ʾAbu Muhammad al-Hasan b. ʿAli (a) (Arabic:(ع) أبو محمد الحسن بن علي) (b. 232/846 - d. 260/874) was the 11th Imam of Twelver Shi'a and the father of Imam al-Mahdi (a). He was given the title, Imam al-Askari(امام العسکري), because he was forced to reside in Samarra which was also known as "Askar" (a military camp or town). His other titles include Ibn al-Rida, al-Hadi, al-Naqi, al-Zaki, al-Rafiq and al-Samit.
Severe restrictions on Imam al-Askari's (a) life made him choose agents to communicate with the Shi'a. Uthman b. Sa'id was one of his special agents who became the first special deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a) upon the beginning of his occultation after Imam al-Askari (a) was martyred.
Imam al-'Askari (a) was martyred on the 8th of Rabi I, 260/874. He was buried in the same house where his father had been buried. The holy shrine of al-'Askariyyayn was attacked and destroyed two times by terrorists.
Abu Muhammad al-Hasan b. Ali b. Muhammad b. Ali b. Musa b. Ja’far b. Muhammad b. Ali b. al-Husayn b. Ali b. Abi Talib. His mother was a concubine called “Hudayth” or “Hudaytha”. Some other sources report the name of his mother “Susan”, “Asfan”, or “Salil”. He had a brother called Ja’far who is known to Shi’a as Ja’far al-Kadhdhab. After Imam al-Askari (a) was martyred, Ja’far claimed Imamate. He rejected that Imam al-Askari (a) had a son and claimed to be Imam’s (a) only heir. Al-Sayyid Muhammad and Husayn are his other brothers.
Al-Hadi, al-Naqi, al-Zaki, al-Rafiq, and al-Samit are among his titles. Some historians have also mentioned “al-Khalis” as his title. “Ibn al-Rida” is a title Imam al-Jawad (a), Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam al-Askari (a) were known for.
“Al-Askari” also is a title for both Imam Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam al-‘Askari for they were forced to stay in Samarra. “Askar” (literally: army) was a less known title for Samarra. Also he was called “the last Hasan” (الحسن الاخیر) because he was a namesake of Imam al-Hasan (a).
Birth and Martyrdom
According to the majority of sources, he was born in Medina, but other sources suggest that he was born in Samarra. And according to the majority of early Imami sources, he was born in Rabi’ II, 232 (December 846). The same date was mentioned in a hadith from Imam al-Hasan al-Askari as well. According to other Imami and Sunni sources, he was born in 231/845. In his Masar al-Shi’a, al-Shaykh al-Mufid believes that the Imam was born on Rabi’ II 10, 232/December 4, 846. However, this account was dismissed in the 6th/12th century when the majority of the Imamiyya believed that he was born on Rabi’ II 8, 232/December 2, 846.
Imam al-Askari was martyred on Rabi’ I 8, 260/January 1, 874 during the reign of Mu’tamid al-Abbasi at the age of 28. There are accounts of his martyrdom in Rabi’ II and Jumada I as well. According to al-Tabrisi in I’lam al-wara, many Imami scholars maintain that Imam al-Askari was martyred by poisoning. They appeal to the hadith, “I swear to God that there is none of us (i.e. the Imams) who is not murdered and martyred.” Some historical reports imply that the two caliphs before al-Mu’tamid were also seeking to murder the Imam. According to a hadith, al-Mu’tazz al-‘Abbasi ordered his personal security guard to murder the Imam on his way to Kufa, but the plan failed because it was leaked to people. According to another report, Muhtadi al-Abbasi also decided to martyr the Imam in the prison, but the plan failed because his reign was over. Imam al-Askari is buried in his own house in Samarra, where Imam al-Hadi had also been buried. According to Abd Allah b. Khaqan (one of al-Mu’tamid al-Abbasi’s viziers), when Imam al-Askari was martyred, bazars were shut down, and Banu Hashim, prominent figures, statesmen, and other people attended his funeral.
Wife and Children
Different sources have mentioned the name of the mother of Imam al-Mahdi (a) differently. It has been mentioned in sources that Imam al-‘Askari (a) had several Roman, Turk and Sicilian servants and maids; Maybe this difference of opinion about the name of the mother of Imam al-Mahdi (a) was because of having several servants or in order to hide the birth of Imam al-Mahdi (a).
