وَ رُوِيَ عَنْ أَبِي حَمْزَةَ الثُّمَالِيِّ قَالَ قَالَ لَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْحُسَيْنِ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلَامُ أَيُّ الْبِقَاعِ أَفْضَلُ فَقُلْنَا اللهُ وَ رَسُولُهُ وَ ابْنُ رَسُولِهِ أَعْلَمُ فَقَالَ أَمَّا أَفْضَلُ الْبِقَاعِ مَا بَيْنَ الرُّكْنِ وَ الْمَقَامِ وَ لَوْ أَنَّ رَجُلًا عُمِّرَ مَا عُمِّرَ نُوحٌ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ فِي قَوْمِهِ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَاماً يَصُومُ النَّهَارَ وَ يَقُومُ اللَّيْلَ فِي ذَلِكَ الْمَكَانِ ثُمَّ لَقِيَ اللهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ بِغَيْرِ وَلَايَتِنَا لَمْ يَنْفَعْهُ ذَلِكَ شَيْئاً
Abu Hamzah al-Thumaali (r.a.) reports, “(Imam) Ali Ibn al-Husain (peace be on both of them) asked us, ‘Which place is the most superior?’ We replied, ‘Allah, His Messenger and the son of His Messenger know the best’. So, he (peace be on him) informed, ‘As for the most superior place is the one between the Rukn (al-Yamaani) and the Maqaam (of Prophet Ibraheem – peace be on him). If a man is given the life of Prophet Nooh (peace be on him) in his nation, that is, nine hundred and fifty years, in which he fasts in it during the day and prays the whole night at this place (i.e. between Rukn and Maqaam), and then he meets Allah – Mighty and Majestic be He – without our mastership, this worship will not benefit him’.”
1. Al-Faqeeh, vol. 2, p. 245, H. 2313
2. Al-Amaali of al-Shaikh al-Toosi (r.a.), p. 132, 5th Majlis, H. 209/22
3. Wasaael al-Shiah, vol. 1, p. 122, H. 308
4. Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 27, p. 172, H. 16
1) Places, like all other things, vary in degrees vis-à-vis their importance and sanctity. For example, praying two units of prayers in Makkah al-Mukarramah has greater reward than the same act of worship in any other ordinary city of the world. Similarly, committing a prohibited act in a holy city like Madinah or Karbala is a greater sin than committing it in an ordinary city.
2) The same applies for timings too. For example, committing adultery on Thursday evening has greater punishment than committing on any other night.
3) Importantly, according to many traditions, the hallowed city of Karbala al-Muallaa bears more significance than the holy city of Makkah al-Mukarramah. Then why Imam Sajjad (peace be on him) has talked about Makkah being the holiest land? The reason is that Imams (peace be on them) used to talk to the people as per the levels of intellects and understanding. All things are not said to all people at all times. We have numerous traditions that the Prophets (peace be on them) used to speak to the people as per the levels of their intellects. Moreover, even we Shias have been ordered by the Imams (peace be on them) to talk to the people as per the levels of their intellects. If someone speaks everything he knows, then it is sufficient to prove his ignorance. (Ghurar al-Hikam, H. 4137). Hence, it is possible that Imam (peace be on him) is comparing Makkah to other ordinary lands and not Karbala.
4) The likeness of the life of Prophet Nooh (peace be on him) is to show longevity. It should be noted that Imam (peace be on him) here has talked only about his life of propagation in his nation and not his actual life span which according to reliable traditions was approximately 2500 years.