‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib
June 13, 2018
Jafar ibn Abi Talib
June 13, 2018

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‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas


This chapter is dedicated to ‘productive dialogue’, a phenomenon which mostly ceases to exist in public domains just as it has faded from private spheres. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says in the Holy Qur’an:


ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيْلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِيْ هِيَ أَحْسَنُ

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in a way that is best.[1]


Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says in this verse “In a way that is best” and did not say in a better way, an instruction to debate and have dialogue using the best words, phrases, and proofs. A productive dialogue starts with a man and his wife, their children at home, co-workers, employers and employees, and will result in societies and governments adopting the same, coming together on this principle.

Dear reader, let us look at how productive and refined dialogues take place. A lesson from the Ahlul Bayt.

‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was faced with grave opposition in his era, the opposition of the Khawarij. They waged war against ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and saw his life, honour, and wealth permissible for them to snatch. Continuously people would come to ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and say, “O Leader of the Believers, these people are rebelling against you.” He would reply, “Leave them, verily I will not fight them until they fight me and that is what they will do.”[2]

All their wrongs did not stop him from sending his cousin, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas to have a discussion with them. Why not select him when he was Hibr a-Ummah (the authority of the Ummah). He is the cousin of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the son of the second women to accept Islam after Khadijah radiya Llahu ‘anha, Umm al Fadl Lubabah bint al Harith al Hilaliyyah radiya Llahu ‘anha.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu was born three years prior to the emigration and was nurtured under the shadow of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He would continuously hold the presence of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and narrate much from him. He was with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu in the battles of Jamal and Siffin. He lost his eye sight towards the end of his life and settled in Taif where he passed away.

‘Amr ibn Dinar says:


ما رأيت مجلسا كان أجمع لكل خير من مجلس ابن عباس، الحلال والحرام والعربية والأنساب والشعر

I have not seen a gathering filled with more goodness then the gatherings of Ibn ‘Abbas. It was filled with knowledge of injunctions, language, genealogy and poetry.


‘Ata’ rahimahu Llah says:


كان ناس يأتون ابن عباس في الشعر ولأنساب وناس يأتونه لأيام العرب ووقائعهم، وناس يأتونه للفقه والعلم فما منهم صنف إلاّ يُقبل عليهم بما يشاءون

People would come to Ibn ‘Abbas seeking knowledge of poetry, genealogy, history and wars of the Arabs, and Islamic law. They would all quench their thirst before leaving him.


Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu would divide his teaching week in the following manner, a day each for Islamic law, interpretations, incidents of battle, poetry, and history. Whenever ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu would face difficulty in resolving a matter he would call for Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu and base his judgment on his opinion. He was given the title ‘interpreter of the Qur’an’. His intelligence and knowledge were both outstanding just as his understanding was unmatched. The blessings of the prayer of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was in his favour:


اللهم فقهه في الدين وعلمه التأويل

O Allah, grant him the understanding of Islam and teach him the interpretation of it.[3]


He truly was a master in the fields of knowledge, interpreting the Qur’an, and expounding on it. He was the envy of every gathering and the disperser of divine wisdom.[4]

The day presented itself to go and speak to the Khawarij, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu had a discussion with them, the likes of which was unheard of. He listened attentively, giving them ample opportunity to put forth their doubts and he answered them impartially laying out the proofs before them. He relates:


I said to them, “Come forward, what is the grudge you have against the Companion of Allah’s Messenger and the son of his uncle (‘Ali)?”

They answered, “Three points.”

I asked, “And what are they?”

They said, “One of the points is that he had men judge in a matter of Allah while Allah says:


إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ

The decision is only for Allah.[5]


“What have men got to do with the judgement?”

I said, “This is one point.”

They said, “As for the second point, he fought, however he did not take captives, nor did he take any booty of war. [Referring to the battles of Jamal and Siffin]. If they were disbelievers, then the booty would be permissible for him and if they were believers then it was not permissible to fight them in the first place.”

I said, “This is the second point, and what is the third point?”

They said, “He removed the title of ‘Leader of the Believers’ (Amir al Mu’minin) and if he is not the ‘Leader of the Believers’ then he is the ‘Leader of the Disbelievers’ (Amir al Kafirin).”

I asked, “Do you have any points other than these?”

They replied, “These are sufficient for us.”

I said to them, “Do you agree that if I read to you from the Book of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and from the Sunnah of his Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that which refutes what you say, will you then leave your views?”

