By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
"O You, Whom angels glorify in the morning and evening; O You, the Permanent and Eternal; the Bringer forth of plants in the early morning and afternoon; the Enlivener of the dead; the Resurrector of decayed bones; the Everlasting; the Dresser of bones that decay after death!”
The above passage is part of a beautiful supplication in the Divine Court that indicates the Infinite Power of the One and Only Creator of the universe in Whose mercy we have profound faith, Whose forgiveness cleanses the penitents of their faults, Whose clemency is shield against the eternal inferno, and Who rewards the righteous with the perpetual bliss of paradise.
Who was the supplicant? What was his source of knowledge?
The 8th of the month of Rabi al-Akher provides us the answers. Born in the year 232 AH (846 AD) in holy Medina, he was named Hasan by his Father, Imam Ali an-Naqi al-Hadi (AS) – the 10th Infallible Heir of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
He was destined to acquire the epithet "al-Askari”, which means the "soldier”, or more properly the "Soldier of God”, at whose command was an army of angels – as the terrified tyrant Mutawakkel, a self-styled caliph, found out when he tried to boast of the power of his Turkic mercenary slave-soldiers, recruited by the Abbasids from the steppes of Central Asia.
Another of his famous epithets is "Zaki”, which means the pure and chaste in all affairs.
To be more precise he was the 11th Imam of mankind and the father of the Divinely-Promised Saviour, Imam Mahdi (AS), through whom God will grant the final victory to the true believers and make Islam triumphant over all creeds, ideologies, and nations.
As for the mother of Imam Hasan Askari (AS), she was the most virtuous lady of her age, known for her faith in God, chastity, purity of thought, and piety. A native of Nubia – the region along the River Nile encompassing the area between Aswan in southern Egypt and Khartoum in central Sudan which in the ancient times was the seat of an advanced civilization – she was named ‘Saleel’ or the one purified from error, defect, and impurity.
Some historians have referred to her ‘Sowsan’, while others have called her ‘Haditha’, which seem to be her epithets for her outstanding qualities.
What an honourable house and what a glorious lineage the Eleventh Imam had – similar to the peerless pedigrees of the rest of the Infallibles!
No wonder his great ancestress was the noblest-ever lady of all times, the Prophet’s Immaculate Daughter, Hazrat Fatema az-Zahra (peace upon her).
Besides such hereditary merits, he possessed perfect morals and was sincere in all affairs. Moreover, his wife and the mother of his son and heir, was the virtuous princess of the Greek Byzantine Empire, Melika or Narjis.
Like his Infallible Ancestors, Imam Hasan Askari (AS), by God’s Grace, was the most knowledgeable person of his age in all fields of knowledge.
Bakhtshou, the famous Christian physician, who was a contemporary once said to his disciple Batriq about the Eleventh Imam: "He is the most knowledgeable of all those under the sky in our day.”
Even the conscientious courtiers of the usurper caliphs have admitted that if the Abbasid tyrants had not subjected the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt to oppression and confinement, they would have filled the earth with science and knowledge to such an extent that the world had never before seen such wisdom and intellectual development.
A certain Ahmad bin Ishaq relates that when he heard of the martyrdom of the 10th Imam in 254 AH (867 AD) he went to Samarra and asked for the whereabouts of the 11th Imam. He was told that Mo’taz the murderous caliph had imprisoned him. After bribing the guards he was able to visit Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) one night. He described the prison as a tunnel under the Caliph’s palace. Ahmad says he cried when he saw the Imam’s condition. Food was only one glass of water and a piece of dry bread a day.
The 11th Imam was imprisoned because the caliphs were scared of the Prophet’s famous hadith that his righteous successors will be 12 in number, and the last one will rise as Imam Mahdi al-Qa’em (AS) to rid the world of all vestiges of corruption and tyranny, and to establish the global government of peace and justice.
Once there was a severe drought in Samarra and a Christian priest tried to exploit the situation. It seemed that whenever he raised his hands towards the sky, a shower of rain began to fall. As a result the faith of the Muslims started to waver and Mo’taz got worried, for if they left Islam he would never be able to justify his rule over them.
He had no other choice but to turn to the 11th Imam, who was in prison. Imam Askari (AS), magnanimous as ever, asked him to assemble the people outside the city along with the Christian priest. When the people assembled the Imam asked the priest to pray for rain. The latter raised his hands and a shower of rain fell. The Imam noticed something and said that whatever was in the hands of the priest should be taken away, and then asked him to pray for rain again. The priest lifted his hands, but this time there was no rain.
Imam Hasan Askari (AS) said that what the priest had in his hand was the bone of a pious servant of God, which whenever exposed to the open sky caused a shower of rain. Now without the sacred bone the Christian priest was unable to perform his supposed miracle.
The people were amazed. Then the Imam performed a prayer and prostrated to God, before lifting his own hands to supplicate for rain – not a brief shower – so that the drought would end. Soon the clouds gathered and there was a heavy rainfall that filled up ponds and provided water to the dying crops, thereby easing the sufferings of the people of the region.
After this manifest miracle, the people’s faith in Islam was once more strengthened and it was now impossible for Mo’taz to again imprison the Prophet’s 11th successor. Imam Askari (AS) returned to his house and in the year 255 AH (868 AD), the 12th Imam was born, although his birth was kept secret so that the caliphs would not attempt to kill the newborn.
During the six years of his Imamate, Imam Askari (AS) ably guided the seekers of truth, so that during the lengthy occultation of his son, the believers will remain steadfast in their faith.
Felicitations on the Blessed Birthday of Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS)