Monthly Archives: June 2012

Al-Faqih al-Muqaddam


His Lineage

He is al-Faqih al-Muqaddam, al-Ustadh al-`Azam, Muhammad, bin `Ali, bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin `Ali Khali` Qasam, bin `Alawi, bin Muhammad Sahib al-Sawma`ah, bin `Alawi, bin `Ubaydullah, bin al-Imam al-Muhajir il-Allah Ahmad, bin `Isa, bin Muhammad al-Naqib, bin `Ali al-`Uraydi, bin Ja`far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Abidin, bin Husayn al-Sibt, bin `Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra’, the daughter of our Master Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets .


His Life

Al-Faqih al-Muqaddam was born in Tarim in 574 (1178) and grew up in an environment of knowledge and righteousness, memorising the Qur’an and mastering the sciences of the Sacred Law in his youth. He studied at the hands of Tarim’s greatest scholars and very quickly surpassed his peers until he reached the rank of mujtahid, and became known as “al-Faqih,” or “the Jurist.” One of the scholars once asked him about three hundred problematic issues in the various Islamic sciences in one sitting. He clarified every single issue and his answers were put together in a separate book.

At the same time he took the path of spiritual struggle until Allah gave him the greatest of openings. He would teach and fast during the day and spend his nights in worship in one of the caves in the Nu`ayr Valley outside Tarim. One night, his son Ahmad followed him. When the Imam remembered Allah, the whole valley responded by loudly proclaiming His transcendence, at which point Ahmad fell unconscious.

Although his predecessors embodied the way of ihsan mentioned by the Messenger of Allah in the Hadith of Jibril, al-Faqih was the first of the `Alawi Sayyids to outwardly profess the way of Tasawwuf. This he did after the great Shaykh of the Maghrib, al-Ghawth Shu`ayb Abu Madyan, sent his envoy to Tarim with instructions to invest him with his khirqah or mantle, symbolising the transmission of spiritual authority. Shaykh Abu Madyan also instructed his envoy to go to Shaykh Sa`id bin`Isa al-`Amudi (died 671) in Qaydun in the Daw`an Valley to likewise invest him. Al-Faqih did not, however, fully embrace the way of Shaykh Abu Madyan. Rather he took a path which was a combination between the way of Abu Madyan, the way of Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani and the way of his forefathers. He was assisted in this by Shaykh Sa`id al-`Amudi, who came to Tarim to offer him his allegiance.

The climate in which he lived was so unstable that al-Faqih would sit in the lesson of his teacher, Shaykh `Ali Ba Marwan, with his sword on his lap. Different tribes vied for power in the Hadramawt Valley and the `Alawi Sayyids, because of their popularity, were seen by tribal leaders as a threat. Al-Faqih had no desire for political power and hated to see bloodshed and dissension in the ranks of the believers. He thus symbolically broke his sword, announcing that his way and the way of the `Alawi sayyids and those that loved and followed them was one of non-violence.

The Messenger of Allah had warned of the internal divisions that would blight his nation in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, and informed us that the one who sits at these times is better than the one who stands. He then praised the one who takes his sword and breaks its blade with a rock. The fact that al-Faqih al-Muqaddam had embraced the way of Tasawwuf and pacifism did not signify, however, a withdrawal from society and non-involvement in the affairs of the Muslims. To the contrary, his sword became the sword of knowledge and Prophetic character which he wielded to rectify and benefit society.

He and the `Alawi Sayyids after him would use the respect in which they were held to resolve disputes. They brought harmony to society by their concern for the rights of their fellow Muslims. This was manifested in attending their funeral prayers, visiting the sick and establishing gatherings of knowledge and remembrance. They spent their wealth on the poor and needy, on their guests, on building mosques and places of learning and establishing endowments for them, on planting date palms and organising irrigation and on providing drinking water for travellers on the roads and for city dwellers. Al-Faqih himself would set aside 360 barrels of dates at the time of harvest, and then he would distribute one barrel a day to the poor with the help of his wife, Sayyidah Zaynab, the daughter of his uncle Ahmad.

Just as he was concerned with the general populace, he established a zawiyah and exerted his efforts giving spiritual instruction to his pupils until they themselves became qualified to instruct others in the spiritual path. Amongst his greatest students were his sons `Alawī, `Abdullah, `Abd al-Rahman, Ahmad and `Ali, all imams in their own right, as well as Shaykh `Abdullah Ba `Abbad, his brother, Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman and Shaykh `Ali bin Muhammad al-Khatib.

Shaykh `Abd al- Rahman al-Saqqaf said: “I have not heard speech more powerful than the speech of al-Faqih, other than the speech of the Prophets, upon them be peace. I do not give any of the awliya’ precedence over him, other than the Companions, or someone whose merit was mentioned by the Prophet , such as Uways al-Qarani.”

Al-Faqih was the first to establish the annual group visit to the Prophet Hud (peace be upon him). On one occasion, he did not attend the visit, so the Prophet Hud came to him and said: “O Shaykh! If you do not visit me, I will visit you!”

Imam al-Haddad said in praise of him: “Shaykh of shaykhs, Master of the Giants”; “Shaykh of those on the path to Allah, one and all”; “a caller to Allah with true words and praiseworthy deeds”; “his state at the beginning of his path was like the state of his contemporaries at the end of their path.”


