Sa’i is the fourth obligatory rite of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage, and refers to walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa. The word Sa’i stems from the Arabic word Sa’a which means to strive or walk. All the pilgrims, whether they are performing Hajj or Umrah, have to fulfill this rite by walking seven times from the hill of Safa to Marwa.
History & Significance of Sa’i
The story of the ritual of Sa’i has its origins in the life of Prophet Ibrahim(عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). The wife of Prophet Ibrahim(عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times so that she could provide her son Prophet Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)with water. The significance of this ritual can be understood through the verses of Surah Al Baqarah in which Allah Almighty says:
“Indeed, Safa and Marwa are among the symbols of Allah. So, whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs Umrah is not blamed upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and knowing.”(Quran, 2:158)
According to Islamic history, Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)left Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)and his son Prophet Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)under a tree in Makkah with little to sustain themselves on Allah’s instruction. This was a test from the divine to check the steadfastness of the family’s faith in Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) . Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) never meant to abandon His pupils, and He wanted to set an example that whoever puts their trust in Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) is never forgotten.
When the mother and son had run out of water and Prophet Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), who was just an infant, was crying out of thirst and hunger. To save her son, Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)tried looking for water and food everywhere. In the search for water, she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa and climbed on them to look for any travelers so she could ask for help, but she was unable to find anyone.
Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) ran seven times between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa to find sustenance for her son and this act of love was so cherished by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) that He made it an essential component of Hajj and Umrah.
Allah’s Reward: Zam Zam
While Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was running between the hills for the seventh time, Angel Jibril (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)descended and broke the ground beneath Ismail’s feet, resulting in a spring of water erupting from the ground to satiate the thirst of Prophet Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).
The water continued flowing even after the mother and son had quenched their thirst and filled their water skins. It flowed so much that Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) cried out ZamZam (Stop flowing, stop flowing) or Zumi Zumi (get together, get together) and tried to stop the water with her hands.
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) says that if Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) hadn’t said Zumi Zumi, the water would have flowed until it covered the whole planet.
Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)dug a well at the site of this spring, which is known as the Well of Zamzam. It was during this time that Angel Jibril assured Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) that Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his family shall build the house of their Lord in this place.
In light of this tradition, Sa’i commemorates the struggle of Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and that if one stays true to their faith and has trust in their Lord, Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) will listen and will help us beyond our imaginations. We must have undying reliance on Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) and His plan.
Requisites of Sa’i
1. Performed After Tawaf
The first requisite practice of performing Sa’i is that it must be performed after one has completed their Tawaf. The pilgrims that have performed Umrah should perform Sa’i after performing Tawafal-Umrah.
Pilgrims that have performed Hajj al-Tamattu are to perform Sa’i twice. They will perform Sa’i after Tawaf al-Umrah first and then after performing Tawaf al-Ziyarah.
Pilgrims that are performing Hajj al-Qiran or Hajj al-Ifrad should perform Sa’i after performing Tawaf al-Qudum or Tawafal-Ziyarah.
2. Being in the State Of Ihram
Pilgrims must have entered the state of Ihram to performSa’i. This does not mean that the pilgrims should be wearing Ihram while performing Sa’i.
3. Beginning from Safa
The practice of Sa’i should begin from Safa and end at Marwa. It should not be the opposite, as it will make the Sa’i void.
4. Complete the Seven Laps
The first lap is to begin from the Hill of Safa and end at Marwa. The next lap will begin at Marwa and end at Safa. Moving back and forth is how the laps will be counted.
5. Cover The Entire Distance
The entire distance between the two hills should be covered, i.e., pilgrims must walk end-to-end from Safa to Marwa and back. Leaving any distance uncovered will not count as a complete Sa’i, and it will have to be performed again.
Jurisprudence of Sa’i
According to the jurisprudence of Sa’i, the actions to be performed can be divided into 5 categories which are Shuroot (prerequisites), Wajibat (necessary actions), Sunnan (virtuous actions), Mustahabat (recommended actions), and lastly, Makroohat (actions that should be avoided).
Shuroot – Prerequisites
The actions that are prerequisites of Sa’i include the following:
- Sa’i by one’s self and to be in the state of Ihram.
- To perform Sa’i after Umrah, it is also a requirement that the pilgrims must have entered the state of Ihram before they proceed for Sa’i.
- Sa’i must be performed at the right time.
Wajibat – Necessary Actions
The actions that are necessary and must be fulfilled stay the same for Sa’i in Hajj and Umrah. Wajibat of Sa’i include:
- Sa’i must begin at Safa and end at the hill of Marwa.
- It is to be performed after one has completed their Tawaf.
- All seven laps must be completed, and the complete distance should be covered between the hills.
- Completing Sa’i in Ihram for Umrah.
- Sa’i must be performed on foot unless there is a valid reason.
Sunnan – Virtuous Actions
Sunnan refers to the virtuous actions that you can do for rewards, but if not done, there is no penalty for these actions either. These actions are as follows:
- Kissing or gesturing toward Hajar al-Aswad before proceeding toward the hill of Safa.
- Performing Sa’I immediately after completing the Tawaf.
- Being in the state of purity and keeping the Awrah covered.
- Performing Sa’i without any intervals while facing the Kaaba.
Mustahabat – Recommended Actions
The recommended practices for all the pilgrims performing Sa’i include:
- Pronouncing the intention of Sa’i.
- Being in the state of ablution or wudhu.
- Making a prolonged dua at Safa and Marwa thrice.
