In the praying texts and in annotations by Imams (pbut) on Abbas Ibn Ali (ra), two characteristics are emboldened; insight and loyalty.
On what occasion is the loyalty of Abbas Ibn Ali perceived? All followers of Imam Hussein (as) were in possession of insight but in all practicality Abbas was more intuitive. On the day of Tasu'a, this evening, when the opportunity arose for Abbas to rescue himself from a disastrous situation - they offered him a safety in exchange for surrendering, the enemy said,”we will protect you” - his reaction was so courageous that it made the enemy feel remorseful. He said, “Am I supposed to leave Hussein? Shame on you! Fie upon you and your safe conduct!”
More so than any other time, the loyalty of Abbas Ibn Ali is revealed, clearly, upon events that he approached at the Euphrates river - where he refused to drink water.
~Ayatollah Khamenei, April 14, 2000
Shi’a traditions are at the pinnacle of excellence. Our Shi’ite principals persuaded a Western philosopher, who grew up familiar with Western concepts of philosophy, like Henry Corbyn, to sit attentively in front of Allameh Tabatabai. He felt humbled before this wisdom and thereafter became a Shi’a disciple who promotes Shi’a principlas in Europe. Shi’a traditions can be taught at all echelon, ranging from an average intellect to the highest rank of philosophers. Abbas Ibn Ali's value resides in his jihad, self-sacrifice, devotion and knowledge of Imam in his time. His significance is his patience and endurance, his refusal to drink water while dehydrated; standing over the river without any religious or customary prohibitions for ingesting water. The value of those martyred at Karbala resides in the reality that they safeguarded a just cause, in the most difficult conditions anyone could imagine.
Some people are ready to fight in a great, lost war and perhaps perish in the heat of the battle, which is indeed a highly ranked position. Yet, not everyone is ready for such a sacrifice, since martyrs and those who fight on the path of God are numerable. Praise Be to God, during our war, we had outstanding martyrs. However, becoming martyred on that battlefield was very different from being martyred on the battlefield of Karbala, especially with a feeling of loneliness, pressure, thirst and threats or harassment that plagued one's family.
One may often say, “I am ready to die in this battlefield, but it’s not possible because my child will go hungry or lacks medicine”, it becomes a justification. Sometimes, individuals care more about their families than they care about themselves. They care about their infant more than self. Imagine men going to the battlefield with an infant, wife, mother or the entire family; while all of them are exposed to this danger one must prevent the weakness of his resolve. The significance of Abbas Ibn Ali, Habib Ibn Mazahir and John Bin Huwai resides in this persona, not in their height or muscular built. There are many people in this world who are equal of height and many people of muscular stature, but this is not a spiritual significance.
~Ayatollah Khamenei, July 27, 2005