Acording to the majority of shi’a sources the only child of Imam al-Askari (a) is Imam al-Mahdi (a) named “Muhammad”. Also some sunni scholar such as Ibn Athir, Shablanji and Ibn Sabbaq al-Maliki mentioned “Muhammad” as a child of Imam al-Askari.
There are other reports about the children of Imam al-‘Askari (a) as well. Some have listed three sons and three daughters for him. Al-Khasibi has listed two sisters named “Fatima” and “Dalala” for Imam al-Mahdi (a) and Ibn Abi l-Thalj has mentioned a brother called Musa and two sisters called Fatima and ‘A’isha (or Umm Musa) for Imam al-Mahdi (a). However, in some references of lineage, the above-mentioned names are brothers and sisters of Imam al-Askari which may have been mistaken with his children. On the contrary, some Sunni scholars such as Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Yahya b. Sa’id and Ibn Hazm believed that Imam al-‘Askari (a) did not have any children at all.
Living in Samarra
Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (a) lived most of his life in Samara and it is famously said that he (a) was the only Imam who did not go to hajj; however, in Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a) and Kashf al-ghumma, there is a hadith, the narrator of which says that he heard that hadith from Imam al-Askari (a) in Mecca. Except this trip to Mecca, some sources have also reported his journey to Jurjan as well.
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid believed that due to having all necessary virtues, his superiority over all his contemporary people in issues related to imamate and also regarding the hadiths narrated from Imam al-Hadi (a), after Imam al-Hadi (a), his son, al-Hasan b. Ali was the 11th Imam of Shi’a.
Except few people who followed imamate of Muhammad b. Ali (who passed away at the time of his father, Imam al-Hadi (a)) and very few people who declared Ja’far b. Ali as their Imam, majority of the companions of Imam al-Hadi (a) accepted the imamate of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a).
The Imamate of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a) was contemporary with three Abbasid caliphs: al-Mu’tazz al-Abbasi (252/866 – 255/869), al-Muhtadi (255/869 – 256/870) and al-Mu’tamid (256/870 – 279/892). During the life of Imam al-Askari (a), Abbasid government was turned to a puppet in the hands of rival commanders; when especially Turk military commanders were influential in the government. Perhaps, the first political stance recorded in the life of Imam al-Askari (a) was when he (a) was 20 years old and his father was still alive. He (a) wrote a letter to Abd Allah b. Abd Allah b. Tahir (an influential commander in Abbasid government who was an enemy of al-Musta’in, the then caliph) and called the caliph, a transgressor and asked his downfall from God. It happened some days before al-Musta’in’s downfall.
After al-Musta’in was killed, al-Mu’tazz, his enemy reached power and since he knew Imam’s (a) stance toward the murdered caliph, he did not show any hostile behavior toward Imam (a) and his father (at least in appearance). After the martyrdom of Imam al-Hadi (a) and the imamate of Imam al-Askari (a), evidences suggest that with all the restrictions applied about the activities of Imam (a), he (a) had some freedom. Some meetings between Imam (a) and Shi’a at the beginning of his imamate proves this; however, after one year, the caliph became suspicious about Imam (a) and imprisoned him in 255/869. Imam (a) was still in prison until one year after the caliphate of the next caliph (al-Mu’tamid).
With the beginning of the caliphate of al-Mu’tamid who faced the uprisings of Shi’a, Imam (a) was released from prison and began organizing Twelver Shi’a socially and financially. This active role of Imam (a) especially in the capital of Abbasids, made the government worried. In the month of Safar, 260/873, Imam (a) was imprisoned by the order of al-Mu’tamid and the caliph followed the news about Imam (a) on a daily basis. One month later, Imam (a) was released from prison but was moved to the house of Hasan b. Sahl (Ma’mun‘s minister) near Wasit.
Uprisings and Revolts
At the time of Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a), there were some protests, some of which were made by Shi’a and some were made in the name of Alawis.
During the time Imam (a) was living in Samarra, except for the times he (a) was imprisoned, he (a) was living like an ordinary citizen even though he (a) was under surveillance of the Abbasids. According to historical evidences, it can be said that Imam al-‘Askari would choose Medina for living if he (a) was free like other Imams of Shi’a. Therefore, his long residence in Samarra was a kind of detention by Abbasid caliphs. This was very important to the caliph and made him worried and fearful because of the existence of a well-ordered network of Shi’a established long ago.
Therefore, Imam al-‘Askari (a) was asked to inform the Abbasid government about his presence in Samarra and regarding the report of one of the servants of Imam (a), he (a) had to go to Dar al-Imara (residence of emir) every Monday and Thursday.
Shi’a had problem for meeting Imam (a), as once, when the caliph was going to visit the governor of Basra and was taking Imam (a) with himself, the companions of Imam (a) were preparing themselves to visit him on the way. From this report, it can be understood well that in the life of Imam al-‘Askari (a), at least there has been a time when meeting him directly was not possible.
Another narrator says, “One day Imam (a) was going to Dar al-Khilafa, we gathered in al-‘Askar [military camp] to visit him on the way, but we received a letter with this message, ‘No one should ever greet me or point to me, because you are not safe.'” This report shows it well how much the caliphate government had put the connection of Imam with Shi’a under surveillance. However, Imam (a) and his followers met each other in any opportunities and there have been covers for such contacts.
Imam’s (a) Representatives
Strict limitations of the caliphs on the life of Imam (a) made him benefit from agents to communicate with Shi’a, among whom was ‘Aqid, the special servant of Imam (a) who was raised by Imam (a) and delivered many of his letters to Shi’a. Another agent was a person whose kunya was Gharib Abu al-Adyan who was another servant of Imam (a) and delivered some of the letters. However, Uthman b. Sa’id was a particular person in some Twelver Shi’a sources who was called Bab (representative and the connection with Imam (a). Upon entering the age of Minor Occultation after Imam al-‘Askari (a) was martyred, ‘Uthman b. Sa’id became the first special deputy of Imam al-Mahdi (a).
One of the best means of communication between Imam (a) and Shi’a has been correspondences; examples include Imam’s (a) letters to Ali b. al-Husayn b. Musa b. Babawayh and Imam’s (a) letter to the people of Qom and Abe (Ave). Shi’as wrote letters asking their questions and they would receive answers from Imam (a).
According to complexities and ambiguities about the new Imam (a) at that time, it can be seen in the speeches and letters of Imam al-Askari (a) that he mentioned, the earth will not be void of God’s Proof and that if Imamate is cut, there will be problems in the affairs of God on earth. He (a) also said that God’s Proof on earth is a blessing God has granted to the believers and has honored them with this guidance.
Another teaching, repeatedly seen in the speeches of Imam (a) due to the pressures on Shi’a, is calling them to patience and believing in relief and waiting for it. Also, in hadiths from him, there is an especial emphasis on respecting internal relations of Shi’a society and associating with religious brothers.
Interpretation of the Qur’an
Main article: Tafsir al-Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a)
Interpreting the Qur’an was among the activities Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a) cared about so much that an extensive text on the interpretation of the Qur’an (among the oldest exegetical heritage of Shi’a) is attributed to him. Even if this attribution is not correct, it should be noted that Imam’s (a) emphasis on exegetical discussions made the grounds for this attribution.
Theology and Beliefs
Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (a) took the leadership of Shi’a when some ideological problems had emerged among Twelver Shi’a decades prior to his time and some emerged at his time. For example, one of the topics of discussions was “rejection of the embodiment of God” which was mentioned since some years ago and there were some disagreements between Hisham b. Hakam and Hisham b. Salim, two distinguished companions of Imams (a). At the time of Imam al-‘Askari (a), this disagreement became so serious that Sahl b. Ziyad al-Adami wrote a letter to Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a) and asked him for a guidance.
“God is One and Unique; begets not, nor was He begotten and nothing is similar to Him. He is the Creator and not created. Whatever He wants of things or else creates and is not embodied…Nothing is similar to Him and He is Hearing and Seeing.”
In hadith studies, one of the titles mentioned for Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a) is “faqih”, with which he (a) was especially known to his companions. Some of his hadiths are about jurisprudence and its different branches. Since organization of religion regarding jurisprudence was made previously at the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and was then developed toward its perfection, Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a) mostly discussed about secondary issues which came up or were for some reason critical at his time such as the beginning of the month of Ramadan and the discussions about Khums.
Even though Imam al-‘Askari (a) was very young, he (a) was very famous due to his scientific and moral position, his leadership of Shi’a, their sincere following of him, and unquestioned respect of people. Also, since people knew him and paid attention to him, except for few cases, Abbasid government showed respect to him in appearance.
