Hazrat Ali married Fatimah Binti Huzaam Ibn Khalid in 24 Hijrah. Fatimah gave birth to Hazrat Abbas on the 4th Shabaan, 26th Hijrah. In 27th Hijrah Ja’far was born and in 29th Hijrah Uthmaan was born. Abdullah was born in 32nd Hijrah. Because she had four sons Fatima Binti Huzaam was known as Ummul Baneen.
Ummul Baneen, from the very first day she entered Hazrat Ali’s house, treated the children of Bibi Fatimah with utmost respect. She brought up her own sons to look upon Imam Hassan, Imam Husayn, Bibi Zainab and Bibi Kulthoom, not as brothers and sisters but as masters and mistresses.
Imam Husayn was very attached to Hazrat Abbas. When Hazrat Abbas was born, Hazrat Ali asked Imam Husayn to recite the adhaan and the iqamah in the ears of the child. When he was on the arms of Imam Husayn, the infant smiled and raised his arms. There were tears in Imam Husayn’s eyes. Was it because he knew that the child was trying to say: “O Mawla I have come and will happily give these my arms and my life for you and Islam?”
In early childhood Hazrat Abbas would follow Imam Husayn like a shadow. If Imam Husayn looked thirsty, Hazrat Abbas would rush to bring him water. If Imam Husayn seemed hot, Hazrat Abbas would fan him with the hem of his cloak. At the battle of Siffeen in the 34th Hijrah, Hazrat Abbas was only eight years old. Imam Husayn was fighting in the battle field.
When Hazrat Abbas saw an enemy soldier approaching Imam Husayn from behind, he took a sword and rushed into the battle field and killed the enemy, at the same time crying out in a loud voice, “How can any one dare attack my Mawla while I am alive.” He continued to fight maintaining his position behind Imam Husayn. Muawiya saw this and asked, “Who is that boy?” When he was told he was Abbas ibn Ali, he said, “By God! No one can fight like that at that age except a son of Ali!”
Hazrat Abbas grew up to be a tall and handsome man. He was so tall, that when he sat on a horse his feet touched the ground. He was so handsome that he was known as Qamar al-Bani Hashim, the Moon of the family of Hashim.
Hazrat Abbas was also a valiant warrior. It was said that Muawiya did not dare invade Madina because of five men who were with Imam Husayn and could, together with their Imam, conquer a whole army. These were Muhammad Hanafia, a brother of Imam Husayn, Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel, Abdullah Ibn Ja’far, Hazrat Abbas and Hazrat Ali ibnal Husayn, our fourth Imam, Zainul ‘Abideen.
When Imam Husayn decided to leave Madina in the month of Rajab 60 Hijrah, he did not encourage Muhammad Hanafia and Abdullah Ibn Ja’far to accompany him. He wanted to make sure that no one at the time or in the future would suggest that Husayn wanted to fight for the khilafah.
Just before Imam Husayn left Madina, Ummul Baneen summoned all her four sons and said to them, “My sons you must remember that while I love you, Imam Husayn is your Master. If Imam or his sisters or his children get injured or hurt while you are still alive, I will never forgive you.” There were tears in Hazrat Abbas’s eyes as he promised his mother that he and his brothers would lay down their lives for Imam Husayn and his children.
The caravan reached Karbala’ on 2nd Muharram. From the day the sad news of Hazrat Muslim’s murder had reached the caravan of Imam Husayn, Hazrat Abbas and his brothers increased their vigilance to protect Imam and the others.
Hazrat Abbas was very popular with the children of Imam Husayn especially Bibi Sakina who was only four years old. Whenever the children wanted anything they would cry out “Ya Abbas!” or “Ya Ammahu!”, and Hazrat Abbas would go running. But from the seventh of Muharram Abbas was unable to respond to their cries for water.
Then came the day of Ashura, after Zuhr prayers one by one the brave companions of Imam Husayn fell in the battle field. At last only Imam Husayn, Hazrat Ali Akbar and Hazrat Abbas were left. Imam Zainul ‘Abideen lay sick in his tent.
Several times Hazrat Abbas asked Imam Husayn for permission to go and fight. Each time Imam Husayn would reply “Abbas, you are the captain of my army, you are my ‘alamdaar – the standard bearer.” Hazrat Abbas would never argue with Imam Husayn. His three brothers were killed in the battle fought after Zuhr. Imam Husayn could see the anger in Hazrat Abbas’s eyes, especially when Hazrat Qasim’s body was trampled upon by the enemy. Imam Husayn knew that if he let Hazrat Abbas go and fight, there would be a massacre in the enemy rank. Imam Husayn’s object was to re-awaken Islam and not to score a victory on the battle field.
