Category Archives: Habib Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir

A Metaphor for Guidance



Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him) gives a metaphor for guidance.

“Felicity, guidance and all good attributes are like seeds planted in the heart of the believer. Those that call people to Allah and remind them of Allah and their reminders are like rain. People’s hearts are like the soil. Reminders are directed to the hearts like rain falls upon the soil. If Allah has decreed that it is time for someone to return to Him, the heart will react and submit and follow guidance, just like when rain falls upon fertile soil in which seeds have been planted it yields a good harvest.

Conversely, if the call is directed to hearts which possess no good qualities, it will be like rain falling upon rocky ground. If the call is directed to hearts filled with blameworthy qualities which are destined for wretchedness, they will respond by stubbornly rejecting the call and mocking the callers. This is like rain falling on earth filled with thorn trees. The more the rain falls, the more these trees grow and the more harmful they are. The only way to deal with them is to uproot them and burn them.”

One Believer is a Mirror to Another

Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him) derived four different meanings from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace):

المُؤْمِنُ مِرَآةُ المُؤْمِنِ

“One believer is a mirror to another.”[1]

One meaning, he said, is that the believer sees good qualities in his brother so he attempts to emulate them, or he sees bad qualities in his brother so he knows that he possesses similar qualities and attempts to eradicate them.

A second meaning is that the believer sees a fault in his brother so he tells him to remove it. He is thus like a mirror to his brother.

A third meaning is that the believer appears to his brother according to his brother’s inward state. If his heart is pure then he sees his brothers as being pure of heart like himself, and he holds a good opinion of them. If, however, his heart is sick he sees his brothers as being like him and he holds a bad opinion of them. The believer thus projects what is in his heart onto his brothers. Thus if someone sees the Prophet ﷺ in a beautiful form in a dream then this shows that the person is in a good state. If, however he does not see the Prophet ﷺ in a beautiful form then this shows that the person has some kind of deficiency.

A further meaning is that if a believer’s faith is complete, Allah manifests Himself to his heart. One of Allah’s names is ‘al-Mu’min’, meaning ‘the Faithful.’ Thus the meaning of the hadith would be: ‘the believer, or more specifically the heart of the believer is the place, or the mirror, to which Allah ‘the Faithful’ manifests himself.


[1] Narrated by Abu Daud

Reminding Believers of What was Sent with the Best of Messengers

This is a translation of a treatise by Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him) entitled ‘Reminding Believers of What was Sent with the Best of Messengers.’ Although small in size, the treatise contains a comprehensive summary of the message which the Prophet ﷺ conveyed. Many people have tried and will try to summarise the teachings of Islam, but few have been able or will be able to do so in a way as complete and comprehensive as this great Imam, who combined inward and outward knowledge. May Allah allow us to be included in the prayer of Habib `Abdullah that ‘those who use it as a reminder or disseminate it will be people who commanded the good and forbade evil, and that they be beloved to the Best of Creation.’


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Benefits of Keeping the Company of the Pious



Advice from Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him)

 The most beneficial means of rectifying your heart, attaining forgiveness for your sins, protecting yourself from calamities and attaining everything that you wish is keeping the company of the friends of Allah, the scholars who act on their knowledge. If you see them, they remind you of Allah. Their state lifts you and causes you to seek Allah and their speech guides you to Him. Witnessing their noble attributes encourages you to attain similar attributes. Keeping their company and looking at them is an act of worship and loving them is a cause of attaining felicity. The one who is able to keep their company should regard this as the greatest blessing. He should take advantage of it by doing so with love, veneration and a good opinion of them and complete etiquette inwardly and outwardly. He should seek to benefit from their knowledge, seek blessings from them and emulate them, for “every person is with the one that they love” and “every person follows the religion of his close companion.”

Guides of men – good tidings to the one has seen them

And kept their company even once in his life

Look at the dog of the ‘People of the Cave.’ Through keeping the company of the friends of Allah it was mentioned with them in the Qur’an, and it will enter Paradise with them.

Habib Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habashi said: “Understanding is a light which shines in the heart which is only given to those who keep the company of the pious or read their books.”

The most important thing is to have etiquette with them, for it has been said: “The one who is truly deprived is not the one who is deprived of keeping the companyof the pious, but the one who keeps their company but does not show them the correct etiquette.”

Habib `Umar bin Saqqaf al-Saqqaf (Habib `Abdullah’s shaykh) said: “The most beneficial thing for the wayfarer is to remember the lives and states of the pious, especially those who lived recently because they sought Allah at a time when people had turned away from Him and Allah gave them insight at a time when most people were blind.”

If you are unable to physically keep their company then read their books, their poetry and their biographies – for “mercy descends when the pious are mentioned.” The meaning of this, as Imam al-Ghazali says, is that mentioning them brings forth the desire to emulate them and to make up for one’s shortcomings which in turn leads to entering Paradise and meeting Allah which is the true meaning of mercy. Just as “mercy descends when the pious are mentioned,” the opposite is also true: the curse of Allah descends when corrupt people are mentioned. This is because mentioning them often causes the heart to make light of acts of disobedience. This is demonstrated in the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ : “A bad companion is like a blacksmith: if he does not burn you with his sparks you will leave with a bad odour.” Just as a person’s clothing carries a bad odour without him noticing, the heart begins to make light of acts of disobedience without the person noticing.

Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir

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His Lineage

He is al-Imam al-Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir bin Muhammad bin Hashim bin `Abd al-Rahman bin `Abdullah bin `Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad Maghfun bin `Abd al-Rahman bin Ahmad bin `Alawi bin Ahmad bin `Abd al-Rahman bin `Alawi `Amm al-Faqih (uncle of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam), 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

Habib `Abdullah was born in Tarim in 1191 (1777). He received the upbringing that was customary in Tarim founded upon learning the Noble Qur’an and gaining a strong foundation in the sciences of the Sacred Law. His greatest teachers were his older brother, the great Imam, Habib Tahir, Imam `Abd al-Rahman Sahib al-Butayhah, Habib Hamid bin `Umar Hamid and Habib `Abdullah bin Abu Bakr Mawla `Aidid. The shaykh from whom he received his opening was Habib `Umar bin Saqqaf al-Saqqaf. He also spent a period of time in Makkah and al-Madinah learning from the scholars of the Two Sanctuaries.

Due to political strife in Tarim, he moved with his father and brother and their families to the nearby town of al-Masilah in 1210. The tribal chief who owned the land there saw in a dream the full moon falling and landing in his land. He thus gave them the land for nothing. Upon it they built a house and a mosque. With their arrival, al-Masilah was transformed from a backwater to a place of knowledge and spiritual nurturing.

Habib `Abdullah held immense respect for his older brother, Habib Tahir. In their childhood, he would never allow himself to defeat him in archery contests. He would always walk behind him and, in their house he would not go up to a higher storey if Habib Tahir was below. Only after his brother’s death in 1241, did he start teaching and calling to Allah openly.

He would not allow an instant to go by unused. Someone once gave him a (recently invented) pocket watch and asked him some time later whether he had benefited from it. He replied that he had used it for a time and then it had stopped. The man told him that the watch had to be wound up every day. Habib `Abdullah asked him, “Did you give me the watch in order for me to save time or waste time? Where can I find the time to wind it up?” Even the time he spent eating was used to increase in knowledge: his brother would eat and he would read to him and then he would eat and his brother would read. Just before Ramadan he would gather his household together and say to them: “All my time is full and I am unable to perform more acts of worship than I am already performing. Who will sell me some of their time?”

His daily wird was “La ilaha ill’Allah” 25,000 times, “Ya Allah” 25,000 times and 25,000 prayers upon the Prophet . He would recite 10 Juz’ of the Qur’an in his prayers at night and 8 Juz’ in the Duha (midmorning) prayer.

He would make ghusl and use perfume for every compulsory prayer. He spent as much of his time as possible in the mosque, about which he said:

وَ في المساجِدِ سِرٌّ ما جَلَسْتُ بِها

إِلاّ تَعَجَّبْتُ مِمَّنْ يَسْكُنُ الدُّورا

In mosques there is such a secret that whenever I sit in them, I marvel at those who spend their time in their houses.

