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Peshawar Nights: How the Grave of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, was Discovered

first session-part 2


How the Grave of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, was Discovered

Mention was also made of the discovery of the sacred grave of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali.

Hafiz: But in what state was the grave of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, discovered 150 years after his death?

Well-Wisher: Because Umayyad oppression was so intense during Ali's later life, he stipulated in his will that his body should be laid in a grave secretly at night and that no trace of the grave should be left. Only a few of his close companions and his sons attended the burial. On the morning of the 2lst of Ramadhan when he was to be buried, two conveyances were prepared. One was instructed to go to Mecca, the other to Medina. This is why for years his grave remained unknown, except to a few companions and his own sons.

Hafiz: Why was the grave's location kept a secret?

Well-Wisher: Probably out of fear of the irreligious Umayyads. They were particularly inimical to the members of the progeny of the Prophet. They could have desecrated the grave.

Hafiz: But is it possible that a Muslim, even though an enemy, might violate the grave of a brother Muslim?

Well-Wisher: Have you studied the history of the Umayyads? From the day this wretched dynasty came to power the door of oppression was opened among Muslims. Good Heavens! What atrocities they committed! What blood they shed, and what honors they spoiled! With deep shame, your eminent scholars recorded their many crimes. Allama Maqrizi Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad bin Ali Shafi'i recorded the heart-rending atrocities of the Umayyads in his book Annaza' Wa't-takhasum fima baina Bani Hashim wa Bani Umayya.



As examples of what they were capable of, I will cite only two events: the martyrdom of Zaid bin Ali bin Husain, known as Zaid Shahid (i.e., the Martyr) and the martyrdom of his son, Yahya. Historians of both Shias and Sunnis recorded that when Hisham bin Abdu'l-Malik became the caliph, he committed many atrocities. With regard to the Bani Hashim, he was particularly cruel. At last, Zaid bin Ali, the son of Imam Zainu'l-Abidin and well known as a great scholar and a pious theologian, went to see the caliph to seek redress for the grievances of the Bani Hashim. But as soon as Zaid arrived, the caliph, instead of greeting him as a direct descendant of the Holy Prophet, abused him with such abominable language that I cannot repeat it. Because of this disgraceful treatment, Zaid left Syria for Kufa, where he raised an army against the Bani Umayyad. The governor of Kufa, Yusuf bin Umar Thaqafi, came out with a huge army to face him. Zaid recited the following war poem: "Disgraceful life and honorable death: both are bitter morsels, but if one of them must be chosen, my choice is honorable death."

Although he fought bravely, Zaid was killed in the battle. His son, Yahya, took his body from the field and buried him away from the city near the river bank, causing the water to flow over it. However, the grave was discovered and, under Yusuf's orders, the body was exhumed, Zaid's head was cut off and sent to Hisham in Syria. In the month of Safar, 121 A.H., Hisham had the sacred body of this descendant of the Prophet placed on the gallows entirely naked. For four years the sacred body remained on the gallows. Thereafter, when Walid Bin Yazid bin Abdu'l-Malik bin Marwan became caliph in 126 A.H., he ordered that the skeleton be taken down from the gallows, burnt, and the ashes scattered to the wind.

This accursed man committed a similar atrocity to the body of Yahya bin Zaid of Gurgan. This noble man also opposed the oppression of the Bani Umayya. He too was martyred on the battlefield. His head was sent to Syria and, as in the case of his revered father, his body was hung on the gallows - for six years. Friend and foe alike wept at the sight. Waliu'd-din Abu Muslim Khorasani, who had risen against the Bani Umayya on behalf of Bani Abbas, took his body down and buried it in Gurgan, where it is a place of pilgrimage.



In view of the misdeeds of this accursed dynasty, the body of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali was buried during the night, and no trace of his grave was left. The grave remained virtually unknown until the days of Caliph Harun ar-Rashid. One day Harun came hunting in the locality of Najaf, where deer lived in large numbers. When the hounds chased the deer, they took refuge on the mound of Najaf, a small hill which the hounds would not ascend. Several times, when the hounds retreated, the deer would come down, but when the hounds again leapt at them, the deer took refuge on the mound. Understanding that there was a reason for the hounds' behavior, Harun sent his men to inquire in Najaf. They brought an old man to him and the caliph asked about the secret of why the hounds did not climb up on the mound.



