Written by: Shaikh Mashhoor Hasan Al- Salman

Verily all praise is to Allah, we praise Him, and we seek His help and forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our own selves, and from our bad deeds. Whomever Allah guides none can misguide him, and whomever Allah misguides then none can guide him. And I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone without any partners, and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His slave and messenger.

To proceed,

The Ummah’s (nation’s) scholars have extensively spoken about the ruling pertaining to performing Saa'i (The act of going back and forth between As-Safa and Al-Marwa) in the new Mas’a (The path were the Saa’i is done). Anyone who follows what has recently been published on the internet would find many articles, views and studies regarding this issue; some of which contradict each other. The matter, as I understood it, is that the Sa'udi authorities intend to open the new expansion of the Mas’a –which is an extension to the width of the old one– for people to use it for Saa’i from Safa to Marwa, while using the old Mas’a for Saa’i from Marwa back to Safa, therefore doubling the size of the Mas’a.
In general, those whom Allah has granted the opportunity to lately do Hajj will realize the effect of congestion in causing hardship on Muslims when throwing the Jimar (pebbles) in the old Marma (the place where pebbles are thrown) before it has been expanded. This congestion has consequently led to the death of tens of Muslims in some of the recent Hajj seasons. Noting here that the purpose for which the Marma was expanded (the congestion) is the same as for the Mas’a between Safa and Marwa.

This same hardship was also the major reason that led to the scholars' approval of expanding the Mataf (the area where one circulates around the Ka’bah) due to the large crowds during both Tawaf Al-Ifadah and Tawaf Al- Wada' (The two tawafs in Hajj). As long as the lines of the circulating Muslims are connected within the Ka’bah area then the expansion of the Mataf would be similar to the expansion of any mosque and similar to the expansion of the two Harams (The Haram of Makkah and Maddina) which took place in the reign of ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Ibn Az-Zubair, and Al-Mahdi who had the Haram in Makkah expanded twice. Al-Mahdi’s first expansion took place in 160H while the second took place in 164H. During the second expansion, Al-Mahdi extracted part of Ar-Rahbah – a wide area to the west of the Mas’a – and made it part of the Mas’a itself .Many of the Imams who wrote about the history of Makkah such as Al-Fakihi, Al- Azraqi, and others have addressed this issue in length to the point that Al-Qutbi in his book "Al-I'lam" mentioned issues that arose in regards to the expansion of the Mas’a very similar to the issues arising these days.

I have received so many questions from different countries and cities such as the United Kingdom, Amsterdam, and other countries asking about the validity of doing Saa’i in the new Mas’a to which I answered as follows:

The question of expanding the Mas’a is a question in which his eminence Al-Shaikh Al-Allamah Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Al-Ashshaikh – the Shaikh of Shaikhs and the tutor of Shaikh Ibn Baz – tried his best to measure the correct width of the Mas’a. He did so in the fifth volume of his book “Al-Fatawa”, may Allah reward him. This study was carried out during the second Sa'udi expansion of the Mas’a which was the biggest expansion in the history of the Mas’a and the usage of which lasted for twenty years. The outcome of the study was that the Mas’a could be expanded from its eastern side – where there were many houses located.
In general, the discussion regarding the expansion of the Mas’a is quite lengthy and would consume a long period of time if we were to explore the details of the matter until we reach the fundamentals related to the question. However, in order to reconcile the different opinions, I think it is necessary for the issue to be addresses by the Fiqh councils and by the council of the eminent scholars as such an issue is in need of a group work and unanimity of opinion after having studied the Mas’a and the historical changes and improvements performed on it.

After many long studies carried out with regards to this issue – which, I am sure have added enough to make the question worthy of reconsideration-, I see no problem in presenting my own point of view in an attempt to collect the various aspects affecting the matter as much as possible.

I will start by mentioning the core reason for having a difference of opinion (among scholars) on the issue of expanding the Mas’a. That is, whether the place in which people do Saa’i is limited or can be extended and expanded? And whether the width of the Mas’a which is mentioned in the books on Makkah’s history – such as the books of Al-Fakhani, Al-Azraqi and others whom set the Mas’a’s width to be about 35.5 thira's (arm span)– whether this measured area is the (only) place designated for Saa’i, or whether this distance is simply a measurement of the width of the existing Mas’a at that time. In the later case the Mas’a would be wider than 35.5 thira’. Another question that follows, is whether it’s true that as long as the Saa’i is done between the two mountains (As-Safa and Al-Marwa) then it is valid even if people had not been using these parts of the mountains for a long period of time?

