By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
"It is obligatory for the people to follow the jurist who refrains from committing wrong, emphasizes his faith, opposes carnal desire, and obeys Allah’s command.” – Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS)
We are in the beginning of Rabi al-Awwal, the month on whose eve 1442 lunar years ago the Almighty Creator had ordered His Last and Greatest Messenger to leave Mecca and settle in Yathreb where the people, including its elite, were more inclined towards Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) obeyed the Divine commandment and left his abode that night, undetected by the group of Meccan polytheists hovering around with the intention to kill him past midnight and extinguish the light of Islam.
"They desire to put out the Light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah shall perfect His Light though the faithless should be averse.” (Holy Qur’an 61:8)
The Seal of Messengers, however, instructed his dearest cousin and ward to take his place on his bed that night in order to foil the murderous plot of the Arabs, so that he would have ample time to leave Mecca and seek shelter in a remote mountain cave on his way to Yathreb.
The 23-year old Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) gladly obliged to risk his life and limbs if his selfless act were to save the life of his 53-year old persecuted cousin.
When well past midnight the pagan Arabs burst into the abode of Divine revelation to commit their cowardly deed, up sprang from the bed the valiant youth who for the past dozen years since the dawn of Islam had been the Prophet’s bodyguard, and put them to flight.
God Almighty duly rewarded his selfless act with the revelation of Ayah 207 of Surah Baqarah:
"And among the people is he who sells his soul seeking the pleasure of Allah, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants.”
Imam Ali (AS), after handing over to the people the trusts they used to keep with Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) – the "al-Ameen” or the Most Trustworthy – for safe custody, joined him at Quba, and the two cousins formally entered Yathreb to the enthusiastic welcome of the local people, whose city now became known as "Medinat-an-Nabi” (the Prophet’s City) or simply Medina, to establish the first Islamic State, which for the next decade would be protected from the stratagems, including wars, of the infidel Arabs and the ever-rebellious Israelites.
Ironically, ten years later on the 1st of Rabi al-Awwal following the Prophet’s passing away a couple of days earlier, a gang of Arabs, now claiming to be Muslim, would storm the house of Imam Ali (AS), fling the burning door on his wife, the Prophet’s daughter Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), martyr in the process the son Mohsin (SA) – the Prophet’s grandson – who was nearing his birth, and drag the Divinely-designated vicegerent of the Prophet through a rope around his neck for forced swearing of allegiance to the coup leader masquerading as caliph.
Fast forward to the 1st of Rabi al-Awwal, the year 260 AH and the city of Samarra in Iraq, where a self-styled caliph administered a fatal dose of poison to the Prophet’s 11th Infallible Heir, in a vain bid like his Meccan and Medinite progenitors, to extinguish the light of genuine Muhammadan Islam.
He was 28-year old Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS), and he was being murdered in a bid to prevent the materialization of the Prophet’s prophecy of Twelve Infallible Heirs, the last of whom will rise as Qa’em al-Mahdi (AS) to end tyranny and establish the global government of peace, prosperity, and justice.
The enemies of Islam were wrong as usual, since the son of their victim had already been born five years earlier and was being raised in secrecy.
For almost a week, the 11th Imam writhed in pain before his soul flew to the ethereal heavens on the 8th of Rabi al-Awwal, plunging the Ummah in grief, which we continue to commemorate till this day.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS), however, during his imamate of six years, which was mostly spent either in prison or under house arrest, had spared no efforts to enlighten minds and souls, and in the process ensured that the faithful will never be left in the dark during the long period of occultation of his son.
His disciples carried this message far and wide from North Africa and Spain to Khorasan, and subsequently to India and Central Asia.
It is outside the scope of this brief newspaper column to dwell on many aspects of the days of Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) including his removing of doubts from the fallible mind of the Philosopher of the Arabs, Yaqoub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, who by doubting some of the ayahs of the holy Qur’an was already on the brink of the eternal inferno.
The philosopher repented and tore to pieces whatever rubbish he was trying to write, and said in explicit words that the Prophet’s Righteous Heir had saved him from the death of an infidel.
Upon the authority of Imam Askari (AS), an exegesis of parts of the Holy Qur’an was prepared.
In order to save Muslims from turning towards Christianity on the deception of a monk whose exposure of a piece of bone of one of the long-dead saints to the sky resulted in a freak rainfall during a period of drought in Samarra, the Prophet’s Heir first took away the bone from the palms of the monk and then prayed to God Almighty. The result was an abundant rainfall that filled the water sources and made the land lush green again.
The Eleventh Imam’s letters and sayings, like the famous statement mentioned at the head of this brief column, were not restricted to his times, but are timeless pieces of guidance for the faithful.
How wisely has he taught us that in the absence of an Infallible Imam, such weighty matters, as rule and direction of the state, cannot be entrusted to the unprincipled, the ignorant, the arrogant, the unwise, the unfair, the uneducated, the timid, the apolitical, the agnostic and so on, even if selected, elected, or nominated by the highly flawed manmade system of democracy.
If societies are to be spared of the sedition wrought by Saqifa Bani Sa’dah, then the authority of the person at the helm of affairs should derive legitimacy from the God-given wilayat of the Ahl al-Bayt.
In other words, until the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS) and establishment of the global government of peace and justice, the jurist the people are obliged to obey in both spiritual and state matters, should be devout, brave, pious, wise, just, knowledgeable, aware of social issues, and politically alert.