, by KAMRAN SHAHID ANSARI
Abu Hurairah is one such name which anyone would emphatically come up with when asked about the narrators of ahadith. Although the companionship of Abu Hurairah with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) is very short – nearly 3 to 4 years – yet his extreme thirst for knowledge and complete devotion to learning made him the narrator of thousands of ahadith. The literal meaning of Abu Hurairah is ‘Father of Kitten.’ His name at the time of birth was Abd Ash Shams (Servant of the Sun), however after his reversion to Islam the Messenger renamed him Abdul Rahman (Servant of the Most Merciful, Allah). Abu Hurairah got this name from the Messenger of Allah himself. He reports: “One day I was carrying a kitten in my sleeve and the Messenger of Allah saw me and he said, ’What is this?’ ‘A kitten,’ I said. And he said, ’O Abu Hurairah!’, ’O Father of the Kitten!’”
It was Tufayl Ibn Amr, the chief of Abu Hurairah’s tribe, who brought him into the fold of Islam. When Tufayl returned his village after meeting the Messenger of Allah, Hurairah was the first one who responded to his call and accepted Islam. Thereafter he took upon himself the job of teaching whatever he knew and preached Islam to others. It has been reported that one day Abu Hurairah went to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) with tears in the eyes. On being questioned he replied, “I always invite my mother to Islam, and she always refuses. I asked her again today. But she said something about you that made me sad. Can you pray to Allah for her to turn to Islam?” The Messenger prayed for Abu Hurairah’s mother to accept Islam.
When Abu Hurairah went home, he found the door closed. He heard the splashing of water. He tried to enter the house, but his mother said, “Wait a minute. Don’t come in yet.” Then she got dressed and said, “You can come in now.” When Abu Hurairah went inside, his mother said, “I declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.” Abu Hurairah again went to the Prophet crying. But this time his tears were tears of joy. “I have good news, O Messenger,” he said. “Allah has answered your prayer and guided my mother to Islam.”
Abu Hurairah’s love for knowledge and memory both were outstanding. During the last 3-4 years of the Messenger’s life Abu Hurairah dedicated himself to learning and remained almost all the time along with the Messenger and left him only at night. He belonged to the Ahl-us-Suffah, a place inside the mosque reserved for the poor members of the community especially migrants from other parts of the world. He was so poor that he would often faint out of hunger, but his deep devotion and yearning for more and more knowledge never got subdued, instead it kept on increasing. He himself narrated that he sometimes used to be so hungry that he would tie rocks around his stomach to alleviate the pangs of hunger. He was renowned for his excellent memory power so much so that once Marwan Ibn Al-Hakam examined his impeccable memory power. He invited him to sit with him and asked him to narrate ahadith while a scribe sat behind a screen and was told to write whatever Abu Hurairah said. After a year, Marwaan invited Abu Hurairah again and asked him to narrate the same Hadiths the scribe had written. To his surprise, Abu Hurairah repeated verbatim without a single addition or omission. His immaculate memory was because of the prayer which the Messenger did for him. Narrated Abu Hurairah: I said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! I hear many narrations from you but I forget them.’ He said, ‘Spread your covering sheet.’ I spread my sheet and he moved both his hands as if scooping something and emptied them in the sheet and said, ‘Wrap it.’ I wrapped it round my body, and since then I have never forgotten a single Hadith.”
He was held in high esteem among the Sahaba for his immense knowledge and retention power. It has been reported that while on the road to Makkah for pilgrimage the wind blew so hard that ‘Umar asked: “Can anyone narrate to us something [from the Prophet] about the wind?” None of those present could answer. When news of this reached Abu Hurairah, he rode up to ‘Umar and said: “Commander of the Believers! I was told that you asked about the wind, and I myself heard the Prophet say: ‘The wind is a spirit from Allâh. It brings mercy and it brings torment. Therefore, when you experience it, do not curse it but ask Allâh for its goodness and seek refuge in Him from its harm.’”
Abu Hurairah was a pious Muslim, and fasting during days and praying during nights was his common practice. During the caliphate of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) he was made the governor of Bahrain and later during the reign of Marwan he was made the governor of Madinah as well, however his humbleness and god-fearing nature remained intact and the power and position could not reduce anything from his piety. His whole family was devoted to the worship of Allah and all used to stand at night and pray. He used to pray one third of the night, then awaken his wife, who would then pray another third of night, and then awaken his daughter, who would pray the final third of the night. In short, in his house, no hour of the night was spent without the worship of Allah.
Once Abu Hurairah was passing by a market and saw people engrossed in their business transactions and said, “How feeble are you, O people of Madinah, the inheritance of the Messenger of God, peace be to him, is being distributed and you remain here! Won’t you go and take your portion?” “Where is this, O Abu Hurairah?” they asked. “In the Masjid,” he replied. When they saw him later, they said: “O Abu Hurairah, we went to the Masjid and entered and we did not see anything being distributed.” “Didn’t you see anyone in the Masjid?” he asked. “O yes, we saw some people performing Salah, some people reading the Qur’ān and some people discussing what is Halaal and what is Haraam.” “Woe unto you,” he replied. “That is the inheritance of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), he said.”
Abu Hurairah died at the age of 78 in 50 AH, leaving behind the invaluable teachings and traditions of the Messenger of Allah. For this outstanding work the whole Ummah is indebted to him.