Imam al Hadi (AS) grew up in a family different from all families in its noble conducts, high morals, and lofty virtues. Their young revered the old and the old respected the young. Historians mentioned wonderful anecdotes of the high conduct of the members of this great family. They relate that Imam al-Husayn (AS) never spoke before his brother Imam al-Hasan (AS) as a kind of reverence.
They said that Imam Zaynul Aabidin (AS) did not eat with his mother or nursemaid for fear that he might eat something that his mother or nursemaid had looked at to pick and then he might be undutiful to her. These morals were like the morals of the prophets that were, and are not found, in any other than this great family. Imam al Hadi (AS) grew up under the wing of his father Imam al-Jawad (AS) who was the most wonderful example of virtues and high morals. Imam al-Jawad (AS) shed light from his soul on his son and planted his virtues into him. He always praised his son and showed his admiration of his talents and intellectual abilities.
Historians said that when Imam al-Jawad (AS) wanted to go to Iraq, he seated Imam al Hadi (AS), who was six years then, in his lap and said to him, ‘What do you like as present from the masterpieces of Iraq?’ Imam al Hadi (AS) smiled and said, ‘A sword like a flame.’ Imam al-Jawad (AS) turned to his son Musa and said to him, ‘And you! What do you like?’ Musa said, ‘Some mats.’ Imam al-Jawad (AS) did not hide his admiration and he said to his son al Hadi (AS), ‘Abul Hasan (al Hadi) is like me…!’ He was delighted because this showed courage and valor that were from his and his fathers’ qualities.
His Early Genius
The intelligence, intellectual abilities, and talents which Imam al-Hadi (AS) had in his childhood astonished the minds and amazed the intellect. He had a strong memory, excessive intelligence, and sharp wit. Historians have mentioned many examples of his intelligence. They mentioned that al-Mu’tasim, the Abbasid caliph, after having assassinated Imam Muhammad al-Jawad (AS), charged Umar bin al-Faraj to go to Yathrib (Medina) in order to choose a teacher for Imam al-Hadi (AS) who was six years and some months old then. He asked him to choose a teacher that must be one of the enemies of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) so that he (the teacher) would feed him hatred towards the Ahlul Bayt (AS). When Umar arrived in Yathrib, he met the wali there and informed him of his task. The wali and some others directed him to al-Junaydi who had intense ill will towards the Alawids.
Umar sent for al-Junaydi who accepted the task. A monthly salary was assigned to al-Junaydi and he was charged to prevent the Shia from visiting or contacting Imam al-Hadi (AS). Al-Junaydi began teaching Imam al-Hadi (AS) but he was astonished at his sharp wit and acute intelligence. One day, Muhammad bin Ja’far met al-Junaydi and asked him, ‘What about this boy (Imam al-Hadi) whom you teach?’ Al-Junaydi said to him angrily, ‘Do you say “this boy” and not “this sheikh”? I ask you by Allah; do you know anyone in Medina more aware in knowledge and literature than me?’
Muhammad bin Ja’far said, ‘No!’ Al-Junaydi said, ‘I mention some matters of literature and think that I have elaborated upon them, but he (Imam al-Hadi) opens sections of literature where I myself learn from him. People think that I teach him, but, by Allah, I learn from him…’ After some time Muhammad bin Ja’far met al-Junaydi again and asked him, ‘What about the boy?’ Al-Junaydi said to him, ‘Let you not say so! By Allah, he is the best of the inhabitants of the earth and the best of the creatures of Allah. Many a time, when he wants to enter his room, I say to him, ‘You do not enter the room until you recite a surah.’ He says, ‘Which surah you want me to recite?’ I ask him to recite long surahs and he recites them in a way that I have heard no recitation better than his. He recites the surahs with a voice nicer than the pipes of Prophet David (AS).
He has memorized the Qur’an from its beginning until its end and he knows its revelation and interpretation …’ Al-Junaydi added, ‘This young boy grew up in Medina between black walls. How did he obtain this immense knowledge? Glory be to Allah!’ Al-Junaydi gave up his enmity towards the Ahlul Bayt (AS) and believed in them and in their Imamate.’
Of course, there is no explanation of this phenomenon except that which the Shia believe, that Allah has endowed the infallible Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (AS), whether young or old, with knowledge, wisdom, and virtue in a manner that He has not endowed anyone else of His people.
His Solemnity and Dignity
He inherited solemnity and dignity from his fathers. The mien of prophets and brightness of guardians appeared on him, and no one of his enemies or followers met him unless he revered and respected him highly.
Muhammad bin al-Hasan al-Ashtar al-Alawi said, ‘One day, I was with my father at the door of al-Mutawkkil (the Abbasid caliph) among a crowd of people. While we were waiting there, Abul Hasan (al-Hadi) came and all the people dismounted revering and honoring him until he entered the palace. Someone denied this reverence towards Imam al-Hadi (AS) and said, ‘Why do we dismount to this boy? By Allah, he is neither the noblest nor the eldest of us. By Allah, we do not dismount to him when he comes out.’ Abu Hashim al-Ja’fari replied to him, ‘By Allah, you shall dismount to him with meanness and lowness.’
When Imam al-Hadi (AS) came out, people began crying out with takbir and tahlil and all of them stood up glorifying him. Abu Hashim turned to people and said, ‘Did you not claim that you would not dismount to him?’ They said, ‘By Allah, we could not control ourselves until we dismounted.’
Hearts revered and honored him, and this reverence did not come out of his authority or rulership, but it resulted from his devotedness to Allah, asceticism in the worldly life, and utmost piety. He left the meanness of disobedience of Allah and came to the honor of obedience. From the evidences of the great reverence that people held for him, was the fact that whenever he came to al-Mutawakkil in his palace, everyone in the palace hastened to serve him. They competed to raise the curtains, open the doors, etc., and they did not ask him to do anything by himself.