His Death

Towards the end of his life al-Faqih shunned creation and became completely absorbed with the witnessing of his Lord. When he was asked who would be the Shaykh after him, he replied: “Umm al-Fuqara’.” He was referring to his wife Zaynab, named like Zaynab bint Khuzaymah, the wife of the Messenger of Allah , as “the Mother of the Poor” for her care of the destitute. She had been his best supporter in his life and continued his work after his death. His students came to her for guidance, assistance and blessings. Al-Faqih was finally united with his Lord in 653 (1255) and was buried in Zanbal. His grave was the first that anyone would visit in the graveyard, and for that reason he became known as “al-Muqaddam,” the one whose grave is given precedence over all others. He was universally recognised as the Shaykh of the `Alawi Tariqah and all chains of connection in the spiritual path return to him. Great Imams came forth from his progeny in every generation who continue to spread the light of prophecy until the present time. May Allah attach us to “the Greatest Master,” and benefit us by him in this life and the next.



Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf

His Lineage

He is Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf bin Shaykh Muhammad Mawla al-Dawilah, bin `Ali Mawla al-Darak, bin `Alawi al-Ghayur, bin al-Faqih al-Muqaddam Muhammad, bin `Ali, bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin `Ali Khali` Qasam, bin `Alawi, bin Muhammad Sahib al-Sawma`ah, bin `Alawi, bin `Ubaydullah, bin al-Imam al-Muhajir il-Allah Ahmad, bin `Isa, bin Muhammad al-Naqib, bin `Ali al-`Uraydi, bin Ja`far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Abidin, bin Husayn al-Sibt, bin `Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra’, the daughter of our Master Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

He was given the name “al-Saqqaf” because he concealed his true state from the people of his time under a ceiling (saqf) of humility and hatred of fame. Another opinion is that he rose above his contemporaries until he became like a ceiling on top of them. Imam al-Saqqaf was also known as “al-Muqaddam al-Thani,” the “second Muqaddam,” in recognition of the proximity in rank to his great, great grandfather al-Faqih al-Muqaddam.

His Life

Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf was born in Tarim in 739 (1338). He memorised the Qur’an and learnt the sciences of the Sacred Law in his early years. His thirst for knowledge of the Sacred Law led him to memorise most of Imam al-Ghazali’s Wajiz and Imam al-Shirazi’s al-Muhadhab. He was also endowed with knowledge of the heart which he received from the Imams of his time, amongst them his father, Shaykh Muhammad Mawla al-Dawilah, along with Shaykh Muhammad “Sahib al-`Ama’im” and Shaykh Muhammad Bā `Abbad.

His acts of mujahadah (spiritual striving) were immense. He reached the level where he would recite the whole Qur’an four times during the day and four times during the night. He spent 33 years without sleeping about which he said: “How can someone sleep when if he lies on his right side sees Paradise and if he lies on his left side sees the Fire?” He would spend a month or more in isolation in the proximity of the grave of the Prophet Hud (peace be upon him), taking with him his books and a small amount of provision. So constant was he in his remembrance of Allah that when he removed his clothes they continued to remember Allah. He was constantly seeking forgiveness from Allah, and as he rose from station to station he sought forgiveness for his shortcomings in the station that he had been in previously. He said: “We exerted all our efforts, but we were not given the greatest opening until we returned to the knowledge of the nafs (the soul).”

After travelling to Ghayl Bā Wazir, al-Shihr and Aden to deepen his inner and outer knowledge, he returned to Tarim, where he started teaching and giving spiritual instruction. He was greatly concerned with the spiritual progress of his students, who flocked from far and wide to learn from him. In doing so, he strengthened and built upon the foundations of the Tariqah, which had been laid by al-Faqih al-Muqaddam. His students would say that when they took him as their shaykh, he quickly removed from their hearts any love of the material world. He had the ability to transform their blameworthy traits into praiseworthy ones, just as the colour of cloth is changed with dye. He is recorded as saying: “I am the shaykh of anyone who has no shaykh until the Day of Judgement.”

He said: “The one who has no wird (litany or regular act of devotion) is a monkey.” “The one who has no adab (etiquette) is a bear.” “The one who does not study the Ihya’ (of Imam al-Ghazali) has no shame.” “All knowledge without action is meaningless; all knowledge and action without intention is worthless; all knowledge, action and intention not in accordance with the Sunnah is rejected; all knowledge, action and intention in accordance with the Sunnah without scrupulousness is at risk of coming to nothing.”

He was, like his predecessors, concerned with benefiting society. He planted numerous date palms and upon each planting he would recite Surat Ya Sin or the whole Qur’an. Out of his scrupulousness upon handling the dates that would be distributed as zakat, he would not lick his fingers so as not to take anything from the property of the poor. He built ten mosques in different parts of Hadramawt. He said: “My heart has no inclination to other than Allah. I never built a house or mosque without first having been ordered to do so.”

The most famous of his mosques was Masjid al-Saqqaf in Tarim. He said of this Mosque that “When I started building it, the four Imams (Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Shafi`i and Ahmad) were in the four corners and the Prophet ﷺ was in the mihrab (prayer niche).” He established a Hadrah of dhikr in the Mosque on Wednesday and Sunday night, in which the poems of the great Shaykhs of the Way are recited. The Hadrah continues to this day. His pious daughter, Sayyidah Maryam, said that whoever has a need should go to the Mosque of her father on the night of the Hadrah and stand between the pillar that her father would sit against and the pillar where the people reciting sit and ask, and their need will be fulfilled by Allah’s permission.

