What is the wisdom behind circumambulating the Kaaba seven times? What is the meaning of tawaf (circumambulation)
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Circumambulating the Kaaba represents the idea of oneness. Its meaning regarding the social life is not to leave unity and to try to maintain this unity. Its meaning regarding individual life contains deep truths. The sky has seven layers; man has seven souls.
Each turning around the Kaaba represents a phase, a stage; man covers a phase and is elevated up to the seventh sky, above the material realm. Besides, it means to rise from the lowest step of the soul, which has seven steps, to the highest one.
That is, from nafs al-ammarah (soul commanding the evil) to nafs al-mutmainnah (tranquil self); from the animal life to the spiritual life. Circumambulating the Kaaba is a kind of worshipping taken from the order of the universe. The planets rotate around the sun, the electrons around the nucleus, the moth around the candle; rotating around such a center means allegiance with love.
God Almighty states the following in the Quran: “The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory…”. Quran (al-Isra, 44) The advancement in science as helped explain that verse. As a matter of fact, including the beings that had been thought to be lifeless, everything was found to consist of atoms.
The electrons around the nuclei of the atoms rotate continuously and regularly around the nucleus; it was expressed as declaring the glory of Allah in the Quran. Therefore, to rotate around the Kaaba, which is the symbol of Islam, means to love Islam, to rotate around it like a moth and to attach oneself to Allah.
Worshipping; is fulfilling the duties like takbir, hamd, shukr by a slave for Allah in the way that He orders. Therefore, the fulfilling of the duties by each being can be said to be their worshipping and glorifying Allah
Understanding Tawaf: Lexically, tawaf means to turn, walk, etc around something. Everything in the universe, from the tiny atoms to huge galaxies, is in a state of tawaf. In the atom, electrons turn around the nucleus, which is like the heart, with a dizzying speed; in the galaxy, billions of stars rotate around the center of the galaxy with an incredible speed. They rotate as if they worship the Creator that created them. As it is stated in the Quran, each swims along in an orbit. Quran (Yasin, 40)
The view formed by tens of thousands of Muslims walking around the Kaaba is like the view of a galaxy turning together with billions of stars. Therefore, it is necessary to let oneself be on the orbit in order to get full spiritual pleasure in tawaf.
A Muslim who can enter this orbit lets himself be controlled by that spiritual flow and gets the pleasure of becoming a drop in the sea of the believers. The circumambulation around the Kaaba is regarded to be the symbol of the summary of the universe and creation and surrendering to the divine pre-ordainment.
The formidable walk by men during the first three shawts of tawaf is called ‘ramal’ and leaving the right shoulder uncovered is called ‘iztiba’.
The historical meaning of the three acts done was a display of power and intimidating the opponents. When Makkan Muslims migrated to Madinah, the climate of Madinah affected them they became a bit weak.
When they went to Makkah again after seven years for umrah, they explained the situation to the Prophet. Thereupon, he told his Companions to seem powerful to polytheists and to walk formidably when they passed in front of them; and the Companions walked like that.
Doubtlessly, their walking formidably was enough to show that they were powerful that day. What about today? How will hajjis show that they are powerful today? Material power, spiritual power, moral power… What did we lose, where and how? How will we recover them? We definitely should think about them during hajj.
The ramal (formidable walking), which was performed in order to show the strength of Muslims to the Qurayshis according to what Ibn Abbas says, became a sunnah when Hazrat Prophet walked like that during the first three shawts of the Farewell Hajj. Hazrat Umar had said, after commenting on Hajar al-Aswad, “Why do we still maintain ramal?
We did it in order to be seem powerful in the eyes of polytheists, who said we were weak. As a matter of fact, Allah destroyed them.” (Bukhari, Hajj, 57) Although Umar thought that the reason for ramal did not exist anymore, he did not want to abandon something that Hazrat Prophet did and thus he continued the same application. Ramal may have continued because Muslims always need to be powerful and because they should never forget it.
