Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radi Allahu Anhu) was the cousin of Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). He was the son of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s uncle, Abbas Ibn Abdul Muttalib. He was born, three years before Hijrah. He was one of the most knowledgeable of the Companions of the Prophet (SAW). He was very humble and always respected the people who had knowledge. He had great memory, knowledge and wisdom. He was known for his eloquence in speech and manners. He was enthusiastic towards learning and educating people about Islam. He narrated 1,660 Ahadith from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which was one of his greatest achievements.
The key factors that made him one of the greatest scholars of the ummah are humility, patience, wisdom, good memory, attentiveness, willingness to learn, and respect for teachers.
During the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he was a young child. He always followed the Prophet (SAW) in everything he did. He attended almost every one of his gathering and memorized everything he had said. He always admired Rasulullah (SAW) and served him greatly. In Sahih Bukhari, Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radi Allahu Anhu) himself that he said, “Once the Prophet (SAW) embraced me (pressed me to his chest) and said, “O Allah, teach him Al-Hikmah (i.e. the understanding of the knowledge of the Qur’an).” [5:100-O.B] and also in another Hadith of Sahih Al Bukhari, The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to make du’a for him, “O Allah, teach him (Ibn Abbas) the Book (i.e. the understanding of the knowledge of the Qur’an).” [5:101-O.B]
Teenage Years- Humbleness
After the death of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Abdullah (Ra) kept on learning Hadith from other Sahabas (Companions of Prophet (SAW). After learning and recording them, he would also make sure to verify what he has heard. He was careful with the knowledge he had and always held to the truth. He once said, “If I wanted to know something about an issue I would ask 30 Companions.” He never asked his teachers to come to his house to teach him knowledge. He always went to them to learn it.
Wisdom and Respect for Teachers
In a lecture, Shaykh Omar Suleiman (2015) mentioned a famous statement of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Ra), “Knowledge is sought.” Abdullah Ibn Abbas had so much respect for his teachers that whenever he would go to their house to learn, he would not knock on their door, in order not to disturb them. He would sit outside for hours until they would come out of their houses.
The Sahaba had a lot of love of respect for him as he was Ahl al bayt. Whenever he had something to say, they always listened to him. Umar (Ra) used to consult him for advices during his caliphate. If any companion of the Prophet (SAW) had a Hadith that he never listened to, he would be eager to learn it. He had so much respect for the people of knowledge that he would go listen to them as a slave and treat them like master.
Sad ibn abi Waqqas (Radi Allahu Anhu) described him with these words: “I have never seen someone who was quicker in understanding, who had more knowledge and greater wisdom than Ibn Abbas. I have seen Umar summon him to discuss difficult problems in the presence of veterans of Badr from among the Muhajirin and Ansar. Ibn Abbas would speak and Umar would not disregard what he had to say.”
He spent most of his life teaching Hadith, Fiqh, Qur’anic sciences, Qur’an Tafseer etc to many people. His house would be full of students learning each day a different topic on Islam.
He was once asked, “How could you acquire all that knowledge?” He answered, By means of a questioning tongue and a reasoning mind.” Through his continuously inquiring tongue, his ever-detecting mind and moreover, his humility and gentleness, Ibn ‘Abbas became the nation’s scholar.”
Umar bin Al Khattab RA was well aware of the knowledge and wisdom of Abdullah ibn Abbas, despite of his young age he gave him a place in his shura council in his caliphate. He would consult him on the tough decisions. Once he requested Abdullah ibn Abbas to explain the verse of Surah Nasr where, Abdullah ibn Abbas related it to the departure of Prophet Mohammed SAW and everyone in the gathering were amazed by the understanding of Abdullah Ibn Abbas RA.
One of the major achievements of Abdullah Ibn Abbas was during the Battle of Siffeen when Ali RA took stand against Muawiyah. A large number of supporters of Ali RA had some concerns over his leadership which Abdullah ibn Abbas eloquently cleared up through his excellent knowledge of Quran and Seerah and was able to convince most of them. During his last days he dedicated himself purely towards knowledge and worship, he passed away around seventy in Taaif, it was said that the Scholar of Ummah has died.
After reading the biography of Abdullah ibn Abbas, I learned that similar to how Prophet Muhammad (SWS) made dua for him. I think the student of knowledge should sincerely make dua to Allah SWT to help them sustain and implement the knowledge. It’s relatively easy to acquire the knowledge but it’s hard to sustain and implement in real world. I pray to Allah (SWT) that he help us out in our initiatives of knowledge and keep up with it. We should not only be humble but also respect our teachers in order to attain knowledge and wisdom.
There is so much a student of knowledge can learn from the life of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Ra). From a very young age, He began to seek knowledge from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the Sahaba. While at that age, children nowadays would spend their time playing sports, video games etc. He dedicated his entire childhood in seeking knowledge. Although he was the cousin of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he never had pride. He approached the people of knowledge with humility and respect. He always verified the authenticity of the knowledge he had received. He gave advices according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. He deeply studied the knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and spent his entire life teaching what he had learned.