This chapter reviews the life of Imam Hasan Askari (AS) and provides
an overview of the oppression and the hardship that he endured during
his Imamat. This chapter also highlights the Imam’s efforts to prepare
the Shias for the occultation of his son, Imam Mahdi (AS).

11-1-Before the Government of Mu’tazz
Imam Hasan ibn Ali (AS), also known as Askari, was born on the 8th of
Rabi’ al-Thani, in the year 232 Hijri, in Medina. Similar to the second
Shia Imam, Imam Hasan Mujtaba (AS), Imam Askari was also given the
title of “Aba Muhammad”. He was also known by the title of “Ibn alReza” or “the son of Reza”, as he was from the lineage of Imam Reza
(AS). Imam Reza had become very well-known among the Muslims
after becoming Mamun’s Crown Prince, and thus the next Shia Imams
from his lineage were known as “Ibn al-Reza”. Imam Askari’s mother
was a slave before she married Imam Hadi. She is referred to by various
names, including Hudaith, Saleel, and Saosan. It was the Ahlul-Bayt’s
family tradition to attribute multiple honorable names to their slave
wives to remove bad memories from their period of captivity. Imam
Askari’s mother was so pious that Imam Hadi had described her as “the
one who was far from any impurity and evil.”
11-1-2-Migration to Samarra137
Imam Askari was about two years old when Mutawakkil forcefully
relocated Imam Hadi and his family to Samarra. Imam Askari left
Medina forever, and never had an opportunity to return to Medina or
Mecca. As a result, Imam Askari is the only Shia Imam who did not
perform the Hajj.
Similar to his father, Imam Hadi, Imam Askari was given the title of
“Askari”, which means ‘the army’. This title referred to the Imam’s
residence in the city of Samarra, which was originally built to
accommodate Mu’tasim’s Turkish army. “Askari” also referred to the
name of the city’s neighborhood where the Imam was living, which was
within the army bases and government offices. Therefore, the Imam’s
activities during his Imamat were intensely monitored by the
government, and his interactions with his representatives and the

137 234 AH (Imam’s age: 2)
The 12 Shia Imams
people were significantly limited.
11-1-3-Before Imamat
There are limited historical records about the life of Imam Askari before
his Imamat. The available records suggest that many had never seen the
Imam before his Imamat. This was to such an extent that some saw
Imam Askari’s face for the first time during the memorial program for
the demise of his brother, Syed Muhammad, when the Imam was 20
years old. The Imam had limited public interactions due to the pressure
imposed on him by the government. This may also be attributed to an
intentional plan by Imam Hadi and Imam Askari to train and prepare
the Shias for the minor occultation of Imam Mahdi, during which the
Shias would not have direct access to their Imam and would have to
communicate with him through letters.
11-2-During the Government of Mu’tazz
11-2-1-Mu’tazz in Power
Since Mutawakkil’s assassination, the Turks held most of the power, and
nothing could stop them from replacing or even killing an Abbasid
Caliph. When Musta’in assumed power, he was only a caliph by title and
the real power was held by the Turk leaders. Despite their significant
power, the Turk leaders were not always united with each other. During
Musta’in’s government, one of the Turk leaders was killed as a result of
a power struggle among the Turk leaders. To save himself from the
Turks’ conspiracy, Musta’in secretly moved his government from
Samarra to Baghdad. His action caused an outrageous reaction by the
Turks in Samarra, and they united against him. They decided to choose
Mu’tazz, one of Mutawakkil’s sons, for the Caliphate. The Turks
released Mu’tazz from Musta’in’s prison and paid allegiance to him as
the new Caliph. They then sent their troops towards Baghdad for war
with Musta’in’s troops and supporters. Over a period of around 10
months, they had multiple battles that finally ended with Mu’tazz’s
victory and Musta’in’s resignation from the Caliphate. He was later
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
killed at Mu’tazz’s order138.
11-2-2-Demise of Syed Muhammad139
Muhammad was the oldest son of Imam Hadi. He was very pious and
had a great character. Many of the Shias thought that he would be the
Imam after Imam Hadi, because the eldest son often inherited the
Imamat. However, about two years before Imam Hadi’s martyrdom, his
son, Muhammad, passed away while he was travelling. He fell sick and
passed away close to the city of Balad, between Samarra and Baghdad.
