Habib Salim was born in Tarim in 1359 (1940). He was the youngest son of the great imam, Shaykh al-Islam, Habib `Abdullah bin Umar al-Shatiri, who passed away when Habib Salim was only two years old. Habib `Abdullah said of Habib Salim that he would live long and be a ‘sultan’ or leader in knowledge. He later become known as ‘Sultan al-Ulama’ or ‘leader of the scholars’.
In his youth he took knowledge from the great scholars of Hadramawt in his time: Habib `Alawi bin Shihab, Habib Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz, Habib Ja`far bin Ahmad al-`Aydarus, Habib Umar bin `Alawi al-Kaf and Shaykh Mahfuz bin Salim bin Uthman.
He also spent four years of intense study in Makkah at the hands of scholars such as Sayyid `Alawi bin `Abbas al-Maliki, Shaykh Hasan Mashat and Shaykh Muhammad al-Fadani. He would take twelve lessons every day in a variety of different sciences.
He then spent 15 years in Aden teaching and calling people to Allah. Due to his popularity, the Socialist government tried to ban him from teaching and then tried to kill him. One of its militia members ran him down with his car, but Habib Salim survived and returned to Tarim two months later. He continued teaching in Ribat Tarim until the Socialist authorities abducted him and subjected him to the worst types of torture. After being released, he moved to the Hijaz and began teaching in Ribat al-Jifri in Madinah alongside Habib Zayn bin Ibrahim bin Sumayt. He made periodic expeditions to different countries calling to Allah.
As soon as the Communist regime in South Yemen fell, he returned to Tarim. Along with his brother Habib Hasan, he reopened the Ribat which the authorities had closed and started teaching once again. Students from different parts of the world flocked to the Ribat to study. When Habib Hasan passed away in 1425 (2004), Habib Salim became the principal of the Ribat.
He was renowned for his reminders in public gatherings which were filled with humour, references to the great imams of the past and warnings against a whole range of misdemeanours. His knowledge was encyclopaedic and his memory was photographic.
Habib Umar bin Hafiz would make a point of attending his public lesson, known as Madras al-Ribat.
In his final years he was forced to leave Tarim for medical treatment and the deterioration of his health made it impossible for him to return. He split his time between Abu Dhabi and the Hijaz.
He passed away in Jeddah on Friday evening, 1st Jumada al-Akhirah 1439 / 16th February 2018. The funeral prayer was prayed in Jeddah the following day and then again in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and he was buried in the Ma`la Cemetery.
Habib Salim spent his life steadfastly serving Islam. Countless people benefited from his knowledge and wisdom. May Allah continue to benefit us and reward him on our behalf.