February 17, 2010




The feeling you get when you make it through massive amounts of security to enter Ali's haram is unimaginable. If Hussain stands for courage, truth and perseverance in the face of difficulty, Ali stands for love. It is no secret that nearly every mystic movement in the Islamic world (and then some) derive their inspiration and their wisdom from this man.

The story of the shrine (which I heard today) goes something like this. Ali was attacked in the Mosque of Kufa (where he prayed every night). While in sajda he was struck at the back of the neck by a poisoned sword. He survived two days and finally succumbed to the wound. Before he died, Ali warned his sons that his enemies would attempt to desecrate his grave, which was why for generations nobody knew where he had been buried. One day, some-hundred years after Ali died, a king was hunting in the forests around Kufa. He was in particular persuit of an elusive white deer and when he found it he chased after it, his hounds in tow. The deer ran for its life and eventually stopped at a particular place in the forest where it stood and looked at the hounds run circles around it (without actually attempting to kill it). Arrows pointed at the deer inevitably missed. The king tried several times, but the deer foiled each attempt by parking itself in the same place. Eventually the frustrated king turned to those who lived in a village nearby and asked them to explain this phenomenon. An aged, wise man then revealed the secret: this was the place where Ali had been buried, and the deer appealed to the Imaam for protection every time it entered the sacred circle.

Right now, Ali's shrine is beyond majestic. Built in classic Islamic style (similar to the buildings at Karbala) the dome and the entire facade of the main entrance is covered in solid gold (err, the brother says it's brass with gold paani over it, I prefer to stick to my version though, thank you). The remaining gates are covered with intricate stone tiles in shades of blue and green. Marble lines the bottom of the wall and the floor. The haram is huge and throngs and throngs of people crowd the place. As with Hussain's shrine, multiple clusters of devotees sit around the shrine praying in different ways towards the same source. The overall effect is very-very powerful. I'm going there again in a few hours. Mostly to basque in the combined effect of all that power.

And to pray.

Because that's what you do in a place like this.


Annie said...

I am not religious. That happens to be no secret.

But its this tug in my heart, when I hear a "haq-ali" that I know the visit to Najf is a must.

One day :)

Khizzy said...

typical of your architect brother to point out the technicalities of the architecture.

Xeb said...

A: I'm not religious either (surprise) but I feel that tug in my heart too. There's something very special about this person...

K: Na? He's such a mood spoiler! :P

How do we know said...


Thoth said...

Maula Ali.
I don't believe in religions at all in the first place. Do believe in Nahaj-al-balagha.
And Mir Anees' Mersiyeh(Eulogies) about Karbala, and you saw the place.

I have been to a couple of such places. Know the heaviness.
Good to know, na?

Xeb said...

T: Very good to know. The power of these places is undeniable. And it makes you think. Which doesn't mean you suddenly decide to be religious (or not me at any rate) but you definitely sit up and take notice of what-all might be out there. You should go, you may like it too! :)

Thoth said...

Yea. For me it is more of an awe of slight existentialist-ic crisis that greater men have lived and shed their blood to feed the thistle and thorn.
Nonetheless, World goes on.

PS: On my definite sightseeing list.
Loved the guided tour. Thanks.

Xeb said...

Anytime :)