The Beloved Narrator" 'An Abi Huraira radiyallahu anhu qal, qala Rasul Allahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam...."
(On the authority of Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, he said: Allah's Messenger (s.a.w) said...)
Through this phrase millions of Muslims from early history of Islam to the present have come to be familiar with the name Abu Huraira, who you expect to find his name in most Hadith, Sirah or Fiqh books.
Abu Huraira (r.a.a) enjoyed a great talent, he was gifted with an extraordinary long term memory to the extent that he would hear a discussion or a speech and be able to reproduce the identical discussion or speech years later without changing or deleting one single word from it.
This great gift that Abu-Huraira enjoyed could have been the worst thing that could have happened to him as some people used his well known and authentic name to make up false Ahadith about our beloved Prophet, and link these false Ahadith to Abu Huraira (r.a.a). However, through hard and sincere efforts put in by some of the pious scholars who sacrificed their lives to preserve and save our beloved Prophet's Ahadith (sayings) and save them from any harm by the enemies of Islam who tried to mislead Muslims by adding to them thing that were never said by the Prophet of Allah (s.w.t), Abu Huraira's reputation was saved from their wrong doing until our present day.
Abu Huraira became a Muslim at the hands of At-Tufayl Ibn Amr who was the chief of the tribe to which he belonged. When he submitted to the truthfulness of this religion, he accompanied At-Tufayl to Makkah and had the privilege of meeting the noble Prophet (s.a.w.). The Prophet (s.a.w) asked Abu Huraira what his name was, "Abdu-Shams" (the servant of the sun), Abu Huraira replied. So he was introduced by the holy Prophet (s.a.w) to change his name to "Abdur-Rahman" (the servant of the Beneficent). However, he continued to be known among people as "Abu Hurrah" (the kitten's father) because of his love for a cat he looked after and fed, and which used to stick to him wherever he went.
Abu Huraira lived with his mother who was still a Mushrik. He prayed for her and tried hard to convince her to join Islam, but she adamantly refused. One day when he was telling her about Islam she uttered some words about the Prophet which saddened Abu Huraira greatly. He went to the Prophet (s.a.w), his eyes full of tears and told him about what had happened between him and his mother. He also asked the Prophet to make supplication to Allah (s.w.t) for her to make her heart respond to Islam. The Prophet responded to Abu Huraira's request and prayed for his mother. When Abu Huraira returned home he was delighted to hear his mother, who had just taken a shower, testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger. So he rushed back to the Prophet with his eyes glowing with joy, and informed him that Allah had answered his prayers, and guided his mother to Islam. He then said: "O Allah's Messenger, Ask Allah to make me and my mother lovable to the believing men and women". So he (s.a.w.) said: "O Allah, make this servant of yours and his mother lovable to every believing man and woman".
With his great gift and talent, Abu Huraira realised that he was able to serve this religion a great deal. He realised that, because many of the early companions who had the most knowledge died in the battles in Allah's cause, this religion needed people to preserve it, as in these days the companions used to write only the Qur'an fearing it might get mixed with the Hadith of the Messenger, if the latter was to be documented too. Even among those who had a great deal of knowledge, many of them were occupied by their trades and didn't have as much free time as Abu Huraira to spend with the Prophet (s.a.w). Also the fact that he had an extraordinary long term memory meant that he could hear the Prophet's teachings and be able to ask a writer to write them later knowing that he will not forget any of them. Therefore, during the four years Abu Huraira stayed with the Prophet (s.a.w) in Madinah, he set himself to accompany the holy Prophet to gain knowledge and memorise his sayings and teachings in order to preserve the word of Allah (s.w.t) and the teachings of his beloved Prophet (s.a.w). The Prophet (s.a.w.) himself directed Abu Huraira to an effective way to memorise his Hadiths, Abu Hurrah said: Allah's Prophet one day said to us: "whoever spreads his dress until I finish my talk, and then takes hold of it, will not forget anything from what he heard from me".
