5 Things to Learn from Imam Ali Al-Hadi

1) Countering Deviant Ideologies

The Imam’s era saw a rise in Ghulat scholars, who were leading believers astray and refuting Allah’s command in the Imam’s name. Among these deviant scholars were Ali bin Hasakah, Al-Qasim Al-Yaqtini, Al-Hasan bin Muhammad, and Muhammad bin Nusayr. They were leading several naive Muslims astray and were proving to be the greatest thorns in the Imam’s cause. When one of Imam’s companions wrote a letter asking him about the acts of these people.

The Imam disavowed these false scholars to such an extent that he said, “Desert them! May Allah curse them. Block them up into narrow passages, and if you find any of them, split his head with stone!

2) Gaining Influence Through Knowledge

Mutawakkil had extreme hatred towards the Imam and wasted no opportunity to humiliate and disrespect him. He also feared the Imam’s popularity would rise if he was left unguarded, so Mutawakkil forcefully brought Imam Al-Hadi from Yathrib to Samarra and restricted his interaction with the public.

But the Imam did not allow this move to be a disadvantage for him. He used his best asset – knowledge – to gain influence in Mutawakkil’s court. So, whenever a complex religious issue perplexed the caliph, he couldn’t help but turn to Imam Hadi for guidance. This influence allowed the Imam to reintroduce practices banned by Mutawakkil, including visiting the graves of the Ahlulbayt and performing Ziyarah.

3) Self-Dependency

Imam Ali Al-Hadi was a hard-working man who would tend to his land all by himself to secure a living for his family. He would never burden his subordinates with tasks that he could do himself. Once, a companion witnessed Imam al-Naqi working on his farm while drenched in sweat. He asked the Imam, “May I die for you! Where are your subordinates?

The Imam replied, “The one who was better than me and my father worked on his farm with a spade.” When the companion inquired who the Imam was referring to, he replied, “Prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and all my fathers worked with their hands.

4) Respecting Knowledge

Imam Al-Hadi honoured and respected people possessing intellect and knowledge, regardless of their worldly stature. He would always welcome them to his gatherings and preferred scholars over other people. Once, a non-Hashemite scholar, who had recently won a confrontation with an enemy of the Ahlulbayt, attended the gathering of Imam al-Hadi.

The Imam treated him with respect and honour, which disturbed the Alawids and Abbasids present there. They criticised the Imam for preferring him to the descendants of Bani Hashem. So, as a response, Imam Ali A-Hadi offered them a strong rebuttal from the Quran. He quoted several verses favouring the learned over the ignorant and made it clear that strong belief and knowledge are more honourable than lineage.

5) Caring for the Shia

The Abbasid era was a financially difficult one for the Shia. In such stressful times, whenever the followers of Ahlulbayt would ask for financial support, the Imam would either comfort them, pay their debt with his own money, or pray for them to Allah.

On one occasion, when the Imam was visiting a village near Samarra, a nomad man came to him and asked, “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.”

Unfortunately, the Imam was himself short of money. So, on a piece of paper, he indebted himself to the nomad man and wrote this down on a piece of paper. Then the Imam asked him to come see him in Samarra and ask for his debt.

The nomad did as he was asked and, in front of all the people in the gathering, insisted the Imam pay his debt. On seeing this, some officials of the government, who were present there, informed Mutawakkil.

The caliph sent thirty thousand dirhams to Imam al-Hadi, which he handed over to the nomad. The Imam said: “Take this money, pay back your debt and spend the rest on your family!”

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