Muslims who perform the Hajj or Umra must run in the middle portion of the distance between Safa and Marwa seven times. Safa and Marwa are two hills close to the Kaba. This is a commemoration of one mother's sacrifice for her son.
That mother was Hajira (may Allah be pleased with her). Her son was the Prophet Ismail (peace be upon him). Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was Hajira's husband, and Ismail's father.
Hajira's example of sacrifice took place when she and her baby was left in the valley of Makkah by Allah's order as pioneers to start a civilization.
Here was the wife of a Prophet, the princess of the king of Egypt, left with her child in the desert. All for the sake of pleasing our Creator.
As Prophet Ibrahim headed for his next responsibility from Allah, he reached an area where Hajira and Ismail could not see him. At that point, he turned back, raising his hands in Dua and said,
"O Our Lord! I have made of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by Your Sacred House; in order Our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits, so that they may give thanks." (Quran 14:37).
Hajira returned to her place and started drinking water from the water-skin, and her milk increased for her child.
But when she had used up all of the water, she ascended the Safa hill and looked, hoping to see somebody.
The area was empty.
She came down and then ran up to Marwa hill. She ran to and fro (between the two hills) many times, then went to check on her baby Ismail.
He was dying. And she could find no water for him or herself.
She could not watch her son perish. How could any mother?
'If I go and look, I may find somebody,' she told herself. Then she went and ascended the Safa hill and looked for a long while but could not find anybody.
In all,Hajira ran seven rounds between Safa and Marwa, in the hot, waterless valley, where her thirsty baby lay.
She told herself to go back and check on Ismail. But suddenly she heard a voice: it was the Angel Jibreel.
'Help us if you can offer any help," she said to him.
The angel hit the earth with his heel and water gushed out. Hajira was astonished and started digging. Allah, as she had rightly proclaimed, had not abandoned them.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), in the Hadith in Bukhari in which much of this incident is narrated, said, "If she (Hajira) had left the water, (flow naturally without her intervention), it would have been flowing on the surface of the earth."
Today we are bearing the fruits of this mother's struggle and sacrifice. Many of us drink and have drunk from the well of Zamzam. And those of us who have made Hajj run in a much more comfortable way than Hajira ever did, between Safa and Marwa.
Her commitment to her son, her sense of urgency and her unshakable faith in Allah in such harsh circumstances are all examples of not only what an excellent mother she was, but also what a strong believer in Allah she was.
If you're going to Hajj this year, Insha Allah, remember this incident and think of that great mother, in whose memory Muslims today run between Safa and Marwa. Also think about your own mother, and how she too, would probably have done the same for you.