Adapted from : "The Life of Imam ‘Ali al-Hadi, Study and Analysis" by: "Baqir Shareef al-Qurashi"
Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) honored people of intellect and knowledge, welcomed and preferred them to the rest of people because they were the source of light in the earth. Once, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) was informed that one of the Shiite ulama’ had argued with an opponent of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and confuted him. He was delighted by that.
When that scholar came to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), he welcomed him warmly in his meeting which was full of Alawids and Abbasids. He seated him on a sofa and began talking with him eagerly and respectfully. The Hashemites in the meeting became angry and said to Imam al-Hadi (a.s.), ‘Why do you prefer him to the masters of Bani20 Hashem?’
Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) said to them ‘Beware to be from those whom Allah has said about,
Have you not considered those (Jews) who are given a portion of the Book? They are invited to the Book of Allah that it might decide between them, then a part of them turn back and they withdraw.21
Do you accept the Book of Allah as a judge?’
They all said, ‘O son of the messenger of Allah, we do.’
He began proving his opinion by saying, ‘Has Allah not said,
O you who believe! when it is said to you, Make room in (your) assemblies, then make ample room, Allah will give you ample, and when it is said: Rise up, then rise up. Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do22?
Allah does not accept for a knowledgeable believer but to be preferred to an unknowledgeable believer, just as He wants a believer to be preferred to an unbeliever. Allah has said,
Allah will exalt those of you who believe and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees.
Has He said, ‘Allah will exalt those, who are given honor of lineage, in high degrees’? Allah has said,
Are those who know and those who do not know alike?23
Then, how do you deny my honoring him for what Allah has honored him?
His defeating that opponent of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) with the proofs that Allah has taught him is more honorable than every honor of lineage.’
The attendants kept silent after this reply, but one of the Abbasids said, ‘O son of the messenger of Allah, you have preferred this man to us and degraded us lower than one who has no lineage like ours, while since the beginning of Islam until now those better in lineage are preferred to those lower than them.’
This is a nonsensical argument since Islam focuses only on right values which that Abbasid man did not understand. Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) replied to him saying,
‘Glory be to Allah! Had al-Abbas (the Prophet’s uncle) not paid homage to Abu Bakr who was from Taym24 while al-Abbas was a Hashemite? Did Abdullah bin Abbas not serve Umar bin al-Khattab who was from Adiy while Abdullah bin Abbas was a Hashemite and the father of the (Abbasid) caliphs?
And why did Umar appoint people far in lineage in the shura and did not appoint al-Abbas? If preferring a non-Hashemite to a Hashemite is denied, then you have to deny the homage of al-Abbas to Abu Bakr and the service of Abdullah bin Abbas to Umar. If that was permissible, this is permissible too.’
The Abbasid man was confuted.25 When he did not understand the proofs derived from the Holy Qur'an, Imam al-Hadi (a.s.) argued with him by the homage of al-Abbas to Abu Bakr and the service of Abdullah bin Abbas to Umar though these two caliphs (Abu Bakr and Umar) were not equal in lineage to al-Abbas and Abdullah bin Abbas.
20. Bani means “the family or tribe of”.
21. Qur'an, 3:23.
22. Qur'an, 58:11.
23. Qur'an, 39:9.
24. Taym was a big family from Quraysh.
25. Al-Ihtijaj by at-Tabarsi.