Date :Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 | Time : 12:14 |ID: 62733 | Print

Safa and Marwah – Divine Appointed Sign: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:158) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:158)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie


Safa and Marwah – Divine Appointed Sign

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّـهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١٥٨


2:158 Indeed, (the hills of) Safa and Marwah are among the signs appointed by Allah. So, whoever makes hajj to the House, or performs the ‘umrah, there is no sin upon him to perform Tawaf between them. Should anyone do good of his own accord, then Allah is indeed appreciative, all-knowing.

Commentary:  Safa and Marwa are two small hills located on the eastern side of Masjid-al-Haram. They are approximately 450 meters apart; Safa is about 100 m and Marwa is about 350 m from the Kaa’ba; Safa is 15 m and Marwa is 8 m above ground level.

The path between Safa and Marwa are now inside a long gallery which Hajj pilgrims walk between seven times (tawaf); the trip begins at Safa.

The word Safa in Arabic means a hard-smooth rock, and Marwa means hard stone. In Islamic traditions, their name is intertwined with the memory of submission and sincere devotion of Hajer (AS) to Allah (SWT). For this reason, the aforementioned verse asserts that Safa and Marwa are “the symbols of Allah (SWT)” (شَعَائِرِ اللَّـهِ) and that giving respect and reverence to the divine symbols is a sign of having good faith [(وَمَن يُعَظِّمْ شَعَائِرَ اللَّـهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِن تَقْوَى الْقُلُوبِ), Al-Hajj 22:32].

The word “shaAAairi” (شَعائِر) is plural of (شعیره) and means “signs”. The phrase (شَعَائِرِ اللَّـهِ) means “signs of Allah” and it refers to objects, events or activities that remind mankind of the might and glory of Allah (SWT). It also can refer to places that encourages man to remember a noble and sacred event [Tafseer-e-Namonah, Vol. 1, Page 539].

Allah (SWT) commanded Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to migrate his wife (Hajer) and infant son (Ismail) from Syria to Mecca. The mission of Hajer was to prepare the grounds for the rebuilding of the house of Kaaba in the future by two divine prophets; Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (AS).

They left Syria until they reached Mecca. At this time, Mecca was a barren land without inhabitants. They stayed in Mecca until the time came for Prophet Ibrahim to leave his wife and son in Mecca and return by himself to Syria.

At the time of farewell, Hajer (AS) looked at Prophet Ibrahim with tearful eyes and said: what should she do with an infant child in this wilderness? The weeping of Hajer and crying of Ismail brought a heavy grief to the heart of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had a soft heart and loved his family dearly [(إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَحَلِيمٌ أَوَّاهٌ مُّنِيبٌ ﴿٧٥﴾), Hud 11:75]. He invoked Allah (SWT) and said [Ibrahim, 14:37]:

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

14:37 “Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring settle in a barren valley near Your Sacred House! Our Lord! I did so that they may establish Prayer. So make the hearts of people affectionately inclined to them, and provide them with fruits for their sustenance that they may give thanks.

For a few days, Hajer lived off the food and water which she had saved. Eventually, she ran out of provisions. With each passing day, a lack of food and water made the milk in her breasts gradually dry up. Hajer was a strong and resilient lady. She did not mind her own thirst and hunger but could not bear to see the dry lips and exhausted eyes of Ismail. However, she never lost hope in her Lord, a testament to the strength of her faith.

She left Ismail in a tent and went out in search of water. First, she climbed the hill of Safa, which was the nearest hill, and looked at the surrounding area for water. She found nothing there. In the distance, she saw a sign of water in the direction of Marwa. She ran towards Marwa, but when she reached there, she found no water there either. Again, in the distance, she saw in the direction of Safa a sign of water. She ran back to Safa but found no water again. What appeared to her was an optical illusion, also known as a mirage.

Hajer (AS) ran back and forth between the hills seven times in the scorching heat before returning to her son. When she arrived to the tent, she found that a spring had broken forth underneath the heel of Ismail. This spring is now known as the Zam Zam Well. The mother and child drank from its water and they were saved from death.

Water is the source of life and sustenance. The flocks of birds in the area noticed the flow of water and subsequently flew towards it. The Bedouin tribes noticed this phenomenon and followed the flying pattern of birds and they also found the Zam Zam well. They settled down in the vicinity and gradually the city of Mecca was established. A few decades later, Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail raised the walls of the Kaa’ba together.

Today, a crescent shaped area immediately adjacent to the Kaa’ba is called Hijr Ismail. This is the burial place of Hajer (AS) and Ismail (AS) and considered part of Kaa’ba. Every year, millions of people from around the world go for the pilgrimage Hajj and Umrah. Pilgrims go around the crescent as they do the tawaf of Kaa’ba. After that, they emulate Hajer (AS) and run seven times back and forth between Safa and Marwa.

The verse concludes with this phrase:

… وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ ﴿١٥٨

2:158 …. Should anyone do good of his own accord, then Allah is indeed appreciative, all-knowing.

The Arabic word tatawwa‘a (تَطَوَّعَ) means doing good willingly. Hence, the phrase implies: indeed Allah (SWT) is aware (عَلِيمٌ) of good deed that one does willingly and He (SWT) expresses His appreciation with rewarding performers of good deeds (فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ شَاكِرٌ).

Question: Doing the tawaf of Safa and Marwa is mandatory in the pilgrimage of Hajj and Umrah (non-mandatory pilgrimage of Kaa’ba). Then why do the verses state that “there is no sin upon him to perform Tawaf between them”?

… فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ …. ﴿١٥٨

Answer: Before the rise of Islam, Safa and Marwa were shrines to the idols of “Easaf” and “Na’elah” [(اساف) & (نائله)]. Infidels used to worship them and seek their blessing during the Tawaf between Safa and Marwa. So, Muslims were worried that the Tawaf of Safa and Marwa might be in conformity with the worshipping acts of the idolaters.

The verse eases the concern, eliminates worries and assures believers that “there is no sin” (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ) in performing Tawaf between them. This is perhaps analogous to a physician who prescribes medications and assures the patient that there will be no side effects.

The Qur’an uses similar languages in similar circumstances. For example, the shortening of some obligatory prayers is mandatory for travelers. Some might think that shortening prayer is not in conformity with a whole devotion to God. The Qur’an, in the chapter of An-Nisa (4:101), removes this notion by stating that “there is no sin upon you in shortening the prayers” during traveling:

وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُوا مِنَ الصَّلَاةِ …. ﴿١٠١

4:101 When you journey in the land, there is no sin upon you in shortening the prayers, ….

اللَّهُمَّ أَحْسِنْ عَاقِبَتَنَا فِي الْأُمُورِ كُلِّهَا وَأَجِرْنَا مِنْ خِزْيِ الدُّنْيَا وَعَذَابِ الْآخِرَة

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