Abdullah bin Abbas RA was the son of Rasulullah’s uncle and protégé of Maulana Ali SA whom he had taught and mentored personally: an exceptional disciple for the greatest master. He stands tall among all the scholars of early Islam and is known as ‘Rabbaani al-Ummat’, the highly learned of this ummah. One time, a hundred people came before him, each asking him a question. He heard all of hundred questions first and then proceeded to reply to each question, one after the other, in the order they were asked. He would address the individual who asked the question saying ‘this was your question and this is its answer…’. Such was his knowledge, memory and capacity.
His knowledge of Quran was distinguished. He explained the meanings and sources of revelation of ayaat of Quran from what he had heard and learnt from Rasulullah SAW and Maulana Ali SA. There is even an exegesis of the Quran that is attributed to him. His argumentative skills were exemplary. Maulana Ali SA often sent him to debate with his adversaries especially after the battles of ‘Jamal’ and ‘Siffeen.’ The ummat would not have been divided had Abdullah bin Abbas, who was nominated by Maulana Ali as arbitrator from his side against Muawyah’s Umr bin al-Aas, been accepted by Maulana Ali’s AS people. However, they sought the appointment of Abu Musa al-Ash’ari whose dislike for Maulana Ali SA was apparent to all.
When the territorial caliphate of Islam returned to Maulana Ali SA, he had to fight against rebels and quell their oppression. Many people were not convinced of his actions mainly because Islam was still in a nascent stage and hitherto no Muslim army had fought against another rebellious and marauding but Muslim faction. Using his skills of rhetoric and reciting from the verses of Quran, Abdullah bin Abbas, with the razaa of Maulana Ali SA, convinced hundreds of people about the righteousness of Maulana Ali SA and the falsehood and unjust claims of those who took up arms against him.
When he was struck by Ibne Muljim’s sword, Maulana Ali SA was brought home by Imam HasanSA and Imam HusainSA. When his as-haab came to see him he answered their queries in spite of his critical condition. Imam HasanSA requested them not to ask Maulana AliSA any questions. Abdullah bin Abbas RA, who remained by his side throughout, had seventy questions in his heart, but did not voice them in view of Maulana Ali’sSA condition. Maulana AliSA asked him, “Why don’t you seek answers for your questions?” Abdullah bin Abbas RA replied, “Maula, I have kept quiet fearing for your health.” Upon which Maulana Ali SA answered all his questions one by one even before Abdullah bin AbbasRA could express them.
Abdullah bin AbbasRA remained with Imam HasanSA and Imam HusainSA, and when he learnt about Imam HusainSA’s journey from Makkah to Kufa, he implored him not to go and instead travel to Yemen.
After the shahaadat of Imam HusainSA, Abdullah bin Zobair, fearing Yazid took refuge in the Haram and proclaimed himself to be the Imam and called people towards him. He wrote to Abdullah bin Abbas RA inviting him to pledge allegiance to him. Abdullah bin Abbas RA refused to give him his oath. When Yazid came to know about this, he wrote to Abdullah bin Abbas RA, “I have learnt that you refused to pledge allegiance to ibn Zubair because of your faithfulness towards us. Inform all those who pay heed to your words of your opinion about us and your mistrust of ibn Zubair. You have adhered to our oath and given due regard to our position, I pray that may Allah reward you justly. I will surely make you recipient of my largesse.”
Abdullah bin AbbasRA replied sternly, “You have mentioned that I didn’t pledge oath to ibn Zubair out of my allegiance to you. I neither want your appreciation nor your affection. Do you think I have forgotten the atrocities you committed on Imam Husain and the youth of Bani Abdil Muttalib? They lay soaked in blood, uncovered for days, till a group of people arrived and buried them. I have not forgotten and will never forget how you banished Husain and how you wrote to Ibn Marjana to slay Imam Husain. I earnestly hope that Allah will soon punish you for your deeds… you expect me to exhort people to give you allegiance whereas it was you who killed the son of my uncle and the family of Rasulullah SA. How can I forget that it was you who sent troops towards Makkah in an attempt to slay Imam Husain. You kept persecuting him till he had to leave for Iraq. Your grandfather and your father were at the forefront of those who fought against Rasulullah SAW. If you get to me before I can take my revenge, then many prophets have been slain before they could do so. You want my affection? You know very well that I have never pledged allegiance to you. I know that my uncle’s son was more worthy of this than you and your father, but you all have usurped what was his and taken what doesn’t belong to you. And I have full faith in Allah that he will punish you the way he punished those who committed atrocities on prophets before. What mockery of yours can be bigger than what you did to the daughters of Rasulullah?…”
Abdullah bin Abbas’ RA reply enraged Yazid, but Allah protected Abdullah from his tyranny. It is said that Abdullah bin AbbasRA died at Ta’aif in the year 68 Hijri, at the age of 72. May Allah’s ridwaan be upon Abdullah bin Abbas.