The Story of Abu Fadhl Abbas
With a heavy heart I share the tragic story of the martyrdom of Abul Gheerah, al-Abbas, son of Amir al Mu’mineen Ali bin Abi Talib (as), as translated by Sayyid Hussein Alamda in the writings of Ayatullah Ali Nazari Munfarid’s Karbala, from the works of Ali Hussein Jalali, Karbala & Ashura, and from Mulla Bashir Hassan Ali Rahim’s The Journey of Tears. May Allah be ever pleased with their efforts, and all who contributed.
Abul Fadhl Al Abbas (as)
He was born in the year 26 A.H., and his exalted mother is Ummul Banin Fatimeh (sa) – daughter of Hizam b. Khalid. Imam Ali (as) had said to his brother Aqil – who was an authority regarding the lineage and characteristics of Arabs – to select a wife for him who would bring valiant sons (warriors who would fight alongside Imam Hussein (as) in Karbala). Aqil introduced Fatimeh daughter of Hizan b. Khalid and said:
“I do not know anyone more valiant than her ancestors among Arabs.”
Imam Ali (as) married her and the first child born to Ummul Banin (as) is Abu Fadhl Abbas (as). Due to the handsomeness of his features he was called the moon of Banu Hashim (Gamr Bani Hashim).
He was 34 years old at the time of his martyrdom, and was known for his bravery. It is said that when he was mounted on the horse, his feet would touch the ground. It has been narrated by Imam al-Sadiq (as),
“My uncle Abbas, blessed with a profound insight and firm belief, waged crusade in Imam al-Hussain’s company and fought valiantly until martyrdom.”
Imam al-Sajjad (as) has said,
“May Allah (swt) bless my uncle Abbas (as)! He offered himself for his brother Hussein (as), fought valiantly until his two hands we’re cut off, and Allah (swt) has bestowed upon him, like Jafar al-Taiyyar, two wings in order to fly with divine Angels.”
When Abbas (as) was only eight years old, at the battle of Siffeen, he saw an enemy approaching Imam Hussain (as) from behind. At this sight the young warrior takes a sword into the battlefield and fights the enemy, calling out,
“How can anyone dare attack my Mawla (leader) while I am alive?”
The children especially held him very dearly, as anytime they desired anything they would call out his name and he would come rushing. When the children were upset, Abbas was their comfort. Imam Hussain’s daughter, Sukayna, was especially close to her uncle Abbas.
If ever in distress, the children sought the comfort of Abbas.
The caravan arrived in Karbala on the 2nd of Muharram. When the day of Ashura came, Abbas heard the cries of Sakina. The thirst had become unbearable. Abbas wanted only to go out and fight, for the children cried for the water kept from them by the enemies. But every time Abbas would request to go to battle, the Imam would reply in a manner which, to this day, is very difficult upon the heart.
The Imam says to his brother,
“Abbas, you are the captain of my army, you are my ‘alamdaar, my flag bearer. Without you, I have no army.”
So instead, hearing the children’s cries, Abbas asked his Imam for permission to bring water to the tents. The water of the Furaat (Euphrates) river had been sealed off from their caravan, and Shimr (la) had responded to their requests for water with,
“Even if all the earth was filled with water, I would not allow you a drop of it. Unless you swear allegiance to Yazid (la).”
So Abbas set out for Furaat, with Sukayna in mind. When Abbas tells the Imam, “I have come to say goodbye”, Hussain’s eyes are filled with tears. The Imam requests that his come down from his horse, so as to embrace him. This is when Imam Hussain (as) says,
“My brother, I request a gift from you; your sword.”
Without a second thought Abbas provides his sword, and sets off with only his spear.
As he reaches the water, he takes a handful in his palms. Having not had a drop of water in 3 days, Abbas is met with a moment far more difficult than any could imagine. Abbas releases the water, without consuming a drop. From that day, and until the last days of this earth, there will not been a moment in history as incredible as when Abbas throws the water away and says,
“Oh my soul, life after al-Hussain is shear degradation,
Therefore, don’t live after him to see this degradation,
Imam Hussain and the women and children are thirsty,
And I cannot drink while they are thirsty,
This is not the order of my religion to do so.”
As he rode towards the tents with the water for the children, an attack comes upon his right arm, separating it from his blessed body.
Abbas responds to this loss, with even greater strength and patience,
“You have cut off my right hand,
But I will remain a defender of Allah’s religion,
And the Prophet’s grandson.”
This same attack soon comes upon his left arm, separating it from his body, and despite this, he continues towards the tents.
He took the water skin between his teeth, and the flag against his chest. An arrow shot towards his chest, piercing the water skin. As this happens, another arrow pierces him in the eye. Unable to see, he feels the water fall from the water skin. His hearts sinks, he is unable to return to the camps, to Sukayna, without the water he had promised. He cannot return to their cries after promising to quench their thirst.
He will not return.
The following poem has been translated,
“Then he was showered intensely with sharp arrows,
Seeing this, the water skin shed tears upon him,
The eyes of the water skin wept so bitterly upon him,
Until his eyes became completely dried of tears.”
From childhood until this tragic day, Abbas never called his brother outside of his titles. He referred to him only by “ya Mawla” (my leader), or “ya Imam”. Despite being brothers, he referred to Imam Hussain only by titles, in respect to Hussain and his Holy mother, Sayedda Fatima (as).
He never called him “my brother”, until the moment an iron rod was brought down upon his head.
In that moment, as he fell from his horse, he called out,
“My salaams to you ya akhi, my brother!”
Why in this moment? In his last moments? Has he forgotten whose son he was speaking of?
Abbas calls out “my brother”, for the first and last time in his life, not out of mistake.
As Abbas fell to the ground the arrow was still in his eye, and with no arms to stop his fall, he sees Sayedda Fatima al-Zahra reach out towards him and say,
“Come to me, my son.”
Only then, and my heart aches to write this, did Abbas feel he could call Hussain his brother.
The Angels wept, as the tragedy unfolds.
Because back in the tents, Sukayna looks on.
Hussain looks on.
When Abbas rode towards the river, the Imam stood with his eyes fixed on the flag.
When Abbas leaned down to get the water, the flag disappeared out of sight. The Imam’s face lost its colour. But as Abbas stood back up, the flag reappeared. Sukayna watched, with hopeful eyes, and prayed.
When Abbas lost his arms, the flag had fallen, and Hussain, no longer able to see it, turned his face away. The colour draining from his skin. At this sight, Sukayna calls out,
“Ya Allah, do not let them kill my uncle Abbas. I will never ask for water again!”
Hearing Abbas call to his brother, the Imam rushes towards him.
Upon seeing his brother, the Imam says,
“The tragedy has broken my back, it has made me helpless.”
The enemies sought to fight Hussain in this moment. They thought he could be defeated in a moment of such pain. But as he pulls his sword, they flee.
Their ignorance caused them to forget their dealings, that the one they fight, is the son of Amir al Mu’mineen.
“Where are you fleeing? You have killed my brother! Why are you running, you have broken my back!”
After Abbas departed from this world, Imam wept,
“After you it is so terrible, and my back is broken.”
Then he recites the following verses,
“Oh my brother, the light of my eyes,
Your presence was a shelter for me.
Oh son of my father, you indeed fought sincerely for me,
Until satiating with the drink from Heavenly cup.
Oh my bright moon, you were my best supporter,
During all these terrible hardships and tragedies.
After you, the life is bitter and hard for me – indeed,
Tomorrow we are going to be beside each other,
Know that I complain only to Allah, and remain patient.
And seek refuge in Him, in facing the thirst and hardship.”
Labayka ya Hussain