In the Honourable Remembrance of
(al-Habib ‘Abdullah bin ‘Alawi bin Muhammad al Haddad)
“Allah make plentiful its water, and make it prosperous till the Day of Judgment, and may the pious people blossom in its lands as plants blossom from water.”
Dua for Yemen – Imam Abu Bakr as-Siddiq
“Sit with the spiritual masters, drink in their blessings, for their mere presence radiates such light that whoever is with them is penetrated by it through and through.”
He is al-Imam al-Habib ‘Abdullah bin ‘Alawi bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin ‘Alawi bin Ahmad bin Abu Bakr bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Alawi ‘Amm al-Faqih (uncle of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam), bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin ‘Ali Khali’ Qasam, bin ‘Alawi, bin Muhammad Sahib al-Sawma’ah, bin ‘Alawi, bin ‘Ubaydullah, bin al-Imam al-Muhajir il-Allah Ahmad, bin ‘Isa, bin Muhammad al-Naqib, bin ‘Ali al-‘Uraydi, bin Ja’far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, bin Husayn al-Sibt, bin ‘Ali bin Abu Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra’, the daughter of our Master Muhammad ﷺ, the Seal of the Prophets.
In the 4th century AH (after hijra), Imam Ahmad ibn Isa al-Husayni emigrated from the troubled Basra, Iraq due to receiving enlightenment of the calamities and tribulations to fall and the greatness of the sacred trust he carried in his loins.
It was said that the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was from Mecca to Medina, and the emigration of his offspring was from Basra to Hadramawt. One of the Gnostics saw the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and asked him: “Are you pleased with the emigration of al-Muhajir Ahmad ibn Isa to Hadramawt?” The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ replied “I am pleased with everything Ahmad ibn Isa is pleased with.”
His descendants became known as the children of Alawi, Banu Alawi or Ba-Alawi in hadrami province; Alawi was Imam Ahmad’s grandson. Their base was mainly in Tarim and surrounding cities in Hadramawt (Badawi, 2005). The Ba’Alawi followed Shafi’i school in jurisprudence and the Ash’ari school in creed therefore within the fold of Ahlsl Sunnah Wal Jammah.
The name “al-Haddad” goes back to one of the ancestors of Habib ‘Abdullah, Sayyid Ahmad bin Abu Bakr, who used to spend time with a blacksmith (haddad in Arabic) in his shop in Tarim and thus became known by that name to distinguish him from another Sayyid (descendent of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ), whose name was also Ahmad.
Later the title haddad al-quloob (blacksmith of the hearts) was given to Imam al-Haddad meaning the one who purifies the hearts to glow and shine with the life of belief, just as a blacksmith smelts iron to remove rust and makes it glow in the furnace.
Birth & Childhood
Abdulllah bin Alawi al-Haddad is best known as ‘Imam al-Haddad’ or ‘Qutb al-Irshad’ (The Pillar of Guidance). He was born in a Subair on the northern outskirts of Tarim in Hadramawt on the night of Sunday 5th Safar, 1044H. The night that he was born, one of the women of the village, a neighbour who attended his birth, took some of his father’s garments and wrapped Imam al-Haddad. His mother Sayyida Salma said that after his birth she could not sleep, because he was crying all night. Sayyida Salma then asked the woman to check up on Imam al-Haddad to see what was wrong with him. Surprisingly the woman found a large scorpion within the garment he was wrapped in, and he was stung several times (some narrations say up to 20 times). Imam al-Haddad narrated this account from his mother to his students later in his life, and a student asked him if this was an indication of the trials that Imam al-Haddad will face in this world just as the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ endured when squeezed 3 times by Angel Jibreel, Imam al-Haddad responded in his interpretation that this is among the tribulations that Allah sends to those whom he loves and those whose ranks he elevates.
Despite losing sight at the age of 3 or 4, due to smallpox, the imam had incredibly sharp memory, comprehension and recall of knowledge that he had learned inward and outwardly. He memorised the Qur’an and several other texts as a child. He had no interest in playing with other children. After his morning lessons he was known for praying 200 units of supererogatory prayer moving form masjid to masjid in Tarim.
He had a great attachment to Chapter Ya Sin, which he read constantly and in which he was given a special opening. His childhood friend Sayyid Abdallah Ba’l-Faqih said “Allah had endowed him with spiritual openings from a very young age. During the recital of Surah Ya Sin, we would see the effect upon him and he would weep persistently.” Another of his companion describes “We would gather for dhikr and an ecstatic state would overcome Sayyidina Abdallah to the extent that he would faint.” From the rest of his life he had this attachment to Sura Ya Sin and pushed others to recite it also.
As a child Imam al-Haddad frequently came under the sway of spiritual states during gatherings of remembrance and the only way to awaken him was by laying him in front of the tomb of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam.
He was known for his Prophetic character, he was gently, kind, compassionate and extremely generous. He would accept any excuses that were made to him, and his eyes would gaze upon the pious and the sinful with complete compassion and mercy.
He was extremely kind to the servants, the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Whenever his servant caused annoyance to him, the imam would give him a present to abate his anger. Then the servant would say “If only he could be annoyed with me at all times.”
