Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website:

 Imam Alī Al-Naqi (a.s.) commonly called and  known as Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) was the tenth of the Twelve Imams after his father Imam Muhammad Al-Jawad (a.s.).  He

remained in Medina teaching until the age of 30 when he was summoned to Samarra by the Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil. There, he was treated roughly by the caliph and

his other successors until, according to Shiite accounts, he was poisoned through intrigue of al-Mu’tazz, the Abbasid caliph, in 254 A.H, and was buried in Sammarra, Iraq.


According to the most accurate reports, he was born on 2nd or 5th Rajab, 213 A.H. in a village near Medina called Sorayya  to the ninth Shiite Imām, Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (a.s.), (also known as Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (a.s.)), and Lady Samānah or Susan, who was originally a Berber  (from Northwest Africa). His father bestowed upon him the surname Abul-Hasan, after the surnames given to his grandfather Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.) and his great grandfather Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.). To differentiate between these three Abul Hasans, narrators usually call Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), abul Hasan the first; Imam Ali al-Ridha (a.s.), Abul Hasan the second; and Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), Abul Hasan the third.


After his father’s death in 220 A.H. Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.) assumed the official role of Imamat at the age of 7 or 9. The followers of his father were in agreement on his Imamate, except for a minor group who gathered around his older brother, Musa, who, when he dissociated himself from them, they turned to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). Historians have mentioned that after his father’s assassination at the order of Al-Mu’tasim, the Abbasid caliph ordered Umar bin al-Faraj to find a teacher in Medina for the young Imam (that must be one of the enemies of the Ahl-ul Bayt) in order to prevent Shiites from meeting him. He found al-Junaydi for this task, however, al-Junaydi often reported on the Imam’s intelligence saying that the boy would provide perspectives on literature and understanding of the Quran and the revelations within. Al-Junaydi, impressed by him, concluded that it could only be by divine causes that the boy could be so knowledgeable, as a result, he dropped the animosity he had held towards the family of the prophet. Throughout the later years of his Imamat, which coincided with the eight remaining years of the caliphate of Al-Mansur, and five years of the caliphate of next caliph Al-Wathiq, he lived peacefully in Medina engaging himself in teaching a large number of pupils mostly from IraqPersia, and Egypt. Later on, however, the new Caliph, Al-Mutawakkil, became suspicious of the young Imam and decided to watch him more closely.


After Motawakkel came to the throne, the governor of Medina,ʿAbdallāh ibn Moḥammad, wrote the caliph warning him about the activity of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) saying that he was given money with which he could buy weapons that could be used to revolt against the Caliph. When Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) learned of what Abdullah bin Muhammad had written the caliph, he sent a letter to Mutawakkil, defending himself against the accusations and complained about the governor.   Apparently convinced of the harmless piousness of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), Motawakkel wrote back to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) stating that he had deposed the governor. He nevertheless asked the Imam to come to Samarra (a military camp, not far from Baghdad, which was the capital of Abbasids at the time).  At the same time, Mutawakkil ordered Yahya ibn Harthama, the captain of the guard, to go to Medina both to investigate Abdullah’s claims and to bring al-Hadi to Samarra. Yahya then searched the Imam’s house and found nothing more than copies of the Quran and other religious books.  It is said that when the Imam approached Baghdad, many people gathered to see him. At Sammara, however, the caliph did not immediately receive him, though assigned a house for his staying.


Even though Mutawakkil had no reason to be suspicious of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), he insisted that the Imam (a.s.) stay in Samarra under house arrest. According to Madelung, he was still able to move in the city and communicate with his followers, giving them instructions or receiving through them the annual Khums (the financial contributions of the faithful).

