Imamate - His Life and Works
Imam Ali un Naqi (as) served the longest period of Imamate (besides the 12th Imam) - 34 years which can be divided into two parts - 17 years of freedom and 17 years under arrest.
In 234 A.H. came one of the most tyrannical rulers of the Abbasid Khilafate - Mutawakkil. He ruled with tyranny, killing, looting and terrorising especially those who were the followers of Ahlulbayt. Mutawakkil is also the one who ordered the desecration of the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.) wanting to remove Imam`s body and burn it (He did not succeed). He tried running water over the grave so no traces of the grave would remain but was unsuccessful. He ordered that all those wanting to visit Kerbala would have their fingers cut off, then hand and feet cut then only be able to go if one other from the family was killed. Imam still asked Shias to visit Kerbala. When Mutawakkil saw that all had failed and it did not discourage the visits than he banned all visits to Kerbala completely.
Mutawakkil called Imam to Samarra. Imam was called under the pretext of respect and love towards him. Imam was aware of Mutawakkil`s intentions but went knowing that this would be an opportunity to show the Turks too what true Islam was. On arriving in Samarra the Turkish spies sent with Imam were amazed at Imam`s knowledge of the Turkish language when he had never visited the Turks before.
It was an opportunity for Imam to prepare the Mu`mineen in Samarra for ghaibat. Imam was put up in an Inn which was meant for beggars, destitute and criminals. From this Inn he was removed and put into the custody of an evil man called Zarraqui (who changed to be an avid supporter of Imam) and then a man called Seyyid.
Mutawakkil knew of the progress Imam had made in Madina in 14 years of spreading knowledge. In fact he himself had to ask Imam when the Caesar of Rome wrote to him (Mutawakkil) to ask him:
"I have heard that there is a chapter of a divinely revealed book which does not contain the letters ( t d k S X ) and if this chapter is recited it grants the reciter paradise! I would like to know which chapter and in which book and why these letters are not present".
Mutawakkil`s `Ulema` were confused and eventually Mutawakkil turned to Imam. Imam told him that the chapter was Suratul Fatiha in the Qur`an and the above letters were not present because it was a chapter of mercy and each of the above letters represented words of Adhab (punishment) or Ghadhab (anger of Allah).
e.g.*- jaheem (hell), *- khusr (loss), *- zaqqum (fruit of Jahannam)
Mutawakkil seeing that he could not humiliate Imam in any way, he announced his arrival in Samarra as Ibnur Ridha (son of 8th Imam) and subjected him to things such as handing him a glass of wine in his hands in his court, asking him to sing, making him run in front of his (Mutawakkil`s) carriage etc. Imam Hasan Al-Askery (a.s.) was placed under separate house arrest than his father at the young age of 5 years as Mutawakkil did not want the birth of the 12th Imam.
Whilst under house arrest Imam Ali An-Naqi (a.s.) arranged for the coming of Bibi Nargis to Samarra and for her to be well versed in Fiqh by his learned sister Bibi Hakima.
Imam spent his life making the imminent ghaibat of the 12th Imam easier. Soon after, Mutawakkil was killed by his own son who could not withstand the behaviour of his father.
After Mutawakkil`s death his son Muntasir was the successor and he lifted the restrictions of visiting Kerbala. His rule was unlike his father`s tyranny but remained in power for only 6 months and died at the age of 25 years. Then came Mustan Billah (Ahmed bin Mo`tasam) followed by Mo`taz Billah who continued his tyranny on Imam and his followers.
Rulers of the Time
The thirtythree years of imamate of Imam Ali an-Naqi coincided with the caliphate of the following six caliphs Mutasim bin Harun, Wathiq bin Mutasim, Mutawakkil bin Mutasim, Muntasir bin Mutawakkil, Mustain, and Mutazz bin Mutawakkil.
Wathiq bin Mutasim had a very promiscuous lifestyle, and had no time to harass the Shias and the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt. During his caliphate, a large number of the descendants of Imam Ali (a.s.) had settled in Samarra, the Abbasid capital. But the peaceful days for the Alids and the Imam did not last long. After Wathiq, his brother Mutawakkil, came to power. Mutawakkil was the most cruel of all the Abbasid caliphs; he is comparable to Yazid bin Muawiyah of the Umayyads.
Mutawakkil, on the one hand, started promoting the Shafii madhhab in order to distract the masses away from the Ahlul Bayt. And, on the other hand, he intensified harassment of the Shias. He had such hatred for the Ahlul Bayt that in 236 A.H. he ordered the grave of Imam Husayn (a.s.) be leveled to the ground, and that the surrounding area be transformed into farmlands so that no trace of the grave be left. This all was done to stop the Shias from visiting (ziyarat) the graves of Imam Husayn (a.s.) and the other martyrs of Karbala. But when Allah wishes to protect His light no human can do anything about it!
