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Scholar, saint and activist

La ilaha illa'llah! cried the large crowd that had assembled in Mecca at midday on the 14th of Rajab 1416 for the funeral of the Imam, the Sayyid, the Habib Ahmad Mashhur bin Taha al-Haddad. La ilaha illa'llah was to be heard uninterruptedly from the time the procession set off from the door of the Ka'ba, slowly winding its way through the streets of the holy city to the Ma'la cemetery, until the Habib was laid to rest in the enclosure traditionally reserved for the 'Alawi sayyids.

La ilaha illa'llah had been the pivot and driving force in Habib Ahmad's life, having received it from his teachers who transmitted it to him through the numerous unbroken chains linking them to the Prophet, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him and his family. He spent his life giving to others and linking them to the same chains. He taught it to his students, training them to live it, not just know it mentally, to put all worldly concerns behind them and live solely for the sake of Allah.

Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha Al-Haddad was a Sayyid of the Husayni Sharifs of South Yemen known as the Bani 'Alawi. Their ancestor, Imam Ahmad al-Muhajir, left his native Iraq for Hadramawt where he settled in the fourth century of the Hijra and where his offspring still flourish. It was after his grandson, Imam Alawi, that the Bani Alawi were named. Their numbers increased as time went by and they produced generation after generation of outstanding scholars who deeply influenced the Islamic community. It was through the efforts of those of them who emigrated eastward that Islam spread in South-East Asia. They also travelled westward. to the East African coast and islands.

Habib Ahmad was born in the small town of Qaydun in Hadramawt. He memorized the Qur'an at an early age, then studied the Arabic and the religious sciences. Among the major influences shaping his life, that of his mother was undoubtedly the earliest. The Sharifa Safia was a true 'Alawiyya, a saintly woman who knew the Qur'an and the Shari'a.


Allah's solicitude had granted the Habib the gift of following the Sunna of his ancestor the Prophet, may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him and his family, with such sincerity and tenacity that, like him, he became the Qur'an "lived" and "realised". He was such a man that his loss will reverberate across large tracts of this planet. He is irreplaceable and those who have known him, even briefly, have been shown such Divine generosity that nothing they can do to express their gratitude will ever be sufficient.

May Allah repay our debt to him on our behalf and on the behalf of the whole Muslim community as befits the magnitude of His grace and the infinity of His generosity, Amin!

(Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, the translator of Habib Ahmad Mashhur bin Taha al-Haddad's Key to the Garden, published by the Quilliam Press.)

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