THE TIMES AND THE LIFE OF IMAM ALI NAQI
Imam Ali (Naqi) was bom in 212 AH during the reign of Caliph Mwnoon ar-Rashid who was responsible for the death of the Imam's grandfather, Imam Ali ar-Reza. Mamoon died in 218 AH and his brother Mue'tasim Billah became the caliph. He was responsible for the.death of the Imam's father, Imam Muhammad Taqi. Mue’tasim then became busy with the construction of the new capital Samrah, and in quelling a rebellion by his nephew, Abbas bin Mamoon in
. He ruled the Islamic state till 227 AH. Like his predecessors, commanded the Ummah to obey him as their religious leader. Baghdad
After the death of Mu'tasim, his son Wathiq Billah became the Caliph, and ruled for only five years till 232 AH. He was followed by his son Mutwakil who ruled for a period of fifteen years till 247 AH. This was one of the worst periods of suffering and oppression the members of Able Bait and their followers had to endure.
Mutwakil was a suspicious and ill-tempered ruler. He drank alcohol much more freely than any of his other Abbasid ancestors. He surpassed the tyrannical rule of the Umayyad duo, Hujaj bin Yusuf and his master Abd alMalik bin Marwan. Thousands of innocent devotees of Ahle Bait were actively sought out from their homes and killed by all kinds of atrocities.
He had forbidden the devotees of the Able Bait from visiting the shrines of Imam Husain and other Imams and martyrs. He had imposed the penalty of amputation of one limb each time a devotee made such a trip. He was amazed to note that there were people who paid the stiff penalty more than once to make the ziyara. Notwithstanding his failure to deter the pilgrims from making the devotional trips, he decided to demolish the shrines.
To his further amazement his attempts to demolish the shrines or to flood them with water from diverted canals also failed. The water would not rise high enough to flood the area. Anyway, these schemes of the cruel caliph failed on two occasions. But he was not about to give up his determination to eliminate the Alkyds and their influence for all times.
In 234 AH. Mutwakil appointed Abd Allah bin Muhammad as governor of Madinah, with specific instructions to purge and to disperse the Alkyds from their homes. The Imam wrote a letter of complaints to the Caliph about the undue pressures imposed on his household by the new governor. This gave the Caliph the excuse to have the Imam move from Madinah to Samrah, with an escort of three hundred mounted soldiers. The army was not sent there to protect the Imam but to have him arrested, and to prevent any possible reprisals by his devotees.
The Imam was brought to Samrah in 236 AH, and was housed in the notorious garrison precinct of the city, which was well protected with guards posted on the entrance. While the Imam was in Madinah, the Caliph was not able to assess the popularity of the Imam among his followers. As the people became aware of the whereabouts of the Imam they started to come to him for advice and for the interpretations of the Quran. To prevent the people from seeking him, the Caliph kept moving the Imam's residence from house arrest to the formal prison, and from the prison to a comer of his own palace, and back again to house arrest at some other location. He had to move the Imam from the formal prison to house arrest since the prison guards became influenced by the Imam's piety and preaching, and became his devotees. And, he had to move him away from house arrest because of the stream of devotees the Imam used to attract. While the Imam was under house arrest, the Caliph would send police to search his residence at odd times under the slightest excuse, looking for any munitions against his authority. He never found clues against the Imam in all of his random searches. Thus, the Imam was kept in virtual house arrest for a period of over twenty years during most of the period of Mutwakil's rule as well as the rule of his successors.
During this period of time, Mutwakil changed his faith from the Mu'tazill to the Shafii school. He appointed two muftis in the two major mosques and had them instructed to get people involved in the fruitless discussions over the question of predestination, and Qadha and Qadr. People got tangled up in the discussions designed by the Caliph.
Decadence in the state was making people feel uneasy. The Caliph's own son Muntansir Billah, who had turned forty-two, got ambitious. He decided to capture the caliphate for himself. With the help of some Turkish defectors, he had his father assassinated and gained access to the throne. People paid fealty to him and prayed behind him as their spiritual leader. However, his was a short life span, and he died within six months. He was succeeded by his brother Musta'in (248 AH).
By the same token, the Alkyds were getting restless at the unending tyranny of Mutwakil's reign. In 250 AH, two leaders of prominence, one from the lineage of Zaid bin Ali in Kufa and the other from Zaid bin Hasan in Tabaristan rose to carve out a zone of peace for their clans and the Shiites. However, despite the apparent internal disruption in the Abbasid Caliphate, the Turkish army was still loyal and strong. These, and several other uprisings in the empire were successfully crushed.
A civil war broke out in the capital city in 252 AH. With the help of the Turkish generals, Mu'tazz had his own brother Musta'in assassinated and became the Caliph. However, the vast nation was in turmoil and Mu'tazz felt insecure. He considered Imam Ali Naqi, being the leader of the Alkyds, to be a possible living threat to his stability. In 254 AH, he got the Imam killed by poison in his own home. His body was laid to rest in the same house where he had died.
When Imam Ali Naqi left Madinah, he knew that he would not be allowed to return to his ancestoral home. Although his son Hasan was only four years of age at that time, he had declared that after his death, his son Hasan would succeed him as the next Imam.
REFLECRIONS FROM THE LIFE OF IMAM ALI NAQI
Having been deprived of the patronage of his father at a young age, some well wishing devotees thought that it might be appropriate to appoint a tutor for the youth. Umar bin Farrah sent Obayd Allah Jonaidi for this purpose. After a while he was asked on the progress of youth. Jonaidi said that if it were asstuned that he was teaching the youth something, then they should know that the youth had taught him things he never knew. When Mutwakil brought him to Samrah, he was only twenty-four years of age.
The Imam witnessed the waning glow of the Abbasid Caliphate when the seat of government revolved under several rapidly changing caliphs. He refrained from the temptation of an easy win of the Caliphate for himself If he had done so, it would have shown his political ambition, and would have ruined the generations of sacrifices made by his ancestors to continue upholding the values of Truth and justice. Ahle Bait were never thirsty for political gains. They had lived and died for the cause and the values of Islam.
Although the Imam had a very limited exposure to his followers, he left some renowned students who expounded his word to others for many years later. Despite their contemptuous behavior towards the Imam, he was called upon by the Caliph to answer complicated questions on the meanings and the interpretations of the Qur'an and on the Islamic law. He had stood up in defense of Islam on many occasions in the Caliph's court. Many of his quotes were collected by his devotees for reference in later times. Likewise, people had also collected many of his supplications.