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Aspects of Imam al-Hadi’s Personality

The qualities of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) were like the qualities of his fathers who were distinguished by them over all people. All elements of honor and dignity met together in him. He possessed all virtues and excellences. It sufficed for him that he was one of the infallible Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) whom Allah had purified and kept uncleanness away from them.

Here we shall talk in brief about some attributes of his honorable personality:


Imamate is a kindness from Allah to His people which He does not give to anyone but His loyal slaves, whom He has tried by faith, and purified from all kinds of injustices and defects. In our books on the lives of the infallible Imams we have discussed “Imamate” in details in some of them and in brief in others. In this book we talk in brief about Imamate and refer to some of its aspects.

The Need for Imamate

Imamate is an affair from the affairs of the Islamic life. Without Imamate Islamic life does not function properly; not only because it controls religious life, but also because it runs the economical, political, and social life, and leads to the nation’s independency and freedom and secures safety, ease, and peace.

Perhaps, the most important reason behind the need for Imamate is to make spiritual powers dominate and to spread virtue and good between people and resist bad tendencies of selfishness, haughtiness, greed, envy and other kinds of deviation. All good powers in the world are based on the faith in Allah, because this is the only path that protects the world from destruction and disasters of wars. The faith in Allah is the strongest weapon in the earth that keeps the world safe from misfortunes.

The infallible Imams cared much for this side. They raised the banner of faith high, and struggled in the way of Allah very diligently. They left luminous works in the way of inviting to Allah. Nahjol Balagha of Amir ul-Mu’mineen (Imam ‘Ali) is full of the fragrances of true faith. It invites people to ponder on the creation of everything in the world, which inevitably leads to faith.

It also invites people to good morals and high qualities and warns of evil tendencies that lead to backwardness and deterioration. We also find spiritual nourishment in as-Sahifah as-Sajjadiyya of Imam as-Sajjad (a.s.) which is considered the Bible of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), and it is a fertile source of faith. In all supplications transmitted from the infallible Imams (a.s.) we find this spiritual nourishment that purifies the soul from the dregs of ignorance and pride.

In the books of argumentation you find irrefutable evidences which the infallible Imams offered regarding monotheism that confuted the enemies of Islam who denied the Creator. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) praised the jihad of his fathers in the fields of faith and the invitation to Allah in his Ziyarah called “al-Jami’ah”. He said,

“Peace be on the propagandists of Allah, the guides to the contentment with Allah, the residents in the command of Allah, the absorbed in the love of Allah, the loyal in monotheism, those who manifest of the mission of Allah…’

He added, ‘You honored His glory, exalted His standing, glorified His generosity, kept His remembrance, confirmed His covenant, confirmed His obedience, were sincere to Him secretly and openly, called unto His way with wisdom and good exhortation, sacrificed your selves to please Him, were patient with what afflicted you for Him, offered prayers, gave zakat, enjoined the good, forbade the wrong, struggled truly in the way of Allah until you announced His mission, declared His obligations, spread His laws, fixed His verdicts, and became by that in the eye of His contentment, submitted to His fate, and believed in His past prophets…’

These wonderful lines expressed the struggle that the infallible Imams undertook to raise the word of monotheism and defend the values of Islam and faith. They offered their lives as pure sacrifice to Allah looking forward just to His reward.

Infallibility of the Imams

The infallibility of the twelve Imams (a.s.) is an important element in the Shiite doctrine. Some people deny this concept claiming that it cannot be realized. In our studies on the lives of the infallible Imams (a.s.) we have confuted the deniers of this concept and proved the reality and possibility of infallibility. He who reads the lives of the infallible Imams does not doubt their infallibility at all. They never committed any kind of sin or disobedience whether intentionally or unintentionally.

None of them ever deviated from the right path or sound conduct. All of them were absolutely pious. Al-Mutawakkil, the Abbasid tyrant, tried his best with all the means available to him to deceive Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) in order to get him to walk in his own deviated ways and engage in the traditions of amusement and debauchery, but Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) abstained from all that and at last al-Mutawakkil failed in his plans to tempt him. With his great status, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) proved his infallibility as well as his pure fathers’ that the Twelver Shi’a believe in.

The Knowledge of the Imams

The knowledge of the infallible Imams was like the knowledge of the prophets with no difference between them. As the knowledge of the prophets and messengers of Allah was inspirational such that Allah had endowed them with to be the authority on His people, so was the knowledge of the infallible Imams (a.s.).

Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) spoke about the great treasures of knowledge the infallible Imams (a.s.) had and how they obtained that knowledge when saying, ‘Our knowledge is ancient, primordial, beating in hearts, and knocking in ears. We have the red jafr, the white jafr, the book of Fatima (peace be upon her), and al-Jami’ah (compilation), in which there are all what people need…’

He was asked to explain what he had said and he replied, ‘The ancient knowledge is the knowledge of what shall happen, and the primordial knowledge is the knowledge of what had happened. The beating in hearts is inspiration and the knocking in ears is the talk of angels that we hear their speech but we do not see their figures. As for the red jafr, it is a container having the weapon of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) and it shall not appear until Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) reappears.

The white jafr is a container having the Torah of Moses, the Bible of Jesus, the Book of Psalms of David, and the first Books of Allah. The Book of Fatima (peace be upon her) has accounts of all events and names of those who rule in the world until the Day of Resurrection. As for the jami’ah, it is a book of seventy cubits long having the dictation of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) written down by ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (a.s.). By Allah, it has all that which people need until the Day of Resurrection even the amount of blood money of a scratch, a whip, half a whip…’[1]

What further proves this claim is the different kinds of knowledge and sciences transmitted from the infallible Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). As an example, Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) the gate of the Prophet’s city of knowledge, had opened many sections of knowledge and sciences, which numbered about thirty-two sciences according to al-Aqqad.[2]

It was he who had informed people about the technological progress and scientific development that would appear on the stage of life. He said, ‘A time will come where the people in the East can see the people of the West, and the people in the West can see the people in the East.’ He also said, ‘A time will come where the people in the East can hear the people of the West, and the people in the West can hear the people of the East.’

This saying came true by inventing the TV and the Radio. He also said, ‘A time will come to people where iron will move.’ It came true by inventing trains, cars, and other means of transportation. There are many other examples like these that Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) had informed of.[3] It was he who had said, ‘Ask me about the Book of Allah! By Allah, there is no verse, unless I know whether it has been revealed in the night or day, in a plain or a mountain.’[4]

From the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), who had spouted springs of knowledge and wisdom in the earth, was the miracle of knowledge and intellect in the world Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.).

He foretold about the pollution in space and seas and its bad effects on man. He also told about the existence of life on some planets. It was he, who had established the bases of anatomy and peculiarities of man’s organs and the wonders in them. All that was mentioned in the book Tawhid al-Mufadhdhal. He was the first founder of physics and chemistry. He established their bases through his disciple Jabir bin Hayyan the pride of the East and the pioneer of the human development in the earth.

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was not more than seven years old when his father Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) died. Still in his early years yet, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had knowledge that astonished others’ minds. Great scholars tried him by most difficult and complicated questions in jurisprudence, philosophy, and theology but he answered them all as if he was an expert jurisprudent. Therefore, ulama’ and scholars believed in his Imamate, and thus it was clear evidence that Allah had endowed the infallible Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) with such knowledge, wisdom, and virtue that He had never endowed others with.

Announcing his Imamate

The Shi’a paid much attention to the matter of Imamate because it is one of the bases of Islam. They often asked the present Imam about the Imam after him so that they would refer to him in their religious and worldly affairs, obey and follow him. Many reliable Muslims narrated the assigning of ‘Ali al-Hadi (a.s.) as the Imam by his father Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (a.s.). Here are some of them:

  1. Isma’il bin Mihran

When Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) went to Baghdad in his first travel, Isma’il bin Mihran visited him and said to him, ‘May I die for you! I fear for you in this travel (from the Abbasids). Who is the Imam after you?’

Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) smiled at him and said, ‘It is not as you thought. It is not in this year.’
When al-Mu’tasim (the Abbasid caliph) sent for Imam al-Jawad (a.s.), Isma’il went to the Imam to know the Imam after him. He said to Imam al-Jawad (a.s.), ‘You are going. To whom will the matter (Imamate) be after you?’

Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) cried and was anxious in his travel and thought that he would not go back again to Yathrib. Therefore, he appointed his son ‘Ali al-Hadi as the Imam after him. He said, ‘Now, it is to fear for me. The matter (Imamate) after me is to my son ‘Ali…’[5]
What Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) predicted came true. Al-Mu’tasim, the Abbasid caliph, assassinated him while he was still in the bloom of his youth.

