Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH)
Imam Hassan al-Askari (c. 6 December 846 – 4 January 874) was the eleventh and the penultimate Imam of the Twelver Shia Muslims. His title al-Askari is derived from the Arabic word Askar for army. He was given this title because he lived in Samarra, a garrison town. He was 22, when his father was killed. The period of his Imamate was six years and he martyred at the age of 28 and was buried in Samarra.
Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH), whose ancestor was the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), was born in Medina. His father was Imam Hadi (PBUH), the tenth Imam of the Shia. He was from the masters of the Ahl Al-Bayt. His mother was a bondmaid from an-Nawbah. Historians disagreed on her name. Some of them said her name was Saleel which was the most correct according to the previous tradition of Imam al-Hadi. Some said she was called Sawsan. Others said her name was Hadithah, and others said Haribah.
Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) also had two other siblings, Muhammad Abu Ja’far, al-Hussain Ibn Ali al-Hadi and a sister named Aa’liyah or Aliyyah. Imam Hassan al-Askari and al-Hussain were called “as-Sibtayn” and were named after their two grandfathers Imam Hassan (PBUH) and Imam Hussain (PBUH).
Oppression by the Abbasid Caliphs
Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) lived almost his entire life under house arrest in Samarra and under supervision of Abbasid caliphs.
Mutawakkil, son of Mu’tasim, was the first of these oppressive caliphs. He assumed the rule in 232 AH. In the same year the Imam was born. Mutawakkil had strong animosity towards the any members of the Ahl Al-Bayt and as such he ordered his men to bring Imam Hadi (PBUH) to Samarra from Medina. He imposed house arrest on the Imam and had detectives and policeman watching all his activities and preventing the Shia Muslims from having any contact with their Imam. The reign of Mutawakkil was ended by his son, Muntasir, who joined forces with the Turks to kill his father. After the coup Muntasir assumed the rule that once belonged to his father. He was not like his father, and during this time Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) felt freedom. This reign did not last long, as Muntasir died shortly thereafter. Most historians believe he was assassinated by the Turks, via poison, due to their fear that he might end their domination over the Islamic nation. After the death of Muntasir, Musta’in took control. He had little political influence and was considered by many to be a tool controlled by the Turks. He had bitter hatred of Imam Askari (PBUH) and feared that he might rise in a revolt against the Abbasid rule. He was thus again placed under house arrest. Eventually, Musta’in’s rule too was ended by the Turks and he was forced to hand the position over to Mu’tazz. Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) continued to live under house arrest under the reign of Mu’tazz, Muhtadi, and Mu’tamid, until his martyrdom. The cause of his martyrdom has largely been speculated to be due to poison administered by the last Abbasid caliph of his time, Mu’tamid.
Imam Hassan al-Askari’s imamate met difficulty even before the martyrdom of his father. Many felt that Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) became the eleventh Imam by default because his older brother had died and was considered the designated successor to his father during his lifetime. Some of those who refused to accept the imamate of Imam Askari, had instead chosen to follow his younger brother hereafter referred to as Ja’far (not to be confused with his deceased older brother). His right to succession was also challenged by this same brother.
Imam Askari (PBUH) represented the front of opposition to the Abbasid rule. He criticized the rulers for appropriating the wealth of the nation and extorting the people under their rule. He did so by not communicating with or cooperating with kings who took wealth unlawfully and used followers of Islam as slaves. Due to the domination of the Turks, the Imam had little effect on the Political life during his time. The state remained in a political crisis, as the Abbasid Caliphs were considered puppets of the Turks who ruled with terrorism.
The religious life during the time of Imam Askari’s imamate was also in shambles as well. Because the Imam was under house arrest for a majority of his life, many non-believers took advantage of this time and tried to misguide the Muslims. He did continue to speak out against those who questioned the Quran. It was in this case that a philosopher by the name of Isaaq al-Kindi wrote “The Contradiction of the Quran”. Historians have written that Imam Askari (PBUH) had a disciple relay a powerful message to the philosopher in which he stated
“If someone recites the Quran, is it possible that he means other meanings than what you think you understand? If he says it is possible say to him how do you know? He might mean other than the meanings that you think, and so he fabricates other than the Quran’s meanings”.
The claim that follows is that the Philosopher burned his book in light of the belief that no one besides a member of the Ahl Al-Bayt could say something like this and that he must truly be the eleventh Imam from this lineage. In this way the Imam had some influence on the religious lives of his followers. He would address them through the visitors he was permitted to receive.
He lived a majority of his life being mistreated under house arrest by the caliphs of the time; eventually, Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) martyred on the 8th Rabi’ al-awwal 260 AH.
After his martyrdom, his brother Ja’far Ibn Ali took it upon himself to seize what was left behind Imam Askari (PBUH). It is claimed by historians that he also took public possession of his late brother’s property and also tried to take his place in the eyes of his followers. It is also claimed that he made vicious insinuations against his late brothers followers and also began threatening them if they did not follow him.
Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) is buried in the mausoleum containing the remains of his father, Imam Hadi (PBUH), The Al-Askari shrine in Samarra, Iraq. The site is considered a holy shrine for the Shias, though a bomb blast on 22 February 2006 destroyed much of the structure, and another bomb blast on 13 June 2007 destroyed the two remaining minarets of the Al-Askariya Mosque. It was done by wahabis.
Mahdi (PBUH), The Last Imam
After Imam Hassan Al-Askari (PBUH), his son Mahdi was his successor.
The world knows him as 12th Imam, The one who is in occultation to remain safe for the future. He is still alive by the command of Allah, just like Prophet Jesus (PBUH). Muslims believe he will reappear at the end of time to fill the world with justice and peace. (to see more, refer to “The 12th Imam, Mahdi (PBUH)”)