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. Allah Almighty says, That man can have nothing but what he strives for. [Qur`an 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 Allah. [Qur`an 62:9]
Sa'y in this verse means to strive and intend to make remembrance of Allah 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 'umra.
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 'umra 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 sunna, 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 Allah Almighty, Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah. 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 Allah is He Who recognizes and knows. [Qur`an 2:158]
Similarly, when he addressed the pilgrims who had assumed ihram for hajj, the Prophet 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 'umra. 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, Allah the Almighty says, Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah. 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 obeyeth his own impulse to good, be sure that Allah is He Who recognize and know. [Qur`an 2:158]
In this holy verse, Allah 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'a addresses us in the Arabic language, then the principle is to construe the lexical meanings unless the Shari'a attaches a specific meaning to them, thereby taking precedence over the lexical meanings. However, no specific Shari'a meanings are relevant to the issue under discussion.
The Prophet 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 started and ended each round from the same exact same 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 Allah
have mercy on him) wrote in his treatise on the expansion of the mas'a: "Since nothing was reported from the Prophet 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'a 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 Allah 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 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.