Abbas son of Ali (PBUH)
Abbas son of Ali (Arabic: Abbas ebne Ali) well-known as Abulfazl (Father of Virtue) and Ghamar Bani Hashem (the Moon of Hashem family), son of Imam Ali (PBUH) and younger brother of Imam Hassan (PBUH) and Imam Hussain (PBUH). His fame and popularity among Muslims and non-Muslims and Shias in particular is more due to him being a courageous valour and also his loyalty to Imam Hussain (PBUH) in Karbala. The resting place of Abbas son of Ali in Karbala lies in the same battleground where the Karbala incident happened. The commemoration of his martyrdom, as an old common custom, is held on the ninth day of the lunar calendar month of Muharram, named as Tasu’a.
Birth in Medina
Abbas, son of Imam Ali (PBUH), was born on the 14th of Sha’ban of the year 26 of lunar Hijri in Medina. His mother, Fatimah, well-known as Ummol Banin (Mother of Sons), was the daughter of Ha’zam ebne Khalid (Ha’zam son of Khalid) whose ancestors were of courageous Arab men and renowned for bravery and courage in the Arab world.
Imam Ali (PBUH) married Ummol Banin ten years after the martyrdom of Lady Fatima, the daughter of the prophet of Islam. The proposal was made by his brother Aghil. One night before the proposal, Ummol Banin had a dream which she described to her mother: O’ mother, I saw in my dream that I was sitting in a thriving green garden. There were flowing rivers and plenty of fruits. The moon and stars were glowing and I was staring at them and thinking about the splendour of creation and God’s creations, about the sky that stands above without a column and also the brightness of the moon and the stars. I was absorbed in thinking that the moon descended onto my lap from the sky and dazzlingly luminous light emitted from it. I was in wonder that I saw three other stars on my lap, too. The light from them astonished me as well. I was still in wonder when an invisible speaker addressed me by my own name, and I was hearing his voice, yet could not see him. He said: O’ Fatima! Hail to thee for I have good news for you of eminence and luminous excellence as of the moon and three shiny stars whose father is the lord and master of all human beings after the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Having entered Imam Ali’s home, Ummol Banin kisses the hands of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain (PBUT) and begins to endeavour to serve the holy family of revelation with honesty and modesty. Since the very beginning of living in that house the wisdom, strong faith, politeness, and high moral virtues of this precious lady attracted the attention and respect of The Commander of The Faithful, his family and the tribe of Bani Hashem and accordingly she was highly respected by them.
Soon after marriage, Ali (PBUH) noted that calling her by the name of Fatima makes Fatima Zahra’s (God’s Greetings be Upon Her) children remember their honourable mother leading to their grief. Therefore; the Commander of the Faithful chose the name of Ummol Banin (mother of sons) for her and said: God Almighty will bestow upon thee sons who shall be the unexcelled of youth.
Umol Banin’s whole-hearted devotion to the Holy Family of the Prophet (May God’s Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him and His Family) caused her to love Imam Hussain (PBUH) more than her own children; When she was informed about the martyrdom of her children she said: Let me Know about Imam Hussain (PBUH), and as the news of Imam Hussain (PBUH) been martyred was put to her she said: The veins of my heart are now ripped apart, May my children and all that exist below this welkin be sacrificed for Imam Hussain (PBUH).
The fruit of the marriage of Ali (PBUH) and Fatima daughter of Ha’zam was four sons namely Abbas, A’oun, Ja’far, Uthman of whom Abbas was the eldest. Ummol Banin was so loyal to the Commander of the Faithful that she never entered into marriage although she lived twenty years past his husband’s martyrdom.
When Abbas was born, Imam Ali (PBUH) recited Azan (Call for Prayer), Eghameh (Call for Prayer after Azan and before the Islamic Prayer), the name of God and his messenger in his ears, and called him Abbas. From time to time Imam Ali (PBUH) embraced Abbas in his swindling-clothes, kissed his arms and wept. One day Ummol Banin asked the reason for this weeping. Imam replied: His arms will be cut off defending Hussain (PBUH). Ummol Banin (Peace and God’s Blessings Upon Her) wept, and Imam gave her good news that your son, Abbas, is of very highly-esteemed status before God Almighty, and God the blessed and Supreme will bestow upon him two arms with which he will fly in Heaven along with the angels.
