Al-Abbas, was the first child of Umm-ul-Banin. With his birth, Medina shone and the whole world glittered. Waves of pleasures flowed in the family of Ali (a), for the birth of their magnificent moon that would light this world with his merits, and would add immortal glory to the numerous glories of the Hashemites.
These great words, which are the message of all prophets and the melody of all the God-fearing, found a ground in the inner self of al-Abbas. They, later on, became the most significant elements of his personality. In his future, he would adopt the calling to the true application of these words for which he would lose all his limbs.
Historians have confirmed that al-Abbas was born on the fourth of Shabaan, AH 26.
The father, as he perceived that this baby would be one of the heroes of Islam and would be frowning in the faces of evils and the wrongdoers, said: “I name him ‘al-Abbas (the frowning), and nickname him ‘Abu’l-Fadhl (father of virtue).” (al-Kulbasi’s al-Khassaiss ul-Abbasiyya; p. 71-2).
Referring to the linguistic meaning of the Arabic al-Abbas, Ibn-Manzhour, in his al-Ayn, writes down:
(Al-Abbas: the lion that other lions fear and escape.)In Muntaha al-Irab, the following is recorded:
(Al-Abbas: this name is called on the courageous, the fearless, the strong, and the attacker. It is one of the names of the lion. Describing al-Abbas in the battlefields, many historians have likened him to the angry lion.)
Describing al-Abbas ibn Ali, at-Turaihi, in his al-Muntakhab, says:
(Al-Abbas ibn Ali looked like an unshakable mountain. His heart was as same as a mound because he was such a unique horseman and hero. In battlefields, he was fearless.)
Al-Abbas was called Abu’l-Fadhl (father -or owner- of virtue). Some mentioned that he had a son called al-Fadhl. (Maqatil ut-Talibiyyin;p. 84). As a matter of fact, this name represents his personality completely, because he was the owner, leader, and source of virtue. In his life, he was so openhanded-he used to distribute his virtue and charity on everyone who directed to him. After martyrdom, he is the shelter and refuge of everyone who seeks his help. Most surely, God will relieve him who directs to Him and implores to Him by using Abu’l-Fadhl as his means and interceder. Because of its commonness, this fact is undeniable.
Al-Abbas was also called Abu-Qirba (the owner of the skin of water) because he carried water to the harem of Imam al-Hussein (a) during the battle of at-Taff.
He was also called Abu’l-Qasim. This name, however, is not common among historians some of whom have mentioned that al-Abbas had a son called al-Qasim and was martyred during the battle of at-Taff. Jabir al-Ansari addressed to al-Abbas during the Ziyara of al-Arbaeen:
“Salaam be upon you, Abu’l-Qasim. Salaam be upon you, al-Abbas ibn Ali.”
It is narrated that, once, Imam Ali (a) seated his baby al-Abbas on his knees, lifted his (the baby’s) hands, kissed them, and wept. Watching this situation, the mother was astonished; hence, Imam Ali (a) foretold her about the future of her baby and what would happen to his hands. She, as well as the others, wept heavily. After that, the Imam told her about her baby’s great position with God, and this relieved her.
Al-Abbas was nursed at the hands of a faithful, faithful mother who nurtured him on faith, loyalty, knowledge, devoutness, and high principles. His father, too, was that great personality whom is described as a copy of the Prophet (s), the inheritor of the prophets’ knowledge, and the hero of all combats. Under the custody of these parents, al-Abbas was brought up. No wonder then if he possessed such personality and offered such big sacrifices for sake of his religion and principles.
Al-Abbas adhered to his father since he was in Medina, and when he moved to Iraq and resided in Kufa, al-Abbas was also under his thoughtful care and wise education. By heredity, education, and environment, al-Abbas acquired all virtues, high moral standards, knowledge, and conversance.
After his father’s demise, al-Abbas adhered closely to his two brothers; al-Hasan and al-Hussein (a). He returned with them to Medina and learnt from them the religious knowledge and fundamentals in addition to the nobilities of character.
When Imam al-Hasan (a) was poisoned to death, al-Abbas adhered to his brother Imam al-Hussein and his nephew Imam Ali Zayn ul-Abidin (a). He kept himself with his brother in Medina, Mecca, and Iraq where he protected him as well as his harem until he lost his life for this sake.
Thus, unlike the other sons of Imam Ali (a), al-Abbas had the characteristic of full adherence to his father, two brothers, and nephew. From that reason, he was a true copy of the Imams in knowledge and morality.
To al-Abbas a number of lofty epithets expressing his kind mentality and high moral standards were addressed:
Like his father who was the door to the Prophet (s), al-Abbas is the actual and spiritual door to Imam al-Hussein (a). Because of the high moral standards and great faithfulness of al-Abbas, Imam al-Hussein used to choose him for every mission and depend upon him in every difficult situation. Likewise, al-Abbas dedicated himself to being at the disposal of his brother. He was the protector and defender of the Prophet’s household.