Allamah Shaikh As-Sa'di –may Allah have mercy on him– sent many letters to my Shaikh by Ijazah Shaikh Abdullah Ibn AbdilAziz Ibn ‘Aqil regarding a number of issues one of which was the expansion of the Mas’a which was sent on the 21st of Thul Hijjah, 1375 H. In his letter Shaikh As-Sa'di wrote to his student the following: "And so is the Mas’a, some scholars said that it has no specific width and that all the area between As-Safa and Al-Marwa is included in the Mas’a. This is apparent from the Quran and the Sunnah and apparent from the actions of the prophet (PBUH), his companions and those who followed them. Other scholars said that the Mas’a is the area where people do Saa’i at the current time and that only a limited expansion could be done to it; that is in its width. The latter is the view of most contemporary scholars.”
At that time a fatwa was issued by the council of the eminent scholars stating that the Mas’a has a limited width which cannot be increased. Accordingly, the council found that the Masa’a could only be expanded vertically by building a second floor rather than expanding its width from the eastern side. The fatwa was issued in the name of his eminence Allamah Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim who was the Mufti General at the time.

Shaikh Sa'di says: "Apparently Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim agreed with the rest of the scholars because he did not want to cause disturbance amongst them. “

Later on, I managed to obtain a letter written by Allamah Muhaqqiq (The equivalent of Imam Ath-thahabi in our time) Shaikh Al-Ma'lami Al-Yamani –may Allah have mercy on him-. The letter is brief -contrary to the Shaikh’s habit in writing- but he mentioned in it that it is permissible to expand the Mas’a. His opinion was that what matters is the action of Saa’i rather than the place itself.

His eminence Shaikh Allamah Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim wrote a treatise on the permissibility of moving the Maqam from its original place for the purpose of expanding the area of Tawaf for people. We mentioned earlier that as long as the rows are connected and that the act of circulating the Ka’bah is done within the boundaries of the Ka’bah sanctuary, then any area added to the sanctuary can be considered part of it. Briefly, whatever is next to something bears its ruling as stated in the books of scholars. In his treatise Allamah Muhammad quotes beneficial statements by Ar-Ramli who is known as the younger shafi'i from his book "Nihayatul Muhtaj." The quotation says: "There is nothing in their (the scholars) statements about the width of the Mas’a as there was no need for setting a specific width, what is important and obligatory is for the Saa’i to span the area between the Safa and the Marwa in every round.”

Later, I managed to obtain Abdil Hamid Al-Sharwani’s commentary on the aforementioned book in which he says: "The scholars' decision regarding the width of the Mas’a is an approximation. There is no need to set a specific width for the Mas’a.” The action of the prophet (PBUH) was to go from the beginning of the As-Safa to Al-Marwa passing through the valley between them in every round. In their books, scholars state that it is obligatory to span the whole area between As-Safa and Al-Marwa (while doing Saa’i) (1). And that starting with As-Safa and ending with Al-Marwa is considered one round while going back from Al-Marwa to As-Safa is another round. What is obligatory is to go between As-Safa and Al-Marwa seven times regardless of the width of the Mas’a, the reasoning being that As-Safa and Al-Marwa are two mountains and it suffices for the Saa’i to take place between them. Accordingly, if the new expansion (to the Mas’a) is within the width of the path between As-Safa and Al-Marwa then there should be no doubt that the new expansion is valid. Currently the width of the Mas’a is twenty meters and it is known that the width of mountains exceeds 20 meters. One needs to realize that the origin of Saa’i as stated in ”Sahih Al-Bukhari” (hadith no.3364) and reported by Ibn Abbas who narrated from the prophet (PBUH) the story of Ibrahim, his wife and their son. The story is long as it describes how Ibrahim left his wife and son near the Ka’bah. At the end of the story "Ismael's mother continued to breast feed her son while drinking from the water Ibrahim left for them. When she ran out of water, she felt thirsty and so did her son. As her son started twitching out of thirst, she moved away so as not to see her son die in front of her. She looked around and realized that the As-Safa was the nearest mountain to her. She walked to the top of the mountain and looked around for someone to help her but found nobody. Then, she headed towards Al-Marwa –the mountain across from As-Safa-. When she got to the bottom of the valley, she raised the trails of her clothes and paced quickly till she reached Al-Marwa. She stood at its top looking for someone to help but found nobody. She repeated this seven times .Ibn Abbas said: "The prophet (PBUH) said: this is the reason why people do Saa’i.”