A person starts tawaf leaving the Kaaba on his left. It has a symbolic meaning. The heart of man, which is the place where Allah looks, faces the House of Allah in tawaf. Allah looks at the heart of man, not his shape, appearance, money and property.
In this sense, there is an interesting relation between the Kaaba and the heart of man. Therefore, the heart of man faces the Kaaba during tawaf. It also indicates that tawaf should be performed heartily.
A person enjoys the pleasure of being a believer around the Kaaba. It is very difficult to taste that pleasure, which takes place so vividly and enthusiastically in any other place. The feeling of closeness experienced in that holy place makes hajjis feel at home.
Hajjis feel as if they are at home because the face of the Kaaba seems so familiar, its scent feels so acquainted and its coziness feels so comprehensive that no other love can be so attractive for a believer.
There is no difference among people who perform a prayer in congregation; similarly, there is no difference among people who circumambulate the Kaaba. All believers are equal there. There is no sign that differentiates a person from others. There exists unity, which is the symbol of oneness. It is necessary to be lost in the sea of believers and to melt in the congregation.
To turn around somebody and to rotate like a moth around him is an act that shows hearty allegiance and that one can sacrifice everything for that person. In this sense, circumambulating the Kaaba is an indication of turning toward the Exalted Creator, bowing down only in the presence of Him and worshipping none but Him.
During circumambulation, the hajji should have a respect worthy of Him and a love between fear and hope. While circumambulating, the haji should build the house of belief, that is, his heart, just as Hazrat Ibrahim and Hazrat Ismail, his son, built the House of Allah by turning around it.
The Kaaba is His house, and the heart is the place where He looks at. The hajji continuously looks at the Kaaba, observes it and watches its loftiness; similarly, Allah watches the heart of His slave and pays attention to it. As Hazrat Prophet expressed concisely, “Allah does not look at your shape, appearance, or property but at your hearts and deeds. (Muslim, 1, 33) It is like that both in the world and in the hereafter.
As it is expressed based on the 88th verse of the chapter ash-Shuara, on the Day of Judgment, when nothing will be of any use, Allah does not want gold or silver but a sound heart. “Oh hajji! Do not think that they want gold or silver from you.
They want a sound heart on the day when wealth and sons are not beneficial.” As a matter of fact, in our culture, the sufis use all of the adjectives that are used to describe the Kaaba for the heart and call the heart the House of Allah.
Or, they call it bayt al-haram (the honorable house) and they use the same expression for the heart because the heart is the house of Allah and it is haram (forbidden) for anybody but the beloved to enter there. As a matter of fact, the following hadith that the Messenger of Allah stated while circumambulating the Kaaba confirms it.
“(O Kaaba!) You are so nice; your smell is so beautiful. Your fame and honor are so high. However, I swear by Allah, in whose hand is my life, that the honor and immunity of a believer with his property and life is greater than your honor.” (Ibn Majah, Fitan 2)
What is Tawaf=circumambulating the Kaaba and How to Start Tawaf=circumambulating the Kaaba?
Hajj and Umrah are Islamic obligations that are practised by Muslims from all over the world. Hajj is performed one time in a year whereas Umrah can be done anytime. In both of them, Many people are confused about different forms of tawaf and how to perform it. This is a guide to help them understand the deep knowledge and to have a better understanding of tawaf.
Meaning of Tawaf:
Tawaf is walking around Kaaba seven times -in an explicit manner- with a particular prayer. It is the most vital obligation of the Umrah and pilgrimage and without which both Umrah and pilgrimage are incomplete.
Ibn Abbas reported that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said that every day, Allah shower one hundred and twenty folds of His mercy on His servants who visit Allah’s home and perform Hajj and Umrah. Just sixty folds of these are specifically for those people who perform Tawaf in a particular manner, forty folds are for those who pray at Kaaba and twenty folds for those who look at the Kaaba.
Purpose of Tawaf:
Tawaf is walking around Kaaba- during Umrah and pilgrimage- seven times in a counterclockwise direction. Tawaf is believed to be an essential part because it shows the unity of Allah’s believers and servants from different parts of the world who come to His home to worship.
