The lofty position of an individual can generally be recognized by certain events in their life which display the grand status of that person. In rare cases, a person can serve as a link between us and Allah (swt) which in itself is a divine miracle, which suggests that this person holds a special rank in the sight of Allah (swt). But when the degree of such a divine miracle exceeds all boundaries of imaginations and defies all coincidences and probabilities 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 extraordinary events in that individual’s life.
The birthplace of our first Imam, the successor of the Holy Prophet, Ali ibn Abi Talib (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 Kaaba – the most sacred and holy House of God. This unique gift which Allah (swt) bestowed upon His servant is far from a coincidence. 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 Kaaba when she was experiencing labor pains, with the walls of the Kaaba miraculously opening so that she alone would enter, manifests the divine plan which was carefully constructed for the birth of Imam Ali (as). The first breath that the Imam took was in the purified air of the Kaaba. The first scene he experienced were the walls of the Kaaba. The first nutrition he consumed was directly from the sustenance of Allah (swt). The first prostration he made was on the floor of the Kaaba. It is to no surprise that later in history, the person who was assigned to destroy the idols of the Kaaba on the shoulders of the Messenger of Allah (swt), Prophet Muhammad (s), is none other than Ali ibn Abi Talib.
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 Kaaba and furthermore, his martyrdom in the Holy Mosque of Kufa on one of the Nights of Power during Ramadan conveys one message to all people: The whole existence of Imam Ali from birth to death was in complete servitude and worship to the Creator!
One of the signs (shaaer) which we as Muslims sanctify is the Holy Kaaba. Masses of people come to visit the house of Allah (swt) and give their respects year round. We strive to embrace the hajar al aswad (black stone) which is a part of the Holy Kaaba and directly from Heaven. However, it is very sad that many of us fail to highlight or recognize that the gemstone which the Kaaba contained deserves greater veneration because the walking Quran holds a 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 Kaaba.
Some may think that Imam Ali (as) has been honored by being born inside the Kaaba but the reality is that the Holy Kaaba itself was the one honored by having Imam Ali (as) grace it by his birth and residence inside it. Some people may intentionally try to ignore this great and unique merit which Imam Ali (as) enjoys because they recognize that it is a very special gift and honor which no one else holds. However, history testifies until the end of time, Ali ibn Abi Talib’s life itself is a proof of the honor brought to the Kaaba by association of his birth.
When we go to visit the Holy Kaaba in Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) or Hajj (grand pilgrimage), 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 Kaaba you should also aim to give regards and salutations to he who was born inside it on the blessed days of Rajab.
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. In the case of Imam Ali (as), he is the born citizen of the Kaaba situated inside the sacred haram of Mecca! Thus, he holds additional and distinct rights and privileges which others do not hold. He is the heart of the Kaaba and all those who seek to benefit from the Kaaba must enter through his door. He had the honor of being the first person to pray behind the holy Prophet (s) and pronounce his faith under the banner of Islam. He was the one who deserved the honor of sleeping in the Prophet’s bed in a time of need and this is certainly the privilege of someone who is a citizen of the Kaaba. Ali ibn Abi Talib is the same 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 (guardianship)”.
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 Imam Ali (as) in a few words. It suffices to absorb this authentic tradition regarding his great merit in the words of the beloved Prophet (s):
“The likeness of you O’ Abul Hasan (Imam Ali) in my ummah (nation) is like Surat Al Tawheed (al-Ikhlas). Whoever recites it once has recited a third of the Quran. Whoever recites it twice has recited two-thirds 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 one third of his faith. Whoever loves you by his tongue and heart has completed two thirds 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)