Imām `Abdullah bin `Alawi al-Ḥaddād

Posted: June 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


His Lineage

He is al-Imām al-Ḥabīb `Abdullāh bin `Alawī bin Muḥammad bin Aḥmad bin `Abdullāh bin Muḥammad bin `Alawī bin Aḥmad “al-Ḥaddād” bin Abū Bakr bin Aḥmad bin Muḥammad bin `Abdullāh bin Aḥmad bin `Abd al-Raḥmān bin `Alawī `Amm al-Faqīh (uncle of al-Faqīh al-Muqaddam), bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib Mirbāṭ, bin `Alī Khāli` Qasam, bin `Alawī, bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib al-Ṣawma`ah, bin `Alawī, bin `Ubaydullāh, bin al-Imām al-Muhājir il-Allāh Aḥmad, bin ` Īsā, bin Muḥammad al-Naqīb, bin `Ali al-`Urayḍī, bin Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, bin Muḥammad al-Bāqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Ābidīn, bin Ḥusayn al-Sibṭ, bin `Alī bin Abī Ṭālib and Fāṭimah al-Zahrā’, the daughter of our Master Muḥammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

The name “al-Ḥaddād” goes back to one of the ancestors of Ḥabīb `Abdullāh, Sayyid Aḥmad bin Abū Bakr, who used to spend time with an ironsmith (ḥaddād in Arabic) in his shop in Tarīm and thus became known by that name to distinguish him from another Sayyid, whose name was also Aḥmad.1

“Ḥabīb” came to be the title of the `Alawī Sayyids from the 11th Century onwards.

His Life

Imām al-Ḥaddād was born in Subayr near the city of Tarīm in 1044 (1634). He went blind at the age of four but Allah blessed him with the light of inner sight. His father directed him to the pursuit of knowledge and he memorised the Qur’ān and the foundational texts of the Islamic sciences at an early age. Among his teachers were Ḥabīb `Abdullāh bin Aḥmad Balfaqīh and Ḥabīb `Umar ibn `Abd al-Raḥmān al-`Aṭṭās. He corresponded by letter with Ḥabīb Muḥammad bin `Alawī al-Saqqāf, who lived in Makkah, and it was through him that the Imām received his opening. He continued in his studies until he reached the rank of mujtahid.

His love of knowledge was accompanied with a love of worship. In his childhood, when his morning lessons had finished, he would perform up to 200 rakats of prayer in Masjid Bā `Alawī or other mosques. His day was structured around acts of worship, which began long before dawn and ended late at night, interspersed with lessons and time with his family. He compiled a number of litanies, the most famous being the Rātib and al-Wird al-Laṭīf, which provide spiritual sustenance for the seeker. He had a great attachment to Surāt Yā Sīn, which he read constantly and in which he was given a special opening. The supplication which he would make after it continues to be read widely, as do many of his litanies.

After being given the order by his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah , the Imām began calling to Allah at every level, such that he became known as the ‘Pole of Da`wah and Guidance.’ He had a small number of close disciples who he trained in the spiritual path. He said of his technique: “We may train one of our students for a whole year in attaining one attribute.” He called the scholars to act according to their knowledge and to become callers themselves. He called the rulers and the common people alike. He established a mawlid in the month of Rajab and would feed all those who attended, saying: “If they do not benefit from our speech then we will place our blessings in the food.”

He authored a number of books which continue to benefit people generation after generation. His works are clear and concise and thus suitable for our times. Several have been translated into English and other languages. He would dictate large sections of his books to his students without any preparation. The Imam’s longest work,al-Nasā’iḥ al-Dīniyyah, contains the essence of Imām al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyā’ `Ulūm al-Dīn. In al-Da`wah al-Tāmmah (The Complete Call) he classifies society into eight categories and outlines each category’s rights and duties. Risālat al-Mu`āwanah (The Book of Assistance), which he authored at the age of 26, is every Muslim’s manual of the path to Allah. Other works include The Lives of ManKnowledge and Wisdom and Good Manners, all excellently translated by Dr Mostafa al-Badawi.

The Imām also placed his knowledge and his secrets in his collection of poetry (Dīwān) and used it as a means of calling people to Allah. He said that the one who has the Dīwān needs no other book. Several of the poems in it contain a complete exposition of the spiritual path and were explained during the lifetime of the Imam by his great student, Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin Zayn al-Ḥabashī. His poetry reached such a degree of acceptance that one of his verses was inscribed on the wall of the enclosure in which lies the grave of the Messenger of Allah :

نَبِيٌّ عَظِيْمٌ خُلْقُهُ الخُلُقُ الَّذِي

لَهُ عَظَّمَ الرَّحمنُ فِيْ سَيِّدِ الكُتْبِ

An awesome Prophet, whose character the All-Compassionate has venerated in the Master of all Books

Imam al-Ḥaddād’s poems continue to bring light and life to gatherings all over the world. One of his masterpieces is his “Pre-dawn Breeze,” which begins:

يَا رَبِّ يَا عَالِمَ الْحَالْ إلَيْكَ وَجَّهْتُ الآمالْ

فَامْنُنْ عَلَيْنَا بِالإقْبَالْ وَكُنْ لَنَا وَأصْلِحِ الْبَالْ

O Lord, O Knower of every state

To You I turn my hopes

So bless us by turning to us,

Support us and rectify us

He said of it: “This one of the greatest works which we have composed, for every verse is an expression of Allah’s oneness (tawḥīd). Had it been our way to take the means2 we would have bequeathed that the poem be buried with us, but our way is to meet Allah in a state of absolute neediness (faqr).” The Imām established a ḥaḍrahon Thursday night which continues to this day in Masjid al-Fatḥ in al-Ḥāwī. He placed this poem at the end, at which point he, and those attending would stand. One of the sultans of Haḍramawt came to Tarīm and requested a meeting with the Imām, who refused, but sent instead sent him this poem, saying: “It is sufficient for him.”

Imām al-Ḥaddād was involved in society at every level. He would write to the sultans warning them of their contravention of the Sacred Law and commanding them to repent and return to Allah. He also advised them in the affairs of government and mediated between conflicting tribes. He advised farmers on agricultural techniques and castigated the wealthy for not using their wealth to help the poor.

He established the village of Ḥāwī on the outskirts of Tarīm which was self-sufficient and free from the meddling of the rulers of the time – close enough to receive the good of Tarīm but far enough away to be safe from the conflict and sedition that plagued the city. The mosque which he built there, Masjid al-Fatḥ, and his house have now been greatly renovated and receive many visitors. He would supervise and fund the raising of orphans in his house and, in spite of his blindness, would take part in the work of the house, feeding the animals and sealing the water vessels.

One of the sultans of India wished to honour him by sending a ship laden with gold but the Imam knew that the arrival of this wealth would have negative effects on Ḥaḍramawt and its people. He asked Allah to make the ship sink and that everyone aboard would be saved, which duly happened.

His reliance on Allah was such that he said: “If the sky were to call out, ‘I will not send forth a drop of rain,’ and the earth were to call out, ‘I will not send forth a single shoot,’ and I was responsible for feeding all the people of Tarīm I would not be in the least concerned after my Lord has said: There is no creature on the earth but that Allah has guaranteed to provide for it.”3

He was in a state of constant presence with Allah, which led him to say to his students at times: “Do not ask me too many questions for I have to expend great efforts to focus my attention on you.” Not wishing for anyone to detract from his focus on his Lord, he instructed people not to approach when he was going to out to the mosque for prayer. On one occasion he said “Allahu akbar” upon entering the prayer with such force that the wall of the miḥrāb in front of him split. The crack remained in the wall until the recent refurbishment of the mosque.

His constant supplication was to perfect his following of the Messenger of Allah . In his old age he grew his hair long, saying: “There is not a sunnah that was prescribed by the Prophet except that I hope I have acted upon it.” He said that if he was in doubt over the authenticity of a hadith, he would refer directly to the Prophet .

Ḥabīb `Alī al-Ḥabashī said of him:

فَجَمِيعُ مَنْ سَلَكَ الطَّرِيقَةَ بَعَدَهُ

مُسْتَصْبِحُونَ بِنُورِهِ الوَقَّادِ

قَرَّتْ بِهِ عَيْنُ النَّبيِّ مُحَمَّدٍ

فَهُوَ لَهُ مِنْ أَحْسَنِ الأَوْلادِ

Everyone that takes the path after him

Is guided by his brilliant light

He was the cooling of the eye of the Prophet Muhammad

And he is one of the best of his children

His Death

It is little surprise that the Imam came to be regarded as the “renewer” (mujaddid) of the 12th Islamic Century. He died in al-Ḥāwī on 7th Dhū’l-Qa`dah 1132 (1719) and was buried in the Zanbal Graveyard in Tarīm. He (may Allah be pleased with him) left behind six sons – Ḥasan (who became his spiritual heir), Ḥusayn, `Alawī, Sālim, Zayn, Muḥammad; and four daughters – `Ā’ishah, Salmā, Fāṭimah, and Bahiyyah.

His students were giants in their own right: amongst them Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin Zayn al-ḤabashīḤabīb `Abd al-Raḥmān bin `Abdullāh Balfaqīh, Ḥabīb `Umar bin `Abd al- Raḥmān al-Bārr and Ḥabīb Muḥammad bin Zayn bin Sumayṭ.

1 For the full story and for a more detailed biography of the Imām, see Sufi Sage of Arabia, Mostafa al-Badawi.

2 Meaning that the greatness of this poem in Allah’s sight would have been a means to attaining His mercy and forgiveness. However, the Imām preferred to rely completely on Allah’s generosity and meet Him with nothing.

3 Hūd, 11:6

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