He left behind thirteen sons and seven daughters. All his sons were great Imams, the most famous being Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Sakran and Shaykh `Umar al-Mihdar. One of his greatest students was Shaykhah Sultanah al-Zubaydiyyah, who reached the pinnacle of knowledge of Allah and established a ribat or hostel in her home town to accommodate seekers of this knowledge. She died in 847 and was buried in her home town, close to the grave of Imam al-Muhajir, which was known thereafter as the Hawtah (or “safe haven”) of Shaykhah Sultanah. Her poetry continues to be recited in the Hadrah.

His Death

In his old age, the Shaykh was unable to maintain the acts of worship in which he had been constant throughout his life. He thus had someone read the Qur’an to him while he listened. In spite of his weakness, he would always be in the mosque in a state of purity when the time of the prayer entered. He continued presiding over gatherings of knowledge and remembrance, gradually passing the responsibility on to his sons until he was finally united with his Lord in Sha`ban 819 (1416). He was buried in Zanbal alongside his father.

Imam al-`Aydarus al-Akbar

His Lineage

He is Imām `Abdullāh al-`Aydarūs bin Shaykh Abū Bakr al-Sakrān bin Shaykh `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Saqqāf bin Shaykh Muḥammad Mawlā al-Dawīlah, bin `Alī Mawlā al-Darak, bin `Alawī al-Ghayūr, bin al-Faqīh al-Muqaddam Muḥammad, bin `Alī, bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib Mirbāṭ, bin `Alī Khāli` Qasam, bin `Alawī, bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib al-Ṣawma`ah, bin `Alawī, bin `Ubaydullāh, bin al-Imām al-Muhājir il-Allāh Aḥmad, bin `Īsā, bin Muḥammad al-Naqīb, bin `Ali al-`Urayḍī, bin Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, bin Muḥammad al-Bāqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Ābidīn, bin Ḥusayn al-Sibṭ, bin `Alī bin Abī Ṭālib and Fāṭimah al-Zahrā’, the daughter of our Master Muḥammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

Imām Muḥammad bin `Umar Baḥraq said that it is probable that the name “`Aydarūs” is derived from the word “`aytarūs,” one of the names given to a lion in the Arabic language, and just as the lion is “the king of the jungle,” likewise Imam al-`Aydarūs rose above his peers to become the greatest of the awliyā’ of his time.

His mother was Maryam, the daughter of al-Shaykh al-Wali Ahmad bin Muhammad Ba Rushayd.

His Life

He was born in Tarīm in 811 (1408). When his grandfather Shaykh `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Saqqāf was given the good news of his birth, he said: “He is the Ṣūfī of his time.” He was blessed with the nurturing of his grandfather for the first eight years of his life, as well as his father, Shaykh Abū Bakr al-Sakrān, for the first ten. During these early years, he took the path of spiritual struggle and study, memorising the Qur’ān and delving into the inward and outward sciences. When his father died, his uncle, Shaykh `Umar al-Miḥḍār, took him under his wing and closely monitored his every step on the path to Allah. He married him to his daughter, Sayyidah `Ā’ishah. Sayyidah `Ā’ishah was known for her piety and closeness to Allah and was described as being “the daughter of a Quṭb (Shaykh `Umar al- Miḥḍār), the wife of a Quṭb (Imām al-`Aydarūs) and the mother of a Quṭb (Imam Abū Bakr al-`Adanī).”

Shaykh `Umar al-Miḥḍār passed away when Imam al-`Aydarūs was around 25 years old, and the `Alawī scholars of Tarīm unanimously recognised him, in spite of his protests, as their leader. From this role he expended great efforts in calling to Allah and rectifying society, often mediating with the tribal rulers of the time to prevent bloodshed. The rulers of the time were in awe of him. He generously received guests and helped the needy. It was said that he would spend his wealth like a king while at the same time being as humble as a beggar. He built several mosques, the most famous of which is Masjid al-`Aydarūs, in the heart of the city of Tarīm. In it, his place of khalwah can be found, where he would seclude himself underground to be with his Creator.

He and his brother, Shaykh `Alī, played a fundamental role in laying down the foundations of the `Alawī Ṭarīqah. They were amongst the first of the `Alawī scholars to author works clarifying the methodology of the Bā `Alawī Way. Their predecessors had not done so, as their primary concern was their students. Imām al-`Aydarūs’s most famous work is al-Kibrīt al-Aḥmar (The Red Sulphur), an explanation of the stations on the path to direct knowledge of Allah. He had the utmost admiration for the works of Imam al-Ghazālī, especially Iḥyā’ `Ulūm al-Dīn, on the greatness of which he wrote a treatise. He said of the Iḥyā’: “In it is the explanation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The one who reads it and acts upon it is guaranteed the love of Allah, His Messenger, the angels, the Prophets, Messengers and the Awliyā’. Were Allah to bring the dead to life, they would only counsel the living to act upon that which is in the Iḥyā’.” His daily wird was lā ilāha ill’Allāh, Allāh Allāh and Hū Hū (“He”) twelve thousand times each. This is the Dhikr al-`Aydarūs mentioned by his son, Imām al-`Adanī in his famous poem:

وَذِكْرُ الْعَيْدَرُوسِ الْقُطْبِ أَجْلَى

عَنِ الْقَلْبِ الصَّدَى لِلْصَادِقِيْنَ

The remembrance of al-`Aydarūs, the Quṭb, polishes

Rust from the hearts of the truthful ones

Upon taking the path, the seeker is often given this remembrance to complete. Lā ilāha ill’Allāh is the remembrance of the heart, the seat of knowledge of Allah (ma`rifah); Allāh Allāh is the remembrance of the spirit, the seat of the love of Allah (maḥabbah); and Hū Hū is the remembrance of the sirr (the inner secret), the seat of the witnessing of Allah (mushāhadah).

