Published on 23rd June, 2002
Hassan al-Askari ('a) - The Eleventh Holy Imam
Writer Unknown. Submitted
by Hassan Tabatabai
Imam Hassan al-Askari was born in Madina, on 8th day of the month
of Rabi' al-Thani, in the year 232 A.H. He was called 'al-Askari'
in connection with the district of Askar in the city of Samarra'
in which he (the Imam) and his father, Imam Ali un-Naqi al-Hadi
were imprisoned by the Abbasid caliphs.
The Holy Imam ('a) was born and brought up under the care of his
father, Imam Ali al-Hadi ('a), who was well-known for his
divinely inspired knowledge, holy striving and good acts
and from him he learned the best of morals, the abundance of
knowledge, the spirit of belief and the good merits of Ahlul Bayt
Indeed, he (the Holy Imam) ('a) accompanied his holy father lived with him more that twenty three years, during which time he
comprehended the sciences of the descendants of Holy Prophet
Muhammad ('s) and learned the inheritance of the divine
He looked like his holy fathers in the fields of knowledge, good
deeds, jihad, and calling to reform in the community of his holy grandfather, Prophet
Muhammad ('s). Various narrations are given concerning the
leadership of Imam al-Askari ('a.) and the issue of his
leadership appeared during the period of his holy father, Imam Ali
Sheikh Mufid narrated the following: "On the authority of Abu
Bakr Fahfaki, who said:
(al-Hadi), peace be on him,
wrote me (i.e. Abu Bakr Fahfaki): 'Abu Muhammad, my son, is the
soundest of the family of Muhammad ('s) in excellence and the
firmest of them in proof. He is the eldest of my (surviving) sons.
He is the successor. To him, end the bonds of leadership
(Imamate) and our laws. Whatever you used to ask me about, ask him.
With him, you find what you are in need of."
reverend father, the Holy Imam ('a) undertook the task of
leadership "Imamate'. His succession lasted about six years,
and, in which, he practised different kinds of political and
scholarly responsibilities as his divinely appointed forefathers
accurately and efficiently did.
Indeed, Imam al-Askari
('a), like his noble
fathers, was a prominent scholar and an Imam whom no one could
ignore. He ('a) was the chief of religious scholars, an ideal of
worshippers, a leader of politics and opposition, and towards whom
the hearts of people were adhered with love and respect.
In spite of the existence of the brutal Abbasid rule and their political hostility towards Ahlul-Bayt ('a), and
the continuous pursuit of authorities for him and his followers
and throwing them in prisons and jails, the caliphs of his time
could not hide his personality or weaken his scientific and
political role and his social status. Thus, the spiritual
authority of the Holy Imam ('a) was imposed upon the rulers and
the opponents of his time.
Ahmad bin Abdulla bin Khaqan, being an opponent of Imam al-Askari
('a), narrated a full description about his social and political
status and position: Ibn Shahr Ashub said:
Muhammad Ash'ari and Muhammad bin Ali said: During his assembly
one day the Shias and their beliefs were mentioned. Ahmad bin
Abdulla bin Khaqan was in charge of estates and the land tax in
Qom. He was the severe enemy of the descendants of Ali bin
Abi-Talib ('a), who said: 'I had not seen a man from the Sayyids
like al-Hassan bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Reza ('a.).
Once, the Imam's servant visited my father and said: Abu Muhammad
bin al-Rida is standing at the door. Therefore, he permitted them
to enter, and welcomed him (the Imam). Then, the Caliph made him
sit down in his oratory (place of Prayer) and started to talk with
him and asked for sacrifice of himself for the Imam. When the Imam
wanted to leave, he (my father) bid farewell to him.
