Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) was born at Madinah on 7th Rajab / 4th Shabaan 26 A.H. (645 A.D.). When the news of his birth reached Imam Ali (a.s.), he prostrated himself on the ground as a token of his humble thanks to God. Imam Husain (a.s.) took the baby in his arms and recited the Azan and Eqamat (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 Husain (a.s.). On the seventh day of his birth the ceremony of Aqeeqa (which is one of the emphasised Sunnats) was performed and Imam Ali (a.s.) named the child ‘Abbas’.
A similar incident took place at the time of the birth of Imam Ali (a.s.). He only opened his eyes when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) took him in his arms.
It was the desire of Imam Ali (a.s.) 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 Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) would be a constant companion of Imam Husain (a.s.) and be his Standard Bearer at Karbala.
Imam Ali (a.s.) who himself was known as ‘The Lion of God’ and the ‘Gateway of Knowledge’ brought up Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) and ably guided him till he was fourteen years old. The next ten years were spent under the careful eye of Imam Hasan (a.s.) and the last ten years with Imam Husain (a.s.). Thus it was not surprising that Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) acquired near perfection in so many spheres of life. His gallantry, boldness, courageous outlook, and the art of combat and soldiery were inherited from Imam Ali (a.s.), and this he proved very well in the battles of Jamal, Siffin and Nahrwan. Imam Hasan (a.s.) taught him patience and tolerance. His Lion-hearted loyalty and self- sacrificing nature were the result of his association with Imam Husain (a.s.) and Janab-e-Zainab (s.a.). 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 (s.a.w.a.).
Just as Imam Ali (a.s.) was taught and trained by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), so was Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) taught and trained by Imam Ali (a.s.). Imam Ali (a.s.) 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 (a.s.) could on no account be attached to this worldly life nor fear death, and Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) fully justified this by his actions.
Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) 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 Karbala and their son Muhammad was martyred there. At the death bed of Imam Ali (a.s.)
When Imam Ali (a.s.) was mortally wounded and lying on his deathbed, he sent for his entire family. Save Hazrat Abbas (a.s.), he entrusted all to the care of his eldest son Imam Hasan (a.s.). Then he heard Hazrat Abbas (a.s.), hardly 12 years old, sobbing. Imam Ali (a.s.) asked him to come near him and gave his hand to his second son, Imam Husain (a.s.), saying
“Husain, 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 (a.s.), he had said: “Abbas, my child, I know your unbounded love for Husain. Though you are too young to be told about it, when that day dawns, consider no sacrifice too great for Husain and his children”.
This was in 657 A.D. The occasion for the supreme sacrifice came on the battlefield of Karbala in 680 A.D. when Imam Husain (a.s.) 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 Karbala has become an important landmark of supreme sacrifice, great courage and dedication to a just cause.
In the battle of Karbala, Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) was Imam Husain (a.s.)’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 Husain (a.s.)’s children on the battlefield is the most touching and significant in Islamic history.
The Life of Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) 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 (a.s.), was a just cause.
The warrior at Siffin
Imam Ali (a.s.)’s desire was to ensure that Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) preached the religion of Islam and served the Prophet’s family. Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) 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 (a.s.), and no one dared to come forward to fight. But, when Hazrat Abbas (a.s.) removed the mask, people were surprised to note that he was not Imam Ali (a.s.), but instead, Abbas, the inheritor of Imam Ali (a.s.)’s gallantry.
Hazrat Abbas (a.s.)’s devotion, respect and affection for Imam Husain (a.s.) 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 Husain (a.s.)’s feet. He resented anyone taking precedence in serving Imam Husain (a.s.). It is said that once Imam Husain (a.s.), while present with his Holy father Imam Ali (a.s.) in the mosque of Kufa, felt thirsty and asked for water from his servant Qumber. The child Abbas (a.s.) 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, Imam Ali (a.s.) 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 Husain, will one day soak his very body in his own blood in attempting to quench the thirst of Imam Husain (a.s.)’s children”.