Imam al-`Aydarūs said: “Whoever desires divine purity must be in a state of brokenness in the depths of the night.” “Squeeze your body with spiritual struggle until you extract from it the oil of purity.” “The foundation of taqwā is avoiding shirk (associating partners with Allah); then avoiding acts of disobedience; then denying the lower self the things it desires; then denying oneself that which is in excess of one’s needs.” “The true meaning of freedom is for the soul to be free of love of the material world, status and fame such that one’s thoughts are not attached to anything other than Allah.”

His Death

The Imām died while returning to Tarīm from the town of al-Shiḥr on 12th Ramadan 865 (1460) and was carried back to Tarīm and buried in the Zanbal Cemetery. A dome was later erected over his grave. He left behind four sons – Abū Bakr (al-`Adanī), `Alawī, Shaykh and Ḥusayn – and four daughters – Ruqayyah, Khadījah, Umm Kulthūm and Bahiyyah. From his progeny came forth many great imams who carried the name of al-`Aydarūs. He thus became known as “al-`Aydarūs al-Akbar,” as he was the first and the greatest to be known as al-`Aydarūs and to distinguish him from those who came after him. May Allah give us the strongest of attachments to him, an attachment which benefits us in this life and the next.

Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim

قبة الشيخ أبي بكر بن سالم

 His Lineage

He is Fakhr al-Wujūd Shaykh Abū Bakr bin Sālim bin `Abdullāh bin `Abd al-Raḥmān bin `Abdullāh bin Shaykh `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Saqqāf bin Shaykh Muḥammad Mawlā al-Dawīlah, bin `Alī Mawlā al-Darak, bin `Alawī al-Ghayūr, bin al-Faqīh al-Muqaddam Muḥammad, bin `Alī, bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib Mirbāṭ, bin `Alī Khāli` Qasam, bin `Alawī, bin Muḥammad Ṣāḥib al-Ṣawma`ah, bin `Alawī, bin `Ubaydullāh, bin al-Imām al-Muhājir il-Allāh Aḥmad, bin `Īsā, bin Muḥammad al-Naqīb, bin `Ali al-`Urayḍī, bin Ja`far al-Ṣādiq, bin Muḥammad al-Bāqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Ābidīn, bin Ḥusayn al-Sibṭ, bin `Alī bin Abī Ṭālib and Fāṭimah al-Zahrā’, the daughter of our Master Muḥammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

His Life

Several of the `Alawī Imams were given good tidings of the coming of Shaykh Abū Bakr, among them Imām al-`Adanī. Shaykh `Abdullāh, the youngest son of Shaykh `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Saqqāf, was one day wondering how he could ever reach the station and prominence of his two brothers, `Umar al-Miḥḍār and Abū Bakr al-Sakrān. His father read his thoughts and said to him: “That prominence will be in your progeny.” Amongst this blessed progeny was Ḥabīb `Umar bin `Abd al-Raḥmān al-`Aṭṭās (the ancestor of all the great Imāms of the al-`Aṭṭās clan) and Shaykh Abū Bakr bin Sālim and all his blessed progeny. Shaykh Abū Bakr was born in Tarīm in 919 (1513). His father took him to the Imam of Tarīm at the time, Shaykh Shihāb al-Din, Aḥmad bin `Abd al-Raḥmān, complaining that his son was having difficulty in memorising the Qur’ān. The Shaykh said to his father: “Leave him and do not burden him. He will devote himself to it of his own accord and he will have a great affair.” It was as the Shaykh said: Shaykh Abū Bakr devoted himself to the Qur’ān and memorised it in around four months. Then he applied himself to learning the inner and outer sciences from, among others, Shaykh Aḥmad bin `Alawī Bā Jaḥdab, Shaykh `Umar bin `Abdullāh Bā Makhramah and Shaykh Ma`rūf Bā Jamāl, from whom he received his opening.

In his youth, he lived in the village of al-Lisk, East of Tarīm, and he would walk several miles by night to Tarīm to pray in its mosques and visit its graves. He would fill up the tanks used for ablutions in the mosques and fill up troughs for animals to drink before returning to pray the Fajr prayer in al-Lisk. He later moved to Tarīm but decided while still in his mid-twenties to move to the village of `Aynāt in the search of territory where he could spread the call to Allah and His Messenger . He built a mosque and house there and began teaching and giving spiritual instruction. His fame spread and students started coming from different parts of Yemen and as far afield as India and North Africa. As a result, a new town grew up distinct from the old village of `Aynāt. He would send his students out to different regions to call people to Allah and educate them in the Sacred Law.

He had a great concern, like his predecessors, for the visit of the Prophet Hūd 8. Leadership of the visit had passed from father to son since the time of al-Faqīh al-Muqaddam until it reached Shaykh Shihāb al-Dīn, who saw Shaykh Abū Bakr as being the most worthy of leadership. He duly passed it to him, and that leadership has remained in the descendants of Shaykh Abū Bakr until this day. It was Shaykh Abū Bakr who first established the great annual visit in Sha`bān, it being previously arranged according to the date harvest. In his old age he would be carried to the visit and when he was asked to compile a work on the merits of the visit, he said that the fact that he was still making the effort to visit in his old age was sufficient proof of its merit.

Shaykh Abū Bakr was immensely generous. He would supervise the affairs of his famous kitchen and distribute food with his own hands. He would bake a thousand loaves of bread for the poor every day – five hundred for lunch and five hundred for dinner. This was not including food prepared for his numerous guests. A poor dishevelled woman once came to give a small amount of food to the Shaykh. His servant turned her away saying: “Caravans are bringing goods to the Shaykh from far off places and he is not in need of what you have brought.” The Shaykh, however, was listening and he welcomed the woman, graciously accepted her offering and gave her a big reward in exchange. He then chastised his servant, saying: “The one who does not show gratitude for small things will not show gratitude for great things. The one who does not show gratitude to people does not show gratitude to Allah.” Out of his humility in front of his Lord in the last fifteen years of his life, he would sit constantly as one sits in the prayer (tawarruk) even when with his family.

He would fast the three hottest months of the year and for fifteen years consumed nothing but milk and coffee. He never left praying the eight rak`āt of the Ḍuḥā prayer and the eleven rak`āt of the Witr prayer, even while travelling.

He was the author of several works, amongst them Miftāḥ al-Sarā’ir, a book which every seeker of Allah is in need of on his path. Shaykh Abū Bakr authored it at the age of 17. He expounded on some of his vast knowledge of spiritual realities in Mir`rāj al-Arwāḥ and Fatḥ Bāb al-Mawāhib. He also composed a number of litanies and prayers upon the Prophet , the most famous of which is Salāt al-Tāj (the Prayer of the Crown) which is widely read in the Indian Subcontinent. One of his supplications was:

اللّهُمَّ إنِّي أَسألُك العِلْمَ اللَّدُنِّي والمَشْرَبَ الصَّافِي الهَني ياوهَّابُ ياغَنِي

“O Allah, I ask You for knowledge direct from Your presence and a pure spring to drink from, O Bestower, O Free of all want!”

His Dīwān is also a treasure trove of divine knowledge and wisdom. He said: “If you look upon your own self with the eye of discontentment, Allah looks upon you with the eye of contentment; if you look upon your own self with the eye of contentment, Allah looks upon you with the eye of discontentment.” “The dunyā (this worldly life) is the daughter of the akhirah (the next life). If someone marries the daughter, the mother becomes forbidden for him.”

He had thirteen sons and four daughters. `Alī died before him and was the first to be buried in the cemetery which Shaykh Abū Bakr established in ‘Aynāt. Imām Ḥusayn was Shaykh Abū Bakr’s spiritual heir. Other sons included al-Ḥāmid and `Umar al-Miḥḍār. Through them, Shaykh Abu Bakr’s progeny spread far and wide and great imāms emerged in each generation.

Amongst his students was Imām Aḥmad bin Muḥammad al-Ḥabashī, whose grave lies beneath the grave of Imām al-Muhājir, at al-Ḥusayyisah. Imām Aḥmad bin Muḥammad would come every day from al- Ḥusayyisah to `Aynāt to attend Shaykh Abū Bakr’s lesson. He is the ancestor of many great imāms from the Ḥabashī tribe, amongst them Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin Zayn and Ḥabīb `Alī bin Muḥammad. Shaykh Abū Bakr’s other students included Sayyid `Abd al-Raḥmān bin Muḥammad al-Jifri, Shaykh Ḥasan bin Aḥmad Bā Shu`ayb and Sayyid Yūsuf bin `Ābid al-Ḥasanī whose arrival from Fes in the Maghrib was foretold by Shaykh Abū Bakr.

His Death

A year before his death, Shaykh Abū Bakr led the visit to the Prophet Hūd 8 and thousands crowded around him, almost fighting to kiss and touch him. When he saw this, he wept profusely and repeated Allah’s words: He is but a slave upon whom We have bestowed Our blessings.1

Shaykh Abū Bakr finally breathed his last in Dhū’l-Ḥijjah 992 (1583). He was buried in his cemetery in `Aynāt and a dome was erected over him. He said during his life that he would place secrets in the sand dune in which he is buried, and its blessed sand has been used time and again for healing purposes. Visitors on the way to the Prophet Hūd 8 traditionally stop to pay their respects to Shaykh Abū Bakr, who contributed so much to the visit. He said:

أَوَمَا عَلِمْتَ بِأَنَّنَا أَهْلُ الوَفَا

ومُحِبُّنَا مَا زَالَ تَحْتَ لِوَانَا

نَحْنُ الكِرَامُ فَمَنْ أَتَانَا قَاصِدَا

نَالَ السَّعَادَةَ عِنْدَمَا يَلْقَانَا

Do you not know that we are people of honour, and that the one who loves us will always be under our banner?

We are generous people so whoever comes to us seeking will attain felicity when he meets us.

