Monday, April 30, 2012

Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad - Reviver of the12th Islamic century


The influence of Imam 'Abdullah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad, is quite evident in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a tradition for many local Muslims in Cape Town to recite the Ratib al-Haddad, more commonly known as the "Gadat" on selected evenings or special occasions. The Ratib al-Haddad is one of Imam al-Haddad's most widely recited litanies.

The Imam is perhaps the most well known of the Hadrami scholars because of his numerous books and litanies. He is considered the primary reviver of Islam among the revivers of Islam in the 12th Islamic Century.

There was also a great revival of Sufism in the Hadramawt under the remarkable guidance and tutelage of Imam 'Abdullah Alawi Haddad whose influence and leadership was acknowledged by the scholars of both Yemen and the Hijaz. The al-Tariqah al-Alawiyyah al-Haddadiyyah, in addition to other major Sufi movements like the Khalwatiyyah and the Qadiriyyah, has impacted profoundly on the local Muslim community here in South Africa. Ample proof for this is the wide and extensive use made of two central wirds or dhikrs of the Alawiyyah Tariqah, the Ratib al-Haddad (Known as the “Gadat” in the local dialect) and the Ratib al-'Attas, by the Muslims here.1

Love of the righteous

It is narrated in a hadeeth that one day the Prophet (SAW) – sat with his companions when a Bedouin came. Immediately the man asked the Prophet (SAW), “When is the final hour?” A question the Prophet (SAW) – disliked. The Prophet (SAW) – replied, “What have you prepared for it?” The Bedouin said, “I have not prepared much salaah, or much sawm, or much sadaqah, but one thing: I love Allah and His Messenger.” Then the Prophet (SAW) – said, “You shall be with whom you love!” Anas – Radi Allahu Anhu – the narrator of the hadith said, “By Allah, nothing brought us more happiness after our Islam than that statement: ‘you shall be with whom you love.’ I love Allah and His Messenger, and Abu Bakr and Umar; And I hope to be with them (on the final day) even though I have not done as much as they did. – Sahih Muslim

Therefore the love for the righteous adheres to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and after him those who adhere to his sunnah and reach degrees of righteousness and nearness to Allah and great door or expressway of nearness to Allah is loving them and becoming attached to them.

Imam al-Haddad said in verse: "Love of them is my religion, obligation (fard), and sunnah. It is my firmest handhold and the best thing I possess" The last part "The best thing I possess" is equated to the last part of the narration by Anas (RA) (we are not given joy by anything after Islam like the joy of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) whom he loves.).

Our aim is to learn a little bit about the Imam and to love him and develop an attachment to him so that we may draw nearer and increase our love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

There is a saying by Junayd bin Muhammad (may Allah be pleased with him) - The stories about the righteous, are the armies of Allah that descend to hearts. Therefore there is a strong effect of loving them and mentioning their news on the hearts of people to an attachment to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) because nothing that they conveyed or did was anything other than light that they inherited from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

So these are all just manifestations of the greatness of his teachings and the greatness of the deen that Allah gave him in the Holy Quran. We ask Allah to grant us love of them, and love of Allah, and love of those who love Allah and to make the love of him more beloved to ourselves and our families’ more than cold water in a time of intense thirst.

His ancestory

Imam 'Abdullah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad is the son of Alawi (ibn / bin meaning son in Arabic), the son of Muhammad and his nick name in Arabic was al-Haddad. He is al-Alawi, a descendant of the sada Ba Alawi, the Ba' Alawi sayyids or the people known as the habaayat. The Ba' Alawi sayyids are the descendants of Sayid Ahmad, the son of ‘Isa, the son of Muhammad , the son of ‘Ali bin Ja‘far al-Siddiq, the son of Muhammad al-Baqir, the son of ‘Ali Zain al-‘Ābidīn, the son of Imam al-Husayn al-Sibt, the son of Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Tālib and Fatimah al-Zahra, the daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Imam Ahmad ibn 'Isa (also later known as al-Muhajir) brought himself and his family to settle in Hadramawt, Yemen in the 4th century (AH), and in the tradition he left Imam al-Haddad was an heir of al-Hooseini (the Hooseinites), ascribed to the lineage of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Tarim is the city where they lived. Tarim was the center of sada Ba Alawi in terms of their teachings and scholarship and many of their great Imams are buried there.

