The devotional act of circumambulating (i.e. walking around) the Qaaba while reciting prayers and supplications is called Tawaaf. One complete circuit around the Qaaba constitutes a shawt (pl. ashwaat), and seven ashwaat complete one Tawaaf.

Types of Tawaaf

There are five types of Tawaaf you may perform:

  1. Tawaaf ul Qudoom is the initial Tawaaf you will perform upon arrival at the Masjid ul Haram in Mecca for the first time pursuant upon your niyyah of Umra or Haj. This is the only Tawaaf in which you are required to wear Ihram and practice Idtiba and Ramal. They are not required in any other type of Tawaaf.
  2. Tawaaf ul Ifadah (Tawaf uz Ziyarah) is the Tawaaf you will perform on the 10th of Zul Hijjah after taking off the Ihram and changing into street clothes and before returning to Mina for Rummy. Ihram, Idtiba and Ramal are not required in this Tawaaf. However, Sai is required of a Mutamatti, but is not required of a Qarin or a Mufrid.
  3. Tawaaf ul Wuda (The Farewell Tawaf) is the Tawaaf you will perform immediately before leaving Mecca for your next destination following the completion of Haj. This is the last act you perform in Mecca. You are not supposed to linger there after this Tawaaf. Ihram, Idtiba, Ramal and Sai are not required in Tawaaf ul Wuda.
  4. Tawaaf un Nafl is a devotional Tawaaf you may perform any time, and as many times as, you wish. No Ihram is required for this Tawaaf. Sai is also not required, although you may perform it if you so desire.
  5. Tawaaf ul Umra is the Tawaaf you perform as a part of the rites of Umra. It is identical to Tawaaf ul Qudoom in its essentials except for the niyyah.
Details Of Tawaaf

Tawaaf of the Qaaba is the heart and soul of the rites of Haj. The mode and the details associated with Tawaaf were prescribed by Rasool Allah (pbuh) himself. The intent in this section is to describe the Tawaaf in some detail in order to clarify the procedure, and also to answer any questions that may arise during that process.

The essentials of Tawaaf are as follows:

  1. Like any other act of worship, Tawaaf also starts with the intention (niyyah) to perform this act for the sake of Allah only.
  2. Each circuit, or shawt, starts from Hajar ul Aswad with the pilgrim reciting "Bismillah, Allah-o-Akbar" and performing the Istilam of the sacred stone. In order for you to recognize the point of initiation of the Tawaaf, the floor of the Masjid ul Haram has a strip of brown-black marble radiating from the Hajar ul Aswad out to the wall of the Masjid ul Haram. At night, there is a green light on the same wall to identify this location.
  3. Each shawt ends at Hajar ul Aswad with its Istilam. The pilgrim will begin a new shawt after reciting "Bismillah, Allah-o-Akbar" as before from this spot.
  4. Each shawt is performed in the counterclockwise direction with the Qaaba always to your left.
  5. Ihram is worn only for Tawaaf ul Qudoom and Tawaaf ul Umra. Every day street clothes are worn for other types of Tawaaf.
  6. Idtiba and Ramal are performed only in Tawaaf ul Qudoom and are not required for other types of Tawaaf.
  7. Women are not required to perform Ramal.
  8. Tawaaf is to be completed with no interruptions. However, if "azan" (the call to prayers) is recited during the Tawaaf, you should stop to join the prayers at wheresoever you may be at that point in time, and resume the Tawaaf from there after the prayer is over. It is not necessary to restart the interrupted shawt afresh from Hajar ul Aswad.
  9. After the Tawaaf, you will offer two rakahs of salat us sunnah, preferably with the Maqaam-e-Ibrahim between you and the Qaaba. If that is not possible, prayer offered anywhere in the Masjid ul Haram is acceptable.
  10. Sai may be required after Tawaaf depending on the niyyah pronounced by you at the beginning. However it is not essential for Sai to follow the Tawaaf immediately. Tawaaf can be performed in the morning with the Sai following in the afternoon or evening.
  11. You will be reciting prayers and supplications during Tawaaf. However, there are no specific prayers to be recited during Tawaaf. You may pray in any way and in any language you prefer, but the prayers most often recited by pilgrims are given separately. You will find them very moving and meaningful and may want to use them.
  12. There are special provisions to be observed by a female pilgrim who is in a state of "ceremonial impurity" (menstruation or post-natal bleeding). Should she enter this state before Meeqat, she will pronounce her intention to perform Haj, and enter in the state of Ihram as usual. She will then proceed to perform all rites of Umra and Haj, including those at Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, except:
    1. She will refrain from offering all prayers (salats).
    2. She will perform neither Tawaaf nor Sai.
    3. She will not perform Tawaaf ul Ifadah.
    After she gets out of her state, she will perform Tawaaf, Sai, and Tawaaf ul Ifadah to complete her Haj.

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