Hasan al-Askari

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Hasan al-Askari
الحسن العسكري  (Arabic)

11th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
Al Askari Mosque.jpg
Born c. (846-12-06)6 December 846 CE[1]
(8 Rabi al-thani 232 AH)
Medina, Abbasid Empire
Died c. 4 January 874(874-01-04) (aged 27)[1]
(8 Rabi al-awwal 260 AH)
Samarra, Abbasid Empire
Cause of death
Death by poisoning
Resting place
Al-Askari Mosque, Iraq
34°11′54.5″N 43°52′25″E / 34.198472°N 43.87361°E / 34.198472; 43.87361
Other names Hasan ibn Ali ibn Muhammad
Title
Term 868 – 874 CE
Predecessor Ali al-Hadi
Successor Muhammad al-Mahdi
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Narjis
Children

Muhammad al-Mahdi (per Shia belief)

Sayyid Ali Akbar
Parent(s) Ali al-Hadi
Saleel[3]a
Relatives Muhammad (brother)
Ja'far (brother)
Notes
aalso referred to as Susan[4] or Sevil (Savīl)[2]

Hasan ibn Ali ibn Muhammad (c. 846 – 874) also called Abu Muhammad and Ibn al-Ridha, was known as al-Askari (military), for the city (Samarra) he had to live in was a garrison town. He was the eleventh Shia Imam after his father Ali al-Hadi and lived under house arrest in Samarra, especially since it was known that the Shia were looking forward to his son, Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam, who was destined to remove injustice from the world. Al-Askari married Narjis Khatun, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, who following instructions given her in a dream, had sold herself into slavery to become his wife. Al-Askari was kept in prison most of his life until, according to some Shia sources, was poisoned in the age of 28 through the instigation of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tamid and was buried in Samarra.[5][6][7][8][9]

Birth and early life[edit]

Hasan al-Askari was born about the time his father Ali al-Hadi, the tenth Imam, was suspected of being involved in plots against the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, and was taken along with his family to Samarra in the year 230, 231 or 232 A.H., and kept there under house arrest; thus there is doubt as to whether his son, al-Askari, was born in Medina or Samarra. In Samarra, al-Askari spent most of his time studying the Quran and the Sharia; and, according to Donaldson he must have occupied himself with languages too, for in later years it was known that he could talk Hindi with the pilgrims from India, Turkish with the Turks, and Persian with the Persians.[10] According to Shia accounts however, it is part of divine knowledge given to all Imams to be able to speak all human languages.[11][12]

It is said that even as a child, al-Askari was bestowed with divine knowledge. One day a man passed by him, and saw that he was crying. The man told him he would buy a toy that he might play with, "No!" said al-Askari, "We have not been created for play." The man was amazed at this answer and said, "Then, what for we have been created?" "For knowledge and worship." answered the child. The man said "Where have you got this from?" Al-Askari said, "From the saying of God,Did you then think that We had created you in vain."[a] The man was confused so he said,"What has happened to you while you are guiltless little child?" al-Askari said, "Be away from me! I have seen my mother set fire to big pieces of firewood but fire is not lit except with small pieces, and I fear that I shall be from the small pieces of the firewood of the Hell."[13]

Al-Askari's mother, as in the case of majority of The Twelve Imams, was a slave girl who was honored after bearing children with the title Umm walad (mother of offspring). Her own name was Hadith, though some say she was called Susan, Ghazala, Salil, or Haribta.[10] Al-Askari had other brothers, among them was Ja’far who became known as Ja'far al-Kazzab (Ja'far the liar) later on. His other brother was called Husayn, who together with al-Askari were called "as-Sibtayn" after their two grandfathers Hasan and Husayn who were also called as-Sibtayn.[14]

His Wife[edit]

It is said that al-Askari's wife, Narjis Khatun, the mother of the twelfth Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, was the daughter of the Byzantine emperor of Rûm. It is narrated that following instructions given to her in a dream, she had sold herself into slavery to become his wife, the brief account of which goes as follows.[6]

It is known that al-Askari's father, Ali al-Hadi, wrote a letter in the script of Rum and put it in a red purse, with a 220 Dinars, and gave it to his friend Bashar ibn Sulaiman instructing him to go to Baghdad to a furry at the river where the boats from Syria were unloaded, and female slaves were sold. Bashar was told to look out for a ship-owner named Amr ibn Yazid, who had a slave girl who would call out in the language of Rum: "Even if you have wealth and the glory of Solomon the son of David, I can never have affection for you, so take care lest you waste your money." And that if a buyer approached her she would say "Cursed be the man who unveils my eyebrow!" Her owner would then protest, "But what recourse have I; I am compelled to sell you?". "You will then hear the slave answer", said the Imam, "Why this hast, let me choose my purchaser, that my heart may accept him in confidence and gratitude."

