Introducing Aboo Hurayrah
Millions of Muslims from the early history of Islam to the present time have become familiar with the name of Aboo Hurayrah . This name has been mentioned in speeches, lectures, Friday khutbahs, and you can find it written in the books of Ahaadeeth and Fiqh. Through the extraordinary efforts of this one man, hundreds of ahaadeeth or sayings of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) were preserved for later generations.
Aboo Hurayrah came from a poor Yemenite family. When Aboo Hurayrah was very young his father passed away and he was forced to work for people so that he could earn a living. He first worked for a very wealthy woman. Whenever she rode somewhere, he would march barefoot by her side. Later he became a shepherd and tended sheep in the desert.
At this point in his life, he grew very fond of a cat and enjoyed its company during the lonely times in the desert. When evening approached and the sheep had to be herded back home, he placed the cat back in the tree from where he picked it up and there it would stay until the following morning.
The companionship of the two became well-known. He had been named ‘Abdush-Shams by his parents, but later became known as Aboo Hurayrah (Owner of the kitten / father of the kitten).
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) told Aboo Hurayrah to change his name from ‘Abdush-Shams (Servant of the Sun) to ‘Abdur-Rahmaan (slave of the Most Merciful). He changed his name but continued to be known as Aboo Hurayrah since this is what the people used to refer to him.
Some time before the Prophet (Peace be upon him) migrated to Madinah, Tufayl ibn ‘Amr, a man who belonged to Aboo Hurayrah’s tribe, visited Makkah. In Makkah, he came into contact with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and learned the message of Islam. After he accepted Islam, he returned to his tribe in Yemen and spread the news of the wonderful religion among his people.
In the seventh year of the Hijrah Aboo Hurayrah along with many others from the tribe of Daws arrived in Madinah to meet the Prophet (Peace be upon him). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) had left Madinah on a campaign to Khaybar. Aboo Hurayrah and the group that he was traveling with caught up with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in Khaybar and the Messenger of Allah subsequently gave them a share in the spoils of Khaybar.
Because of his poor financial situation Aboo Hurayrah took up residence in the masjid. There he spent his time with other members of the Ahl-as-Suffah, who were poor people that were without families and homes. These people stayed in a section of the masjid that was slightly raised and shaded as well. Aboo Hurayrah was single, without wife or child, but his mother used to accompany him even though she was a mushrik (idolater). He hoped and prayed for her to become a Muslim, but she adamantly refused.
Aboo Hurayrah was deeply committed to his mother and one particular day he invited her to believe in Allah and follow the Prophet . She refused and uttered some words about the Prophet (Peace be upon him) which hurt Aboo Hurayrah deeply. Tearfully, he approached the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and conveyed his situation to the Prophet (Peace be upon him). He asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to supplicate to Allah in order to soften the heart of his mother. When Aboo Hurayrah arrived at home his mother said “I testify that there is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His Messenger.” Aboo Hurayrah wept openly and thanked Allah for accepting the Prophet’s du‘aa.
Aboo Hurayrah loved the Prophet (Peace be upon him) very much and spent a lot of time with him. Aboo Hurayrah had a lot of free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhaajiroon he did not frequent the market places for business and unlike many of the Ansaar he had no land to cultivate or any crops to tend. He stayed with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in Madinah and accompanied him on expeditions and journeys.
Once, a man by the name of Marwaan ibn al-Hakam wanted to test Aboo Hurayrah’s memory.
He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain he hid someone who would write down whatever Aboo Hurayrah would say. During this sitting Aboo Hurayrah was asked to recite from the ahaadeeth that he learned from the Prophet (Peace be upon him). A year later, Marwaan summoned Aboo Hurayrah and asked him to recall the same ahaadeeth which he narrated a year ago. Amazingly, he remembered every word that he had spoken after an entire year had passed. Aboo Hurayrah once said: “By Allah , had it not been for two verses in the Book of Allah, I would never have related anything from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) “ (These two verses are): “Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse.” (Soorat al-Baqarah:159) [Al-Bukhaari]. Aboo Hurayrah became one of the greatest recorders and narrators in the history of Islam.
Aboo Hurayrah’s Preservation of the Sunnah
As a sincere believer and a distinguished student of Islam, Aboo Hurayrah took it upon himself to teach others whatever he had learned. He spent most of his time with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and this enabled him to observe and record much of his behavior and statements.
It seemed strange to some people that Aboo Hurayrah who had spent just four years in the Prophet’s company was able to narrate more ahaadeeth than other Companions who had spent much more time with him. Aboo Hurayrah clarified that he was constantly in the company of the Prophet and not busied with trade, business, or agriculture like so many others. Here was a man who had the time and the opportunity to take full advantage of having access to a Prophet (Peace be upon him) who was sent during his lifetime. So, Allah preserved much of the prophetic Sunnah by way of Aboo Hurayrah. Through his constant interaction with the Prophet , Aboo Hurayrah was able to preserve much of the Prophet’s speech, actions, and physical description for future generations.
Allah says the following in the Qur’aan.
(لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا) سورة الأحزاب:21
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Soorat al-Ahzaab: 21)
So in this statement Allah makes it clear for all Muslims that the best example to follow is the example of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). Aboo Hurayrah helped to preserve this example for future generations by recording it and committing it to memory.