His gatherings consisted of learning and recitation of sound books of knowledge which included jurisprudence, creed, Prophetic biography and spirituality. He loved the seekers of knowledge and those aspiring for the hereafter. As an ascetic he disliked any form of worldly discussions in his gatherings and would say “No one has sat with me and been diverted from the remembrance of Allah.” As a caller to Allah on all levels he had a small number of close disciples who he trained in the spiritual path. 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.”
Imam al-Haddad received openings of knowledge and spiritual transmissions in two ways that is outwardly with the physical guidance of the scholars of his time and spiritually by transmissions from the great masters of the barzakh (intermediate realm).
He physically studied with approximately 140 scholars, amongst them, one the most significant of them was Habib ‘Umar bin Abdul Rahman al-Attas.
In regards to his spiritual transmission Imam al-Haddad said “I have been favoured by 4 people through the barzakh, al-Faqih al-Muqaddam, Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf, Shaykh ‘Umar al-Mihdar, and Shaykh Abdallah ibn Abi Bakr al-Aydarus. Now I receive directly through the messenger of Allah ﷺ.”
He has also added “We have taken from Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani both intermediaries and without. We are also connected to him by way of the ties of kinship between the people of the house as well as otherwise.”
The Imam also indicated that he had inherited the inward function of Shaykh Abdul Qadir by saying “Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani sat on a carpet that was folded up after him and never unfolded again until the time of Shaykh Abdallah ibn Abu Bakr al-Aydarus. It was then folded up until our time when it was unfolded for us. It shall again be folded when we disappear from this world and none shall sit on it again.”
On the eve of the 7th Dhul-Qa’da of the year 1132, at the age of 88 lunar years the Imam passed away and his son Sayyid al-Hassan saw a flash of light shooting out from the body.
On that morning, in Mecca, one of those employed to sweep the sanctuary informed the people that the Imam had died. He was evidently a man of God, and when asked how he knew this, he answered that he usually saw Imam al-Haddad every day and night circumambulate the Ka’ba, but that night before he had not seen him and had thus deduced that he had passed to the next life. The water from the ritual washing was collected by the local people in all sorts of vessels for blessings. Not a drop was allowed to reach the ground when the body was washed.
Legacy & Teachings
His works revolve around the attainment of yaqin (certainty) the degree of unshakeable faith in God and His Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. His works are very well suited, if not purposely designed, for mass readership. His writings are brief because he judged that coming generations would not have time to read large volumes. ‘Yaqin‘ is attained by proper practice of the ‘Sunna‘ in fulfilling obligatory worships and avoiding prohibitions along with sincerity and truthfulness to God. There should be no barriers between the outward forms, the inward essence, and practical applicability of the Islamic teachings. Thus, whoever has knowledge, according to Imam al-Haddad, must teach it to those who need it.
Imam al-Haddad has a number of litanies & poetry, which are read as acts of devotion and reminders of the basic principles of monotheism. The most famous of his litanies are the famous Ratib (al-ratib al-shahir) and the Wird al-Latif. There are many many Qasaid(poetry) composed by the imam that are still recited regularly to this day including Qad Kafani and Ya Alima Sirri Minna.
Some of his books that are translated in to English include:
- The Book of Assistance
- Lives of Man
- Gift for the Seeker
- The Sublime Treasures
- Taqwa and Knowledge
He produced many great students. Among the most famous were his son al-Imam Hasan bin Abdullah al-Haddad and al-Habib Ahmed bin Zayn al-Habashi and the two brothers Umar and Muhammad bin Zayn bin ‘Alawi bin Sumeit, Umar bin Abdul Rahman al-Bar and Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Balfaqih. From the great scholars who came from his lineage was the late Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad who has converted approximately 200,000 people to Islam.
His contribution to the spread of Islam through his words and actions and his students and writings was immense. His works continue to inspire and he remains the ‘Pillar of Guidance’ he had been during his lifetime.
The Imam has said “Were all the people of this age, old and young, male and female, to come to us, they would all benefit, both in their religious and worldly affairs, their outwards and their inwards, in the immediate and remote future. There are people whose bodies are in the maghrib and whose spirits are here with us, and there are others whose conditions is the opposite in this.”
Alfātiḥata ilā rūḥi ṣāḥibir rātibi quṭbil irshādi wa ghawthil ‛ibādi wal bilād, alḥabībi ‛Abdillāhibni ‛Alawiyyibni Muḥammadil Ḥaddādi, wa usūlihī wa furū‛ihim, annallāha yu‛lī darajātihim fil jannati wa yukthiru min mathūbātihim wa yuḍā‛ifu ḥasanātihim, wa yaḥfaẓunā bijāhihim, yanfa‛unā bihim, wa yu‛īdu ‛alaynā min barakātihim wa asrārihim wa anwārihim wa ‛ulūmihim wa nafaḥātihim fiddīni waddunyā wal’ākhirati. [al-Fātiḥah].
Al-Fātiḥah on the soul of our master and compiler of the Rātib, the Axis of Guidance and the spiritual succour for the worshippers and nations, the beloved ‛Abd Allāh bin ‛Alawī bin Muḥammad al-Ḥaddād and his genealogical roots (ancestors) and their branches (descendants), that Allāh may elevate their ranks in Paradise and increase their benefit, and protects us with their status; and that He shower upon us of their blessings, (spiritual) mysteries, knowledge, and gifts in (our) religion in this world and in the Hereafter. [al-Fātiḥah].