Friday, November 30, 2007

Imam Abdullah ‘Alawi al-Haddad

1. Imam Abdallah al-Haddad, author of the well-known daily wird (or litany) Ratib al-Haddad, is a member of a large family of saints, scholars and du’at the Ba ‘Alawi family of Hadramaut. The roots of this family go back to Imam Ahmad al-Muhajir a decendant of the Nabi (ASL) through Imam ‘Ali al-’Uraydi son of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq. Imam Ahmad is known as al-Muhajir because he fled (hijrah) the heavy political disturbances in Baghdad, where his father had moved earlier from Medina, and moved with his family to Yemen and eventually settled in Hadramaut. His qabr is still there built-up and frequented by the Ba-‘Alawis and others.

2. Tasawwuf and especially the works of Imam Ghazali were studied, memorised, dissected, practised and passed on from generation to generation. During the better part of the history of this family they preferred anonymity. Their spiritual methods and insights were preserved like a closely guarded family secret. The activity of this remarkable family-focussed spirituallity came to the notice of the broader Ummah much later. They made a particularly strong impression in Makkah and Medina from around the 9th-10th centuries AH onwards when a number of the Ba ‘Alawi Sayyids moved to the Hejaz and settled there.

3. The great spiritual leader and organizer of the Ba ‘Alawi tariqah was Imam Muhammad al-Faqeeh al-Muqaddam Ba ‘Alawi. He received and adopted the procedures of organised Sufism from Abu Madyan during the 6th century AH the age of the emergence of the great turuq.

4. Imam ‘Abdullah al-Haddad was born on a sunday night during the month of safr in the year 1043 AH. His father was ‘Alawi ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Haddad and his mother the very pious Salma bint ‘Aydarus ibn Ahmad al-Hibshi. Both of them died in the year 1073 AH.

5. The Imam contracted small-pox at the age of 3 and lost his eye-sight. He grew up in Tarim one of the early towns in Hadramaut and memorised the Quran. He revealed a very powerful spiritual tendency from a very early age. The Imam used to go into very deep spiritual states during the Hadrah. One childhood friend of his Imam Ahmad ‘Umar al-Hadawaaan said that at times he couldn’t come out of it unless they carried and placed him on top of the qabr of Imam Muhammad al-Faqeeh al-Muqaddam. The Imam also won the favour of the spiritual masters of his time. Another friend of his Imam Ahmad Hashim al-Hibshi said they used to study together the works of Imam Ghazali under the great Shaykh of the Ba ‘Alawis Imam ‘Umar ‘Abd-Rahman al-‘Attas. During one session the Shaykh told him: You and Abdallah al-Haddad are the same at the beginning and you will part at the ending.

6. In his early life the Imam travelled frequently. Whenever he heard of a saintly person he payed them a visit to receive their blessings and guidance. In this way he built up a collection of ijazat and khirqahs, details of which can be seen in the great collections of the ‘Alawi scholars.

7. The dominant figures in the spiritual life and development of the Imam were Sayyid ‘Umar al-‘Attas and Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi, the great Makkan scholar and spiritual guide. These and other shuyukh thought highly of the Imam. Sayyid ‘Umar al-‘Attas, for example, said that no-one equaled Imam al-Haddad in their age. Sayyid Ahmad ibn Nasir compared al-Haddad to Ba Yazid al-Bistami. Th great scholar Sayyid Shaykhayn ibn Husayn called Imam al-Haddad the “ka’bah of hearts”.

8. The Imam is known to have frequented the qabr of Nabi Hud, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, located near Hadramaut and advised people to recite the maulid there. He also regularly spent time at the qabr of al-Faqeeh al-Muqaddam and Shaykh Abu Bakr Salim al-‘Aynati. This last saint is quoted in one of the works of Tuan Yusuf. In fact Tuan Yusuf ends one of his treatises with a piece of the poetry of Shaykh Abu Bakr Salim. The Imam used to do these visitations after ‘asr on both fridays and tuesdays according to his students.

9. Imam al-Haddad performed his hajj in the year 1079 AH. He was 35 years old at the time and stayed at the house of Sayyid Husayn Ba Fadl in Makkah. His landlord also thought greatly of him. Sayyid Husayn saw in him a combination of the traits of both Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi and the great sufi shaykh of Makkah Ahmad al-Qushashi.

10. Imam al-Haddad was actively involved in teaching. Since the age of 27 he taught at the famous masjid al-hujayrah in Tarim. At the same time he conducted classes at his zawiyah. A point to note here is that the whole concept of a zawiyah as an educational institution rather than fundamentally as a place of worship or masjid is a typical ‘Alawi phenomenon. They built zawiyah’s near or next to the masajid whereever they travelled or settled. His classes where well attended and from those classes emerged some of the greatest scholars in Hadrami history. The author of the world famous risalah al-jami’ah Imam Ahmad Zayn al-Hibshi, for example, attended those classes for approximately 40 years.

11. In the year 1083AH at the age of 39 Imam al-Haddad built his home near Tarim. The house is at the centre with a masjid built around it. This hallowed place soon became the spiritual and intellectual centre of Hadramaut. The list of scholars and sufiyyah who all attended or stayed at this place is too long to mention. Poor people where never turned away. Huge charitable haflah’s where held there. And the Imam called this place Hawi al-Khayrat wa al-Nur which literally means “embracing goodness and light”.

12. In the beginning Imam al-Haddad stayed at al-Hawi for short periods of time. He used to spend a year there then return to the city. In the year 1099 at the age of 55 he moved to al-Hawi permanently. There he had classes during the day on Mondays and Thursdays. These where held inside or on the roof of the house. Other classes were held every night in the masjid.

13. The Imam passed away in the year 1132AH at the age of 89. He fell sick on the 27 of ramadan of that year and remained sick till the 7th of dhu al-qa’dah. The ghusl was done by his son and successor Sayyid Hasan al-Haddad and the janazah was led by his other son Sayyid ‘Alawi. The crowd at the janazah was huge. It is said that the mayyit left the house after ‘asr and was only layed to rest in the qabr after sunset the evening.

14. Imam al-Haddad left 10 children 6 sons and 4 daughters. In addition to all of this the Imam left a considerable legacy of writings. The Imam’s books have benifitted generations of both students and scholars. They are all highly recommended. Poetry was a particularly strong point of the Imam. One scholar said most of the Imams deepest insights are contained in his poetry. Interestingly, the descendants of a few local Imams have copies of the famous commentary of Imam Ahmad bin Sumayyit on the lamiyyah ( called lamiyyah because each verse ends with the arabic letter lam) of Imam al-Haddad. He also composed a series of wirds (werkslone) most of which are central to the daily practises of the Ba ‘Alawiyyah and their students.

15. Imam Abdallah al-Haddad has written a number of very useful books. Here is a list of some of them:
al-Nasaih al-Diniyyah – Advice of the Din
al-Da’wah al-Tammah - The complete message
Risalah al-Mu’awanah wa al-Mudhaharah wa al-Muwazarah – Book of Assistance
Kitab al-Murid – Book of the seeker or spiritual traveller
Risalah al-Mudhakarah – Book of Reminisance
Sabil al-Iddikar wa al-I’tibar – Lives of Man
Tathbit al-Fuad – Strengthening of the heart

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