Imam al-Hādi ila al-Haqq Yahya bin al-Husayn: the first Imam of Yemen.

Born in tenth century Medina to a scholarly family who trace their lineage to Prophet Muhammad, Imam al-Hādi ila al-Haqq Yahya bin al-Husayn served as the first Imam of Yemen. He sought to revive the teachings and practices of his noble ancestors and authored numerous works on theology, jurisprudence and other subjects.

By Allah! If you obey me, nothing will be absent from you, of the Prophet except his outward form“- Imam Al Hadi.

Birth: He was born in Medina, in the year 245 A.H. (859 A.D) was named Yahya by his father after one of his deceased brothers. His grandfather Imam Qasim al-Rassi on being told this exclaimed “By God! This is Yahya, master of Yemen.”

Lineage:

Yahya bin al-Husayn bin al-Qasim bin Ibrahim bin Ismail bin Ibrahim bin al-Hasan bin al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abu Talib. His mother Umm-ul Hasan was the daughter of al-Hasan bin Muhammad bin Sulaiman bin Dawud bin al-Hasan bin al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abu Talib.

Early Life:
He studied with his father al-Husayn and his uncle Muhammad, learning various Islamic disciplines until he attained the rank of a mujtahid mastering the religious sciences. His son, Imam Muhammad, narrated that his father completed and mastered the religious sciences at the age of 17.

His Virtues:
Besides being an erudite scholar, he was known for his piety and asceticism. Muhammad bin Mansur al-Muradi narrates with his isnad that the Prophet once said pointing towards Yemen “A man from my progeny, whose name will be Yahya, will arrive here. Allah will renew the religion through him.” Sayyid Sarimuddin Ibrahim bin al-Wazir mentions that al-Hadi had Imam Ali’s sword Dhu-l fiqar in his possession. He also inherited the science of jafr from his ancestors.

An Imam amongst us, isn’t the one who hides from the weak at the time of need,” – Imam Al Hadi.

His Imamate:
Towards the end of ninth century, a dispute arose between some tribes of Yemen. Imam Yahya was invited to solve the dispute, acting as an arbitrator by the leaders of the tribes. Impressed by his knowledge and piety, they gave him an oath of allegiance, recognizing him as an Imam. Once, a member of an influential tribe was caught drinking alcohol. Imam al-Hadi ordered him to be flogged, but the influential members of the tribe tried to protect him. Imam al-Hadi condemned this biased attitude and said “By God! I will never be like a candle that burns itself to light up for the others.” Imam al-Hadi left Yemen after this and returned to Medina. Later, the people of Yemen realized their mistake and invited al-Hadi once again to rule in accordance to the Sharia. Imam al-Hadi accepted their invitation on the guarantee that they will not become a hurdle in the application of justice. In Yemen the khutbah was said in al-Hadi’s name. It is recorded that the khutbah was also said in Mecca in al-Hadi’s name for seven years. According to the traveller Burckhardt, some of the Sharifs of Mecca followed al-Hadi’s school of jurisprudence in nineteenth century. During his Imamate in Yemen, he also engaged in military campaigns. His chief adversaries were the Qarmatians, a deviant sect of Ismā’īlis. This group was so devious that according to historians, they overran the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and held the Ka’aba for ransom! A group of them led by a false-prophet from Kūfa named ‘Ali bin al-Fadl, marched towards Yemen. The Imam gathered a force and led the troops against Ibn al-Fadl. al-Hādi, continued to wage war against this deviant group until the end of his Imamate.

A dinar struck in the name of al-Hadi.

His physical appearance:
He’s described as having had the characteristics of a lion: wide-eyed and with muscular forearms. He was broad-chested and his shanks and posterior were lean, just like a lion. He did not have much flesh on his limbs so that only a high-mettled horse like Abu-l Hamahim could endure him.

Imam al-Hadi: The Just
During the time of Imam Al-Hadi it was proven that a person drank intoxicant (khamr), the Imam commanded for the offender to be flogged. The person said forgive me by the right of Ali bin Abi Talib. The Imam replied: By the right of Ali bin Talib even if he commands me not to hit you, but by Allah, even if I have been mandated to whip my father, I will not shirk away from doing so.

Imam al-Hādi: The Theologian
He authored a number of texts on theology, some of which includes: Kitāb Bāligh al-Mudarik, Kitāb fīhi Ma’rifat Allah ‘Azza wa Jalla, Al-Mustarshid fī at-Tawhīd, and Uŝūl ad-Dīn—just to name a few. Imam al-Hādi, was a theologian concerned with the beliefs of those who were his subjects. He approached the subject of theology very seriously. Indeed, it could be said that in his works, no other topic occupied as much of his energy as theology. As we previously mentioned, his primary concern as an imam was the protection of the people’s beliefs and their adherence to the Prophetic Sunnah as preserved through the Prophet’s progeny.

