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Important Things to Remember in Tawaf

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 1/10/04

We pointed out last week the importance of tawaf and the essential requirements which must be observed when performing it. We continue today with the discussion of what we are recommended to observe during this act of worship which is one of the main duties of both the pilgrimage and the Umrah. It is also important to stress at the outset that what we are discussing today are recommended matters, or Sunnah. In other words, the tawaf will be valid if these are not observed. Moreover, they should be abandoned if the tawaf is made at such a time when the large number of people doing the tawaf makes it difficult to do them without causing inconvenience or harm to other pilgrims. It is important to remember that to avoid causing harm to others is more important than the observance of a Sunnah or a recommended complement of tawaf.

The first thing associated with the tawaf is what we do when we come to the Black Stone. It is well known that the Black Stone was the mark given by the angel Gabriel to Abraham (peace be upon him), the Prophet who built the Kaaba, to be a distinctive mark for the beginning and end of the tawaf. It has continued to fulfill this role ever since. It has no other significance, and it cannot cause us any good or harm. What we are recommended to do is to face the Black Stone at the beginning of our tawaf, repeating phrases of glorification of God and stating that we believe in His oneness. We lift our arms as we do at the beginning of prayers. We also touch the Black Stone with our hands and we kiss it and put our faces on it, if we can. If overcrowding prevents us from doing so, we touch it with our hands or anything we may have with us, such as a stick and kiss the place where it touched the Black Stone. It is authentically reported by a number of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he kissed the Black Stone at times, and touched it with a stick he had in his hand at other times, kissing the stick afterward.

Some people question our kissing of the Black Stone. Let us be clear about this. We know for certain that the Black Stone has no function other than being a mark for the beginning of the tawaf. No Muslim believes that it can cause him any harm or good. If anyone entertains such a belief, he is not a Muslim. He is guilty of polytheism. We simply kiss it because the Prophet kissed it. In our acts of worship we follow the Prophet’s example because God has commanded us to do so. Al-Bukhari relates that Umar ibn Al-Khattab, one of the most learned of the Prophet’s companions, said to the Black Stone after kissing it: “By God, I know that you are a stone that cannot cause any harm or good. Had it not been for the fact that I saw the Prophet kissing you, I would not have kissed you.” This is the proper attitude of a Muslim. The Prophet’s worship of God was the most complete. There was nothing superfluous in it. We cannot discard anything the Prophet did in matters of worship. We follow his footsteps without hesitation.

The area near the Black Stone is always crowded. It is even much more so in the high season of pilgrimage. To try to reach the Black Stone and kiss it would inevitably cause a lot of inconvenience to others. It may even cause them harm when the pushing becomes fierce. In such a case, it is preferable to stay back and simply lift our arms toward the Black Stone and repeat the normal phrases of Allah akbar and La ilaha illa Allah, which mean, God is supreme, and, There is no deity other than God. We then kiss our fingers.

It is also recommended that we do the first three circles of the first tawaf of the pilgrimage and the tawaf of the Umrah in a jogging movement. This is due to the fact that when the Prophet did his Umrah, after the peace agreement of Al-Hudaybiyah was signed between him and the idolaters in Makkah, the idolaters were speaking of the Muslims being weak as a result of a disease which was widespread in Madinah. The Prophet, then, encouraged his companions to show their strength by jogging the first three circles around the Kaaba. This achieved its required purpose of convincing the idolaters in Makkah that the Muslims were really strong. It has remained a Sunnah recommended to us that we do the same in every tawaf which is supposed to be followed by a sa’ie between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. Some people may question that, but the Prophet did the same on his pilgrimage when the idolaters no longer had any strength in Makkah. Umar also said at the beginning of his tawaf: “Why should we do the jogging now? It was something which we did in order to trick the idolaters. Now God has destroyed them.” He reflected a little then he added: “It is something the Prophet did and we do not like to do otherwise.” This is again the proper attitude of Muslims. When we follow the Prophet and do exactly the same as he did, even when the purpose of doing it in that fashion no longer applies, we are demonstrating our obedience to the Prophet in the best fashion.

Nowadays, it may not be easy to do the jogging movement in the high season of pilgrimage. Again we should not do it at the expense of others. It is sufficient to simulate a jogging movement, doing it when we can and simulating when we cannot.

Also recommended in the first three circles during the tawaf for men to bare their right shoulders. This makes it easier for us to do the jogging in those three circles. It is unfortunate that people think that baring our right shoulders is the proper way to wear the ihraam garments all the time. This is not so. It is only recommended during those three circles of the first tawaf of the pilgrimage and the tawaf of the Umrah. It is certainly discouraged in prayers.

The Prophet also used to touch the corner of the Kaaba which faces the direction of the Yemen. This is because it is definite that this corner, like the one with the Black Stone, is raised on the same foundations as it was when the Kaaba was first built by Prophet Abraham.

When we go for pilgrimage, it is highly recommended that we begin with the tawaf of arrival as soon as we are in Makkah. Since our trip is for worship, it is appropriate that we demonstrate that purpose as soon as we arrive. Aishah reports that “the first thing with which the Prophet started when he arrived was to have ablution then to do the tawaf. He did not do the Umrah then. Both Abu Bakr and Umar offered the pilgrimage later on and they did likewise.

When we have finished our tawaf we are recommended to offer two rak’ahs at the place known as Maqam Ibraheem. This is the place where the Prophet Abraham used to worship after he built the Kaaba. This prayer is voluntary, which means that if it is not offered after the tawaf, the tawaf remains valid. While we are recommended to offer this prayer at Maqam Ibraheem, it may be offered at any place in the mosque or even outside it. It is unfortunate that nowadays we see people causing a great deal of hardship to others who are doing the tawaf by forming a circle with their bodies in order to allow one or more of their numbers to offer this prayer close to Maqam Ibraheem. By doing so, they are committing something forbidden in order to do a Sunnah. They certainly have their priorities wrong. God does not accept that a Muslim should cause harm to another simply because he wants to do a Sunnah. It is far more preferable to move away from the space used by people doing the tawaf and offer these two rak’ahs more comfortably.

Another point to be mentioned relating to tawaf is that it is permissible for both men and women to do the tawaf at the same time. It is also not forbidden or discouraged for a person offering prayers in the Sacred Mosque to let other people pass through in front of him. This is only possible at this particular mosque. It is also permissible for a person who cannot walk to do the tawaf carried by others, or in a wheel chair, or riding a horse or a camel or a bicycle. When a pilgrim has done all that, he is also recommended to have a drink from the well of Zamzam, and to pray to God at the place known as Al-Multazam, which is between the Black Stone and the door of the Kaaba. It is also recommended to enter the semi-circle known as the Hijr of Ishmael and offer two rak’ahs there. It must be stressed, however, that not all these recommended things are possible in the high season. Hence, pilgrims should do what they can of them, without causing inconvenience or harm to other pilgrims.

The sa’ie, or the walk between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah is a duty of both the Umrah and the pilgrimage. It is done once only for each. We begin at Al-Safa and face the Kaaba, raise our hands and repeat phrases of glorification of God and then begin our walk toward Al-Marwah. When we reach there we have completed one of our seven legs of sa’ie. We do the same at Al-Marwah and go back toward Al-Safa. That completes another leg. Men are recommended to jog between the two green marks which are easily identifiable. During sa’ie we may glorify God and praise Him, or recite from the Qur’an. We may also pray to God for anything we want.


Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

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