  1. Al-Khayrani

He was one of the narrators who narrated the appointment of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) as the Imam after his father. We shall mention that in a coming chapter.

  1. As-Saqr bin Abu Dalf

As-Saqr narrated, ‘I heard Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin ‘Ali ar-Ridha (Imam al-Jawad) saying, ‘The Imam after me is my son ‘Ali. His Command is my command, his saying is my saying, and his obedience is my obedience. Imamate after him is to his son al-Hasan…’[6]

  1. Some of the Shi’a

When Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) traveled to Baghdad, he said to some of his followers, ‘I am going[7] and the matter (Imamate) will be to my son ‘Ali. He will have rights on you after me as I had on you after my father.’[8]

  1. Ahmad bin Abu Khalid

Ahmad narrated that Abu Ja’far (Imam al-Jawad) had recommended his son, ‘Ali al-Hadi (a.s.), to be the Imam after him. We shall mention the terms of this will later on.[9]

These are some of the narrators who narrated that Imam al-Jawad (a.s.) had appointed his son ‘Ali al-Hadi (a.s.) as the Imam after him. The texts on this matter were successive. The Shi’a believe that the appointing of Imams was not out of passions or tendencies, but it was according to the command of Allah Who chose and appointed them through the Prophet (S) who carried out what he was ordered by his Lord. The Prophet (S) announced that the caliphs (successors) after him would be twelve ones, whom Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was one of. The texts on this matter are successive and true.[10]

His Generosity

One of the prominent qualities of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was his generosity. He was the most liberal and generous person of his time. He was like his fathers, who gave food out of love for Him to the poor, the orphan, and the captive. They gave food to others until no food remained for their families and themselves, and gave clothes to others until no clothes remained for them. Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) gave food and clothes to people until nothing remained for his family.[11]

Historians mentioned many examples on the generosity and charity of Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) to the poor and needy. We mention some of them here:

  1. Once, Abu Amr Uthman bin Sa’eed, Ahmad bin Isaaq al-Ash’ari, and ‘Ali bin Ja’far al-Hamadani went to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). Ahmad bin Isaaq complained of a debt of his. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) turned to his agent Amr and said to him, ‘Give him thirty thousand dinars and to ‘Ali bin Ja’far thirty thousand dinars.’

He also gave a sum like that to his agent. Ibn Shahrashub commented on this noble trait by saying, ‘This is a miracle that no one can perform except kings. We have not heard of such a gift.’[12] Doing this, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) secured comfortable living to these notable persons and saved them from the distress of neediness.

  1. Isaaq al-Jallab said, ‘On the Day of Tarwiya[13] I bought many heads of sheep to Abul Hasan al-Hadi (peace be upon him) and he distributed them among his relatives.’[14]
  2. Historians mentioned that one day Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) went from Samarra’ to a village he possessed. A nomad man came to him but did not find him in his house. His family told the nomad that Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had gone to his garden. The nomad went and found Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) there. He said to him with faint voice, ‘O son of the messenger of Allah, I am from the nomads of Kufa who believe in the guardianship of your grandfather ‘Ali bin Abu Talib. There is a heavy debt on me and I have no one to go to except you…’

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had pity on him but he himself was in lack of money and did not have anything to help this nomad with. He wrote on a piece of paper with his handwriting that he was in debt to the nomad and he mentioned a certain amount. He said to the nomad, ‘Keep this paper with you. When I go to Surra Man Ra’a (Samarra’) and when some people come to my meeting, you come and ask me to pay back your debt. You are to insist upon this from me and mention that I have not paid you your debt. Do exactly as I say to you!’

When Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) went to Surra Man Ra’a and a group of people, among whom were some officials and secret policemen, attended his meeting, the nomad came, showed the piece of paper, and asked Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) to pay back the debt mentioned in the paper. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) apologized that he could not pay back the debt and the nomad insisted. When people left the meeting, the policemen went to al-Mutawakkil and told him about this matter. Al-Mutawakkil ordered his men to send thirty thousand dirhams to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) and they did. When the nomad came, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) said to him, ‘Take this money and pay back your debt and spend the rest on your family!’

The nomad found that great and said to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), ‘My debt is less than the third of this amount…but Allah is more aware where He reveals His mission.’[15] The nomad left for his family delightedly while praying Allah for Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) who had saved him from poverty and neediness.

  1. Historians mentioned that once Abu Hashim al-Ja’fary underwent a severe state of neediness and he resorted to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). When Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) saw his wretchedness, he wanted to comfort him. He said to him, ‘O Abu Hashim, which blessing of Allah you want to be grateful for? Allah has endowed you with faith that saves your body from fire, endowed you with soundness that helps you in obedience, and endowed you with satisfaction that keeps you away from degradation.’ Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) gave him one hundred dinars.[16]

His Asceticism

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) turned his back on all pleasures of this worldly life and lived absolutely an ascetic life. He kept to worship, piety, and asceticism. He paid no attention to worldly pleasures and preferred the obedience of Allah to everything else. His house in Yathrib and his house in Surra Man Ra’a had no furniture. Once, the policemen of al-Mutawakkil broke into his house and searched it but found nothing of worldly furniture. They also searched his House in Surra Man Ra’a and found him wearing a wool garment and sitting on sand and pebbles. Nothing was between him and the ground.

As-Sibt bin al-Jawzi said, ‘‘Ali al-Hadi had no interest in this worldly life. He kept to the mosque. When they searched his house, they did not find in it save copies of the Holy Qur’an, books of du’a, and scientific books.’

He lived in the light of the noble life his fathers had lived; in asceticism and turning away from the material pleasures of this life except that which concerned the truth. His grandfather Amir’ul- Mu’minin (a.s.) was one of the most ascetic men in this life. During his rule as the caliph of Muslims his shoes were from the fibers of palm tree and he himself mended them with his hands.

His belt also was from fibers of palm tree. He suffered hunger out of asceticism and in order to comfort the poor. His wife the head of the women of the world Fatima az-Zahra’ (a.s.) also turned away from the worldly life and lived in a small house with no furniture and her hands were hardened by the quern. In this path did all the infallible Imams walk. They divorced this life and turned their backs on its pleasures. They turned to Allah devotedly and did all that which took them nearer to Allah.

Working in his Farm

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was free of every material tendency. He was free from any kind of selfishness and he did not submit to any pleasure or fancy. Historians say that he worked in his farm to secure the living of his family. ‘Ali bin Hamza said, “Once, I saw Abul Hasan the third (Imam al-Hadi) work in a farm while his feet were soaked with sweat. I said to him, ‘May I die for you! Where are the men?’

He said, ‘O ‘Ali, one, who was better than me and my father, worked with a spade in his farm.’
I said, ‘Who was he?’
He said, ‘The messenger of Allah (SwT), Amir’ul- Mu’minin, and all my fathers worked with their hands. It was the work of prophets, apostles, and good saints…”[17]

Work was the sign of prophets. Every prophet worked in some field. We have quoted this holy tradition in our book “Work and the rights of workers in Islam” to prove the importance and honor of work and that it was from the conducts of the holy prophets.

Guiding the Deviant

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) cared much for guiding the deviants who digressed from the truth. From among those, whom Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) had guided, was al-Hasan al-Basri known as al-Mallah who was a waqifite.[18] Once, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) met him and said to him, ‘Until when is this slumber? Is it not yet time for you to awake?’
These words affected him deeply and so he turned back to the truth and guidance.[19]

Forbidding from associating with Sufis

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) warned his companions and all Muslims from associating and mixing with Sufis because they were a source of error and deviation to people. They affected asceticism to seduce simple and naïve people.

Al-Husayn bin Abul Khattab said, ‘One day, I was with Abul Hasan al-Hadi (a.s.) in the mosque of the Prophet (S) when some of his companions, among whom was Abu Hashim al-Ja’fari, came to him. Abu Hashim was an eloquent man and had a high position near Imam al-Hadi (a.s.). While we were standing, a group of Sufis came into the mosque. They sat in a corner of the mosque and began saying “la ilaha illallah; there is no god but Allah”.

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) turned towards his companions and said to them, ‘Do not pay attention to these deceivers for they are allies of the Devils and destroyers of the bases of religion. They become ascetic to relieve their bodies and watch to hunt cattle…they do not practice rites except to deceive people, and do not decrease food except to…cheat the foolish…their worship is but dancing and clapping, and their praises are but singing.

