“On the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, who said …”
Why do we hear this name so often? In Islamic speeches and lectures, in Friday Khutbah, seminars, books of hadith and all over. Abu Hurairah is so popular among Muslims from the early beginning of Islam to the present. Who is Abu Hurairah and why is he so popular in our minds?
Well, I’ll tell you!
Abu Hurairah was one of the companions of Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Through the exceptional efforts of Abu Hurairah, hundreds of ahadith (sayings of the Prophet) were conveyed to later generations. His name is the foremost name in the role of hadith transmitters.
What was his original name and why was he called Abu Hurairah?
He was originally named Abdul Rahman. But he continued to be known as Abu Hurairah because of his love for cats since his childhood. The meaning of Abu Hurairah is “Father of the kitten” in other words “Father of a cat”.
Abu Hurairah and His Mother
This pious companion of Prophet Mohammad was born in a tribe called Banu Daws. His father passed away leaving him with his mother only, there weren’t any relatives. His birth name was Abdul Shams meaning “Servant of the sun”, but later, when he embraced Islam, He was named Abdul Rahman by the Holy Prophet.
He was single, without wife or child. With him, however, was his mother who was still a non-Muslim. He longed, and prayed, for her to become a Muslim but she was being stubborn and refused to say the Kalimah.
One day, Abu Hurairah invited his Mother to have faith in Allah alone and follow His Prophet but his Mother uttered some words about the Prophet which saddened him very much. With tears in his eyes, he runs to the noble Prophet who said to him:
“What makes you cry, O Abu Hurayrah?”
“I have not let up in inviting my mother to Islam but she has always rebuffed me. Today, I invited her again and I heard words from her which I do not like. Please do make supplication to Allah Almighty to make the heart of Abu Hurairah’s mother incline to the religion of Islam.”
The Prophet responded to the request and prayed for the mother. Abu Hurayrah said: “I went home and found the door closed. I heard the splashing of water and when I tried to enter my mother said: “Stay where you are, O Abu Hurayrah.” And after putting on her clothes, she said, “Enter!”
I entered and she said: “I testify that there is no god but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.”
“I returned to the Prophet, peace be upon him, weeping with joy just as an hour before I had gone weeping from sadness and said: “I have good news, O Messenger of Allah. Allah has responded to your prayer and guided the mother of Abu Hurayrah to Islam.”
Abu Hurayrah loved the Prophet a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun and he was never tired of listening to him.
Often, the noble Prophet would praise Allah for his good fortune and say: “Praise be to Allah Who has guided Abu Hurayrah to Islam.” Praise be to Allah Who has taught Abu Hurayrah the Quran”. “Praise be to Allah who has bestowed on Abu Hurayrah the companionship of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.”
The sharp memory of Abu Hurayrah
On reaching Madinah, Abu Hurayrah set his heart on attaining knowledge. One of the notable companions of the Prophet reported: “While Abu Hurayrah and I and another friend of mine were in the Masjid praying to Allah Almighty and performing Dzikr to Him, the Messenger of Allah appeared. He came towards us and sat among us. We became silent and he said:
“Carry on with what you were doing.”
“So my friend and I made a supplication to Allah before Abu Hurayrah did and the Prophet began to say Amen to our Dua.
“Then Abu Hurayrah made a supplication by saying: “O Lord, I ask You for what my two companions have asked and I ask You for knowledge which will not be forgotten.”
“The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘Amen.’
“We then said: ‘and we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten, and the Prophet replied: ‘The Dawsi youth (Abu Hurairah) has asked for this before you.”
With his formidable memory, Abu Hurayrah set out to memorize in the four years that he spent with the Prophet, the gems of wisdom that emanated from his lips. He realized that he had a great gift was determined to use it as much as he can, in the service of Islam.
He had free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhajirin, he did not busy himself’ in the marketplaces, with buying and selling. Unlike many of the Ansar, he had no land to cultivate nor crops to tend.
He stayed with the Prophet in Madinah and went with him on journeys and expeditions. Many companions were amazed at the number of hadith he had memorized and often questioned him on when he had heard a certain hadith and under what circumstances.
Memory test of Abu Hurairah
Once Marwan ibn al-Hakam wanted to test Abu Hurayrah’s power of memory. He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain, he placed a scribe, unknown to Abu Hurayrah, and ordered the scribe to write down whatever Abu Hurayrah said.
