THE TIMES AND LIFE OF IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI
Imam Hasan (Al-Askari) was bom in Madinah in 232 AH, during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Wathiq. When Mutwakil had his father moved from Madinah to Samarah in 236 AH, he was only four years of age. He suffered deprivation of the patronage of his father, Imam Ali Naqi, owing to the long spells of house arrests and formal prisons. He was only twenty-two years of age at the martyrdom of his father in 254 AH. He took up the responsibilities of Imamate according to the declaration that his father had made in Madinah eighteen years earlier.
During the life of his father, he endured the reign of terror under Mutwakil followed by the chain of several caliphs until the martyrdom of his father. There was much oppression and persecution of the Alkyds during those years, and the Imam had to remain in hiding. He used to communicate with his followers only through his most reliable representatives. During the next five and a half years, he saw the caliphate change hands twice. Muhtadi succeeded the Caliph Mutazz in 255 AH, followed by the Caliph Mu'tarnid in 256 AH.
Just as Umar bin Abd al-Aziz was the only benevolent caliph from the Umayyad dynasty, Muhtadi was perhaps the ordy caliph in the chain of the Abbasids who could also be called benevolent. However, the rule of Muhtadi last for less than one year, and the hnam saw a brief period of reprieve during his reign. Not withstanding the urgency to have an heir, the Imam married Nargis Khatoon. There was a general air of uneasiness about this. A rumor was circulating that the awaited Mahdi would be bom from this union. The Imam was twenty four years of age at that time.
The rule of tyranny returned with the Caliph Mu'tamid. He was a stonehearted ruler who took pleasure in having people beheaded for trivial faults. He had the Imam placed in a formal prison under strict isolation. He had instructed the wardens to inflict torture to the Imam. However, when they went to carry out the Caliph's orders, they found the Imam either in prayers or reading the Quran. He rotated several prison wardens with the intention to inflict harm to the Imam, but faded in his HI-destined schemes. Most of these wardens became followers and devotees of the Imam.
Despite the difficulties imposed upon the Imam, he continued to receive deputations from his devotees from far and wide, and he continued to serve the followers with the true values of Islam through the meanings and interpretations of the Qur'an and his personal conduct of life. Many senior and older followers of the Imam attended his sittings and clarified many questions about the Quran and the Hadith. Seeing that there would be a continued need for correct interpretation of the Qur'an, he took up the project of writing, a comprehensive commentary of the Qur'an before he passed away.
The Caliph finally prevailed and had the Imam martyred with poison in the year 260 AH. He sent a team of his trusted physicians to ensure the condition of the Imam and to certify his death before his burial. Having thus completed the assignment as ordered by the Caliph, the body of the Imam was laid to rest in the same house where he had died. He was buried in the same room where his father had died and was buried.
Contrary to the previously established tradition, the Imam did not announce the name or the identity of his successor, although there was some evidence that he had left a four-year-old heir to the Imamate. As expected, there was considerable doubt and confusion among the followers regarding the continuation of the series of Imamate after the death of the Eleventh Imam. The Aliyyids were in revolt in the empire at the time, and some were claiming to be the Awaited One, the Twelfth Imam contacted his followers through his safirs for their guidance.
REFLECTIONS FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM HASAN AL-ASKARI
The Imam obtained his title of al-Askari because of his residence in the garrison precinct of the Samarah. He was able to communicate with people in their mother-tongues as he was fluent in several languages that were spoken in the empire at the time.
The Imam participated in many debates and contests held by the Caliph in an attempt to slight his dignity. But instead, the Imam shone like full moon in the dark night of ignorance.
Despite the short span of his life that was available to his followers, he left many, respected students who continued to write and carry out researches in the path of the Truth.