Below are some examples of the prophetic Sunnah that Aboo Hurayrah preserved for us:
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said:
“لَا تُقْبَلُ صَلَاةُ مَنْ أَحْدَثَ حَتَّى يَتَوَضَّأَ” (البخاري)
“The Salah of a person who produces a hadath is not accepted until he performs (repeats) the ablution.” (al-Bukhaari)
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said:
“إِذَا أَدْرَكَ أَحَدُكُمْ سَجْدَةً مِنْ صَلاَةِ العَصْرِ ، قَبْلَ أَنْ تَغْرُبَ الشَّمْسُ ، فَلْيُتِمَّ صَلاَتَهُ ، وَإِذَا أَدْرَكَ سَجْدَةً مِنْ صَلاَةِ الصُّبْحِ ، قَبْلَ أَنْ تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ ، فَلْيُتِمَّ صَلاَتَهُ” (البخاري)
“If one of you was able to pray one rak‘ah of the ‘Asr prayer before the sun sets, then he should complete his Slah. If one of you was able to pray one rak‘ah of the morning prayer before the sun rises, then he should complete his Salah.” (al-Bukhaari)
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
“أَفْضَلُ الصِّيَامِ بَعْدَ رَمَضَانَ شَهْرُ اللَّهِ الْمُحَرَّمُ ، وَأَفْضَلُ الصَّلَاةِ بَعْدَ الْفَرِيضَةِ صَلَاةُ اللَّيْلِ” (مسلم)
“The best fast after Ramadaan is (in the) month of Allah, Muharram; and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is voluntary prayer performed at night.” (Muslim)
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said:
“يُسلِم الصَّغِيرُ عَلَى الْكَبِيرِ، والمارُّ عَلَى القَاعِدِ، والْقَلِيلُ عَلَى الكَثِيرِ” (مسلم)
“The younger person should greet his elders, and the walking person should greet the one who is seated, and the small group of people should greet the larger group of people.” (Muslim)
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that he heard the Messenger of Allah say:
«وَاللَّهِ إِنِّي لَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ وَأَتُوبُ إِلَيْهِ فِي اليَوْمِ أَكْثَرَ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً» (البخاري)
“By Allah! I seek Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” (al-Bukhaari)
The ahaadeeth quoted above are just a few examples of the way in which Aboo Hurayrah preserved the Sunnah for us. By way of his narrations, Muslims all over the world can worship Allah in the manner that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) taught his Companions.
Aboo Hurayrah – His contribution to Islam and his Death
Abo Hurayrah narrated: My intimate Companion the Prophet (Peace be upon him) advised me to do three things. He advised me to fast three days every month, to perform two raka’aat of Ad- Duhaa Prayer, and to perform the Witr Prayer every night before sleeping. (al-Bukhaari)
Aboo Hurayrah received an unusual gift in the form of his extremely strong memory. He was a very good listener and his memory increased with the supplication of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) for him. He was able to listen, understand, and memorize without forgetting a single word. It was this gift that enabled him to memorize more ahaadeeth than any other Companion.
The most important contribution that Aboo Hurayrah made to Islam was his preservation of prophetic ahaadeeth. He was not a writer of hadeeth but rather he memorized, taught, and transmitted whatever he learned. He accepted the responsibility of conveying the legacy of Islam to future generations. After the death of the Prophet , Aboo Hurayrah continued to narrate the Prophet’s hadeeth to the extent that his memory amazed many of the Companions.
He explained that while others worked, he kept himself constantly in the presence of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). This commitment of time made it possible for him to memorize much of the Prophet’s sayings and actions. He also explained that his memory was increased by the supplication of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). Lastly, he indicated that he memorized and reported the Prophet’s traditions because he felt that it was his personal responsibility and duty.
Aboo Hurayrah’s figure looms large in the scholarly history of the Muslim world. All branches of Islamic learning stem directly from the Qur ’aan and the Sunnah, which Aboo Hurayrah strove very hard to preserve. Aboo Hurayrah did more than any other individual to preserve and pass on the rulings and the sayings of the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
Aboo Hurayrah led a pious life and was a devoted worshipper of Allah , who made every effort to gain the pleasure of Allah . During the khilaafah of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, he was made the governor of Bahrain. While Aboo Hurayrah was governor, he set some money aside that he desired to save for himself (from his own earnings). ‘Umar found out about this and summoned Aboo Hurayrah to Madinah. ‘Umar was strict with his governors and quick to call them to account because he did not want any of his governors to indulge in too much of the worldly pleasures since it could poison their hearts and minds.
‘Umar questioned Aboo Hurayrah , about his wealth and the latter explained how he had acquired it. ‘Umar ordered him to put all the money into the Baytul-Maal and Aboo Hurayrah complied. As he gave ‘Umar the money, Aboo Hurayrah asked Allah to forgive ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab . After a while, ‘Umar summoned Aboo Hurayrah and offered him the governorship again. Aboo Hurayrah refused to accept it because he feared that holding such a position might lead him towards judging without knowledge or speaking without patience. Another great example of Aboo Hurayrah’s good character can be found in his noble manners. He was sincere, kind, strong, intelligent and humble.
Even though he occupied important positions later on in his life, he remained humble and concerned about the affairs of the Muslim Ummah.
Upon his return from Bahrain, Aboo Hurayrah quietly spent the rest of his long life in Madinah, devoting himself to the spread of knowledge. In 57 A.H. he fell ill and many people feared he might die. One day, his yearning to meet Allah intensified. While his visitors were invoking Allah to cure him of his disease, he was imploring Allah saying: “O Allah, I love to meet You, so love to meet me.” Tears often flowed down Aboo Hurayrah’s cheeks during the last days of his life. When visitors inquired about his crying he said.
“I weep not because I love this world;“I weep because I see a long and hard journey ahead and find myself ill-equipped for it.” In 59 A.H, he died, at the age of 78. The last wish of this illustrious Companion was that he be buried in the same simple fashion in which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was laid to rest. His friends and family granted him this wish and his body was buried among the respected Companions.
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