Bashar gave the letter, as he was instructed, to the slave girl; who read it, and was not able to keep from crying afterwards. Then she said to Amr ibn Yezid, "Sell me to the writer of this letter, for if you refuse I will surely kill myself." "I therefore talked over the price with Amr until we agreed on the 220 Dinars my master had given me." Said Bashar. On her way to Samarra, the slave girl would kiss the letter and rubbed it to her face and body; and when being asked by Bashar why she did so while she did not know the writer of the letter, she said: "May the offspring of the Prophet dispel your doubts!" Later on, however, she gave a full description of the dream she had had, and how she had escaped from her father's palace; which is a long story recorded in Donalson's book, along with further discussion on the authenticity of this story.[10]

Imamate[edit]

Hasan al-Askari gained the Imamate after the death of his father through Divine Command, as Shia believe, and through the decree of the previous Imams at the age of 22. During the seven years of his Imamate, Hasan al-Askari lived in dissimulation (taqiyah) without any social contact, for the Abbasid Caliphs were afraid of Shia who had reached a considerable population at the time. Besides the Caliphs came to know that the leaders among the Shia believed that the eleventh Imam, according to numerous traditions cited by him and his forefathers, would have a son who was the promised Mahdi.[b] So the caliphs of the time had decided definitely to put an end to the Imamate in Shiism once and for all.[5]

Divisions[edit]

There was a large sect of the Shia, the waqifiyya, who defended the thought that the Imamate stopped with Ali al-Ridha and so were unwilling to approve the succession of the remaining Imams. And that is why al-Askari, his father, Ali al-Hadi, and his grandfather, Muhammad al-Jawad, were called at times "Ibn Ridha,"(the son of al-Ridha) to show that this succession continued through al-Ridha's descendants. From the eighth Imam to the twelfth Imam, howevere, no division of any importance took place though certain events occurred in the form of division; which were dissolved by themselves in a few days. As for Ja’far, the son of the tenth Imam, who claimed to be Imam after the death of his brother, al-Askari, was followed by a group of Shia who scattered soon, as Ja’far himself gave up his claim afterwards. Except the Zaidiyyah and the Isma'ilism which continue to exist until now, all other sects which were separated from the majority of twelver Shia, were dissolved in a short period.[5]

Under the Rule of the Abbasid Caliphs[edit]

Hasan al-Askari lived almost his entire life under house arrest in Samarra and under supervision of Abbasid caliphs.[15] He criticized the rulers for appropriating the wealth of the nation and extorting the people under their rule by not communicating with or cooperating with kings of his time. The state remained in a political crisis, as the Abbasid Caliphs were considered puppets of the Turks who ruled with terrorism. After the death of al-Askari's father, Ali al-Hadi, the Caliph Al-Mu'tazz summoned him to Baghdad, where he was kept in prison during the short rule of the next caliph, Al-Muhtadi. Most of his prison experiences, however, were in the time of the succeeding caliph Al-Mu'tamid, who is known in Shia sources as the main oppressor of the Imam.[10] The cause of the Imam's death has largely been speculated to be due to poison administered by al-Mu'tamid.[16]

Expertise[edit]

During their lifetimes, the Shia Imams trained many hundreds of scholars whose names and works can be find in biography books.[c][5] As for the eleventh Imam, however, the religious life during his time was in shambles, for he was under house arrest and many non-believers took advantage of this to question religion. In spite of that he continued to speak out against those who questioned the Qur'an, the account of which could be found in a Tafsir ascribed to him. As was the case when a philosopher by the name of Al-Kindi, who is considered as the first Muslim Philosopher, wrote a book entitled "The Contradiction of the Quran". The news came to al-Askari who met one of al-Kindi's disciples and said to him, "Is there no wise man among you to prevent your teacher, al-Kindi, from that which he has busied himself with?"