Then, I asked my father about him (the Imam) and he replied: 'I my
son! This is the Imam (leader) of Shias and if the office of
leadership was to be taken from our caliphs i.e. the family of al-Abbas,
no one among the family of Bani Hashim would be more entitled to
it than him (the Imam) because of his great merit, his self
restraint, his modesty, his fasting, his prayer, his asceticism,
his devotion (to Allah), and all of his high morals and his
"Indeed, I always asked about him, they glorified him and
mentioned his charismas. He added saying: 'I have never seen
anyone who is more plentiful in knowledge and manner, nor sweet in
tongue than Hassan al-Askari ('a). Because of the Holy Imam's
great status, political position and his standing at the top of
political opposition at that time, the, then, authorities not only
imposed a house arrest on him, but, also forced him to attend the
office of the caliphate on Mondays and Thursdays every week in the
city of Samarra, the military garrison capital city of Abbasid
In this regard, one of the companions of the Holy Imam ('a)
said: "We held a meeting in the district of "al-Askar",
then, we waited for the day of Abu Muhammad's (the Holy Imam)
going by, instead, he ('a) sent a letter in which he wrote the
following: 'No one should greet me, nor refer to me with his hand
nor gestures, because you would not secure yourselves."
The great position of the Imam ('a) can be shown by the
following historical document in which he describes the people's
conditions during the Holy Imam's martyrdom:
"When the news
of his (the Holy Imam) martyrdom was spread, Samarra' became on
uproar. The markets were empty. Bani (the family) Hashim, the military
leaders, the secretaries, the judges, the attestators and the rest
of the people rode to his funeral. On that day, Samarra' looked
like the (day of) Resurrection."
History is replete with news and narrations which
talk about the Holy Imam's worship and piety. Among them are:
1. Muhammad Shakiri said: "He [Holy Imam ('a)] used to sit in his
prayer niche (mihrab) and start prostrating, then, I slept. When I
woke up, I saw him still prostrating (Sajdah)."
2. Kulaini, quoting another narration which talked about the Holy
Imam's worship and piety and how he spent his time in Abbasid
prison in Samarra praising, worshipping and devoting himself to
Allah, the Almighty, to the extent that he [Holy Imam ('a)] even
had an impact on his own jailer, said: "The Abbasids went to
Salih bin Wasif when Abu Muhammad (Imam Hassan al-Askari ('a)),
peace be on him, was imprisoned." They told him: "Be hard on
him. Don't give him any ease.'
"What can I do with him?" Salih asked them. 'I entrusted
two of the most evil men I found (to guard the Imam). These two
men became (men) of worship, prayer and fasting to an amazing
extent.' Then, he ordered these two men who were in charge of Imam
Hasan al-Askari ('a)) to be present. He told them: 'Shame on you!
What is your involvement in the affairs of this man (i.e. the Holy
They answered: "What can we say about a man who fasts at day
and stands (in prayer) at night, who does not speak, and occupies
himself with nothing except worship? When he (the Imam) looks at
us, our limbs shake and within us in (a feeling) which we have
never had. When the Abbasids heard this, they all left in
The deterioration of the administrative, moral and political
conditions of the Abbasid authorities. The life of extravagance
and entertainment dominated the Abbasid palace in Samarra. In
return, poverty, hungry, sickness and terrorism prevailed
All these circumstances caused the Holy Imam ('a.) to oppose and
confront them with the help of the descendants of Ali bin
Abi-Talib ('a) by a revolution in order to save the Ummah from
such disturbance and unrest. Therefore, the Abbasid authorities,
especially the authority of Mu'taz and Muhtadi, Mu'tamid
endeavoured to confront the Holy Imam ('a) through confinement,
terrorism, prison, and siege.
We have mentioned in previous chapters about the
Abbasid rulers and their oppression, corruption, dispersion and
weakness. The Holy Imam ('a) lived during the caliphate of
Mutawakkil, and his two sons, Muntasir and Musta'in. He (A.H.)
undertook the task of divine leadership after his holy father's
martyrdom in 253 A.H. during the reign of the Abbasid caliph,
The Abbasid caliph Mu'taz who was dismissed from the office in the
year 255 A.H. by his collaterals and, then, they put him in prison
until he died. After him, the caliph Muhtadi Abbasi took the
office of the caliphate. This man, also, faced the same destiny.
They attacked him, wounded him and called him to be deposed, but,
he refused and after two days, he died in the year of 256 A.H.
Regarding the conditions of the people, historians quoted that an
epidemic spread about in Iraq in the year of 258 A.H. and during
which more that ten thousand people died of starvation.
