In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 158
The ayah opens with the solemn declaration that the two hills, Safa and Marwah adjoining the Ka’bah in Makkah, are tangible signs from Allah. Pilgrims walk briskly between them after making the tawaf of the Ka’bah. This act of walking briskly or “making rounds” between them is known as Sa’ee, a practice which was present even in the days of ignorance. Before Islam, the people used to assume Ihram for their idol Manat, so after embracing Islam when they were instructed to do Sa’ee for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala they hesitated. They were doubtful whether their Sa’ee will be for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala or the idols since previously, they performed this act for the idols. In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala removes their doubts.
The word sha’ir [شَعَآئِرِ] is from the root sheen-ayn-ra and it means “a sign, mark or token”. Sha’ir Allah or the Symbols of Allah means something that reminds us of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala such as a mosque, prayer mat, the Qur’an and the like.
Before embracing Islam, the people ran between Safa and Marwah as an act of devotion to their idols. With the idols still on top of the hills, the Muslims were not comfortable with this act. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in this ayah removes their doubts by saying that Safa and Marwah are the Symbols of Allah, whoever sees them or hears their name is reminded of pilgrimage. Therefore, the new Muslims should not worry about what happened in the past. If earlier they ran there for their idols now Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands them to run in devotion to Him.
Explaining this ayah, ‘Aishah radhiAllahu ‘anha said that the ayah was revealed about the Ansar who before Islam assumed Ihlal [Ihram for Hajj] in the area of Mushallal for their idol Manat that they used to worship. Those who assumed Ihlal for Manat, used to hesitate to perform Tawaf between Mounts As-Safa and Al-Marwah. So, they asked Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam about it saying, “O Messenger of Allah! During the time of jahiliyyah, we used to hesitate to perform Tawaf between As-Safa and Al-Marwah.” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed this ayah and clarified that it was not a sin to perform the Tawaf between them.
‘Aishah radhiAllahu ‘anha then said, “Allah’s Messenger has made it a Sunnah to perform Tawaf between them (As-Safa and Al-Marwah), and thus, no one should abandon performing Tawaf between them.” This hadeeth is reported in the Saheehayn.
Ash-Sha`bi said, “Isaf (an idol) was on As-Safa while Na’ilah (an idol) was on Al-Marwah, and they used to touch (or kiss) them. After Islam came, they were hesitant about performing Tawaf between them. Thereafter, the ayah (2:158) was revealed.”
The Wisdom behind legislating Sa’ee
It is recorded in the Saheeh Muslim on the authority of Jabir radhiAllahu ‘anhu that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam finished the Tawaf around the House, and then went back to the Rukn [pillar, i.e., the Black Stone] and kissed it. He then went out from the door near As-Safa while reciting, “Verily, As-Safa and Al-Marwah are of the symbols of Allah.” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then said, “I start with what Allah has commanded me to start with (meaning the Sa’ee from As-Safa).”
Imam Ahmad reported that Habibah bint Abu Tajrah said, “I saw Allah’s Messenger performing Tawaf between As-Safa and Al-Marwah, while the people were in front of him and he was behind them walking in Sa’ee. I saw his garment twisted around his knees because of the fast walking in Sa’ee (he was performing) and he was reciting: Perform Sa`i, for Allah has prescribed Sa’ee on you.”
This hadeeth was used as a proof for the fact that Sa’ee is a Rukn of Hajj. It was also said that Sa’ee is wajib [obligatory], and not a Rukn of Hajj and that if one does not perform it by mistake or by intention, he could expiate the shortcoming with damm [expiation]. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has stated that the Tawaf between As-Safa and Al-Marwah is among the symbols of Allah, meaning, among the acts that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala legislated during the Hajj for Prophet Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam.
Earlier we mentioned the hadeeth by Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu that the origin of Tawaf comes from the Tawaf of Hajar (Prophet Ibraheem’s wife), between As-Safa and Al-Marwah seeking water for her son (Isma’eel). Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam had left them in Makkah, where there was no habitation for her. When Hajar feared that her son would die, she stood up and begged Allah for His help and kept going back and forth in the area between As-Safa and Al-Marwah. She was humble, fearful, frightened and meek before Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala answered her prayers, relieved her of her loneliness, ended her dilemma and made the well of Zamzam bring forth its water for her.
Therefore, whoever performs Sa’ee between As-Safa and Al-Marwah should remember his meekness, humbleness and need for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to guide his heart, lead his affairs to success and forgive his sins. He should also ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to eliminate his shortcomings and errors and to guide him to the straight path. He should ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to keep him firm on His 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.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And whoever does good voluntarily then verily, Allah is All-Recognizer, All-Knower.” There are certain commands in Islam that are obligatory such as the five daily prayers, the yearly charity, fasting the month of Ramadan and so on. Whoever honors the obligations will be rewarded but he who does more than what is obligatory should know that his acts will not go unnoticed. For example, if you are young and healthy, you should have no excuses for not offering the Sunnah and voluntary prayers or keeping the voluntary fasts. If you are rich and able, you should thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by giving more in His Cause other than the mandatory spending.
– When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala blesses someone the opportunity to go for the pilgrimage then he should be grateful for this one in a lifetime chance and also check his heart. There should be no arrogance or looking down upon others. A person should be careful about his actions (all his rituals should be according to the Sunnah and one must not cause harm to others) as well as the tongue. The tongue should be engaged in the remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and avoid idle talk. One should also try to recall the sacrifice of Lady Hajar ‘alayhi salaam and walk in her footsteps.
– We should be humble and completely rely on Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as Hajar ‘alayhi salaam did. When being tested recall Who can help you. Turn to Him.
– Do not be complacent with mediocre level of worship. Challenge yourself. Fight against your nafs to do more. If by the permission of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, you are able to do more than the bare minimum then do not waste your deeds by advertising them. Let them be a secret between you and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
– Know that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Ash-Shakoor. He is always ready to acknowledge and accept all the good you do for His sake. Know that if nobody recognizes the good you are doing, He surely is! Do good for His sake and you will be the happiest person on earth with His will.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala allow us to act on what we learn, aameen.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 158