A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurayrah again and asked him to recall the same ahadith which the scribe had recorded. It was found that he had forgotten not a single word.
Wisdom of Abu Hurairah
Abu Hurayrah was concerned to teach and transmit the ahadith he had memorized and knowledge of Islam in general. It is reported that one day he passed through the market of Madinah and naturally saw people engrossed in the business of buying and selling.
He said to them, “How feeble are you, O people of Madinah!”
“What do you see that is feeble in us, Abu Hurayrah?” they asked.
“The inheritance of the Messenger of Allah, peace be on him, is being distributed and you remain here! Won’t you go and take your portion?”
“Where is this, O Abu Hurayrah?” they asked.
In reply he said, “In the Masjid,”
Quickly they left. Abu Hurayrah waited until they returned. When they saw him, they said: “O Abu Hurayrah, we went to the Masjid and entered and we did not see anything being distributed.”
He asked, “Didn’t you see anyone in the Masjid?”
“O yes, we saw some people performing Salaat, some people reading the Quran and some people discussing about what is halal and what is haram.”
“Woe unto you,” replied Abu Hurayrah, “that is the inheritance of Muhammad, May Allah bless him and grant him peace.”
Challenges Abu Hurairah went through!
Abu Hurayrah underwent much hardship and difficulties as a result of his dedicated search for knowledge. He was often hungry and destitute. He said about himself:
When I was afflicted with severe hunger, I would go to a companion’ of the Prophet and asked him about an ayah of the Quran and (stay with him) learning it so that he would take me with him to his house and give food.
One day, my hunger became so severe that I placed a stone on my stomach. I then sat down in the path of the companions.
Abu-Bakr passed by and I asked him about an ayah of the Book of Allah. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn’t.
“Then Umar ibn al-Khattab passed by me and I asked him about an ayah but he also did not invite me.
Then the Messenger of Allah, peace be on him, passed by and realized that I was hungry and said: Abu Hurayra!
I replied, “At your command“, and followed him until we entered his house. He found a bowl of milk and asked his family: “From where did you get this?”
They replied, “Someone sent it to you”
He then said to me: “O Abu Hurayrah, go to the Ahlas-Suffah and invite them.” Abu Hurayrah did as he was told and they all drank from the milk.
The leadership of Abu Huraira
The time came of course, when the Muslims were blessed with great wealth and material goodness of every description. Abu Hurayrah eventually got his share of wealth. He had a comfortable home, a wife and child. But this turn of fortune did not change his personality. Neither did he forget his days of destitution.
He would say “I grew up as an orphan and I emigrated as a poor and indigent person. I used to take food for my stomach from Busrah (His wife). I served people when they returned from journeys and led their camels when they set out. Then Allah caused me to marry her (Busrah). So praise be to Allah who has strengthened his religion and made Abu Hurayrah an imam.” (This last statement is a reference to the time when he became governor of Madinah.)
Much of Abu Hurairah’s time would be spent in spiritual exercises and devotion to Allah. Qiyam al-Layl, staying up for the night in prayer and devotion – was a regular practice of his family including his wife and his daughter.
He would stay up for a third of the night, his wife for another third and his daughter for a third. In this way, in the house of Abu Hurayrah no hour of the night would pass without Ibadah, Dzikr and Salaat.
During the caliphate of Umar, Umar appointed him as governor of Bakrain. Umar was very principled and strict about the type of persons whom he appointed as governors. He was always concerned that his governors should live simply and frugally and not acquire much wealth even though this was through lawful means.
In Bahrain, Abu Hurayrah became quite rich. Umar heard of this and recalled him to Madinah. Umar thought he had acquired his wealth through unlawful means and questioned him about where and how he had acquired such a fortune. Abu Hurayrah replied: “From breeding horses and gifts which I received.”
“Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims,” ordered Umar. Abu Hurayrah did as he was told and raised his hands to the heavens and prayed: “O Lord, forgive the Amir al-Muminin.”
Subsequently, Umar asked him to become governor once again but he declined. Umar asked him why he refused and he said: “So that my honor would not be besmirched, my wealth taken and my back beaten.”
And he added: “And I fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom.”
Let’s thank Allah for the life of this Man
Muslims owe a debt of gratitude to Abu Hurayrah for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
He died in the year 59 AH when he was seventy-eight years old.
May Allah have mercy upon Abu Hurairah!
Audio: The story of Abu Hurayrah