1Al-Zukhruf, 42:59


Habib `Abdullah bin `Umar al-Shatiri

His Lineage

He is al-Imam Shaykh al-Islam al-Ḥabīb `Abdullah bin `Umar bin Ahmad bin `Umar bin Ahmad bin `Umar bin Ahmad bin `Ali bin Husayn bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin `Umar bin `Alawi al-Shatiri bin `Ali bin Ahmad bin Muhammad “Asad Allah” bin Hasan al-Turabi bin `Ali bin al-Faqih al-Muqaddam Muhammad, bin `Ali, bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, bin `Ali Khali` Qasam, bin `Alawi, bin Muhammad Sahib al-Sawma`ah, bin `Alawi, bin `Ubaydullah, bin al-Imam al-Muhajir il-Allah Ahmad, bin `Isa, bin Muhammad al-Naqib, bin `Ali al-`Uraydi, bin Ja`far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin `Ali Zayn al-`Abidin, bin Husayn al-Sibt, bin `Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra’, the daughter of our Master Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets .

His Life

Ḥabīb `Abdullāh was born in Tarīm in the year 1290 (1873). After gaining a firm grasp in the foundational Islamic sciences, he studied under the Muftī of Ḥaḍramawt, Ḥabīb `Abd al-Raḥmān bin Muḥammad al-Mashhūr as well as Ḥabīb `Alawī bin `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Mashhūr and Ḥabīb `Abdullāh bin `Aydarūs al-`Aydarūs. He spent four months in the Ribāṭ of Ḥabīb `Alī al-Ḥabashī in Say’ūn. During his time in Say’ūn, he not only studied under Ḥabīb `Alī, but also under Ḥabīb `Ubaydullāh bin Muḥsin al-Saqqāf and Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Saqqāf and a number of other scholars. He likewise received knowledge from Ḥabīb `Aydarūs bin `Umar al-Ḥabashī and Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin Ḥasan al-`Aṭṭās. In 1310, at the age of twenty, he travelled to Makkah. He spent the next four years in the relentless pursuit of knowledge. He would take around thirteen lessons a day from scholars such as Ḥabīb Ḥusayn bin Muḥammad al-Ḥabashī, Shaykh Muḥammad Bā Buṣayl, Sayyid Abū Bakr Shaṭā and Shaykh `Umar Bā Junayd. He would meticulously prepare for each of these lessons, and only allow himself two hours’ sleep in every twenty four hours. On one occasion, he pressed himself to the Multazam on the wall of the Ka`bah and pleaded with Allah to allow the knowledge he had gained to benefit people all across the world. He eventually succumbed to his father’s repeated requests to come home and returned to Tarīm in 1314.

The Ribāṭ of Tarīm, which had been established in 1305, was in need of a head of studies so Ḥabīb `Abdullāh took up this post and remained in it for the next forty seven years. He did so sincerely for Allah’s sake, and took no wage for his services. He supervised the arrangement of lessons which were in the form of ḥalaqāt or circles of knowledge and expended all his energies in benefiting the students. He would teach daily from after Fajr until well after sunrise. He would then return after Ẓuhr and teach until after the adhān of `Aṣr. He would then occasionally attend the Rawḥah1 of one of his teachers before returning to the Ribāṭ to teach his own Rawḥah. He would then teach from after Maghrib until after `Ishā’. He would never leave these lessons unless he was completely unable to attend. At times of poor health he would call his students to his house and teach them there. He said that at times he would attend a lesson while in pain, seeking healing through hearing and imparting knowledge.

On Wednesday and Saturday morning was the general lesson or madras which was open to all, and people from Tarīm and further afield thronged to attend. Ḥabīb `Abdullāh only presided over this gathering after the death of his two teachers, Ḥabīb `Abd al-Raḥmān al-Mashhūr and his son, Ḥabīb `Alī. Ḥabīb `Abdullāh’s predecessors would tend to delve deeply into the science of jurisprudence, but seeing that the level of people’s knowledge had declined, Ḥabīb `Abdullāh changed the tone of the madras. While the same books were still read, he focused more on reminding people of Allah and calling them to Him, and as a result more of the ordinary people of Tarīm began to attend.

He would attend the mawlid in the Jāmi` Masjid of Tarīm every Thursday night and give a speech to those present, and established a number of other weekly lessons outside of the Ribāṭ. He presided over the annual Mawlid in the Ribāṭ on the last Wednesday of Rabī’ al-Awwal, which thousands attended. He once said that a spiritual flood came forth from this Mawlid which reached everyone in creation. He had immense concern for the progress of his students. He would constantly encourage them to use their time wisely and to record what they learnt in writing. In his early days he would oversee their memorisation of core texts. He would ask after them if they failed to attend lessons, and in spite of all his duties, he found time to advise them and fulfil their needs. He would often sit in on their lessons and test them on their knowledge, thus increasing their desire to revise and memorise.

He told those who were studying Imām al-Nawawī’s Minhāj al-Ṭālibīn with him that if they did not read through the section they were about to study twenty times at least, they should not attend the lesson. They duly read through the section and studied all the commentaries and then Ḥabīb `Abdullāh would ask them questions which none of the commentaries answered.