It is not possible to trace the specific path which was taken by Isma’il’s mother between the two mountains. It is not even possible to trace the path which the prophet (PBUH) took between the two mountains. In general, we can say that when a matter is not specified by the Shari'a (the Islamic law) then it is included under the circle of pardoned matters. The prophet (PBUH) specified the length of the Mas’a but said nothing about its width. However, due to the changes in the outlook of the two mountains, and due to the barriers and walls which narrowed the width of the area between the two mountains and due to specifying the width of the Mas’a in meters or whatever scale is used; due to all of this, a problem emerged between scholars as to whether the Mas’a is a limited area which cannot be expanded or is it an area with no specific width as it was before? In his commentary on “Tuhfatul Minhaj” (vol.4,P.98), Ash-Sharwani said: “You may say that specifying the width of the Mas’a to 35 thira's is an approximation, as there is no evidence on the matter from the Sunnah.”

Truly, what is obligatory is to perform the Saa’i in the area between As-Safa and Al-Marwa. The valid Saa’i is the one performed by the people at the prophet's time. If people limit the Saa’i to a narrower area of the original Mas’a, this does not entail that the remaining area is not part of the Mas’a anymore. People nowadays perform the Saa’i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa through two tracks each of which is designated for one direction only. If a pilgrim or one doing ‘Umrah performs Saa’i between Safa and Marwa using one track only, his Saa’i will be correct without any difference in opinion. What matters is to perform Saa’i between the two mountains. Abandoning Saa’i in a certain area which was originally included in the Mas’a does not mean that one's Saa’i in the abandoned area is incorrect. The Mataf area was expanded by the approval of scholars and so was the prophet's mosque - about which ‘Umar said: “if the prophet's mosque was expanded till it reached Thul Hulaifah, then the expanded area will still be part of the mosque" – the same can be said about the Mas’a.

Shaikh-ul-Islam (Ibn Taymiyyah) stated in his response to Al-Akhna’e (p.135) that the multiplied reward one gets for doing prayers in the prophet's mosque or the holy sanctuary of Makkah also applies to the prayers performed in the expanded areas of these mosques. That is, the multiplied reward is not restricted to those who pray where the prophet (PBUH) exactly did his prayers. The Mas’a is more deserving of such a ruling considering its narrow width. This fact was mentioned in many famous writings especially in the books of travels. I have thoroughly –as I claim- followed up these writings and found out that the width of the old Mas’a spanned more than the width of the planned expansion. The extra width of the old Mas’a -which was later abandoned from performing Saa’i in- contained a market in which many people complained of the merchants’ annoyance to those doing Saa’i.

For example, in his book “Tuhfattun An-Nuththar Fi Ghara'ibil Amsar” (vol.1/pp.380-381, Moroccan edition) Ibn Battutah -after describing the boundaries of the Mas’a – said: “Between As-Safa and Al-Marwa there is an area on which a great market was established to sell serials, meat, dates, fat and other types of food such as fruits. Those who perform Saa’i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa are nearly overshadowed by the large number of people buying from the shops in the market. There is no other organized market in Makkah besides this one except for the market of the sewers and the perfume sellers located at the door of Bane Shaibah.”

In a book titled “Al-Ayamul Mabrorah Fil Biqa'il Muqaddsah” (the blessed days in the holy lands) (p.37) written by Muhammad Lutfi Jum'ah –who’s trip to Makkah was during the winter of 1359H. -1940A.D.– I found the author saying: “As we exited from the door of As-Safa we were overwhelmed by the fact that we are departing the Ka’bah even for the necessity of doing Saa’i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa. However, this was a temporary but inescapable departure. It was still dark and we were able to tell that we were still in the pre-dawn hours. As soon as we entered the area, I was astonished to see that the Mas’a was a paved street covered with thick-blue-square stones with shops and stores on both sides. Moreover, there were streets and neighborhoods which were accessed directly from the Mas’a.”

This is the description of the old Mas’a; the current walls were only built at a later time. Therefore, we cannot restrict the Mas’a to the area contained within the built walls, that is, we would essentially be restricting the width of the two mountains to 20 meters. As we mentioned earlier, mountains are much wider than 20 meters and we will soon quote Ibn Jarir at-Tabari regarding this matter.

