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Ṭawāf (Arabic: الطواف) consists in seven turns of circumambulation around the Ka'ba, which is one of the obligatory rituals of hajj and 'umra. Each turn of this circumambulation is called a "shawt". All kinds of hajj and 'umra have two tawafs: tawaf al-ziyarah (tawaf of pilgrimage) and tawaf al-nisa' (tawaf of women), except 'umrat al-tamattu' that does not involve tawaf al-nisa'. When one does not wear ihram, they can also practice recommended tawafs. After each tawaf, two rak'as of prayers should be performed behind Maqam Ibrahim (a).

There is no tawaf al-nisa' in Sunni jurisprudence.

Performing Tawaf in al-Masjid al-Haram around Ka'ba


The word "tawaf" means to surround something or to turn around something on foot. "Ta'if" (Arabic: طائف; the subject-adjective form) refers to someone who turns around the house. In the terminology of jurisprudence, "tawaf" refers to the circumambulation around the Ka'ba.

In jurisprudence, "tawaf" around the Ka'ba is an obligatory ritual of hajj. The pilgrim should circumambulate around the Ka'ba seven times with certain conditions: one should start in each turn (shawt) from the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) and finish with it. Tawaf consists in seven "shawt"s (circles).

Historical Background

Tawaf traces back to the period of the Prophet Adam (a). When he was banished from the heaven, he went to the Ka'ba and circumambulated around it just as angels circumambulate around the Divine Throne ('Arsh). Tawaf was a tradition throughout the history and was an essential part of hajj. Even in the age of Jahiliyya before the emergence of Islam, people who entered Mecca or wanted to depart from Mecca, the first thing they did was the tawaf of the Ka'ba. They took it to be the most important way to become close to God. In that period, there was no specific time and place for tawaf; they went to a temple with idol inside, and circumambulated around it seven times: poor people did this with naked foot, and rich people did it with shoes on.

Naked Tawaf

During the age of Jahiliyya, some people practiced naked tawaf around the Ka'ba. Different reasons have been suggested for this practice in historical sources:

  • They intended not to circumambulate around the Ka'ba with clothes in which they committed sins.
  • Clothes were in the possession of Quraysh. If one did not buy clothes from them, they had to circumambulate nakedly.
  • If a person went to hajj or 'umra, they had to practice their first tawaf with clothes they borrowed from Hums. They had to throw away any other clothes, and if they did not want to lose their clothes, they had to circumambulate around the Ka'ba nakedly. It was known as Naked Tawaf.
  • There is a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) according to which if someone practiced the tawaf in their own clothes in the period of Jahiliyya, then they had to give it away as sadaqa. So they had to borrow clothes for tawaf, and if they could not find anything, they, including women, had to practice the tawaf nakedly.

In the Qur'an

Tawaf and some of its rulings are mentioned in the Qur'an 2:125,[1] and Qur'an 22:26[2] and also in Qur'an 22:29[3]. These verses imply that tawaf was an old worship common in the period of the Prophet Ibrahim (a).

In Qur'an 2:158,[4] running between Safa and Marwa is also called 'tawaf'. In some other verses, tawaf cognate words is used in its literal meaning (that is, turning around something).

In Hadiths

Many virtues have been attributed in hadiths to tawaf. Imam Ali (a) said: "God has put 120 mercies around the Ka'ba, sixty of which are specific to people who circumambulate around it, forty for worshippers there, and twenty for those who look at the Ka'ba. The same hadith has been cited in Sunni sources as attributed to the Prophet (s). Here are other virtues of tawaf:

  • Tawaf is the ornament of the Ka'ba.
  • God is proud of those who practice the tawaf.
  • Tawaf is a covenant with God.
  • Tawaf prevents divine punishments.
  • It leads to the divine forgiveness.
  • It raises one's spiritual degrees.
  • It is rewarded by God like the emancipation of one to 70,000 slaves.
  • It makes one's prays be answered by God.

It is recommended for a person who visits Mecca to practice the tawaf 360 times, and if they cannot do that, then they can practice it 360 turns (shawts), and if still not possible, then they are recommended to practice it as many times as they can do while they are in Mecca.

According to some hadiths, tawaf consists of seven turns because, in the story of the Prophet Adam (a), angels had to ask for divine forgiveness and worshipped for 7,000 years. So each shawt is equivalent to 1000 years.

There are 445 hadiths in Wasa'il al-shi'a regarding the details of the rulings of tawaf.



There are two kinds of obligatory tawaf, tawaf al-ziyarah and tawaf al-nisa'.

The latter is practiced in all types of hajj and 'umra, except 'umrat al-tamattu'. The difference between these kinds of tawaf is only with respect to one's intentions (the actions are the same).

