Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas

‘Abd Allah ibn al-‘Abbas (b.c. 619 - d. 687/688, at-Ta'if, Arabia), also known as Ibn ‘Abbas, was the father of Qur’anic exegesis (commentary) and an ancestor of the ‘Abbasids. 'Abd Allah gathered information about the Prophet by questioning the Prophet’s Companions. He was also one of the signatories of the treaty of Siffin, but later fell out favor with the fourth caliph ‘Ali. After the latters’ death, he established contact with the Umayyad caliph al-Mu‘awiya and opposed the anti-caliph ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.

Ibn 'Abbas is considered to be the most knowledgeable of the Companions in tafsir -- Qur'anic commentary. He has been called tarjuman al-qur'an -- "interpreter of the Qur'an". Because he was related to the Prophet, being Muhammad's cousin, and his maternal aunt Maimuna being one of Muhammad's wives, Ibn 'Abbas was very close to the Prophet and learned much about the Prophet's revelation.  

ʿAbd Allah ibn al-ʿAbbas, also called Ibn 'Abbas, byname Al-hibr ("the doctor") or Al-bahr ("the sea"), was a Companion of the Prophet Muḥammad; one of the greatest scholars of early Islam; and the first exegete of the Qurʾan.
In the early struggles for the caliphate, Ibn ʿAbbas supported ʿAli and was rewarded with the governorship of Basra. Subsequently, he defected and withdrew to Mecca. During the reign of Muʿawiyah, Ibn 'Abbas lived in the Hejaz, but frequently travelled to Damascus, the capital. After the death of Muʿawiyah, he opposed 'Ibn al-Zubayr (ʿIbn az-Zubayr), whom he refused to recognize as caliph, and was forced to flee to at-Taʾif, where he died.

Ibn ʿAbbas is renowned for his knowledge of both sacred and profane tradition and for his critical interpretations of the Qurʾan. From his youth, he gathered information concerning the words and deeds of Muhammad from other Companions and gave classes on interpretation of the Qurʾan, his commentaries on which were later collected.

'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas was a paternal cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is revered by Muslims for his knowledge and expert in Tafsir (exegesis of the Qur'an), as well as an authority on the Islamic Sunnah.

He was the son of a wealthy merchant, `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib. The mother of Ibn 'Abbas was Umm al-Fadl Lubaba, who prided herself on being the second woman who converted to Islam, on the same day as her close friend Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Muhammad's wife.
The father of Ibn 'Abbas and the father of Muhammad were both the sons of the same person, Shaiba ibn Hashim, better known as ‘Abdu’l-Muṭṭalib. That person's father was Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, the progenitor of the Banu Hashim clan of the distinguished Quraish tribe in Mecca.

Ibn 'Abbas was born in 3 BH (618–619 C.C.) and his mother took him to Muhammad before he had begun to suckle. Muhammad put some of his saliva on the newborn's tongue, and that was the beginning of the close relationship between them.
While growing up, Ibn 'Abbas was by Muhammad's side doing different services like fetching water for ablution (Arabic: wudu). He would pray (Arabic: salat) with Muhammad and follow him on his assemblies, journeys and expeditions. Muhammad would often draw him close, pat him on the shoulder and pray, "O God! Teach him (the knowledge of) the Book", and Ibn Abbas devoted his life to the pursuit of learning and knowledge. Ibn 'Abbas kept following Muhammad, memorizing and learning his teaching.

In AH 10 (631/632), Muhammad fell into his last illness. During this period, the Hadith of the pen and paper was reported, with Ibn 'Abbas as the first level narrator, at that time being ten to fifteen years old. Ibn 'Abbas used to say, "No doubt, it was a great disaster that Allah's Apostle was prevented from writing for them that writing because of their differences and noise."  Days after that, Ibn 'Abbas and 'Ali supported Muhammad's weight on their shoulder, as Muhammad was too weak to walk around on his own accord.
After Abu Bakr came to power, Ibn 'Abbas and his father were among them who unsuccessfully requested their part of Muhammad's inheritance, since Abu Bakr said that he heard Muhammad say that prophets do not leave inheritance.

After Muhammad's era, Ibn 'Abbas continued to collect and learn Muhammad's teaching from Muhammad's companions (Arabic: Sahaba), specially those who knew him the longest. He would consult multiple Sahaba to confirm narrations, and would go to as many as thirty Companions to verify a single matter. Once he heard that a Sahaba knew a hadith unknown to him.

Ibn 'Abbas was not content just to accumulate knowledge. Due to a sense of duty to the ummah, Ibn 'Abbas educated those in search of knowledge and the general masses of his community. He turned to teaching and his house became the equivalent of a university in the full sense of the word, with specialized teaching and with him as the only teacher.
He held classes on one single subject each day, classes on issues such as tafsir, fiqh, halal and Haraam, ghazawa, poetry, Arab history before Islam, inheritance laws, Arabic language and etymology.
Ibn 'Abbas remained a staunch supporter of the Caliph 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, during 'Ali's war with Mu'awiyah, including at the Battle of Siffin.
A large group of 'Ali's army was discontent with the conclusion of that arbitration, and broke off into a separate group. Ibn 'Abbas played a key role in convincing a large number of them to return to 'Ali, 20,000 of 24,000 according to some sources. He did so using his knowledge of Muhammad's biography, in particular, the events of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

Sunnis believe that Ibn 'Abbas was for the unity of the Muslims and, therefore, did not revolt against rulers. He advised Husayn ibn 'Ali against his proposed expedition to Kufa that ended at Karbala. Shi'as, on the other hand, contend that due to coercion and duress he gave an oath of allegiance to Yazid, using Taqiyya.

Ibn 'Abbas had a son named Ali ibn Abdullah who died in 118 AH. From Ibn 'Abbas' lineage came the 'Abbasid dynasty, which replaced the Umayyad dynasty. Ibn 'Abbas is highly respected by both Shi'a and Sunnis, even though Shi'a suffered severe persecution during the 'Abbasid Dynasty.

Alternative names include:
'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas
"The Doctor"
Father of Qur'anic Commentary
Father of Qur'anic Exegesis
Ibn 'Abbas
Ibn 'Abbas, 'Abd Allah
Ibn al-'Abbas
Ibn al-'Abbas, 'Abd Allah
Interpreter of the Qur'an
"The Sea"
Tarjuman al-Qur'an

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