In his book “Ar-Rehlat” (The travels) (p.363), Abdil Wahhab Azzam –who went to hajj in 1937 AD.- described the Mas’a saying: “Then every Muslim wishes that the Mas’a between As-Safa and Al-Marwa is fixed and separated from the market and the streets in a way which makes those who perform the Saa’i feel that they are in a worship without being disturbed by worldly matters. In general, the buildings surrounding the two sanctuaries of Makkah and Madinah should be relocated. The two sanctuaries need to be surrounded by a wide area full of trees providing shades for the people.”

Anyone who reads the books describing the travels to Hajj during the thirties and the forties of the twentieth century AD would find wonders. Many of the authors say: “we used to see kings doing Saa’i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa using their cars,” this certainly indicates that the Mas’a in those days was much wider than nowadays.

One book mentions that a camel was buried in the Mas’a. It was even stated in one of the biographies about Imam An-NaSaa’i that the Imam was buried between As-Safa and Al-Marwa.

As I mentioned earlier, the discussion regarding the Mas’a’s expansion is quite long. Problems related to this issue have risen in certain periods of time. In his book, Al-Azraqi mentions that “the Mas’a was inside the sanctuary itself,” referring to the expansion that took place during Al-Mahdi's reign in 164 H. In this expansion part of the Mas’a was inside the mosque, meaning that the Mas’a was expanded from its western side. At that time, the Mas’a was spacious and it even contained many houses. Next to the first green line inside the Mas’a was the house of Al-'Abbas, the uncle of the prophet (PBUH), in addition to the houses and territories of the family of Banu Hashim.

Some of the narrations in Abi Shaibah's “Musannaf” (vol.5/ p.345/ed.Ar-Rushd or vol.8 / p.331/ed.Al-Qiblah) trace back to Mujahid who said: The Mas’a became narrower; that is, people are performing Saa’i without covering the whole width of the Mas’a. Abul Abbas’ house was in the Mas’a and so was Al-Arqam's house which was later bought by Abu Ja'far Al-Mansoor. Al-Arqam's house was the first house in which the prophet (PBUH) used to gather people to teach them Islam secretly during the first three years of the Da'wah, it was quite close to the Mas’a. One of Al-Arqam's offsprings –Yahya Ibn Imran– says as mentioned in “Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd”: “I know the day when Abu Ja'far thought of buying this house to give it to Al-Khayzoran -the mother of his two children-.”

This incident about Abu Ja'far was coincidently mentioned in the “Tabaqat”. Such narrations which are coincidently mentioned in the books of Seerah (the life of the Prophit (PBUH)) or the books of history usually enjoy a great deal of reliability. In the narration Yahya Ibn Imran whose house was on As-Safa along with a number of houses, he says: “I know the exact day when Abu Ja'far thought of buying this house. He was performing Saa’i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa during his pilgrimage. We were on the roof of the house as he would pass the area right next to it. I was so close to him that I could have taken his hat if he was wearing one. I could have also touched his head if I wanted to do so –meaning that the house was so close to the path in which the Saa’i was performed-." The narration indicates that the Mas’a was full of houses and streets, this is expected as the Mas’a is a wide mountain. The narration continues: “He (Abu Ja'far) would look at us as he was going down towards the valley and until he would on ascends As-Safa.” This was the time when Abu Ja’far decided to buy the house.
In his interpretation of the Ayah “Verily As-Safa and Al-Marwa …” (Al-Baqarah : 158) Ibn Jarir At-Tabari says that As-Safa is the smooth stone and Al-Marwa is the plural of Maru which is the small stone. In his Tafseer (Vol. 2/ p.709/Hajar ed.) he says: “When mentioning As-Safa and Al-Marwa in this ayah, Allah (SWT) meant the two mountains that are located inside the sanctuary of Makkah. That is, he excluded all the other Safas and Marwas. Accordingly, the religious rulings related to As-Safa and Al-Marwa refer to these specific mountains. Typically, mountains span a large area, that is why the Arabic article (Al) was added when describing these specific mountains indicating that Allah (SWT) was referring to the specific mountains rather than any other Safa or Marwa. What is important here is that the religion made the Saa’i related to the two mountains. Therefore, whenever the Saa’i takes place between any of part of the mountains which can be called As-Safa and Al-Marwa then the Saa’i should be acceptable. Some scholars said that the Saa’i should only be done on a trodden track in which the pilgrims are adjacent to each other.”

