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Abu Hurairah: The Narrator and Good Example

abu hurayrah
A new interesting story of the great companion of the Prophet and narrator of hadith, Abu Hurairah, shedding light on his life story and narrations.
* Written By Dr. Ehab Abdus-Salam
Translated by Mohammed Elsherief

It is almost impossible to find any among the Muslims all over the world who does not know the reverend companion of the Prophet, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), since he was the narrator of many of the Hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Abu Hurairah, who came to Medina as an immigrant from Yemen during the battle of Khaybar, enjoyed the companionship of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for just four years. Yet, he accompanied the Prophet (peace be upon him) till the latter met his Lord. Thus, Abu Hurairah excelled any other companion with regard to narrating from the Messenger (peace be upon him).

In the pre-Islamic era of Ignorance, Abu Hurairah’s name was “Abd Shams” which was altered by the Messenger (peace be upon him) to “`Abdur-Rahman”. Yet, Abu Hurairah was so famous for his nickname “Abu Hurairah” that his real name is rarely used. Mentioning the cause behind acquiring such nickname, Abu Hurairah stated that one day upon seeing him carrying a kitten within his slave, his father commented: “You are Abu Hurairah,” which means he is the father of this kitten. It is recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari that the Prophet (peace be upon him) called him: “O Abu Hirr” (the father of tom kitten) as well as: “O Abu Hurairah”. Abu Hurairah himself used to say: “Do not call me ‘Abu Hurairah’ for nickname as the Prophet (peace be upon him) nicknamed me ‘Abu Hirr'”. Male is better than female.

Abu Hurairah’s conversion to Islam:

When At-Tufayl ibn `Amr Ad-Dawsi -who was a generous chief among his tribe- came to Makkah, the disbelieving chiefs of Quraysh feared that in case such an influential poet embraces Islam, he will call his people to it. Thus, they hastened to welcome and warn him against responding to what the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) calls for, where they told him: “Now, since you are in our tribe, we want to warn you that the man calling for the new religion among us has caused us great trouble and spread dissention among us. We cannot but say that his speech is like sorcery that spreads dissention even among a man and his father.” Yet, upon listening to the speech of the Prophet (peace be upon him), At-Tufayl became convinced and willingly embraced Islam. Returning back to his tribe, he called his parents to Islam, where his father and not his mother embraced Islam. Calling his tribe to Islam, it was only Abu Hurairah who responded to his call. Thus, At-Tufayl came back to the Prophet asking him to call Allah against his people but the Prophet (peace be upon him) called Allah to guide them, saying: “O Allah, guide Daws and bring them as Muslims.” At-Tufayl returned to his people before the immigration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and kept calling them to Islam till he immigrated to Al-Madinah accompanied by seventy houses of Daws as Muslims.

This way Abu Hurairah came to Al-Madinah from Yemen as Muslim with At-Tufayl ibn `Amr Ad-Dawsi. Abu Hurairah said: “I immigrated to Al-Madinah to find that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sat out for fighting Khaybar. Thus, I prayed Fajr prayer led by Siba` ibn `Arfatah whom the Prophet appointed to lead prayer. In the first Rak`ah, Siba` recited the Sura of Maryam, and in the second he recited the Sura of Al-Mutafifin that made me say to myself: Woe to the father of so-and-so, a man of the tribe of Azd, since he would have two different measures: one he would use when weighing for himself, and another one he would use to give people less than their rights.”(1)

Abu Hurairah accompanied the Prophet (peace be upon him) till the end of his life, where he dedicated himself to serving the Prophet and learning from him (peace be upon him) directly. Abu Hurairah would accompany the Prophet (peace be upon him) everywhere, visiting him at his house, fighting close by him, and accompanying him while staying at home or travelling, and whether at night or during day.

Abu Hurairah’s mother embraces Islam:

Abu Hurairah said: “Once I came weeping to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), where I said to him, O Messenger of Allah, I would call the mother of Abu Hurairah to Islam but she would refuse my call. Today I called her but she spoke ill of you, which I abhor. O Messenger of Allah, ask Allah to make her heart inclined to Islam. The Prophet supplicated Allah for her. Returning home, I found the door open, and heard the babble of water. Hearing my voice, she said: “Wait, Abu Hurairah. She dressed in a hurry without putting on her veil, and said: Come in, O Abu Hurairah.” Upon coming in, she said: I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Slave and Messenger of Allah.” I came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) weeping this time out of happiness whereas in the first one I wept out of sadness, where I said: O Allah’s Messenger, receive glad tiding, Allah accepted your supplication and guided the mother of Abu Hurairah to Islam. Then I said: “O Messenger of Allah, supplicate Allah to endear me and my mother to the believing men and women, and to every believing man and woman.” The Prophet said: O Allah! Endear your slave this and his mother to every believing man and woman. Thus, no believing man or woman hearing about me except loving me.”(2)

The Prophet is Abu Hurairah’s example:

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) was keen to pattern after the Prophet (peace be upon him) in most of his actions, sayings, worship, behaviors, and remembrance of Allah. He would be proud of and mention this to those around him. Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that in prayer Abu Hurairah would say Allah is the greatest whenever he bent and raised himself (in Ruku` and Sujud) and after completing (the prayer) he said: By Allah I say prayer which has the best resemblance with the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) amongst you.(3)

