facing al-Hajr al-Aswad.
The performance of Istilam is to be performed in exactly the same manner as it was performed during Tawaf.
Proceed to Safa
Proceed to the hill of Safa, which is located in line with al-Hajr al-Aswad. There is a white sign which indicates where it is. As you are approaching Safa, it is Sunnah to recite the following:
إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ الله
Innas Safa wal Marwata min Sha’a’ir-illah.
Indeed, Safa and Marwah are from the Signs of Allah…
[Surah al-Baqarah, 2:158]
Thereafter, recite the following Dua:
أَبْدَأُ بِمَا بَدَأَ اللهُ بِهِ
Abda’u bima Bada’allahu Bihi.
I begin with that which Allah has begun with.
These supplications are only to be recited once before Sa’i and not at the start of each circuit.
Make Dua at Safa
Upon reaching the hill of Safa, face the direction of the Kaaba and raise your hands in supplication. Your view of the Kaaba will be obscured so make an educated guess about its location and face this direction. Don’t raise your hands up to your earlobes or gesture towards the Kaaba as you would have done during Tawaf.
Recite the following Dua:
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ وَلاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَاَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ
لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اَللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ, صَدَقَ وَعْدَهُ, وَنَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ, وَهَزَمَ اَلْأَحْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ
Alhamdu lillah, wala ilaha illallah, wallahu Akbar.
Laa ilaha illallahu wahdahu la shareeka lahu, lahulmulku wa lahidhamdu, yuhyee wa yumeetu wa Huwa ala kulli shay’in Qadeer.
La ilaha illallahu wahdahu, sadaqa wa’dahu, wa nasara abdahu, wa hazamal-ahzaaba wahdahu.
All praise is due to Allah, there is no God but Allah, and Allah is the Greatest.
There is none worthy of worship but Allah alone, no partners are unto Him, His is the dominion and His is the praise. He gives life and He gives death and He is capable of everything.
There is none worthy of worship but Allah alone, who fulfilled His promise, and gave victory to His servant and defeated the confederates alone.
After reciting this Dua, you may recite your own supplications.
Read the Dua a total of three times, making your own supplications in between each time, as was the Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ.
Proceed to Marwah
Descend from Safa and make your way towards Marwah. Between Safa and Marwah, you will encounter two sets of green fluorescent (approximately 50 metres apart) lights which indicate the distance that Hajar ran in order to get to higher ground. These two markers are known as Milayn al-Akhdharayn (the two green mileposts). Between these two lights, men should run at a medium pace while women should remain at walking pace.
There is no fixed Dhikr or Dua that has been prescribed to be read during Sa’i, so you may recite any prayers or supplications of your choice.
You may wish to recite the following Dua, which was the practice of Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Mas’ud رضي الله عنهما during Sa’i:
رَبِّ اغْفِرْ وَارْحَمْ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْأَعَزُّ الْأَكْرَمُ
Rabbighfir war-ham, Innaka Antal A’azz ul-Akram.
O my Lord! Forgive (me) and have mercy (on me)! Indeed, You are Most Mighty and Most Honourable.
The distance between Safa and Marwah is about 450 metres.
Make Dua at Marwah
Upon reaching the hill of Marwah, face the direction of the Kaaba, raise your hands in supplication and repeat the same supplications you recited at Safa.
This completes one lap of Sa’i. Returning back to Safa is considered a second lap.
End of Sa’i
Repeat this procedure until you have completed seven laps, at which point you should be at the hill of Marwah.
Dua and Salah
It is recommended to make a final Dua here and also to perform two Rakats of Nafl Salah in the Haram following Sa’i.
Leave the Haram
As you leave Masjid al-Haram, step out with your left foot and recite the following Dua, as was the Sunnah of Rasulullah ﷺ when leaving the Masjid:
بِسْمِ اللهِ، وَالصَّلَاةُ وَالسَّلَّامُ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللهِ، اللَّهُمَّ إَنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ
Bismillaahi wassalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa Rasoolillaahi, Allaahumma ‘innee ‘as’aluka min fadhlika.
In the Name of Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah. O Allah, I ask for Your favour.
After Sa’i, you will have your hair cut allowing you to leave Ihram. This marks the completion of your Umrah.
Guidelines and Advice for Sa’i
- For the elderly or disabled, there is a wheelchair section. Tiredness is not an excuse to use a wheelchair.
- Men may abstain from running between Milayn al-Akhdharayn (the two green mileposts) if they are taking care of the elderly or female pilgrims.
- If a Fardh prayer is due to start, you must join the congregation and resume your Sa’i from the position that you stopped. If you can’t remember exactly where you stopped, start the lap again.
- Talking is permissible during Sa’i, although it must be necessary and not merely idle or worldly talk.
- Sa’i can also be performed in the middle and roof areas. If you’re performing Sa’i during a hot day, the middle would be a better option. The roof is the better option at any other point during the day.
The Jurisprudence of Sa’i
|To perform Sa’i yourself.|
|To have entered into Ihram prior to performing the Sa’i of Hajj.|
|To have entered into Ihram prior to performing the Sa’i after Umrah.|
|To perform Sa’i at its correct time.|
|Wajibaat (Necessary Actions)|
|To begin Sa’i at Safa and finish at Marwah.|
|To perform Sa’i after having done Tawaf.|
|To perform Sa’i on foot, unless you have a valid excuse.|
|To perform seven laps.|
|To stay in Ihram until the Sa’i of Umrah has been completed.|
|To cover the complete distance between Safa and Marwah.|
|Sunnan (Virtuous Actions)|
|To face the Kaaba at Safa and Marwah.|
|To perform Sa’i in a continuous manner, without breaks or intervals between laps.|
|To perform Sa’i soon after Tawaf.|
|To perform Istilam prior to going to Safa for Sa’i.|
|Mustahabaat (Recommended Actions)|
|To make an intention for Sa’i.|
|To make prolonged Dua three times at Safa and Marwah.|
|To perform two Rakats Nafl after completing Sa’i.|
|To have Wudhu.|
|Makroohat (Disliked Actions)|
|To ascend Safa and Marwah.|
|To engage in activities such as idle talk or buying and selling goods, which would break concentration or stop the continuous flow of Sa’i.|
|To keep the Awrah uncovered.|
|To run the entire distance between Safa and Marwah.|