||Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA)|
Abdullah was the son of Abbas, an uncle
of the noble Prophet. He was born just three years before the Hijrah. When the
Prophet died, Abdullah was thus only thirteen years old.
When he was born, his mother took him to the blessed Prophet who put some of his
saliva on the babe's tongue even before he began to suckle. This was the
beginning of the close and intimate tie between Abbas and the Prophet that was
to be part of a life-long love and devotion.
When Abdullah reached the age of discretion, he attached himself to the service
of the Prophet. He would run to fetch water for him when he wanted to make wudu.
During Salat, he would stand behind the Prophet in prayer and when the Prophet
went on journeys or expeditions, he would follow next in line to him. Abdullah
thus became like the shadow of the Prophet, constantly in his company.
In all these situations he was attentive and alert to whatever the Prophet did
and said. His heart was enthusiastic and his young mind was pure and
uncluttered, committing the Prophet's words to memory with the capacity and
accuracy of a recording instrument. In this way and through his constant
researches later, as we shall see, Abdullah became one of the most learned
companions of the Prophet, preserving on behalf of later generations of Muslims,
the priceless words of the Messenger of God. It is said that he committed to
memory about one thousand, six hundred and sixty sayings of the Prophet which
are recorded and authenticated in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim.
The Prophet would often draw Abdullah as a child close to him, pat him on the
shoulder and pray: "O Lord, make him acquire a deep understanding of the
religion of Islam and instruct him in the meaning and interpretation of things."
There were many occasions thereafter when the blessed Prophet would repeat this
dua or prayer for his cousin and before long Abdullah ibn Abbas realized that
his life was to be devoted to the pursuit of learning and knowledge.
The Prophet moreover prayed that he be granted not just knowledge and
understanding but wisdom. Abdullah related the following incident about himself:
"Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, was on the point of performing wudu. I
hurried to get water ready for him. He was pleased with what I was doing. As he
was about to begin Salat, he indicated that I should stand at his side. However,
I stood behind him. When the Salat was finished, he turned to me and said: 'What
prevented you from being at my side, O Abdullah?' 'You are too illustrious and
too great in my eyes for me to stand side by side with you,' I replied.
Raising his hands to the heavens, the Prophet then prayed: 'O Lord, grant him
wisdom." The Prophet's prayer undoubtedly was granted for the young Abdullah was
to prove time and again that he possessed a wisdom beyond his years. But it was
a wisdom that came only with devotion and the dogged pursuit of knowledge both
during the Prophet's lifetime and after his death.
During the lifetime of the Prophet, Abdullah would not miss any of his
assemblies and he would commit to memory whatever he said. After the Prophet
passed away, he would take care to go to as many companions as possible
especially those who knew the Prophet longer and learn from them what the
Prophet had taught them. Whenever he heard that someone knew a hadith of the
Prophet which he did not know he would go quickly to him and record it. He would
subject whatever he heard to close scrutiny and check it against other reports.
He would go to as many as thirty companions to verify a single matter.
Abdullah described what he once did on hearing that a companion of the Prophet
knew a hadith unknown to him: "I went to him during the time of the afternoon
siesta and spread my cloak in front of his door. The wind blew dust on me (as I
sat waiting for him). If I wished I could have sought his permission to enter
and he would certainly have given me permission. But I preferred to wait on him
so that he could be completely refreshed. Coming out of his house and seeing me
in that condition he said: 'O cousin of the Prophet! What's the matter with you?
If you had sent for me I would have come to you.' 'I am the one who should come
to you, for knowledge is sought, it does not just come,' I said. I asked him
about the hadith and learnt from him."
In this way, the dedicated Abdullah would ask, and ask, and go on asking. And he
would sift and scrutinize the information he had collected with his keen and
It was not only in the collection of hadith that Abdullah specialized. He
devoted himself to acquiring knowledge in a wide variety of fields. He had a
special admiration for persons like Zayd ibn Thabit, the recorder of the
revelation, the leading judge and jurist consult in Madinah, an expert in the
laws of inheritance and in reading the Quran. When Zayd intended to go on a
trip, the young Abdullah would stand humbly at his side and taking hold of the
reins of his mount would adopt the attitude of a humble servant in the presence
of his master. Zayd would say to him: "Don't, O cousin of the Prophet."