In his later life, he preferred to teach children Sūrat al-Fātiḥah and the basics of the prayer, leaving his top students to teach older students. When asked about this, he said he found comfort in teaching children, because their hearts were completely pure, unlike adults. He also said that he hoped to attain the reward for all these children’s acts of worship and the reward of the acts of worship of the people that these children would go on to teach.

As a result of his efforts the Ribāṭ flourished, and students came from all parts of Yemen, from South East Asia, South India and East Africa. Records show that 13,000 students studied under Ḥabīb `Abdullāh in the Ribāṭ. These students then returned to their homelands and spread the knowledge that they had obtained. A number of them opened their schools and Ribāṭs. Ḥabīb Ḥasan bin Ismā`īl bin Shaykh Abū Bakr bin Sālim opened a Ribāṭ in `Aynāt, Ḥabīb Muḥammad al-Haddār opened a Ribāṭ in al-Bayḍā’ and Ḥabīb `Abdullāh bin `Abd al-Raḥmān bin Shaykh Abū Bakr bin Sālim opened one in al-Shiḥr. It has been said that wherever you go in the world, especially in the regions previously mentioned, you will find the students of Ḥabīb `Abdullāh, or the students of his students. In this we witness the answering of the prayer he made in Makkah in his youth. This is even more remarkable considering that he lived before the times of modern transport, in which travel between continents took weeks.

The knower of Allah, Ḥabīb `Abdullāh bin Muḥsin al-`Aṭṭās, said of him that he will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement along with his students as a nation (Ummah) by himself and he will be met by his grandfather, Muhammad . We find this meaning in the hadith in which the Messenger of Allah said: “Shall I not inform you of the most generous of the generous? Allah is the Most Generous of the generous, I am the most generous of the children of Adam, and the most generous of people after me is a man who taught people and spread his knowledge – he will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement as a nation (Ummah) on his own, as well as a man who generously gave his life for the sake of Allah.”2

Ḥabīb `Abdullāh always wished that he could pray all his prayers in the great Masjid Bā `Alawī. His wish was answered when the Imām of the Masjid, Habib `Abd al-Raḥmān bin Aḥmad Ḥāmid asked him to take his place while he spent time in Java. This happened twice and lasted for a total of twelve years.

His thirst for knowledge was never quenched, and he said that had he found someone to take over the running of the Ribāṭ, he would have travelled in search of knowledge. He wished to spend less time teaching and devote some time to authoring works but Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin Ḥasan al-`Aṭṭās forbade him and instructed him to produce scholars who would then author works, and this is what happened.

Perhaps his greatest student was Habib `Alawi bin `Abdullah bin Shihab, about whom he said: “It is a sufficient honour to the Ribāṭ that the likes of `Alawī bin `Abdullāh came out of it.” Ḥabīb `Alawī would teach alongside Ḥabīb `Abdullāh and preside over the madras in his absence. His other great students were Ḥabīb Ja`far bin Aḥmad al-`Aydarūs and Ḥabīb Muḥammad bin Sālim bin Ḥafīẓ, who authored a biography of Ḥabīb `Abdullāh, named Nafḥ al-Tīb al-`Ātirī. Ḥabīb `Abd al-Raḥmān bin Muḥammad al-Sirī also compiled some of his speech. Another of his students was Ḥabīb Aḥmad bin `Umar al-Shāṭirī, who at his request authored the excellent summary of Shāfi`ī law, al-Yaqut al-Nafis. Shaykh Salim Bukayyir Ghaythan, Mufti of Tarim, studied at length under Habib `Abdullah and also taught in the Ribat, as did Ḥabīb `Umar bin `Alawī al-Kāf.

Although almost his whole time was spent in the Ribāṭ, he made several excursions calling people to Allah to Daw`an and the Indian Ocean coast. He also called people to Allah through his poems, which are collected in his Dīwān.

His Death

Ḥabīb `Abdullāh passed away after a short illness on the eve of 29th Jumadā al-Ūlā 1361 (1941). The people of Tarīm and other parts of Ḥaḍramawt came out to pray over him in the Jabbānah3 the following day. Ḥabīb `Alawī bin Shihāb gave a speech extolling Habib `Abdullāh’s virtues before leading the prayer. He was buried in the Zanbal Cemetery, at his request, at the feet of his noble mother, Sayyidah Nūr bint `Umar Shihāb al-Dīn, placing his hopes in the narration that “Paradise is beneath your mother’s feet.”

Ḥabīb `Abdullāh’s sons continued to oversee the Ribāṭ after his death – firstly his oldest son, Ḥabīb Muḥammad al-Mahdī, then Ḥabīb Ḥaṣan. During the period of socialist rule in South Yemen, the Ribāṭ was forcibly closed and remained so for twenty five years, until the regime fell and North and South Yemen were reunited in 1411 (1990). At this point, Ḥabīb Ḥasan and his brother, Habib Salim, returned from exile to re-open the Ribāṭ. After the death of Ḥabīb Ḥasan in 1425 (2004), Ḥabīb Sālim took over the running of the Ribāṭ, and he continued to do so much the same way that his father did until shortly before his death in 1439 (2018). May Allah have mercy on him, his brothers and his father and may the Ribat continue to be a beacon shining the way for the people of this Ummah.

1The scholars of Ḥaḍramawt traditionally used the name rawḥah for the lessons they would give after `Aṣr in which they would focus upon teaching the sciences of the heart and reading the books of the scholars of Taṣawwuf.

