Imam al-Hadi in Samarra'

Imamate of the Imam

Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.) lived most of his life in Surra Man Ra'a (Samarra'). The Abbasid government imposed on him...

Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.) lived most of his life in Surra Man Ra’a (Samarra’). The Abbasid government imposed on him house arrest. He was like a prisoner. The policemen and investigators of the Abbasids surrounded his house watching all his movements and everyone associating with him or carrying money to him. He suffered the severest political pressure during the reign of al-Mutawakkil, the Abbasid tyrant, who saved no effort in oppressing the Alawids. During his dark rule, the Alawids faced different kinds of misfortunes and disasters. We shall talk about that in details through the book.

Anyhow, we talk in brief about the Imam (a.s.) when he was in Yathrib (Medina) and the reasons that forced him to leave it to Surra Man Ra’a and what happened to him with al-Mutawakkil.

In Yathrib

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) lived in Yathrib, his birthplace and the country of his fathers. He spent his time in spreading knowledge and morals and in educating people the Islamic principles. He took the Prophet’s Mosque as school for that. Ulama’, jurisprudents, and narrators surrounded him taking from the springs of his knowledge that he acquired from his fathers who had illuminated the life of man with the light of knowledge and faith.

As he was a fertile source for the intellectual, scientific life in Yathrib, he was the only source that provided students with money and material means besides providing the poor and needy with what they needed. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) did not only help or pay charity to the people of Yathrib, but his kindness included all sides of their lives. He comforted them in sorrow and in joy. He visited the sick, participated in funerals, showed kindness to the young and old, and cared for widows and orphans. He spared no good and favor unless he did to them. In return, they were very loyal to him. They surrounded him with their hearts and feelings and made him dwell in the deep of their souls.

Betraying the Imam

Some irreligious persons, who envied people of noble birth, bore grudge against Imam Abul Hasan (a.s.). The virtues and high position Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had among people displeased those persons. From the bitterest enemies of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was Abdullah bin Muhammad who had been appointed by al-Mutawakkil as the wali over Yathrib. This man often intended to harm and trouble Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). He informed al-Mutawakkil against the Imam.

He told the caliph that the gathering of the public around Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) caused the state dangers, and that great monies came to him from the different countries of the Islamic nation that weapons might be bought with those monies to stand against the Abbasid state, and there was a possibility of a revolt to overthrow the Abbasid government.

He asked al-Mutawakkil to arrest Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) lest he would be powerful enough that the government would not be able to resist him. Al-Mutawakkil was upset and worried and he informed his viziers of the matter.

Frustrating the plot

When Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) knew about the plot of this villain, he feared that al-Mutawakkil might face him with severe procedures for he knew that al-Mutawakkil was one of the bitterest enemies to the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) wrote a letter to al-Mutawakkil complaining at the grudge and the bad treatment of his wali against him (Imam al-Hadi) and informed him of the falseness of his talebearing. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) assured al-Mutawakkil that he did not intend any harm against him and did never think of revolting against his rule.

Al-Mutawakkil was certain of the truthfulness of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) and his innocence of all that which was imputed to him.

The letter of al-Mutawakkil to Imam al-Hadi

Al-Mutawakkil sent a letter to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) replying to his letter and he deposed his official the villain wali of Yathrib. He invited the Imam to come to Surra Man Ra’a to be under house arrest so that he would be under his watch. Here is the text of the letter:

“Amir’ul- Mu’minin (al-Mutawakkil) knows your position, regards your kinship, considers what you and your family need to manage your affairs, fix your glory and their glory, and assure safety for you and for them. He just wants, out of that, the contentment of Allah and to carry out his duty towards you and towards them.

Therefore, Amir’ul- Mu’minin thought to depose Abdullah bin Muhammad from his post in the city of the messenger of Allah (SwT) for what you have mentioned that he ignored your right, slighted your high position, and ascribed to you that which Amir’ul- Mu’minin is certain you are innocent of and he believes your good will. Amir’ul- Mu’minin appointed Muhammad bin al-Fadhl and ordered him to respect and glorify you, and to follow your orders and opinions, to be close to Allah and to Amir’ul- Mu’minin through that. Amir’ul- Mu’minin longs to you, and likes to meet and look at you. Would you please hurry to visit and reside with him as you like?

You are free to bring from your family, followers, and servants whom you like. You travel when you want, come when you want, and move however you want. And if you like that Yahya bin Harthama the mawla of Amir’ul- Mu’minin and the soldiers with him to accompany you in your travel, and it is up to you. We have ordered him to obey you. Ask Allah to choose what is best for you until you will come to Amir’ul- Mu’minin. None of his (Amir’ul- Mu’minin al-Mutawakkil’s) brothers, his children, family, and close companions is more preferred to you near him, or of closer position to him than you, and he is not kinder, more loyal, or more faithful towards any of them than towards you. The peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be on you.’1

The worry of the people of Medina

Al-Mutawakkil ordered Yahya bin Harthama to travel to Yathrib to bring Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) to Surra Man Ra’a and to investigate the accusation claiming that Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had intended to resist the rule and revolt against the government. Al-Mutawakkil gave the letter, which he had written to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), to Yahya.

