Abu Hurairah (ra) Translated by Gamal M. Hegazi From “Men around the Prophet” by Khalid M. Khalid
Abu Hurairah (ra) was one of those who had a robust unrelenting memory. He mastered the art of listening and his memory stored all that he heard no matter how long time passed. He was one of the most capable among the companions of the Prophet (saws) in memorizing his sayings, and therefore was the one who narrated most at his authority. Then at the time when many charlatans faked Hadith and related it falsely to the Prophet (saws), many of them used Abu Hurairah’s (ra) name for their evil designs. Each time they faked a Hadith they started it with: “Abu Hurairah (ra) said … “. They almost ruined the reputation of this great companion as a narrator on the authority of the Prophet (saws), hadn’t it been for the onerous good efforts of great righteous scholars who dedicated their lives to serve the Hadith of the Prophet (saws) and to remove from it all fraud and forgery. That was how Abu Hurairah (saws) rescued from the plots and lies of the mischievous ones who wanted to harm Islam through him. Nowadays, when you hear a preacher or Khateeb on a Friday sermon say the famous phrase: “On the authority of Abu Hurairah (ra) who narrated that the Prophet pbuh said …”, then you know that you are hearing from one of the most appealing companions whom people longed to listen to and accompany in his time. This is because of the great wealth of Hadith and wise guidance that he memorized from the sayings of the Prophet (saws), which you can seldom learn from any other character. Thus his legacy is the best means available today of carrying you in time and place to the days when the Prophet (saws) lived among his companions, where you would soar high into those distant horizons that witnessed the glory of Mohammad (saws) and his companions as they gave life its meaning and spread light and guidance all over. If the above introduction caused you craving to learn more about Abu Hurairah (ra) and his biography then here is what your heart is longing for. He was one of those whom Islam transformed completely, from a hired hand to a master, and from one who was lost in the crowd to a notable scholar who provided guidance to others, and from one
who used to prostrate in front of stones to a believer in Allah the One and Almighty. Hear him talk of his transformation: “I grew up as an orphan, and I migrated as a poor man, and I was a hired hand to Lady Busra Bint Gazwan, and my pay was merely my food. Then here I am after Allah willed that I marry her. So praises to Him Who made this religion a straight guidance and Who made Abu Hurairah (ra) an Imam”. He came to the Prophet (saws) on the seventh year of Hijra while he was in Khaibar, and he embraced Islam there and then. From the very first time he saw the Prophet (saws) and pledged allegiance at his hands, he seldom parted from him except during the sleeping hours. Thus Abu Hurairah (ra) spent the four years in which he accompanied the Prophet (saws) from the time he embraced Islam until the Prophet’s (saws) death. Those four years were a lifetime on their own, full of heeding and listening to the wise words of the Prophet (saws) and storing it all in his infallible memory. Abu Hurairah (ra) knew he had a role to serve this religion of Allah. The heroes among the companions were many, so were the learned scholars and instructors, but not many knew how to write. Abu Hurairah (ra) himself did not know how to write, but he had a flawless memory, and unlike the rest of the companions he had lot of time since he had neither land nor business to attend to. He decided to make up for his late entrance into Islam by accompanying the Prophet (saws) as much as he could and to listen and memorize all that he said. Moreover, the Prophet (saws) blessed his memory which made it even stronger and more robust. Abu Hurairah (saws) told that story as follows: “Once I was sitting in the assembly of the Prophet (saws) and he said: Who among you would spread his garment until I finish talking then he would hold it to his heart so that he would forget naught of it? So I spread my garment before him and after he finished I held it to my heart, and since then I never forgot a word that I heard from him”. He narrated and narrated what he heard from the Prophet all his life, until one day Caliph Omar (ra) said to him: “You shall stop saying your narrations or I shall send you to the land of Dos (Abu Hurairah’s (ra) people)”. But Caliph Omar (ra) did not mean to accuse Abu Hurairah (ra), rather he believed that the Muslims had to focus their learning solely on the Qur’an and nothing else until it got well established in their hearts. The Qur’an was the book of Islam and its constitution, and Omar (ra) was afraid
