Source: “Shia Islam AT A Glance” BY: Sheikh Abdul Jalil Nawee; and Shia Youth Inc. Website:

Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.)  was also called Imam Abu Muhammad (a.s.) and Imam Ibn al-Ridha (a.s.), and

is generally known as Imam al-Askari (a.s.) (Askar being the word for military cantonment). He lived mostly in the city of Samarra which was known as

 a garrison town. He was the eleventh Shia Imam after his father Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.).


Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) was born on 10th Rabbiussani, 232 A.H., which is about the time his father Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.), the tenth Imam, was suspected of being involved in plan against the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, and was taken along with his family, to Samarra in the year 232 A.H. He was kept there under house arrest. Thus there is doubt as to whether his son, al-Askari, was born in Medina or Samarra. In Samarra, Imam al-Askari (a.s.) spent most of his time to peruse the Quran and the Sharia; and, according to sources, he must have occupied himself with languages too, for, in later years, it was known that he could talk Hindi with the pilgrims from IndiaTurkish with the Turks, and Persian with the Persians. According to Shia accounts, however, it is part of divine knowledge given to all Imams to be able to speak all human languages.

It is said that even as a child, Imam al-Askari (a.s.) 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 Allah.” answered the child. The man said “Where

have you got this from?”. Imam Al-Askari said, “From the saying of God, “Did you then think that We had created 

you in vain.” The man was confused, so he said, “What has happened to you while you are guiltless little child?”

Imam 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.”

Imam Al-Askari’s (a.s.) mother, as in the case of the 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 SusanGhazalaSalil, or Haribta.  Imam Al-Askari (a.s.) had other brothers, among them was Ja’far, who was also known as Ja’far al-Zaki or Jaffar-us-Sani. His other brother was called Husayn, who, together with Imam al-Askari (a.s.), were called “as-Sibtayn” after their two grandfathers Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husayn (a.s.) who were also called as-Sibtayn.


Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) 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, Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) 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. So the caliphs of the time had definitely decided to put an end to the Imamate in Shiism once and for all.


Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) lived almost his entire life under house arrest in Samarra and under supervision of Abbasid caliphs. 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 Imam al-Askari’s (a.s.) father, Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.), 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 al-Askari (a.s.). The cause of the Imam’s death has largely been speculated to be due to poison administered by Caliph al-Mu’tamid.


During their lifetimes, the Shia Imams trained hundreds of scholars whose names and works can be found in

biography books.  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 Imam al-Askari

(a.s.) 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. Later on, Imam Hasan al-

Askari (a.s.) 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? He shall say that it is possible because he is a man who understands when he listens. If he says that, you say to him, How do you know? He might mean other than the meanings that you think, and so he fabricates other than its (the Qur’an’s) meanings…“. The disciple did as Imam al-Askari (a.s.) 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, he said, “Now you say the truth. Like this would not come out except from that house (the Ahlul Bayt)…”. It is said that afterwards al-Kindi burnt his book.


Imam al-Askari (a.s.) was very knowledgeable and despite being confined to house arrest for almost his entire life, he 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 much suspicion regarding whether 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 (hadith). 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.


Various legends relate to Imam al-Askari’s (a.s.) wife, Narjis Khatun, the mother of the twelfth Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.). It is said that Imam al-Askari’s (a.s.) father, Imam Ali al-Hadi (a.s.), wrote a letter in the script of Rum and put it in a red purse, with 220 Dinars, and gave it to his friend Bashar ibn Sulaiman, instructing him to go to Baghdad to a ferry 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 do I have?; I am compelled to sell you?”. “You will then hear the slave answer”, said the Imam, “Why this haste, 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 her 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 rub it to her face and body; and when asked by Bashar why she did so despite not knowing the writer of the letter, she said: “May the offspring of the Prophet (pbuh) 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.


Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.), according to some Shia sources, was poisoned at the age of 28 through the

instigation of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu’tamid and died on the 8th Rabi’ al-Awwal 260 AH in his own house in

Samarra, where he was buried in the same place as his father, Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq. As soon as the news of the illness of the eleventh Imam reached al-Mu’tamid, he sent a physician and a group of his trusted men to his house to observe 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 they eventually lost hope. Imam Al-Askari (a.s.) died on the very same day that his young son, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.), who then was five years old or a little older, disappeared in the cave of Samrra, and started what was known as the Minor Occultation (Ghaibat e Sughra).


Shias believe that Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) and wife Nargis Khatun had

a son whose birth, like in the case of the prophet Moses (pbuh), was concealed due to the difficulties of the time, and because of the belief that he was the promised Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (a.s.); an important Imam in Shia teachings believed to 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 “Ja’far the liar” or the “false Ja’far,”  was about to say the prayer at Imam Hasan al-Askari’s (a.s.) funeral, “a fair child, with curly hair, and shining teeth” appeared and seized his uncle’s cloak insisting that he himself (the Imam) should say the prayer. Later, when a few days had passed, a group of Shia pilgrims came from Qum to visit Imam al-Askari (a.s.), who was dead. At this time, 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 Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) appeared, saying that his master had sent him to inform them of their certain particular names and their specific amount of money. Ja’far searched everywhere but could not find the boy, Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.). The doctrine of his ghaibat, declares simply that Imam Mahdi (a.s.) has been “withdrawn by Allah (swt) 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 welfare and fortunes of his people.”


  • “If anyone of you is pious in his religion, truthful in his speech, gives deposit back to its owner, and treats people kindly, it shall be said about him: ―this is a Shiite.”
  • “Do not hasten towards a fruit that is not ripe yet for it has its time! …Trust in His (God’s) experience in your affairs and do not hurry for your needs at the beginning of your time that your heart may be distressed and despair may overcome you!”
  • “Worship is not abundant fasting and praying, rather worship is abundant pondering; it is the continuous thinking of God.”
  • “Anger is the key to every evil.”
  • “Humbleness is a blessing that is envied”.


Brief Life History of The 12th Imam Next Week, insha’Allah.
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