Expanding the Mas'a

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Expanding the Mas'a


- What is the ruling for performing sa'y in the new Mas'a [the recently expanded area between al-Safa and al-Marwa] that was established by the Saudi government?

- What is the ruling regarding this expansion? Some people maintain that the width of the Mas'a is defined and known and that any expansion is impermissible and a violation and modification of Islamic law?


Linguistic and legal meanings of sa'y
The word sa'y means striving to do a certain act. God Almighty says, “That man can have nothing but what he strives for” (Quran 53: 39).
The word may also mean 'to intend', as in the following verse, “O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of God” (Quran 62: 9).
Sa'y in this verse means to strive and intend to make remembrance of God by heeding His call. It also means to walk.

The legal meaning of the word is to span the distance between the mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa seven times back and forth after having performed tawaf for either hajj or 'umrah.

Scholarly opinions on the ruling of sa'y

The majority from among the Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars have maintained that sa'y is one of the obligatory actions of hajj and 'umrah without which they are incomplete.

Hanafi scholars have maintained that sa'y is required and not obligatory i.e. a pilgrim who neglects it is obliged to slaughter in expiation and his hajj is complete.

Imam Ahmed, in one report, considered sa'y a sunnah, the omission of which does not obligate slaughtering in expiation. This same opinion was likewise reported from some of the Salaf. However, scholars are unanimous that sa'y is one of the legal requirements.

The mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa
The rite of sa'y is contingent upon the mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa, as is evident from the words of God Almighty, “Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to good, be sure that God is He Who recognizes and knows” (Quran 2:158).
Similarly, when he addressed the pilgrims who had assumed ihram for hajj, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Release yourselves from ihram after performing tawaf at the Holy House and making sa'y between al-Safa and al-Marwa."1

These two known mountains facing each other are located at Mecca; the first lies at the foot of Abu Qubays Mountain and the latter lies at the foot of Qu'aqi'an Mountain. In the past, people built houses and stores on the western and eastern sides and the northern and southern borders of the Mas'a that led to its narrowing. In 1357 AH, the Saudi authorities removed these buildings after compensating their owners so that the Mas'a would only be designated for worship and accommodate all Muslims wishing to perform hajj and 'umrah. Since the number of pilgrims has greatly increased, Saudi authorities decided to expand the width of the Mas'a to facilitate the rite for pilgrims and guarantee their safety.

Validity of making sa'y in the new Mas'a

In our opinion, it is valid to perform sa'y in the new Mas'a and this fulfills the obligation, God Almighty says, “Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to good, be sure that God All-Recognizer, All-Knower” (Quran 2:158).
In this holy verse, God Almighty commands pilgrims to make sa'y between al-Safa and al-Marwa. It is only logical that the entire area between them be a place where the rite may be performed. This is because the verse did not specify a certain area or exclude another. The new Mas'a lies between the two mountains. Here, it is worthy to point out some important matters that prove the validity of the new Mas'a and of performing sa'y in it.

It important to keep in mind what exactly is designated by al-Safa and al-Marwa in the Arabic language. And since the Shari'ah addresses us in the Arabic language, then the principle is to construe the lexical meanings unless the Shari'ah attaches a specific meaning to them, thereby taking precedence over the lexical meanings. However, no specific Shari'ah meanings are relevant to the issue under discussion.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) started his sa'y from a certain place in al-Safa and proceeded to al-Marwa until he reached a certain place there. It is difficult for us today to trace his path since these spots are unknown to us. He then repeated the rounds until he completed seven. It is possible that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) started and ended each round from the same exact spots as it is likewise possible that he deviated slightly from them. Nevertheless, nothing was reported either from him or from any of his Companions that specified a certain locus between al-Safa and al-Marwa in which sa'y is to be made nor did they eliminate another. This proves that its specification and restriction are not a legal intent.

Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Ibn Yahya al-Mu'alami al-Yamani (died in 1386 AH, may God have mercy on him) wrote in his treatise on the expansion of the Mas'a: "Since nothing was reported from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or his Companions demarcating the width of the Mas'a, this demonstrates that this is not a legal intent. Otherwise, it would have been a greater priority—because of the buildings which have been erected there—to specify its width than to specify 'Arafat, Muzdalifa and Mina whose boundaries were determined in reports."

For this reason, the books on jurisprudence did not tackle the issue of determining the width of the Mas'a; rather, they only discussed the obligation of spanning the distance between al-Safa and al-Marwa as one of the requirements of sa'y. Some mentioned the linear distance between the two mountains which equals 777 arm spans without discussing its width. This indicates that the ruling for traversing between the two mountains revolves around traversing the linear distance regardless of its width. The ruling for specifying the width of the two mountains depends on the lexical meaning of al-Safa and al-Marwa and there is nothing in the Shari'ah to contravene their lexical meanings.