"Thus we were commanded to treat the learned ones among us," Abdullah would say.
"And Zayd would say to him in turn: "Let me see your hand." Abdullah would
stretch out his hand. Zayd, taking it, would kiss it and say: "Thus we were
commanded to treat the ahl al-bayt members of the household of the Prophet."
As Abdullah's knowledge grew, he grew in stature. Masruq ibn al Ajda said of
him: "Whenever I saw Ibn Abbas, I would say: He is the most handsome of men.
When he spoke, I would say: He is the most eloquent of men. And when he held a
conversation, I would say: He is the most knowledgeable of men."
The Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab often sought his advice on important matters of
state and described him as "the young man of maturity".
Sad ibn abi Waqqas described him with these words: "I have never seen someone
who was quicker in understanding, who had more knowledge and greater wisdom than
Ibn Abbas. I have seen Umar summon him to discuss difficult problems in the
presence of veterans of Badr from among the Muhajirin and Ansar. Ibn Abbas would
speak and Umar would not disregard what he had to say."
It is these qualities which resulted in Abdullah ibn Abbas being known as "the
learned man of this Ummah".
Abdullah ibn Abbas was not content to accumulate knowledge. He felt he had a
duty to the ummah to educate those in search of knowledge and the general masses
of the Muslim community. He turned to teaching and his house became a university
- yes, a university in the full sense of the word, a university with specialized
teaching but with the difference that there was only one teacher Abdullah ibn
There was an enthusiastic response to Abdullah's classes. One of his companions
described a typical scene in front of his house: "I saw people converging on the
roads leading to his house until there was hardly any room in front of his
house. I went in and told him about the crowds of people at his door and he
said: 'Get me water for wudu.'
He performed wudu and, seating himself, said: 'Go out and say to them: Whoever
wants to ask about the Quran and its letters (pronunciation) let him enter.'
This I did and people entered until the house was filled. Whatever he was asked,
Abdullah was able to elucidate and even provide additional information to what
was asked. Then (to his students) he said: 'Make way for your brothers.'
Then to me he said: 'Go out and say: Who wants to ask about the Quran and its
interpretation, let him enter'.
Again the house was filled and Abdullah elucidated and provided more information
than what was requested."
And so it continued with groups of people coming in to discuss fiqh
(jurisprudence), halal and haram (the lawful and the prohibited in Islam),
inheritance laws, Arabic language, poetry and etymology.
To avoid congestion with many groups of people coming to discuss various
subjects on a single day, Abdullah decided to devote one day exclusively for a
particular discipline. On one day, only the exegesis of the Quran would be
taught while on another day only fiqh (jurisprudence). The maghazi or campaigns
of the Prophet, poetry, Arab history before Islam were each allocated a special
Abdullah ibn Abbas brought to his teaching a powerful memory and a formidable
intellect. His explanations were precise, clear and logical. His arguments were
persuasive and supported by pertinent textual evidence and historical facts.
One occasion when his formidable powers of persuasion was used was during the
caliphate of Ali. A large number of supporters of Ali in his stand against
Muawiyah had just deserted him. Abdullah ibn Abbas went to Ali and requested
permission to speak to them. Ali hesitated fearing that Abdullah would be in
danger at their hands but eventually gave way on Abdullah's optimism that
nothing untoward would happen.
Abdullah went over to the group. They were absorbed in worship. Some were not
willing to let him speak but others were prepared to give him a hearing.
"Tell me" asked Abdullah, "what grievances have you against the cousin of the
Prophet, the husband of his daughter and the first of those who believed in
"The men proceeded to relate three main complaints against Ali. First, that he
appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to the religion of God -
meaning that Ali had agreed to accept the arbitration of Abu Musa al-Asbari and
Amr ibn al-As in the dispute with Muawiyah. Secondly, that he fought and did not
take booty nor prisoners of war. Thirdly, that he did not insist on the title of
Amir al-Muminin during the arbitration process although the Muslims had pledged
allegiance to him and he was their legitimate amir. To them this was obviously a
sign of weakness and a sign that Ali was prepared to bring his legitimate
position as Amir al-Muminin into disrepute.
