Remembering Abdullah Ibn Abbas —The companion of the Prophet
Muhammad, his companions and those who believe in the Almighty and (usually) constant in dealing with unbelief and compassionate among themselves..(Quran 48: 29)
Brethren, it occurred to me this morning that though we have over the years been trying to remind ourselves of the fundamentals of our faith, it seems that we have not paid adequate attention to reading the biographies of the companions of our Prophet (a.s) and learning about how they weathered the storm of life. Here reference is not to ordinary men and women. Here reference is not to those whose main concerns in life was how to build the cathedral of the faithless, amass wealth that would of no value to them on the day of resurrection and building big estates that termites and ants would happily take over soon after their death. I thought it would be of great service to remind ourselves of the real men and women of history; those who illuminated the darkness of earthly life with their souls and wealth; those who impacted humanity with their touch of excellence. One of such men is Abdullah ibn Abbas (619-687 AD). (r.a).
He is the glorious companion, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas. He was born three years before the Hijrah, and gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet when he was very young, and had not yet attained the age of puberty. He emigrated with his parents before the conquest of Makkah. Very early in life, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of knowledge. He soon became the most knowledgeable in Quranic exegesis and Prophetic traditions. He became renown as the interpreter of the Quran.
It was once narrated that while he was doing in I‘tikaf in the mosque of the Messenger of the Prophet, (s.a.w) a man came to him with the signs of grief visible on his face. Ibn Abbas asked him about the reason, and the man said: “O paternal cousin of the Messenger of the Prophet! So-and-so has the right of allegiance over me, and, by the sanctity of the dweller of this grave, i.e. the grave of the Messenger of the Prophet, I am incapable of fulfilling it.” Ibn Abbas asked him: “Should I not use my good office with him for you?” He said: “Yes, if you so like.” Ibn ‘Abbas, may the Almighty be pleased with him, stood up, put on his sandals and left the mosque. The man asked him: “Have you forgotten the state in which you were?” That is, you are in I‘tikaf; it is not permitted for you to leave the mosque.
Ibn Abbas responded saying: “No (I have not forgotten). But I heard the dweller of this grave who died a short time ago (and his eyes shed tears) saying: “Whoever seeks the fulfilment of his brother’s need, and is able to do it, that is better for him than to stay in I‘tikaf for ten years; and whoever stays in I‘tikaf only for one day, seeking thereby the countenance of the Almighty, He then separates him from hell with three ditches, farther than the distance between the East and the West”.”
Ibn Abbas was very exceptional among the companions for his goodwill, affection and compassion for Muslims. He was always keen on fulfilling their needs. He once said, “To look after a Muslim family for a month, a week or as long as the Almiighty wills is dearer to me than to perform Hajj after Hajj; and a gift to be given to a brother of mine is dearer to me than a dirham to be spent in the cause of the Almighty”. He used to stand at night (in prayer), recite the Quran and weep a lot out of fear of Allah. He was an extremely humble, person. One day, Zayd ibn Thabit wanted to ride his she-camel, thereupon he hastened to make it kneel down for him. On that Zayd said: “It is you who make the she-camel kneel down to me, O paternal cousin of the Messenger of the Almighty?” Ibn ‘Abbas said: “As such we have been commanded to take the stirrup of our chiefs.”
Ibn ‘Abbas was also a very generous person. Once, Abu Ayyoob Al-Ansari went to Basrah when Ibn ‘Abbas was its governor. The latter then took his guest to his house and said: “I will do you (a favor) like what you did with the Messenger of the Almighty(when you hosted him).” He hosted him and offered good hospitality to him. Ibn ‘Abbas took part in the battle of Siffin, in the army of ‘Ali Abi Talib.
He dedicated himself to knowledge and worship until his death in 67 A.H. By the time he left Madinah for Ta’if, he was already seventy years old. Imam Muhammad ibn Al-Hanafiyyah led the funeral prayer on him, and buried him in Ta’if while saying: “Today, the God-conscious scholar of this ummah has died. Ibn ‘Abbas was among those who narrated many Hadeeths on the authority of the Messenger of the Almighty . He narrated as many as 1660 Hadeeths. From among the Companions, he was one of the most knowledgeable, and many juristic opinions depended on his personal reasoning, which distinguish him from other Companions. May the Almighty continue to bless his soul and redeem the Ummah.
(08122465111 for text only)
Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies,
Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies,
University of Ibadan, Nigeria