Yahya ibn Harthama, the captain of the guard, is narrated to have reported his experience as follows: “The Caliph Mutawakkil sent me to Medina with orders to bring Ali ibn Muhammad to answer certain accusations that had been made against him. When I arrived, his household made such wailing and lamentation as I had never heard. I tried to quiet them and assured them that I had received no orders to do him any harm. And when I searched the house where he lived, I found only a Quran, books of prayer and such things. So while I took him away, I offered him my services and showed him very high respect. But one day on the journey, when the sky was clear and the sun just rising, (imam) Ali (a.s.) put on a cloak when he mounted his horse and knotted the animal’s tail. I was surprised at this, but it was only a little while afterwards that a cloud came up and there was a regular torrent of rain. Then (Imam) Ali (a.s.) turned to me and said, I know that you did not understand what you saw me do, and that you imagine that I have had some unusual knowledge of this affair. It is not, however, as you supposed, but as I was brought up in a desert, I know the winds that come before rain. This morning the wind blew which does not deceive, and I noticed the odor of rain and so prepared for it. On our arrival in Baghdad, our first visit was to Ishak ibn Ibrahim, of the family of Tahir, who was the governor of the city. He said to me, O Abu Yahya, this man (Imam Ali  Naqi(a.s.)) is a descendant of the Apostle of God. You know Mutawakkil, and have influence with him, but if you urge him to kill this man, the Prophet (pbuh), himself will be your enemy. I replied that I saw nothing in the conduct of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s.) except what was altogether praiseworthy. I went on to Sammarra, where I saw Wasif, the Turk, for I was one of his intimate friends. I swear before God, he said to me, if a single hair of the head of this man falls, I will myself demand satisfaction. I was somewhat surprised at the attitude taken by these men, and when I informed Mutawakkil of what I had heard in praise of the Imam, he gave him a handsome present and treated him with all sorts of honor.”


Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) contributed to the books of argumentation that were compiled by Shiite scholars. Among these was a theological treatise on human Free Will and some other short texts and statements ascribed to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) and are quoted by Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan ibn ʻAlī ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn Shuʻbah al-Harrānī.

It is said that once a scholar came in where Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had a meeting with masters of Hashemite (a clan Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), had belonged to). Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) seated the scholar beside himself and treated him with great respect. The Hashemite protested saying: “why do you prefer him to the masters of Banu Hashim?’ Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) said: “Beware to be from those whom God has said about, Have you not considered those who are given a portion of the Book? They are invited to the Book of Allah that it might decide between them, then a part of them turn back and they withdraw.  Do you accept the Book of Allah as a judge?” asked Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). They all said, “O son of the messenger of God (pbuh), we do.” Then Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) tried to prove his stance by saying,

 “Has Allah not said Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees?  Allah does not accept for a knowledgeable believer but to be preferred to an unknowledgeable believer, just as He wants a believer to be preferred to an unbeliever. Allah has said, Allah will exalt those of you who believe and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees. Has He said, Allah will exalt those, who are given honor of lineage, in high degrees? Allah has said, Are those who know and those who do not know, alike?  Then, how do you deny my honoring him for what Allah has honored him?”


On one occasion, al-Mutawakkil organized a conference to be held in his palace with theologians and experts in  jurisprudence he had invited. He had asked Ya’qub ibn Isaak known as ibn as-Sikkit to ask Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) the questions that he didn’t think the Imam could answer. One of the questions was that, why did God  send Moses (pbuh) with the rod and white hand, send Jesus with the healing of the blind and leprous and giving life to the dead, and send Muhammad (pbuh) with the Quran and sword? Imam Al-Hadi’s (a.s.) answer goes as follows: “Allah sent Moses with the rod and white hand in a time where the predominant thing among people was magic. Therefore, Moses came to them with that and defeated their magic, dazed them, and proved authority over them. And Allah sent Jesus Christ (pbuh)with the healing of the blind and leprous and the giving of life to the dead by the will of Allah in a time where the predominant thing among people was medicine. Therefore, Jesus Christ came to them with that and defeated and dazed them. And Allah sent (Prophet) Muhammad (pbuh) with the Quran and sword in a time where the predominant things among people were sword and poetry. Therefore, (Prophet) Muhammad (pbuh) came to them with the Quran and sword and dazed their poetry, defeated their sword, and proved authority over them.”

