On another unconventional views and interpretations, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah does not necessarily refers to the two small hills as above.
The classical Arabic dictionary meaning of safa means "the camel and the sheep that give a lot of milk" and "the palm tree that carries a lot of dates". Also, a related word safif means "meat".
In Quran, a plural word closely related to "safa", which is "sawaf", can be found in 22:36. صواف - lined in a row/arranged in a row which means "the sacrificial animals lined in row".
As for marwah it has a meaning of the white fragile stone where a cooking fire is started. It also means "the stone on which an animal is slaughtered".
The alternative view provide an answer to the notion that Al-Safa and Al-Marwa that currently located in Mecca was the legacy of pre-Islamic pagan rites and have nothing to do with Hajj rituals as prescribed the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). There is no explicit verse in the Quran that mentioned the need "to travel back and forth seven times" during the ritual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah. However, it is present in the sunnah (practices) of the Prophet Muhammad and thus is accepted as part of Islamic rituals by the vast majority of Muslims.
In Islamic tradition, Ibrahim (Abraham) was commanded by Allah to leave his wife Hajar (Hagar) in the desert along with her infant son Ishmael and some provisions as a test of their faith. When the provisions were exhausted, Hajar searched for help. She kept her infant on the ground where today's Zamzam well is. Hoping to get some help/water she climbed the nearest hill Safa to see if there was any water or help in sight. When she couldn't see anyone, she walked towards the other hill Marwah to get more view. There was a valley in between both these hills. When she was walking on the hill, she could see her son from there so her walk was normal but when she would go in the valley, she couldn't see her son, hence she used to run in the valley. (Today this valley region is depicted by green light). She walked seven times back and forth in the scorching heat before she returned to Ishmael and found that a spring had sprouted forth from the crying baby's feet.
Allah, in His mercy, sent the Angel Gabriel, who scraped the ground, causing the spring to appear. On finding the spring, and fearing that it might run out of water, Hajar enclosed it in sand and stones. The name Zamzam means ‘stop flowing’, a command repeated by Hajar during her attempt to contain the spring water. The area around the spring, which was later converted to a well, became a resting place for caravans, and eventually grew into the trading city of Makkah, birthplace of Muhammad.
The Masjid al Haram houses the holy Kaaba, the focal point of prayer for all Muslims. Safa — from which the ritual walking (sa`i, Arabic: سعى) begins — is located approximately half a mile from the Kaaba. Marwah is located about 100 yards from the Kaaba. The distance between Safa and Marwah is approximately 450 meters, so that seven trips amount to roughly 3.15 kilometers. The two points and the path between them are now inside a long gallery that forms part of the Masjid.
Performing the Sa'i, also known as Sa'ee, serves to commemorate Hajar's search for water and God's mercy in answering prayers.
Dr. Ali Shariati in his book, HAJJ: Reflection on Its Rituals describes the Sa'i:
Sa'i is a search. It is a movement with an aim. It is depicted by running and hurrying. During tawaf (circumambulation) you acted as Hajar. In Ibrahim's position you acted as Ibrahim and Ismail. Once you begin "trying" (Sa'i) you are acting as Hajar again.
Here is a true demonstration of oneness. Shapes, patterns, colors, degrees, personalities, borders, distinctions and distances are destroyed. Naked man and stripped humanity are on the scene! Nothing but faith, belief and action are eminent! Here nobody is spoken of; even Ibrahim, Ismail and Hajar are only names, words and symbols. Whatever exists is moving constantly, humanity and spirituality and between them only discipline. Furthermore, this is Hajj, a decision for an eternal movement in a certain direction. It is also how the whole world moves.
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah are also mentioned in the holy Quran. "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 recogniseth and knoweth." Surah #2 Ayat # 158