They all worship their one God in unity and harmony and walking in rounds together showing Allah their firm trust in Him with the help of their complete petition towards him. It is many times misinterpreted that Muslims are there to worship the Kaaba. On the contrary, Muslims are there to worship their one God in unity and harmony and this is the real purpose of Tawaf.
Hence Tawaf is one of the finest forms of ibadah and all Muslims follow it because it is Sunnah to perform Tawaf of Kaaba as a welcome gesture after entering the Holy Mosque. On the contrary Prophet (PBUH) has directed to offer two rakah of salah as a welcome gesture on entering any other mosque.
Types of Tawaf:
There are five different kinds of Tawaf that one should have known before performing them.
- Tawaf-al-Ziyarah or Tawaf-al-Hajj
- Nafal tawaf
Let us have a brief overview of all types of Tawaf so that the reader can have a better understanding of what is Tawaf.
This Tawaf is performed by those believers who have decided to perform Tammattu Hajj (for people who are approximately 48 miles away from Mecca and can perform both Umrah and Hajj together). In this tawaf, mahram men are required to perform different Idtiba. The person will wear Ihram and he or she will perform Sai after Tawaf. During Tawaf, men have to do Ramal during the first 3 rounds of Tawaf but women take seven normal rounds of Kaaba.
It is a welcome Tawaf and is performed by people who have decided to perform Qiran and Ifrad hajj. For this mahram men are required to perform Tawaf in hajj n umrah. They all will wear the ihram attire. In this type, after Tawaf, Sai will be done by the performers of Qiran hajj and it is optional for performers of Ifrad hajj. Ramal (jog) is required by men to do in the first three rounds of Tawaf and women will complete their seven rounds in the same particular manner.
It is Tawaf for Hajj. In this Tawaf men and women will walk around Kaaba and complete the seven rounds in the normal particular manner. Usually, it is not in Ihram and people can wear normal clothes. After Tawaf, the Tamattu and Qiran hajj performers will also perform Sai. If Ifrad hajj performers haven’t done it after welcome Tawaf then they will also do it after their Tawaf ends.
It is the farewell Tawaf and all Tammattu, Qiran and Ifrad hajj performers will do this Tawaf. It is not compulsory to be done with mahram men. Men, as well as women, will take seven rounds in a specific normal way. No Ihram is required. People will wear normal clothes.
5. Nafl Tawaf:
This Tawaf can be performed by all hajj performers whether they are Tammatu, Qiran or Ifrad hajj performers. No mahram is required for this type of tawaf. Men n women will take their seven rounds in the normal particular manner in normal clothes. After Tawaf, there is no need of Sai in this type of Tawaf.
Guidelines and to-do list on Tawaf:
- Before starting Tawaf one must do wudhu and should make sure that he/she is clean from all kinds of impurities. Most of the school of thoughts are of the view that without wudhu, the Tawaf will be invalid.
- Women can perform all other duties in hajj but Allah has stopped them to do Tawaf and Sai during their menstruation periods. They should be clean n purified for Tawaf.
- During Tawaf, all should cover their private parts appropriately. During the hajj and umrah, men will keep their right shoulder covered but during Tawaf, they will not cover their right shoulders.
- Men will do Ramal in the first three rounds with rhythmic moves and they will take the rest of the four rounds in the normal way. This will be done just in umrah Tawaf and welcome Tawaf. Women will complete their seven rounds in a normal particular manner as has been directed in Islam.
- All men n women will start and end their Tawaf at the black stone which is known as the Hajar al-Aswad.
- Tawaf is always recommended to be done around the Kaaba. People should not enter the areas with sidewalls that are Hateem area. If by mistake someone has completed the round in Hateen area, the Tawaf will get un valid and should be repeated again.
- Tawaf should be in such a way the Kaaba is always at the left of the person who is executing Tawaf. In a net shell, the Tawaf performer should take rounds in the anti-clockwise direction.
- Tawaf interruption is just allowed for fardh salah or for janazah prayers. Even Tawaf can be stopped if the performer feels thirsty, hungry or wants to visit the washroom. Just when he comes back should be in proper wudhu and continue from where he had stopped.
