Abbas carried the straps of the waterskin around his neck. He held it close and protected it with the shield in his left hand, as one would protect an infant. He swung his sword with his right hand as he moved forward. Behind all the palms and trees there are numerous battlers, horses, swords. Every second a battler can come out and attack, but Abbas moves at a speed that allowed no one to move.
Abbas has never experienced such battle. The job has become extremely difficult for him. It is not the thousands of enemy. It is not the unfair ambushes behind the palm trees. It is not the hunger. Not the extreme thirst either. It is not the exhaustion; nor the wounds on his face, hands, feet and body. But one thing had made it ultra difficult for Abbas to fight, the fact that his hands were occupied, and that was the waterskin that Abbas held so dearly to his life. For if anything happens to the waterskin, if an arrow approaches the body of the waterskin, or if the tip of a sword rips the waterskin, Abbas’ entirety will be destroyed. The children, who for some time have been thirsty for just a sip of water, their hopes will be shattered.
Abbas must protect both the waterskin and his life. Saving his life to save the water, saving the water to save the lives. What Abbas has seen today in the eyes of Imam Hussain (PBUH) following the order, or perhaps request, he had never seen before: “Dearest Abbas! Bring little water if you can.”(1)
Abbas loves, Abbas obeys, Abbas seeks, Abbas respects, Abbas is loyal, and he is restless in face of this request.
Abbas’ respect throughout his life was to identify and act upon Hussain’s (PBUH) request before its utterance. But today Hussain (PBUH) has spoken with a pleading, yet humble tone.
For Abbas, this is not just a waterskin of water. It is the most expensive load of this world. This is not just a waterskin of water; it is Abbas’ historical mission. Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH&HP) request to love his close ones (the Ahl al-Bayt)(2) has become manifested in this waterskin. And if Abbas must deliver this waterskin with the price of his life, he has nothing else to do in this world.
A man whose name was Hakim ibn Tufeil has been following Abbas in ambush. He finally takes his sword and cuts off the right arm of Abbas. The only act Abbas can do is to get the sword by his left hand before his right hand falls. His right hand fell on the ground but he still has his left hand and the sword.
But Abbas moves on, fighting, advancing, and chanting:
“By Allah if you cut off my right hand, be aware that I will always defend my faith and my Imam, who has truthfully attained certainty and is the grandson of the trustworthy Prophet (PBUH&HP).”(3)
Fighting with just one hand has become even more difficult. Especially now, that he no longer has a shield to protect the waterskin with. The waterskin is now exposed to the enemy. But Abbas advances, chanting his praise. That which gives Abbas hope is the black images of the tents, visible through the palm tree branches, giving hope that the thirst of the children will be quenched.
It was here that Zaid ibn Raqad, who had been ambushing Abbas with his sword, made the move and cut off Abbas’ left arm.
Abbas’ hope has now been reduced, but not gone entirely. He continues with his chant, moving forward,
“O life! Do not fear the infidels, for the powerful Lord will bestow His mercy upon you. I give you tidings to companionship with the chosen prophet. They took away my left arm so cowardly. O’ Allah bestow upon them the heat of your fire.”(4)
Abbas is now left with no shield, no sword; but a waterskin. And what fear remains so long as nothing but the waterskin remains, even Abbas himself; so long as he can reach the waterskin to the tents. His horse has now reduced its speed, so Abbas can retain his balance. And Abbas fears the tearing of the waterskin, which he has held onto with his teeth. With his sharp eyes, he watches his surroundings from all sides, to prevent an arrow from tearing the waterskin.
More than tens of arrows have now landed on Abbas’ body, and blood has covered his body like a red shield. But it is as though Abbas does not feel the wounds on his body; for the waterskin is still……but no……suddenly, an arrow sits at the heart of the waterskin, one which sets Abbas’ heart on fire.
Not an arrow on the heart of the waterskin, but on the hope of Abbas. Abbas loses himself, and the enemy clearly understands that Abbas no longer has the strength to fight, nor a purpose to live.
Alas, an arrow hits Abbas in the heart, the only arrow that Abbas welcomes and receives gladly, embracing it warmly.
And this is Hakim ibn Tufeil, who has rounded the palm trees and now comes forth with a mace and sets the final blow of the enemy to free Abbas of his shame from the children. And the sound that was heard: “Dear Hussain, Help me.”(5)
(The above is a selection from the book “The Bearer of Water and Respect” by Sayyed Mahdi Shoja’ee)
Roshd website offers its condolences to you and all devotees of Abbas ibn Ali (PBUH) On the arrival of the day of Tasu’a, the commemorating day of the symbol love, knowledge, and respect.
1. Montakhab Tarihi, p. 305, Ma’ali al-Sibtain, vol. 1, p. 441, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 41
2. A reference to the Quran, Surah Shura, verse 23, in which Allah orders the love of the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) kinship to all Muslims.
3. Manaqib, vol. 4, p. 108
4. Manaqib, vol. 4, p. 108
5. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 42, Awalim, p. 285