2 Narrated by al-Bayhaqī and Abū Ya`lā

3The Jabbānah is the muṣallā situated near the graveyards of Tarīm in which the Janāzah prayer and the `Īd prayers are performed.


Nurik al-Sari

This is a prayer upon the Prophet composed by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَ سَلِّمْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ نُورِكَ السَّارِي وَمَدَدِكَ الجَارِي واجْمَعْنِي بِهِ فِي كُلِّ أَطْوَارِي وعلى آلِهِ وصَحْبِهِ يَانُورْ


Allahumma salli wa sallim `ala sayyidina Muhammadin nurik as-sari wa madadik al-jari w’ajm`ani bihi fi kulli atwari wa `ala alihi wa sahbihi ya Nur

O Allah, bestow prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad, Your light which spreads and Your assistance which flows (throughout creation) and join me with him in all my states, and upon his Family and Companions, O Light! 


Jāmi` al-Maḥāmid

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ و سَلِّمْ على جَامِعِ المحَامِد مَنْ بِهِ تُفَرَّجُ الكُروبُ و تُكْشَفُ الشَّدائِد سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ و

على آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ يا حَيُّ يا قَيُّومُ يا واحِد

Allāhumma ṣalli wa sallim `alāJāmi` al-Mahāmid man bihi tufarraju’l-kurūb wa tukshafu al-shadā‘id sayyidinā Muḥammadin wa `alāālihi wa saḥbih ya Ḥayyu ya Qayyūmu ya Wāḥid

O Allāh, bestow prayers and peace upon the possessor of all praiseworthy attributes, the one through whom tribulations are removed and hardships relieved, our Master Muhammad and upon his Family and Companions, O Living, O Everlasting, O One!

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.



اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ وَالأَصْحَاب،

صَلاةً وَسَلامًا تَرْفَعُ بِهِمَا بَيْني و بَيْنَهُ الحِجَاب، وَتُدْخِلُنِي بِهِمَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَوْسَعِ بَاب، وَتَسْقِينِي بِهِمَا

بِيْدِهِ الشَّرِيفَةِ أَعْذَبَ الْكُؤُوسِ مِنْ أَحْلَى شَرَاب

Allāhumma ṣalli wa sallim `alā sayyidinā Muḥammadin wa `alā āli sayyidinā Muḥammadin w’al-aṣḥāb, ṣalātan wa salāman tarfa`u bihimā baynī wa baynahu’l-ḥijāb, wa tudkhilunī bihimā `alayhi min awsa`i bāb, wa tasqīnī bihimā biyadhihi ash-sharīfati a`dhaba al-ku`ūsi min aḥla sharāb

O Allāh, bestow prayers and peace upon our Master Muḥammad and the Family of our Master Muḥammad and upon the Companions, by which You lift the veil between us and him, give us the best entry into his presence, and give us to drink from the sweetest of drinks by his noble hand.

The above is prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.


Al-Nūr al-Mubīn

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ وَبارِكْ عَلى النُّورِ المُبين، عَبْدِكَ وَحَبيبِكَ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ الأَمِين، وَعَلى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ،

وَحَقِّقْنا بِحُبِّهِ، وَأكْرِمْنا بِقُرْبِهِ، وَاجْعَلنا مِنْ رُفَقائِهِ يا رَبَّ العالَمِين

Allāhumma ṣalli wa sallim wa bārik `ala an-Nūri‘l-Mubīn ‘abdika wa ḥabībika Sayyidinā Muḥammadin al-Amīn wa ‘alā ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa ḥaqqiqnā biḥubbihi wa akrimnā biqurbihi wa-j’alnā min rufaqā’ihi ya Rabbal-‘ālamīn.

O Allāh, bestow prayers, peace and blessings upon the Manifest Light, Your Slave and Your Beloved, our Master Muḥammad the Trustworthy, and upon his Family and Companions, and make us true in his love, honour us with nearness to him, and make us among his companions, O Lord of the Worlds.

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.


Khātam Anbiyā’ik

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ خَاتَمِ أَنْبِيَائِكَ وسَيِّدِ رُسُلِكَ وأَكْرَمِ خَلْقِكَ وَإِمَامِ أَهْلِ حقِيْقَةِ تَوْحِيْدِكَ

وَ صَفْوَتِكَ مِنْ عِبَادِكَ وَعلى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ وسَلِّمْ تَسْلِيماً وانْصُرْنَا بِهِ وأَصْلِحْ بِهِ شُئُونَنَا وَ شُئُونَ أُمَّتِهِ


Allāhumma ṣalli `alā sayyidinā Muḥammadin khātami anbiyā’ik wa sayyidi rusulik wa imām ahli ḥaqīqati tawḥīdik wa ṣafwatik min `ibādik wa `alā āli wa sabihi wa sallim tasliman w’anṣurnā bihi wa aṣliḥ bihi shu`ūnanā wa shu`ūna ummatihi ajma`īn

O Allāh, bestow prayers upon our Master Muḥammad, the Seal of Your Prophets, the Master of Your Messengers, the Most Noble of Your Creation, the Imām of the people who have realised the reality of Your oneness, the best of Your slaves, and upon his Family and Companions and give us victory through him and rectify through him our affairs and the affairs of his whole Ummah.

The above is a prayer upon the Prophet  composed by Sayyidī al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Ḥafīẓ.