Hadhrat Abbas was born in Medina on either 7th Rajab or 4th Shabaan 26 AH (645 AD). When the news of his birth reached Imam Ali, he prostrated himself on the ground as a token of his humble thanks to God. Imam Hussain took the baby in his arms and recited the Adhan and Iqama (Calls for Prayers) in his right and left ears respectively. Then the new born baby opened his eyes to see the beloved face of Imam Hussain. On the seventh day of his birth the ceremony of Aqeeqa (which is one of the emphasised traditions) was performed and Imam Ali named the child ‘Abbas’.
A similar incident took place at the time of the birth of Imam Ali (A). He only opened his eyes when the Holy Prophet took him in his arms.
It was the desire of Imam Ali that this son whom he named ‘Abbas’ (Meaning a Dauntless Lion) would accomplish the same deeds of valour and who would follow his teachings without fear of life and death. It was also his wish that Abbas would be a constant companion of Imam Hussain and be his Standard Bearer at Kerbala.
Imam Ali who himself was known as ‘The Lion of God’ and the ‘Gateway of Knowledge’ brought up Hadhrat Abbas and ably guided him till he was fourteen years old. The next ten years were spent under the careful eye of Imam Hasan and the last ten years with Imam Hussain. Thus it was not surprising that Hadhrat Abbas acquired near perfection in so many spheres of life. His gallantry, boldness, courageous outlook, and the art of combat and soldiery were inherited from Hazrat Ali, and this he proved very well in the battles of Jamal, Siffin and Nahrwan. Imam Hasan taught him patience and tolerance. His Lion-hearted loyalty and self-sacrificing nature were the result of his association with Imam Hussain and Sayyida Zainab. Physically, mentally, morally and spiritually he was fully developed, besides, being an accomplished scholar.
He helped the poor and needy, and discharged his duties towards his fellow-beings according to the precepts of Islam. He was pure in his thoughts, words and deeds, lest any of these should displease God. He lived strictly in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Holy Prophet.
Just as Ali was taught and trained by the Holy Prophet, so was Abbas taught and trained by Imam Ali. Imam fully knew the mysteries of life and death, and Abbas had fully imbibed the true spirit of Islam. A man who was brought up, educated and trained by Imam Ali could on no account be attached to this worldly life nor fear death, and Abbas fully justified this by his actions.
Hadhrat Abbas married Lubaba, daughter of Obaidullah Ibne Abbas Ibne Abdul Muttalib, and had two sons, Fazl and Muhammad. Some sources say that Lubaba was present at Kerbala and their son Muhammad was martyred there.
At the death bed of Imam Ali (A)
When Imam Ali was mortally wounded and lying on his deathbed, he sent for his entire family. Save Hadhrat Abbas, he entrusted all to the care of his eldest son Imam Hasan. Then he heard Hazrat Abbas, hardly 12 years old, sobbing. Imam Ali asked him to come near him and gave his hand to his second son, Imam Hussain, saying “Hussain, this child I am entrusting to you. He will represent me on the Day of your supreme sacrifice and will lay down his life in defending you and your dear ones“.
And turning to Hazrat Abbas, he had said: “Abbas, my child, I know your unbounded love for Hussain. Though you are too young to be told about it, when that day dawns, consider no sacrifice too great for Hussain and his children“.
This was in 657 AD. The occasion for the supreme sacrifice came on the battlefield of Kerbala in 680 AD when Hussain was poised against Yazid’s forces. It was a battle of good against evil and right against wrong. And in the history of Islam, the battle of Kerbala has become an important landmark of supreme sacrifice, great courage and dedication to a just cause.
In the battle of Kerbala, Hadhrat Abbas was Imam Hussain’s commander-in-chief. He fought the evil forces of Yazid gallantly, remembering his father’s last words. The story of the sacrifice of his life in trying to procure water for Imam Hussain’s children on the battlefield is the most touching and significant in Islamic history.
The life of Hadhrat Abbas is an example of unflinching loyalty and love for a brother. It is also the story of a warrior who sacrificed his life for the cause of Islam, which, according to Hazrat Abbas, was a just cause.