His demise brought great sorrow and grief to his father and his younger
brother, Imam Askari.
Imam Hadi would often correct his companions’ assumptions about his
eldest son, Muhammad, being the next Imam. During his Imamat, he
had revealed Imam Askari to his close companions as his successor.
After Muhammad’s demise, which took place about two years before
Imam Hadi’s martyrdom, the Imam had become more deliberate in
introducing Imam Askari, his eldest son alive, as the next Imam. For
example, in the memorial program that Imam Hadi held in his house
for his son, Muhammad, many attended, including his companions and
the elders of Banu Hashim. Imam Hadi openly addressed Imam Askari
and told him to be thankful to God for His decree upon him. Imam
Hadi had implied God’s decree of Imam Askari’s Imamat after himself.
This became more evident for the Shias after Muhammad’s demise.
11-2-3-Martyrdom of Imam Hadi140
Upon gaining power, Mu’tazz followed his father, Mutawakkil’s policy
in dealing with the Alavids. He treated the Alavids harshly. He could
not tolerate Imam Hadi’s noble character, and feared the Imam’s social
popularity as a threat to his government. Two years into his caliphate,
Mu’tazz ordered the poisoning and martyrdom of Imam Hadi. Imam

138 3 Shawwal, 252 AH (Imam’s age: 20)
139 29 Jumada al-Thani, 252 AH (Imam’s age: 20)
140 3 Rajab, 254 AH (Imam’s age: 22)
The 12 Shia Imams
Hadi was martyred in Samarra after he had lived there with his family
for around 20 years. Imam Askari took care of his father’s funeral rites,
including washing and praying over his body.
When the news of Imam Hadi’s martyrdom spread in the city, crowds
of people came to the Imam’s house to express their sorrow to his
family and to participate in his burial. Top government and military
officials, including members of the Abbasid royal family, were also
among those who came to the Imam’s house and expressed their
sorrow to Imam Hadi’s eldest son, Imam Askari. The people then took
the Imam’s corpse to the streets of Samarra, and a large funeral
procession was held for the Imam. Historical records show that Imam
Askari had suffered excessive exhaustion during the funeral due to the
heavy crowds and high temperature of that day. The Imam’s body was
returned to his house, and it was buried within the spot where he used
to pray.
11-2-4-Beginning of Imamat
At the age of 22, Imam Askari took on leadership of the Shia
community after his father, Imam Hadi’s martyrdom. On various
occasions, Imam Hadi had introduced Imam Askari to his companions
as his successor in the Imamat. He had informed some that the Imamat
would be inherited by his oldest son. After the demise of his oldest son,
Muhammad, Imam Hadi had openly announced Imam Askari’s
Imamat, since he was now his eldest living son. About four months
prior to Imam Hadi’s martyrdom, he had announced Imam Askari’s
Imamat to a group of his visiting Shias and asked them to testify to his
statement. After Imam Hadi’s martyrdom, the Shia scholars and
followers readily accepted the Imamat of Imam Askari.
At that time, Shi’ism was a well-established and growing theology with
a strong scientific backbone. Ever since their establishment, the
Abbasid caliphs used whatever means possible to oppose and eradicate
Shi’ism. Mansur and Haroon’s extremely oppressive policy against
Imam Sadiq and Imam Kazim, Ma’mun’s conspiracies falsely portraying
a good relationship with Imam Reza and Imam Javad, and Mutawakkil’s
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
intense surveillance and constant harassments of Imam Hadi could not
prevent the growth and propagation of Shia theology among the
Muslims. The Shia Imams falsified the conspiracies against themselves,
guided the Shias to the true Islamic teachings, and advised them on the
political affairs. Due to their efforts, about two-and-a-half centuries
after the Holy Prophet’s demise, Shi’ism had become a strong and
growing theology among the Islamic sects and had many followers
across the Islamic territory. The influence of the Shias and their leader,
Imam Askari, were undeniable and could not have been ignored by any
of the Abbasid Caliphs.
There was another important reason for the Abbasids to increase their
pressures and surveillance on Imam Askari. The Abbasids, like the Shia
Imams, were from the Prophet’s clan of Banu Hashim. They had
received the news of the Prophet’s prophecy about the last Shia Imam,
Imam Mahdi, who would establish justice on earth. They feared Imam
Mahdi would endanger their government and were actively looking to
seek and eliminate him.