The old man replied that he knew the secret, but that he was afraid to disclose it. The caliph guaranteed him safety, and the man told him: "Once I came here with my father, who went on the mound and offered prayers there. When I asked him what was there, he said that they had come there with Imam Ja'far Sadiq for a visit (Ziarat). The Imam had said that this was the sacred grave of his revered grandfather, the Commander of the Faithful, Ali, and that it would shortly become known." At the caliph's behest that place was dug up, and the signs of a grave became apparent along with a tablet with an inscription in Syriac, meaning: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This grave has been prepared by the Prophet Noah for Ali, the Vicegerent of Muhammad, 700 years before the Deluge."

Caliph Harun paid respects to the place and ordered the restoration of the earth. He then performed two rak'ats of prayer. He wept much and laid himself on the grave. Thereafter, on his orders, the whole matter was disclosed to Imam Musa Kazim at Medina. The Imam confirmed that the grave of his revered grandfather, Commander of the Faithful, Ali, was at that place. Harun then decreed that a stone building be erected over Commander of the Faithful's sacred grave, which came to be known as Hajar Haruni, "The stone structure built by Harun." In due course, the news spread, and Muslims visited the holy place. Ibrahim Mujab, the great, great grandfather of Sultanu'l-Wa'izin (Well-Wisher) also left Shiraz for this holy visit, and after performing the Ziarat, died in Karbala. He was buried near the sacred grave of his great grandfather, Imam Husain. His grave is located in the Northwestern corner of his sacred mausoleum and is visited regularly by his admirers.



Hafiz: Despite these conclusive remarks, I think that the grave of Ali (may Allah bless him) is not located in Najaf. Scholars differ on this point. Some say it is in the State House in Kufa; some say it is in the Qibla of the Central Mosque of Kufa; some say that it is in the gate known as Bab-e-Kinda of the Mosque of Kufa; some hold that it is in Rahba in Kufa; still others say it is beside the grave of Fatima in Baqi. In our Afghanistan, too, there is a place near Kabul known as the Mausoleum of Ali. According to one account, the sacred body of Ali was placed in a box and laid on the back of a camel and sent toward Medina. A party of men snatched the box, believing it contained valuables. On opening it, they saw the sacred body, brought it to Kabul, and buried it at this place. That is why people revere this place.

Well-Wisher: These differences arose because of the details of his will, which stipulated that the arrangements for his burial obfuscate his burial place. It is related from Imam Ja'far Sadiq that at the time of his death, the Commander of the Faithful told his son, Imam Husain, that after burying him in Najaf, he should prepare four graves for him in four different places: in the Mosque of Kufa, in Rahba, in the house of Ju'da Hira, and in Ghira. The Shia agree that his sacred grave is in Najaf. Whatever they have learned from the Ahle Bait is authentic. The people of the house know best about what relates to the house.

I really wonder at your scholars, who have neglected the sayings of the progeny of the Holy Prophet in every matter. They did not inquire about the location of the grave of the father from his own sons in order to learn the truth. It is certain that the children know more about the grave of their father than others do. If any of these current theories had been correct, the Holy Imams would have informed their followers of it. But they have confirmed the location in Najaf, visited the place themselves, and have exhorted their adherents to visit it. Sibt Ibn Jauzi has, in his Tadhkira, mentioned these differences. He says: "The sixth view is that it is in Najaf at the well known place, which is commonly visited. To all appearances, this is the correct view." Similarly, your other scholars, such as Khatib-e Khawarizmi in Manaqib, Muhammad bin Shafi'i in Matalibu's-Su'ul, Ibn Abi'l-Hadid in Sharhe Nahju'l-Balagha, Firuzabadi in his lexicon, Qamus, under the word Najaf, and others, have held that the Commander of the Faithful's grave is located in Najaf.

To be continued ...


The Tendency of Rationalizing the Laws of the Sharia

Peshawar Nights (perface)

Peshawar Nights: first session-part 1

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