One of the shining lights from the offspring of the Prophet (SAWS) was Imam Yahya bin Abdillah bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA).
Imam Yahya was described as having dark (adam) skin, a handsome face and short. He was also described as being of the foremost of his time from Ahl al-Bayt in knowledge and virtue. He narrated extensive ahadith from his brother Imam Muhammad (SA), also known as An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah, who was also described as having dark skin as well as narrating from his cousin Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (SA).
Imam Yahya was born into an era in which Alawis, those from the family of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (KW), suffered persecution from the government of Bani Umawi plus targeting from the khawarij who deemed Alawis to be disbelievers. This environment of suppression and oppression of Alawis continued under Bani Abbas. Nonetheless, the Alawis continued to disseminate sacred knowledge, which was passed down to them from an unbroken chain reaching back to the Prophet (SAWS).
The knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt including from Imam Yahya influenced scholars of their times such as Muhammad bin Idris Ash-Shafi’i (RH). Ash-Shafi’i (RA) was also taught by Yahya bin Khalid Al-Madani and Ibrahim Abi Yahya Al-Madani, who were both students of Imam Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA). The anti-Alawi current was so strong at the time that Ash-Shafi’i as well as Abu Hanifah (RH) and Malik (RH) were oppressed and labeled “Rafidi” meaning rejecter. Ash-Shafi’i famously answered to this in a poem, “If rejection means loving the Family of Muhammad then I bear witness to the two worlds that I am Rafidi.”
Imam Yahya witnessed the revolts of his brother An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah and his cousin Imam Al-Husayn Al-Fakhi bin Ali bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA) brutally put down by Bani Abbas. In fact, Imam Ali Ar-Rida (SA) stated that the most brutal massacre to the Alawis since the massacre of Karbala was the massacre of the Alawis at Fakh in which Imam Al-Husayn Al-Fakhi achieved martyrdom.
After the failed uprisings, Imam Yahya retreated to Daylam in Persia, which had sympathy for the Alawis. Eventually, Imam Yahya was imprisoned by Harun bin Musa Al-Abbasi, who is commonly known as Harun “Ar-Rashid.” In prison, Imam Yahya achieved martyrdom after being brutally tortured and starved to death.