Why is Imam Husayn (a) Known as Aba Abdillah?

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Wa assalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi ta'ala wa barakatuh.

Aba Abdillah: a title you hear quite often in reference to the grandson of the Holy Prophet, Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam. Now this epithet is found in a number of ziyarat texts such as Ziyarat Warith, Ziyarat Ashura, as well as others such as Ziyarat on the day of 'Arafat and the nights of Qadr. Some may wonder why Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, is referred to as Aba Abdillah.

Well, to start with, a 'kuniya' or epithet amongst Arabs was something given to them from a young age, usually by an esteemed member of their family or tribe, and it is usually placed to honor them. The first to give Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, the title of Aba Abdillah was none other than the greatest human being and the creation of Allah Subhana wa ta'ala, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam. For example, in one instance, as narrated by the faithful wife of the Holy Prophet, Umm Salama, Ridhawan Allahi ta'ala alayha, the Holy Prophet calls his grandson by saying, "Come to me, oh, Aba Abdillah."

There are numbers of reasons given for why the third holy Imam has this title.

Number one, it is an indication of his total unreserved devotion and dedication to the Almighty Subhana wa Ta'ala. Husayn, alayhi as-salam, is a manifestation of how a true servant of Allah should be. At the same time, he rose to save Islam and hence, he is considered a father for the servants of Allah. Through his eternal movement as well as sacrifice, Islam continues to grow today, and millions are inspired to stand up for the truth and reject injustice.

Two, It has been noted that one of the names of the awaited savior of mankind, Imam al-Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance, is Abdullah. Hence, the title Aba Abdillah for Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, points to the fact that the 12th holy Imam is from the progeny of Sayyad as-Shuhada, the master of the martyrs himself.

Finally, historically, there is a case that Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, had a son by the name of Abdullah. How? After thorough research and analysis of the narrations informing us of the children of Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, some established scholars have noted that on the day of Ashura, the Imam, peace and blessings be upon him, lost two infant children, one by the name of Ali al-Asghar, and the other by the name of Abdullah.

As for Ali al-Asghar, his mother is suggested to be Umm Ishaq bint Talha al-Tamimi. And he was six months old at the time of his martyrdom, and he was shot when the Imam, alayhi as-salam, asked for water for him. Yet Abdullah was born, according to some narrations, on Ashura day. His mother was Rabab, and he was martyred whilst in the lap of his father in the campsite when an arrow was struck towards him.

There is a fourth opinion as well, and that is that the Imam, alayhi as-salam, had only one infant martyr on the day of Ashura and his name was Ali al-Asghar, yet he had an epithet, which was Abdullah, and hence Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, was known as Aba Abdillah.

May Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala grant us the opportunity to live by the principles established by Aba Abdillah al-Husayn, as-Shaheed, salawatullahi wa as-salaam 'alay.