Abdullah ibn Alawi al-Haddad

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Imam Abd Allah ibn Alawi al-Haddad born in 1634 CE (1044 Hijri). He lived his entire life in the town of Tarim in Yemen’s Valley of Hadramawt and died there in 1720 CE (1132 Hijri). In Islamic history, he was considered one of the great Sufi sages. He was an adherent to the Ashari Sunni Creed of Faith (Aqeedah), while in Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), he was a Shafii.

In spite of being a major source of reference among the Sunni Muslims (especially among Sufis), only recently have his books began to receive attention and publication in the English-speaking world. Their appeal lies in the concise way in which the essential pillars of Islamic belief, practice, and spirituality have been streamlined and explained efficiently enough for the modern reader. Examples of such works are The Book of Assistance, The Lives of Man, and Knowledge and Wisdom.


Imam al-Haddad lived during Islam’s "Period of Decline", in which its forces of might and beauty seem to have become exhausted. During his life, the British were already accustomed to trade in Yemen, and the Portuguese had captured the island of Socotra, 350 km off the coast. Muslim expansion had virtually come to a halt. Furthermore, his region of Hadramawt witnessed a simply ruinous period during his life. When Imam al-Haddad was twenty-five, Hadramawt was conquered by the Qasimi Zaydis of Upper Yemen. The Hadramis regained their freedom in 1715 CE; the Imam was eighty-one years of age.

The Imam was tall and fair skinned. Smallpox caused him permanent blindness before the age of five. This does not seem to have affected his personality or scholarship, or even his look, as no scars remained on his face. “In my childhood,” he testifies, “I was never treated like one who didn’t see, neither in walking nor in playing.” From a young age he was trained as a religious scholar. He also chose the ascetic path, "In the beginning, I spent a long period subsisting on coarse food and wearing rough clothes.”

Earning his livelihood from the plantations he owned, his life was devoted to teaching and writing. Even the Sultans of his day received letters of admonition and counsel from him. He died in his home in al-Hawi, Tarim in 1720, where he is buried today. He had six children, all boys.

Works and Teachings[edit]

His works revolve around the attainment of certainty (yaqin), the degree of unshakeable faith in Allah and prophet Muhammad. They are void of investigative or dogmatic debates. 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.

List of English Titles[edit]

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