Imam Hassan al-Askari was born in Madina,on 8th day of the month of Rabi' Thani, in the year 232 A.H. He was called 'al-Askari' in connection with the district of Askar in the city of Samarra' in which he (the Imam) and his father, Imam Ali un-Naqi al-Hadi (A.S.) were imprisoned by the Abbasid caliphs.
The holy Imam(A.S.) was born and brought up under the care of his father, Imam Ali al-Hadi (A.S.), who was well-known for his divinely inspired knowledge, holy striving (Jihad) and good acts and from him he learned the best of morals, the abundance of knowledge, the spirit of belief and the good merits of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.).
Indeed, he (the Holy Imam) (A.S..) accompanied his holy father and lived whit him more that twenty three years, during which time he comprehended the sciences of the descendants of Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and learned the inheritance of the divine leadership. He looked like his fathers in the fields of knowledge, good deeds, jihad, and calling to reform in the community of his holy grandfather,Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
Various narrations are given concerning the leadership of Imam al-Askari (a.s.) and the isuue of his leadership appeared during the period of his holy father, Imam Ali al-Hadi (A.S.).
Sheikh Mufid narrated the following:
"On the authority of Abu Bakr Fahfaki, who said: 'Abul-Hasan (al-Hadi), peace be on him, wrote me (i.e. Abu Bakr Fahfaki): 'Abu Muhammad, my son, is the soundest of the family of Muhammad(S.A.W.) in excellence and the firmest of them in proof. He is the eldest of my (surviving) sons. He is the successor. To him, end, the bonds of leadership (Imamate) and our laws. Whatever you used to ask me about ask him. With him, you find what you are in need of."
After his reverend father, the Holy Imam (A.S.) undertook the task of leadership "Imamtate'. His succession lasted about six years, and, in which, he practised different kinds of political and scholarly responsibilities as his divinely appointed forefathers accurately and efficiently did.
The Noble Character of Imam al-Askari (A.S.)
Indeed, Imam al-Askari(a.s.), like his noble fathers, was a prominent scholar and an Imam whom no one could ignore. He (A.S.) was the chief of religious scholars, an ideal of worshippers, a leader of politics and opposition, and towards whom the hearts of people were adhered with love and respect.
Inspite of the existence of the brutal terrorism of the Abbasid rule, and their political hostility towards Ahlul-Bayt (A.S.), and the continuous pursuit of authorities for him and his followers, and throwing them in prisons and jails, the caliphs of his time could not hide his personality or weaken his scientific and political role and his social status. Thus, the spiritual authority of the Holy Imam(A.S.) was imposed upon the rulers and the opponents of his time.
Ahmad bin Abdulla bin Khaqan, being an opponent of Imam al-Askari (A.S.), narrated a full description about his social and political status and position:
Ibn Shahr Ashub said:
"Hussein bin Muhammad Ash'ari and Muhammad bin Ali said: During his assembly one day the Shias and their beliefs were mentioned. Ahmad bin Abdulla bin Khaqan was in charge of estates and the land tax in Qom. He was the severe enemy of the descendants of Ali bin Abi-Talib(A.S.), who said: 'I had not seen a man from the Sayyids like al-Hassan bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Reza(A.S.). Once, the Imam's servant visited my father and said: Abu Muhammad bin al-Rida is standing at the door. Therefore, he permitted them to enter, and welcomed him (the Imam). Then, the Caliph made him sit down in his oratory (place of Prayer) and started to talk with him and asked for sacrifice of himself for the Imam.
When the Imam wanted to leave, he (my father) bid farewell to him. Then, I asked my father about him (the Imam) and he replied: 'I my son! This is the Imam (leader) of Shias and if the office of leadership was to be taken from our caliphs i.e. the family of al-Abbas, no one among the family of Bani Hashim would be more entitled to it than him (the Imam) becase of his great merit, his self restraint, his modesty, his fasting, his prayer, his asceticism, his devotion (to Allah), and all of his high morals and his righteousness.' "Indeed, I always asked about him, they glorified him and mentioned his charismas. He added saying: 'I have never seen anyone who is more plentiful in knowledge and manner, nor sweet in tongue than Hassan al-Askari(A.S.).