Imam Askari’s circumstances were an opportunity for him to train the
Shias for his son, Imam Mahdi’s minor occultation, during which the
Shias would not have direct access to their Imam and would have to
communicate with him through writing. This is the reason why the
majority of Imam Askari’s communications with his Shia followers and
representatives were through exchanging letters. Thus, Imam Askari
became the first Shia Imam who primarily communicated with the Shias
by letters, rather than in person. The Imam would respond to their
questions in writing and guide them on their religious and political
affairs. The Shias found the Imam’s answers in accordance with the
teachings of the Prophet and the previous Imams. However, it was still
difficult for some to connect with the Imam when they could not
physically access him. Imam Askari had described his situation by saying
that the Shias were not in doubt about the Imamat of any of his
forefathers as much as they were in doubt of his Imamat. To remove
these doubts and prove his Imamat, the Imam would often inform his
The 12 Shia Imams
Shias about future events in his letters to them. Many of the Imam’s
prophecies are recorded in history. The Imam’s policy was effective in
strengthening the hearts of the Shias and uniting them toward his
11-2-5-Mu’tazz and the Imam
Historical records suggest that the Imam was under relatively less
pressure at the beginning of his Imamat. Mu’tazz, who had just
martyred Imam Hadi, did not perceive Imam Askari as an imminent
threat to his government. During this time, the Imam had the chance
to meet some of the Shia representatives and elders in his residence.
Some Shias also had the chance to have a short conversation with the
Imam outside of his residence when the Imam was commuting.
However, soon after, Mu’tazz became suspicious of and hostile towards
the Imam and changed his policy towards him. During the short
caliphate of Mu’tazz, which lasted only for a year after Imam Askari’s
Imamat had begun, Mu’tazz imprisoned the Imam. While the Imam was
imprisoned, some of the Abbasids came to one of the Turk leaders who
had the Imam in his custody and asked him to make the Imam’s
imprisonment harder on him. The Turk leader responded that he did
not know what else he could do to make prison harder on the Imam.
He said that he had appointed two of his most cruel and heartless
guards to oversee the Imam, but they had both been influenced by him
and were now dedicated believers who had reached elevated statuses
through their worship. The Turk leader requested the guards and asked
them about their observations of the Imam. They admitted that in
prison, the Imam did nothing except for worshipping God. They said,
“We observed someone that was constantly fasting during the days and
praying through the nights. Whenever we looked at the Imam, our
bodies shook, and we felt a strange feeling.” The Abbasids had not
expected such a response from the Imam’s guards, and returned
disappointed with their plot.
During his short government, Mu’tazz decided to martyr Imam Askari.
He told his doorkeeper to take the Imam towards Kufa and kill him in
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
secrecy. The plot was exposed, and the Imam’s Shias found out about
it. A companion of the Imam contacted him to inform him about
Mu’tazz’s plot. The Imam responded to his concern by writing, “You
will be relieved from your concern in three days.” Three days after the
Imam’s response, the Turks ousted Mu’tazz from the Caliphate. Shortly
after, Mu’tazz was killed, and the Imam’s prophecy had come true.
Thus, Mu’tazz never got the chance to implement his plot against the
11-2-6-Imam’s Scientific Contribution
The Imam was the true source of divine knowledge in society. Many
people referred to him with their questions about various aspects of
Islamic sciences. 149 names of those who narrated the Imam’s sayings
are recorded in history. Due to the intense surveillance and pressure on
the Imam, he could not always meet with his representatives and
followers in person. Thus, Imam Askari became the first Shia Imam
who primarily communicated with the Shias through letters. Whenever
the Shias had a disagreement about any of their Islamic beliefs, they
would send a letter to the Imam and ask for his guidance. Tens of letters
from the Imam are recorded in history and are still available. These
letters contain the Imam’s guidance on the false theological beliefs of
the time and his answers to doubts about the Islamic principles, such as
monotheism (tawhid) and Islamic laws such as Hajj, fasting, and
marriage, etc. There are also multiple general letters from the Imam to
his Shia followers. In one of these letters, the Imam advised his Shias
to maintain piety, and gave them a list of ethical recommendations for
their life and interactions with other people in society. In this letter, the
Imam asked his Shia followers to be good members of society and to
treat others respectfully. Historical records show that the Imam was in
continuous communication with his followers and representatives until
his martyrdom.