He authored a number of treatises on different elements of the religion, one of which is Sulam al-Tawfīq, a primary text covering all compulsory knowledge. He also composed a Diwan of poetry which is contained, along with all the treatises, in his Majmu`. He used his poetry as a means to call people to Allah and, for that reason, made it as easy as possible for the common people to understand. His Hadiyat al-Sadiq comprehensively covers what every person needs on their path to Allah.

He studied, taught and lived by Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din to such an extent that his nephew, Habib `Abdullah bin `Umar bin Yahya, said of him: “He purified himself of all destructive traits and attained all praiseworthy traits which save one from destruction. His attributes are those that are contained in the Ihya and more.” Habib `Abdullah said of the Ihya: “Whoever desires to be upright on the Straight Path, to perfect their following of the Noble Prophet, to come to Allah with a sound heart, to attain noble character and to attain everlasting bliss then they must act according to what is contained in Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din.”

He said of himself: “I never committed an act which is disliked (makruh), nor did I even consider doing such a thing.”

His student, Habib `Ali al-Habashi, said of him: “He was similar in appearance to the Prophet . If I were to read the Shama’il of the Messenger of Allah in his presence, I would have witnessed those attributes in him.” Habib `Ali also described him as having received complete and perfect inheritance from the Best of Creation .

His love for worship did not prevent him from involving himself in the affairs of the community. He took care of the poor and needy and supported his brother Habib Tahir in the struggle against the oppressive Yafi` tribesmen that controlled Tarim. He also lent his support to the Kathiri State, which many of the scholars hoped would bring justice and rectification to Hadramawt. His great poem Ya Arham al-Rahimin is a plea to Allah to rectify the Muslims and their leaders and reflects the turbulent time in which he lived. It continues to be read in many gatherings and can be found in the famous Hadrah compiled by Habib `Abdullah’s student, Shaykh `Abdullah bin Ahmad Ba Sawdan.

In spite of all his great works, he saw himself as merely a poor, sinful slave in desperate need of the mercy of his Lord.

إِحْســــانُنا مَســـاوي وَصِـــدْقُنا دَعَـاوي

Our so-called goodness is a catalogue of wrongdoings And our truthfulness is a false claim

يا رَبِّ ما مَعْنا عَمَلْ و كَسْبُنا كُلُهْ زَلَلْ

لَكِنْ لَنا فِيكْ أَمَلْ تُحْيِي العِظَامَ الرَّامَةْ

My Lord we have no (good) actions and all that we have earned are wrongdoings

But in You we have hope which brings decayed bones to life.

His constant plea was for Allah to bless him with a good ending:

يَالله بِهَا يَالله بِهَا يَالله بِحُسْنِ الْخَاتِمَة

Thus, it was no surprise that death came to him while he was in the best of states on 17th Rabi` al-Thani 1272 (1855).

His hawl, or annual commemoration of his passing, in al-Masilah is attended by many on the morning of 17th Rabi` al-Thani. It was on this occasion in 1400 that Habib Muhammad bin `Alawi bin Shihab delivered his final speech. Upon finishing he said, “O Allah bless us with tawfiq1” and sat down and breathed his last breath. He died, as he had lived, calling to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.

We end this brief biography with the final verses of Habib `Abdullah’s poem Hadiyat al-Sadiq, which are often sung at the end of the gatherings of knowledge:

يَا رَبَّنَــا اعْتَرَفْنَـا بِأَنَّنَـا اقْتَرَفْنَـا

وَأَنَّنَـا أَسْـرَفْنَـا عَلَى لَظَـى أَشْـرَفْنَا

فَتُـبْ عَلَيْنَـا تَوْبَـهْ تَغْـسِلُ كُـلَّ حَوْبَـهْ

وَاسْتُرْ لَنَـا العَـوْرَاتِ وَآمِـنِ الرَّوْعَـاتِ

وَاغْفِـرْ لِوَالِـدِينَا رَبِّ و َ مَوْلُودِينَــا

وَالأَهْـلِ وَالإِخْـوَانِ وَسَــائِرِ الْخِــلاَّنِ

وَكُـلِّ ذِي مَحَبَّـهْ أَوْجِيْــرَةٍ أَوْ صُـحْبَهْ

وَالْمُـسْلِمِينَ أَجْمَـعْ آمِــينَ رَبِّ اِسْمَـعْ

فَضَلاً وَجُـودًا مَنَّـا لا بِاكْتِـسَابٍ مِنَّـا

بِالْمُـصْطَفَى الرَّسُـولِ نَحْظَى بِكُـلِّ سُـولِ

صَلَّى وَسَـلَّمْ رَبِّـى عَلَيْـهِ عَـدَّ الْحَـبِّ

وَآلِـهِ وَالـصَّحْبِ عِدَادَ طَشِّ الـسُّحْبِ

وَالْحَمْـدُ لِلإِلَــهِ فِي البِدْئِ وَالتَنَـاهِي


O Lord, we admit that we have committed sins

And that we have exceeded the bounds

(Such that) we are on the brink of a blazing fire

So turn to us with a repentance

That washes away every wrongdoing

And conceal our faults

And calm our fears

And forgive our parents and our children

And our family, our brothers and all our friends

And all those we love and our neighbors and companions

And all the Muslims

Amin! O Lord, hear our petition!

Out of Your grace, Your generosity and Your favor

Not because of our own actions

Through the Messenger, the Chosen One

Bless us with all we ask for

My Lord, bestow peace and blessings upon him

To the number of every grain

And upon his Family and Companions

As much as rain falls from the clouds

And all thanks and praise be to Allah

In the beginning and the end.

1Enabling grace”


Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn’s Prayer for the Removal of Hardships

This is Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir’s prayer which has been tried and tested for the removal of hardships:

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ و عَلَى آلِ سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ صَلاةَ عَبْدٍ قَلَّتْ حِيلَتُهُ و رَسُولُ اللهِ وَسِيلتُهُ  وأَنْتَ لها يا إِلهي و لِكُلِّ كَرْبٍ عَظِيمٍ فَفَرِّجْ ما أَنا فيِهِ بِسِرِّ :بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم

O Allah, bestow prayers upon our Master Muhammad and upon the Family of our Master Muhammad, the prayers of a slave who has no way out and the Messenger of Allah is his only intermediary. My Lord, You are here for this and for every great calamity so remove the hardship that I am in through the secret of: ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.’

Dealing with Unpleasant Things

 Habib `Abdullah bin Husayn bin Tahir (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) wrote the following piece of advice to help people deal with the oppression and turmoil that was taking place in Hadramawt at the time. His advice remains relevant to the times in which we are living.

It is rare in this time to find peace of mind and comfort. Worries, concerns and distractions are numerous. A person must be content and tranquil in the face of these things. He must surrender (to Allah’s decree) and not be dissatisfied. He must not seek to rid himself of these things through his own strength and efforts, for this will merely lead to other worries and concerns greater than the ones he had before doing so. This is due to his bad etiquette with his Lord, since he wished to bring about something which Allah did not wish to come about.

Our Master, Habib `Abdullah bin `Alawi al-Haddad (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:

و إذا الحوادث أظلمت و تنكرت فاسكن و إياك و التحرك و الحذر

‘When events cause darkness and confusion, be still and beware of moving.’

When things change and become confusing and worrying, it is only appropriate that the slave remains quiet and tranquil and maintains etiquette with Allah.

He should not move outwardly by seeking to drown his sorrows in worldly distractions and he should not move inwardly by disapproving of Allah and His decree with his heart or his tongue.

Rather, he should look at the thing which is displeasing to him. If it is something which has come about at the hands of people, such as robbery, terror, or harm, he must condemn it with his heart and his tongue, and use his hand to change it if he is able to do so (as is mentioned in the books of jurisprudence).

At the same time, he must be content with it and accept it from the perspective that it has come about by Allah’s will. He must seek forgiveness in abundance, plead with Allah in a state of neediness and brokenness (for the harm to be removed) and repent to Allah from all wrongdoings.

If it is something which has not come about at the hands of people such as illness or a natural disaster then his only option is to be content with it and accept it. He must also seek forgiveness and pray to Allah as we mentioned and also show mercy and love to people.

O Allah, save us from Your tribulations, be gentle to us in Your decree and give us that which You have given to Your chosen slaves in well-being and safety, for You have power over all things. May prayers and peace be upon our Master Muhammad and his Family and Companions. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.