Because of the Holy Imam's great status, political position and his standing at the top of political opposition at that time, the, then, authorities not only imposed a house arrest on him, but, also forced him to attend the office of the caliphate on Mondays and Thursdays every week in the city of Samarrah, the military garrison capital city of Abbasid administration.
In this regard, one of the companions of the Holy Imam (A.S.) said:
"We held a meeting in the district of "al-Askar", then, we waited for the day of Abu Muhammad's (the Holy Imam) going by, instead, he (a.s.) sent a letter in which he wrote the following: 'No one should greet me, nor refer to me with his hand nor gestures, because you would not secure yourselves."
The great position of the Imam (a.s.) can be shown by the following historical document in which he describes the people's conditions during the Holy Imam's martyrdom:
"When the news of his (the HolyImam) martyrdom was spread, Samarra' became on uproar. The markets were empty. Bani (the family) Hashim, the military leaders, the secretaries, the judges, the attestators and the rest of the people rode to his funeral. On that day, Samarra' looked like the (day of) Resurrection.."
Imam Hasan al-Askari's(A.S.) Divine Knowledge:
The Holy Imam's main task was to safeguard the Message of Islam, to defend its originality, to call people towards it and to convey its principles and values.
During the reign of Imam al-Askari(A.S.), the school of Ahlul-Bayt (A.S..) was filled with knowledge, calling to Islam and defending it and spreading its ideas, the chief element of this act was done through the academic way.
Indeed, the Holy Imam (A.S.) had students, companions and narrators, some of whom had continued their task since the reign of his father and grandfather, while others joined in during the period of his divine leadership. All these students and narrators had studied under the Holy Imam(A.S.) and quoted him in narrating Islamic sciences and culture.
Sheikh Tusi mentioned the names of the narrators of Imam al-Askari (A.S.). Their number was about 99 narrators on different levels of knowledge and culture.
Indeed, the religious scholars who either narrated from Imam al'Askari (A.S.), or who studied under his school, or who were educated in the school of the Holy Imam(A.S.) and his forefathers, participated in developing the scholarly offering in the fields of jurisprudence, interpretation, narration, faith, literature, geography, and other sciences.
All these evidences indicated the greatness of this school and also refer to the scholarly status of the Holy Imam(A.S.) and his high rank among people.
Holy Imams' Martyrdom
Imam al-Askari (A.S.) lived during the times of the Abbasid caliphs, Mu'taz, Muhtadi and Mu'tamid. The Holy Imam (A.S.) suffered more afflictions, confinement, terrorism and pursuit by the three above mentioned brutal and cruel caliphs and was, also, exposed to imprisonment at different times before them.
The last caliph, whom the Holy Imam (A.S..) lived with, Mu'tamid, was dissoulte, disposed to entertainment and pleasures, singing, and committing the forbidden. All these caused people to hate him,
The Holy Imam (A.S.) suffered different kinds of troubles and torments in the hands of the caliph, Mu'tamid, who surrounded him with intensive security forces to keep an eye on him and pursue those who wanted to contact him.
The reason that caused the Abbasids to be more envious against the high position of the Holy Imam (A.S.), among the Ummah, was their being afraid of his son, the Awaited Imam Mahdi(A.S.). They knew that Imam would be the son of Imam Askari(A.S.) whom he referred to in one of his letters:
"They thought that they could kill me in order to cut off my offspring, but Allah denied their sayings and praise be to Allah."
The anger of the caliph, Mu'tamid, increased more when he saw that the whole ummah glorified, and showed great respect and superiority to the Holy Imam (A.S.); and the Shias more thant the Abbasids. On the other side, the caliph, Mu'tamid was greatly hated by the whole ummah. Therefore, he decided to annihilate the Holy Imam (a.s.) and assassinate him.
Imam Abu Muhammad Hassan al-Askari(A.S.) was poisoned by the caliph, Mu'tamad, and, thus, suffered severely and was martyred on 8th of the month of Rabi' Awwal in the year 260 (A.H.). At the time of his death, he was twenty-eight years old. He was buried in the house in which his father was buried in Samarra'. He left behind his son - Living Holy Awaited Saviour Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi(A.S.) the one who is awaited to bring about the heavenly rule of truth in the whole world.