Just then Bibi Sakina came out holding a dried up mask. She walked up to Hazrat Abbas and said “al atash, ya ammahu! I am thirsty O my uncle Abbas!” Hazrat Abbas went to Imam Husayn and requested for permission to go and get water for Bibi Sakina. Imam Husayn gave his permission. Hazrat Abbas put Bibi Sakina’s mashk on the ‘alam, mounted his horse and rode up to Imam Husayn. He said “I have come to say goodbye.”
Imam Husayn said “My brother, come and embrace me.” Hazrat Abbas dismounted his horse. There were tears in Imam’s eyes. As Hazrat Abbas prepared to mount his horse, Imam Husayn said, “My brother, I want a gift from you. I want your sword.” Hazrat Abbas, without uttering a word, gave Imam Husayn his sword and rode into the battlefield, armed only with a spear and holding the ‘alam.
There were 30,000 enemy soldiers in the battlefield. They had all heard of the valour of Hazrat Abbas. A cry arose, “Abbas is coming!” Yazid’s soldiers started hiding behind one another. A few brave ones dared go near Hazrat Abbas but were soon put to death by the spear or by a kick.
Hazrat Abbas reached the river Furaat. He filled the mashk with water. He himself was very thirsty. He took the water in his palms, looked at it and threw it away saying, “O water of Furaat, my lips can welcome you only after Bibi Sakina has quenched her thirst!?” He placed the mashk on his ‘alam and started to ride back.
Umar Sa’ad cried out, “Do not let that water reach Husayn’s camp, otherwise we shall all be doomed!”
A soldier climbed a tree and as Hazrat Abbas was riding past the tree he struck his sword on the right shoulder The spear and the arm fell on to the ground. Just then someone crept behind Hazrat Abbas and struck him on the left shoulder. The ‘alam fell. Hazrat Abbas gripped the mashk with his teeth. His one object was to get the water to Bibi Sakina. Fighting with his feet he urged the horse to get him to Imam’s camp as quickly as possible.
Alas! an arrow was shot. It went flying across the desert and hit the mashk. The water began to pour out and with the water all the hopes of Hazrat Abbas poured on to the sands of Karbala’ to be buried forever in the thirsty desert. Hazrat Abbas now did not want to go back and face Bibi Sakina. With his feet, he signalled the horse to turn back. The enemy surrounded him from all sides. Hazrat Abbas fell from the horse!! As he fell, he cried out “My salaams to you Ya Mawla!”
Imam Husayn seemed to lose all his strength when he heard the voice of his dear brother Abbas.
When Hazrat Abbas left to go to fetch water, Imam stood at the gate of the camp watching the ‘alam. Bibi Sakina was standing next to Imam Husayn, also with her eyes fixed on the ‘alam. When Hazrat Abbas reached the river bank and bent down to fill the mashk, the ‘alam disappeared from sight.
Bibi Sakina was frightened and looked at her father. Imam said, ‘Sakina, your uncle Hazrat Abbas is at the river bank.’ Bibi Sakina smiled and said, ‘Alhamdulillah!’ and called out all the children to welcome Hazrat Abbas. When Hazrat Abbas lost both arms, the ‘alam fell onto the ground. Bibi Sakina could see it no longer! She looked at Imam Husayn, but he turned his face away. Bibi Sakina began to tremble with fear and her eyes filled with tears. She raised her hands and prayed, ‘Ya Allah! Do not let them kill my uncle Abbas! I will never ask for water again!’ and ran inside to her mother.
Imam Husayn reached where Hazrat Abbas was lying. It was a tragic sight. Hazrat Abbas was lying on the ground. Both arms had been severed! There was an arrow in the right eye and blood blocked the left eye. As soon as Hazrat Abbas sensed the presence of Imam Husayn he said “Mawla, why did you take the trouble to come over? Please go back and look after Sakina.” Imam Husayn said, “My dear brother, all your life you have served me and my children. Is there anything I can do for you at this last moment of you life?”
Hazrat Abbas replied, “Aqaa, please, clean the blood from my eye so that I can see your beloved face before I die!” Imam cleaned the blood. Hazrat Abbas fixed his gaze on Imam. Then he said, “Mawla please do not carry my body to the camp. I do not wish Sakina to see me in this state!” Imam Husayn took Hazrat Abbas in his arms, and kissed his forehead. Just then our Mawla, our Mushkil Kushaa, Hazrat Abbas ibn Ali breathed his last. Imam Husayn placed Bibi Sakina’s mashk on the ‘alam and carried the ‘alam to the camp. He went to Bibi Zainab’s tent. Imam Husayn could not say a word. He gave the ‘alam to Bibi Zainab and sat down on the floor! The brother sister performed aza al-Abbas.