- Performing two rakat Nafl prayers after one has completed Sa’i.
Makroohat – Actions That Should Be Avoided
Actions that are disliked and should be avoided are the Makroohat; the pilgrims should be mindful of avoiding the following:
- Talking idly or making unnecessary conversations, or buying things.
- Uncovering the Awrah.
- Running between Safa and Marwa continuously.
How to Perform Sa’i
Sa’i is to be performed after one has completed their Tawaf. Wudhu must be performed before Sa’i begins. Before you start at Safa, Istilam at Hajar al-Aswad should be carried out, and after completing Sa’i, pilgrims are to head back to Masjid al-Haram to perform two rakatNafl prayers.
Sa’i begins fromal-Safa. As the pilgrims near the hill, they must recite the following verse:
ِإِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ
أَبْدَأُ بِمَا بَدَأَ اللهُ بِهِ
“Indeed, Safa and Marwa are from the Signs of Allah.”
“I begin with that which Allah has begun with.”
These prayers are to be made at the start of Sa’i and not at the start of each lap. Once the pilgrims reach the top of the hill of Safa while facing the Holy Kaaba, the following supplication should be made three times, and one should ask Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) for whatever they wish or strive for:
اَللّٰهُ أَكْبَرُ، اَللّٰهُ أَكْبَرُ، اَللّٰهُ أَكْبَرُ، وَلِلّٰهِ الْحَمْدُ
لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ، وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اَللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ، اَنْجَزَ وَعْدَهُ وَنَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ وَهَزَمَ اَلْأَحْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ
“Allah is the Greatest; Allah is the Greatest; Allah is the Greatest, and to Allah belongs all praise. There is no deity except Allah, alone without a partner. To Him belongs the Dominion, and to Him belongs all praise. He gives life and death, and He has power over everything. There is no deity except Allah alone. He fulfilled His promise, supported His slave, and defeated the Confederates alone.”
Once the pilgrims are near the hill of Marwa, they’ll see green fluorescent lights, which indicate the distance that Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) covered when she was running between these hills. Once the pilgrims have reached the hilltop, the same verses that were recited at Safa will be recited, and the pilgrims are to raise their hands for Dua and then step down from the hill after making the supplication.
After completing the Sa’i, Pilgrims are to make a dua and then head towards Masjid al-Haram to offer two RakatNafl prayers.
After you leave Masjid al Haram after offering the Nafl prayer, recite the following prayer as it was the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ):
بِسْمِ اللهِ وَالصَّلَاةُ وَالسَّلَّامُ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللهِ، اللَّهُمَّ إَنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ
In the name of Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah. O Allah, I ask of you from Your bounty.
Sa’i- What to Expect
Pilgrims expect to see the hills of Safa and Marwa when they arrive for Sa’i, but they are surprised to see a paved walkway that looks like a steep walk and not the hike they were expecting.
Given the huge numbers of pilgrims that arrive for Hajj every year, the custodians of the two mosques authorized a modern and convenient architecture of the Safa and Marwa run. Today, the walkway between these two holy hills is the longest of its kind in the world.
Here is what you can expect to see:
- The walkway between Safa and Marwa is 394 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 11.75 meters high.
- It is a covered walkway; there is a roof overhead and a tiled floor underneath.
- It is connected to Masjif al-Haram.
- You can enter the walkway through 16 gates that open in Masjid al-Haram.
- It has 228 windows and 7niches overlooking Masjid al-Haram.
- The walkway has a separate path for wheelchairs and electric carts.
- 8 million pilgrims perform Sa’i during the days of Tasheeq.
Tips and Advice for Sa’i
- Do not use wheelchairs just because you are tired. Be mindful of the elderly and children that the wheelchair is a need for.
- If you are a male with female pilgrims or elderly people, do not run between the green mileposts and leave the people you are to care for behind.
- While doing Sa’i, if you have to use the bathroom or if it’s the time for congregation prayer, you may continue your Sa’i from the same point after performing the necessary action. If you forgot where you stopped, you can start the lap again.
Conclusion for What is Sa’i in Hajj
Sa’i is an essential component of Hajj and Umrah. It is one of those elements of Hajj that enrich the soul of a believer by instilling in them the concept of perseverance and patience. Sa’i also signifies that when one makes a sincere effort, Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) never lets that effort goes to waste. Through the story of Hajar’s (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) patience, we must remember that in the way of righteousness, we must never give up as it is Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى)to who we truly belong, and we must stay devoted.
FAQs for What is Sa’i in Hajj
What are Safa and Marwa?
Safa and Marwa are two hills that are connected Qaiqan and Abu Qubais mountains. They have a distance of 45 kilometers from each other.
Who ran between Safa and Marwa?
The wife of Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), Hajar (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), ran in between Safa and Marwa while searching for water for her son Prophet Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).
How far is Safa Marwa 7 rounds?
For fulfilling the rite of Sa’i, pilgrims cover a distance of about 3.15 kilometers. It takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete the seven rounds between Safa and Marwa on foot.
How many times do pilgrims have to run between Safa and Marwa?
The Pilgrims run between Safa and Marwa 7 times. Beginning from the hill of Safa and ending on the hill of Marwa.
Which day of Hajj is Sa’i?
Sa’i in Hajj is performed once the pilgrims have completed Tawaf al-Ziyarah. It is not necessary to perform it immediately after the Tawaf, but it should be performed until the sunset of the 12th Dhul Hijjah.