We hear Abu Hurayrah’s name (May Allah be Pleased with him) being mentioned in many speeches, Friday khutbahs, in the books of hadith, sirah, fiqh and ibadah.
He is from the Daws tribe that lived in the Tihamah region located along the Red Sea’s coast in southern Arabia. When the chieftain at-Tufayl ibn Amr returned to his village after meeting the Prophet (ﷺ), Abu Hurayrah was one of the first to become Muslim.
The next time at-Tufayl visited Makkah, Abu Hurayrah accompanied him and met the noble Prophet (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ). “Yes Abdur-Rahman (it shall be) O Messenger of Allah,” he replied. However, he is known as Abu Hurayrah, “the kitten man”, literally “the father of a kitten” because he was fond of cats since childhood and often played with them.
Da’wah to His Mother
Before arriving in Madina in 7 Hijrah, Abu Hurayrah stayed in Tihamah. He was single and only had his mother with him who was still a mushrik. He longed and prayed for her to become a Muslim but she refused.
One day, he invited her to have faith in Allah alone and follow His Prophet (ﷺ), but she uttered some unfavourable words. Teary-eyed, he went to the noble Prophet (ﷺ) who said: “What makes you cry, O Abu Hurayrah?” Abu Hurayrah replied: “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.”
Power of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) Du’a
Abu Hurayrah asked the Prophet (ﷺ) to supplicate to Allah to make his mother’s heart incline towards Islam. The Prophet (ﷺ) responded to his request and prayed for his mother.
Abu Hurayrah went home and found the door closed. He then heard the splashing of water and when he tried to enter, his mother said: “Stay where you are, O Abu Hurayrah.” And after putting on her clothes, she said, “Enter!” Abu Hurayrah entered the room and his mother said: “I testify that there is no God but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.”
Abu Hurayrah returned to the Prophet (ﷺ), weeping with joy this time as he said: “I have good news, O Messenger of Allah. Allah has responded to your prayer and guided the mother of Abu Hurayrah to Islam.”
In Madinah, Abu Hurayrah set his heart on attaining knowledge. Zayd ibn Thabit, the noble companion of the Prophet (ﷺ) reported: “While Abu Hurayrah, another friend of mine and I were in the masjid praying to Allah Almighty and performing dhikr to Him, the Messenger of Allah appeared. He came and sat among us. We became silent and he said: “Carry on with what you were doing.” So my friend and I made a supplication to Allah before Abu Hurayrah did and the Prophet (ﷺ) began to say Ameen to our du’a. Then Abu Hurayrah 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 (ﷺ) said: “Ameen.” We then said: “And we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten, and the Prophet (ﷺ) replied: “The Dawsi youth has asked for this before you”.
Gems of Wisdom
With his formidable memory, Abu Hurayrah set out to memorise the gems of wisdom that emanated from the Prophet’s (ﷺ) lips in the four years he was in the Prophet’s (ﷺ) company.
Marwan ibn al-Hakam tested Abu Hurayrah’s memory once by having a scribe hidden behind a curtain to write down all of the ahadith that Abu Hurayrah said during their private conversation. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurayrah and asked him to recall the same ahadith which the scribe had recorded and confirmed that he remembered every single word.
The Poor and Orphaned Sahabah
During his dedicated search for knowledge, Abu Hurayrah underwent much hardship and difficulties as he was often hungry and destitute. He said: “When I was afflicted with severe hunger, I would go to a companion of the Prophet (ﷺ) and asked him about an ayah of the Qur’an 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 Bakr passed by and I asked him about an ayah of the Qur’an. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn’t. Then Umar ibn al-Khattab passed by me and I asked him about an ayah but he also did not invite me. Then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) passed by and realised 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 from the milk.
When Abu Hurayrah was blessed with rizq – a comfortable home, a wife and a child – his new fortune did not change his personality nor did he forget his days of destitution. He would say: “I grew up as an orphan and I emigrated as a poor and indigent person. I used to take food for my stomach from Busrah bint Ghazwan. I served people when they returned from journeys and led their camels when they set out. Then Allah caused me to marry her (Busrah). Praise be to Allah the Almighty.”
Devotion to Worship Allah
Abu Hurayrah and his wife and daughter spent the majority of their time in spiritual exercises and devotion to Allah. They would stay up for the Qiyam al-Layl night prayers and take turns praying a third of the night. Thus, in the house of Abu Hurayrah no hour of the night would pass without ibadah, dhikr and solat.
He would also often praise Allah for his good fortune, knowledge of the Qur’an and companionship of Muhammad (ﷺ).
Man of Integrity and Honour
During Umar’s caliphate, Umar appointed him as Governor of Bahrain. Umar was always concerned that his governors should live simply and not acquire much wealth even by lawful means. When Abu Hurayrah became rich in Bahrain, Umar questioned him about how he had acquired such a fortune. Abu Hurayrah replied: “From breeding horses and gifts which I received.” “Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims,” ordered Umar. Abu Hurayrah did as he was told, raised his hands to the heavens and prayed: “O Lord, forgive the Amir al-Mu’minin.”
Subsequently, when Umar asked him to become governor again, he declined because he said: “So that my honour would not be besmirched, my wealth taken and my back bitten”. And he added: “And I fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom.”
Respect and Kindness to His Mother
Throughout his life Abu Hurayrah remained kind and courteous to his mother. Before leaving home, he would greet his mother with: “As-salaamu alaykum, ya ummataah, wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.” She would reply: “Wa alayka-ssalaam, yaa bunayya, wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.” He would also say: “May Allah have mercy on you as you cared for me when I was small,” and she replied: “May Allah have mercy on you as you delivered me from error when I was old.”
Abu Hurayrah always encouraged others to be kind and good to their parents. For example, when he saw two men walking together, one older than the other and heard from the younger one that the other man is his father, his advise was “Don’t call him by his name. Don’t walk in front of him and don’t sit before him.”
Abu Hurayrah died in the year 59 AH when he was seventy-eight years old. May Allah bless him and grant him peace for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet (ﷺ).