Imam Shams al-Din al-Ramli was asked in his Fatawa: "Has the width of the Mas'a been demarcated?" He replied, "I have not come upon anyone who has done so; their [scholars'] reticence is only because there is no need to specify its width. The obligation is for a pilgrim to span the entire distance between the two mountains and place his heels against the wall of al-Safa [when he turns from it and heads in the other direction] and the tip of his toes against the wall of al-Marwa [when he reaches it] and vice-versa. He must do this in each round. Similarly, a mounted person is to put the hoofs of the animal against the wall of each mountain."2

Al-Ramli wrote in Nihayat Al-Muhtaj: "There is nothing in their [scholars'] statements about the width of the Mas'a as there was no need to specify it. What is important and obligatory is that [a pilgrim making] sa'y span the entire distance between the two mountains in every round. There is no harm if he deviates slightly as mentioned by Al-Shafi'i (may God be pleased with him).3

Some historians have mentioned that the width of the Mas'a is 35 arm spans. This is not considered a legal demarcation that renders any expansion impermissible. Rather, it was a description of what they witnessed since neither the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) nor Muslims have specified its width. Therefore, what is obligatory with regards to the sa'y is simply to span the distance between al-Safa and al-Marwa as they were before any changes, demolitions or new constructions on or between them.

The luminary Abd al-Hamid al-Sherwany stated in his valuable commentaries on Tuhfat Al-Muhtaj, "It is safe to say that the width of the Mas'a is approximately 35 arm spans. There is no evidence on its width from the Sunnah and therefore there is no harm if a pilgrim deviates slightly without surpassing the limits of its width."

The Mas'a that the Saudi authorities demolished was not the same as the one which existed at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or his Companions (may God be pleased with them). Rather, the original Mas'a was narrowed as a result of the buildings erected on its eastern and western sides in the ages that followed. This is confirmed by the report from Yahya Ibn ‘Umran through his grandfather ‘Uthman Ibn al-Arqam who said, "My father was the seventh one to embrace Islam. His house was on al-Safa and it is from here that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to call people to Islam and it is here that many people embraced Islam. On a Monday night while at Dar al-Arqam, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'O God! Strengthen Islam with the dearest of the two to you, 'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab or 'Amr Ibn Hisham." The next day, 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab came to Dar al-Arqam and embraced Islam whereupon Muslims went out of Dar al-Arqam glorifying God and performed tawaf without fearing the polytheists. Dar al-Arqam then came to be called "Dar al-Islam" i.e. house of Islam and al-Arqam gave the house to his son. The deed read as follows: 'In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. This is how al-Arqam disposes of his quarters on land within the borders of al-Safa; it is not to be sold or inherited.' This event was witnessed by Hisham Ibn al-'As and one of his servants. Yahia Ibn 'Umran said, 'Dar al-Arqam remained as a benefaction and his children continued to live there, rent it and receive returns until the time of Abu Ja'far."

Muhammad Ibn 'Umar—one of the hadith narrators—said, "My father related to me through Yahya Ibn 'Umran Ibn 'Uthman Ibn al-Arqam who said, "I know the exact day on which Abu Ja'far made sa'y on his hajj. We were on the roof of the house and he passed right beneath us. [He was so close] that I could have taken his hat had I wanted to. He looked at us as he was going down the valley and until he ascended al-Safa" (recorded by Imam Al-Hakim in Al-Mustadrak. Al-Dhahabi did not mention it in Al-Talkhis).

The above hadith proves that Dar al-Arqam was located on al-Safa Mountain. Its location was known both past and present—it has not changed. The map drawn by the Egyptian Survey Authority in 1947, shows that Dar al-Arqam lies at a distance of more than 30 meters from the border of the first expansion made by Saudi authorities. The new project extends 20 meters towards the east of the Mas'a and this expansion is well within the limits of the original Mas'a.

Both al-Safa and al-Marwa Mountains have undergone several changes throughout the ages which include rock breaking, chipping and leveling, some of which are natural and others caused by man. In 1375 AH the slopes of al-Safa were leveled, and a road was constructed there to allow the passage of cars. Subsequently, in 1401 AH this road was demolished and the mountain itself was cut and the place of al-Safa was separated from the mountain. A new and wide passage was made for pedestrians between the remaining part of the original mountain and the wall of al-Safa. Due to these changes, the size of the mountain was changed considerably from what it was at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is known that removing part of the boulders of the two mountains does not change the legal ruling for traversing between them—even if they were leveled to the ground.

This corresponds to the statements of some scholars including that of the great scholar Ahmed al-Dardir. He stated in his commentary Al-Sharh Al-Kabir 'ala Mukhtasr Khalil, one of the Maliki books, "If the holy Ka`bah is demolished, its stones removed and its location forgotten (may God protect it), then it is obligatory, according the consensus of scholars, to endeavor to determine its direction as if it is still standing.”4 The same is applicable to this issue.