In reply, Abdullah asked them that should he cite verses from the Quran and
sayings of the Prophet to which they had no objection and which related to their
criticisms, would they be prepared to change their position. They replied that
they would and Abdullah proceeded: "Regarding your statement that Ali has
appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to Allah's religion, Allah
Glorified and Exalted is He, says: 'O you who believe! Kill not game while in
the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. If any of you do so intentionally, the
compensation is an offering, of a domestic animal equivalent to the one he
killed and adjudged by two just men among." "I adjure you, by God! Is the
adjudication by men in matters pertaining to the preservation of their blood and
their lives and making peace between them more deserving of attention than
adjudication over a rabbit whose value is only a quarter of a dirham?"
Their reply was of course that arbitration was more important in the case of
preserving Muslim lives and making peace among them than over the killing of
game in the sacred precincts for which Allah sanctioned arbitration by men.
"Have we then finished with this point?" asked Abdullah and their reply was:
"Allahumma, naam - O Lord, yes!" Abdullah went on: "As for your statement that
Ali fought and did not take prisoners of war as the Prophet did, do you really
desire to take your "mother" Aishah as a captive and treat her as fair game in
the way that captives are treated? If your answer is "Yes", then you have fallen
into kufr (disbelief). And if you say that she is not your "mother", you would
also have fallen into a state of kufr for Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He,
has said: 'The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves and his
wives are their mothers (entitled to respect and consideration).' (The Quran,
Surah al-Ahzab, 34:6).
"Choose for yourself what you want," said Abdullah and then he asked: "Have we
then finished with this point?" and this time too their reply was: "Allahumma,
naam - O Lord, yes!" Abdullah went on: "As for your statement that Ali has
surrendered the title of Amir al-Muminin, (remember) that the Prophet himself,
peace and blessings of God be on him, at the time of Hudaybiyyah, demanded that
the mushrikin write in the truce which he concluded with them: 'This is what the
Messenger of God has agreed...' and they retorted: 'If we believed that you were
the Messenger of God we would not have blocked your way to the Kabah nor would
we have fought you. Write instead: 'Muhammad the son of Abdullah.' The Prophet
conceded their demand while saying: 'By God, I am the Messenger of God even if
they reject me." At this point Abdullah ibn Abbas asked the dissidents: "Have we
then finished with this point? and their reply was once again:
"Allahumma, naam - O Lord, yes!"
One of the fruits of this verbal challenge in which Abdullah displayed his
intimate knowledge of the Quran and the sirah of the Prophet as well as his
remarkable powers of argument and persuasion, was that the majority, about
twenty thousand men, returned to the ranks of Ali. About four thousand however
remained obdurate. These latter came to be known as Kharijites.
On this and other occasions, the courageous Abdullah showed that he preferred
peace above war, and logic against force and violence. However, he was not only
known for his courage, his perceptive thought and his vast knowledge. He was
also known for his great generosity and hospitality. Some of his contemporaries
said of his household: "We have not seen a house which has more food or drink or
fruit or knowledge than the house of Ibn Abbas."
He had a genuine and abiding concern for people. He was thoughtful and caring.
He once said: "When I realize the importance of a verse of God's Book, I would
wish that all people should know what I know.
"When I hear of a Muslim ruler who deals equitably and rules justly, I am happy
on his account and I pray for him...
"When I hear of rains which fail on the land of Muslims, that fills me with
Abdullah ibn Abbas was constant in his devotions. He kept voluntary fasts
regularly and often stayed up at night in Prayer. He would weep while praying
and reading the Quran. And when reciting verses dealing with death, resurrection
and the life hereafter his voice would be heavy from deep sobbing.
He passed away at the age of seventy one in the mountainous city of Taif.
Source: Taken (with Thanks) from MuslimAccess.com