- It is always better to refrain from talking without purpose. Even it should be tried by the performer not to talk in a loud voice.
- Tawaf is a greeting of entering the holy mosque so it is not compulsory that only hajj or umrah can perform it. Anyone who enters the mosque can perform it.
- The Tawaf will get invalid if we miss even one round. So all seven rounds need to be completed. If the performer forgets about the number of rounds, he should choose the lesser rounds he remembers and complete the rest of the rounds to finish Tawaf.
- When one finishes Tawaf, it is suggested to slow down the walk and slowly and gradually step out avoiding any tussle with the other Tawaf performers.
How to start Tawaf?
Before the start of Tawaf when we enter mosque we should recite a few verses. It is Sunnah to enter a mosque with the right foot and then praise Allah n ask mercy from Him. For this, we should recite
• بِسْمِ اللهِ وَ الصَّلاَةُ وَالسَّلاَمُ عَلَى رَسُوْلِ الله
“Bismillahi wassalatu wassalamu alaa Rasoolillahi.”
• أَعُوْبِاللهِ الْعَظِيمِ، وَبِوَجْهِهِ الْكَرِيْمِ، وَسُلْطَانِهِ الْقَدِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرِّجِيْمِ، اللَّهُمَّ افْتَحْ لِىْ أبْوَا بَ رَحْمَتِكَ
“A’outhu billahil-a’adtheem, wa bi waj’hihilka-reem, wasultaanihilqadeem, minashaytaanir-rajeem, Alhamdummaftahlee abwaabarahmatik.”
Now the performer should go straight to the Hajr-e-Aswad (the black stone). A green light on Kaaba will indicate its position. It is said to kiss the stone or touch it n then kiss the hand. But if due to the crowd, it is not reachable, then it has been asked to face the stone from Tawaf line the gesture with performer’s hands raised up towards the stone. In this case no need to kiss the hands.
Now proceed anti-clockwise and say Bismillah wallahu akbar. during tawaf, one can recite the Quran or pray in Arabic or any other language. Try not to enter Hateem area other the round will not be valid. According to the type of Tawaf, men and women will complete their seven rounds (the options of Ramal and walk in every type of Tawaf has been explained above).
When during the round we reach Rukn-al-Yamani corner, we should touch it and say Bismillah wallahu akbar. But if it is not in reach and we are moving at a higher level then no need to touch or kiss. Now from Rukn-al-Yamani corner to the black stop, it is Sunnah to recite:
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَ فِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
“Rabbana aathina fiddunyaa hassanatan wa fill aakihirati hasanatan wa qinna athabannar”
Once the performer reaches the Hajr-e-Aswad, it means one round is complete. Either kiss or touch the stone if it is in reach otherwise the hand gesture from far away will do. Repeat the same steps in all seven rounds and the Tawaf will get completed. The men can now cover their uncovered right shoulders. Now the performer should reach Maqam-e-Ibrahim and stand in a way that it is between the performer and Kaaba. Now recite
وَاتَّخِذُوامِنْ مَقَامِ إبْرَاهِيْمَ مُصَلَّى
“Wattakhithu min Maqaami Ibraheema musallaa.”
Now offer two rakats of salah as it is sunnah to recite Surat ul Kafirun in the first rakat after Surat ul Fatiha and Surrat ul Ikhlas in the second rakat after Surat Fatiha. If it is peak time and due to crowd no place near Maqam-e-Ibrahim to offer prayers then one can offer anywhere else in the Haram.
1- Kur’ân’in Getirdigi – Emin Isik.
2- Kurban Kesmenin Psikolojik Temelleri – Doç Dr. Ali Murat DARYAL.
3- Kur’ân-i Kerîm ve Açiklamali Meâli – Türkiye Diyanet Vakfi.
4- Diyanet Islâm ilmihali.
5- Hac Rehberi – Irfan YÜCEL – Türkiye Diyanet Vakfi.
6- Diyanet yayinlari (hacci anlamak)
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