Born in Madina 5th Rajab 214 Hijri ( 8.9.829 AD). Died in Samarrah, Iraq 3rd Rajab 254 Hijri (1.7.868) aged 40 years. Period of Imamate 34 years.
The period of Imamate of our 10th Imam coincided with the decline of the power of the Abbasid Empire. They were threatened by the Turks and had to move the Capital from Baghdad to Samarrah. He was only 6 years old when his father Imam Muhammad Taqi (as) was martyred in Baghdad when poisoned by Mu’tasim Billah Abbasi.
Our Imam lived in Madina for the remaining 8 years of the reign of Mu’tasim and 5 years of the reign of Wathiq Billah. It was when Mutawakkil became caliph in 236 Hijiri (847 AD) the Imam was called over to the Abbasid capital Baghdad. Mutawakkil, was the cruelest and deadly enemy of the Ahlul Bayt (as) , who tried to drown the Grave of Imam Husayn (as) in Karbala’ by diverting the waters of the Euphrates River.
But by a miracle the river water encircled the grave and did not go over it in spite of the fact that the surrounding ground was higher. When the Caliph failed in his action of drowning the grave he ordered that the whole area should be turned into farmland but when horses failed to take the plough over the grave, he realized his folly.
Eventually he left the hallowed ground as it was but as long as he lived he forbade any pilgrimage to the Shrine of Imam Husayn (as) . History tells us that pilgrims to the grave of Sayyidush Shohada (as) did continue to go in spite of the danger to their lives. Indeed many were killed on their way to the Shrine but the enthusiasm to visit the grave never subsided.
It was during the reign of Mutawakkil that our 10th Imam was brought to the presence of the Caliph from Madina to Baghdad. Yakubi writes in his history of the time that once the raiding party of soldiers found the Imam on his prayer mat and took him away to the caliph in the same state. Mutawakkil was engaged in his nightly drinking and frolics and asked the Imam to join him. Imam declined replying, “A liquor such as that was never yet combined with my flesh and blood”.
The half-drunk caliph asked the Imam to read some poetry. Imam said that he did not indulge in such habits. But when the caliph insisted, the Imam recited the following lines (Ibn Khalikan narrated the story word for word).
“Protected by valiant warriors they passed the night on the summit of their mountains but these mountains did not protect them. After all their power and pomp they had to descend from their lofty fortresses to the custody of the tombs. O’what a dreadful change their graves had hardly received them when a voice heard exclaiming, “Where are the thrones and the crowns and the robes of State?
Where are now the faces of the delicate, which were shaded by veils and protected by curtains. To this the tomb replied. The worms are now reveling upon these faces. Long were these men eating and drinking, but now they are eaten by the worms in their turn.”
Many wept listening to these words uttered by the Imam. Caliph left the Imam alone for a while, but still kept him under house arrest. In the end Mutawakkil died in the hands of his protectors, the Turkish guards, and his son Muntasir became the next caliph.
Mutawakkil died in 250 Hijiri and Muntasir Billah assumed the caliphate. He ruled only 6 months. On his death Musta’een was enthroned. But soon he was also beheaded and succeeded by Mu’ta’z Billah. All this time our 10th Imam was either in Madina, or called by the Caliph to Samarrah where he spent the last days of his life under house arrest.