The Imam would respect and pay high regards to the Shia scholars for
guiding people to the true teachings of the Prophet and the Imams, for
defending the Shia beliefs, and for their direct role in spreading Shi’ism.
The 12 Shia Imams
The Imam wanted to prepare the Shias for the upcoming time during
which they would have to refer to Shia scholars for their Islamic affairs.
Abd al-Azim al-Hasani was a Shia scholar and a descendant of Imam
Hasan (AS). Imam Hadi had referred his Shia followers living close to
Abd al-Azim al-Hasani to ask him their questions. Once, a group of
Shias from Rey, in Iran, visited Imam Askari in Samarra and told him
that they were returning from visiting Imam Hossein (AS)’s shrine in
Karbala. To their surprise, the Imam told them, “If you had visited the
tomb of Abd al-Azim al-Hasani in Rey, it would be like visiting the
tomb of Imam Hossein in Karbala.” The Imam wanted to remind them
of Abd al-Azim al-Hasani’s high status, his righteousness, and his
service to the Imams and the Shia community.
Fazl ibn Shazan was another great Shia scholar during the time of Imam
Askari. He was an expert in various Islamic literature, such as Islamic
laws and Ilm al-Kalam, which is the study of Islamic doctrine that
involves defending the Islamic principles against skeptics. He authored
dozens of books on various topics, such as defending Shia belief and
falsifying the claims of various sects and theologies. Historical records
show Fazl ibn Shazan’s high status before Imam Askari. The Imam had
once remembered him by saying, “The people of Khorasan are blessed
and fortunate for having such a scholar amongst them.” Once, one of
the Shias visited the Imam and showed him one of Fazl ibn Shazan’s
books about the daily rituals and asked for the Imam’s opinion. The
Imam reviewed the book and verified its contents. The Imam then
recommended that he and the other Shias follow the contents of the
book. The Imam also talked highly of Fazl ibn Shazan, and prayed for
God’s mercy on him, because he knew that he had already passed away
by that time. When the Imam’s Shia follower returned to Khorasan, he
realized that Fazl ibn Shazan had died around the time when he had
met the Imam. He then recognized the Imam’s words as a sign of the
Imam’s knowledge of the unseen.
The Imam was the true source of guidance for the Muslims and was
concerned about deviations in their belief. Is-haaq Kendi, a famous
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
Iraqi philosopher, was writing a book about what he had perceived as
contradictions in the Quran. He was so committed that he spent most
of his time in his house to finish his book. He was using the literal
meaning of the Quranic verses and would misinterpret them to falsely
prove contradictions between the verses. On one occasion, the Imam
saw one of Kendi’s students and expressed his concern regarding
Kendi’s actions. The student responded with his own inability and lack
of knowledge to confront his teacher. The Imam asked him if he was
willing to follow his advice to guide Kendi and he accepted. The Imam
then instructed the student to become close to Kendi, and at an
appropriate time ask him if it is possible that the Quran’s author might
have meant to convey a different meaning than his interpretation. The
student followed the Imam’s instruction. When Kendi heard his
student’s suggestion, he was shocked, and found it rationally correct.
He then confessed that there could be other meanings for the Quranic
verses from what he had interpreted. He asked his student about who
he had learned this perspective from. His student hesitated to answer,
but due to Kendi’s insistence, he confessed that Imam Askari had been
guiding him. Kendi then confessed to the Imam’s elevated status and
ordered that his incomplete book be burned.
11-2-7-Mu’tazz’s Death141
Mu’tazz, like his predecessors, was not able to reduce the Turks’
influence upon his government. Once, a group of Turks came to him
and asked for their allowance. Mu’tazz did not have enough money at
the moment to pay them, so he asked his mother for money. Although
his mother was wealthy, she refused to pay him anything. The Turks
were disappointed by Mu’tazz and decided to kill him. They dragged
him by his feet, beat him, and kept him barefoot under the sweltering
sun. Due to the high temperature that day, Mu’tazz could not keep both
of his feet on the ground and switched between them for relief. The
Turks did not give him food or water for three days, isolated him,

left him to die. Mu’tazz died after his short caliphate of about threeand-a-half years.
