Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 158..........Part 2
Indeed, al-Safa and al-Marwa are among the rites of God. 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, God is appreciative and knowing
(Chapter 2: Verse 158)
When you listen to this verse, you may wonder: Why did God say that “there is no blame” for those circling between the Safa and the Marwa? Why would anyone feel ashamed, or concerned about being blamed when performing this act of worship? To answer this question, we have to look back at Mecca before the arrival of Islam. When the worship of idols was widespread in Arabia, Meccans erected an idol named ‘isaaf’ on mount Safa, and an idol named ‘naila’ on mount Marwa. They used to walk between the two hills paying homage to these idols. In essence, they had transferred worship from the purity of monotheism to idolatry. The pagans wanted to attribute sacredness to the idols by placing them on the two sacred hills. If these idols had any sacredness or value, there would have been no need to place them in sacred places such as al-Safa, al-Marwah, or inside the Ka’ba.
When Islam came, the prophet’s companions wanted to sever all ties to the practices of ignorance and polytheism. They felt heaviness in the heart when they performed the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa because it resembled what the pagans did. Allah wanted to comfort the companions, so the following verse was revealed: “Indeed, as-Safa and al-Marwah are among the rites of God. So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs ‘umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them.” Our Lord looks at the intentions within our hearts, not the outward appearance of what we do. Both the believers and disbelievers performed the exact same walk between the Safa and the Marwa, but only the believers had the proper intention and faith. We follow the commands of our Lord and keep Him in our heart in all our actions.
Moreover, just as placing idols on Al-safa and Marwa does not add any sacredness or value to the idols; so the opposite is also true: placing idols on Al-safa and Marwa, or even inside the Ka’ba does not make these place impure or less sacred.
The word ‘walk’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘yatufa’ derived from the verb ‘Taf.’ It refers to the specific action of circulating around something starting from a point and ending at that same point. The starting spot is also the ending spot. Likewise, walking between the Safa and the Marwa is obligated seven rounds during Hajj or Umrah. You start each round from al-Safa; then head to al-Marwah and return to al-Safa again. Then you go on to the second round and so on.
The word ‘Rites’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘sha’air.’ It’s singular ‘Mish’ar’ refers to places of worship. One example of a ‘rite’ or ‘Mish’ar” is the Ka’ba where tawaf is performed; another example is mount Arafa. Thus, the word ‘rites’ refers to the places where specific acts of worship are performed.
Some misunderstand the statement ‘So whoever makes Hajj to the House or performs ‘umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them.’ to mean that the act of walking between Safa and Marwa is not obligatory during Hajj. In other words, they claim that the walk is not an integral part of Hajj, rather it is something voluntary. We answer that the wording of the verse, and more specifically the phrase ‘there is no blame upon him for walking between them’ was revealed for a specific reason. It was for the purpose of comforting the companions to walk in the same place where the polytheists also performed idol worship. The phrase ‘there is no blame’ does not mean that this ritual is not obligatory. The obligation of the walk between Safa and Marwa is further clarified at the end of the verse when God says: ‘And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, God is appreciative.’ This phrase tells us that it is an obligation to walk between Safa and Marwa, and then there is room for those who want to do more if they wish.
If you perform that which God has obligated, then you would have fulfilled the duty. But when you increase in that act by volunteering out of love for Allah, then Allah is most appreciative. What does an appreciation from God mean? It means immense blessings, mercy and forgiveness.