“Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah” [2:158].
It’s no secret that many of the rituals of Hajj are rooted in actual occurrences from the life of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his family. From performing Sa’ee (running between the hills of Safa and Marwa) to the sacrificing of a goat upon completion of the pilgrimage, these rituals performed during Hajj have the utmost historical significance.
When it comes to the Sa’ee, it is rooted in the story of when Prophet Ibrahim (AS) brought Hajar and their son Ismail (AS) to Makkah. Although the city was still barren at the time, Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) left them with some dates and a small water-skin containing water, and set out homeward. Concerned about the wellbeing of her child and herself, Hajar (AS) asked Prophet Ibrahim (AS) if this was a command from Allah, and once she received confirmation of this, she felt content. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) left with a heavy heart, but relied on Allah to take care of his family with this dua:
“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 so that they may be grateful” [14:37].
As the two ran out of water and sustenance, Prophet Ismail (AS) began to get thirsty, and Hajar (AS) left him to go look for water, as she could not bear seeing her child in such a condition. She frantically ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in hopes of running into somebody who could deliver sustenance. After running back and forth seven times, she heard a voice which was followed by the sight of an angel digging at the feet of Baby Ismail (AS) to sprout Zam Zam water (which is to flow until the end of time) and the angel said to her, “Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy (Ismail (AS) and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.”
The act of running between Safa and Marwa by Hajar was so beloved to Allah that He has made running between Safa and Marwa compulsory for every man and woman who performs Hajj. May Allah give us all the opportunity to perform Sa’ee on the very lands Hajar (AS) ran across!