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Ali al-Hadi
عَلِيّ ٱلْهَادِي
Born c. 7 March 828 CE
(16 Dhu al-Hijja 212 AH)
Medina, Abbasid Empire
Died c. 21 June 868(868-06-21) (aged 40)
(26 Jumada al-Thani 254)
Samarra, Abbasid Empire
Cause of death Poisoned by the Abbasids
(most Shia sources)
Resting place Al-Askari shrine, Samarra
34°11′54.5″N 43°52′25″E / 34.198472°N 43.87361°E / 34.198472; 43.87361
Spouse Hudayth (or Susan or Salil)
Senior posting
Title al-Hadi
(lit. the guide)
(lit. the distinguished)

ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad al-Hādī (Arabic: عَلِيّ ٱبْن مُحَمَّد ٱلْهَادِي‎; 828 – 868 CE) was a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the tenth of the Twelve Imams, succeeding his father, Muhammad al-Jawad. He is known with the titles al-Hādī (lit. the guide) and al-Naqī (lit. the distinguished). As with most of his predecessors, he kept aloof from politics and engaged in teaching in Medina. Around 848, the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, known for his extreme anti-Shia measures, summoned al-Hadi to the capital Samarra, where he was held under close surveillance until his death some twenty years later in 868. Shia sources often hold the Abbasids responsible for his death at the age of about forty. He was succeeded by his son, Hasan, who was also held under surveillance in Samarra until his death in 874 at the age of twenty-eight. As an important center for Shia pilgrimage, the al-Askari shrine in Samarra houses the tombs of al-Hadi and his successor. The restricted life of al-Hadi in Samarra marks the end of the direct leadership of the Shia community by the Imams. A theological treatise on free will and some other short texts are ascribed to al-Hadi.


Ali ibn Muhammad was known by the titles al-Hadi (lit. the guide) and al-Naqi (lit. the distinguished). He is also cited in the Shia hadith literature as Abu al-Ḥasan al-Thaleth (lit. Abu al-Hasan, the third), to distinguish him from his predecessors, namely, Musa al-Kazim (Abu al-Hasan, the first) and Ali al-Rida (Abu al-Hasan, the second).


political context

The imamate of al-Hadi overlapped with the reigns of the Abbasid caliphs al-Mu'tasim, al-Wathiq, al-Mutawakkil, al-Muntasir, al-Musta'in, and al-Mu'tazz.

In the remaining years of the caliphate of al-Mu'tasim and the five-year caliphate of al-Wathiq, al-Hadi and Shias were relatively free and undisturbed. During the reign of Mutawakkul who severely persecuted Mu'tazila and Shia, al-Mutawakkil tried to kill Hadi at least once, but his plan was miraculously thwarted. With the murder of Mutawakkil in 861 AD by Turkish slaves, the ground for the decline of Abbasid power was provided. During this period, in particular, by the time of al-Mu'tazz, Momen suggests that the real power was in the hands of the Turkish generals of the caliph. During the time of al-Muntasir, and then al-Musta'in's, the influence of Mutawakkil's policies decreased and Hadi gained more freedom. During the time of Mu'taz, however, Mutawakkil's policies were followed and Hadi was under the supervision of the Caliph's spies. With the outbreak of civil war in Samarra after the death of Mutawakkil, which led to the death of four caliphs within a decade, the Abbasid Empire was practically destroyed.

Birth and early life

Ali al-Hadi was born on 16 Dhu al-Hijja 212 AH (7 March 828) in Sorayya, a village near Medina founded by his great-grandfather, Musa al-Kazim. Other given dates range from March 828 to September–February 830, though these dates might be less reliable. The Shia celebrates 15 Dhu al-Hijja as his birthday. He was born to the ninth Shia Imam, Muhammad al-Jawad, and Samana (or Susan), a freed slave (umm walad) of Maghrebi origin. Bernheimer considers it possible that Ali was instead born to Umm al-Fadl, a daughter of the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun, though that marriage is often considered without an issue.

Reigns of al-Mu'tasim (r. 833 – 842) and al-Wathiq (r. 842 – 847)

In this period, al-Hadi and the Shia were relatively free. He lived in Medina and was engaged in teaching after reaching adulthood, attracting a large number of students from Iraq, Persia, and Egypt, where the House of Muhammad traditionally found the most support.

Reign of al-Mutawakkil (r. 847 – 861)

During his reign, al-Mutawakkil intensely prosecuted the Mu'tazila and the Shia, partly due to renewed Zaydi opposition. Sunni sources seem to have noted the hatred of al-Mutawakkil towards the Shia. He is said to have imposed the penalty of death by flagellation on anyone who insulted the companions or the wives the prophet. According to Tabatabai, al-Mutawakkil openly cursed Ali ibn Ali Talib, the fourth Rashidun caliph and the first Shia Imam, and ordered a clown to ridicule Ali in his banquets. By his orders, the shrine of Ali's son, Husayn, was demolished in Karbala, water was turned upon the tomb, and the ground of the tomb was plowed and cultivated to remove any trace of it, in order to stop Shia pilgrimages to the site. Tabatabai writes that the anti-Shia policies of al-Mutawakkil pushed many Alids in Hejaz and Egypt into destitute.

