Q. I was asked by someone what is the significance of performing Tawaaf in Hajj. I researched on the internet and could not find any information. I will appreciate if you can answer my question.
A. The Tawaaf in Hajj is done because it is a command of Allah. The Prophet (SAS) was also ordered to do it, and even before him, Prophet Ibraheem (AS) was commanded by Allah to do the Tawaaf of the Kaaba after it was built. These are all evident in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAS).
As for the significance of doing Tawaaf of the Kaaba (in Hajj and Umrah or simply doing a Tawaaf), this is known to Allah, and the Quran and Sunnah have not specified as to what is the wisdom and significance in doing this great act of worship.
Scholars however, based on their understanding, have mentioned certain reasons which can be seen as the wisdom in doing the Tawaaf. In this regard, the great scholar and leader, Imam Ghazali (AR), while speaking about rituals such as the Tawaaf, running between Safa and Marwa etc. writes, ‘The object of obeying orders is nothing but to serve Allah and to fully submit to Him. It is an act of wisdom, and a great form of servitude to Allah to obey Him in places where intellect cannot enter and which it cannot comprehend, servitude to Allah is expressed fully when you understand a thing or not. For this reason, the Prophet (SAS) said regarding Hajj, ‘I consider Hajj as a veritable truth, servitude in reality and slavery of the highest order’ (Ihya ul Uloom vol.1 pg.218).
Here, Imam Ghazali highlighted the fact that doing an act of worship which cannot be understood by the intellect, is the highest form of submission to Allah. In other words, a believer doesn’t need to understand the reason for doing an act in order to fulfill it. His belief in Allah, and submission to Him is of such a high level, that he is always ready to obey Him in all His orders, whether he (the believer) can understand it or not. This is exactly the case of Hajj. Such acts and rituals are required to be done, that one can hardly understand the wisdom and significance in them. Yet, one is most willing to fulfill all these rituals, simply to show his total submission to the orders of Allah. Thus, doing the Tawaf signifies a high form of servitude and slavery to Allah which is the true spirit of Imaan and Islam.
Another great scholar, Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) has also written on the philosophy of doing the Tawaaf of the Kaaba. In this regard, he writes, ‘Mad with love, a man’s soul always moves around its beloved, kissing its abode. It is a specimen of this thing, which is seen in the Kaaba for the physical lovers of truth. Allah says to his slaves, ‘This is my house. The Hajr Aswad (black stone) is the stone in my house’. The command was given that man may also express his tremendous love in a physical manner. Thus, the pilgrims performing Hajj make a proper physical appearance and move around the House of Allah, as though they are madly in love with Allah. They shun personal adornment, shave their head and encircle His house, supplicating to Him in the fashion of those deeply immense in divine meditation. This extreme physical involvement arouses spiritual love. This is the philosophy on the physical rounds known as Tawaaf of the House and in the kissing of its stone’. He further writes, ‘when the pilgrims perform the Tawaaf, they liken themselves to the angels who are near Allah when they perform Tawaaf around the Throne of Allah’. (The wisdom behind the commands of Islam- pgs. 186-187).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan