Volume 2: Surah Baqarah, Verse 158
Surely the Safa and the Marwa are among the signs appointed by
Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or pays a visit (to it),
there is no blame on him if he goes round them both; and whoever does good
spontaneously, then surely Allah is Grateful, Knowing.
QUR'AN: Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs of Allah... to go round them both:
The two hills are marked by the signs of Allah; they lead accordingly to Him and remind one of Him. They have been especially counted "among the signs of Allah'' to the exclusion of other things; it shows that the word, "the signs" has not been used here in the sense in which every created thing is a sign of the Creator. They are the Divine Signs because Allah'' has made them so, by appointing them as the places of His worship; thus they remind one of Allah'' the Creator. They are the signs for which Allah'' has prescribed especial rites of worship.
Then comes the next sentence: "so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or performs 'umrah thereof, there is no blame on him to go round them both. The word "so" in the beginning shows that it is an offshoot of the preceding sentence. Its import is to show that walking quickly between these two hills is a part of the Islamic shari'ah ‑ it does not imply that the said walking is voluntary or non‑obligatory. If Allah'' had wanted to declare its voluntariness, it would have been more appropriate to praise and extol as‑sa'y, rather than saying that there was no blame in it. The gist of the meaning is that ‑ because the Safa and the Marwah were among the places of the worship of Allah'' ‑ it would do you no harm to worship Him therein. And it is the language of legislation. If Allah'' had wanted to show only its desirability, He would have said that, because the two hills were among the signs of Allah'' He likes you to go round them.
Frequently, when the Qur'an wants to ordain an obligatory law, it uses such expressions which by themselves do not show obligatoriness. For example, Allah'' says regarding jihad; that is better for you (61:11); regarding fast: and that you fast is better for you (2:184), and regarding shortening of prayer: And when you journey in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer (4:101).
QUR'AN: and whoever on his own accord does good, then surely Allah is Grateful, All‑knowing:
The conjunctive "and" may be joining this sentence to any of the three phrases in the preceding one:
1. It may connect it with "so whoever makes a pilgrimage In that case it would show a more general reason for the legislation of the walking between the two hills, after giving the particular reason, that is, "Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs of Allah." According to this interpretation, "doing good on one's own accord" would mean "obedience" in general term, and not a voluntary deed.
2. It may be starting a new sentence, joining it to the words in the beginning of the verse. In that case, "doing good on one's own accord" would refer to the "going round the two hills ". Thus it would show only the desirability of as‑sa'y (walking quickly seven times between Safa and the Marwah).
3. Alternatively, the phrase "doing good on one's own according" may be referring to the hajj and the 'umrah, and the phrase would show the desirability of these two rites of worship.
ash‑Shakir (= Grateful) and al‑ A lim (All‑knowing) are two of the beautiful names of Allah. ash‑Shukr (gratefulness, thankfulness). When a beneficiary returns the benevolence of the benefactor by announcing it in words and/or deeds, it is called gratefulness.
Someone gives you a property, and in return you praise him mentioning his benevolence, or use that property in a way he likes ‑ and thus you show your gratefulness to him.
Now, Allah is the Beneficent; His beneficence is eternal and all beneficence begins from Him; none can oblige Him in any way so that He would be grateful to that person. Yet, He, in His benevolence, looks at His creatures' good deeds as though the creatures have been beneficent to Him by doing those deeds (although, in reality the case is diametrically different; the creatures' good deeds are actually His benefaction to them). And thus he repays those good deeds with gratefulness and benevolence, which in fact is a double benevolence. Allah says: Is the reward of goodness aught but goodness? (55:60); Surely this is a reward for you, and your striving shall be recompensed (76:22). Thus, the name "Grateful" is used for Allah in its real, not allegorical sense.
One of our companions has narrated this tradition from as‑Sadiq (a.s.). He says: "I asked him about walking between the Safa and the Marwah whether it was obligatory or voluntary. He said: 'Obligatory, ' I said: 'Does not Allah say: so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or performs 'umrah thereof, there is no blame on him to go round them both?' He said: 'It was in the 'umrah of Qada* that is, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) had stipulated with them (i.e., the pagans of Mecca) that they would remove the idols (for the period of 'umrah); and one of his companions was engaged otherwise until the idols were returned (to their places).' (The Imam) said: 'Then Allah revealed: Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs of Allah so whoever makes a pilgrimage to the House or performs 'umrah thereof, there is no blame on him to go round them both, i.e., even when there were idols on them.' " (al‑Ayyashi)
The author says: A nearly similar tradition is found in al-Kafi.
as‑Sadiq (a.s.) says describing the hajj of the Prophet: "After circumambulating around the House and praying its two rak'ahs, (the Prophet) recited: Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs of Allah (Then he said:) 'So I shall begin with that which Allah the Mighty, the Great, has begun with (i.e., from the Safa).' And verily the Muslims used to think that walking between the Safa and the Marwah was something invented by the polytheists; so Allah revealed: Surely the Safa and the Marwah are among the signs of Allah so whoever makes a pilgrimage or performs 'umrah thereof, there is no blame on him to go round them both." (al‑Kafi)
The author says: Obviously, there is no contradiction between the two traditions regarding the reason of the revelation of the verse. The words of the Prophet, "I shall begin with that which Allah, the Mighty, the Great, has begun with", show the basis of legislation. We have narrated, in the story of Hajar and her running seven times between the Safa and the Marwah, that the ritual of as‑sa'y started from that.
'Amir ash‑Sha'bi said: "There was an idol, called Asaf, on the Safa, and another, called Na'ilah on the Marwah. The people of (the days of) ignorance, after circumambulating the House, used to walk between the two (hills) and touch and wipe the two idols. When the Messenger of Allah, (peace be on him) arrived at Mecca, they (i.e., the Muslims) said: '0 Messenger of Allah, (As for) the Safa and the Marwah, surely the walking around them was done because of the two idols, and walking around them is not among the signs (of Allah, Then Allah, revealed: Surely the Safa and the Marwah... Thus, He (especially) mentioned the Safa because of the idol that was on it, and affirmed the Marwah because of the idol that rose from it. " (ad‑Durru 'l‑manthur)
The author says: Both sects have narrated numerous traditions having the above‑mentioned themes. Their implication is that the verse was revealed in the year when the Muslims performed the hajj, while the Chapter of the Cow is the first one revealed at Medina. It may therefore be inferred that the verses are unconnected with the preceding verses (of the qiblah) which were revealed, as described earlier, in the second year of hijrah; nor are they related to the verses in the beginning of the chapter which were revealed in the first year of hijrah. It shows that the verses were revealed in various contexts, not in one.
* In the 7th year of hijrah. (tr.)