Once 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas radiallahu 'anhu took permission to visit Mu'awiyah radiallahu 'anhu. At that time a number of dignitaries among the Quraysh were present there, and Sa'id ibn al-'As was sitting at Mu'awiyah's right hand side. When Mu'awiyah saw that Ibn 'Abbas was coming in, he said to Sa'id, "O Sa'id! By Allah, I will put such questions to Ibn 'Abbas that he will be unable to answer them." Sa'id said, "Ibn 'Abbas will never fail to reply to your questions."
When Ibn 'Abbas sat down, Mu'awiyah asked him, "What do you say about Abu Bakr radiallahu 'anhu?" He replied:
"May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala have mercy upon Abu Bakr, he followed the Qur'an, he was away from the deviation, and inadvertent towards the indecent (obscene) acts. He used to forbid the evil (and what is wrong); and was having the (full) knowledge of the religion. He feared Allah, stood in worship before Him at night, kept fast during the day, was saved from the evils of the world. He was determined for doing justice with the creation, for enjoining what is good and to resort to it. He thanked (Allah) in all circumstances, and remembered Allah in the morning and evening. He was harsh in correcting his own soul. He excelled his friends (companions) in piety, sobriety, renunciation (of the worldly ends), righteousness, taking care of (himself from worldly abasement), reliance (upon Allah's providence), and equality. May Allah punish the wicked one, till the Day of Judgement, who dishonours him."
Then Mu'awiyah asked Ibn 'Abbas, "What do you say about 'Umar ibn al-Khattab radiallahu 'anhu?" He replied:
"May Allah have mercy upon Abu Hafs (i.e. 'Umar). I declare by Allah: he was a confederate of Islam, a shelter for the orphan, an abode of the faith (iman), a refuge of the weak, a castle for the truthful (i.e. hunafa, which may also mean Muslims), a fortress for the creation, and a helper for the miserable. He stood for the (assistance to the) truth with patience and contentment until: Allah made His religion superior; the countries were conquered; and Allah was remembered throughout the lands: near the rivers (and seas), on the hills, in the fields, and in the forests. He faced with dignity the foul language, was thankful (to Allah) both in hardship and comfort, and remembered Allah all the time. May Allah punish the one, until the Day of Judgement, who hates him."
Then Mu'awiyah asked him, "What do you say about 'Uthman ibn Affan radiallahu 'anhu?" He replied:
"May Allah have mercy upon Abu 'Amr (i.e. Uthman): I swear by Allah, he was most respectable in the family. He used to keep relations with good men, and was a great patient among those who fight in the way of Allah. He offered tahajjud salah in the last part of the night, and wept abundantly when Allah was remembered before him. He was thoughtful for the cause (of Muslims) day and night. He got up for every noble act, and was always ready for good deeds. He kept away from every such act which leads to the disaster (in the Hereafter). He was the one who fed the army of the Prophet in the battle of Tabuk, and who entrusted the well of water to the Muslims. He was the son-in-law of the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam for two of his daughters. May Allah punish the one, until the Day of Judgement, who curses (and abuses) him."
Then Mu'awiyah asked him, "What do you say about 'Ali ibn Abi Talib?" He replied:allaahu 'anhu. At t
"May Allah have mercy upon Abul-Hasan (i.e. 'Ali): I swear by Allah, he was the banner of guidance, the cavern of the piety, the abode of the wisdom, mountain of good, light for the one who travels in the darkness of night. He was the inviter (caller) towards the broad way (i.e. the religion of Islam), and the scholar of the revealed books. He stood firm with the correct interpretation of the Qur'an and with the reminding sermon. He was attached to the means of guidance. He renounced injustice, tyranny, and the ways which lead to disaster. He was the best among those who accepted the belief and acquired piety. The leader of all those who put on shirt or wrapped up in a mantle; the most virtuous among all those who established justice and equality; and the most successful lecturer, besides the Prophets and the Prophet Mustafah (peace be upon him). He was among those who offered salat towards the qiblatayn i.e. Jerusalem and Makkah. There is none who can claim to be equal to him. He was the husband of the best woman (i.e. Fatimah), and the father of the two grandsons (of the Prophet). I have not seen anyone similar to him, and I will not see (in future) as well until the Day of Judgement, anyone similar to him. May Allah punish the one, until the Day of Judgement, who curses him."
Then Mu'awiyah asked him, "What do you say about Talhah and Zubayr radiallahu 'anhu?" He replied:
"May Allah have mercy upon both of them: by Allah, they were chaste, pious, and were among those who surrender to Allah's will (i.e. Muslims). They were pure, among those who purify others, witness (to Allah's religion), and scholars (of Islam). They committed a mistake, and Allah willing, He subhanahu wa ta'ala will forgive them. They were in the company of the Prophet from the beginning, they helped Allah's religion and were on the good deeds."
Then Mu'awiyah asked, "What do you say about 'Abbas?" He replied:t Muawiyah radiallaahu 'anhu. At t
"May Allah have mercy on 'Abdul-Fadl: by Allah, he and the Prophet belonged to the same tree. He was coolness for eyes, and was chosen by Allah. He was the cavern for the nations and the leader of the uncles (of the Prophet). He, due to his vision, overcame all difficulties and had great sight in the ends of the matters. He was decorated with the knowledge. The virtues of other persons are worthless before him. The glory of other families is of no value before the glory of his family. And it is due to the fact that his family is based upon 'Abdul-Mutalib who was the most dignified of the Quraysh who walk or ride."
Then 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas continued his talks.
(s) Transmitted by at-Tabarani, on the authority of Rabi' ibn Harrash as narrated by al-Haythimi, vol. IX, p. 160.