It is very rare in history that a human being is created for the sake of another person and for the purpose of serving the cause of another human being. However, this is the story of Abul Fadhl al-Abbas (as), the brother of Imam Husayn ibn Ali (as) and the son of the successor of the Holy Prophet (s). His mother was none other than the honorable Fatima bint Hizam al-Kelabiya, also known as Umm al-Baneen, the mother of many sons.
It was the desire of Imam Ali (as) 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 his brother, Imam Husayn (as), and be his standard bearer at Karbala. On his deathbed, Amir al-Momineen (as) asked Abbas to come near him and gave his hand to his second son, Imam Husayn (as), saying “Husayn, 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.” Turning to Abul Fadl al-Abbas, Imam Ali (as) said: “Abbas, my child, I know your unbounded love for Husayn. Though you are too young to be told about it, when that day dawns, consider no sacrifice too great for Husayn and his children.”
Just as Imam Ali (as) was taught and trained by the Holy Prophet (s), so was Abbas by Imam Ali (as). Taught and trained by his father who fully knew the mysteries of life and death, Abbas fully imbibed the true spirit of Islam. A man who was brought up, educated and trained by Imam Ali (as) could on no account be attached to this worldly life nor fear death, and Abbas’s reputation and actions precede him.
The life and death of Abul Fadhl al-Abbas testifies to the grand and spectacular attributes that he possessed. Words cannot fully describe his valor or excellence; however, it’s best to focus the spotlight on one of his most precious virtues which stands as a signature to his legend and eternal success. Abu Fadl al-Abbas (as) possessed extraordinary level of chivalry and trustworthiness to the members of his family and specifically to the representatives of truth – Imam Husayn and Lady Zainab (as). He was the half-brother of Imam Husayn (as), yet he never allowed himself to be called as such and always addressed Husayn with the title “my master”, in submission to his divine authority. From a young age, Abul Fadl always trailed behind his brother. One day when he saw his brother falling as a little boy and dropping a cup of water, he rushed to serve his brother and fetch him water. Raised in the excellent school of his honorable mother Umm al-Baneen (as), he understood his mission and knew very well whom he was the servant of. His obedience, love, servitude and submission to Imam Husayn (as) has no boundaries and manifested itself at its peak on the plains of Karbala.
To better understand the personality of Abbas, ask yourself these questions:
Is there anyone else other than Abbas who would throw away the cold water while he was dying of thirst, only because he remembered the thirst of his dear brother, and more importantly, his master, Imam Husayn (as)?
Is there anyone else other than Abbas who listened to the cries of the children and infants in the camp of Imam Husayn (as) and ran out to fetch water courageously without thinking twice or hesitating?
Is there anyone else other than Abbas who refused to return back from the battlefield and preferred to stay beside the Euphrates River, so that he does not meet his beloved Sakina out of bashfulness that he didn’t bring back the water to quench her thirst as he promised?
Is there anyone else other than Abbas who earned the title “al-Saqqa” (water carrier), because he sacrificed his life in an effort to procure water for the camp of Imam Husayn (as) in the tragic Battle of Karbala?
Is there anyone other than Abbas who even in his last moments on the bank of the Euphrates River, while he was breathing his last, remembered the suffering of Imam Husayn, and refusing to have his head rest on the lap of the Imam, lap and offered muwasaat (consolation to him) even after his fatal wound?
Is there anyone other than Abbas whose last plea was to have Imam Husayn (as) remove the blood from his eyes so he can purify his vision with one last look of his master, just like Imam Hussayn (as) was the first person his eyes lay upon Abbas when he was born?
Is there anyone else other than Abbas whom Imam Husayn (as) referred to as his “backbone” that was severed after Abbas was martyred?
Is there anyone other than Abbas who was blessed and honored to have his holy shrine identical to his brother such that all those who visit Imam Husayn must first come seek permission at his door?
Is there anyone else other than Abbas who embraced and was honored to hold the esteemed position as the guardian and protector of Lady Zainab (as)?
Is there anyone one else other than Abbas who carries the title of “Qamr Bani Hashem” (the moon of Bani Hashim) and “babul hawa’ej” (the door of needs) such that prayers and supplications are accepted at his abode and miracles are manifested by his blessings?
Indeed, the life of Abul Fadl al-Abbas was an example of unflinching loyalty and love for a brother. It is also the story of a hero and warrior who sacrificed his life for the cause of Islam. He was not an infallible human, but he manifested the best example that a lover and servant could offer to the beloved AhlulBayt (as). Peace and eternal blessings be on the servant of Imam Husayn (as) and the master of all believers!