ʿALĪ AL-HĀDĪ, ABU’L-ḤASAN, B. MOḤAMMAD B. ʿALĪ B. MŪSĀ AL-ʿASKARĪ, the 10th imam of the Emāmī Shiʿites (d. 254/868). Besides Hādī, his most common epithet is Naqī; in Shiʿite sources he is often referred to as Abu’l-Ḥasan al-Ṯāleṯ. He was born, according to the best authenticated report, on 16 Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa 212/7 March 828 in Ṣorayyā (?), a village three miles from Medina founded by his great-grandfather, Mūsā al-Kāẓem. Other dates given for his birth are in Raǰab or Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa, 213 or 214/September, 828/January, 830. His mother was a concubine named Samāna or Sūsan, probably of Maḡrebī origin. When his father, Imam Moḥammad al-Jawād, died in Baghdad on 6 Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa 220/30 November 835, he was still a minor. According to his father’s will, he was to receive his estates, property, and slaves after reaching majority to the exclusion of his brother Mūsā. The followers of his father generally recognized him as imam. Later a small group broke away under unexplained circumstances, claiming that Mūsā was the imam; they soon returned to allegiance to ʿAlī, since Mūsā dissociated himself from them. After the accession of Motawakkel (r. 232-47/847-61) to the caliphate, the governor of Medina, ʿAbdallāh b. Moḥammad b. Dāʾūd Hāšemī, wrote the caliph, warning about the activity of ʿAlī and his followers. The imam in turn sent a letter to Motawakkel defending himself against the accusations and complaining about the governor. Motawakkel replaced the governor and, in a letter, assured ʿAlī of his highest regard and trust but requested that he move to the caliph’s residence, together with those members of his family, clients, and servants whom he might wish to bring along. He sent Yaḥyā b. Harṯama b. Aʿyan to Medina to provide the imam with a military escort. Motawakkel’s letter as quoted by Kolaynī and Shaikh Mofīd may well be authentic, though its date was evidently wrongly transmitted to Mofīd as Jomādā II, 243/October, 857, instead of 233/January, 848. When the imam reached Baghdad, many people gathered to see him, and the governor, the Taherid Esḥāq b. Ebrāhīm, rode out to meet him and stayed with him for part of the night. He arrived in Sāmarrāʾ on 23 Ramażān 233/1 May 848. The caliph did not immediately receive him but, on the next day, assigned a house for his residence. The imam remained in Sāmarrāʾ for the rest of his life; he is quoted as stating that he had come there involuntarily but would leave only against his will, since he preferred the quality of its air and water. Though under constant observation, he was free to move in the town and shared in the life of high society. He was evidently able to maintain contact with his representatives among his followers, sending them his instructions and receiving through them the financial contributions of the faithful from the ḵoms and religious vows. He later bought several houses in Sāmarrāʾ. According to Ṭabarī and Kolaynī, he died on 26 Jomādā II 254/21 June 868. Other dates mentioned in the sources fall within Jomāda II and Raǰab 254/June-July, 868. The caliph Moʿtazz sent his brother Abū Aḥmad Mowaffaq to lead the funeral prayer for him. When large crowds gathered to lament him, his corpse was returned to his house, which he had bought from the Christian Dolayl b. Yaʿqūb, and was buried there. His son Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad, who had originally been expected to succeed him in the imamate, had died before him in Sāmarrāʾ. Two other sons survived him—Ḥasan, who became his successor, and Jaʿfar.

Emāmī tradition relates many miracles of Imam ʿAlī al-Hādī; he is described in particular as endowed with the knowledge of the languages of the Persians, Slavs, Indians, and Nabateans, as foreknowing unexpected storms and as accurately prophesying deaths and other events. Thus he is reported to have cursed Motawakkel and to have correctly predicted his death within three days after the caliph had either humiliated him (by ordering him, together with other Hashimites and dignitaries, to dismount and walk in front of himself and Fatḥ b. Ḵaqān) or had imprisoned him. In the presence of Motawakkel, he unmasked a woman falsely claiming to be Zaynab, the daughter of Imam Ḥosayn, by descending into a lions’ den in order to prove that lions do not harm true descendants of ʿAlī (a like miracle is also attributed to his grandfather ʿAlī al-Reżā). He brought a lion pictured on a carpet to life and made it swallow an Indian juggler who had, on the order of Motawakkel, tried to put him to shame by his tricks; and he turned a handful of sand and stones into gold for a needy follower. According to Ebn Bābūya, he was poisoned by Motawakkel or Moʿtamed (r. 256-79/870-92), neither of whom, however, was caliph at the time of the death of the Imam. A theological treatise on human free will and some other short texts and statements ascribed to him are quoted by Ebn Šoʿba Ḥarrānī (Toḥaf al-ʿoqūl, Beirut, 1389/1969, pp. 338-58).


See also Yaʿqūbī, II, pp. 591f., 614.

Nawbaḵtī, Feraq al-šīʿa, ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul, 1931, pp. 77-79.

Ašʿarī Qomī, al-Maqālāt wa’l-feraq, ed. M. J. Maškūr, Tehran, 1963, pp. 99-101.

Ṭabarī, III, pp. 1379, 1697.

Kolaynī, al-Kāfī, ed. ʿA. A. Ḡaffārī, Tehran, 1381/1961, I, pp. 323-25, 497-502.

Masʿūdī, Morūǰ VII, pp. 206-09, 379-83.

Idem (?), Eṯbāt al-waṣīya, Naǰaf, 1958, pp. 187-97.

Mofīd, al-Eršād, ed. K. Mūsawī Meyāmavī, Tehran, 1377/1957-58, pp. 307-14.

Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād XII, pp. 56f.

Sebṭ b. Jawzī, Taḏkerat al-ḵawāṣṣ, Naǰaf, 1383/1964, pp. 359-62.

Ebn Ḵallekān (Beirut), III, pp. 272f.

Maǰlesī, Beḥār al-anwār, Tehran, 1335 Š.-/1956-, I, pp. 113-232.

D. M. Donaldson, The Shiite Religion, London, 1933, pp. 209-16.

Aʿyān al-šīʿa IV/2, pp. 252-78. EI2 I, p. 713.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 1, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 861-862

Cite this entry:

W. Madelung, “ʿALĪ AL-HĀDĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, pp. 861-862, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-al-hadi-abul-hasan-b (accessed on 30 December 2012).