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Who was Abbas ibn Ali and what role did he play in history?

Discover the heroic tale of Abbas ibn Ali, a revered personality in Islamic history.


In the annals of history, there are figures whose unwavering courage and selfless devotion inspire generations to come. Among these luminaries stands Abbas ibn Ali, a remarkable personality revered in the Islamic world for his extraordinary valor and loyalty. As the half-brother of Imam Hussain and a key figure in the tragic event of Karbala, Abbas ibn Ali’s indomitable spirit has left an indelible mark on the hearts of millions. This article delves into the life and legacy of Abbas ibn Ali, shining light on his significant role and the enduring lessons he imparts to humanity.

The Early Life of Abbas ibn Ali

Abbas ibn Ali was born on the 4th of Shaban, approximately 30 years after the Hijrah, in the city of Medina. He is also known as Unwavering Lion of Karbala. He was the son of the esteemed Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, and Ummul Banin, a woman renowned for her piety and devotion. Abbas was affectionately called “Qamar Bani Hashim,” meaning the moon of the Hashemite family, a testament to his striking appearance and noble character.

From a young age, Abbas was raised in the cradle of Islam, surrounded by the teachings and values of his grandfather, the Prophet Muhammad. His upbringing instilled in him a deep sense of righteousness, compassion, and courage.

The Immortal Stand at Karbala

The tragic events of Karbala in 680 AD would come to define Abbas ibn Ali’s legacy. On the plains of Karbala, Imam Hussain, Abbas’s half-brother and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, found himself confronted by an oppressive tyrant, Yazid ibn Muawiya, who sought to usurp the leadership of the Muslim community. Though vastly outnumbered and facing unimaginable odds, Imam Hussain refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid, choosing instead to stand up for justice, truth, and the principles of Islam.

Abbas ibn Ali played an instrumental role in Imam Hussain’s mission. He was the standard-bearer of the Hashemite forces and exhibited unparalleled loyalty to his brother and the cause of righteousness. Despite thirst and fatigue, Abbas fearlessly fought against Yazid’s armies, displaying his martial prowess on the battlefield.

However, Abbas’s true moment of greatness came when he was assigned to fetch water for the thirsty children and women in Imam Hussain’s camp. Abbas knew that reaching the Euphrates River meant defying the enemy’s lines. Unfazed, he embarked on this perilous mission, carrying only a water skin.

Courage and Sacrifice

Abbas’s journey to the river was filled with relentless bravery. He fought off wave after wave of enemies, determined to fulfill his duty. When he finally reached the Euphrates and quenched his thirst, he chose not to drink the water, prioritizing the needs of the children and women back at the camp.

As he began his return, Abbas was attacked from all sides, severely wounded, and his right arm was severed. Undeterred, he held the water skin between his teeth, refusing to let the precious water spill. Tragically, he was struck on the head with a mace, and the valiant Abbas fell to the ground, calling out to his brother for help.

The legacy of Abbas ibn Ali lies not only in his bravery on the battlefield but also in his unwavering commitment to sacrifice. He prioritized the needs of others over his own, displaying the epitome of selflessness and devotion.

Lessons from the Life of Abbas ibn Ali

The story of Abbas ibn Ali continues to resonate with people around the world, transcending time and cultural boundaries. His life imparts several essential lessons to humanity:

Unwavering Loyalty: Abbas’s loyalty to Imam Hussain serves as a shining example of steadfast devotion to principles and loved ones, even in the face of adversity.

Sacrifice and Selflessness: His sacrifice for the well-being of others teaches us the importance of putting the needs of the community before our own desires.

Bravery and Resilience: Abbas’s courage on the battlefield highlights the significance of facing challenges with unwavering strength and determination.

Standing against Injustice: The stand of Abbas and Imam Hussain at Karbala reminds us of the duty to resist tyranny and oppression, even if it demands personal sacrifice.


Abbas ibn Ali, the lion of Karbala, remains an eternal symbol of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. His life exemplifies the values upheld by Islam and the principles that continue to inspire millions to this day. The legacy of Abbas ibn Ali serves as a timeless reminder that righteousness and justice are worth defending, regardless of the cost. By emulating his noble qualities, we can strive to create a more compassionate and just world, where the spirit of selflessness and devotion triumphs over darkness and cruelty.

Who was Abbas ibn Ali?

Abbas ibn Ali was the son of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, and Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. He was a prominent figure in Islamic history, known for his loyalty, bravery, and sacrifices.

When was Abbas ibn Ali born?

Abbas ibn Ali was born on the 4th of Shaban, in the year 26 AH (approximately 647 CE).

What does “Abbas” mean, and why was he given this name?

Abbas” is an Arabic name that means “lion.” He was given this name by his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad, who prophesied that Abbas would display great courage and valor in the future.

What was the role of Abbas ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala?

In the Battle of Karbala (680 CE), Abbas ibn Ali played a significant role as the standard-bearer of Imam Hussain’s (his brother) army. He was instrumental in obtaining water from the Euphrates River for the besieged and thirsty camp of Hussain’s followers, despite facing overwhelming odds.

What happened to Abbas ibn Ali during the Battle of Karbala?

Tragically, Abbas ibn Ali was martyred during the Battle of Karbala. While trying to bring water to the thirsty children in the camp, his right arm was severed in combat. Undeterred, he continued to fight with his left arm, but eventually, he was struck down and killed, leaving behind a legacy of valor and sacrifice.

What is the significance of Abbas ibn Ali’s sacrifice in Islamic history?

The sacrifice of Abbas ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala holds immense significance in Islamic history. His unwavering loyalty to his brother Hussain and his determination to provide water to the thirsty children of the camp symbolize selflessness, bravery, and devotion to the principles of justice and righteousness.

What is the mourning event known as “Arbaeen”?

“Arbaeen” is an important annual Shia Muslim religious observance that marks the end of the 40-day mourning period following the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions, including Abbas ibn Ali, in the Battle of Karbala. Millions of pilgrims gather in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, to commemorate their sacrifices.

How is Abbas ibn Ali remembered today?

Abbas ibn Ali is remembered as a noble and heroic figure in Islamic history. He is highly regarded by Shia Muslims for his loyalty, valor, and sacrifices. His legacy continues to inspire people to uphold justice and remain steadfast in the face of adversity.

Are there any famous poems or elegies dedicated to Abbas ibn Ali?

Yes, there are many elegies and poems dedicated to Abbas ibn Ali, known as “nohas” and “marsiyas.” These are recited during the mourning events of Muharram and Arbaeen to commemorate his sacrifice and the tragedy of Karbala.

Where is Abbas ibn Ali buried?

Abbas ibn Ali is buried in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq. His shrine is a significant place of pilgrimage for Shia Muslims and a symbol of reverence for his memory and sacrifices.

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