No one follows them except the stupid, and no one believes in them except the foolish. Whoever went to visit any of them alive or dead, it’s as if he went to visit Satan and idolaters, and whoever supported any of them, as if he supported, Mo’awiya, Yazid, and Abu Sufyan…’

One of the companions said, ‘Even if he acknowledges your rights?’
Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) scolded him and shouted, ‘Do not say that! He, who acknowledges our rights, does not disobey us. Do you not know that they are the worst group of Sufis, though all Sufis are dissentient to us and their way is contrary to ours? They are but Christians and magi of this nation. They do their best to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse…’

Honoring the Ulama’

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) honored people of intellect and knowledge, welcomed and preferred them to the rest of people because they were the source of light in the earth. Once, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was informed that one of the Shiite ulama’ had argued with an opponent of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and confuted him. He was delighted by that.

When that scholar came to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), he welcomed him warmly in his meeting which was full of Alawids and Abbasids. He seated him on a sofa and began talking with him eagerly and respectfully. The Hashemites in the meeting became angry and said to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), ‘Why do you prefer him to the masters of Bani[20] Hashem?’

Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) said to them ‘Beware to be from those whom Allah has said about,

Have you not considered those (Jews) 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.[21]

Do you accept the Book of Allah as a judge?’
They all said, ‘O son of the messenger of Allah, we do.’

He began proving his opinion by saying, ‘Has Allah not said,

O you who believe! when it is said to you, Make room in (your) assemblies, then make ample room, Allah will give you ample, and when it is said: Rise up, then rise up. Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do?[22]

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?[23]

Then, how do you deny my honoring him for what Allah has honored him?

His defeating that opponent of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) with the proofs that Allah has taught him is more honorable than every honor of lineage.’

The attendants kept silent after this reply, but one of the Abbasids said, ‘O son of the messenger of Allah, you have preferred this man to us and degraded us lower than one who has no lineage like ours, while since the beginning of Islam until now those better in lineage are preferred to those lower than them.’

This is a nonsensical argument since Islam focuses only on right values which that Abbasid man did not understand. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) replied to him saying,

‘Glory be to Allah! Had al-Abbas (the Prophet’s uncle) not paid homage to Abu Bakr who was from Taym[24] while al-Abbas was a Hashemite? Did Abdullah bin Abbas not serve Umar bin al-Khattab who was from Adiy while Abdullah bin Abbas was a Hashemite and the father of the (Abbasid) caliphs?

And why did Umar appoint people far in lineage in the shura and did not appoint al-Abbas? If preferring a non-Hashemite to a Hashemite is denied, then you have to deny the homage of al-Abbas to Abu Bakr and the service of Abdullah bin Abbas to Umar. If that was permissible, this is permissible too.’

The Abbasid man was confuted.[25] When he did not understand the proofs derived from the Holy Qur’an, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) argued with him by the homage of al-Abbas to Abu Bakr and the service of Abdullah bin Abbas to Umar though these two caliphs (Abu Bakr and Umar) were not equal in lineage to al-Abbas and Abdullah bin Abbas.



[1] Al-Irshad, p.307-308, Usul al-Kafi.

[2] An Egyptian author, researcher, and man of letters.

[3] The life of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad, p.69.

[4] Al-Jami’ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, vol.1 p.35.

[5] Al-Irshad, p.369, Usul al-Kafi, vol.1 p.323.

[6] Bihar al-Anwar, vol.13, p.127, Ikmaluddeen by as-Saduq.

[7] He predicted that he would die (be killed) and it was so.

[8] A’yan ash-Shi’a, vol.4 p.256.

[9] Usul al-Kafi.

[10] Sahih of Muslim, chap. Of al-Imarah (emirate), Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal, vol.5 p.89, Sahih of al-Bukhari, p.164.

[11] Sifat as-Safwa, vol.2 p.98.

[12] Al-Manaqib.

[13] The first day of the hajj. Tarwiya means watering.

[14] Bihar al-Anwar.

[15] Al-Ittihaf Bihubil Ashraf, p.67-68, Sharh Shafiyat Abu Nu’as, vol.2 p.167, Jawharat al-Kalam, p.151.

[16] Amali of as-Saduq, Bihar al-Anwar.

[17] Man La Yahdhuruhu al-Faqih.

[18] The waqifites were a group of people believing in the Imamate of the first seven Imams from Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) to Imam Musa bin Ja’far al-Kadhim (a.s.) and did not believe in the remaining five Imams.

[19] Man La Yahdhuruhu al-Faqih.

[20] Bani means “the family or tribe of”.

[21] Qur’an, 3:23.

[22] Qur’an, 58:11.

[23] Qur’an, 39:9.

[24] Taym was a big family from Quraysh.

[25] Al-Ihtijaj by at-Tabarsi.

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