New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Eye of the Storm

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2007-08-02

Eye of the Storm

Today, Wednesday, August 1, 2007, early in the evening, I departed from Mecca, that physically barren, but spiritually rich Arabian city, after two incredible days filled with prayer, Qur’anic recitation, supplication and rest, joyous rest. With no lessons to prepare, no classes to teach, no meetings to attend, no place to go, no people to see, no things to do, for two days I was able to sleep all morning until my body, not the alarm clock awakened me, after spending most of the corresponding nights in devotion in the Sacred Mosque.

Having arrived in the city Monday night, I was blessed to perform the lesser pilgrimage, ‘Umra, beneath the watchful eyes of both he stars and the few pigeons who continued to circle the blessed precincts after most of their colleagues, found in droves during the day, had retired for the evening. Accompanied by my wife, I entered the mosque and found a renewed sense of awe gazing upon the Ka’ba, the black-shrouded cubic structure that defines the direction of prayer for the world-wide Muslim community.

The awe inspired by the Ka’ba is born of many thoughts, reflections, and realizations. That relatively small structure serves as the focal point of the devotional and liturgical lives of over one billion people. Although Muslims do not worship the Ka’ba, nor the black stone located at the intersection of two of its walls, it is central to our worship. The ritual prayer (Salat) is the very center of our spiritual lives, and our Salat is not valid if we do not try to orient our faces towards the Ka’ba, to the best of our ability, to perform the prayer.

Gazing upon the Ka’ba and the waves of people almost surreally swirling around it, I thought of a hurricane. Just as the eye of a hurricane is the energy center that spins out bands of clouds in ever expanding circles, the Ka’ba could be viewed as the energy center of the global Muslim community sending out ever wider circles of believers, who, no matter how distant, are united by the power of the core around which they revolve. Just as one who has been into the eye of a hurricane expresses awe at the stillness and indescribable calm to be found therein, so too would I describe the awe I experienced as I viewed the Ka’ba. Despite all of the power emanating from this source, there, right at the core, dwells an indescribable tranquility and calm.

I swam in that calm as I made the obligatory circumambulations of the ancient house. Even the first three circuits, which are made at a hastened pace, seemed unhurried. Moving to the Well of Zamzam, I savored the cold water whose unique taste bespeaks of benefits fitting its fabled history. Having fasted that day in the desert heat, the energizing refreshment of the water was all the more clear. I drank my fill and then doused my head with a cupful, reenacting the practice of our Messenger, Muhammad, peace upon him.

The ‘Umra concluded with the pacing between the mounts of Safa and Marwa, imitating Hajar’s search for water for herself and her babe, Isma’il, after she had been left in the parched valley by her husband, the great prophetic patriarch, Abraham, peace upon him. Here the throng gradually swelled, feed by the waves of primarily Iranian and Egyptian pilgrims whose numbers grew as the night progressed. However, even those numbers and the efforts to dodge the fleet of wheelchairs that snipped at my ankles, did not disrupt the peace and sweetness of the night. Having paced between the two hills seven times, the ‘Umra was concluded with the shaving of my head, an indication that the state of sanctity entered into for the pilgrimage had formally ended.

The end of that sanctity was not the end of the night. Ample time remained for other devotional acts and to simply sit on the floor of the mosque and gaze upon the Ka’ba and the seemingly endless stream of people enveloping it as they made their way around it. The scene reminded me of an incredibly fitting verse from the Qur’an, Peace, a reigning reality until the break of dawn. (97:5)

Thus did I spend my two days in Mecca. The peace found there makes departing extremely difficult, but depart I must. For just as the eye of the hurricane inevitably passes over and the observer finds himself battered by the violent winds and sheets of rain lying just outside of the eye, one must leave the “eye” that exits at Mecca and move on to expose oneself to the battering winds and pounding rain that comprise the storm of life. Entering into the eye constitutes a brief reprieve from the storm, so to does the ‘Umra. However, it is a reprieve that energizes and invigorates, allowing one who has enjoyed it to better face the challenges of this worldly life.



By Suzane D. on August 2, 2007 at 11:51am

As-salamu alaikum Imam Zaid, Umrah Mabroor! may Allah accept from you both all of your acts of goodness in Makkah and Madinah. InshaAllah you have a safe and easy trip back. Please keep us in your du3as! :)

By Shazia on August 3, 2007 at 3:23pm

Subhanallah, How inspiring it is to read about an experience of someone performing Umra. Brother Zaid, I pray Allah accepts your umra and blesses your good deeds in every respect. Please keep our eman energised with your spiritual experiences. Your dua would be a source of blessing for me. May Allah Reward you.

By Danya S. on August 4, 2007 at 10:10pm

Subhanallah Imam Zaid. Today is my last day in Kharabsheh and I know how, as they say, parting is such sweet sorrow. May Allah accept your umrah. Please keep us in your duas.

By Marwa E on August 14, 2007 at 12:02am

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmat Allah, Masha'Allah - may Allah accept your good deeds and keep you on His straight path. I just had a question - would it be possible to have RSS for this blog? Jazakum Allahu khayran. Answered by NID Staff: Yes. The link to subscribe to Imam Zaid's Blogs is located in the panel beside the list of Blog entries. You can also subscribe to the Articles. For further assistance in setting up the RSS feed, view these helpful instuctions here:

By Fasih Baig on August 14, 2007 at 5:01pm

Assalam Alaikum Imam Zaid, Umrah Mubarak..!!! Thanks for sharing your Umrah experience. May He shower His Choicest blessings on you and your family "Ameen" please remeber us in your duas and prayers. wasalaam, Fasih

By Imam Zaid Shakir on August 16, 2007 at 6:54pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Beloved Brothers and Sisters, May Allah bless us all to make 'Umrah togehter in the near future. May you all be rewarded for your support and may we be blessed to better serve you.

By Mubeen S. on August 25, 2007 at 6:48pm

Assalamu alaikum Imam Zaid. May Allah swt accept your ibadah and please do keep us in your duas.

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