It is related that al-Abbas used to call his brother by ‘Sir.’ Only on one day and in one situation did al-Abbas call his brother by ‘brother.’ That was on the day of Ashura when he fell down from his horse after his two hands had been severed and he had been stricken on the head. In such an hour, a man longs for seeing the ones he loves for the last time. Only then he shouted as aloud as possible, ‘O brother, reach your brother!’
As soon as the Imam heard that voice, he hurried towards its source. He rode off, put his brother’s head in his lap, began to wipe out blood and dust from the face, and asked about his pains. Al-Abbas opened his sights in his brother’s face, looked at him for the last time, and bid him farewell with a smile expressing all meanings of sincerity and loyalty.
As an answer, Imam al-Hussein (a) replied his brother’s farewell not with words, but with tears that dropped on the face of al-Abbas while he was in his last sparks of life. Thus, al-Abbas emitted his last breaths while he was in the lap of his brother and has become the door to him.
Hence, it is recommended for the pilgrims of the tomb of Imam al-Hussein (a) to begin first with visiting the tomb of al-Abbas. This is one of the confirmations of al-Abbas’s being the door to his brother; chief of the martyrs.
The door intended here is the mental and spiritual. Al-Abbas, hence, is the spiritual door to Imam al-Hussein, and this meaning is very far from the familiar meaning of portership or secretariat. Al-Abbas is too far above such meanings and Imam al-Hussein (a) is, too, far above taking doorkeepers or secretaries since he is beyond all material limits.
Al-Abbas was so bright-faced and handsome. Hence, he was called ‘Qamar Bani Hashim -Moon of the Hashemites.’ He was also the moon of his family and the moon of Islam because he paved the path of martyrdom with light and shone upon the lives of Muslims.
He was so bright-faced that the light of his countenance lit every darkness and everybody admired his handsomeness. When it happened that al-Abbas was accompanied by his nephew Ali al-Akbar who is known of his similarity to the Prophet physically and morally, people of Medina used to stop in lines watching their bright-facedness.
During the battle of at-Taff and the few days preceding, Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad; the governor of Kufa, imposed a blockade on the sources of water so as to prevent Imam al-Hussein (a), his household, and army from having water. , al-Abbas, undertook the mission of fetching water to the camp and harem of his brother. He pushed himself among the large gatherings of that army and could reach the River Euphrates several times. On that account, he had the epithet ‘as-Saqqaa -the provider of water.’
From his forefathers, al-Abbas inherited the mission of serving water. Other than the other Koreishite clans, the Hashemites exclusively undertook the mission of serving water for the unparalleled qualities of generosity, munificence, and honor that they enjoyed.
Historians have recorded that Qussay ibn Kelab was the foremost to serve water to the pilgrims of the Sacred House of God in Mecca. After him, his son Abd-Menaf inherited this mission and left it to his son Hashim who, too, left it to his son Abd-ul-Muttalib. The latter undertook this mission so perfectly that God conferred upon him with the bliss of the Well Zamzam. After Abd-ul-Muttalib, Abu-Talib undertook this mission then handed it over to his brother al-Abbas ibn Abd-ul-Muttalib.
On the day of the conquest of Mecca, al-Abbas offered this mission to the Prophet (s) who gave it back to him.
Copying his fathers and two brothers, al-Abbas ibn Ali assumed to himself the mission of serving water and he was completely worthy of it. On every occasion and every opportunity he could seize, al-Abbas served the others with water. On the day of Ashura, more than ever, he also undertook this mission in many situations.
To fetch water in such a situation is really a heroic deed that leaves a great effect on hearts. Hence, Abu’l-Fadhl al-Abbas won this location not only in the hearts of people but also in the sight of God Who conferred upon him with innumerable merits and excellences. Al-Abbas however carried out the mission so perfectly and appreciatively. He fetched water to the camp of Imam al-Hussein three times. The first time was on the seventh of Muharram, as we have already mentioned. The second time was on the ninth of Muharram:
We will never let you have a single drop from it until you join Hell.” Just then al-Abbas turned his face towards his brother and asked, “We are the right party, are we not?” “Yes, by God, we are,” answered Imam al-Hussein (a).
From this answer al-Abbas understood that his brother would permit him to fetch water for those moaning thirsty harem and children. He therefore attacked the troops who were guarding the riverbank and could force them to leave their positions. Thus, Imam al-Hussein and his companions could reach the river easily and supply themselves with water.
That was the second time of al-Abbas’s watering. The third time was on the tenth of Muharram:
Hearing these words from his brother, al-Abbas approached to his brother, kissed him on the face, and asked for permission for fighting. The Imam did not permit him, but he ordered him to fetch some water for the harem and children.
Carrying out his brother’s orders, al-Abbas carried a skin of water and attacked the troops on the riverside. He could force them to leave their positions… etc.
In some historical references (Tarikh ul-Khamis and Ibn Idris’s As-Saraair) it is mentioned that al-Abbas was conferred with this great epithet of ‘as-Saqqaa’ after he had undertaken the mission of serving water to the caravan of his brother Imam al-Hussein on the ten days of Muharram, AH 60.
