Circumambulation (Tawaf) must begin at the point where the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) is located. This is where you enter the universe's system. You join the other people and assimilate among them as a drop entering the ocean.
This is the way to survival, the way to find your "orbit"! If you do not join the people, you will not be able to pursue the orbit nor approach Almighty Allah. Firstly, with your right hand you must touch or point to the Black Stone. Then, immediately, you must be assimilated among the people. What does this stone symbolize? It symbolizes a hand - a right hand! And - whose right hand? The right hand of Allah!
In the past, individuals and tribes made contracts with the chiefs of other tribes. This was done to assure their maintenance and survival in the desert. The contract was known as an allegiance. How was it actualized? The individual involved had to extend his right hand to shake and hold the right hand of the other in order that he becomes his ally. Automatically, it was understood that his previous allegiances were cancelled.
At the Black Stone, the moment of selection, you must choose your path, goal, and future. When joining the people, you must shake hands with Allah who is extending His right hand - therefore taking the oath to become Allah's confederate. You will be free from all previous allegiances; no longer will you be an ally of the powers, the hypocrites, the tribal chiefs, the rulers on this earth, the aristocrats of Quraish, the landlords, nor money. You are free!
Behold, all who pledge their allegiance to thee pledge their allegiance to Allah: the hand of Allah is over their hands. Quran 48:10
Touch Allah's hand. He is superior to all who have tied your hands in previous allegiances! Upon acquiring the status of being free (after shaking Allah's hand and re-asserting your "original promise"' to Him), it is your duty to join the people. Do not stop, continue on. You must find and select your "orbit". Enter the system and move with the others. As you circumambulate and move closer to Kaaba, you feel like a small stream merging into a big river. Carried by a wave, not by your feet, you are detached from the ground. Suddenly, you find yourself floating and carried on by this flood.
As you approach the middle, the pressure of the crowd squeezes you so hard that you are endowed with a new life. You are now a part of the people; you are now a man alive and eternal! You move not "by yourself" but "with others". You join them not "diplomatically" but "with love".
See the Allah of Ibrahim. By relating you to Himself, Allah relates you to others. In such a deep, delicate and beautiful way he relates you to the people by the attracting forces of His love. Although you are here to see Allah, you find yourself so busy with the people. Allah has invited you from far distances to come to His house for a private visit, but now He tells you to join the people. You are not to enter His house, nor to stop and stare at the house. You must continue in your circumambulation, remaining shoulder to shoulder with the people. Kaaba is only the center of the orbit; therefore, if you stop, move your position or turn your head, you are "out" of the orbit! Once again, do not stop and do not go to the right or to the left. Qibla is in front of you; look ahead and continue going ahead.
Attracted by the forces of the world's sun (Kaaba), you are on your orbit. You have become a part of this universal system. Circumambulating (Tawaf) around Allah, you will soon forget yourself. What prevails is love and attraction; you are only one of the many people who are "attracted"!
Going around and around, you see no one but "Him". You are a "nothing who feels His existence" and simultaneously an "existence who feels nothing". As you circumambulate, you are like a particle in this circular movement which is an orbit, a motion, a Tawaf and a Hajj! Nevertheless, all of this is symbolic of Allah. Your position is that of "submission"
By becoming departed from yourself, you have assumed a new form as a "particle" that is gradually melting and disappearing. At its peak love is absolute; you are a devotee in love! If love had to be described in terms of motion, what type of movement would it be? Very simply, it is best expressed by the motions of a butterfly! In summary, it may be said that Kaaba is the center of love while you are the compass rotating around it!
Hajar was an example for humanity. Allah, the great love and ally of man, ordered her to leave her home with her nursing child. She was told to go to the fearful valley of Mecca where no plant not even thistles, will grow. Out of love for Allah, she Understood and accepted this order. It seems strange - a lonely woman with her lonely child cast into the depth of this valley among such ugly and inactive volcanoes. Without water? Without shelter? Without anyone? But why?
All of this because Allah wanted absolute reliance upon Him! This rationale is not comprehendible by our Wisdom nor does it appear logical. Water is necessary for existence, the baby needs milk, a man needs friends, a woman needs supporters and a mother needs help. This is true, yet love can replace all of those needs! One can live with love if the spirit recognizes it. Oh lonely maid, a helpless nursing mother, you and your child must rely upon Allah. Feeling secure with love, rely upon Him!
Excerpted from a section of the book "Hajj" by Dr. Ali Shariati and translated by Dr. Ali A. Behzadnia.