Book Review: A Blessed Valley – Volume One

A Blessed Valley

Title: A Blessed Valley – Volume One – Wadi Hadramawt & The Alawi Tradition
Author: Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi
Publisher: Guidance Media (2013)

Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi is a psychiatrist by profession and has studied for many decades under traditional scholars, the foremost among whom is the late Habib Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad. He has written and translated many works of and about Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad from the Ba’Alawi tradition, including Sufi Sage of Arabia, The Prophetic Invocations, The Book of Assistance, The Lives of Man and many others.

The book, The Blessed Valley, is a largely a biographical work of the scholarly and spiritual leaders from among the Prophetic household. The back cover describes the book:

One of the purest lineages of the People of House is that of the Ba-Alawi sayyids of Hadramawt. Their tradition and chains of transmission remain unbroken to this day. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Alawis all over the world, a good number of whom are authoritative scholars, and many of whom achieve sanctity, whether or not they reveal to the external observer anything of their inner states. Their influence in the Islamic world is bound to remain substantial in the foreseeable future, if not, as once stated by Imam al-Haddad, until the appearance of the Mahdi. It is in order to illustrate the continuity of their pattern of knowledge and sanctity and connect it to their current influence that this book has been written.

Towards the end of the book, further elaboration is provided:

..the main purpose of such a work is to encourage people to seek the straight path by following what came to us from our Lord through our beloved Muhammad, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him and his family, in the way of commands and prohibitions.

The first chapter of the book is called The House of Prophecy, in which Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi summarizes the station of the Prophetic Household, highlighting the marriage of Ali with Fatima, may Allah be pleased with them. Dr. Mostafa mentions a few hadiths related to status of Ali and Fatima, may Allah be pleased with them:

The Prophet, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, gave indications as to how this was to be when he said, ‘I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. He who desires the city, let him come to the gate.’ He, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, also said, ‘Ali is with the Qur’an and the Qur’an with Ali; they will not part till they meet with me at the Basin.’

As for Fatima, The Prophet, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, declared that she also had reached the highest degree of sanctity when he drew four lines in the sand, then asked, ‘Do you know what this is?’ The Companions said, God and His Messenger know best.’ He, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, said, ‘The woman whose rank is highest in the Garden are Khadija, daughter of Khuwaylid; Fatima, daughter of Muhammad; Maryam, daughter of Imran and Asiya, daughter of Muzahim, Pharaoh’s wife’.

Further to this union and emphasizing the status their offspring:

On more than one occasion, as recounted by his wives, the Prophet, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, covered himself, Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn, under his cloak, reciting the famous ‘verse of purification’, ‘God only desires to put away from you impurity, O People of the House, and purify you thoroughly.’ 33:33

In the first few pages of the book, Dr. al-Badawi also discusses the Prophet’s, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him, sermon on his farewell pilgrimage, in which the strength of the narrations containing ‘I have left among you that which if you hold on to firmly, you will never go astray, the Book of God and..’ are briefly examined. Dr. al-Badawi explains that the latter part of the sentence is narrated as ‘and my family, the People of the House’ as being the stronger narration, as opposed to ‘and my sunna’. Dr. al-Badawi also covers some fascinating historical considerations of events that occurred from the time of Imam Ali’s caliphate to the reign of Umar ibn Abdal Aziz, with regards to the general treatment given to Imam Ali and his descendants.

The book continues with chapters dedicated to specific individuals in the lineage that was to follow, starting with Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin, son of Husayn (may Allah be pleased with him). Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidien was the only male survivor of the Karbala massacre and is the ancestor of every Husayni sayyid on earth today.

Chapter 12, titled ‘The Moroccan Pilgrim’, departs from the biographical nature of the book, and relates a wonderful account of a Moroccan pilgrim from approximately 1461 C.E. The Moroccan pilgrim visits Tarim after visiting the two Noble Sanctuaries during his pilgrimage. His account leaves the reader in awe and with an intense longing to meet, and be in the company of, the People of House as he describes it. It is a lengthy chapter, yet each paragraph leaves the reader only longing for more.

The book ends with Chapter 16, titled, ‘The Banner of Light’, which is a short treatise by Habib Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Attas describing the method of the Ba’Alawis and its merits. This chapter has many subheadings including: The Method of the Bani Alawi is the Book and the Sunna, The Bani Alawi’s Dislike of Fame and Eminence, Ardour in Worship and Hiding it, Detachment of the Bani Alawi from the Things of this World, Modesty of the Bani Alawi and Acquisition of Noble Character, Purity of the Bani Alawi from Innovations, The Path of the Bani Alawi is the Straightest of Paths, Merits of the Books of Imam Ghazali, The Alawi Method and others.

With regards to the Ihya, it is related that Shaykh Abdallah ibn Ahmad Ba-Sawdan wrote:

..swim in the ocean of the Ihya, so that you become one of the living (Ahya)

It is also mentioned that Imam Haddad has said:

Ghazali is a favour that God has granted this community, for he scrutinized the sciences and spun them. No scholar has reached his status.

In the footnote for the word spun, Dr. al-Badawi writes:

Al-Ghazali is the ‘spinner’ who spins wool or cotton into thread in preparation for weaving them into fabric. Imam Al-Ghazali spun the wool of religious sciences into threads, then wove them into a fabric easy to use by students and laymen alike.

Imam Haddad is also reported to have said:

The books of Ghazali are loved only by a believer whose heart is illuminated and who is critical of his own self, for they are the truth and contain no deceit.

A Bless Valley is a great account of the spiritual masters of the Ba’Alawi tradition. This is a must read for those interested in the deep tradition of the ‘People of the House’ and the spiritual masters of the Ba’Alawi tradition, from this blessed valley of Hadramawt and the blessed city of Tarim.

For further research, Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf has a 6-part audio series on ‘The Bani ‘Alawi: Background, Key Figures and the Spiritual Path’, these can be accessed here:

http://seekersguidance.org/blog/2012/05/the-bani-%E2%80%98alawi-background-key-figures-and-the-spiritual-path-treasures-for-the-seeker-blog/

Additionally there are a set of videos by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus about the blessed tradition of Tarim, they can be accessed here:

Part 1: Tarim, City of Light • Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (Part1/3)

Part 2: Tarim, City of Light • Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (Part2/3)

Part 3: Tarim, City of Light • Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (Part3/3)

May Allah increase all those who assisted in the minutest way of making this book available, increase the love in our hearts for the People of the House, and bless us all to follow in the footsteps of our Beloved Prophet, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him. Ameen.

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