11-3-During the Government of Muhtadi
11-3-1-Muhtadi in Power142
Before killing Mu’tazz, the Turks had selected Muhtadi, one of Wathiq’s
sons and Mu’tazz’s cousin, as the next Caliph. Muhtadi had been
imprisoned by Mu’tazz in Baghdad, as Mu’tazz had feared for his
government. When the Turks decided to remove Mu’tazz from the
Caliphate, they freed Muhtadi and quickly transported him from
Baghdad to Samarra. The Turks brought Mu’tazz, who was injured
from his imprisonment, in the presence of Muhtadi. He abdicated the
Caliphate and paid allegiance to Muhtadi as the new caliph.
Upon assuming the Caliphate, Muhtadi became concerned about the
limited power of the caliph, which he had seen among his predecessors.
To stabilize his power and build his social status among the Muslims,
he decided to adopt a different ruling strategy from his predecessors.
He followed Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz’s policy, which was fair compared
to the other Umayyad Caliphs’ strategies. In an attempt to gain social
popularity, he adopted a simple lifestyle in his eating, clothing, and
expenses. He banned serving alcohol and holding musical parties in the
palace. He also made himself available for the public to fulfill their
judicial requests.
11-3-2-Network of Representatives
To meet the needs of the growing Shia community, Imam Sadiq had
established a network organization of his trusted companions as his
representatives in various cities around the Islamic territory. This
organization was further developed during the Imamat of the next
Imams and became an effective way of communication between the
Shias and their Imam. The organization’s representatives were

142 29 Rajab, 255 AH (Imam’s age:23)
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
responsible for answering the questions about the Islamic laws and
principles, transferring letters between the Imam and his Shias, and
resolving any division between the Shias to keep the Shia community
united. They were also collecting the Islamic dues (Zakat) and
transferring it to the Imam or spending it on situations per his
During Imam Hadi’s time, his life in the Abbasid Capital was under
intense surveillance by the government. Due to this, the Imam was not
always able to manage this secret organization, so he built it to a unique
status of managing itself with his limited direct involvement. This
organization was structured hierarchically, where the Imam appointed
representatives for each geographical region, and the representatives in
turn managed the local representatives of their regions.
Imam Askari, led this hidden organization and took on its responsibility
from the day that Imam Hadi was martyred in such a way that the Shias
and the representatives felt Imam Hadi’s presence even after his
martyrdom. Imam Askari would respond to the questions raised by the
Shias, and would guide them for their religious and political affairs. The
names of 21 of the Imam’s representatives are recorded in history. The
Imam’s leadership led to the expansion of the Shia community and
prepared them for Imam Mahdi’s occultation, a time during which they
would not have direct access to their Imam.
Due to the intense surveillance and pressures on Imam Askari, there
were times when communication with the Imam would endanger the
lives of his followers and representatives. During those difficult times,
any communication with the Imam was done in secret using undercover
methods. Uthman ibn Saeed al-Amri was the Imam’s top representative
in Samarra. He would manage the other representatives in the Imam’s
network organization. He was often the point of contact for the Imam’s
representatives who wanted to transfer the collected Islamic dues or
letters to the Imam and get his response. His cover up job was as an oil
seller. He would often hide the collected Islamic dues and the letters to
the Imam inside oil containers. He would then send those oil containers
The 12 Shia Imams
to the Imam’s house. The Imam would also communicate with Uthman
ibn Saeed al-Amri using other secretive means.
For example, once the Imam hid some letters inside a hollow, long piece
of wood to pass it to Uthman. The Imam asked someone who was
working inside his house to pass the wood to Uthman. That person
took the wooden log and left the Imam’s house. However, on his way,
he was blocked by a mule, and he used the wooden log to hit the animal
to clear his way. As a result, the wooden log broke and the hidden letters
inside it were exposed. He then took the letters back to the Imam’s
house. The Imam became upset with him, and advised him to be careful
and focus his attention on the task given to him.
The Imam was sensitive about the occurrence of any monetary or
ethical corruption in the organization. This was because, for the Shias,
the representatives in the organization represented the Imam. This
organization was supposed to serve as a systematic means for managing
the Shia community’s affairs in the future, when the Shias would not
have direct access to their Imam. Any corruption in this organization
could cause great disappointment and division among the Shias. The
Imam once confronted and discharged a representative who had
crossed the ethical limits.