Imam al-Hādi: The Exegete
Imam al-Hādi, was a man of letters who demonstrated his deep knowledge of the Quran in his works. In one of his replies to a question regarding the meaning of the verse: {“If Allah desires, He could leave you astray. He is your Lord…”} (Q.11:34), he demonstrated that the phrase {leave you astray (yughwiyakum)} is derived from the word “to punish” (ghayya). Therefore, the leaving astray of a person is said to refer to Allah’s punishment or chastisement.

Imam al-Hādi: The Hadīth Scholar
Imam al-Hādi, compiled hadīths in works such as Kitāb al-Ahkām fil-Halāl wal-Harām. A hadith quoted by him on the authority of his ancestors is given below: My father related to me on the authority of his father —his
grandfather—his ancestors, upon them be peace—the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny, who said: “Friendship is security and separation is a bad omen.”

Imam al-Hādi: The Jurist
He became an accomplished jurist during his time and the “Hadawi School” was named after him. His jurisprudential rulings are available in his books: al-Muntakhab and Kitāb al-Ahkām. He also addressed many issues of jurisprudence in his letters to individual provinces and people. He utilized the first two of the existing methodologies to derive rulings (i.e the Qur’ān and Sunnah); however, he differed with many of the jurists of his time in the third source of jurisprudential derivation. As this third legal source, Imam al-Hādi, utilized the statements and consensus of the Prophet’s progeny. According to him, their individual and collective statements and actions were a firm proof for the Prophetic Sunnah.

Kitab al-Ahkaam; al-Hadi’s work on jurisprudence

Imam al-Hādi: The Ascetic
Imam al-Hādi, as evident from his writings, was also adept in the area of Islamic spirituality. Although he did not author texts specifically dedicated to the spiritual path like his grandfather, al-Hādi nevertheless attained a semblance of spiritual mastery. Among his writings that address the issue of the spiritual path is the last chapter of his Kitāb al-Ahkām entitled: “The Book of Asceticism (az-zuhd), Manners, and Other Things Related to the Perfection of Character.” In this chapter, he addressed topics such as seeking forgiveness, giving in secret, controlling anger, dreams, and showing off—just to name a few. As evident from this text, Imam al-Hādi, perceived the spiritual path in terms of character reformation and adopting praiseworthy habits.

“One day a person once addressed Imam al-Hadi Yahya ibn al-Husayn [by the title] al-Sayyid (Master, Lord). [Imam] al-Hadi said to him: “Do not say this again, for Allah is al-Sayyid and I’m a humiliated slave [before him].”

Sirat al-Hadi
Al-Hadi’s poetry in which he mentions some of the battles he fought. He also possessed Dhulfiqar; the sword of Imam Ali.

Was Imam al-Hadi a student of Abu-l Qasim al-Balkhi?
Sayyid Yahya & al-Jandari claimed in their works that al-Hadi learnt theology from Abu-l Qasim al-Balkhi. However, this is not true due to the following reasons:

1) al-Hadi was born in 245 A.H where as al-Balkhi was born in 273 A.H. Thus al-Hadi was 28 years old when al-Balkhi was born. As mentioned before al-Hadi mastered various Islamic disciplines at the age of 17 (eleven years before the birth of al-Balkhi).
2) al-Hadi’s first visit to Yemen was in the year 280 A.H when al-Balkhi was seven years old.
3) al-Hadi’s second visit to Yemen was in the year 284 A.H, at the age of 38. al-Hadi stayed in Yemen till his death in 298 A.H. al-Balkhi never visited Yemen.
4) None of the authentic Zaydi or Mutazilite works mention al-Hadi as a student of al-Balkhi

Marriage and Children:

He married his cousin Fatima b. al-Hasan bin al-Qasim al-Rassi. His descendants are from his three sons: Muhammad, Ahmad and al-Hasan.

His Death:
He passed away leaving behind not a single dirham, dinar, nor did he leave a single piece of property or furniture. All was given for Allah’s sake. He died at the age of 53 on Sunday, 20 th Dhu-l Hijja 298 A.H (911 A.D) and was buried in the Mosque constructed by him in Sa’ada, Yemen. He died after being ill with severe illness as a result of being poisoned by the Qaramitians. Soon the news of his death spread far and wide, people began to cry and wail over the departure of the Imam. When al-Imam al-Nasir al-Utrush was informed about his death, he began to weep and said: “Today, a pillar of Islam collapsed.”