The warrior at Siffin
Imam Ali’s desire was to ensure that Hadhrat Abbas preached the religion of Islam and served the Prophet’s family. Hazrat Abbas saw his first battle when only eleven. This was the battle of Siffin. One day he appeared fully disguised, masked and armoured, on the battlefield. When Ibn-e-Shasa, a brave and famous Syrian fighter saw this masked person, he asked one of his seven sons to slay him. Instead, the son was quickly put down. Similarly, the other six sons tried to fight this masked warrior, but they all met the same fate. Finally lbn-e-Shasa himself came forward and the manner in which he was also beaten, made all the other people stare in disbelief. They then thought this masked fighter to be Imam Ali, and no one dared to come forward to fight. But, when Hadhrat Abbas removed the mask, people were surprised to note that he was not Hazrat Ali, but instead, Abbas, the inheritor of Imam Ali’s gallantry.
Hadhrat Abbas devotion, respect and affection for Imam Hussain was so deep, that he used to worship the very ground he walked on. In fact, it is said that he used to apply to his eyes, the dust from Imam Hussain’s feet. He resented anyone taking precedence in serving Imam Hussain. It is said that once Imam Hussain, while present with his Holy father Hazrat Ali in the mosque of Kufa, felt thirsty and asked for water from his servant Qumber. The child Abbas leapt to his feet, and brushing aside the faithful servant, rushed to bring the water for his master himself. In the hurry to carry the water as quickly as possible, he spilt it on his own clothes. His illustrious father stopped in his speech and tears rolled down his cheeks.
When asked by his faithful followers the reason for his tears, Hazrat Ali uttered those prophetic words which came true some twenty years later: “Abbas who has today wetted his clothes with water in his zeal to quench the thirst of his brother Hussain, will one day soak his very body in his on blood in attempting to quench the thirst of Imam Hussain’s children”.
Pilgrimage to his Mausoleum
It is almost fourteen hundred years since this tragedy occured at Kerbala, and still tens of thousands of pilgrims keep going there year after year, from all parts of the Muslim world to pay their respects to the gallant Abul Fazl Abbas (Moon of the Hashimites) at his magnificent Mausoleum.
They offer salutations and pray to Allah for their needs, seeking his intercession, for this is a place where so many vows have been fulfilled and where so many miracles have taken place.
Many a devotee has willed that he be buried in this holy place and so often one sees the sight of a coffin being carried a few times round the tomb of Hadhrat Abbas and taken to the alloted place of burial in Kerbala at this wonderful shrine.
The Holy Qur’an Says: “And if you are slain in the way of Allah or you die, certainly forgiveness from Allah and mercy is better than what they amass.” (3:157)
The Alam and its significance
During the time of the Moharram Majlises, usually on the 8th, it has become a sort of custom to recite the events leading to the martyrdom of Hadhrat Abbas. And when the Alams (replica of the Banner or Standard of the Holy Prophet and the Holy Imams) are taken out, accompanied to the beating of breasts and heads by the mourners, one will notice a Mashk (a leather water-bag), usually made of metal in remembrance of Hazrat Abbas, who sacrificed his life trying to get water for the children of Imam Hussain, who were dying of thirst.
When Hadhrat Abbas rolled down from his horse after a mortal blow on his head, the Alam and the Mashk stayed linked together and never got separated. Hence one sees an Alam with a Maslik attached to it, and sometimes one also sees an arrow alongside it.
A Towering personality
Hadhrat Abbas was a towering and handsome personality. His dauntless courage, supreme confidence and unflinching loyalty earned him many titles. He was called, “Qamar-e-Bani Hashim” (Moon of the Hashimites), because of his imposing appearance. His remarkable horsemanship made him “Syed-ul-Forosan” (the chief of horsemen). His ability to lead people resulted in his being called “Rais-ul-Shujan” (the leader of the valiant), and the manner in which he sacrificed his life earned him the title of “Afzal-ul-Shohada” (the choicest of the martyrs) and “Saqqa” (water carrier), because he sacrificed his life in an effort to procure water for Imam Hussain’s children in the tragic battle a Kerbala. He fully lived up to his name Abbas, which in Arabic stands for Lion.