The disciple answered that they were al-Kindi's disciples and were not able to object him. Later on Hasan al-Askari instructed the disciple how to question al-Kindi.

"Go to him, be courteous with him, and show him that you will help him in what he is in. when he feels comfortable with you; you say to him; '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'".[17]

The disciple did as al-Askari advised him; and Al-Kindi was shrewd enough to say, "...no one like you can get to this. Would you tell me where you have got this from?" And when he heard the true story said "Now you say the truth. Like this would not come out except from that house (the Ahlul Bayt)…". It is said that al-Kindi burnt his book afterwards.[17]

Tafsir al-Askari[edit]

He was very knowledgeable and despite being confined to house arrest for almost his entire life, Hasan al-Askari was able to teach others about Islam, and even compiled a commentary on the Quran that became known as Tafsir al-Askari. However, there was many suspicion regarding whether or not it truly was his or not. The Tafsir was accused by some to be weak in its chain of authorities (Sanad), which is an essential part of the transmission of a tradition.[18] The Tafsir was also questioned because it contained a few inconsistencies and lacks eloquence which some claim ruin its validity by default. The main reason people questioned the validity of the Tafsir is the fact that the Imam was under constant watch by the Abbasid government who prevented any contact between him and the Shia so that it would make it impossible for such knowledge to be transferred.[19]

Selected Sayings[edit]

  • "If anyone of you is pious in his religion, truthful in his speech, he gives deposit back to its owner, and treats people kindly, it shall be said about him: ―this is a Shiite."[20]
  • "Do not hasten towards a fruit that it is not ripe yet because it is got at its time! …Trust in His experience in your affairs and do not hurry for your needs at the beginning of your time and then your heart may be distressed and despair may overcome you!"[20]
  • "Worship is not the abundant fasting and praying, but worship is the abundant pondering; it is the continuous thinking of God."[20]
  • "Anger is the key of every evil."[20]
  • "A spiteful one is the least comfortable."[20]
  • "There are two qualities that no quality is over them; the faith in God and the serving of brothers."[20]
  • "Humbleness is a blessing that is not envied."[20]
  • "If all people of this world are intelligent, the world would be ruined.[20]
  • "The weakest of enemies in cunning, is he who shows his enmity."[20]
  • "Vices have been put in a house whose key is lying."[20]

Death[edit]

Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq

Hasan al-Askari, according to some Shia sources, was poisoned in the age of 28 through the instigation of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tamid and died on the 8th Rabi' al-awwal 260 AH (approximately: 4 January 874)[21] in his own house in Samarra, where he was buried in the same place with his father.[6]

As soon as the news of the illness of the eleventh Imam had reached al-Mu'tamid, he sent a physician and a group of his trusted men to his house to be there observing his condition. After the death of the Imam, they had all his female slaves examined by the midwives and for two years were searching for the successor of the Imam until eventually they lost hope. Al-Askari died on the very same day as his young son, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who then was five or a little over, disappeared, and started therefore what is known as the Minor Occultation.[5][10]

His Son, the Promised Mahdi[edit]