that too much narration about the Prophet (saws) in those critical years could cause unnecessary confusion while the Qur’an was still being compiled. Therefore Omar (ra) used to say: “Lessen the narrations about the Prophet of Allah except for what is necessary for action”. Omar (ra) had no doubt about the meticulous method with which the Qur’an was being compiled, but he had no guarantee that the Hadith could be compiled the same way, and he rightly feared that forgery and falsification could easily alter the Prophet’s (saws) authentic sayings. Abu Hurairah (ra) understood Omar’s (ra) concerns but he could not stop himself for telling all what he memorized from the sayings of the Prophet (saws) at his time. Once Caliph Marwan Ibn Al Hakam wanted to test Abu Hurairah’s (ra) ability in memorization, so he summoned him and asked him to narrate Hadith for him. Meanwhile a scribe was writing behind the screen everything that Abu Huraira (ra) was saying. A year later, the Caliph summoned Abu Hurairah (ra) again and asked him to narrate for him again. It was confirmed then that Abu Hurairah (ra) did not change nor forget a single word from what he said before. Abu Hurairah (ra) used to say: “Nobody among the Prophet’s (ra) companions knew Hadith more than me except Amr Ibn Al As (ra), for he knew how to write and I did not”. Imam Al Shafei said about Abu Huraira (ra): “He was the best in memorizing the Hadith at his time”. Imam Bukhari said about him: “About 800 hundred people (scholars, companions and followers) narrated the Hadith from Abu Hurairah (ra)”. Abu Hurairah (ra) was also a very pious man. He used to share with his wife and daughter standing up all night in prayer. He would stand in prayer for one third of the night, his wife the second third and then his daughter the last third. Thus not an hour of the night passed in the household of Abu Hurairah (ra) where no Thikr and prayer were being performed. In order for Abu Hirairah (ra) to have the time to keep the company of the Prophet (saws) he had to suffer from hunger at times and he told how he had to tie a stone to his stomach to alleviate the pain of hunger. But his biggest concern when he embraced Islam was his mother who refused to embrace Islam and one day she spoke foul about the Prophet. For that Abu Hurairah (ra) felt so depressed, and when the Prophet (saws) asked him
what was wrong he told him what his mother said and begged the Prophet (saws) to pray that she would be guided to Islam, so the Prophet (saws) prayed for her. That day, Abu Hurairah (ra) went joyfully to his mother to give her the glad tidings about the Prophet’s (ra) prayers for her guidance, but before he entered the door of her house he heard water pouring inside, then she came out and said to him: “I bear witness there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (saws) is the Messenger of Allah”! He ran back to the Prophet (saws) to give him the glad tidings and then he begged the Prophet (saws) to pray that he and his mother would be loved by all the believers, so the Prophet (saws) prayed: “O Allah make this servant of yours and his mother beloved to every believing man and woman”. After that Abu Huraira (ra) lived a dedicated pious life, and he did not miss a single battle for Islam. At the time of Caliph Omar (ra) he was made the ruler of Bahrain, and while he was in his office Abu Hurairah (ra) saved some money. When Omar (ra) found out about those savings he called Abu Hurairah (ra) to Medina and here is the argument that went between them as narrated by Abu Hurairah (ra): Omar (ra) – O enemy of Allah and the enemy of His Book, did you steal the money of Allah? Abu Hurairah (ra) – I am not an enemy of Allah and not an enemy of His Book, and I am not the one who steals Allah’s money. Omar (ra) – Then from where did you save ten thousands? Abu Hurairah (ra) – I had horses that multiplied, and gifts that came to me. Omar (ra) – Give it all to Baitul Mal (the treasury of the Muslims). So Abu Hurairah (ra) gave all his money to the Treasury, then he raised his hands up to the sky and said: “O Allah forgive Omar (ra) the Caliph of the believers”. Later on, Omar (ra) summoned him to again make him ruler of Bahrain but he refused this time. When Omar (ra) asked him why he said: “Because I don’t want to be accused in my honor and I don’t want my money to be taken, and I don’t want my back to be beaten”. Then he added: “And I fear that I might judge without knowledge, or to speak without wisdom”.
One day when his desire to meet Allah intensified, and while his visitors at his illness bed were praying for his recovery they heard him say: “O Allah I wish to meet you, so please wish to meet me too”. He died at the age of 78 on the 59th year of Hijra, and while they were carrying him to his grave among the rest of the great companions in Bakei, people were reciting of the Hadith they learned from him during his life. Perhaps one of the new Muslims then bent towards his friend and asked: “Why was our late Sheikh called Abu Hurairah (ra) (kitten man)”? His knowledgeable friend answered back: “His name during Jahilia (ignorance) was Abd Shams (slave of the sun), then when he embraced Islam the Prophet (ra) called him Abdul Rahman . . . Our Sheikh was tender and loving to animals, and he had a kitten that he took care of, fed and cleaned, and he carried it wherever he went, thus they called him Abu Hurairah (ra) (kitten man), may Allah be pleased with him and please him .”.