By Jerrmein Abu Shahba
The grand position of an individual can generally be recognized by certain extraordinary events in their life which display the achieved status of that person. In some cases, I believe a person is a divine miracle, which may suggest that this person holds a special rank in the eyes of Allah (swt). But when the degree of such divine miracle exceeds all boundaries of imaginations and defies all coincidences and probabilities to the point that it is unique in nature only to that individual, then surely there is much to decipher from that miracle and it is up to us to extract the treasure behind that extraordinary event.
The birthplace of our first Imam, the successor of the Holy Prophet, Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) is certainly one key miracle and an extraordinary event in the history of mankind which speaks volumes about the exceptional personality and high caliber of this immaculate individual. Imam Ali (as) was born on the 13th of Rajab and his birthplace was none other than the Holy Ka’ba – the sacred House of God. This unique gift which Allah (swt) bestowed his servant is far from a coincidence or simply being at the right place at the right time. From the moment that Imam Ali (as) was born, Allah (swt) invited him to open his eyes in His own House – a place where no other human was ever born. The well- known story of how his esteemed mother, Lady Fatima bint Asad came to the Holy Ka’aba few days before when she was experiencing labor pains and the walls of the Ka’aba miraculously opened so that she alone would enter, manifests the divine plan which was carefully constructed before the birth of Imam Ali (as). This clearly displays the divine love and yearning which Allah (swt) holds for Ali such that there is no moment to be wasted in the life of Ali (as). The first breath he takes is the purified air of the Ka’ba, the first scene his eyes see are the walls of the Ka’ba, the first nutrition he eats is directly from the sustenance of Allah (swt). The first prostration he makes is on the floor of the Ka’ba. It is to no surprise that the person who was assigned to destroy the idols on the Ka’aba is none other than Ali ibn Abi Taleb who was the only one whom the Prophet (saw) had him step on his shoulders to carry out this noble task!
History testifies that Imam Ali (as) enjoys many other great attributes, accomplishments and merits during the course of his lifetime which he earned by his sincere efforts and pure heart. However, the birthplace or death place of a person is not something that one can plan ahead. The birthplace of Imam Ali (as) inside the Holy Ka’ba and furthermore, his martyrdom in the Holy Mosque of Kufa on one of the Nights of Power conveys one message to all people: The whole existence of Ali from birth to death was in complete servitude and worship to the Creator!
Some people may intentionally try to ignore this great and unique merit which Imam Ali (as) enjoys and bury it because they recognize that it is a very special gift and honor which no one else holds. However, history testifies till the end of time and the life of Ali sheds light on why he earned this great honor of being born inside the Ka’ba.
One of the signs (Sha’aer) which we as Muslims sanctify is the Holy Ka’ba and masses of people come to visit the House of Allah (swt) and give their respects all year round throughout the past centuries. We compete to embrace the Hajar Al Aswad (Black Stone) which is a part of the Holy Ka’aba and directly from Heaven. However, it is very sad that many of us fail to highlight or recognize that the gemstone which the Ka’ba contained deserves greater veneration because the walking Quran and the speaking Quran holds higher degree in the eyes of Allah (swt) than the physical Quran. Likewise, the infallible personality of Imam Ali (as) is greater in Allah’s eyes than the physical walls of the Holy Ka’ba. The ignorant may think that Imam Ali (as) has been honored by being born inside the Ka’aba but the reality is that the Holy Ka’ba itself was the one honored by having Imam Ali (as) grace it by his birth and residence inside it.
When we go to visit the Holy Ka’aba in Umrah or Hajj, we sometimes forget the essence and the Qibla (true direction) that we are aiming. We go to embrace the walls and Black Stone and walk away without reaping the real fruits of our visitation to the House of God. When you go to visit a baby sitting in a cradle, are you aiming the baby or the cradle? Surely, you are coming to embrace the baby himself and the cradle is just the medium which carries the pure gem. Likewise, when you go to the Ka’ba you aim to give regards and salutations to he who was born inside it on the 13th of Rajab, Imam Ali the Commander of the Believers!
It is a general rule in life that when a person is born in a certain land, they attain the rights of “citizenship” and the privileges which come with it. That may include unrestricted entry to that country, having the right to vote, or run for elections, etc. In the case of Imam Ali (as), he is the born citizen of the Ka’aba situated inside the sacred Haram of Makkah! Thus, he holds additional and distinct rights and privileges which others do not hold. He is the heart of the Ka’aba and all those who seek to benefit from the Ka’aba must enter through his door. He had the honor being the first person to pray behind the Holy Prophet (saw) and pronounce his faith under the banner of Islam. He was the one who deserved the honor of sleeping in the Prophet’s bed and this is certainly the privilege of someone who is a citizen of the Ka’ba. Ali is the one whom the great poet Iqbal has narrated “In the absence of Haider, every temple has become Khaiber.” He is the one whom the renowned poet Rumi referred to him as “the holder of lunar and solar Wilayah”.
There is much to say about the Great Lion of God which words cannot sufficiently formulate, but if we would like to condense the great status of Ali (as) in a few words, it suffices to absorb this authentic tradition regarding his great merit in the words of the Prophet (saw):
“The likeness of you O’ Abul Hasan (Imam Ali) in my Ummah is like Surat Al Tawheed. Whoever recites it once has recited 1/3 of the Quran. Whoever recites it twice has recited 2/3 of the Quran. And whoever recites it thrice is like one who recited the whole Quran. Likewise, whoever loves you by his tongue has completed 1/3 of his faith. Whoever loves you by his tongue and heart has completed 2/3 of his faith. And whoever loves you by his tongue and heart AND by his hand (i.e. by action) has completed his whole faith.” (Merits and Benefits of the Holy Quran)