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Tawaf History, Meaning, and Performance


Tawaf, an act of worship intended to get the pilgrim closer to Allah spiritually. It is a mandatory ritual in Hajj and Umrah and it is one of a few acts that are not directly linked to or performed by Prophet Ibrahim. 

What does Tawaf mean?

It is derived from the Arabic word طاف which means to walk around in circles. In Hajj and Umrah, circumambulation means to walk around Al-Kaba’a anti-clockwise, seven times. You start and end at the Black Stone. One complete circuit is called Shawt. 

The History of Tawaf

The age before Islam knew Tawaf. Yet, it was performed differently and for all the wrong reasons. The polytheists during the age of Jahiliyyah used to walk around Al Kaba’a naked as they believed that their clothes were tainted by the sins they committed, and they wanted to get rid of those clothes and get away from those sins. They used to say: “This is how we found our ancestors”. 

All Arabs used to perform it naked except for Quraysh. They performed it in their regular clothes and whoever borrows a garment from a Quraysh member, would wear it during Tawaf. Women would perform it at night. This was a practice that the idolaters invented on their own, following only their forefathers in this regard. They falsely claimed that what their forefathers did was in fact following the order and legislation of Allah.

Islam then came and people were commanded to cover their genitalia. People were ordered to wear their best, cleanest clothes and properly cover their private parts while performing every prayer.

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يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

The year prior to the Farewell Hajj, Abu Bakr Al Sedeeq was asked by the Prophet to make an announcement. The announcement stated that no pagan was allowed to perform Hajj and no naked person will be allowed to perform Tawaf from then on. 

How to perform Tawaf?

There are a set of rules and rituals that need to be followed to complete and ensure its exactitude. 

First, you need to make sure that you are in the state of Wudu during the entire Tawaf. You also need to have the intention (Niyyah) either to recite the Dua’a or to retrieve your intention in your heart. Moreover, it needs to start and end at the Black Stone, keeping it on your left and walking anti-clockwise. Nevertheless, Hijr Ismail needs to be included in Tawaf, so you need to circulate from outside. To complete it you need to finish 7 circuits (Shawt) around Al Kaba’a. However, if the time of obligatory prayer is due during Tawaf, the pilgrim can go for the prayer and then continue right after. Furthermore, the pilgrim must perform Istilam, which is kissing, touching, or pointing towards the Black Stone and say, Allah Akbar.

Types of Tawaf

Although the rituals are all the same, there are different types of Tawaf that are performed on different occasions in Umrah or Hajj. There are mainly 3 types;

Tawaf Al-Qudum: (Entering Al-Kaba’a circumambulation) This is performed upon entering Al Kaba’a.

Tawaf Al Ifadah: It is one of the mandatory rituals for Hajj. It is performed by the pilgrim between the dawn of 10th Zul Hijjah to the sunset of 12th Zul Hijjah, after leaving the state of Ihram and just before returning to Mina to perform Rami Al-Jamarat.

Tawaf Al-Wada’a: (Farewell) Also known as Tawaf Al-Sadr. It is performed is at the end of Hajj.

How many Tawafs are done during Umrah? 

Tawaf Al Umrah is carried out by pilgrims performing Umrah outside of the Hajj season and those who have the intention of performing Hajj Al-Tamattu. It is similar to Tawaf Al-Qudum. The only difference is intending to perform Umrah and Wearing Ihram. 

What to recite during Tawaf?

You can say Dua’a, Dhikr, or send prayers to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. You don’t have to read from books or recite the Dua’a you already know. As you will be only repeating words not feeling them. Pour your heart out before Allah, ask for his forgiveness and mercy. Say Dua’a in your language in the way you feel most comfortable in, ask Him to grant you whichever you wish for. Dua’a is accepted during Tawaf so don’t miss this opportunity. 

Read about Dua’a and Dhikr during Tawaf and Umrah




What are the benefits of Tawaf?

Tawaf has many virtues, all are mentioned in Prophet’s Muhammad’s ﷺ narrations 

Abdullah ibn Umar narrates:

The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘120 mercies descend daily upon the House of Allah, 60 of which are for those who are performing Tawaf, 40 for those who are performing Salah, and 20 for those who gaze at the House of Allah.

He also reports:

I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘Whoever circles the Kaaba seven times (Tawaf) and prays two Rak’ahs will have a reward as if he has freed a slave. A man does not raise his foot and bring it back down except that ten good deeds will be written for him, ten bad deeds will be erased, and he will be raised by ten degrees.

He further narrates:

Whomsoever makes 50 Tawafs of the Kaaba (ie. fifty by seven rounds), will be free of all his sins, just as the day his mother gave birth to him.

Al Kaba’a represents the spiritual center of the globe, the spiritual axis around which the believers rotate. Tawaf is performed as a form of submissiveness to Allah’s orders and for that one would gain great rewards. 

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