Yahya bin Aktham was another scholar who was invited to try the imam (a.s.). It is said that after Imam al-Hadi’s (a.s.) answer to Yahya’s questions, he turned to al-Mutawakkil and advised him saying, “We do not like you to ask this man about anything after my questions to him … In showing his knowledge there will be strengthening to Rafida (the Shiite).” One of the questions is the following:

“Tell me why Imam Ali  (a.s.) (the first Shiite Imam) killed the people at (the battle of) Siffin …whether they were attacking or fleeing and he finished off the wounded, but on the day of al-Jamal (Battle of the Camel) he did not … Rather, he said, Whoever keeps to his house will be safe. Why did he do that? If the first decision was right, so the second would be wrong.”

Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) replied: “The Imam (a.s.) of the people of the Battle of the Camel was killed and they had no leader to refer to. They went back to their homes without fighting, deceiving, or spying. They were satisfied (after the defeat) not to fight any further. But the people of Siffin belonged to a prepared company with a leader who supplied them with spears, armor, and swords, caring for them, giving them good gifts, preparing great (amount of) monies for them, visiting their sick, curing their wounded, giving sumpters to their footers, helping their needy, and returning them to the fight…”

Whether or not it was possible to see God was one of the common issues discussed at the time of Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) who believed it was impossible to see Him. He argued that “seeing is not possible if there is no air (space) between the seer and the seen thing through which sight goes through. If there is no air and no light between the seer and the seen thing, there will be no sight. When the seer equals the seen thing in the cause of sight between them, sight takes place, but those who compare the seer (man) to Allah, they are mistaken because they liken Allah to man…for effects must relate to causes.”


Another issue that the Imam (a.s.) dealt with was the belief that God has a body (the embodiment of God). Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) chastised those who believed it and stated that, “He, who claims that Allah is a body, is not from us, and we are free from him in this world and the after-world…body (substance) is created, and it is Allah Who has created and embodied it.” To attribute Allah with embodiment is to characterize Him with need and to limit Him to a body. Essentially, it is wrong to equate God with created things due to His nature as our creator.  Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) also expressed strong feelings about the impossibility of describing God’s Essence. The rationale behind his objection was that God is so great that, as humans, we are incapable of conceiving how truly amazing He is, and that the only one that can truly describe God is God Himself. He then uses this as a segue into the belief that true Muslims, the Prophet (pbuh), and the infallible imams (a.s.) cannot be described either, because their obedience to God draws them closer to the Essence of God, and descriptions cannot wholly encompass their virtuous qualities that result from submitting to God.


Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) was given a vast number of descriptive names throughout his life, among which al-Naqi (the pure one), al-Hadi (the Guide) were the most famous. However al-Askari (military; due to the fact that the town he had to live in was a military camp), Faqīh (jurisprudent), al-Aalim (knowledgeable), and At-Tayyib (generous, kind-hearted, good-natured…) were also among his epithets.  It is said that Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) exhibited extreme generosity, though he himself, at times, had no money to pay with. An example of which is an account that describes how a nomadic man came to the imam (a.s.) to tell him of how he was heavily in debt and in need of assistance. Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.), being short of money himself, gave the man a note saying that he was in debt to the nomad, and instructed him to meet the Imam (a.s.) in a place where he had a meeting, and to insist that the Imam pay back the recorded debt. The nomad did as he was told, and the Imam (a.s.) apologized to the nomad in front of those at the meeting for being incapable of paying him back. The officials at the meeting reported the Imam’s debt to the caliph, al-Mutawakkil, who then sent the Imam 30,000 dirhams, with which he then presented to the nomad.