11-3-3-Uprising of Saahib al-Zanj143
Due to the significant power the Turks had, the Abbasid government
weakened and lost its supreme authority over parts of its territory.
There were various uprisings and rebellions against the Abbasids
around this time. One of the major uprisings was of the African slaves
in southern Iraq, which became known as the uprising of Saahib alZanj. The leader of this uprising wrongfully claimed to be an Alavid and
was able to gather many followers, especially from the African slaves.
His rebellion lasted about 14 years, and became a serious challenge for
the Abbasids. This uprising had many casualties, but was eventually
suppressed by the Abbasids. When a companion of the Imam wrote to

143 255 AH (Imam’s age: 23)
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
him to ask his opinion about the uprising of Saahib al-Zanj, the Imam
rejected any affiliation of the uprising’s leader with himself and the
Alavids. The Imam did not endorse this uprising, which was led by a
liar seeking his own power.
The uprising of Saahib al-Zanj continued after the short rule of
Muhtadi. When Mu’tamid, the next caliph, assumed power, he was also
concerned about this uprising and sent his troops under his brother’s
leadership to suppress it. When the Abbasid troops were leaving
Samarra, the Imam accompanied the Caliph and they watched the army
leave144. The Imam’s presence was a public announcement that he
condemned the uprising of Saahib al-Zanj and the gruesome bloodshed
that it had caused. This also helped to decrease Mu’tamid’s lifethreatening hostilities and conspiracies against the Imam.
11-3-4-Muhtadi and the Imam
Although Muhtadi had adopted a fair ruling strategy compared to his
predecessors, his policy against the Imam and his Shia followers
remained as hostile as the other Abbasid caliphs. His hostility towards
the Imam was to such an extent that he swore by God to exile the Imam
and the Alavids from every land on the earth they settled. One of
Muhtadi’s military leaders, Nasr ibn Ahmad, also agreed to implement
his decision against the Imam, but Muhtadi’s short government did not
allow him to exile or kill the Imam. Around this time, problems in
Muhtadi’s government intensified. Muhtadi had to send Nasr ibn
Ahmad to a war in which he was killed145. In a letter, the Imam had
referred to Nasr ibn Ahmad’s death as a sign of God’s power.
Around this time, one of the Imam’s companions wrote a letter to him
and told him what Muhtadi had sworn against the Imam. He praised
God for keeping the Caliph busy in government affairs so that he was
distracted from harassing and killing the Imam. The Imam responded
to him by writing, “Muhtadi’s life is shorter than what you even can

144 1 Rabi’ al-Awwal, 258 AH (Imam’s age: 25)
145 1 Rajab, 256 AH (Imam’s age: 24)
The 12 Shia Imams
imagine.” The Imam informed him that Muhtadi would be
humiliatingly killed in just six days. Muhtadi was killed six days later,
and the Imam’s prophecy had come true.
Despite the problems in Muhtadi’s government, he had decided to
imprison the Imam just a few days before his death. While in prison,
the Imam told his companion, who was imprisoned with him, that
Muhtadi had decided that night to eventually kill the Imam. He repeated
his previous prophecy that God had shortened Muhtadi’s life and he
would be killed the following day. As the Imam had predicted, Muhtadi
was killed by the Turks the next day, before getting the opportunity to
implement his decision against the Imam.
11-3-5-Muhtadi’s Death146
Although Muhtadi followed a different ruling strategy, he could not
resolve the main problem in the Abbasid government, which was the
amount of power that the Turks had. Despite their power, there was a
constant struggle between the Turk leaders for more power and wealth.
Thus, Muhtadi decided to tackle this problem by turning the Turk
leaders against each other. However, his plot failed and led to suspicions
against him. When Muhtadi imprisoned and killed a Turk leader, his
action caused a rebellion within his army in Samarra. This rebellion
quickly turned into a massive war between his divided army, during
which many were killed. His supporters in the army were defeated, and
the remaining fled. Muhtadi found himself lonely and helpless. He
called the people to come out to Samarra’s streets to support him as
their caliph, but no one came to his aid. He ran to the prison and freed
the prisoners, hoping to get support from them. However, the freed
prisoners did not support him either. The Turks then arrested the lonely
caliph and imprisoned him. They asked him to renounce his caliphate,
but he refused and told them that he preferred to be killed instead so
the Turks beat him to death. Muhtadi died after a short caliphate of only
about 11 months.