Particulars of Abbas (PBUH)
He had an elegantly slender stature, charming countenance, and peerless profound bravery, and was called «the Moon of Hashem’s Family» due to his charming figure. He was of very polite manners. Abbas learned in the house of Imam Ali (PBUH), who was the father of the orphans, sympathy and empathy towards strangers, the father who put food bites smeared with tears into the mouth of orphans with his own hands, and he shared his own earnings with the poor every day for 25 years, and grew up by a faithful and loyal mother with Hassan (PBUH) and Hussain (PBUH), and learnt from this virtuous family lessons of humanity, martyrdom and honesty. His innate talent and family upbringing made his good moral traits and spiritual achievements grow along with corporal growth and strength, to become a perfect, distinguished and eminent youth. He not only was well-known for being a perfect eloquent speaker but also one of the best as a man of wisdom and human traits. He surely knew what a great day he had been saved for and was aware that he was born for Ashura.
History tells us that the Commander of the Faithful (PBUH) was determined to endeavor for the proper upbringing of his children and in addition to educating him of spiritual and moral traits, he also trained Abbas (PBUH) in terms of physical education such that his excellent physical preparation could very well be understood from his body symmetry and physical dexterity. In addition to the hereditary qualities that Abbas (PBUH) inherited from his father, daily physical activities, whether assisting father with watering palm-grove and building flowing rivers, digging up wells, and also teenager games added to his physical strength.
One of the games Abbas (PBUH) and the teenagers of his age played was a game called Madahi which was fairly similar to the game of Golf, which was known as Polo in the Land of Persia. This game which could be played both on a horse and without a horse, players tried to seize the ball from their opponents with their woken sticks and throw it into a hole which was of their opponents. These types of hobbies contributed significantly to their physical dexterity. In addition, it has been recorded that the Commander of the Faithful acted followed the holy prophet’s (PBUH) advice regarding physical exercises for the young people and teenagers , such as horse-riding, bow and arrow, wrestling and swimming very seriously, and he personally taught Abbas (PBUH) the military techniques which was a great constructive leap for Abbas’ (PBUH) physical education.
From the age of 12 to 14 when Ali (PBUH) was engaged in battle with enemies, even though Abbas (PBUH) was not very often granted permission to engage in war, he was a strong opponent for famous Arab champions. During the war of Seffin, when Mu’avieh blocked the flow of water to Imam Ali (PBUH) and his army, he sent Imam Hussain (PBUH) with a group of people to reopen the stream. Abbas (PBUH) was present during this battle and fought against enemies along with his brother.
Abbas (PBUH) was fourteen when his father was martyred in the bloody assassination plot in the Koufeh Mosque in the fortieth year of Hijri. With his eyes full of tears and deep grieve he witnessed his father’s secret burial at night. He never forgot his father’s advice to him on the night of 21st of the month of Ramadan just before his martyrdom. Yes, Imam asked him not to leave Hussain (PBUH) alone in Karbala on the day of Ashura.
Abbas (PBUH) also experienced the bitter years of Imamat (leadership) of his brother Hassan (PBUH) after the martyrdom of Imam Ali (PBUH).
During the peak years of Mu’avieh’s acts of deceit and dishonesty and of cruelty by the Umavis, many loyal followers of Imam Ali (PBUH) and Imam Hassan (PBUH) including Hojr ebn Adi (Hojr son of Adi) were martyred. The years in which preachers on the pulpits admired Mu’avieh and swore at Ali (PBUH), and during the plot by which peace was imposed upon Imam Hassan (PBUH) he constantly took positions of approval with the Imam (leader) and immaculate brother of his. He never took a step further than his Imam and leader, and even though peace with the enemy was not in harmony with his typical character as a brave valour, he preferred to take obedience to his rightful leader without asking any questions as a principle and remain silent.