It is said that Mutawakkil showed courtesy toward the imam in Samarrah, and even preferred his judgment to other Faqihs; at the same time, however, he troubled and even tried to kill the Imam. Mutawakkil was envious of the Imam (a.s.) because Imam’s position was exalted among the public. He wanted to belittle the Imam. His vizier counseled him, recommending him to give up, because it would make the public blame and criticize him. But he paid no attention to his vizier. To try to humiliate the Imam, Motawakkil ordered that the Imam along with the officials and notables, (so that it wouldn’t look like the act was intended for the imam), dismount and travel on foot during a hot summer day, while the caliph remained mounted on his horse. Zuraqa the chamberlain of al-Mutawakkil has narrated that he saw the Imam who had almost suffered a heat stroke, was breathing and sweating hard, so he approached him to calm him down by saying “Your cousin (Mutawakkil) did not intend to hurt you particularly.” Al-Hadi looked at him and said “Stop that!” And then recited this Quranic verse, Enjoy yourselves in your abode for three days, that is a promise not to be belied.  The promise here refers to the punishment which is mentioned in the previous verse for unjust people . Zuraqa related that he had a Shiite teacher who had been among his intimate friends. Zuraqa says “when I went home, I sent for him. When he came to me, I told him about what I heard from the Imam. He changed color and said to me, Be careful and store all what you have! Al-Mutawakkil shall die or be killed after three days. I was affected by his speech and asked him to leave. Then I thought to myself and said that it would not harm me to take precautions. If something like that happened, I would have taken my precaution, and if not, I would lose nothing. I went to the house of al- Mutawakkil and took all my money. I deposited them with one of my acquaintances.” Within three days of that event, plotters assassinated the caliph; one of the assassins was actually his son, al-Muntasir. Another account of this prediction stated that the Imam (a.s.) was imprisoned by the caliph, and it was that act which provoked the Imam (a.s.) to foretell of his death.


In Twelver Shiism, Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) is described as being endowed with the knowledge of the languages of the Persians, Slavs, Indians and Nabataeans, in addition to foreknowing unexpected storms and accurately prophesying other events. In the presence of al-Mutawakkil, he unmasked a woman falsely claiming to be Zaynab (s.a.), daughter of Imam Ali (a.s.), by descending her into a lions’ cage in order to prove that lions do not harm true descendants of Imam Ali (a.s.) (a similar miracle is also attributed to his grandfather, Imam Ali ar-Ridha (a.s.)). Imam Al-Hadi’s (a.s.) miracles made some people to believe the claim of some Heretics like Ibn Hasakah who preached to people that Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.) was in fact God, and that they themselves were prophets sent by the imam (a.s.) to guide the Muslims. It is quoted from Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) as denying them and instructing people about the extremists, saying “Desert them! May Allah curse them? Block them up into narrow passages and if you find any one of them, split his head with stone!”

Selected Sayings:

  • “Faith is that which hearts acknowledge and deeds prove, and Islam is that which tongues witness and marriage becomes lawful with.”
  • Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) narrated from his forefathers that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Love Allah for the blessings He gives you, and love me for the love of Allah, and love my household for my love!”
  • “It suffices for you to have good manners by giving up what you hate of others.”
  • “He, who is certain of recompense (from Allah), will give generously.”
  • “If one of you gives (charity) with his right hand, let him conceal that from his left hand, and if he prays, let him conceal that.”


Madelung quotes Ebn Babuya as saying that Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was poisoned by Al-Mutawakkil or Al-Mu’tamid, though neither of them was a Caliph at the time of his death.

According to Allama Tabatabai, however, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was poisoned in the intrigue of Al-Mu’taz who was caliph at the time.  Most reliable sources say that Imam al-

Hadi (a.s.) died on 3rd Rajab, 254 A.H.  Al-Mu’taz sent his brother, abu Ahmad, to lead the funeral prayer. However, because of the large crowd of people who came to the

funeral and due to the crying and tumult, his corpse was returned to his house and was buried in its courtyard.

The tomb of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), which became also the tomb of his son Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) afterwards, is an important place of Shiite pilgrimage in Sammarra Iraq. It was bombed in February 2006 and badly damaged.  While repairs were in progress after the first attack, another attack was executed on 13 June 2007, which led to the destruction of two minarets of the shrine.  Authorities in Iraq said Al Qaeda was responsible for the attack.


Imam Al-Hadi (a.s.)  lived almost 30 years of his life in Medina which was mostly peaceful. The remaining 12 years that he spent in Sammarra were rough,

troublesome and devastating. He married with Salil, and had four sons and a daughter, namely Hasan al-Askari, Hussain, Muhammad, and Jafar, and daughter Ailia.

Son Muhammad is said to have died before his father in Sammarra. His oldest son Hasan al-Askari became the 11th Imam after death of  his father.

 Next Week, A Brief Life History of The 11th Imam – Part #13, insha’Allah. If any reader  missed any of the prior 11 Parts, please visit website:, select Homepage, select Category: Basic Education.
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