This was delivered by Ustada Muniba Ahmed on 14th Ramadan 1441 as part of the Dar al-Zahra (Liverpool) ‘Awakening the Hearts’ series.

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.

I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.

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Hababa Alawiyya bt. Husayn bt. Ahmad bt. Ali bt. al-Hadi was born in 1240AH in Shibam. She died in Seiyun at the age of 69 in 1309AH. She memorised the Qur’an at a young age, was teaching young girls, and attending the gatherings of Habib Ahmad b. Umar b. Sumayt.

Another scholar, Habib Muhammad al-Habashi came to visit his teachers in Shibam and was also looking for a wife. After the early morning gathering, he asked his teachers if they knew of a woman who could help him with his mission in calling to Allah. Look at his intention. He didn’t ask about her beauty, wealth or family. He didn’t care about her outward appearance. He wanted someone who can teach other women.

Habib Ahmad b. Umar b. Sumayt and his cousin immediately recommended her. He wanted to marry her immediately but they said they need to ask her father’s permission first. They praised him well in front of her father and he said let me ask my daughter for her consent and consult my wife. In the afternoon, her father said they accepted the proposal.

Habib Ahmad said to the father that Habib Muhammad was in a hurry and wanted the nikah that afternoon and he wants to take his wife the same evening. The father said marhaban. They asked him what the dowry is.

Her father said: “Is she a cow that is sold and bought? She is Sharifa Alawiyya, he can give her what the other ladies of the Prophetic household receive.”
In her time, the dowry was 20 qirsh.
When the pious found out about this blessed marriage, they all contributed towards the walima. The women also collected basic things needed for a bride. There was no time to prepare for a proper ceremony.

The next morning, the groom took permission from the bride’s father and they bid their farewells to families and teachers. They began the long journey. The proposal was at Duha, agreement at Dhuhr, at Asr was the nikah, and after Isha she was taken to her groom. Next morning, they were already setting off. Ajeeb! I have never heard of a marriage taking place in such a short space of time.

They travelled by donkey from Shibam and visited neighbouring scholars on the way for blessings. They reached Taribah in the late evening; the same town that Hababa Zahra was born in. When they reached there, Habib Muhammad had a house and he was settled there at the time. Habib told his new bride to wait in the kitchen as he had to inform his other wife that he was bringing another one. He needed time to break the news to her. She had been travelling all day long with this strange man at 16 years old.

What would her response be? She said, “Go ahead, whatever you need to do, my family entrusted me to Allah. Allah will never abandon me. Whoever is with Allah, Allah is with them.”

How many 16 year olds can handle this situation?

She put her bundled bag against a grinding mill made of stone and rested. Before fajr, the co-wife came down to welcome her with a warm, apologetic smile and invited her into the room she set up for her. She had no jealousy as she understood the marriage. Hababa Alawiyya was already up and had found a 60 year old woman who had never prayed before. She taught her how to make wudu and pray. Her husband also set up a room for her to teach women and girls. In 3 days, she made 40 prayer kamees and 4 rows of women were praying behind her.

Her husband was so happy that he told his teachers in Shibam about the fast progress his wife was making in the dawah work. When the letter arrived, Habib Ahmad b. Umar b. Sumayt read it and could not contain his happiness. He asked a man in the masjid with the loudest voice to go up and for everyone to hear the story.

People were saying: What is wrong with the family of al-Hadi? Why did they marry her quietly? Why did no-one escort her? Habib Ahmad answered them, “By Allah, indeed the angels escorted her.”

While in Taribah, Habib Muhammad would always take her to neighbouring towns to teach women. They also travelled to Tarim several times. Then, he was instructed by Habib Abdullah b. Husayn b. Tahir to move to Qasam with his family. When his teachers asked him, he immediately accepted the order. When his teacher asked what compensation he would like to set up the new home? He responded, “I don’t need any compensation, just reward from Allah as I am following His command and of His Messenger and your command. The One who facilitated in the old town will facilitate me in the new town.”