The first Alawi to aquire the name al-Haddad (the ironsmith) was Sayyid Ahmad, son of Abu Bakr. This sayyid, who lived in the ninth century of the Hijra, took to sitting at the ironsmith’s shop in Tarim much of the time.

There happened to be another Sayyid Ahmad in Tarim in those days who was well known and had numerous followers. The ironsmith was unable to bear the fact that his friend, Sayyid Ahmad, whom he knew to be a man of God, was totally ignored by everyone, while his namesake was so renowned.

He criticized the sayyid so much for this that he answered the Ironsmith one day, “God willing, you shall witness that which will please you.” Soon afterwards people began to flock to the shop to greet the sayyid, sit with him, and ask for his dua (supplications or prayers).

It was not long before the ironsmith found himself unable to work in his shop, so crowded it had become. He said, “O Sayyid, this is enough, I am now convinced you are as I thought you were.” Thereafter, to differenciate him from the other Sayyid Ahmad, people took to calling him al-Haddad and so were his descendants name after him.

Among the nicknames of Imam al-Haddad was the axis of invitation and spiritual guidance (Al Qutb At Dawati wal Irshaad). He was also known as the blacksmith of hearts (Haddad al-Quloob). A possible meaning for this would be that they would take a rusted or corroded piece of metal and transform it into a shiny well formed piece of metal.

Similarly people would come with their “darkness’s” on their hearts due to sins and corrosion of other faults and Imam al-Haddad would perform his “blacksmithing” and their hearts would become like polished metal.

Imam al-Haddad was considered by many of his students and many of those who followed after him, to be the reviver of the 12th Islamic century. His student (Imam Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habshi) said that the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), that Allah would send to the ummah of Islam someone who would revive the affairs of their deen for them at the beginning of each century, that that saying was true concerning Imam Al-Haddad.

He is widely considered to the primary reviver among the revivers of the 12th Islamic century. The ulama say concerning the meaning of this hadeeth that it is possible that there are a group of revivers that come at the beginning of each Islamic century and it does not have to be a single reviver or one specific person.

He was deemed to be by the later scholars of his tradition, that all of them were drawing light from his lamp. The tradition of the sada Ba Alawi especially from the point of view of spiritual training is that after the time Imam Al-Haddad passed away they all drew from him.

His parents and family

Haddad was the nickname of the family of Imam al-Haddad. His father’s name was Alawi bin Muhammad al-Haddad. He was known for his piety and taqwah and being from the people of Allah. Imam al-Haddad's paternal grandmother, Salma, was also known to be a woman of gnosis and sainthood.

Imam al-Haddad narrated many miracles that happened at her hand. His mother's name was Salma bint Aidrus bin Ahmad al-Habshi. His maternal great grandfather, Ahmad al-Habshi, met Imam al-Haddad's father, prior to Imam al-Haddad's father knowing Imam al-Haddad's mother and he said to Imam al-Haddad's father "Your children are my children, and there is a blessing in them".

Imam al-Haddad's father said he did not realise the indication of what this scholar said to him, until Imam al-Haddad was born. Imam al-Haddad's paternal grandfather, Aidrus, was also known to be of the people of sainthood.

His birth

Imam al-Haddad mentions that his mother, Salma, mentioned to him concerning his birth, that he was born on a Sunday night, 5th Safar, 1044 AH (1634 CE) in al-Subayr, a village on the outskirts of Tareem in Hadramawt, Yemen.

The night that he was born, one of the women of the village, a neighbor who attended his birth, took some of his father’s garments and wrapped him Imam al-Haddad in. Imam al-Haddad's mother said that after his birth that she could not sleep, because he was crying all night. Imam al-Haddad's mother then asked the woman to check up on Imam al-Haddad to see what was wrong with him.

When the woman checked up to see what was wrong and opened the garments that he was wrapped in, she found that there was a large scorpion within the garment he was wrapped in, and that it had stung him 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 (saw) endured the trials of being squeezed 3 times by Angel Jibreel (AS). Imam al-Haddad responded in his interpretation that this is among the tribulations that Allah (SWT) sends to those whom he loves and those whose ranks he elevates.

His childhood and youth

When Imam al-Haddad was 4 years old, he contracted smallpox and has a result he lost his eyesight becoming permanently blind. Despite this disability he still memorized the Quran at a very young age. Imam Al-Haddad narrated about himself that he never used to move or interact like someone that was blind as a child. He used to walk and play with the children as a normal child would and would not let his blindness impede him. He was not treated differently due to his blindness.

