Ads by Muslim Ad Network

The Spirituality of Hajj: Tawaf

Part 3

Tawaf and sa’y are two major components of Hajj carried out one after another. Tawaf is an act of circumambulating or walking around the Ka’bah in an anti-clockwise motion. Seven circles or circuits are to be accomplished.

Tawaf and sa’y represent the dynamism of life and its multidimensionality.

Tawaf is derived from the root word “tafa” which means “to go from one place to another”, “to circle”, “to travel through”, “to roam”, and “to traverse and explore”. Ta’if is a person who performs tawaf around the Ka’bah, and tawwaf a person who travels a lot and continuously move about.

Tawwaf is an epithet given to Dhul Qarnayn, a legendary king who traversed the earth from the west (the setting of the sun) to the east (the rising of the sun).

Tawaf and sa’y are about vitality and perpetuation. Tawaf indicates both the earthly and cosmic energy and movement, while sa’y, predominantly, stands for the former.

Ads by Muslim Ad Network

Tawaf’s movement is circular, which suggests unity, totality and infinity. It likewise implies the ongoing significance and power associated with the whole of creation and how everything is integrated into one.

In its capacity as the House of God, Ka’bah represents divinity. It is the source of all ontological meaning and consequence. It is likewise the source of all physical and spiritual life. A person should stay as close to the Ka’bah as possible – at once physically during tawaf and figuratively besides it – so as to draw on its munificence and use it as a means of approach unto its Owner.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that in each of the seven heavens there is a ka’bah which is frequented by the angels. The Ka’bah of the first heaven is called Bayt al-‘Izzah and that of the seventh heaven is called al-Bayt al-Ma’mur.

Tawaf on earth, it follows, replicates scenes and ambiances from the heavens. It joins the universal chorus. To some, tawaf as well evokes the angels’ surrounding and circling of the Throne of Allah, “glorifying and praising their Lord” (al-Zumar, 39:75).

Performing Tawaf

A person performing tawaf becomes part of the existential reality and purpose. He is constantly reminded of them and of his close relationship with them. Tawaf starts at the Ka’bah’s corner with the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone) and ends there. It is affirmed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) that the Black Stone was sent by Allah to the earth from Paradise.

Starting tawaf while facing the Black Stone, kissing it, if possible, or touching it with one’s hands, or pointing in its direction, and saying a supplication, reminds a pilgrim of his heavenly origins. He too, like the Black Stone, originated in Paradise. Moving then around the Ka’bah alludes to one’s life trajectory which must unfold within the vicissitudes of everyday life, but which cannot be so distracted thereby that one might be pulled away from his orbit in relation to the Ka’bah (divinity).

A pilgrim’s completion of each of seven circuits by arriving at the point of the Black Stone encourages a pilgrim to make sure that he and his life-story end again in Paradise. His journey should be like a circuit around the Ka’bah: from heavenly origins to the heavenly conclusion. Returning to Paradise – like returning to the Black Stone – would mean that a person’s life has come full circle. He ended where he had started.

That is why circling and circle as a geometric pattern also imply inclusiveness and focus. They suggest continuous progress towards success. Failure is not an option, nor partial success. These are antitheses of dynamism, stability and permanence.

The Black Stone

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that after descending from Paradise, the Black Stone was whiter than milk (or snow), then it was rendered black by the sins of the children of Adam.[1] The destiny of man is the same. He too arrived from Paradise pure and with a clean slate. However, he blackened himself with the sins for which he and nobody else is responsible. Now what remains is that man works on bettering his state and reputation in order to facilitate his return to Paradise. The first step is repentance and the washing away of the sins as much as possible, followed by turning over a new leaf.

And there is no better place to start doing so than the sanctuary of Makkah with its Ka’bah, and no better occasion than Hajj and tawaf as one of its first and foremost rites. The Black Stone itself can play a role. It was for a reason that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that touching the Black Stone removes sins. He in addition said regarding tawaf: “Whoever performs tawaf around this House seven times and he keeps track of it, then it is as if he freed a slave.” Also:

“One foot is not put down, nor another raised (in tawaf), except that Allah removes a sin from a person and records a good merit for him”.[2]

The Ka’bah

The Ka’bah furthermore is like the sun and people are like stars revolving around it and floating, each in an orbit. The movement is progression from what a person is and what he intends, yet ought, to be. In all positions and during all times, a person maintains a steady distance with the Ka’bah or with Allah. The distance depends upon the path that a person has chosen in the system. The tawaf area (mataf) is like a magnetic field with the Ka’bah (the entire orb of divinity) in the centre. People are iron particles.

A person is attracted to the Ka’bah, but he does not rush towards it, or tries to enter it. He lets the Ka’bah enter him instead. His heart becomes the receptacle for the Ka’bah; yet his heart becomes a ka’bah. The interior of the Ka’bah is virtually empty. Thus, a person’s entering it will not change anything, neither in connection with the Ka’bah nor with the person himself. But the Ka’bah’s entering and conquering of one’s heart will mean the world for him.

According to Ali Shariati: “You do not touch the Ka’bah nor do your stop there. Everyone encircles the Ka’bah collectively. The movement is as one unit, one group of people. There is no individual identification, that is, as being a man or woman, nor black or white! It is the transformation of one person into the totality of a ‘people’. All of the ‘I’s’ join and become a ‘We’, establishing the ummah (community) with the aim of approaching Allah.”[3]

He likewise said: “If you remain in the state of self-centeredness, you are not really a part of the tawaf circle. You will be like a visitor standing at the bank of a river, but not in it. Those who are detached from themselves are alive and moving collectively. Those who are not separated from themselves are stagnant and dead.”[4]

Part 1 – The Spirituality of Hajj: An Introduction

Part 2 – The Spirituality of Hajj: Ihram and Talbiyah

Pages: 1 2 3
About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].