Abd Allah b. al-Abbas

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Abd Allah b. al-Abbas
Personal Information
TeknonymAbu l-Abbas
EpithetHibr al-Umma • al-Bahr
Well Known AsIbn Abbas
LineageBanu Hashim
Well-Known RelativesAl-Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib (father) • the Prophet (s)Imam Ali (a)
Birth3 years before Hijra/619-20
Place of BirthMecca
Place(s) of ResidenceMecca • MedinaBasrah
Burial PlaceTa'if
Religious Information
Migration toMedina
Known forTransmitting Hadith • Exegesis • ancestor of the Abbasids

ʿAbd Allāh b. al-ʿAbbās (Arabic: عبد اللّه بن العباس) (b. 3 BH/619-20 - d. 68/687-8), commonly known as Ibn ʿAbbās, was the cousin of the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a) and one of the companions of the Prophet (s), Imam Ali (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), and Imam al-Husayn (a).

Although Ibn 'Abbas believed that Imam 'Ali (a) was the rightful caliph after the Prophet (s), he cooperated with the Three Caliphs. He was in Imam 'Ali's army during the Battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan. He was appointed as the governor of Basra by Imam 'Ali (a). After Imam 'Ali's (a) martyrdom, he supported Imam al-Hasan (a). In Imam al-Hasan's (a) funeral, he stopped Banu Hashim and Banu Umayya from fighting.

He warned Imam al-Husayn (a) about traveling to Karbala and did not accompany him on that trip.

Many hadiths have been narrated from him in both Shi'a and Sunni sources. An exegesis of Qur'an, attributed to him, has been published many times. He is the ancestor of the Abbasid Caliphs.

Birth and Lineage

His lineage was Abd Allah b. al-Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf b. Qusayy and his teknonym was Abu l-'Abbas. He was titled "Hibr al-Umma" (the scholar of the Muslim nation) and "al-Bahr" (the sea [of knowledge]).[1] 'Abd Allah was a cousin of the Prophet (s) and Imam Ali (a).

His father,al-Abbas, the Prophet's paternal uncle and one of the chiefs of Quraysh- were responsible for providing water for hajj pilgrims (siqaya) and maintenance of al-Masjid al-Haram in Ignorance Era, which was an important and honorable position.

His mother, Lubaba al-Kubra, was the daughter of al-Harith b. Hazn al-Hilali and sister of Maymuna, the Prophet's (a) wife, and her teknonym was Umm al-Fadl. The Prophet (s) always respected her. She was the first woman who embraced Islam in Mecca after Khadija (a). She suckled Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a); thus 'Abd Allah and his brother, Qutham,[2] were foster-brothers of Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a). Ibn 'Abbas was also the cousin of Khalid b. Walid (Khalid was the son of his mother's sister).[3]

It is commonly reported that he was born three years before Hijra/619-20 in Shi'b Abi Talib (the valley of Abu Talib) (in Mecca).[4] According to another account, he was born five years before Hijra/617-8.

His Life

During the Prophet's Life

After he was born, the Prophet (s) rubbed his saliva on his palate and prayed for him.[5] According to different reports, he was between 10 to 15 years old when the Prophet (s) passed away.[6]

During the Three Caliphs' Reign

The Three Caliph respected and honored Ibn 'Abbas. He occupied the position of issuing fatwa during their reign. He was one of whom the second and the third Caliphs would consult for solving problems.[7] In 35/655, while Uthman was under siege; he performed hajj on his behalf.[8]

During Imam Ali's Reign

Ibn Abbas participated in the Battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan.[9] He was one of the commanders in Imam Ali (a)'s army.[10] In the event of Hakamiyya, Imam (a) suggested him as the hakam (his approved arbiter) but Khawarij rejected him.

Most of his political activities refers to the period of Imam Ali (a)'s Caliphate. He was appointed as the governor of Basra, Iraq,[11] and Imam Ali (a) wrote letters to him (two of which have been mentioned in Nahj al-balagha: the letters number 18 and 66).[12]

According to some historical accounts, in the last days of Imam Ali (a)'s Caliphate, he was accused of stealing from treasury (bayt al-mal) so he left Basra and went to Mecca.[13] However, many scholars believed that these reports are dubious.[14]

During Imam al-Hasan and al-Husayn's Imamate

After the martyrdom of Imam Ali (a), he encouraged people to pledge allegiance to Imam al-Hasan (a). When Imam al-Hasan (a) finished his sermon in the Mosque of Kufa, he stood up and said:

"O, people! this is the son of your Prophet and the successor of your Imam, pledge allegiance to him …"[15]

In Imam al-Hasan's (a) funeral, when Banu Umayya did not let Imam al-Hasan's (a) body be buried next to the Prophet's (s) grave, Ibn 'Abbas talked with Marwan b. al-Hakam and stopped Banu Umayyah and Banu Hashim to fight.[16]

Although he did not pledge allegiance to Yazid during Mu'awiya's life,[17] he did that afterward.[18] He did not pledge allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr after Yazid's death.[19]

He was one of the companions of Imam al-Husayn (a). When Imam al-Husayn (a) wanted to leave Mecca toward Iraq, he met Imam al-Husayn (a) twice. He warned him from traveling to Iraq, but he did not accompany Imam al-Husayn (a) in his last voyage.[citation needed]


Ibn 'Abbas was the most famous commentator of the Qur'an in the 1st/7th century. Lots of hadiths have been narrated from him in exegeses of the Qur'an and hadith collections. It has been narrated in some hadiths, that the Prophet (s) prayed for him and asked God to give him the knowledge of interpretation of the Qur'an.[20]

His hadiths and opinions are also very important in jurisprudence and hadith studies.