The fact that Abu Huraira set himself to preserve the teachings of the noble Prophet, meant that he was always close to the Prophet (s.a.w) in his stay in Madinah, as he had free time at his disposal, unlike the Muhajirin he did not work in trade and unlike the Ansar he did not have a land to look after. This enabled Abu Huraira to stay with the noble Prophet at Madinah and to go with him on journeys and expeditions.
He loved the Prophet a great deal, he was never tired of looking at the Prophet nor was he tired of listening to him. Often he would praise Allah for his good fortune and say "Praise be to Allah who has guided Abu Huraira to Islam, Praise be to Allah who taught Abu Huraira the Qur'an, Praise be to Allah who has bestowed on Abu Huraira the companionship of Muhammad (s.a.w)".
Abu Huraira underwent much hardship and difficulties as a result of devoting his life to knowledge and companionship of the holy Prophet (s.a.w): "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 God. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn't".
Despite the fact that Abu Huraira set himself to preserving the word of Allah and the teachings of his Prophet, he by no means neglected his other duties as much of his time was spend in prayers and devotion to God. He often rotated staying up at night with his wife and his daughter, as he would stay up for a third of the night, his wife for another third and his daughter for a third, this way in the house of Abu Huraira no hour of the night would pass without Ibadah and Salat. Abu Huraira's presence was also felt in the battlefield when needed to protect and establish the religion of Islam by the sword, as he lived all his life, since becoming a Muslim, as a soldier of Islam not missing a single battle with the holy Prophet (s.a.w).
After the death of the holy Prophet (s.a.w), Abu Huraira continued his duties in conveying the teachings of the Prophet (s.a.w). He went on preaching a great number of Ahadith, which made some of his friends curious of the large amount of Ahadith that he memorised in such a short time. Although the fact that he was able to memorise so many Ahadith was justified by the fact that he was dedicated to staying with the Prophet and due to the extraordinary ability to memorise speeches from the first time.
During the caliphate of Umar (r.a.a), Umar appointed him as a governor of Bahrain where he became quiet rich. Umar, being very scrupulous about the type of persons he appointed as governors, he was concerned that his governors should live simply and frugally and not acquire much wealth even through lawful means. When Umar (r.a.a) heard about Abu Huraira's wealth he recalled him to Madinah, thinking that Abu Huraira had acquired his wealth through unlawful means.
When Abu Huraira arrived in Madinah, Umar questioned him about the way he acquired such a fortune. Abu Huraira replied "from breeding horses and gifts that I received". Umar then ordered him to hand his fortune over to the treasury of the Muslims. Abu Huraira did as he was ordered and raised his hands to the heavens and prayed "O Lord, forgive Amir ul-Muminin". After a while Umar called upon Abu Huraira and offered him to regain his position as the governor of Bahrain but Abu Huraira refused the offer. When he was asked by Umar why he refused his offer he replied "So that my honor would not be besmirched, and my wealth would not be taken and my back would not be beaten". He then added "I also fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom".
Abu Huraira continued to live a righteous life, devoting himself to serve the religion of Islam and being kind to his mother as well as encouraging others to be kind to their parents. One day when Abu Huraira's health was deteriorating quickly and his friends were praying for him to recover, he looked to the heavens and said "O Allah I love meeting you and ask you to love meeting me". He then died in the year 59 after Hijra when he was seventy eight years old.
He died after having accomplished his duty and his desire to preserve and transmit the teachings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w), leaving Muslims a great debt of gratitude for helping to preserve the teachings of the noble Prophet (s.a.w) and setting them a perfect example and platform to follow in preaching and conveying to the humanity what he and others had worked relentlessly, facing all sorts of hardships, in order to preserve. We ask Allah (s.w.t) to reward Abu Huraira and grant him the companionship of the holy Prophet in the hereafter just as he was granted his companionship in this world.
By Br. Hamzah Qassem
(courtesy of Nidul islam Magazine)