From the early history of Islam to the present day, millions of Muslims have heard of Abu Huraira (radiAllahu anhu). He passed on more than one thousand six hundred hadiths.
Tufayl Bin Amr was a leader of the Daws, Abu Huraira’s tribe. Tufayl helped Abu Huraira become Muslim. The Daws Tribe lived along the Red Sea coast in southern Arabia.
After Tufayl met the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and became Muslim, he returned to his tribe and invited them to accept Islam. Abu Huraira immediately became Muslim. Most of the others were stubborn. It took them a long time to accept the new religion.
Abu Huraira went to Makkah with Tufayl to meet the noble Prophet. The blessed Prophet asked him, “What’s your name?”
“Abd al-Shams, servant of the sun” replied Abu Huraira.
“Instead, let your name be Abdal-Rahman, servant of the Merciful,” said the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam).
The name “Abu Huraira” was given as a nickname when he was a small boy. Abu Huraira had a cat when he was a child. He loved cats. He always played with the cat. His friends called him Abu Huraira, ‘father of the cats’. After that everyone called him Abu Huraira. His real name was almost forgotten.
Abu Huraira stayed with his tribe for several years after he became a Muslim. In the seventh year of the Hijrah he went to Madinah with some others from his tribe. He stayed in the masjid. He was single without a wife or child. His mother was with him. She was still a pagan. He prayed for her to become a Muslim. But she refused.
One day, he again invited his mother to believe in the One God and His Prophet. She answered with some bad words about the Prophet. Abu Huraira went to the Prophet with tears in his eyes. “Why are you crying, Abu Huraira?” asked the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam).
“I always invite my mother to Islam, and she always refuses,” said Abu Hurayra. “I asked her again today. But she said some things about you that made me sad. Can you pray to God for her to turn to Islam?”
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) prayed for Abu Huraira’s mother to accept Islam. When Abu Hurayra 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 Huraira went inside, his mother said, “I declare that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.”
Abu Huraira again went to the Prophet crying. But this time his tears were tears of joy. “I have good news, Rasul Allah,” he said. “God has answered your prayer and guided my mother to Islam.”
Abu Huraira loved the Prophet very deeply. He loved to look at Muhammad’s (salAllahu alayhi wasalam)'s face. It shone like the sun. He often thanked God for his good fortune. He said:
Praise to God who guided Abu Huraira to Islam.
Praise to God who taught Abu Huraira the Qur’an.
Praise to God who has given the companionship of Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam).
Abu Huraira loved knowledge just as he loved the Prophet.
Zayd bin Thabit, a companion, reported, “Abu Huraira, another friend, and I were praying in the masjid. The Prophet came and sat down beside us. We stopped talking. But the Prophet told us to continue. So my friend and I prayed. The Prophet said ‘Ameen’.
Then Abu Huraira prayed. He asked for what we asked. But he also asked for knowledge that would not be forgotten. The Prophet again said ‘Ameen’.
Then we asked for knowledge that would not be forgotten, too. But the Prophet said that the Daws youth asked first.
With his strong memory, Abu Huraira set out to memorize all that he heard from the Prophet. He didn’t spend his time in the marketplace or working in the fields. So he was free to stay with the Prophet and go on trips with him. Many companions were amazed by the many hadiths he knew. They would ask him a lot of questions about the hadiths.
Once Marwan bin Hakim wanted to test Abu Huraira’s memory. He put a scribe behind a curtain to record whatever hadith Abu Huraira talked about. A year later he called Abu Huraira again and asked him to repeat the recorded hadith. He had not forgotten a single word. He said every single word again.
Abu Huraira wanted others to gain knowledge as well. One day he was passing through the marketplace. He saw people very busy buying and selling. He said, “People of Madinah, what a poor state you are in.”
“What do you mean?” they asked.
“You are here,” said Abu Huraira, “but the Prophet’s inheritance is being given out. Won’t you take your share?”
“Where?” the people asked.
“In the masjid,” replied Abu Huraira. The people quickly went to the masjid. Abu Hurayra waited until they came back. “We went to the masjid,” said some of the people. “But nothing was being given away.”
Abu Huraira asked them, “Didn’t you see anyone there?”
“Yes,” they said. “We saw some people making salat, some others reading the Qur’an and some people discussing halal and haram.”
“Well, that’s the inheritance of the Prophet!” replied Abu Huraira.
Abu Huraira spent most of his time learning. So he was often hungry. When he was very hungry, he would ask one of the companions about a hadith. He hoped the companion would take him to his home and give something to eat.
One day he was so hungry, he tied a stone to his stomach. Then he sat down where a companion might pass. First Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) walked by. Abu Huraira asked him about a hadith. But Abu Bakr didn’t invite him to dinner.
Then Umar (radiAllahu anhu) passed by. He asked Umar about a hadith. But Umar didn’t invite him either.
Then the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) passed by. He realized Abu Huraira was hungry. “Abu Huraira,” called the Prophet.
Abu Huraira answered, ‘Yes’ and began to follow the Prophet. They went together to Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam)'s house. The Prophet saw a cup of milk and asked where it had come from. He learned someone had sent it to him. Then he said to Abu Huraira, “Go and call the people at the masjid.”
Abu Huraira went to call them. But he thought the milk wouldn’t be enough for everyone.
The people staying at the masjid came and drank their fill. Then the Prophet told Abu Huraira to drink. He drank until he couldn’t hold anymore. Then the Prophet drank his fill and finished the milk.
Not before too long the Muslims received a lot of war booty. Abu Huraira got his share of the wealth. He got a house, and he married and had children. But none of this changed him. He always remembered his poor days.
He would say, “I grew up as an orphan. I emigrated as a poor person. I used to serve Gazevan’s daughter, Bushra. I served others when they stopped on the road. I drove the camels on the road. Then God made it possible for me to marry Bushra. Praise be to God who has strengthened His religion and made me an imam.”
Abu Huraira spent much time in worship. He fasted during the day. He spent the first third of the night in prayer. Then he would wake his wife. She would spend the second third of the night in worship. Their daughter would pray during the third part. So worship would continue all night long in his house.
During his caliphate, Umar (radiAllahu anhu) appointed Abu Huraira as governor of Bahrain. Umar was very careful about the type of person he appointed. He wanted his governors to live simply and frugally.
In Bahrain, Abu Huraira (radiAllahu anhu) became quite rich. Umar (radiAllahu anhu) heard about this and called him back to Madinah. “How did you become rich?” the caliph asked.
“From breeding horses and the gifts I received,” replied Abu Huraira.
“Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims,” ordered Umar.
Abu Huraira raised his hands towards the heavens and said, “O Lord, forgive the Amir of the Believers.” He turned over his wealth. Later Umar asked him to be governor again, but Abu Huraira refused.
Throughout his life Abu Huraira was kind and courteous to his mother. Whenever he wanted to leave the house, he would stand at the door of her room and say: “Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. May God have mercy on you for taking care of me as a child.”
His mother would return the greeting and say, “May God have mercy on you for behaving well towards me even though you are grown up.”
Abu Huraira always told others to be kind to their parents. One day he saw two men walking together. One was older than the other. He asked the younger one, “Who is this man?”
“My father,” the person replied.
“Don’t call him by his name. Don’t walk in front of him. Don’t sit before he does,” advised Abu Huraira.
He died in the year 59 A.H. when he was seventy-eight years old.