In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
"An Abi Hurayrah, (radiallāhu`anhu), qal.' qala rasul Allahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam..." ["On the authority of Abu Hurairah, may God be pleased with him who said: The Messenger of God, May God bless him and grant him peace, said... "]. Through this phrase millions of Muslims from the early history of Islam to the present have come to be familiar with the name Abu Hurairah. In speeches and lectures, in Friday khutbahs and seminars, in the books of hadith and sirah, fiqh and ibadah.
Through his prodigious efforts, hundreds of hadith or sayings of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) were transmitted to later generations. His is the foremost name in the roll of hadith transmitters. Next to him comes the names of such companions as Abdullah Ibn Umar, Anas Ibn Malik, Umm Al-Mu’mininin Aishah, Jabir Ibn Abdullah and Abu Said Al-Khudri all of whom transmitted over a thousand sayings of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam).
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) became a Muslim at the hands of At-Tufail Ibn Amr the chieftain of the Daws Tribe to which he belonged. The Daws lived in the Region of Tihamah which stretches along the coast of the Red Sea in southern Arabia.
When At-Tufail returned to his village after meeting the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and becoming a Muslim in the early years of his mission, Abu Hurairah was one of the first to respond to his call. He was unlike the majority of the Daws who remained stubborn in their old beliefs for a long time.
When at-Tufail visited Makkah again, Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) accompanied him. There he had the honor and privilege of meeting the noble Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) who asked him: "What is your name?" "Abdu Shams - Servant of a Sun," he replied. "Instead, let it be Abdur Rahman - the Servant of the Beneficent Lord," said the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). "Yes, Abdur Rahman (it shall be) O Messenger of God," he replied. However, he continued to be known as Abu Hurairah, "The Kitten Man", literally "The Father of a Kitten" because like the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) he was fond of cats and since his childhood often had a cat to play with.
Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) stayed in Tihamah for several years and it was only at the beginning of the seventh year of the Hijrah that he arrived in Madinah with others of his tribe. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) had gone on a campaign to Khaybar.
Being destitute, Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) took up his place in the Masjid with other of the Ahl as-Suffah. He was single, without wife or child. With him however was his mother who was still a mushrik. He longed, and prayed, for her to become a Muslim but she adamantly refused. One day, he invited her to have faith in God alone and follow His Prophet but she uttered some words about the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) which saddened him greatly. With tears in his eyes, he went to the noble Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) 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. Do make supplication to God Almighty to make the heart of Abu Hurairah mother incline to Islam." The Prophet SAW responded to Abu Hurayrah's request and prayed for his mother.
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) 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 Hurairah." 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 (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) weeping with joy just as an hour before I had gone weeping from sadness and said: "I have good news, O Messenger of Allah. God has responded to your prayer and guided the mother of Abu Hurayrah to Islam."
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) loved the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun and he was never tired of listening to him. Often he 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, (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)."
On reaching Madinah, Abu Hurayrah set his heart on attaining knowledge. Zaid Ibn Thabit (radiallāhu`anhu) the notable companion of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) reported: "While Abu Hurairah and I and another friend of mine were in the Masjid praying to Allah Almighty and performing dzikir to Him, the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) appeared. He came towards us and sat among us. We became silent and the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Carry on with what you were doing." "So my friend and I made a supplication to Allah before Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) did and the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) began to say Ameen to our dua'.” Then Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) made a supplication 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 on him, said: 'Ameen.' "We then said: 'and we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten, and the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) replied: 'The Dawsi youth 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 (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), the gems of wisdom that emanated from his lips. He realized that he had a great gift and he set about to use it to the full in the service of Islam. He had free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhajirin he did not busy himself' in the market-places, with buying and selling. Unlike many of the Ansar, he had neither land to cultivate nor crops to tend. He stayed with the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) 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. Once Marwan Ibn Al-Hakam (radiallāhu`anhu) 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 him to write down whatever Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) said. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurairah 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. Abu Hurayrah was concerned to teach and transmit the ahadith he had memorized and knowledge of Islam in general.
It was reported that one day he passed through the suoq of Madinah and naturally saw people engrossed in the business of buying and selling. "How feeble are you, O people of Madinah!" he said. "What do you see that is feeble in us, Abu Hurayrah?" they asked. "The inheritance of the Messenger of God, peace be on him, is being distributed and you remaining here! Won't you go and take your portion?" "Where is this, O Abu Hurayrah?" they asked. "In the Masjid," he replied. Quickly they left.
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) 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." "Didn't you see anyone in the Masjid?" he asked. "O yes, we saw some people performing Solat, 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 God bless him and grant him peace."
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 (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) 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 Bakar (radiallāhu`anhu) 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. "Then Umar ibn al-Khattab(radiallāhu`anhu) passed by me and I asked him about an ayah but he also did not invite me. Then the Messenger of God, peace be on him, passed by and realized that I was hungry and said: "Abu Hurayrah!" "At your command" I replied and followed him until we entered his house. He found a bowl of milk and asked his family: "From where did you get this?" "Someone sent it to you" they replied. He then said to me: "O Abu Hurayrah, go to the Ahl as-Suffah and invite them." Abu Hurayrah did as he was told and they all drank the milk from the bowl.
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 said "I grew up as an orphan and I emigrated as a poor and indigent person. I used to take food from Busrah binti Ghazwan. I served people when they returned from journeys and led their camels when they set out. Then God caused me to marry her (Busrah). So praise be to God who has strengthened his religion and made Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu)an Imam." (This last statement is a reference to the time when he became governor of Madinah.)
Much of Abu Hurayrah's time would be spent in spiritual exercises and devotion to God. 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 Hurairah no hour of the night would pass without ibadah, dzikir and Solat.
During the caliphate of Umar Al-Khattab (radiallāhu`anhu), Umar appointed him as Governor of Bahrain. Umar was very scrupulous 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 Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) 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 (radiallāhu`anhu) replied: "From breeding horses and gifts which I received." "Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims," ordered Umar.
Abu Hurairah (radiallāhu`anhu) 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 have beaten. And I fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom."
Throughout his life Abu Hurairah remained kind and courteous to his mother. Whenever he wanted to leave home, he would stand at the door of her room and say: As-salaamu alaykum, yaa ummataah, wa rahrnatullahi wa barakatuhu, peace be on you, mother, and the mercy and blessings of God." She would reply: "Wa alaikas- salaam, yaa-bunayya, wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuhu - And on you be peace, my son, and the mercy and blessings of Allah." Often, he would also say: "May Allah have mercy on you as you cared for me when I was small," and she would reply: "May Allah have mercy on you as you delivered me from error when I was old."
Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) always encouraged other people to be kind and good to their parents. One day he saw two men walking together, one older than the other. He asked the younger one: "What is this man to you?" "My father," the person replied. "Don't call him by his name. Don't walk in front of him and don't sit before him," advised Abu Hurayrah.
Muslims are indebted and owes profound gratitude to Abu Hurayrah (radiallāhu`anhu) for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet, (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). He died in the year 59 AH when he was seventy-eight years old.
Allah Almighty Knows Best.