They said, “Yes.”

I said, “As for your statement that ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu had men judge in a matter that was for Allah; then I will read to you from the book of Allah, where Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has delegated His judgment to men:


يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ آمَنُوْا لَا تَقْتُلُوْا الصَّيْدَ وَأَنتُمْ حُرُمٌ ۚ وَمَنْ قَتَلَهُ مِنْكُمْ مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاءٌ مِّثْلُ مَا قَتَلَ مِنَ النَّعَمِ يَحْكُمُ بِهِ ذَوَا عَدْلٍ مِّنْكُمْ

O you who have believed, do not kill game while you are in the state of ihram. And whoever of you kills it intentionally – the penalty is an equivalent from sacrificial animals to what he killed, as judged by two just men among you.[6]


“And regarding a woman and her husband (Allah says):


 وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ شِقَاقَ بَيْنِهِمَا فَابْعَثُواْ حَكَمًا مِّنْ أَهْلِهِ وَحَكَمًا مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا 

And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people.[7]


I ask you by Allah, is it better that men judge in something regarding the reconciliation of disputes and in preventing bloodshed or regarding the hunting of a rabbit worth a fourth of a dirham and the dissension of spouses?”

They said, “Of course, in something regarding the reconciliation of disputes and in preventing bloodshed.”

I said, “Have you retracted this view of yours?”

They replied, “Yes.”

I said, “As for your statement, ‘He fought but did not take captives and did not take war booty,’ then would you take your mother (in Islam), Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, as a captive, making her permissible while she is your mother? If you say, ‘We make permissible from her that which we make permissible from other than her,’ then you have committed disbelief. And if you say, “She is not our mother,” then you have also committed disbelief:


النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ

The Prophet is more worthy of the believers than themselves, and his wives are [in the position of] their mothers.[8]


“And so, you are between the two ill judgments. So, which of them do you want to take? Have we finished with this point, and do you retract?”

They replied, “Yes.”

“As for ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu removing the title of ‘Leader of Believers’, then I will give you something that will please you; verily, the Prophet of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam contracted an agreement with the disbelievers of Quraysh on the Day of Hudaybiyyah, and the Prophet said to ‘Ali:


اكتب هذا ما قضى عليه محمد رسول الله

Write (O ‘Ali). “This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, agrees with.”


They, the polytheists, said, ‘If we knew you to be the Messenger of Allah, we would not have fought you and stopped you from going to the Ka’bah. Write Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah.’

The Messenger of Allah said:

والله اني لرسول الله حقا وان كذبتموني اكتب يا علي محمد بن عبد الله

By Allah, indeed I am the messenger of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala even if you belie me. Erase it ‘Ali, and write, “This is what Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah agrees upon.”


I swear by Allah that the Messenger of Allah is better than ‘Ali and even he erased his own name and erasing his name does not erase his prophet-hood. Have we finished with this point and have you retracted?”

They said, “Yes.”

The result of this dialogue between ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas was that one third (two thousand) of the Khawarij retracted from their erroneous beliefs while the rest of them rebelled and fought, based upon their misguidance.[9]


This incident leaves us with many lessons however an impression of seeking unity seems to be a highlight. Both ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas and ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhuma were wary of bringing the difference of opinion onto the battlefield. They sought an alternative, uniting the ummah. They would not launch an offence until the Khawarij themselves unsheathed their swords.


NEXT⇒Jafar ibn Abi Talib

[1] Surah al Nahl, 125.

[2] Al Ma’rifah wa al Tarikh, The incidents of Ibn ‘Abbas and his father.

[3] Sahih al Bukhari, 143, Sahih Muslim

[4] For further reading regarding the narrations of the virtues of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhu refer to al isti’ab, vol. 1 pg. 284.

[5] Surah al An’am: 57

[6] Surah al Ma’idah: 95.

[7] Surah al Nisa: 35.

[8] Surah al Ahzab: 6

[9] Musannaf Abdul Razzaq, 10/157/18678; Al Bayhaqi fi al Sunan al Kubra, vol. 8 pg. 179; Jami Bayan al Ilm wa Fadlihi, vol. 2 pg. 103 (Muniriyyah print); Al Mustadrak lil Hakim, 2656, al Hakim has authenticated it on the conditions of Imam Muslim. Al Dhahabi concurs with his conclusion.

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