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FaithHistory

Who Was Abbas bin Ali?

If you wanted to see loyalty, courage, bravery, and piety epitomised in one person, you wouldn’t have to look much further than Abbas bin Ali. Learn more about this relatively unknown personality, who was the son of Imam Ali.

If you wanted to see loyalty, courage, bravery, and piety epitomised in one person, you wouldn’t have to look much further than Abbas bin Ali. Learn more about this relatively unknown personality, who was the son of Imam Ali.

Abbas bin Ali was the son of Imam Ali and Umm ul Banin. Abbas was born on 4th Shabaan 26AH. He was known for his bravery, courage, and loyalty to his family and his faith.

Imam Ali married Umm ul Banin after the death of his wife, Fatima bint Muhammad. Imam Ali was specifically looking to marry a woman who could be the perfect mother figure for his children and birth him a brave and valiant son. Imam Ali instructed his brother Aqil to find a woman fulfilling these criteria. Aqil identified Umm ul-Banin. After some time, Imam Ali proposed to Umm ul Banin and married her.

Imam Ali and Umm ul Banin had four sons together: Abbas, Abdullah, Jafar, and Uthman. All of their sons grew up to be brave and loyal supporters of their father and his family. Abbas, in particular, was known for his bravery and loyalty and became a key figure in the Battle of Karbala, where he fought alongside his half-brother Husayn ibn Ali and was martyred.

Early Life

Abbas was raised by his faithful mother, who instilled in him the values of faith, loyalty, knowledge, devoutness, and high principles.

Abbas remained under the thoughtful care and wise education of his father throughout his upbringing, both in Medina and later in Kufa, when his father moved there. This hereditary, educational, and environmental influence helped shape Abbas into a person of high moral standards, knowledge, and virtue.

After Imam Ali’s death, Abbas remained closely attached to his brothers, Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain, and returned to Medina with them. There he learned religious knowledge and noble character traits from them. Following the poisoning of his brother Imam Hasan, Abbas remained devoted to his brother Imam Hussain and nephew Imam Sajjad.

Abbas Bin Ali’s Personality Traits

Abbas naturally developed admirable personality traits since being raised in the Prophet’s (PBUH) household.

A Skilled Warrior

Imam Ali’s experience in warfare was second to none. He had the most kills in Badr, almost single-handedly protected the Prophet at Uhud, killed the polytheist’s most feared warrior at Khandaq and lifted the gates at Khayber when nobody else could.

Abbas inherited these qualities under his father’s tutelage. He was a skilled horseman and warrior. During the caliphate of Imam Ali, a civil war broke out between Imam Ali and Muawiya. Abbas took part in these military campaigns, including the Battle of Siffin.

Courage

Abbas’s best qualities were on display during the Karbala saga. On that day, Imam Hussain’s band of family and friends were heavily outnumbered. Despite this, Abbas was eager to go onto the battlefield to defend his brother and family. The only reason he didn’t was that Imam Hussain preferred for him to stay near the tents. Wanting to desperately go out and fight in an arena where he’d be outnumbered 100 to 1 is a testament to his courage.

Leadership

Imam Hussain wanted Abbas to be the flag bearer at the Battle of Karbala. A flag bearer is someone who carries the flag or banner of a particular army or group. The flag or banner was a symbol of identification, unity, and motivation for the troops. The flag bearer was responsible for protecting and advancing the flag, which was considered a position of great honour and importance.

During battles, the flag bearer would march at the forefront of the army, leading and motivating the troops. As long as the flag is hoisted, the army remains in the hope of victory. Flag bearers are carefully chosen and must possess many qualities, such as bravery, leadership and discipline – qualities that Imam Hussain saw in Abbas.

Bravery

The story of Abbas’s quest to fetch water for the women and children at Karbala displayed all his good qualities in one go – none more so than his bravery.

The enemies of Imam Hussain had taken control of the water supply and denied Imam Hussain and his camp access to water. On the day of the battle, Imam Hussain and his army fought in the unforgiving heat of Arabia whilst not having drunk a sip of water for three days.

At one point during the battle, Abbas could no longer see the children and women of Imam Hussain’s camp suffering from thirst. He decided to take action and fetch water from the Euphrates river, which was located nearby.

Abbas reached the river and found that the enemy army had stationed itself around it and was guarding the access to the water. Abbas was undeterred and bravely charged towards the enemy, wielding his sword, and managed to break through their ranks and reach the river.

He then filled a bag with water and started to make his way back to the camp. The fact that he did not drink water despite being thirsty and preferred the woman and children to drink first says a lot about his character. On the way back, he was soon surrounded by enemy soldiers who attacked him with swords and arrows. Despite being outnumbered and under attack, Abbas continued to fight fiercely, using his shield to protect the bag of water. In the midst of the fighting, Abbas was struck by an arrow that pierced his eye and had both arms chopped off. He subsequently fell to the ground, called out to Imam Hussain and died in his lap.

Imam Sajjad, who was at the battle but could not fight due to extreme illness, comments on the self-sacrificial qualities of Abbas as a first-hand witness:

May Allah have mercy upon my uncle, al-’Abbas. He preferred his brother to himself; he did well, and sacrificed himself for his brother until he lost his two hands for the sake of this. Thus, instead of his two hands, Allah will give him two wings with which he will fly with the angels in Paradise, just like Ja’far ibn Abi-Talib. In the sight of Allah the Blessed, the Exalted, al-’Abbas enjoys a peculiar rank for which all the shahids will be hopeful for if they had its like on the day of Resurrection.”

[Al-Khissal]

The Shrine of Abbas bin Ali

Abbas is buried in Karbala, Iraq, next to his brother Imam Hussain. In fact, the two shrines are connected via a courtyard known as Baynul Haramain. It’s likely the battle took place in this area.

The shrine complex includes several buildings, including the mausoleum of Abbas bin Ali, which contains his tomb and is adorned with intricate tilework and calligraphy. The shrine also houses a museum that displays a collection of artefacts related to Abbas bin Ali and the Battle of Karbala.

Like Imam Hussain, Abbas receives millions of visitors yearly, which peaks at Arbaeen. The Arbaeen is a commemoration ceremony held to mark 40 days after the Battle of Karbala.

The shrine serves as a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of Abbas bin Ali and his unwavering commitment to the principles of justice and righteousness.

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