Shias claim that al-Askari had a son whose birth, like the case of the prophet Moses, was concealed due to of the difficulties of the time, and because of the belief that he was the promised Muhammad al-Mahdi; an important figure in Shia teaching who is believed will reappear at the end of time to fill the world with justice, peace and to establish Islam as the global religion. It is said that when his uncle, who became known as the "Ja'far the liar" or the "false Ja'far," afterwards, was about to say the prayer at Hasan al-Askari's funeral, "a fair child, with curly hair, and shining teeth" appeared and seized his uncle's cloak insisting that he himself should say the prayer. And when a few days later a group of Shia pilgrims came from Qum to visit al-Askari, who was dead then, the same Ja'far claimed to be the next Imam. The pilgrims said they would accept him if he would prove himself by telling them their names and indicating how much money they had. While Ja'far was protesting against this examination, a servant of the boy, al-Mahdi, appeared, saying that his master had informed him to say that they had certain particular names and definite amount of money. Ja'far searched everywhere but could not find the boy, al-Mahdi. The doctrine of his ghaiba, declares simply that Mahdi has been "withdrawn by God from the eyes of men, that his life has been miraculously prolonged, that he has been seen from time to time and has been in correspondence with others, and maintains a control over the fortunes of his people."[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Quran, 23:115
  2. ^ The coming of the Mahdi had been foretold by both Shia and Sunni traditions. See Sahih of Tirmidhi. Cairo, 1350-52. vol. IX, chapter "Ma ja a fi’l-huda": Sahih of Abu Da’ud, vol.ll, Kitab al-Mahdi: Sahih oflbn Majah, vol.ll. chapter khurui’ al-Mahdi": Yanabi’ al-mawaddah: Kitab al-bayan fi akhbar Sahib al zaman of Kanji Shaafi’i, Najaf, 1380; Nur al-absar: Mishkat almasabih of Muham. mad ibn ’Abdallan al-Khatib. Damascus, 1380; al- Sawa’iq al-muhriqah, Is’af al raghibin of Muhammad al-Sabban, Cairo. 1281: al-Fusul al-muhimmmah; Sahih of Muslim: Kitab al-ghaybah by Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Nu’mani, Tehran, 1318; Kamal al-din by Shaykh Saduq. Tehran, 1301; lthbat al-hudat; Bihar al-anwar, vol. LI and LII.
  3. ^ See Kitab al-rijal of Kashshi; Rijal of Tusi; Fihrist of Tusi, and other works of biography (rijal).[5]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Shareef al-Qurashi 2005
  2. ^ a b Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, pp. 16–18
  3. ^ http://www.al-islam.org/the-life-of-imam-hasan-al-askari-baqir-shareef-al-qurashi/imam%E2%80%99s-noble-lineage#his-mother
  4. ^ http://www.ziaraat.org/askari.php
  5. ^ a b c d e f Tabataba'i, Muhammad Husayn (1979). Shi'ite Islam. State University of New York Press. pp. 184–185 & 69. 
  6. ^ a b c Tabåatabåa'åi, Muhammad Husayn (1981). A Shi'ite Anthology. Selected and with a Foreword by Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i; Translated with Explanatory Notes by William Chittick; Under the Direction of and with an Introduction by Hossein Nasr. State University of New York Press. p. 139. ISBN 9780585078182. 
  7. ^ Corbin, Henry (2001). The History of Islamic Philosophy. Translated by Liadain Sherrard with the assistance of Philip Sherrard. London and New York: Kegan Paul International. pp. 69–70. 
  8. ^ Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, p. 18
  9. ^ Eliash, J. "Ḥasan al- ʿAskarī , Abū Muḥammad Ḥasan b. ʿAlī." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online. Augustana. 13 April 2010 <http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-2762>
  10. ^ a b c d e f Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi'ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 217–222. 
  11. ^ Al-Qurashi, Baqir Shareef. The Life of Imam ‘Ali al-Hadi, Study and Analysis. Abdullah al-Shahin. Qum: Ansariyan Publications. p. 82. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  12. ^ Koleini, Mohammad (1362). Osule Kafi 1. Tehran: Islamie. pp. 509 & 285. 
  13. ^ Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, pp. 20–21
  14. ^ Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, p. 23
  15. ^ Meri, Josef W. (2005). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. USA: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96690-0. 
  16. ^ Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, p. 188
  17. ^ a b Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, pp. 162–163
  18. ^ Robson, J. "Isnād." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online. Augustana. 13 April 2010 <http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-3665>
  19. ^ Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, pp. 80–86
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Shareef al-Qurashi 2005, pp. 68–75
  21. ^ Mufīd, Ibn-al-Muʻallim, I. K. A. Howard, and Ḥusain Naṣr. Kitāb Al-Irshād: the Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imams. Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1990. Print.

References[edit]

  • Shareef al-Qurashi, Baqir (2005). The Life of Imam Al-Hasan Al-Askari. Translation by: Abdullah al-Shahin. Ansariyan Publications – Qum. 

External links[edit]

Shia Islam titles
Preceded by
Ali al-Hadi
11th Imam of Twelver Shia Islam
868 – 874
Succeeded by
Muhammad al-Mahdi