Al-Alqami is the name of the river on whose bank was the last scene of the life of al-Abbas. This river was gathered around by big numbers of soldiers whose mission was to prevent the camp of Imam al-Hussein (a) from water. By his giant determination and unmatched heroism, al-Abbas could attack that army and occupy the river to carry water to the camp of his brother more than once. In the last time, he was martyred there. Hence, he was called ‘Battal ul-Alqami -the hero of al-Alqami.’
The holding of standards in wars was the most significant position in armies. Standards are given exclusively to the soldiers who enjoy special military abilities. During the battle of at-Taff, the standard was in the hand of Abu’l-Fadhl al-Abbas who preserved and held it since the beginning of the tragic journey in Medina until the last spark of his life. He protected that standard so bravely and uniquely that he embraced it to his chest when his two hands were severed. In more than one situation, al-Abbas asked his brother Imam al-Hussein for permission for fighting, but the Imam used to say to him, “You are the standard-bearer of my army. If you are martyred, my troops will separate.
The standard-bearers, too, must exert all efforts for sake of keeping the standard high. From this reason, al-Abbas exerted unique efforts for keeping the standard high. When his right hand was severed, he held the standard in the left, and when this one was also severed, he embraced the standard to his chest and kept it to the last breath of his life.
Historians have also recorded that when the Umayyad army raided at the camp of Imam al-Hussein -after his martyrdom-, they robbed everything including the standard, which was borne by al-Abbas. In Syria, Yazid’s sight fell on that standard that amazed him. He noticed that it was completely stabbed except the place of its handle from which it was carried. He asked about the bearer of that standard, and he was answered that it was al-Abbas ibn Ali. Very astonished by the courage of al-Abbas, Yazid turned his face to the attendants and said: “Look at this standard! It is stabbed in every place except its handle. This clearly means that its bearer was so courage and chivalrous that he faced all stabs and strokes without letting that standard fall from his hand. This is the true loyalty to brothers!!”
Hence, al-Abbas was called ‘Hamil ul-Liwaa -the standard-bearer.’
This title is exclusively given to the higher commander whose mission is to protect and manage his troops. Hence, this title was conferred upon al-Abbas for his unique courage and bravery during the battle of at-Taff when he protected the camp of Imam al-Hussein (a) and guarded the harem. In fact, the Umayyad army, including their commandes, feared from al-Abbas; therefore, they offered many seductive offers, such as the general commandment of the army, provided that he would leave the wing of Imam al-Hussein and join theirs.
Thus, when al-Abbas was martyred, Imam al-Hussein became helpless. He declared: “My spine is now broken and I have lost every resolution and my enemies are rejoicing at my misfortune.”
In the same manner, by the martyrdom of al-Abbas, the eyes of his enemies, which could not see rest so long as he was there, became delighted, while the eyes of Imam al-Hussein’s harem and children, which was tranquil and delighted so long as they could see al-Abbas protecting them, lost rest forever.
This title is also addressed to the lofty military personalities. It was conferred upon al-Abbas because he played the role of the support and commander of his brother’s army.
Because he played an honorable role in guarding and defending the harem of the Prophet (s), al-Abbas was called ‘Hami az-Zhaeena -the protector of the harem.’ He was responsible of keeping watch over the harem and serving them during the journey from Medina to Karbala.
People believed that God will surely settle the needs of him who implores to Him by seeking the intercession of al-Abbas for the special rank that he enjoys in the sight of Almighty God and for dedicating himself to the obedience to Imam al-Hussein. Hence, al-Abbas is called ‘Bab ul-Hawaaij -the door to the settlement of needs.’
Although this epithet, which means ‘the martyr’, is not very famous among the other epithets of al-Abbas, it is mentioned in the statements of Abu’l-Hasan al-Umari and Abu-Nasr al-Bukhari when they refer to the biography of al-Abbas ibn Ali. Abu-Nasr refers to a narration in which Imam as-Sadiq (a) calls al-Abbas as ‘ash-Shahid’:
I asked as-Sadiq (a) how they divided the donation of Fadak when it had been given back to them. He answered: “We gave the descendants of al-Abbas ash-Shahid -the martyr- a quarter and took the rest for ourselves.”
Historians and biographers should have recorded the epithet of ‘al-Abd us-Salih -The righteous servant (of God)’ within the other epithets, because it refers to the highest rank one can attain. In the Special Ziyara of al-Abbas that Abu-Hamza ath-Themali related, Imam as-Sadiq (a) says:
Al-Abbas was also called ‘al-Aabid -the worshipper, for his distinctive worship to the Lord. Undoubtedly, it is natural that al-Abbas, being brought up in the center of the genuine worship, which is the house of the chief of the worshippers; Imam Ali Amir ul-Mu’minin, acquires the quality of worshipfulness superiorly.
As-Saduq, in his Thawaab ul-A’maal, records that al-Abbas ibn Ali was described as having the sign of prostration on his forehead. Thus, he is included with those described by God as:
Since obedience is attached to pure worship, al-Abbas was described by Imam as-Sadiq (a) as obedient. In the Ziyara authentically reported to be said by Imam as-Sadiq during his visit to the tomb of Abu’l-Fadhl al-Abbas.