Among what reflects Abu Hurairah’s keenness to pattern after the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is what is narrated by At-Tirmidhi on the authority of Ubayd Allah ibn Abu Rafie who said: “Marwan left Abu Hurairah in charge of Al-Madinah and he went to Makkah. So Abu Hurairah led us in Friday prayer, reciting the Sura of Al-Jumu`ah (in the first Rak`ah) and in the second prostration (Rak`ah): When the hypocrites come to you.” `Ubayd Allah said: “So I caught up with Abu Hurairah and said to him: ‘You recited two Suras that Ali recited in Al-Kufah. Abu Hurairah said: ‘Indeed I heard Allah’s Messenger reciting them.'”(4)

In patterning after and ordering people to pattern after the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) would fear none. In his Musnad (Book of Hadith), Imam Ahmad narrated that once Abu Hurairah told some people that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “When anyone of you asks his neighbor for permission to fix a piece of wood to his wall, he should not refuse him.” When Abu Hurairah told them this, they lowered their heads –as if out of shyness not to be able to pattern after the Prophet in this regard. Observing that, Abu Hurairah said: ‘Why do I see you turning away from it? By Allah, I will force you to accept it.'” (5)

Muslim scholars opine that this Hadith is not an order that obliges a neighbor to do so, rather it is out of the ethics of Islam and a good behavior that we should take into account and advise each other to adhere to. Yet, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal opines that this is an obligation and that Muslim rulers must force neighbors to do so or else subjecting them to judicial sentence.

There are many and many Hadiths, situations, and sayings of the companions of the Prophet -recorded in the well-known books of Hadith and biographies of the prominent figures in Islam- that prove the keenness of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him)   to pattern after the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Righteousness of Abu Hurairah:

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) was such a pious man who would meet other’s misbehavior with good manners towards them. Once a negro woman ill behaved towards him. When Abu Hurairah was about to whip her, he abstained from doing so and said: But for just retaliation on the Day of Resurrection, I would have whipped you severely. Rather, I will sell you to whom who will give me a better price than you. Go away emancipated for the sake of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).(6)

Abu Hurairah would love to dedicate many places for performing many and many prayers. He dedicated a place for performing prayer in his bedroom, one in his house, one in his room, and one near the door. Before coming out, he would pray in them all, and the same when coming in.(7)

Once `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to appoint Abu Hurairah in official position but the latter refused. `Umar asked him: “Do you refuse to work while work was sought by a person better than you, namely, Yousef (peace be upon him)?!”

Abu Hurairah replied: “Yousef is a prophet whose father was a prophet as well but I am just Abu Hurairah ibn Umaymah. I fear three and two matters if accepting your work.”

`Umar said: “Why not saying five?!”

Abu Hurairah replied: “No, I would not. I fear to speak without knowledge, judge without forbearance, my back would be beaten, my property would be taken, and I would be insulted.”(8)

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) led a poor life patiently for a long time. He would be satisfied with whatever satisfies his hunger. Worldly gains would never divert him from establishing the rites of religion and carrying out the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). When Allah enriched him out of His bounty and blessed his wealth, he was thankful to Allah and always remembering his earlier days of poverty and need to Allah. In other words, wealth but increased his asceticism and patterning after the Prophet (peace be upon him). One day he passed by some people eating a grilled sheep. They invited him to share them their meal but he refused, saying: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) left this worldly life never eating his full of barley bread.” (9)

His narration of Hadith:

The Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurairah handle most of the categories of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence): tenets, act of worship, transactions, exegesis, Jihad, biographies, merits of the Prophet’s companions, marriage, divorce, etiquette, emancipation, Allah’s remembrance and glorification, etc.

In his Musnad (Book of Hadiths), imam Ahmad recorded (3848) Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) including some Hadiths repeated in different versions. The authors of the six books of Hadiths and imam Malik, in his book of Hadiths al-Muwatta’, recorded (2218) Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurairah, (609) of them are recorded in the two authentic books of Hadiths collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim (Al-Sahihayn). In his Musnad, imam Baqy ibn Mukhallad recorded (5374) Hadiths narrated by Abu Hurairah.(10)

ِThe death of Abu Hurairah:

Historians differed regarding his death: Some state that it was in 57 AH; others state that it was in 58 AH; and others state that it was in 59AH. The most preponderant opinion is that he died in 59 AH, when he was 78 years old.

That said, may Allah be pleased with Abu Hurairah and reward him with the best reward for his contribution in spreading Islam and benefitting Muslims! May Allah guide us to follow his way in well patterning after the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).

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Endnotes:

  • Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah, vol. 104/8.
  • Tabaqat ibn Sa`d: 55/2; Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah, vol. 104/8; and Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’: 428/2.
  • Musnad imam Ahmad, Hadith no. 7250, with authentic chain of narration.
  • Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, verified by Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, part 2, pp. 396-397.
  • Musnad imam Ahmad, Hadith no. 7276.
  • Hilyat Al-Awliya’ and Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah.
  • Refer to Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah.
  • Tabaqat ibn Saad.
  • Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, vol. 440/2; and Al-Isabah 206/7
  • Refer to (Abu Hurairah, the Narrator of Islam) by Professor Muhammad Agag Al-Khateeb, p. 171 and the following pages.

*  Find the Arabic source on Shabab.alwaei.com

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