It was during the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil that the governor of Medina, Abdallah ibn Moḥammad, wrote to the caliph and warned him about the subversive activities of al-Hadi, claiming that he had concealed a quantity of arms and books for his followers. When al-Hadi learned about this letter, he also wrote to al-Mutawakkil and defended himself against the accusations. In response, the caliph assured al-Hadi of his highest regard for him but requested that he with his family relocate to Samarra, a garrison town not far from Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasids at the time and where the Turkish guards were stationed. Donaldson, however, includes the account of al-Masudi that the Imam's residence was searched by Yahya ibn Harthama, without finding any evidence of subversion, and al-Hadi was arrested and brought to the caliph in Samarra. A similar account is reported by Amir-Moezzi. The dates for these events are given variously as 847, 848, and 857, though Madelung suggests that 857 is evidently incorrect. When al-Hadi approached Baghdad, people are said to have gathered to see him and he was received warmly by the governor who rode out of the city to welcome him and stayed with him for a while. According to Madelung, al-Hadi arrived in Samarra on 23 Ramadan 233 (1 May 848). The caliph did not immediately receive him but assigned a house for his residence in the al-Askar (lit. the army) quarter of the city, which was chiefly occupied by the army. According to Northedge, his residence was in the center of the city on Shari' (lit. street) Abi Ahmad.

Al-Hadi lived in Samarra under constant surveillance until his death, some twenty years later. Hulmes, Momen, Mavani, and Aslan liken al-Hadi to a prisoner in this period, while Madelung quotes al-Hadi as reportedly saying that he had come to Samarra involuntarily but would leave the city only against his will, as he liked the quality of its water and air. In any case, al-Hadi was allowed to move freely in the city and he evidently maintained contact with his representatives (wokala) sending them his instructions and receiving through them the donations of the Shia. According to Momen, there is evidence that al-Mutawakkil at least once attempted to kill al-Hadi, while Tabatabai writes that the caliph summoned al-Hadi multiple times with the aim of killing or disgracing him and had his house searched.

Reigns of al-Muntasir (r. 861 – 862), al-Musta'in (r. 862 – 866), and al-Mu'tazz (r. 866 – 869)

Al-Hadi continued to live in Samarra after the death of al-Mutawakkil in 861, through the short reign of al-Muntasir, followed by four years of al-Musta'in, and until his death in 868 during the caliphate of al-Mu'tazz.


After the death of al-Jawad in 835, most of his followers acknowledged his son, Ali al-Hadi, as the next Imam. As with his father, Ali was still a minor when he succeeded to the imamate at the age of about seven. According to Madelung, al-Jawad's will stipulated that al-Hadi would inherit from him to the exclusion of his other son, Musa al-Mobarraqa. According to Modarresi, even in this late stage of the history of Imamate, mere lineage or seniority among the descendants of the late Imam was not considered sufficient for succession. The Shia community had to be convinced that the new Imam was actually appointed by his predecessor. According to a report cited by Modarressi, on the day of Muhammad al-Jawad's death, a servant of al-Jawad, Khayran al-Khadim, testified that al-jawad had named Ali al-Hadi as his successor. the Shia elders gathered to decide the issue and after discussions, they eventually accepted his words. Madelung adds that a small group gathered around Musa but soon returned to al-Hadi after the former dissociated himself from them.

His representatives

Bernheimer considers the imamate of al-Hadi as a turning point for the Shia, for the direct leadership of the Shia community by the Imams effectively ended when he was summoned in 848 to Samarra, where he was held under constant surveillance by the Abbasid caliphs until his death. By this time a network of representatives had already developed. According to Daftary, this network of representatives developed into an organized institution for the financial administration of the Shia community. According to Abdulaziz Sachedina, the representatives were responsible for managing the Shia community. These representatives included Uthman ibn Sa'id al-Asadi, who was later recognized as the first deputy of the twelfth Imam, Mahdi.


In Twelver Shia, al-Hadi is described as being endowed with the knowledge of the languages of the Persians, Slavs, Indians and Nabataeans, in addition to accurately prophesying other events, including the death of al-Mutawakkil, who had either imprisoned or humiliated al-Hadi. In the presence of al-Mutawakkil, he unmasked a woman claiming to be Zaynab, daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib, whom she claimed to be alive. He did so by descending into a lions' den to prove that they do not harm true descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib, which the woman refused to imitate. It is also said that he brought to life a picture of lion on a carpet, which then ate a juggler who was trying to humiliate al-Hadi by his tricks, on the order of al-Mutawakkil. Another narration states that he turned a handful of sands into gold for the poor.


