Ali ibn abi Talib, Amir al-Mu'menin (Peace be Upon him)
was the cousin of our Holy Prophet. He was born in the Sacred House (Ka'bah). Providence alone had a hand in bringing his mother towards the Ka'bah. When his mother came to Ka'bah, she felt weighed down by intense pain of pregnancy. She knelt down before the Holy Structure and prayed humbly to God. 'Abbas ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib, saw 'Ali's mother praying to God. No sooner had she raised her head from supplication, then the wall of the Sacred House split by a solemn miracle. Fatimah entered the Ka'bah and that portion returned to its normal position. 'Abbas and his companions flocked at the gate of the Sacred House which was locked, and tried to open it, but in vain. They then decided to give it up, considering the miraculous nature of the event and the Divine Will in action.
The news of this miraculous incident soon spread like wild fire in Mecca. 'Ali was born within the Ka'bah with his eyes closed and his body in humble prostration before the Almighty. Fatimah stayed in the Ka'bah for three days and as the fourth day approached she stepped out, carrying her gem in her arms. To her great surprise, she found the Holy Prophet awaiting to receive the newly-born child in his anxious arms. Imamate feeling the subtle touch of prophethood, 'Ali opened his eyes and saluted the Divine Prophet: "as-Salamu 'alayka ya Rasula'lldh" (Peace be on you, O Messenger of Allah). 'Ali's birth in the Ka'bah is unique in the history of the world. Neither a prophet nor a Divine saint was ever blessed with such an honour. He was brought up under the care and affection of the Holy Prophet. As 'Ali says: "The Holy Prophet brought me up in his own arms and fed me with his own morsel. I followed him wherever he went like a baby-camel following its mother. Each day a new aspect of his character would beam out of his noble person and I would accept it and follow it as a command. " (Nahju 'I-balaghah). Ten years in the company of the Holy Prophet had kept him so close and inseparable, that he was one with him in character, knowledge, self-sacrifice, forbearance, bravery, kindness, generosity, oratory and eloquence.
From his very infancy, he prostrated before God along with the Holy Prophet. As he himself said: "I was the first to pray to God along with the Holy Prophet." " 'Ali presented in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet," says al-Mas'udi, "all along his childhood." Allah created him pure and holy and kept him steadfast on the right path. Though 'Ali is undisputably the first to embrace Islam when the Holy Prophet called upon his listeners to do so, yet by the very fact that since his infancy he was brought up by the Holy Prophet and followed him in every action and deed including prostration before Allah, he can be said to be born a Muslim, just like the Holy Prophet himself. 'Ali, at all times, accompanied the Holy Prophet to help and protect him from his enemies. He used to write down the verses of the Holy Qur'an and discuss them with the Prophet as soon as they were revealed by the Holy Messenger, the Gabriel.
He was so closely associated with the Holy Prophet that as soon as a verse was revealed to him during the day or night, 'Ali was the first to hear it. The Holy Prophet has said of 'Ali: O 'Ali, you are my brother in this world as well as in the Hereafter. I am the city of knowledge and 'Ali is the gate. Nobody knows 'Ali except Allah and I. Nobody know me except Allah and 'Ali. If you want to see the knowledge of Adam, the piety of Noah, the devotion of Abraham, the awe of Moses, and the service and abstinence of Christ, look at the bright face of Ali. When the Holy Prophet reached Yathrib (Medina) and met his followers who had come from Mecca at his call, he immediately appointed for each such followers a person from the people of Yathrib known as Ansar (Helpers), who had accepted his prophethood, to be a brother to him. His appointment of brothers was a great act of help for the refugees known as Muhajirun (Emigrants), who left their home and come to Yathrib. He made brothers of people who followed the same trade so that the Muhajirun could be usefully employed immediately.
While the Prophet was appointing an Ansar a brother to a Muhajirun 'Ali who was present there, was not appointed as a brother to any Ansar. On being questioned as to why he had not appointed a brother for 'All, the Prophet said: "He shall be a brother to me." The character and calibre of 'Al; as judged by al- Mas'udi is, "If the glorious name of being the first Muslim, a comrade of the Prophet in exile, his faithful companion in the struggle for faith, his intimate associate in life, and his kinsman; if a true knowledge of the spirit of his teachings and of the Book; if self-abnegation and practice of justice; if honesty, purity, and love of truth; if a knowledge of law and science, constitute a claim to pre-eminence, then all must regard 'Al'i as the foremost Muslim.
We shall search in vain to find, either among his predecessors (save one) or among his successors, those attributes. " Gibbon says: "The birth, the alliance, the character of 'Ali which exalted him above the rest of his country- men, might justify his claim to the vacant throne of Arabia. The son of Abu Talib was in his own right the chief of Banu Hashim and the hereditary prince or guardian of the city and the Ka'bah." " 'AIi had the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valour. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the Apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to name his brother, his vicegerent, and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses."
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