The Imam was given to very intense worship and spiritual struggle as a child. In one narration, when he was a young boy on his way home from the Quran school where he used to memorize the Quran, his friend would guide him to various masjids’ in Tarim. He would then as a child, pray a hundred or two hundred rakahs in each masjid.

His grandmother, Salma, would tell him to go easy on himself because she was worried about him. It is also said that as a child he left many of the spiritual striving that he would have liked to perform in order to seek his parents’ pleasure because they were worried about him overdoing it or harming himself.

Also as a youth Imam al-Haddad and one of friends, would go to the some of the desert canyons around Tarim and would recite a quarter juz (portion) of the Quran to each other. They would perform the same practise with books of fiqh (jurispudence). It is also mentioned that Imam al-Haddad would perform this practice alone in his youth, prior to the age of 17.

In Ramadan 1061 A.H (1650 C.E.) (at the age of 17) the Imam entered khalwa (spiritual seclusion), in a zawiyah of one of the masjids’ in Tarim (Masjid al-Wujayrah). He also married in this same year. Imam al-Haddad began to teach shortly after he entered khalwa (seclusion). He would spend his time in khalwa during the day and then leave to be with his wife at night, at the home of his wife’s family.

It is said that Imam al-Haddad particulary enjoyed khalwa and would rush to khalwa immediately after jumuah prayers. At night, his servant would lead him to various masjids’ in Tarim where it is reported he would pray up to 700 rakahs per night.

Among the books he taught was Awarif –U’l Ma’arif which is a classical work in tasawwuf by Shaykh ‘Umar al-Suhrawardî. He did this for approximately 11 years until 1072 A.H. (1661 C.E.)

His life as a student

Imam al-Haddad studied with many of the scholars of his time in Hadramaut, amongst the foremost of them al-Habib Umar bin Abdul-Rahman al-Attas. Imam Abdul-Rahman al-Attas is known to be the teacher that allowed him to develop some of his spiritual opening as a student. As a very young man when Imam al-Haddad would recite Sura Yaseen, he would start crying and be overcome with crying. It is believed that his spiritual opening was through Sura Yaseen.

Imam al-Haddad mentioned that before he reached the age of 15, his father advised to memorize a book called al-Irshad, an extremely abridged work in Shafee fiqh.

Imam al-Haddad had spent time with some of the sada Ba Alawi in Tarim at the time who criticized some of the scholars of fiqh. At the time, Imam al-Haddad requested from his father that would prefer to study a book Bidayat al-Hidayah (Beginning of Guidance) instead of concentrating on jurispudence.

His father acknowledged and allowed him to study a manuscript they had in their procession of Bidayat al-hidayah (Beginning of Guidance) by Imam al-Ghazali.

Imam al-Haddad then went to seek lessons in the book Bidayat al-hidayah with a scholar at the time al-Faqih ba-Jubayr. al-Faqih ba-Jubayr told Imam al-Haddad that Bidayat al-hidayah was hard to memorize and advised him to first study the book al-Irshad.

The method that was used to allow Imam al-Haddad to memorize the book was that students would read the book to him, and he would memorize it from them. Imam al-Haddad memorized up to the chapter in the book related to things which are forbidden in a state of ihram (pilgrim sanctity).

After Imam al-Haddad had memorized this, al-Faqih ba-Jubayr travelled to India however Imam al-Haddad progressed and persisted in his studies with various scholars at the time. When al-Faqih ba-Jubayr returned from India, Imam al-Haddad had already entered his khalwa and began to teach students of his own. al-Faqih ba-Jubayr experienced the amount of knowledge that Imam al-Haddad had gained over the time he was away and then decided to become one of his students. One of the books that al-Faqih ba-Jubayr read with Imam al-Haddad was the Ihya' 'ulum al-din (Revival of Religious Sciences) by Imam al-Ghazali.

Some of Imam al-Haddad ‘s other main students were his sons, al-Hasan al-Haddad and al-Hoosein al-Haddad, as well as al-Habib Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habshi. al-Habib Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habshi became Imam al-Haddad’s khalifa after he passed away.

al-Habib Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habshi authored many commentaries on the poems of Imam al-Haddad as well as a book called al-Risalah al-Jamia.