Poverty and high costs spread severely in different lands. For
example, the high cost in Mecca caused people to leave for areas
surrounding Madina and other lands in Baghdad, the prices of
essential commodities, also, increased... Ya'qoobi quoted
"The prices were so expensive in Baghdad and Samarra' that
ever hasp (fastener) cost one hundred dirhams. Wars continued and
during which, provisions were cut off wealth decreased..." As
the society suffered poverty, hunger, and sickness, the unrest
caused by the authority, and mismanagement, the palaces of the
caliphs filled with slave girls, the playing with jewels, extravagance, lavish gifts and dissolute entertainment.
This gives us clues about the life of the Abbasid palace which
contained such playing and vanities to the extent that some
caliphs mocked each other, thus, disclosing various scenes of
vanity and extravagance and playing with the treasury, the
situation was so deteriorated that the personal possessions of
some of their women and their yearly expenditures were millions of
In this regard, the following is mentioned: "The mother of
Muhammad bin Wathiq, the caliph died who before he was given the
pledge of allegiance, came under the care of Musta'in. When the
caliph Musta'in was assassinated, Mu'taz had her live in the
palace of Risafa in which his wife was living.
When Muhtadi undertook the office of the caliphate, one day, he
addressed a group of his supporters, saying: "Regarding
myself, I have no mother to whom I need ten million dirhams,
yearly, in order to spend on her slaves and servants related to
her..." The books of history quote that Qabiha was a slave
girl of the Caliph, Mutawakkil and a slave wife of his son, Mu'taz.
She transferred her properties from Baghdad to Samarra' and
continued selling her treasuries for many months. She possessed,
in one of her rooms, a millions dinar and jewellery equal to the
cost of two millions dinars.
The Abbasid authorities persecuted Imam Hasan al-Askari
('a) and put him under their control in order to paralyse his
political and ideological activities and also restrain him from
practising his leading role among the Ummah. Therefore, the Holy
Imam ('a) was obliged to act secretly and built an organization
of his followers, and representatives and strengthened its base.
By studying historical documents available at hand, one can
clearly detect the following procedures:
1. Abu Hashim al-Ja'fari, on the authority of Dawood bin Aswad,
the stoker of Abu Muhammad ('a), is quoted to have said:
"One day, my lord, Abu Muhammad, [i.e. Imam al-Askari ('a))],
called me and handed to me a threshold, which seemed very heavy.
He ('a) told me to take it to Amri. Therefore, I started out,
but on the way a water carrier with a mule advanced towards me.
His mule approached me on my way and the water carrier called to
me to shout it back to him.
Instead, I hit it with the threshold and started beating it. As a
result, the board split and I looked at it and found books inside
it. So, I hastened to the threshold and held it under my sleeve.
The water carrier started carrying, and cursing me and my owner.
When I approached the house of my Lord, upon returning, the Imam's
servant, Isa received me at the door and said: "My master has
asked you: Why did you beat the mule and break the
I answered him: "O my master! I did not know what was in it.
He ('a), then, said: "Why did you do an action and then
apologize for it. Be careful not to repeat it, again, from now on,
When you hear someone cursing us, go on your way on which you are
ordered. And be aware not to answer someone who curses us or
introduce yourself. Because we are in an evil land, go on your
way. Your news and conditions reach us, so be aware of that."
2. On the authority of Muhammad bin Abdul-Aziz Balkhi, who said:
"One day in the morning, I sat on a street called "Ghanam",
and it happened that Abu Muhammad ('a), (the Holy Imam), was
coming from his house, on the way to a public inn. I said to
myself: "Consider O people! This is Allah's proof on you;
therefore, acknowledge him. ' When he [the Holy Imam ('a)] passed
beside me, he gestured with his forefinger towards me to keep
silent. On that night I saw him saying: 'Surely, it is either to
keep silent or be killed, therefore be aware of Allah against
Imam Hassan al-Askari
, like his respected
holy forefathers (peace be upon them all), engaged in political
struggle to confront oppression, terrorism, safeguard the holy
Islamic message, values and principles as essential tasks of
leadership and the Ummah whose task they undertook according to