  • Al-'Abbas; whose mother was Habiba bt. al-Zubayr.
  • Asma'
  • Al-Fadl
  • Muhammad
  • 'Ubayd Allah
  • Lubaba
  • Ali;

Ali was his most famous son. According to his father's advice, Ali supported Abd al-Malik b. Marwan in his argument with Ibn al-Zubayr over the caliphate. He had a warm relationship with the 'Abd al-Malik[21] although 'Abd al-Malik felt offended by his action, later.[22] Thus, Walid avenged him by accusing Ali b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas of killing a child of a slave woman.[23] All the 'Abbasid Caliphs are his Descendants.[24]


According to al-Dhahabi and al-Zirkili's report, he has narrated 1,660 hadiths[25] from which al-Bukhari narrated 120 and Mulsim b. al-Hajjaj 9 hadiths.

Most hadiths, foretelling the Caliphate of Abbasid dynasty, is attributed to him.[26]

Ibn 'Abbas has narrated hadiths from the Prophet (s), Imam Ali (a), 'Umar b. al-Khattab, Mu'adh b. Jabal, and Abu Dhar.

Lots of narrators have quoted his hadiths, including:


Although his hadiths are found amply in various exegesis of the Qur'an, it is highly doubted that he had written a book in this field. However, it can be inferred from what has been reported about his pupils, they have compiled the hadiths that he had narrated and his interpretations after him.

The following works are attributed to him:

  • Tanwir al-miqbas min tafsir Ibn Abbas: Firuzabadi –author of al-Qamus– compiled all of the hadiths narrated form him in Tafsir al-Tabari.
  • Tafsir Ibn Abbas: Isa b. Maymun and Warqa' narrated from Abu Nujayh and Humayd b. Qays, who has narrated it from Mujahid his student.
  • Tafsir al-Jaludi: in which hadiths narrated by Ibn 'Abbas were compiled by 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Jaludi.

In some historical accounts, it has been attributed to him that he established a new school in Qur'an's commentary whose famous students were:

From Orientalists' Views

Some orientalists such as Ignaz Goldziher argued that quoted hadiths from Ibn 'Abbas are not reliable.[28] The book Khawarshinasan wa Ibn Abbas (orientalists and Ibn Abbas) has analyzed orientalists' opinion about Ibn 'Abbas critically.[29]


Ibn 'Abbas became blind at the end of his life.[30] He settled in Mecca during this period. During the argument of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr with 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan over the caliphate, Ibn al-Zubayr asked him for allegiance, but he refused. Thus, Ibn al-Zubayr exiled him to Ta'if. Most historical reports say that he passed away in 68/687-8 at 70 in Ta'if. Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya performed Salat al-Mayyit on his body, and he was buried there. Another historical account says he passed away in 69/688-9 at 71.[31]


  1. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 186-187; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 295
  2. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 85; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istiab, vol. 2, p. 811
  3. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 186-187
  4. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 186-187; Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 27
  5. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 28
  6. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 190
  7. Ibn al-Jawzī, al-Muntaẓam, vol. 6, p. 72
  8. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 190
  9. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 188; Ziriklī, al-Aʿlām, vol. 4, p. 95
  10. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 188
  11. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 188; Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 39; Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 4, p. 543
  12. Al-Sharif al-Radi, Nahj al-balagha, letters no. 18 and 66
  13. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 39
  14. Al-Tustari, Qamus al-rijal, vol. 6, p. 441; Al-Khoei, Mu'jam rijal al-hadith, vol. 10, p. 238
  15. Al-Khoei, Mu'jam rijal al-hadith, vol. 10, p. 234
  16. Al-Mufid, al-Irshad, vol. 2, p. 18
  17. Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 5, p. 303
  18. Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 5, p. 343
  19. Al-Tabari, Tarikh, vol. 5, p. 384; Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 70-71
  20. Muqaddamatan fi 'ulum al-Qur'an, p. 53-54
  21. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 70
  22. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 101-102
  23. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 103
  24. Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat al-kubra, vol. 5, p. 241
  25. Ziriklī, al-Aʿlām, vol. 4, p. 95
  26. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 4, p. 63
  27. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 188.
  28. Nafisi, Mustashriqan wa hadith, p. 173
  29. Nilsaz, Khawarshinasan wa Ibn 'Abbas
  30. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 190
  31. Ibn Ahtīr, Usd al-ghāba, vol. 3, p. 190


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