To sum up, there is a lot to be said about the topic of the Mas’a. Therefore, I have prepared a study in which I verified a treatise by Shaikh Al-Mu'lami Al-Yamani, may Allah have mercy on him, and I have commented on it in detail. While doing so, I mentioned what strengthens the view stating the permissibility of expanding the Mas’a which is also the opinion of Shaikh Al-Mu'lami. I also mentioned the point of view of the opposite opinion. However, this question will still be controversial, and it seems that the only way to eliminate any potential disturbance is for a final opinion to be announced by one of the recognized council of scholars. This way Muslims would finally achieve a decisive verdict on the matter and would therefore be able to reconciliate any differences. This matter is of specific importance as it affects one of the pillars of Islam; Hajj. I ask Allah to grant Muslim scholars the ability to reach one opinion regarding this issue and others. I will soon –Insha’Allah- publish Al-Mu'lami's treatise along with my comments on it. I ask Allah to make it of great benefit to the Muslims as Allah knows best what is good for us.

In conclusion, I believe that doing Saa’i in the new Mas’a is valid. The expansion should be considered part of the Mas’a itself. The prophet (PBUH) did Saa’i in a certain path which we do not know exactly and so did Hajar (Ibrahim's wife). As Ibn Abbas narrated, if Saa’i was improper in any place other than the one where Hajar did her Saa’i then that would impose unnecessary hardship on the people without any clear evidence.

What matters is that the Saa’i is done between As-Safa and Al-Marwa. It was from Allah's decree that the narrators who described the prophet's Saa’i made no mention of the track which he took. Similarly the track which Hajar took was also not recorded. It was Allah (SWT) who revealed to the prophet (PBUH) to perform his Saa’i while walking and while riding his mount in order to teach his Ummah that following his exact footsteps or his exact track is not necessary. On the contrary, the prophet's Saa’i while riding indicates that one's feet don not have to touch the ground for the Saa’i to be valid. It also indicates that if the Mas’a was covered with stones, or if the mountains were cut down in way that would allow people to do Saa’i on the bottom of the mountains, then all this would still be a valid Saa’i. The prophet’s Saa’i while riding also indicates –as Allah knows best- that it is permissible to perform the Saa’i in the second floor.

What is mentioned earlier also indicates the validity of doing Saa’i even when the shape of the two mountains is affected through the passage of time. This is similar to what happened during one of the Saudi expansions of the Mas’a in 1375H. As digging continued in the Mas’a they eventually found “stairs.” These stairs are usually mentioned in the old Hajj books which state that one has to go up the stairs in order to fully complete his Saa’i. Note that there are no stairs today; however, a while ago there were stairs which were built after the original ones were buried. The writer of “At-Tarikhul Qawem“ -Al-Kurdi - says: “The distance between the old stairs and the new ones- after digging was completed – was found to be approximately two meters.” In general, mountains have peaks and bottoms which are much wider than their peaks. If we perform our Saa’i close to the peak of the mountain then the total distance travelled would be smaller than if we had performed our Saa’i close to the bottom of the mountain.

What matters in Saa’i is that it should be done between the mountain of As-Safa and the mountain of Al-Marwa. It is logically and realistically impossible for the mountain's bottom to only span twenty meters. It is also impossible for the two mountains to be exactly parallel to each other having exactly the same width. If this was the case, then the scholars would have surely described such an observation. However, we find several scholars stating that the As-Safa and Al-Marwa overlook each other meaning that their widths are not equal. This is a clear indication that the current width of the Mas’a is a result of the digging processes that took place in the past. The same distance was cut from the two mountains to form the current Mas’a. It should be clear that the width of the As-Safa and Al-Marwa is much larger than what we see today. This is indicated by the testimony of many reliable witnesses and narrators who saw the original state of the Mas’a. Some of these narrators have written books on their travels to the holy lands. This large number of witnesses who lived in different times and who came from different regions affirms the impossibility of all of them agreeing to forge the facts. The area added to the Mas’a today is part of the eastern side of the original Mas’a. This should be clear to whoever follows the various testimonies. Praise be to Allah the lord of the worlds.


(1) The scholars have also stated that one has to go up the stairs in order to fully complete his Saa’i. Note that there are no stairs today; however, a while ago there were stairs which were built after the original ones were buried. These stairs were found during the second-to-last Saudi expansions of the Mas’a in 1375H. The writer of “At-Tarikhul Qawem“ -Al-Kurdi - says: “The distance between the old stairs and the new ones- after digging was completed – was found to be approximately two meters.” Meaning that that Mas’a elevated due to successive burials over time, and it is known that the bottom of the mountain is much wider than its peak. (back)