The attempt to erase all traces of Imam Husayn`s grave angered many Muslims; people starting writing anti-Abbasid slogans on the walls. Opposition poets also expressed their feelings on this issue. A famous poem against Mutawakkil is given below: By Allah, if the Umayyids unjustly killed Husayn, son of the Prophet`s daughter, his cousins have committed a similar crime for I swear that Husayn`s grave has been erased.
It seems that they regret for not participating in the massacre, so they now go after the grave!
Mutawakkil enjoyed torturing the followers of the Ahlul Bayt; even the persons appointed by him as governor in Medina and Mecca were instructed to prevent people from being kind and courteous towards the Ahlul Bayt. In 234 A.H., Mutawakkil ordered Imam Ali an-Naqi (a.s.) to be brought from Medina to Samarra where he was placed in a house next to the caliph`s garrison. The Imam lived under constant surveillance until Mutawakkil was murdered by his own troops at the instigation of his own son, Muntasir.
Muntasir bin Mutawakkil reversed the policies of his father towards the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.); he was kind and generous to them; he returned the property of Fadak to the descendants of Imams Hasan and Husayn (a.s.). Unfortunately his caliphate did not last for more than six months when he died in 248 A.H.
Mustain came to power after Muntasir and continued the oppressive policies of his ancestors. But soon his own Turkish troops rebelled against him and pledged allegiance to Mutazz bin Mutawakkil whom they rescued from prison. Finally, Mustain was killed and Mutazz become the caliph.
Imam Tortured by Abbasid Caliphs:
In the first five years of the reign of al - Wathiq , Imam Ali al - Hadi ( an - Naqi ) lived peacefully . After al - Wathiq , al - Mutawakkil came to power . Being too occupied in State affairs, al - Mutawakkil did not get any time to harass the Imam and his followers for four years.
But as soon as he freed himself from State affairs , he started to molest the Imam . The Holy Imam devoted himself to the sacred mission of preaching in Medina and did thus earn the faith of the people as well as their allegiance and recognition of his great knowledge and attributes. This reputation of the Imam evoked the jealousy and malice of al - Mutawakkil against him.
The governor of Medina wrote to al - Mutawakkil that Imam `Ali al - Hadi had been manoeuvring a coup against the government and a multitude of Shi`ites were pledged to his support . Although enraged by this news al - Mutawakkil still preferred the diplomacy of not arresting the Holy Imam. Under the garb of pretended respect and love towards the Imam, he planned to put him under life imprisonment after inviting him to his palace.
Prior to his imprisonment, in a series of correspondence with the Imam, he expressed the view that he was convinced of all the claims of the Imam and was ready to settle them amicably. He wrote to the Imam that having been acquainted with his great personality, his matchless knowledge and his peerless attributes, he was impatiently looking forward to the honor of seeing him, and he most cordially invited him to Samarra`.
Imam Prisoned in Samarra
Although the Imam was well aware of al - Mutawakkil`s treacherous intentions, he anticipating the fatal consequences of refusing the offer, reluctantly decided to leave Medina. But when the Imam arrived at Samarra` and al - Mutawakkil was informed about it, he took no notice of the Imam`s arrival. When asked about where the Imam should stay, he ordered that the Imam should be put up in the inn meant for beggars, destitutes and homeless people.
Al-Mutawakkil who was a deadly enemy of the Ahlul-Bayt, removed the Imam from this inn and entrusted him to the custody of a stone - hearted brute named Zurafah. But, by the grace of Allah, his enmity was, in a short time, transformed into love and devotion for the Imam. When al - Mutawakkil learnt about it, he shifted the Imam into the custody of another cruel man called Said. The Imam remained under his strict vigilance for a number of years, during which he was subjected to boundless tortures.
But even in this miserable imprisonment, the Imam kept devoting himself at all times to the worship of Allah. The watchman of the prison used to comment that Imam `Ali al - Hadi seemed to be an angel in human garb. When Fath ibn Khaqan became the vizier of al - Mutawakkil, he being a Shi`ah could not stand the idea of the Imam`s captivity. He endeavored to have him released from imprisonment and arranged for his comfortable residence in a personally purchased house at Samaraa`.
Not only al - Mutawakkil , but his successors` opposition to the Imam was fierce . After the death of al - Mutawakkil, al - Mustansir , al - Musta`in and al - Mu`tazz carried on the same mission of harassent against the family of the Imam. al - Mu`tazz , understanding the uncontrollable and intense devotion of the people towards the Imam , eventually contrived the Imam`s assassination. He got him poisoned through an ambassador which resulted in the Imam`s death within a few hours.
The martyrdom occurred on 3rd Rajab 254 AH, and his funeral prayer was conducted by his son, Imam Hasan al - `Askari a.s. The Imam was only forty - two years old at the time of martyrdom. The period of his Imamate was thirty - five years. He was buried in Sammarra` Iraq.
Childrens of Imam Ali Naqi (a.s.)
It is reported that Imam had 5 children
-Imam Hasan Al-Askery (a.s.) the Eleventh Imam.
-Muhammad (known as Syed Muhammad - Tomb near tomb of Balad).