Sai history, meaning and significance

By umrahme | Published on Jun 20, 2023

Muslims from all over the globe who come to visit Makkah to perform Umrah visit the two famous hills of Safa and Marwa. They run between the two hills back and forth to complete seven rounds calling out to Allah, fulfilling his orders.

How to perform Sai? What is the meaning of Sai? And What is its significance? Let’s take you on a tour through those great rites of Allah Al Safa and Al Marwa and get to know everything about Sai.

The Meaning of Sai

Sai is derived from the Arabic word Sa’a (سعى) which means to walk, strive or pursue. It is a mandatory ritual in Hajj and Umrah and it is performed after Tawaf. It refers to walking back and forth between the two hills of Safa and Marwa adjacent to Al-Kaba’a.

The History of Sai

The ritual of Sai honors the actions of lady Hajar, Prophet’s Ibrahim عليه السلام wife, who walked back and forth seven times between the two hills in search for water for her son Prophet Isma’il عليه السلام who was still a baby crying from thirst.
After the birth of Prophet Isma’il عليه السلام, Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام took his wife and his newborn to Makkah conforming to Allah’s orders he left them under a tree with lean provisions. Lady Hajar was really afraid in the beginning but when she learned that these were Allah’s orders, she knew Allah will never fail them. She then waited for Allah’s relief.

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 يَشْكُرُون

After a while, their water ran out and Lady Hajar who was still nursing Prophet Isma’il عليه السلام wasn’t able to produce milk and Prophet Isma’il began to cry and was about to die which led Lady Hajar to run in the desert in search of water. She ran desperately between the two hills climbing them to get a better view of the area or see a traveler who can help them.

She ran seven times between the two hills, before running back to check on her son. She then saw the ground erupting bringing forth water from which Lady Hajar drank and was able to feed her child.  Right after, Gabriel عليه السلام assured Lady Hajar that she shouldn’t worry about dying and declared to her that Isma’il will help his father Ibrahim in building the House of Allah, Al-Kaba’a, at this very location. Hajar then dug a well around the spring of water, which was later known as Zamzam well.

Later, a group of travelers who were searching for water in the desert as well saw the birds gathering in an area and figured that there is water there. So, they approached Lady Hajar and asked her permission to drink and wash. This group of people was called Jurhum Tribe. They then settled in and populated this area, which will be known later as Makkah Al-Mukaramah.

The Significance of Sai

Sai is a reflection of our ongoing struggle through life. How we are in constant pursue (Sai) after money, status, and earthy needs. We suffer a lot to achieve or attain any of them. However, Sai symbolizes the answer to relieve all these sufferings, it is unwavering, Tawwakul. Like when lady Hajar was desperate and lost all hope of surviving, she remembered that Allah is there and He is the only one that can save her and her son, so she left it all to him. Hence, came Zamzam, which has been a sign of survival for centuries. The only thing that one needs to remember is that we need to first work and then leave it to Allah.

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ ۖ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا ۚ وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ

How to perform Sai

Sai is a great way to spend some time on self-reflection and self-realization. You must be wearing Ihram while performing Sai and it is performed right after you finish Tawaf.
Pilgrims start Sai by going up the hill of Al-Safa where they can see Al-Kaba’a, then descend and walk towards Al-Marwa hill, until reaching the two green pillars, between which men have to run while women should walk normally.

When the pilgrim reaches Al-Marwa hill, this means that he has completed on round (Shawt). The pilgrim must continue seven rounds, each round is nearly 450 meters long. Men must perform Sai with their shoulders covered.
If you are in doubt about the number of rounds you have covered, go for the smaller number of rounds. It is permissible to talk while performing Sai, but only to discuss necessary matters, not to do small talks. One must not raise one’s voice while performing Sai. Also, there is no Sai after Farewell Tawaf.

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A Step by Step Guide to Sai

1. As you get close to Al-Safa to start Sai, it is Sunnah to say:

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ

2. Then say:

إبْدَإُ بِمَا بَدَأَ اللهُ بِهِ

3. When ascending Al-Safa, go up until the Kaba’a is seen and facing it say three


الْحَمْدُ لِلهِ وَلاَ إلَهَ إلاَّ اللهُ وَ اللهُ أكْبَرُ

4. Then say:

لاَ إِلَهَ إلاَّ اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَهُ، لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَ لَهُ الْحَمْدُ، يُحْيِيْ وَيُمِيْتُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَي ءٍ قَدِيْرٌ. لاَ إِلَهَ إلاَّ الله وَحْدَهُ أَنْجَزَوَعْدَهُ، وَنَصَرَ عَبْدَهُ، وَهَزَمَ الأَ حْزَابَ وَحْدَهُ

5. Now proceed towards Al-Marwa and when you arrive at the green fluorescent light, try to run briskly (men only). Women should not run.

6. There is no certain Dua’a during Sai, you can do any Dua’a of your choice.

7. Upon arriving at Al- Marwa, repeat the Dua’a offered at Al-Safa and then turn around and retrace your walk back to Al-Safa.

8. Two rounds of Sai are now complete. Repeat till you finish the seventh round ending at Al-Marwa

May all your deeds are accepted by Allah in these blissful days