Meet the man who swam around the Kaaba 77 years ago

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A Bahraini man, Ali al-Awadhi, became famous after a camera captured him performing Tawaf (circumambulating the Kaaba), during the 1941 flood which caused the Kaaba to be surrounded by water.

The pictures from 77 years ago show al-Awadhi in the water, which measured up to more than a meter and a half high, in front of Maqam Ibrahim (Station of Abraham/a stone associated with Abraham), as well as his brother and friend sitting by the door of the Ka’ba in the back.

Al-Awadhi, who passed away in 2015, has previously said that he was about 12-years-old studying in Mecca, when the heavy rain persisted for an entire week without any interruptions.

He said that he went to the Meccan Sanctuary with his brother and two of his friends, as well as his teacher, when they found the place completely flooded. Al-Awadhi, who used to swim often, said he suggested performing Tawaf around Kaaba by swimming for their pilgrimage to count.

Not the first to swim around the Ka’ba

As quoted from the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s biography, the first person to perform Tawaf swimming was the sahabi (the prophet’s companion) `Abd Allah al-Zubayr.

Others who swam around the ka’ba include scholar Badr al-Din bin Jama'a, who dove every time he approached the stone to kiss it.

Performing Tawaaf by swimming is a rare form of worship. Mecca has seen many large floods, but according to historians, it is never high enough for someone to swim, except for two incident, one from the Islamic era, and one 77 years ago.