“Worship is not abundant fasting and praying, but worship is abundant pondering; it is the continuous remembrance of Allah.”
The aphorism you listened to is worth contemplating upon. This was not spoken by an ordinary but was divinely inspired. The one who expressed it was none other than the 11th Infallible Heir of the Prophet of Islam. As the Penultimate Imam in the unbroken chain of 12 divinely-decreed successors of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger to mankind, Imam Hasan Askari (AS), whose martyrdom we commemorate today, taught the believers how to be steadfast in the face of calamities. During his short 6-year period of imamate, he so splendidly expounded the meanings of God’s Revealed Word, the holy Qur’an, as well as the Prophet’s pristine Sunnah and Seerah, or practice and behaviour that the cowardly Abbasid caliph schemed to martyr him through poisoning at the young age of 28 years. The fear of the Abbasid regime was obvious. The self-styled caliphs were terrified about the approaching figure of “Twelve Imams” of the Ahl al-Bayt in view of the Prophet’s famous hadith of the Prophet that his successors will number “Twelve” and the Last One will rise as Qa’em al-Mahdi to end tyranny on earth by establishing the global government of peace, prosperity and justice.
But why were the Heirs of the Prophet deprived of their right of political leadership of the Ummah, and how did these self-styled caliphs rose to power and tarnished the image of Islam?
Answers to these questions could be found by studying, evaluating and pondering upon the events that occurred in Medina immediately after the passing away of the Prophet. While the Prophet’s Household, especially his divinely-decreed vicegerent the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali ibn Taleb (AS), were busy in the last rites, some power-hungry Arabs who had infiltrated the circle of the companions of the Messenger of Mercy, grabbed the caliphate after a fistfight amongst themselves. They then stormed the blessed threshold of the Prophet’s Immaculate Daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA) and flung the burning door of her house upon her, demanding that Imam Ali (AS), the person whom the Prophet had proclaimed as his successor on the command of God Almighty at Ghadeer-Khom, while returning from his Farewell Pilgrimage, should give oath of allegiance to their illegal rule. These are the very days in which these tragic incidents took place and resulted in the martyrdom of the first member of the Prophet’s Household, his stillborn grandson, Mohsin. While commemorating the tragedies of these days let us visualize the erratic course of the caliphate that after the brief four-and-a-half year rule of justice of Imam Ali (AS) during which hypocrites of all shades raised their ugly heads, was seized through deceit from the Prophet’s elder grandson, Imam Hasan (PuH) by Mu’awiya ibn Abu Sufyan, the rebellious governor of Syria. In 61 AH, the heartrending tragedy of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS) took place. The Godless Omayyads were replaced in 132 AH by the equally ungodly Abbasids, on the ruse of giving back the political rule of the Islamic state to the Prophet’s progeny.
The Abbasids resorted to the cowardly practice of poison to martyr the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt, starting with the Prophet’s 6th Infallible Heir, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS), and today is that tragic day when the 11th Righteous Successor of the Prophet, Imam Hasan Askari (AS) fell victim to Mu’tamed, the self-styled caliph of the usurper Abbasid regime, at the young age of 28 years in the year 260 AH. The plan was to prevent the birth of the 12th Imam, but it went awry, since unknown to the conspirators, the Awaited Saviour of mankind had been born five years earlier in 255 AH and was being raised in secrecy in order to materialize God’s promise. Imam Askari (AS) knew what havoc would be played with the shari’a by imposters and charlatans during the absence of the Imam of the age from the society. For this reason, during the long period of occultation of his son and successor, he made it obligatory for the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt to “follow the qualified jurist, who refrains from committing wrong, emphasizes his faith, opposes carnal desires, and obeys Allah's command.
At the same time, in between the brief periods that he was free from bouts of imprisonment or the house arrests, he spared no efforts to groom budding scholars and scientists, according to the pure and pristine teachings of the Prophet. There is an exegesis of several surahs of the holy Qur’an that is attributed to him and which is actually the classes he held for familiarization of the Book of Allah for two youngsters who had come to him from a distant land.
It was on the 11th Imam’s suggestion – implied through a student – that the philosopher Ya’qoub ibn Ishaaq al-Kindi realized the blasphemy he was about to commit by expressing doubts on parts of the holy Qur’an that his supposedly rationalistic intellect had failed to comprehend. Kindi burnt whatever he had written in this regard, and felt indebted to Imam Hasan Askari (AS) for saving him from a sure fall into the abyss of the eternal inferno, since the God-given wisdom and knowledge of an Infallible Imam is far superior to what a philosopher or scientist acquires through trial and error. There are many lessons to be learnt from the life of the 11th Imam and the glowing incidents of his time, stand as polestar of guidance for posterity.
Here are some of the sayings of the 11th Imam regarding his son and successor, Imam Mahdi (God hasten his reappearance). He informed his loyal followers that the Qa’em al- Mahdi (AS) will be his son and that the house of the Imam and the Prophet is protected from falsehood and error. When someone asked him regarding the hadith that was related from his forefathers, saying: “The earth will never be void of the hujjat (or God's Proof), and anyone who dies without acknowledging the Imam of the Age dies the death of ignorance," he replied: "Yes, indeed the matter is as clear and real as daylight."
Imam Hasan Askari (AS) had shown his son to many of his loyal and trusted followers, who never passed this information to the bloodthirsty Abbasid regime. Once when a person asked him: "Who is the hujjat (or proof of God) and the Imam after you?" He said: "After me the hujjat and the Imam will be my son Muhammad.”
The 11th Imam used to say: Thank God that He did not take me away from this world without showing me my successor. He (my son) is closest to the Prophet in his features and character. God will keep him for a while in occultation and then He will cause him to emerge so that he will fill the earth with justice and equity.
We again extend our condolences on the martyrdom of the 11th Imam, and believe that contemplation of these sayings is a form of worship that is not limited to prayer and fasting, as he had emphasize.