But the person in whose honour we mark this day was not a disabled combatant, nor did he survive the thick of battle into which he plunged in a heroic manner with a goatskin water-carrier slung over his shoulder as he broke the siege of the River Euphrates to try to fetch the elixir of life for his thirsty brother and the children in the encampment on Moharram 10, the Day of Ashura, in Karbala in the year 61 AH. He is none other than the valiant standard-bearer of Imam Husain (PBUH) – Abu’l-Fazl al-Abbas, the Epitome of Faith and Fealty. Following is a special feature on Qamar-e Bani Hashem or the Moon of the Hashemite Clan.
“O (my son) Husain! I am entrusting to you this child. He will represent me on the day of your supreme sacrifice and lay down his life in defending you and your dear ones, much as I would have done if alive on that day.”
What you listened to were words attributed to the Commander of the Faithful, the Leader of the Pious, the Icon of Justice, and the Symbol of Valour, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), on the birth of a radiant son to him in the year 26 AH. Imam Ali (AS), one of whose famous epithets is “Haidar” or Lion, named the newborn “Abbas”, which is also lion in Arabic. The birth of this baby was the culmination of efforts of the cousin, son-in-law, and divinely-designated vicegerent of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) for a worthy, virtuous and valiant son to represent him in the Epic of Ashura at Karbala in 61 AH, where blood will shatter swords to ensure the victory of truth over falsehood. That was the reason Imam Ali (AS) had asked his brother Aqeel, who was an authority on the genealogy of Arab tribes, to find for him a virtuous wife from a noble clan. Not that the One and Only Commander of the Faithful was not himself aware of the roots and origin of Arab clans. But by entrusting his brother this task, he actually wanted the latter also to have a representative of his own for serving the cause of the Prophet’s younger grandson, Imam Husain (AS). Thus, following the Imam’s marriage to the daughter of Hazam al-Kilabiya; Aqeel also married a woman of the same noble clan and through her became father of the valiant son Muslim, who would attain immortal martyrdom in Kufa as the emissary of his cousin, Imam Husain (AS).
The mother of Abbas, who was named Fatema in honour of the Noblest Lady of all times, the Prophet’s martyred daughter, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), upon entering the house of the Commander of the Faithful, considered herself to be a maid of the Prophet’s grandsons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon them), rather than a step mother. At the birth of her firstborn, Abbas, on this day, as Imam Ali (AS) entrusted the baby to his son, Imam Husain (AS), she was indeed happy on attaining such a great honour, and out of respect for the Immaculate Hazrat Zahra (SA), she taught her son never to address the Prophet’s two grandsons as brothers. This was the reason, Hazrat Abbas (AS) used to call Imam Hasan (AS) “Sayyedi” (or My Lord) and Imam Husain (AS) “Mowlayi” (or My Master). The Two Leaders of the Youth of Paradise, especially Imam Husain (AS), took great care to groom Abbas and implanted in him the grains of firm faith. And so valourous, wise, loyal, and handsome did Abbas grow that till this day, in addition to earning immortal fame as “Qamar Bani Hashem” (or Moon of the Hashemite Clan), he is known as the Epitome of Fealty and Fidelity, for standing firm and steadfast beside Imam Husain (AS), even if it cost him the loss of both his hands, an arrow in the eye, a smashing blow of the mace on his head, and eventually the end of hislife. The loss of limbs and life, however, did not pain Abbas, but what broke his heart was the arrow that pierced the goatskin carrier slung around his neck and spilled the water he had fetched from the River Euphrates after a gallant fight with the dastardly enemy, in a bid to quench the thirst of children and women in the camp of his brother.
Abbas, who during the imamates of Imam Hasan (AS) and Imam Husain (AS),was in charge of handling social and other related issues for the welfare of the public, and who till this day continues to resolve the needs of all those who call on his threshold as “Bab al-Murad” (or Gateway of Grants), breathed his last with a smile on his lips and a gaze of the remaining eye fixed on the countenance of Imam Husain (AS). True to the words and wishes of the Commander of the Faithful, today the shrine of Hazrat Abbas (AS) in Karbala stands as a sentinel to the shrine of Imam Husain (AS). His Ziyarat or standard-form of salutation has been prescribed by no less than three Infallible Imams of the Prophet’s Household – that is, Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS) and the Lord of the Age, Imam Mahdi (AS). Here is a passage from the Ziyarah:
O Needy ones, the “Door of Needs” is open
Enter, all once, or one by one.
A son is born to Imam Ali
Abbas his name that gained eternity,
Loyalty, Honesty, Sincerity, Fidelity,
A paragon in all; paces along each quality.
His affiliation with his brother, Husain
Made him eternal – such is the truth’s domain.
His blood hasn’t gone dry, still fresh, is still alive
Let your earnest belief call him, see how he will strive.
His elegance soared to envy the moon
“Moon of Bani Hashem” he became like the tide of noon.
Envy ran between horses when he on his feet
To give him a ride or carry him was to every steed a feat.
His knees touched the ears of the steed
In such a dignity was the ride and the proceed,
Plunged his horse into the Euphrates but didn’t drink water
Ashamed forever, in trickles flow today this river,
In the scabbard remained your sword
Remained safe throats of the enemy horde,
Imam Husain knew heads will fly.
If your sword its craft ply.
Husain, therefore, assigned you to fetch water
To confine your bravery there was no way other.
Abbas considered Husain as “My Master”,
Never addressed him as “My Brother”
In Karbala there is much still to learn
As we shed tears each year, pearls we earn.
Battlefields bereft of enemies’ strides,
When Abbas towards them rides,
Where resides courage, if one asks
I say in the sunshine of Abbas it basks.
Where resides bravery if any inquires
I say Abbas is what valour requires.
He is called The Moon of the Hashemite Clan
So handsome he was it was indeed God’s Plan,
His shrine in Karbala glitters in gold,
Beckons pilgrims to its heavenly fold