“Surely, al-Safā and al-Marwah are the symbols of Allah. Hence, whoever performs Hajj (full Pilgrimage) to the House (of Allah) or makes Umrah (minor Pilgrimage), will find it is no sin for him to ambulate between the two. And whoever does good work voluntarily should know that Allah is Appreciative, All-Knowing.”
(Al-Qur’ān – 2:158)
The pilgrimage to Ka’bah along with a set of other rites on certain fixed dates of Dhu al-Hijjah is known as Hajj. Pilgrimage at other times is known as Umrah. Safā and Marwah are the names of two hillocks near the Holy Mosque in Makkah. To run between these two hillocks was among the rites which God had taught Abraham in connection with Hajj. Later, when Pagan Ignorance prevailed in Makkah and the neighbouring regions, altars were built for Isāf at Safā and for Nāilah at Marwah, and people began to circumambulate them. After the advent of the Prophet, when the light of Islam had spread to the people of Arabia, Muslims came to doubt whether running between Safā and Marwah was one of the original rites of Pilgrimage or was merely an invidious religious innovation of the Age of Ignorance. If it was in fact such, they feared they might be committing an act of polytheism.
Moreover, we learn from a Tradition transmitted from Ayesha that even in pre-Islamic times the people of Madina were not favourably disposed to this practice. Although they believed in al-Manāt they did not believe in Isāf and Nāilah. For these reasons, it was necessary, at the time of the change of the qiblah, to dispel popular misconception about this rite. Running between these two hillocks is part of the original rites of Pilgrimage and the sanctity of Safā and Marwah stems from the revealed Law of God.