His works as a scholar of Islam

His works revolve around the attainment of certainty (yaqin), the degree of unshakeable faith in God and His Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). They are void of investigative or dogmatic debates and limit the mention of names to those famed Companions and early Muslims (salaf). Furthermore, he does not bring up legal rulings (ahkam fiqhiyya), which would necessitate that his readership be limited to the adherents of his school of law (Shafii).

Thus, 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.3

Imam al-Haddad authored many beneficial books
  • Amongst his books which are in print are:
    • a ten volume series of his short treatises
    • his volume of poetry
    • a compilation of his sayings
  • The Imam also has a number of litanies available in print.
  • A Biography of Imam al-Haddad is available “The Sufi Saint of Arabia”, by Dr.Mustafa al-Badawi
  • The an-Nasaih al-Diniyyah wal-Wasaya al-Imaniyyah (Religious Counsels and Faith-based Advices)
  • Risaalat al-Mu`awanah  (The Book of Assistance)
  • Ad-Dawah At-Tammah (The Perfect Call – on the obligation of da’wah)
  • Al-Aqidah

Imam al-Haddad's litinies / dhikrs include
  • Raatib al-Haddad 
  • Wird al-Lateef

Imam al-Haddad has numerous sayings on
  • On Taqwa
  • Following the Sunna
  • Repentance (tawba)
  • Reciting the Qur’an
  • Invocation of Allah (dhikr)
  • Renouncing the World (zuhd)
  • Raising Children

His death passing on

Imam al-Haddad maintained all his usual acts of worship until Asr (mid-afternoon prayer) on Thursday Ramadan 27, 1132 A.H (1720 C.E.) when he picked up an illness.

Imam al-Haddad attributed this illness to the fact that he went to visit one of his wives on the 26th night of Ramadan to keep bonds of kinship and maintain the rights of his family.

He said that by doing this he had departed from the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) who would worship and perform iktikaaf on this night.

On Monday night (laylat al-thulatha’) 7th or 8th Dhul-Qa’da, 1132 A.H. (1720 C.E.) his pure soul passed from this fleeting world to the eternal abode of the Hereafter. His legacy was carried on by his son and students.2

Imam 'Abdullah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad 1634 - 1720 - spiritual lineage (silsila)

Al-Qutub Imām ‘Abdullāh ibn Alawi al-Haddād
Sayid ‘Umar Abdar-Rahman al-Attās
Sayid Husain ibn Shaykh Abū Bakr ibn Sālim
Sayid Abū Bakr ibn Sālim
Sayid Shihāb al-Dīn ibn Abd al-Rahmān
Sayid Abū Bakr al-‘Idrūs
Sayid ‘Abdullāh al-‘Idrūs
Sayid Abū Bakr al-Sakrān
Sayid Abd al-Rahmān al-Saqāf
Sayid Muhammad ibn ‘Ali Maula al-Duwayla
Sayid Ali ibn ‘Alawi ibn al-Faqih
Sayid ‘Alawi ibn al-Faqih al-Muqaddam
Al-Faqih al-Muqaddam Imām Muhammad 'Ali Bā ‘Alawi
Sayid Imām Abū Maydan al-Pāsi
Sayid Abū Ya’za
Sayid 'Ali ibn Hirzim
Qādi Abū Bakr ibn ‘Arabi
Hujjat al-Islām Imām Abū Hamīd al- Ghazāli
Imām al-Harmayn al-Juwayni
Shaykh Abū Muhammad al-Juwayni
Abū Tālib al-Makki
Abū Bakr al-Shibli
Imām Junayd al-Baghdādi
Sari al-Saqāti
Ma’rūf al-Karkhi
Dāwūd al-Tāi
Habib al-‘Ajami
al-Hasan al-Basri
Sayidina ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Glossary of terms and definitions
  • deen - a way of life
  • hadeeth - a narration or saying from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
  • iktikaaf - an intention and act of staying in the mosque for a period of time
  • jumuah - Friday and more commonly known as the Friday prayer
  • khalifa - spiritual leader
  • khalwa - spiritual retreat or seclusion
  • silsila - chain of transmission of knowledge down the the Prophet Muhammad SAW)
  • rakah - cycle of prayer
  • sura - chapter in the Quran
  • ummah – collective

  1. Tasawwuf: Islamic Spirituality By Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks -
  2. Inheritors of light lecture series - Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya
  3. Imam al-Haddad -

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