Abdullah Ibn Abbasra
was the son of Abbas (hence the name), who was one of the Prophet
uncles. Ibn Abbas was therefore cousin to Allah's Apostles
. He was born 3 years before the Hijra
, and was thirteen years old at the time of the Prophet
death. The two were extremely close, with Ibn Abbas regularly fetching water for wudu
, and spending much time with the Prophets
Ibn Abbas had an excellent memory, and preserved and propagated vast amounts of knowledge to later generations of Muslims. He was known as "The learned man of this Ummah." Umar ibn al-Khattab often consulted with him due to his vast knowledge. He memorized over 1500 hadith which are recorded in the books of al-Bukhari and Muslim. He was always known as being extremely generous and patient and was very humble. He never hesitated to search out those among the Sahaba who had knowledge which he did not. One of the greatest examples of his courage, knowledge and wisdom came during his famous debate with the kharajites. In it he showed his preference of peace over war, and logic over use of force. One account of his talk to them that I have seen:
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 him?"
"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!"
Ibn Abbas died at the age of 71.