After al-Hadi, the majority of his followers acknowledged his son, Hasan, as their next Imam. According to Madelung, some had expected another son of al-Hadi, Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi, to be the next Imam but he predeceased his father in Samarra. Although a group believed that this son is the hidden imam. Ibn Nusayr, who gave Ali al-Hadi the status of lordship and claimed to be his prophet, was probably related to this group. He is considered the founder of a Ghali sect of Shia called Nusayris.

After al-Hadi, his another son, Ja'far ibn Ali al-Hadi, unsuccessfully claimed the imamate for himself. According to Pakatchi, the death of Muhammad and the inappropriate characteristics of Jafar caused Hassan Askari not to face a serious challenge from those who claimed their imamate, but his main problem was with those who believed in the termination of the imamate. These doubts and disagreements caused Hasan Askari to try to establish his Imamate and dispel doubts and disagreements by sending letters to his companions in different areas where Shias have lived. Shia sources report that al-Hadi designated Hasan as the next Imam a month before his death in 868. Hasan had accompanied his father to Samarra and was similarly held there under close surveillance.

Al Askari Mosque
Al-Askari shrine before the 2006 bombing


Al-Askari Mosque 2006
Al-Askari shrine in Samarra, Iraq damaged by bombings twice in 2006 and 2007

According to al-Tabari and al-Kulayni, al-Hadi died on 26 Jumada al-Thani 254 (21 June 868) at the age of about forty and during the caliphate of al-Mu'tazz. Other given dates fall in Jumada al-Thani and Rajab 868. In particular, 3 Rajab is annually commemorated by the Shia.

Shia sources suggest that he was poisoned by the Abbasids, though the manner of his death is disputed. While Tabatabai holds that al-Hadi was poisoned by the order of al-Mu'tazz, al-Mufid is silent about the cause of death of the Imam, and the historian Ya'qubi writes that he died mysteriously. Al-Muwaffaq, brother of the caliph, is said to have led the funeral prayer. The large number of mourners, however, forced the family to bring the body of al-Hadi back to the house, where he was then buried. The house was later expanded to a major shrine by various Shia and Sunni patrons. More recently, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar ordered to rebuild the complex in 1868-9 and the golden dome was added in 1905. The shrine also houses the tombs of his son, Hasan al-Askari, and his sister, Hakima Khatun. As an important destination for Shia pilgrimage, the shrine was bombed in February 2006 and badly damaged. Another attack was executed on 13 June 2007, which led to the destruction of the two minarets of the shrine. Authorities in Iraq hold al-Qaeda responsible for this attack.

Personal life

Donaldson writes that al-Hadi comes across as a good-tempered, quiet man, who endured for years the hatred of al-Mutawakkil with dignity and patience. Al-Hadi was survived by two sons, namely, Ja'far and Hasan, who succeeded to the imamate. Hasan was born in Medina to a freed slave (umm walad), whose name is variously given as Hudayth, Susan, or Salil in different sources. According to Madelung, another son of al-Hadi, Abu Ja'far Muḥammad, predeceased his father in Samarra.


A theological treatise on free will and some other short texts are ascribed to al-Hadi and quoted in Tuhaf al-Uqul. According to Mavani, most Shia hadiths about Khums (Islamic alms, lit. one-fifth) are attributed to al-Hadi and his predecessor, al-Jawad. Mavani regards Khums as an example of the Imams’ discretionary authority as religious and temporal Shia leaders, which in this case countered the redirection of Zakat (another Islamic alms) to sustain oppressive regimes and support the affluent lifestyle of caliphs. Donaldson mentions one of the prophetic traditions related on the authority of al-Hadi, through Ali ibn Abi Talib, in which the prophet defines faith (iman) as contained in the hearts of men, and that their works (a’mal) confirm it, whereas surrender (islam) is what the tongue expresses which only validates the union. Mavani quotes another hadith, ascribed to al-Hadi and transmitted by al-Tabarsi:

After the occultation of your Qa'im, a group of the religious scholars (ulama) will call people to believe in his [al-Qa'im’s] imamate and defend his religion by using proofs sent by Allah, so that they might save the weak-minded faithful from either the deceptions of Satan and his followers or the deceptions of the anti-Alids (al-nawasib). If none of these ulama remain, then everyone will stray from the religion of Allah. However, as the pilot holds the rudder of the ship, the ulama will hold firmly onto the hearts of the weak-minded Shia, preventing them from straying. Those ulama are the most excellent in the view of Allah the Exalted.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ali al-Hadi para niños


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  • Amir-Moezzi, Mohammad Ali (1994). The Divine Guide in Early Shi'ism : The Sources of Esotericism in Islam. State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780585069722.
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Ali al-Hadi
of the Ahl al-Bayt
Banu Hashim
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: 15th Dhu al-Hijjah 212 AH 5th 827–830 CE Died: 3rd Rajab 254 AH 27th 868 CE
Shī‘a Islam titles
Preceded by
Muhammad al-Taqi
10th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
Succeeded by
Hasan al-Askari
Succeeded by
Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi
Muhammadite Shia successor
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