In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Flag Bearer of Karbala
“Tomorrow I will hand the flag to the one who likes God and His Prophet and whom God and His Prophet like him; the one who never retreats.”(1)
This sentence was like a sign, in the war of Khaibar, for the overwhelmed and discontented army of Islam. The troops, two times with the flag being lifted by Abu Baker and Omar, had made military expeditions to the Khairbar fortress; however, based on authentic and valid historic evidence and the statement of the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) because of the escape and retreat of the bearer of the flag, they had returned with failure. The historians write that the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP), the next day, handed the flag to Amir al-Mu’minin (PBUH) and he undertook that historic course of that has been depicted up to now in the history.
In the early history of Islam period the flag was a sign and symbol of the unity or coherence of the army and military capalility. As long as the flag was up in the air it prevented the disfuntion and dispersion of the troops and made hope for victory.
Therefore flagbearing was a key task; the flag of army was handed to the brave men whom power and wealth and ambition could not weaken their iron will; neither the vigor and dignity of the enemy could make a crack on their will.
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam Ali (PBUH) in an enlightening statement in the battle of Siffin points to this matter for the introduction of the task to the troops and their motivation.
“Do not leave the flags; hand them to your most brave; the diligent and self sacrificing brave who are not overwhelmed by the rain of problems and hardships. Remember that only these people will guard the flag…they are always with the flags; do not step left or right, front and rear; they do not cause its abasment; they don’t surrender it to the enemy by being left behind; and do not go ahead to an extent to which the flag is left unguarded.”(3)
It was customary in that era that the flagbrearers defended the flag until their last breath to keep up the flag and to prevent it from being taken by the enemy in order to safeguard the moral of the army. Usually while the flagbearer was standing the army kept resisting. If, however, the flagbrearer was killed and no one replaced him then suddenly the moral of the army would become at stake and the enemy would gain more determination.
The enemy, as well, was well aware that by getting the flagbrearer killed there would be success and it can blow the moral of resisting army.
Now with this introduction, we turn partly to the role of Abul Fazl Al- Abbas (PBUH) and his courage and nobleness, and his task of safeguarding the order and moral of the small army of justice in the Kerbala incident.
On the day of Ashura Imam Hussain (PBUH) handed the flag to Abbas (PBUH); for he was the most suited for this position and the most loyal and most familiar to the principles of his divine uprising. Imam (PBUH) counted Abbas (PBUH) as the most watchful about his family, against the attackes of the enemy the most steady, and in the scene of war the most brave and experienced.
Imam himself had said to Abbas (PBUH) when he asked permission to fight in the battlefield, ”Brother, you are the flagbearer for me; if you go my troops will disperse.”(4) Imam (PBUH) had said that whenever he looked at the hanging flag he was as if he was watching his orderly troops which is feared by the evil enemy.
All these show that the Qamar Bani Hashim (PBUH) was the most precious thing and the best aid, and that the sense of security between the Ahl al-Bait of Imam Hussain (PBUH) strongly depended upon him and his flag.
However, when after Abbas was wounded and fell down from tha saddle with no hands and Imam Hussain (PBUH) heard his cry from near the Euphrates, the signs of breaking became evident in the face of Imam and said: “Now my back broke and I don’t have any means, and the enemy will reproach me.”(5)
That was the time the real share of Abbas (PBUH) for Imam Hussain (PBUH) became evident to all.
The Master of Martyrs (PBUH) after his brother was as if he did not have any vigor in his body. He was holding the divided head of his brave flagbearer near to his chest and was looking at his eyes full of blood. The feelings of Imam during the last moments of Abbas is depicted well in a poetry:
The eyes that could not sleep easily because of your strong presence will now have comfortable sleep. And the other eyes which used to sleep in the shadow of your secure presence will never enjoy a relaxed sleep. (6)
(The above is a selection taken from “Al-Abbas (PBUH)”, by Ayatullah Sayyid Abd al-Razzaq Mousavi Muqarram (with some additions))
The Roshd Website offers condolences to all Muslims, especially you dear friend, upon Tasua, the day of commemorating the defender of Ahl al-Bait (PBUH) and the flag bearer of the army of Right, Abbas ibn Ali (PBUT).
Roshd Islamic Shia Website
1. This Hadith is famous as Khaibar.
Sunan Nasa’ei, vol. 7, p. 411 – Tabaqat ibn Sa’ad (Mutammam al-Sahabah), vol. 1, p. 358 (narrated from Sahih Bukhari) – Sire ibn Hisham, vol. 2, p. 334 - …
Usul al-Kafi, vol. 8, p. 351 – Irshad Shaikh Mufid, vol. 1, p. 64 – Amali Tusi, p. 546 -…
2. The defeat and escape of the first and second Caliph in the battle of Khaibar is mentioned in some historical references, as can be inferred from the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) Hadith Khaibar.
Mustdrak Hakim, vol. 3, p. 39, 40 – Tarikh Dimashq Ibn Asaakir, vol. 42, p. 97 – Musnad al-Bazar, vol. 11, p. 327
Ifsah Mufid, p. 86 – Al-Khara’ij Raawandi, vol. 1, p. 159 – I’lam al-Wara Tabarsi, vol. 1, p. 207
3. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 39 –Wasa’il al-Shia, vol. 15, p. 95 – Nahj al-Balaghah Subhi Salih, p. 180, Sermon 124 (with some difference) – Tarikh Tabari, vol. 5, p. 17 (with difference)
4. Nafas al-Mahmum, p. 306 –Muntaha al-Aamal, vol. 1, p. 687 – Bihar al-Anwaar, vol. 45, p. 41
5. Nafas al-Mahmum, p. 306
6. The poem is composed by Shaikh Muahmmad Reza Ozri, Adab al-Taff, vol. 6, p. 265