His Miracles:

His biographers mention several of his miracles. For the sake of brevity two miracles are quoted below.


One of his companions state: There was my young son with me who couldn’t talk. I sought some medicine for him, but to no avail. I decided to carry him to Mecca with me. On the way, a letter from al-Hādi, came to me. We took his seal, placed it in water, and gave it to the boy to drink. All of a sudden, he began to speak clearly! A group of people witnessed the boy speaking, some of whom knew him when he couldn’t talk!

Another one of them said: A man used to hurl insults at the companions of al-Hādi, during the day of Mīnās. Al-Hādi supplicated against him that Allah sever his fingers. The man’s fingers began falling off until his wrists. He died as a result.

Tafsir al-Quran; al-Hadi’s work on Tafsir

His Writings:

1) Tafsir al-Quran
2) Kitab al-Ahkaam
3) Kitab al-Muntakhab
4) Kitab al-Funun
5) Kitab al-Mazaria
6) Kitab al-Tathbit al-Imama
7) Kitab al-Baligh al-Mudrik
8) Kitab al-Qiyas
9) Kitab al-Tawhid
10) Kitab al-Manzila bayn al-Manzilatayn
11) Kitab al-Usul ul-Din

A manuscript of Sirat al-Hadi authored by Sayyid Ali bin Muhammad al-Alawi

His Students:

1) Imam Muhammad al-Murtada
2) Imam Ahmad al-Nasir
3) Sayyid Abdullah bin al-Husayn bin al-Qasim
4) Sayyid Abu Jafar Muhammad
5) Sayyid Ali bin Muhammad
6) Muhammad bin Sulaiman al-Kufi
7) Muhammad bin Said al-Yarsmi
8) Ali bin Sulaiman al-Kufi
9) Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Tamimi
10) Abdullah bin Umar al-Hamadani
11) Abu Selma Yahya bin Abdullah
12) Sayyid Ali bin Abbas al-Hasani

References:

1) al-Tuhaf Sharh-al Zulf – Sayyid Majduddin al-Muiyaddi
2) al-Ifada fi Tarikh al-Aima al-Sadah – Imam Abu Talib al-Haruni
3) Sirat al-Hadi – Sayyid Ali bin Muhammad al-Abbasi
4) Hadaiq al-Wardiyya – al-Shaheed Hameed bin Ahmad al-Mahali
5) Durar al-Uqud al-Farid – Ahmad bin Ali al-Maqrizi
6) Daleel al-Zaiyr ila Qubur Ahl-ul Bayt al-Tahir fi-l Yemen – Sayyid Ibrahim bin Yahya al-Darsi
7) Tarikh al-Zaydiyya – Sayyid Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Zabara
8) Bahr al-Zakkhar – Imam al-Mahdi Ahmad bin Yahya
9) Matma al-Amall – Qadi al-Husayn bin Nasir al-Mahla
10) Durar al-Ahadith al-Nabawiyya – Qadi Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Hamza
11) al-Masabih fi-l Sirah – Sayyid Abu-l Abbas al-Hasani
12) Umdat-ul Talib – Sayyid Ibn Enba
13) Sirr al-Silsila al-Alawiyya – Abu Nasr al-Bukhari
14) Majmu al-Kutub wa-Rasail al-Imam Yahya al-Hadi ila al-Haqq
15) Ghayat al-amani and the life and times of al-Hadi Yahya b. al-Husayn – Eagle, A.B.D.R
16) al-Risala ila Nasiha al-Aamma – Hakim al-Jishumi
17) Kashf Asrar al-Batiniyya – Imam Yahya bin Hamza
18) Masalik al-Absar – Ahmad b. Yahya b. Fadlullah al-Umari
19) Travels in Arabia – Johann Burckhardt
20) The Establishment of Clear Exposition – The Imam Rassi Society
21) al-Yemen wa-l Aima – Sayyid Jamal al-Shami
22) Imam al-Hadi – Abdul Fattah Shaif Numan
23) Hal akhaz al-Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Husayn Ilm al-Kalam an Abu-l Qasim al-Balkhi – Sayyid Muhammad Sharfuddin al-Houthi al-Husayni
24) al-Fuluk al-Dawar – Sayyid Sarimuddin al-Wazir

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Sayyid Muhammad Danyal is a student of Law at University of London. Apart from his academics he is an avid reader with profound interest in Sufism, Comparative Mysticism, Metaphysics & Philosophy. His hobbies include Photography and Traveling.

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