“Generosity has a limit, which when crossed becomes extravagance; caution has a limit which when crossed becomes cowardice; thriftiness has a limit, which when crossed becomes miserliness; courage has a limit, which when crossed becomes fool-hardiness. Let this moral lesson suffice: refrain from doing anything which you would disapprove of if done by someone else.” (as quoted in A Brief History of The Fourteen Infallibles p. 155-157)
Samarra is a garrison town about 60 miles north of Baghdad. River Euphrates flows in the middle of the town, and because of the surrounding hills a cool breeze keeps the area cooler in comparison to Baghdad. The word ‘Asker’ in arabic is used for army. Our 11th Imam’s title became known as Askari, the one who lived all his life in a garrison town.
There is another story related with this name by many historians. Once the Caliph called him in his palace and ordered his army to march past before him. The Caliph wanted to boast or to impress the Imam of his power or to dissuade the Imam from any thoughts of revolution against the Abbasid Caliphate. When the march past was over, Imam asked the Caliph to gaze between two of his fingers. What the Caliph saw was a huge army of lancers and swords men marching past, a much bigger crowd than the Caliphs army. He was astonished at this miracle and named him Askari, i.e. the man with a big army.
Imam Hasan al-Askari’s (AS) life from childhood to adulthood was spent in this house where his father Imam Ali an-Naqi (AS) was to remain under house arrest. But despite this close guard on the Imam, he conducted his duties as Imam from inside the house. He taught people Qur’an and instructed his followers the true teachings of Islam as taught by the Prophet of Islam and his Ahlulbayt. In fact Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) wrote a complete Tafseer of the Qur’an which was mentioned by many scholars, historians and exegetes, including Kulaini and Saduq.
Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS) lived a short life, only 28 years and in this short life he had to endure great sufferings by the hands of the Abbasid caliphs. But in spite of all that suffering and confinement under house arrest in Samarrah, many students of Islam benefited from his God-gifted knowledge and later became scholars in their fields. He discussed with agnostics of that age many times about the existence of God and the reasons for the necessity of the Prophets and Imams and many atheists changed their minds and converted to Islam. One of those was Ishaq al-kindi who was writing a book about contradictions in Qur’an. Imam invited some of his students and taught them lessons from the Qur’an. These students of Al-kindi confronted their teacher and rejected his arguments about the contradictions in the Holy Book. Al-Kindi realised that these arguments could not have come from the brains of these young students. He asked them about the secret of their extensive knowledge of the Qur’an. In the end they confessed that Imam Hasan al-Askari taught them. Kindi himself became the disciple of our Imam, burnt his own writings on atheism and later wrote many treatises on Islam.
In spite of the fact that the Imam had never given any cause for concern to the Caliphs of his time, their guilt in this matter was so great that they did not leave these pious personalities in peace. If they had no fear of their throne they were afraid of the excellence and knowledge of the Imams. In the case of Imam Hasan al-Askari (AS), the same type of jealousy led to the poisoning of the Imam to end this life of a saint whose only activity was to teach Qur’an as the Prophet and his Ahlulbayt taught before him. During the rule of Al-Mu’tamid poison was given to the Imam mixed in some fruit and he died on 8th Rabi-al-Awwal 260AH. He left only one son, whose name was Muhammad who was only five years old when his father died.
The Caliph Al- Mu’tamid himself attended the funeral prayer. When they all lined up and were ready to commence the prayers, Imam Hasan al-Askari’s brother Jaafar stood in front of the people to lead the prayer. Before he could commence the prayer, a five year old boy came out of the house, went near his uncle, shook his mantle and told him, “set aside uncle, only an Imam can lead the funeral prayer of an Imam.” His uncle Jaafar stepped aside and this five year old boy lead the prayers. Immediately after the end of the prayer he went inside his house and was not seen by his pursuers, lead by the caliph Mu’tamid himself.
Our 11th Imam was buried in the same house where he had died, by the side of his father Imam Ali an-Naqi (AS). By the passage of time, the place was transformed into a great mausoleum and pilgrims from all over the Islamic lands came to pay their homage to the two Imams of Ahlulbayt who were buried there.
Story of the Holy Ka’aba And its People; By S.M.R. Shabbar; published by Muhammadi Trust of Great Britain