Hence his Ziaratnameh (written prayers to be said at the time of visiting holy shrines (tombs)), which has been quoted from Imam Sadegh (PBUH), reads: (Peace and blessings be upon you, O’ the virtuous servant, obedient to Allah (God) and his messenger, and the Commander of the Faithful, and Hassan, and Hussain (Peace and God’s blessings upon them)).
Certainly, the internal and external conditions of the society were never hidden from his sharp eyes and he carefully carried out his duties. After Imam Hassan’s (PBUH) return from Medina, Abbas (PBUH) began assisting the poor along with the Imam and distributed his brother’s generous gifts amongst people. He received fame as the Babol Hava’ej (Gate of Prayers) and became a means for help and support for the underprivileged of the society. He never neglected and failed in support and obedience to his Imam (leader) during this time, until the plot by the son of Abusofian against the Imam ended in his departure to the afterlife.
Abbas (PBUH) married at the age of eighteen to Lobabeh, daughter of Abdullah son of Abbas some years after his father was martyred. Abdullah was a relater of hadith and a talented student of Ali (PBUH), and Lobabeh had been brought up in an environment of Spirituality and Religion. The fruit of the marriage was two children named as Abdullah and Fazl. It has been said that Abbas (PBUH) was given the tile of Abulfazl (Father of Virtue) after Fazl was born. However some believe Abbas (PBUH) was given this title due to his endless virtue and beneficence.
Abbas (PBUH) was with his brother Imam Hussain (PBUH) all his life. He spent his young years serving Imam Hussain (PBUH). He was highly respected and glorious amongst the youths of Bani Hashem (Hashem’s sons), and they gathered in a circle around him like butterflies around a candle with loyalty and love. There were about thirty of them and were at his service ever for martyrdom and bravery in combat.
After Mu’avieh’s death when the ruler of Medina invited Imam Hussain (PBUH) to the capital building in order to submit Yazid’s message to him, Abbas was present outside the building with these thirty people and their presence prevented any harm to the Imam.
Ashura and Martyrdom
After Imam Hussain (PBUH) and his family and followers set off for Kufa in response to the people of Kufa’s invitation, an army of twenty thousand people, commanded by Omar Sa’ad, was sent towards the Imam by the order of Yazid and cooperation of Ebne Ziad (Son of Ziad) . Omar Sa’ad’s army reached the Imam and his followers in a land called Karbala, and stopped them from travelling to Kufa. He neither allowed them to leave nor allowed them to return because Yazid, a cruel and tyrant character, had been awaiting this opportunity to uproot the family of the Prophet of Islam for long.
In these circumstances, the Imam and his seventy two followers, accompanied by the women and children, had no choice other than fighting and resistance. Almost none of the people of Kufa who had asked him to come and remove the cruel rulers came to assist their Imam (leader) due to Ebne Ziad’s threats.
It was the ninth of Muharram, all knew that there will be a war tomorrow. Abbas (PBUH), who was the bearer of Imam Hussain’s flag, talked to his brothers and followers and asked for pledge to support and defend the Imam and the Holy Family of the Prophet till the last drop of their blood. At night time, they made peace and safety for women and children by guarding around the tents.
On the day of Ashura which was the day after, an unfair, dastardly and unequal battle began with the attack by the Omar Sa’ad’s Army. A war in which Imam Hussain’s (PBUH) six month old baby’s throat was ripped off with a three-pointed arrow, the young Ali Akbar (meaning the elder Ali) was mutilated and his nephews (brother-side) were brutally slaughtered to death.
Imam’s followers sought permission from him one by one to go to the battlefield. They left and never came back. And all this time Imam Hussain (PBUH) brokenheartedly with deep grievance witnessed all this loyalty and this state of being under ferocity and vicious behaviour.
Abbas enbe Ali (PBUH) having seen the loneliness of Imam Hussain (PBUH) went to him and said “Would you allow me to go to the battlefield?”
