Upon the most trying moments in his life, he stood beside the river. He was extremely thirsty, especially after several days of having no access to water. He bends down and takes a handful, feeling the coolness of it flowing between his fingers.
As he brings it closer to his mouth, he pauses; he begins to envision the camps far behind him, women and children aching for his return, even if it was with just a drop. He remembers the thirst of his brother, the difficulty by which he asked him to leave the tents to secure the water. He speaks to his soul and reprimands it.
“Oh my self, you shall not live after Hussain. Hussain is subject to death and martyrdom, and you seek to drink cool water? By God, this is not my creed.”
He throws it back and rushes to fill the water skin with water before mounting his horse and attempting to return to the camps. He swore to not drink while others were in need and he had the capacity to help them. This man was Abbas ibn Ali, the brother of Hussain.
Birth and early life of Abbas
Abbas was born on the 4th of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the lunar calendar, in the city of Madina and was the first born to Fatima al Kilabi and Ali ibn Abu Talib, making him the half-brother of Hussain. The brief account of the last moments of the life of Abbas encapsulates the way in which he lived and died in the service of those who needed his help, to truly be the source of kindness, courage and dependability, as well as the model for true loyalty and above all, he teaches us the essence of having self-control at even the hardest of times.
Upon his birth, his father Ali gave him two names which he later lived up to and embodied in his life; Abbas and Abul Fadhl. Abbas was the name given to a courageous and fearless warrior, or to a lion that other animals flee and escape. Abul Fadhl was given to a person of charity and virtue, and he truly became these two things throughout his life.
Abbas grew alongside his siblings but never addressed them as his brothers but rather as his moral leaders. Through this, we see the essence of respect and the way in which he genuinely looked up to them, seeking to aid them in their fight for justice. His first chance to prove this was when we participated alongside his father Ali and his brothers in the Battle of Siffin; he not only became the lion in the battlefield after which he was named, but also the man who stood to end injustice and fight for what was right.
The epitome of loyalty and brotherhood
During the last stand of Karbala, we see the way in which he cared for the women and children, being the one to whom they turned to at their times of distress and need. This was best seen at the time in which he was asked by Hussain to get water for them, despite the fact that he considered Abbas to be his right hand man, his flag-bearer and closest companion on the day in which he couldn’t find any aiders.
Abbas was killed on his way back from the river and with his fall, Hussain spoke of how his back had been broken by the loss of his brother. Up until his last moments, Abbas maintained his loyalty towards his brother but more importantly, towards fighting against tyranny and oppression.
Abbas was buried in Karbala alongside Hussain and 1400 years after his passing, he is still considered to be the greatest of supporters, the strongest of soldiers and the most virtuous of characters. Today Abbas is revered by millions around the world, seen as a hero figure representing courage and loyalty.