Sa’d b. ‘Abd Allah al-Ash’ari, among famous Shi’a scholars who probably had met Imam al-‘Askari (a) said, “In Sha’ban of 278/891 – 18 years after demise of Imam al-‘Askari (a), we were in a meeting where Ahmad b. ‘Ubayd Allah b. Khaqan was there, whose father was a trustworthy minister of Abbasids who was in charge of taking the tax of Qom and was an enemy of descendants of the Prophet (s). The discussion was led to where Talibids of Samarra, their religion, and their position before the caliph were mentioned. Ahmad said, “I had not seen an ‘Alawi like al-Hasan b. ‘Ali al-‘Askari (a) in Samarra who would be known among his relatives with dignity, modesty, intelligence, and honor and would be so honorable before Sultan and Banu Hashim, as they know him superior to the elderly and even commanders, ministers and secretaries. Once I was standing beside my father when he sat to meet with people. One of the doorkeepers came and said, Ibn al-Rida [i.e. Imam al-‘Askari (a)] is standing at the door.’ My father loudly said, ‘Let him in!’. When he (a) entered and my father saw him, went forth to him with some steps -which I had not seen he would ever do even for commanders and princes. When my father reached him [Imam (a)] hanged his hand on his [Imam’s (a)] neck and kissed his face and forehead; then, took his hand and placed him in his own seat. My father sat in front of him and began speaking with him. In his speech, he addressed him [Imam (a)] in a manner which implied respect and frequently said, “My father and mother be sacrificed for you…”. At night, I went to my father and asked him, ‘O father! Who was that man you respected and venerated him so much and even said you would sacrifice your father and mother for?’ He said, ‘He (a) was Imam of Rafidis.’ Then, he became silent. After a moment, he continued, ‘my son! If one day caliphate goes out of the hands of the Abbasids, among Banu Hashim, there is no one competent to take it except him. He (a) deserves to have the position of caliphate due to his merits, dignity, piety, worship, and good manner. If you saw his father. He (a) was a very noble, wise, benevolent, and meritorious.’ Hearing these words, I became so angry; however, I was curious to know him. I asked everyone from Banu Hashim, secretaries, judges, jurists and even common people about him and found him extremely great, noble and superior to others among the descendants of the Prophet (s). Everyone said, ‘He (a) is Imam of Rafidis.’ Since then, he (a) became more important in my mind because friends and enemies of him admired him well.”
This report, by looking to the fact that its narrator is himself one of the old enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), shows the moral and social positions of Imam (a) among common people and the noble.
The servant of Imam al-‘Askari (a) said, “Every once that Imam al-‘Askari (a) went to the court of caliph, an unusual excitement and happiness was seen among people. The streets on his way became full of people who were riding their horses. When Imam (a) came, the crowd would become silent at once. He (a) passed through the crowd and entered the court.”
Naturally, most of the people would be Shi’a who came to Samarra from near and far to see Imam (a), although the love of other people towards the Ahl al-Bayt (a) made them excited to see Imam (a) more and made the crowd more massive.
As it was mentioned previously, taking Imam al-Hadi (a) with Imam al-‘Askari (a) to Samarra by the order of al-Mutawakkil, by itself meant detention of these two Imams (a) in that city in order to control them and their contacts with Shi’a. In some cases of their detention, they were bothered more, especially when certain movements emerged which were considered threats to the government, Imam al-‘Askari (a) and some of his companions were imprisoned. There are many reports about detention of Imam al-‘Askari (a). In al-Awsiya’, al-Saymuri has reported that, “I saw the handwriting of Abu Muhammad al-Askari (a) when he (a) was coming out of the prison of al-Mu’tamid and he (a) had written this verse of the Qur’an,
“They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah shall perfect His light though the faithless should be averse.”
— Qur’an, 61:8
Al-Shaykh al-Mufid narrated from Muhammad b. Isma’il al-‘Alawi, “Imam al-Askari (a) was prisoned with Ali b. Awtamash (or Barmash) who was among serious enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a). He was ordered to be harsh on Imam (a) as much as he could, but later after meeting Imam (a), he departed Imam (a) when he had learned about the greatness of Imam (a) more than anyone else and praised him greatly.
Main article: Demolition of Shrine of Imamayn al-‘Askariyyayn
In the first attack, terrorists installed 200 kg TNT in the center of the dome and destroyed the dome and a part of the golden minarets of the shrine. In the second attack, the golden minarets were destroyed. After these terrorist attacks, the shrine of the two Imams (a) went under process of reconstruction and renovation.
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