When the Saudi authorities announced its intentions to make the recent expansion, they enlisted the help of a number of scholars, some of whom have spent their entire lives in Mecca and knew what it was like before the expansion of the Sacred Mosque. They were asked to testify on the nature of al-Safa and al-Marwa in the past. The authorities likewise summoned a group of elderly men from Mecca who used to live in the area around al-Safa and al-Marwa, the youngest of whom is more than 70 years in age. They testified before the judge in Mecca and their statements was recorded. Both groups testified that in the past, the mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa extended farther out than the area they occupied today by a distance encompassed by the new additions.

It is established that such statements and citations are sufficient to be used as evidence. Ibn al-Qayim stated in I'lam Al-Muwaq'in, "As for the reports of notables and the specification of places, determining the locations of the rituals, like al-Safa, al-Marwa and al-Mina, the sites for stoning, Muzdalifa, 'Arafat and the boundaries for the ihram is comparable to determining the sa' and mudd [units of measurements], the place of the Prophet's pulpit and the description of his prayer, his grave, room and Quba` Mosque, the place of al-Rawda, al-Baqi', the place where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pray and others."5

The Saudi survey authority examined samples from al-Safa Mountain and the area which will be included during the expansions on the eastern side. It is proved that al-Safa Mountain projects from Abu Qubays Mountain that extends 30 meters to the eastern side of the current Mas'a and that al-Marwa mountain extends 31 meters parallel to the current Mas'a. This supports the testimony of the witnesses mentioned above.

It is erroneous to base any objections to the new Mas'a on the fact that we are only to follow the apparent meanings of the rulings in our acts of worship and that implementing geological means to drill into the earth exceeds the obligations enjoined by God. In fact, by doing so we are not delving into concealed matters; rather, we only seek visible and known evidences that prove the original extent of al-Safa and al-Marwa which was removed. In this case, it is necessary to take samples since the components of the mountain are the same both at its top and at its bottom.

It is established by the legal axioms that relevant additions follow the same ruling as the original. All these axioms apply to the new Mas'a since it is connected to the old one. It is erroneous to claim that the expansion of the Mas'a does not follow this legal axiom, on the basis that the place of Mas'a is determined and it is impermissible to enlarge it. This is because the new Mas'a is included in the area determined for sa'y and it is located within the borders of al-Safa and al-Marwa as shown above. Its expansion is permissible. The legal axioms mentioned above are not revelatory, but are connected to the fact that this expansion does not contradict the Shari’ah boundaries and we have proved this fact by presenting supporting citations.

The recent modifications made by the Saudi authorities were not the only ones made concerning the width of the Mas'a. Historians such as Abu Walid al-Azraqi in Al-Tarikh and al-Fakihi and al-Qutb, the Hanafi scholar, in Al-I'lam bi I'lam Bayt Allah Al-Haram and others, have documented previous expansions to the width of the Mas'a such as that of al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi. Al-Qutb questioned this matter and said: "The current place for sa'y is not from the Mas'a where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to make sa'y. So how is it valid to make sa'y in it when it has been transposed as mentioned by trustworthy historians?"6

Contemplating what was mentioned above confirms the validity of performing sa'y in the new Mas'a and the meritorious efforts of the Saudi authorities that are consistent with the requirements and objectives of the Shari'ah. God Almighty says, “Help you one another in righteousness and piety” (Quran 5: 2).

It is likewise considered venerating the rites of God Almighty Who says, “Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the symbols of God, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart” (Quran 22: 32).
In his exegesis, Al-Baidawi explained the verse, "Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honor the symbols of God" to mean God’s religion, duties of hajj and the places where its rites are performed…and that the verse, 'Such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart' means honoring symbols of God is considered from the piety of hearts."7

The above verses which call to venerating the symbols of God are actualized in the expansion of the Mas'a. There is no doubt that the expansion also facilitates matters for Muslims and lifts hardships while they perform their rites. Anas Ibn Malik (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Facilitate matters and do not complicate them; let people rejoice in being Muslims and do not make them turn away from it" (recorded by Bukhari and Muslim. The hadith follows the wording of Bukhari).

Expanding the Mas'a reflects the authorities' responsibility to see to the interest of the people. The number of pilgrims on hajj and 'umrah increases each year and this necessitates that the authorities take this matter into consideration and search for legal means to overcome any ensuing problems.

Moreover, this expansion preserves lives — one of the five objectives that must be observed in all faiths. It is likewise known that chaos is not desired by the Shari'ah and that it may even cost pilgrims their lives. The Shari'ah has taken this into consideration to prevent crowding in the holy sites. On his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was not asked about any rite which was performed before or after its time to which he did not reply, "Do so, there is no harm."8 He only maintained this to prevent crowding and jostling between the pilgrims.

Share this:

Related Fatwas