Tawaf al-Ziyarah

Tawaf al-ziyarah (Tawaf of pilgrimage) is an obligatory tawaf practiced in hajj and 'umra rituals. It is also called "al-tawaf al-awwal" (the first tawaf), "tawaf al-fard", "tawaf al-farida" (tawaf of obligation), and "tawaf al-rukn" (necessary tawaf). Tawaf al-ziyarah is an essential component of hajj and 'umra. Here are some features of this tawaf:

  • In al-'umrat al-mufrada, it is the second action practiced after ihram with ihram clothes. It can be done during the year, except the specific days of hajj.
  • In hajj, it is the seventh action done after halq or taqsir (shaving or shortening of hair and nails) on Dhu l-Hijja 10 with migration from Mina to Mecca. It can also be done after the return from Mina (Dhu l-Hijja 12), but it is recommended to be done on the Day of Eid al-Adha. This tawaf is done in clothes other than ihram, because after halq or taqsir, the pilgrim should take off his or her ihram clothes. This is called tawaf al-ziyarah (tawaf of pilgrimage) because after the practices of Mina on Eid al-Adha, the pilgrim goes back to Mecca to visit the Ka'ba and practice tawaf, and then returns to Mina to practice the rest of the rituals. After this tawaf, wearing a perfume -which was forbidden after ihram- becomes permissible for the pilgrim.

Tawaf al-Nisa

Although tawaf al-nisa' is obligatory, the hajj or 'umra will not be invalid by refraining from doing it. However, one would not be permitted to have enjoyment with his wife unless he (or his representative) practices tawaf al-nisa' and its prayer.

Tawaf al-nisa' and its prayer are the last actions in al-'umrat al-mufrada and the last actions of Mecca in hajj. The tawaf is obligatory in hajj or 'umra, after which one will be permitted to have enjoyment with his/her spouse -by ihram any sexual encounter between spouses becomes forbidden. Like temporary marriage, tawaf al-nisa' is specific to Shiites. Sunni Muslims do not recognize it in hajj or 'umra.


In addition to obligatory tawafs, one can practice recommended tawafs in al-Masjid al-Haram as well. It is recommended to practice the tawaf upon entering Mecca (tawaf of entrance) and upon leaving the city (farewell tawaf). The first obligatory or recommended tawaf practiced upon entering Mecca is called "tawaf al-qudum".

How to Practice the Tawaf

Each round of tawaf starts counterclockwise from Black Stone and ends there.

In order to practice the tawaf, one needs to circumambulate around the Ka'ba with the intention of tawaf (tawaf al-ziyarah, tawaf al-nisa', representative tawaf, recommended tawaf) seven times (seven shawts) counterclockwise.

  • The tawaf begins and ends with the Black Stone that is now marked on the ground with black marbles from this rukn (corner).
  • Just like prayer, one should have tahara during the tawaf, and no ghusl should be obligatory for the person. One's clothes should also be ritually pure.
  • During the tawaf, one's left shoulder should be directed to the Ka'ba.
  • After each tawaf, one should say two rak'as of prayers. In obligatory tawafs, the prayers should be said behind Maqam Ibrahim, and in recommended tawafs, it can be said anywhere in al-Masjid al-Haram.
  • Tawaf can also be done while riding a vehicle. It is reported that when there was flood in al-Masjid al-Haram, some people practiced the tawaf while swimming.


There is disagreement among scholars of jurisprudence about the confines of the tawaf. Some people take it to be cloaser than Maqam Ibrahim to Ka'ba, which is thirteen meters radius from the Ka'ba, and some take it to include the whole area of al-Masjid al-Haram. Hijr Isma'il is outside of the confines of tawaf so people should circumambulate around it, not through it.

According to the former view, the confine of the tawaf around Hijr Isma'il is about three meters. When there is too much population for tawaf and it is difficult to practice it in this limited area, these scholars require that the shortest distance be observed.

The two-floor temporary metal constructions installed in al-Masjid al-Haram

New Constructions of Masjid al-Haram

If we take the confines of tawaf to be the whole area of al-Masjid al-Haram or take it as permissible to practice the tawaf in areas more distant from Maqam Ibrahim (a) because of large populations, then the question arises that is it valid to do it on the second floor of al-Masjid al-Haram or the two-floor temporary metal constructions in the courtyard of the mosque?

Some Shiite and Sunni scholars of jurisprudence take this tawaf to be valid, and some people believe that if the constructions are higher than the ceiling of the Ka'ba, then it will be invalid. In 2015, it was reported that the second floor of al-Masjid al-Haram and the second floor of the metal construction in the courtyard are higher than the ceiling of the Ka'ba, while the first floor of the metal construction is lower than the ceiling.


  1. And [remember] when We made the House a place of reward for mankind and a sanctuary, [declaring], "Take the venue of prayer from Abraham's Station." We charged Abraham and Ishmael [with its upkeep, saying], "Purify My House for those who go around it, [for] those who make it a retreat and [for] those who bow and prostrate." (Qur'an 2:125)
  2. When We settled for Abraham the site of the House [saying], Do not ascribe any partners to Me, and purify My House for those who go around it, and those who stand [in it for prayer], and those who bow and prostrate. (Qur'an 22:26)
  3. Then let them do away with their untidiness, and fulfill their vows, and go around the Ancient House. (Qur'an 22:29)
  4. Indeed Safa and Marwah are among Allah's sacraments. So whoever makes hajj to the House, or performs the umrah, there is no sin upon him to circuit between them. Should anyone do good of his own accord, then Allah is indeed appreciative, all-knowing. (Quran 2:158)


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from طواف in Farsi Wikishia.