His teacher was happy and prayed to Allah to protect his children. Soon after they moved, Hababa Alawiyya became pregnant with her only child (a son) and had a dream of the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him). She saw him sinking under the ground and she was trying to pull him until his body came up from the ground. When he stood on the ground, she saw a change of light coming from his blessed feet like pearls. The interpretation was that Allah would revive the religion by her and her son. What glad-tiding!

At birth, her husband was out of town and he instructed her not to feed the child until she took the child to his Shaykh, Habib Abdullah b. Husayn b. Tahir, for tahneek. Habib Ali al-Habashi was born in Qasam on Friday morning,  24th Shawwal, 1259 AH. Habib Abdullah gave him the name Ali and said he will achieve great stature.

He was also called Ali as Habib Ali Khali’ al-Qasam was settled there and he planted the palm trees. He is the grandfather of Faqih al-Muqaddam. When he was in prayer, in tahiyyat, and he greeted the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him), he would hear the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) respond ‘as-salam alayka ya Shaykh.’

After 5 years, he was instructed to move to Makkah to be the Mufti of Makkah. He moved with 4 of his sons from the first wife and left Hababa Alawiyya with her step-daughters and son. She continued teaching and nurturing her child. She nurtured in her son the love of Allah, the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him), the righteous, and for dawah. At 6, he was praying all his prayers in the masjid in congregation, attending Friday prayer, and attending gatherings of knowledge.

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Habib Ali said his mother taught him to recite this dua before sleeping.

When Habib Ali turned 11, Hababa Alawiyya was told to move to Tarim or Seiyun for her son to take from those regions. After consulting Habib Abdullah b. Husayn b. Tahir, she chose Seiyun as it was close to her family and her husband’s extended family. She continued to teach the women and send her son to scholars of that time.

When Habib Ali reached 16, his father told him to come to Makkah with the Hajj caravan to perform Hajj and to take from those scholars. After Hajj, father wanted to keep him for a longer time but his mother missed him a lot although she knew he needed to take from his father too. She would pray to Allah to bring her son back to her. After 2 ½ years, Allah answered her dua and he was sent on a mission back to Seiyun. It is Allah arranging all the affairs.

After 5 years, her husband passed in Makkah at age of 68 and was buried there.

She continued to be the backbone of the dawah of her son that he was energetically reviving. Habib Ali would consult his mother in everything and wouldn’t do anything without her blessing or permission.

He opened the first historical Ribat in Hadramawt and also built a masjid called al-Riyad named after the garden of jannah. Students came from all over the world to study at the Ribat and to seek knowledge from him. He also wrote a beautiful mawlid called Simt ad-Durur and many other poems.

Habib Ali was given the title by some as the ‘Holder of the Love Banner’. He would organise huge mawlid gatherings especially in Rabi’ al-Awwal and thousands of people attended and he used to feed them all. Sometimes it would be 30-40,000 people. They would stay in Seiyun for 3-4 days and he would feed them and their animals. He had a gift for calling people to Allah and His Messenger (prayers and peace be upon him).

Last Thursday of Rabi’,
Mawlid Anisa is held.

Just mentioning his name affects your heart.

His gatherings were gatherings of huge expansion, happiness, and joy. He was more jamali than jalali; like most of our Habaib these days. He was really talented in putting people in good moods.

He would start gatherings by saying, “What a great Lord we have. What a great majlis we are having where the Prophet is attending with us.”

In one poem he (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

O my brethren, our Lord is so compassionate and generous
He doesn’t deserve to be disobeyed and we will all admit by saying we have disobeyed Him
So let’s all ask for forgiveness
Say with me:
We repent to Allah.

Habib Ali had a great heart that was so big and pure and that was strongly attached to Allah and His Beloved (prayers and peace be upon him). He also had a heart that was overflowing with mercy towards all of creation. He was a reviver of the religion of the 13th century.

Let us reflect. Where do you think he inherited all this? Habib Ali will not be Habib Ali without Umm Ali, and Abu Ali, of course. But, importantly Umm Ali. He would proudly say in public that, “I am unique to scholars of my time because I was raised by a woman. Everything you see, I got it from my mother.”

He said when I was young and read about any wali, I would ask my mum to face the qibla, raise her hands and to ask Allah to give your son Ali such-and-such like so-and-so and I would say Ameen to all her duas. What a smart boy, right?