146 18 Rajab, 256 AH (Imam’s age: 24)
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
11-4-During the Government of Mu’tamid
11-4-1-Mu’tamid in Power
After Muhtadi, the Turks selected Mu’tamid, one of Mutawakkil’s sons,
as the next caliph. Mu’tamid had been imprisoned by Muhtadi, who
feared for his government. However, when the Turks decided to
remove Muhtadi from the Caliphate, they freed Mu’tamid and selected
him as the next caliph. Due to the excessive competition and
disagreements among the Turk leaders during Mu’tamid’s government,
the Turk leaders decided to have Mu’tamid appoint one of his brothers
as the head of the army. Mu’tamid appointed his brother, Muwaffaq,
for this position. Mu’tamid, like the other Abbasid caliphs, indulged in
sinful behaviors. His government was practically managed and run by
his brother, Muwaffaq. Since Mutawakkil’s assassination, the Turk
leaders had substituted five Abbasid caliphs over the course of a decade.
Muwaffaq was able to control the Turks’ power and stabilize his
brother’s government, thereby allowing Mu’tamid to have a long
government of about 23 years. By stabilizing his government, Mu’tamid
moved his capital to the traditional Capital of the Abbasids, Baghdad,
and Samarra lost its political significance.
11-4-2-Birth of Imam Mahdi147
During his Imamat, one of Imam Askari’s main concerns was to protect
the life of his only child, Imam Mahdi. Imam Mahdi would inherit the
Imamat after Imam Askari as the last Shia Imam. Imam Askari kept
Imam Mahdi’s birth a secret, even from his close family members. By
God’s miracle, Imam Mahdi’s mother, Narjis Khatoon, did not show
any sign of an expectant mother. This miracle was similar to the miracle
of Prophet Moses’ mother, who had also not shown any sign of an
expecting mother because God had wanted to save Prophet Moses
from the Pharaoh. On the night of Imam Mahdi’s birth, Imam Askari
asked his aunt, Hakimeh, who was Imam Hadi’s sister, to stay at his

147 15 Sha’ban, 256 AH (Imam’s age: 24)
The 12 Shia Imams
home and help with Narjis Khatoon’s delivery. Hakimeh was shocked,
as she had not known that Narjis Khatoon was expecting. Hours later,
at dawn, Imam Mahdi opened his eyes to this world and was born
secretively. Even after Imam Mahdi’s birth, Imam Askari continued to
keep his son’s existence a secret. He only showed Imam Mahdi to
certain trusted companions.
11-4-3-Mu’tamid and the Imam
Like his predecessors, Mu’tamid was concerned about the Imam for his
government for two main reasons. First, Imam Askari was the leader of
the Shias, who did not accept the legitimacy of the Abbasid
government. By this time, the Shias were large in number and were
widespread in the Abbasid territory. Second, the Abbasids had received
the news about the last Shia Imam, Imam Mahdi, who would establish
justice on the earth. They feared Imam Mahdi for their unjust
government. Thus, Mu’tamid, who wanted to closely monitor the
Imam, ordered to imprison him. While in prison, the Imam’s condition
and interaction with some Shia elders imprisoned with him remained
under surveillance by the government through spy prisoners. The Imam
once identified a spy prisoner to the Shia elders, and they confiscated
the spy’s report to the Caliph.
A while into the Imam’s imprisonment, Mu’tamid released the Imam
because he had to refer to him. A severe drought had hit Samarra, and
Mu’tamid ordered the people to pray for rain. The Muslims prayed for
three consecutive days, but it did not rain. On the fourth day, the
Christians, including their leaders and monks, went outside the city to
pray for rain, and it rained. Large drops of rain would fall from the sky
every time one of the monks among the Christians raised his hands
towards the sky. To the surprise of the Muslims, the Christians repeated
their prayer the next day and it rained again. As a result of the Christian
prayers, the need for water was fulfilled. This incident caused serious
doubt among the Muslims about their faith, and some were even
attracted towards Christianity. This unpleasant news forced Mu’tamid,
the Muslims’ Caliph, to act. He ordered the release of Imam Askari
11- Imam Askari (AS): The Imam in Confinement
from prison and brought him to his presence. He talked to the Imam
about what had happened, and asked the Imam to save the faith of the
nation of his forefather, the Prophet. The Imam told Mu’tamid to ask
the people to leave the city for the prayer the following day. Mu’tamid
responded that the people no longer needed water. The Imam replied
that his intention was to remove doubts from the hearts of the people.