Imam Hussain (PBUH) wept prostrated with grief and then said: “O’ brother, you are my flag-bearer”. Abbas (PBUH) said: “I feel tight in the chest and I am fed up with life. I intend to take revenge for the bloodshed from these hypocrites”. Imam Hussain (PBUH) said: “Bring a little water for the children” (Omar Sa’ad had also obstructed the way of the Imam and his followers to reach water). Abbas went to the battlefield and exhorted them, but it was no use. So he came back and told his brother about it. And when he heard the children’s cry of thirst, took the water-skin and his spear, mounted his horse and went towards the Forat River.
Four thousand soldiers who were appointed to guard Forat surrounded and shot at him. Abbas scattered them, killed eighty of them and entered Forat. When he wanted to drink a handful of water he remembered Hussain, his family and children being thirsty, and refrained from drinking. He poured the water back into the river and filled up the water-skin, took it on his right shoulder and went towards the tents. The Kofah army obstructed his path and surrounded him on all sides. Abbas fought with them while reciting the epic verse: “When death roars, I shall never have fear of death so that while fighting the enemy’s brave men I can put them to the sword. I put my soul to defend the prophet’s son. I am Abbas who is the water-carrier and have no fear of death.”
One of the soldiers named as «Nofel Azragh» cut his right arm from his body. Abbas put the water-skin on his left shoulder, took the flag in his left hand and recited his epic verse: “I swear to Allah (God) that if you cut my right arm, I will ever defend my religion and the Imam (leader) who is truthful about his faith and is son of the trustworthy prophet.”
Then of the enemies cut his left hand from wrist.
Abbas clung his water-skin on his chest and recited this epic verse: “O’ my soul! Do not be afraid of the apostates and be delighted for the God’s mercy. They cut my left arm cruelly. O, God, burn them in the burning flames of fire.”
Then he took the water-skin by his teeth. Then an arrow hit the water-skin and the water was spilled. But after some time another arrow hit his chest. Another arrow hit his eye, but in the end he was hit with a quarterstaff on top of his head so that he fell down from the horse. It was the time when Abbas (PBUH) called Imam Hussain (PBUH) for the first time as «brother», because he had always called him “my master and leader” out of respect.
Imam Hussain went to reach him and having seen him in that condition he said: “Now my back is broken and all resorts closed before me.” And after he saw an arrow in his injured eye and the blood-soaked body of Abbas on the ground, he bent over, sat beside him and wept. Imam Hussain (PBUH) put Abbas’ head on his knees but Abbas put his head on the ground again, and said : “How can I bear that you put my head on your knees while dying, when I will not be available at the time of your demise to take you in my arms.” The Imam (PBUH) sat beside Abbas until he passed away and wept.
After the martyrdom of Abbas ebn Ali (PBUH), Imam Hussain (PBUH) attacked the enemy and fought with them with a sword from right and left and the Kufa army kept fleeing from him. Imam (PBUH) said: “Where are you fleeing to? You killed my brother: Where are you fleeing to? You have broken my arm!” Then he returned to the tents. Sakineh asked her father where his uncle was. Imam informed her about his martyrdom.
Zeinab cried out “O’ brother! O’ Abbas”
All ladies burst into tears. Imam Hussain (PBUH) wept as well and said poems bearing such contents as: “My brother, my dearest, and part of my being! You were a trustable support for me! O’ son of my father! You fought honestly until you drank from the chalice of heavenly pure wine. My bright moon, you were an ever kind companion in dire calamities and difficulties. After you, life shall be bitter for us. We will be beside each other tomorrow. Know that I will complain to God, I will be patient before him and take refuge in him from thirst and hardship.”
