If a living, receptive mind is rated as the mainstay of the Islamic character, and if the Messenger of Allah (S) and the guiding Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (as) had ascended to the top peg of the ladder of Islamic characteristics due to their direct subjugation to the Divine preparation, Imam Hasan (as), the grandson of the Prophet (S), as well as all of the blessed, guiding Imams (as) were pioneering activists in the sphere of thought. They had no match in that.
This can be attributed to the nature of their upbringing and the care they were favored with. All of the rightly guided Imams either received their education directly from the Messenger or indirectly from the preceding Imam.
As for the new questions and developments of life, the sublime, inner entity of the Imam himself; and his boundless spirituality, qualified him for self-acquired knowledge. That is why the Muslim orators dubbed the knowledge of the Imams, from the perspective of the “present knowledge”. An Imam wouldn't need to be tutored or taught by others in this respect. He acquired knowledge by means of direct inspiration.
Inspiration, as it is known, is something different from revelation. Any good-natured reader would realize this fact, through his research into the lives of the Holy Imams (as). History would never stop hesitantly to say that an Imam found difficulty in any branch of knowledge. Nor, would it say that he couldn't offer and answer a question, inquiry or problem, either ideological, religious, scientific, or in any other field. Following are a number of reports about Imam Hasan's (as) vast knowledge.
A. Hasan al-Basri wrote to Imam Hasan (as), asking him about the Divine decree. The grandson of the Messenger of Allah (S) answered him in these words:
“Mind you, he who does not believe that all sudden incidents that happen, be they good or bad, are known earlier by Allah, is an infidel. He who blames sins on Allah, is unchaste. Allah is not obeyed against His will. He is not sinned against by force. He does not leave aside His servants in His Kingdom. He is the Owner of what He gives to them. He is the Powerful over whatever He puts at the disposal of them.
Nay, He orders them with no coercion, and prohibits them as a warning. If they opt to obey him, none would stand in their way, and if they choose to sin, He may prevent them from doing it. But if He does not, He is not to blame, because it is not He Who forces them to do it, or compels them into committing it against their will.
But He does them a favor by opening their eyes, teaching, warning, ordering and prohibiting them. He does not force them to do what He orders, so as to be like the angels, not does He pressure them to keep away from what He forbids. Allah's is certainly the conclusive argument. If Allah willed, He would have guided you to the right path...” 19
By these eloquent, concise words the Imam explains one of the most complicated, and thorny matters of thought. It was so difficult, that many intellectuals were perplexed and at a loss because of it. Moreover, it gave rise to extremely fanatical groups.
Imam Hasan (as), however, expressively shows his profound and pristine knowledge in Islamic sciences. This discloses Imam Hasan's (as) firm connection with the fountainhead of the Message and its original concepts.
B. “What is asceticism?” the Imam was once asked.
“The desire to be pious and abstemious in this life,” he replied.
“What is forbearance?” he was asked.
“Restraining one's anger and controlling oneself,” he answered.
“What is righteousness?” he was asked.
“Replacing the bad with the good,” came the answer.
“What is honor?” they asked.
“Being kind to one's relatives and shouldering people's burdens of sin.”
“What is the succor?” he was asked.
“Defending the neighbor, patience in war, and advance during adversities,” he said.
“What is glory?” he was asked.
“Giving while being in debt and forgiving others their offenses.”
“What is manliness?”
“Holding onto the faith, keeping one's self-respect, being merciful, being kind, giving back people's trusts, and ingratiating oneself to the people...” 210
C. A man from Syria asked Imam Hasan (as):
“What distance is between the right and the falsehood?”
“Four fingers,” the Imam replied. “What you see with your own eye is the right. You may hear a lot of falsehoods with your ear.”
“What distance is between faith and certitude?” the Syrian asked.
“Four fingers,” Imam Hasan (as) again answered. “The faith is what we hear, and certitude is what we see.”
“What is the distance between the sky and the heaven?” asked the Syrian.
“The prayer of the wronged,” replied Imam.
“What is the distance between the east and west?” asked the Syrian.
“A day's travel of the sun,” said the Imam. 3
D. Imam Hasan (as) is reported to have said:
“O people! He who is faithful to Allah, taking His words as a beacon, is guided to that which is most upright. Allah helps him to attain righteousness and leads him to goodness. The neighbor of Allah is certainly secure and protected. His enemy is fearful and in failure. Be cautious of Allah's wrath by much remembrance of Him. Fear Allah by piety and draw close to Allah by obeying Him. He is Near and Answering. Allah, the Blessed and Most High, says:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely l am very near; I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.” Holy Qur'an (2:186)
Imam Hasan (as) continued,
“Be obedient to Allah, and have faith in Him. It is unbecoming of him who grasps the greatness of Allah, to be haughty. The loftiness of those who know the greatness of Allah is expressed in their modesty, and those who know the highness of Allah in humbleness before Him. The safety of those who know the power of Allah is expressed in their surrender to Him, undeniable after they have known the truth, and not straying after they have been guided. You should know for sure that you will not attain piety until after you have known the nature of guidance. You will not hold onto the covenant of the Book until after you have known those who turned their backs on it. You will not recite it as you should, until after you have known those who tried to distort it.
Having known that, you can know the innovations and pretensions, see the lies against Allah and the distortion, and see how those who go astray will fall aside. Do not be influenced by the ignorant. Seek the knowledge from its bearers. They are the light with which one can enlighten oneself. They are the rightful Imams whom one can follow.
With their existence, knowledge revives and ignorance fades away. They are those whose knowledge tells you about the non-existence of ignorance in them, the way of their reasoning about the soundness of their judgments, their appearance about their inner self. They do not go against the right, nor do they differ on it. Allah set a sunnah for them, and issued His verdict on them. It is a reminder for those who want to remember. Understand what I say when you hear it, take care to act in compliance with it, and do not try to grasp it as if it were conveyed to you by the word of mouth. It is because the transmitters of the Book are many, but those who preserve it are few. Allah is the One Whose support is sought.” 412
E. One day Imam Hasan (as) was asked about politics. He said:
“Politics means observing the rights of Allah and the rights of the living and the rights of the dead. Rights of Allah are that you should obey His orders, and avoid what He forbids. Rights of the living are that you should observe your duty to your brothers, and not tarry in serving your ummah. You should be faithful to the one in authority among you as long as he is faithful to his ummah. You should speak up in his face should he deviate from the right path. Rights of the dead are that you should remember their good deeds and overlook their bad ones. They have a Lord Who shall ask them about whatever they did.”