The following day, the Imam and the people went outside the city. The
Christians prayed for rain, and when a particular monk raised his hands
towards the sky again, it began to rain. The Imam then asked to hold
the hands and reveal what he was hiding in his hand. A small bone was
found between the monk’s fingers and brought to the Imam. The Imam
then wrapped the bone around a piece of cloth and asked the Christians
to pray again for rain. This time when they prayed, it did not rain;
instead, the clouds dispersed and the sky became sunny. The Caliph
asked the Imam about the bone. The Imam responded that the bone
belonged to a prophet, and that whenever the bone of a prophet is
exposed to the sky, rain would fall. The Caliph was delighted by the
Imam’s guidance and freed him with high regards. The Imam then
asked for the release of his companions from the prison, which the
Caliph accepted.
Although the Imam was freed from prison, the pressure on him
continued and his life remained under intense surveillance. This was to
an extent that the Imam had to present himself at the Abbasid palace
twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, to confirm his presence in
Samarra. Whenever the Imam wanted to go to the palace, crowds of
people who expected his commute would gather in the streets to see
him. This shows the Imam’s social status and respect in people’s hearts,
which was obviously one of the reasons for the Abbasid Caliphs’
hostility towards him. The Imam was also respected by the workers
inside the Abbasid palace, who would call the Imam by his title of “Aba
Muhammad” or “Ibn al-Reza”, which conveys respect in Arabic. Only
certain people in the palace were called by their titles, such as the Caliph
and his Crown Prince.
The 12 Shia Imams
The Imam’s Shia followers were also among the crowd who would wait
to see him on the streets of Samarra. The Imam was concerned about
his Shias being identified in the crowd, which could endanger their lives.
If they ever wanted to approach the Imam and initiate a conversation
with him under unsafe circumstances, the Imam would hint to them to
remain silent. On one occasion, the Imam sent a letter to his Shias who
were in Samarra and intended to meet him. In the letter, the Imam
warned them about risking their lives by visiting him. In another letter,
the Imam asked his Shia followers not to wear their rings on their right
hands, as the Shias were known in society for always wearing their rings
on their right hands. Through his advice, it is clear the Imam did not
want his Shia followers to be identified and hence to protect their lives.
On another occasion, Mu’tamid imprisoned the Imam and his brother,
Ja’far148. Mu’tamid would frequently inquire about the Imam’s
condition in custody. The Imam’s guard would report that the Imam
spent the days fasting and the nights in prayer. After a while, Mu’tamid
saw the Imam’s guard again. He repeated his inquiry and heard the same
response. He then ordered the guard to go to the prison right away, pass
his greetings to the Imam, and release him from imprisonment. When
the guard went to the prison, he observed that the Imam had already
prepared for his release by wearing his formal clothing. After being
released, the Imam did not leave. Instead, he told the guard that he had
entered the prison with his brother, and should leave the prison with
him. The guard delivered the Imam’s words to Mu’tamid, who then
ordered the release of the Imam’s brother as well.

Imam Askari’s circumstances were an opportunity for him to train the
Shias for the minor occultation of his son, Imam Mahdi, when the Shias
would not have direct access to their Imam, and would need to
communicate with him in writing. Therefore, the majority of Imam
Askari’s communications with his Shia followers and representatives
were through exchanging letters. The Imam respected and highly
regarded the Shia scholars because they guided the people to the true
teachings of the Prophet and the Imams. With his respect, the Imam
wanted to prepare the Shias for the upcoming time when they would
have to refer to the Shia scholars for their Islamic queries. The Imam
also expanded the network organization of his representatives as a
systematic means of managing the Shia community’s affairs. The Imam
trained this organization to be managed without his direct involvement.
Overall, the Shias are in debt to Imam Askari for his efforts to protect
the life of Imam Mahdi and to prepare them for Imam Mahdi’s lengthy