“Abu Hurairah was never tired of looking at the Prophet, whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun”

“Abu Hurairah, R.A. said: qala rasulu-llahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam…”

Through this phrase millions of Muslims from the early history of Islam to present day have come to be familiar with the name Abu Hurairah. In speeches and lectures, in Friday sermons and seminars, in the books of Hadith, seerah and fiqh, the name Abu Hurairah is mentioned in this fashion:

“On the authority of Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) who said: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said… “Through his prodigious efforts, hundreds of hadiths have been 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, Aíishah (the Prophet’s wife), Jabir ibn Abdullah and Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri, each of whom transmitted over a thousand hadiths 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. Abu Hurairah’s name was Abdu Shams (Servant of Sun) which changed, after embracing Islam, into Abdur-Rahman (the Servant of the Beneficent). However, he continued to be known as Abu Hurairah, “the kitten man,” literally “the father of a kitten” because he was fond of cats and since his childhood often had a cat to play with.

Abu Hurairah loved the Prophet a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet, 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 Qur’an. Praise be to Allah who has bestowed on Abu Hurairah the companionship of Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

With his formidable memory, Abu Hurairah set out to memorize in the four years that he spent with the Prophet, 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 Muhajirun (immigrant companions) he did not busy himself in the marketplaces with buying and selling. Unlike many of the Ansar (Companions indigenous to the Prophet’s City, Madina), he had no land to cultivate, no crops to tend. He stayed with the Prophet in Madina and went with him on his expeditions.

Many companions were amazed at the number of hadiths he had memorized and often questioned him on whether he had heard a certain hadith and under what circumstances.

Once Marwan ibn Al-Hakam wanted to test Abu Hurairah’s power of memory. He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain he placed a scribe, unknown to Abu Hurairah, and ordered him to write down whatever Abu Hurairah said. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurairah again and asked him to recall the same hadiths which the scribe had recorded. It was found that he had not forgotten a single word.

Abu Hurairah 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 (peace be upon him) and ask him about a verse of the Qur’an and (stay with him) learning it so that he would take me with him to his house and give me food.”

The time came, of course, when the Muslims were blessed with great wealth and material goodness of every description. Abu Hurairah 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.

Much of Abu Hurairah’s time would be spent in spiritual exercises and devotion to Allah. Qiyam Al-Layl (Night Vigil Prayer) 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 the last third. In this way, in the house of Abu Hurairah no hour of the night would pass without worshiping Allah and remembering Him. Muslims owe a debt of gratitude to Abu Hurairah for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet (pbuh). Abu Hurairah died in 59 Hijri at the age of 78.