The Holy Shrine of Abbas (PBUH)
Abbas’ (PBUH) resting place is situated in the north east of the resting place of Imam Hussain (PBUH) in Karbala and the distance between his resting place and Imam’s is called “Beinol Haramein” (length between two shrines). Development and reconstruction of his shrine was carried out during the era of King Tahmasb Safavi and then by King Nader. After the attack of Wahabis on Karbala and demolishing the shrines, they were reconstructed again by King Fat’h Ali. Currently the Islamic Republic of Iran carries out the development, repairs, and reconstruction of the shrines.
Status and Esteem of Abbas (PBUH)
On the night of Ashura, when the enemies stood opposite the caravan of Imam Hussain (PBUH) and their leader Omar Sa’ad began yelling, Imam Hussain (PBUH) said to Abbas (PBUH) : «Dear brother, May I be sanctified for you. Mount on a steed and go to this group of people and ask them for what purpose they have come and what they want.
There are two important points here. One is that Imam says to Abbas (PBUH) “May I be sanctified for you”. This indicates the high status and esteem of Abbas (PBUH), because an immaculate Imam would not say something which is pointless and extreme, and the second point is that he sends Abbas (PBUH) as his delegate to the enemy’s camp.
On the day of Ashura when Abbas (PBUH) fell down from his horse, Imam Hussain (PBUH) said: “My back is now broken and all resorts closed before me.” this sentence is an indication of the significance of Abbas (PBUH) and his role in defending Imam Hussain (PBUH).
One day Imam Sajjad (PBUH) (the fourth Shia Imam) cast a look at Abdullah son of Abbas (PBUH) and burst into tears. Then said: There was no harder day for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) than the day of the battle of Ohod, because the Prophet’s uncle (paternal uncle), the Lion of God and his Messenger, Hamzeh Ben Abdolmotalleb was killed, and after that no day was harder than the day of the battle of Mu’tah because the Holy Prophet’s cousin, Ja’far ebn Abitaleb was killed. Then Imam Sajjad (PBUH) added: No day was more tragic than the day of Imam Hussain (PBUH), when thirty thousand people stood against Imam Hussain (PBUH) thinking that they were from the Islamic nation each one of them intending to seek God’s favour by shedding the blood of Imam Hussain (PBUH). I swear to God that he exhorted them, but it was no use and continued until they cruelly killed him out of hostility and feud.
Then Imam Sajjad (PBUH) said: May God bestow peace and blessings upon Abbas (PBUH) who made the ultimate sacrifice, was examined by God and sacrificed his life for his brother until both of his arms were cut. Hence the Glorious God bestowed upon him two wings to be able to fly with angels in the heavens, as bestowed upon Ja’far ebn Abitaleb (PBUH); and verily Abbas (PBUH) has such a high status and esteem before the Supreme Creator that all martyrs will covet his status and esteem.
Dedicated faith, devotion, and self-sacrifice are of particular significance in Islam and the teachings of Ahlebait (the Holy Prophet’s holy family – Peace Be Upon Them), as the Commander of the Faithful regards sacrifice as the most eminent moral virtue.
In addition, Ali (PBUH) regarded sacrifice as the highest religious practice and in another quote refers to devotion and self-sacrifice as the aim of all moral traits. Ali (PBUH) said in one part of his letter to Hares Hamadani: Note that the best of the faithful is a person who is better than others in terms of sacrificing himself, family and his wealth.
Now here is a question: There have been other martyrs, who sacrificed their lives; so what distinguishes Abbas (PBUH) from them? The answer to this question is that Abbas (PBUH) possessed enlightenment more than all other martyrs and his obedience to his Imam (leader) was more perfect than others. According to the point of view of Islam and teachings of Ahlebait (the Holy Prophet’s family – Peace Be Upon Them) what makes a distinction between good deeds and increases the value of the deeds is the enlightenment, insight and good intention of the person and the Holy Prophet’s (Peace and God’s Blessings be upon him and his holy family) words who said that : «One slash of Ali’s sword on the day of the Battle of the Trench would exceed the value of prayers of all ever » may bear the same indication.
Abbas (PBUH) made ultimate sacrifice with enlightenment through the path of religion and his Imam (leader), and stepped forward in the stages of perfectness and excellence.