Yahya traveled to Yathrib. When the people of Yathrib knew about his task, they worried and feared too much for Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) from the violence of the tyrant against him. They loved Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) so much, for he kept to the mosque of the Prophet (S) feeding their ulama’ with his knowledge, giving charities to their poor, and he had no any tendency towards the worldly life.2 Yahya began calming down people’s worry and fear and swore to them that he had not been ordered to do the Imam any wrong. They believed him and calmed down.

Searching the Imam’s house

Yahya and his men searched the house of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) thoroughly but did not find anything save copies of the Holy Qur'an and books of du’a. it appeared that what was imputed to the Imam (that his house was full of weapons and money) was false.3

Sending the Imam to Surra Man Ra’a

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was forced to leave Yathrib to Samarra’. His family accompanied him in the travel. Yahya, who admired the guidance and piety of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), himself served the Imam during the travel. The caravan covered the desert until it arrived in Baghdad.

Al-Ya’qubi said that when Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) arrived in al-Yasiriyya, Isaaq bin Ibrahim received him and saw how people were eager to meet and sit with the Imam. So he was taken to Baghdad in the night.4 Yahya went to visit the governor of Baghdad Isaaq bin Ibrahim adh-Dhahiri and informed him of the matter. Isaaq said to him, ‘This man (Imam al-Hadi) is the son of the messenger of Allah (SwT) and you know that al-Mutawakkil is deviant. If you inform al-Mutawakkil of a word against the Imam, he will kill him, and then the Prophet (S) will be your opponent on the Day of Resurrection.’

Yahya said, ‘By Allah, I did not know from him (Imam al-Hadi) what I deny, and did not see from him except good.’

They left Baghdad towards Samarra’. When they arrived in Samarra’, Yahya visited Waseef at-Turki who was from the prominent statesmen. He informed him of the arrival of the Imam. Waseef warned him from saying to al-Mutawakkil anything that might harm the Imam. He said to him, ‘O Yahya, by Allah, if one hair falls from him (Imam al-Hadi), no one will be responsible for it except you.’

Yahya was astonished at the agreement of Isaaq and Waseef on recommending him of keeping the Imam safe.5

In Khan as-Sa’alik

Al-Mutawakkil ordered his men to put Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) up in Khan as-Sa’alik6 to dishonor and degrade him before the public. Salih bin Sa’eed visited him in the khan and became uneasy for seeing him in that place. He said to the Imam, ‘May I die for you! They wanted to put out your light and to degrade you, so they put you up in this worst khan (caravansary); Khan as-Sa’alik.’

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) looked at him with kindness and sympathy. He thanked him for his feelings, comforted his pain and uneasiness, and showed him from the miracles that Allah had provided His prophets and guardians with,7 and so Salih calmed down and became satisfied.

The meeting between the Imam and al-Mutawakkil

Yahya told al-Mutawakkil about the good conducts, asceticism, and piety of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). He told him that he searched his house but did not find in it save copies of the Qur'an and books of du’a and that he was innocent of all that which was imputed to him. These words removed the rage and anger of al-Mutawakkil against the Imam. Al-Mutawakkil ordered his men to allow Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) to come in to him. When Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) came in, al-Mutawakkil welcomed him with much respect and gave him good presents.8 He obliged him to remain in Surra Man Ra’a to be under watch. When al-Mutawakkil house-arrested Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), the Imam bought a house from Dalil bin Ya’qub an-Nasrani and lived with his family in it. He lived in this house until he died and was buried in it.9

Al-Mutawakkil refers to the Imam’s fatwas

Al-Mutawakkil found it inevitable to refer to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) in the questions he faced. He preferred his fatwas to the fatwas of all the jurisprudents of his age. Here are some of the questions that al-Mutawakkil referred to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) for their answers:

1. Al-Mutawakkil had a Christian clerk who was preferable by him. Because he loved him too much he surnamed him as Abu Noah. Some other clerks denied that and said that it was not permissible to surname an unbeliever. Al-Mutawakkil asked the jurisprudents to give him a fatwa on that but they did not agree on one fatwa. Some of them said it was permissible and others said it was not. He sent the question to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) who wrote to him with this answer, (Perdition overtake both hands of Abu Lahab, and he will perish).10 This answer was the most wonderful answer in the field of fatwas. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) quoted this Qur’anic verse that declared the permissibility of surnaming the unbelievers. Al-Mutawakkil followed this fatwa of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.).11

2. Once, al-Mutawakkil became ill and he vowed that if Allah healed him, he would pay many dinars as charity. When he restored to health, he gathered the jurisprudents and asked them about the amount of the money he should pay as charity to fulfill his vow, but they disagreed on that. Then, he asked Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) about that. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) said that al-Mutawakkil had to pay eight

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