Habib Ali also said that I would hear my mother repeat this dua: “Ali, may Allah raise his station in dunya and akhira.”

Habib Ali would also say in public that I don’t own a dirham. Everything belongs to my mother; the masjid, the Ribat, the wealth, the prestige and myself. If my mother was to take me to the market as a slave, I wouldn’t object. She can do with me whatever she wants.

This is a Qutb saying this with 1000s of students.

Before she passed away, Habib Ali would have many awliya over for dinner. They were having a gathering after dinner and suddenly they heard a voice behind the curtain. Hababa Alawiya was addressing them, “O those in this gathering, bear witness I am pleased with my son, Ali. Bear witness for me that he never disobeyed me.”

He was so thrilled and said to those in the gathering, “Did you hear what I did?”
When they said yes, he said, “AlhamduliLlah and I want you to bear witness for me on the Day of Judgement that my mother is pleased with me.” What a great accomplishment?

I want you to think: Why did his mother tell him this publicly? You can be on top of the world but if your mother is not pleased with you, what benefit is that? With that simple gesture, he was raised in the rank in the sight of his peers.

She passed at the age of 69 in Rabi al’Thani.

Imagine! These people, they never took a vacation.

Some say if the Ba’Alawis didn’t have any other scholars in their progeny, Habib Ali would suffice them as an honour.

He was greatly saddened by the passing of his mother but honoured her by establishing a school and a musalla (prayer area) for women after her.

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His family are treated like royalty in Seiyun and he is still very popular. He passed 25 years later in 1333AH. His life is commemorated in Rabi al’ Thani. Many people name their children Alawiyya and Ali. The Hawliya is held all over the world. Last year when I attended, I noticed that they recited Fatiha for the deceased and when they mentioned the names, they always start with Hababa Alawiyya then her husband, then her son Habib Ali. When she passed, some of the awliya saw that the angels were also helping in carrying her janazah to the graveside. Just like her wedding night.

Words cannot do any justice to convey the greatness of these great awliya. I ask Allah to forgive me for any
mistakes in misrepresenting them. Even though I hadn’t met her,
I have had the honour to be in the company of her great great great grand children. An honour I cherish deeply in my heart. And, I pray Allah gathers us with her, all the awliya and the Prophets and Messengers on the Day of Judgement.

One of the scholars described Hababa Alawiya as: A woman of knowledge and intellect who had ways of teaching the ignorant, was wise and virtuous, and had a long-hand in dawah especially in teaching women. Allah chose her amongst many with great gifts; from the greatest gifts is that she is the mother of our teacher Habib Ali al-Habashi.

Now, we will mention (some of) the lessons we can derive from her life.

  1. Importance in intention when seeking a wife or husband.
  2. Nurture the love of Allah, the Prophet, awliya, deen, khidma ,and dawa in the hearts of your children.
  3. Always make dua for your children and entrust them to Allah.
  4. Don’t always wait for your children. When I’m having a bad day, nothing can fix it like a call from my mother. Today, I am having a great day as I had a call from my mother last night. Try to be the number one for your children. Ask yourself, when was the last time that you told your children that you love them or are pleased with them? It makes a world of difference. Tell them even if they only get one thing right out of 10. Tell them you are pleased with the one thing.
    Once a supervisor complained to Hababa Umm Salim al-Haddar about students’ conduct. She responded to her by saying, “Don’t complain to me about the Dar al-Zahra girls, if they are praying 5 prayers in congregation, I consider them as awliya.”

If it wasn’t for my parents and teachers who had great opinion of me and had great hopes for me, I wouldn’t be here now. The best of parents are those who make it easy for their children to obey them. Help your children to be obedient to you. I’m not a mother but you have a special divine gift from Allah with jannah at your feet and an accepted dua. I am begging you that we desperately need you and your prayers. Don’t ever give up on us!

We ask Allah (Exalted is He) to grant us tawfiq in attaching to the Greats and becoming from them.

Allahumma Ameen. Allahumma Ameen. Allahumma Ameen.

These are notes. Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.