Shafqna: Shīʿa Islam: History and Doctrines / Ayatullāh Jaʿfar Subḥānī
Imam Ḥasan ‘al-ʿAskarī
Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī, the son of Imam al-Hādī, was the eleventh Shīʿa Imam. He was born in Medina in 846 AD and died in Samarra in 874 AD. He was buried in his home. He was 22 when his father died and he became the Imam. The Abbasid caliphs of his time were Muʿtazz, Muhtadi and Mu‘tamid.
The Abbasids followed the same policy with him as they had vis-à-vis his predecessors; Maʾmūn had placed the eighth the Imam under surveillance, Muʿtaṣim controlled access to Imam al-Jawād and Mutawakkil had put Imam al-Hādī under house arrest. Mutawakkil’s successors did the same to Imam al-Hādī and his son Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī. The caliphs wanted to know what the Imams were doing. Imam al-ʿAskarī was under surveillance in Samarra and he was made to attend the Caliph’s audiences on Mondays and Thursdays.
The caliphs who came after Maʾmūn poisoned three Shīʿa Imams. (Imam al-Jawād was 25, Imam al-Hādī was 41 and Imam al-ʿAskari was 28 when they were murdered)
The Abbasid caliphs imposed more restrictions on Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī because:
Under the guidance of Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī, the Shīʿa formed a powerful bloc in Iraq and everyone knew that this group did not recognize the legality or legitimacy of any Abbasid Caliph. The Shīʿa believed that the children of Imam ʿAlī deserved to be the Imam and Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī was the rightful leader of the Muslims.
According to many traditions, the Abbasid dynasty and their followers were certain that the Awaited Mahdī, who was prophesised to overthrow all tyrants and establish a government of justice, was the son of Imam al-ʿAskarī. That is why they placed him under tight control.
When Mu‘tamid heard about the Imam’s illness, he sent ʿUbayd Allāh Khāqān and five others to look after him. Even after the Imam’s martyrdom, his house was searched and his properties were sealed. The Imam’s children were also questioned; midwives were ordered to examine the women of his household and report any pregnancy. (Kamāl al-Dīn)
In spite of these tough restrictions, the Imam pushed ahead with his political, social and intellectual activities; the Imam’s struggles could be summarized in the following four points:
Intellectual debates with those who did not believe in his Imamate
Intellectual endeavours about Islamic teachings and dispelling doubts
Giving guidance to his companions to keep them from falling into Abbasid traps
Preparing the ground for people’s belief in the occultation of his son, Imam al-Mahdī.