Hasan ibn Ali ibn Muhammad better known as Hassan al-Askari was a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is considered the eleventh of the Twelve Imams to succeed his father, Ali al-Hadi. Hasan al-Askari was born in Medina in 844 and brought with his father to the garrison city of Samarra in 848, where they were kept under close surveillance by the Abbasid caliphs until their deaths, although neither was politically active.
After al-Hadi's death in 868, most of his followers recognized his son al-Askari as their next imam. Al-Askari's contact with the Shia population was limited to the Caliphs, and instead he communicated with his followers through a network of representatives. He died in Samarra in 873–874 at the age of about twenty-eight and was buried in the family home next to his father, which later became the shrine of al-Askari, a major Shia pilgrimage center.
Shia sources generally hold the Abbasids responsible for the death of al-Askari and his father. A famous early Shia commentary on the Qur'an is attributed to al-Askari. Al-Askari died without a clear heir, causing widespread confusion and fragmenting the Shia community into several sects, all of which disappeared within a few decades, with the exception of the Twelver Shia.
Twelvers believe that al-Askari had a son, commonly known as Muhammad al-Mahdi - "the right way", who was kept from the public for fear of persecution by the Abbasids. Al-Mahdi inherited the imamat after the death of his father and entered into a state of occultism.
It is said that his life is miraculously prolonged until the day when he will again manifest himself, with the permission of God, to fill the earth with justice. Despite the cover-up, the Imam is still responsible in the Twelvers faith for the spiritual guidance of mankind, and Shiite accounts of his chance encounters with the pious are numerous and popular.
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