Abu Hurairah (RA) …. (Father of a Kitten)
“An Abi Hurairah radiyallahu anhu qal, qala Rasul Allahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam….”
(On the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, he said: Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said…)
Through this phrase millions of Muslims from early history of Islam to the present have come to be familiar with the name Abu Hurairah (RA), who you expect to find his name in most Hadith, Sirah or Fiqh books.
The name Abu Hurairah is mentioned in this fashion: “On the authority of Abu Hurairah, (RA) who said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW), said… “.
Through his Prodigious efforts, hundreds of Ahadith or sayings of the Prophet (SAW) 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 the son of Umar, Anas the son of Malik, Umm al-Mumininin Aishah, Jabir ibn Abdullah and Abu Said al-Khudri all of whom transmitted over a thousand sayings of the Prophet.
Abu Hurairah became a Muslim at the hands of at-Tufayl 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-Tufayl returned to his village after meeting the Prophet 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-Tufayl visited Makkah again, Abu Hurairah (RA) accompanied him. There he had the honor and privilege of meeting the noble Prophet 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.
“Yes, Abdur-Rahman (it shall be) O Messenger of Allah,” he replied. However, he continued to be known as Abu Hurairah, “the kitten man”, literally “the father of a kitten.” Like the Prophet (SAW) he was fond of cats and since his childhood often had a cat to play with.
Abu Hurairah (RA) stayed in Tihamah for several years and it was only at the beginning of the seventh year of the Hijrah that he arrived in Medina with others of his tribe. The Prophet (SAW) had gone on a campaign to Khaibar. Being destitute, Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 Allah alone and follow His Prophet (SAW) but she uttered some words about the Prophet (SAW) which saddened him greatly. With tears in his eyes, he went to the noble Prophet (SAW) who said to him: “What makes you cry, O Abu Hurairah?” “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 Allah Almighty to make the heart of Abu Hurairah mother incline to Islam.”
The Prophet (SAW) responded to Abu Hurairah’s (RA) request and prayed for his mother. Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 Muhammed is His Servant and His Messenger.”
“I returned to the Prophet (SAW) weeping with joy just as an hour before I had gone weeping from sadness and said: “I have good news, O Messenger of Allah. Allah has responded to your prayer and guided the mother of Abu Hurairah to Islam.”
Abu Hurairah (RA) loved the Prophet (SAW) a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet (SAW) 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 Hurairah to Islam.” Praise be to Allah Who has taught Abu Hurairah the Quraan.”
“Praise be to Allah who has bestowed on Abu Hurairah the companionship of Muhammed (SAW).”
On reaching Medina, Abu Hurairah (RA) set his heart on attaining knowledge. Zayd ibn Thabit (RA) the notable companion of the Prophet (SAW) reported: “While Abu Hurairah and I and another friend of mine were in the Masjid praying to Allah Almighty and performing Dhikr to Him, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) appeared. He came towards us 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 Hurairah did and the Prophet (SAW) began to say Ameen to our dua.
“Then Abu Hurairah 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 (SAW) said: ‘Ameen.’ “We then said: “And we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten and the Prophet (SAW) replied: ‘The youth has asked for this before you.” “With his formidable memory, Abu Hurairah set out to memorize in the four years that he spent with the Prophet (SAW), 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 (SAW) in Medina 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 wanted to test Abu Hurairah’s (RA) power of memory. He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain he placed a scribe, unknown to Abu Hurairah (RA), and ordered him to write down whatever Abu Hurairah (RA) said. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 Hurairah (RA) was concerned to teach and transmit the Ahadith he had memorized and knowledge of Islam in general. It is reported that one day he passed through the suq (market) of Medina and naturally saw people engrossed in the business of buying and selling.
“How feeble are you, O people of Medina!” he said. “What do you see that is feeble in us, Abu Hurairah?” they asked. “The inheritance of the Messenger of Allah (SAW), is being distributed and you remain here! Won’t you go and take your portion?” “Where is this, O Abu Hurairah?” they asked. “In the Masjid,” he replied.
Quickly they left. Abu Hurairah (RA) waited until they returned. When they saw him, they said: “O Abu Hurairah (RA), 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 Salaat, some people reading the Quran and some people discussing about what is halal and what is haraam.” “Woe unto you,” replied Abu Hurairah (RA), “that is the inheritance of Muhammed (SAW).”
Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 (SAW) and asked him about an ayah of the Quraan 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 (RA) passed by and I asked him about an ayah of the Book of Allah. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn’t.
“Then Umar ibn al-Khattaab (RA) passed by me and I asked him about an ayah but he also did not invite me. Then the Messenger of Allah (SAW) passed by and realized that I was hungry and said: “Abu Hurairah!” “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 Hurairah, go to the Ahl as-Suffah and invite them.” Abu Hurairah did as he was told and they all drank from the milk.
The time came of course when the Muslims were blessed with great wealth and material goodness of every description. Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 would “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). So praise be to Allah who has strengthened his religion and made Abu Hurairah an imam.” (This last statement is a reference to the time when he became governor of Medina.)
Much of Abu Hurayrah’s (RA) time would be spent in spiritual exercises and devotion to Allah. Qiyaam 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 (RA) no hour of the night would pass without Ibadah, Dhikr and Salaat.
During the caliphate of Umar (RA), Umar (RA) 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 (RA) became quite rich. Umar (RA) heard of this and recalled him to Medina. Umar (RA) thought he had acquired his wealth through unlawful means and questioned him about where and how he had acquired such a fortune. Abu Hurairah (RA) replied: “From breeding horses and gifts which I received.” “Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims,” ordered Umar (RA). Abu Hurairah (RA) did as he was told and raised his hands to the heavens and prayed: “O Lord, forgive the Amir al-Mumininin.” Subsequently, Umar (RA) asked him to become governor once again but he declined. Umar (RA) asked him why he refused and he said: “So that my honor would not be besmirched, my wealth taken and my back beaten.” And he added: “And I fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom.”
Throughout his life Abu Hurairah (RA) 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-salamu alaykum, yaa ummataah, wa rahrnatullahi wa barakatuhu.” (Peace be on you, mother, and the mercy and blessings of Allah.) She would reply: “Wa alayka-s 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 Hurairah (RA) 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 Hurairah (RA).
Abu Hurairah (RA) 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 Hurairah’s (RA) 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 Hijrah 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 (SAW), leaving Muslims a great debt of gratitude for helping to preserve the teachings of the noble Prophet (SAW) 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 to reward Abu Hurairah (RA) and grant him the companionship of the Holy Prophet (RA) in the hereafter just as he was granted his companionship in this world..