Abû Hurayra is the most abundant Companion-narrator of h.adîth from the Prophet , having accompanied him day and night at home and abroad, in public and in private, on pilgrimage and military expeditions. The number of those who narrated from him reached 800 including both Companions and Successors.
At the burial of Abû Hurayra Ibn Umar said: He preserved the h.adîth of the Prophet for the Muslims and O Abû Hurayra! You were the most assiduous among us in accompanying the Messenger of Allâh , and the most knowledgeable of us all in his h.adîth. Abû Ayyûb al-Ans.ârî said: Abû Hurayra heard what we did not hear, and I certainly prefer to narrate from him than to quote the Prophet [on my own]. Hence, al-Shâfi`î named Abû Hurayra The foremost in memorization among those who narrated h.adîth in his time meaning both the Companions and Successors.
Abû Hurayra loved the Prophet greatly and, like Abû Dharr al-Ghifari and `Alî ibn Abû T.âlib (kaw), begins or concludes several of his narrations with the words:
My beloved said to me (qâla lî khalîlî)
My beloved counseled me (aws.înî khalîlî)
My beloved said the truth (s.adaqa khalîlî)
I heard my beloved say (sami`tu khalîlî yaqûlu).
One day the Prophet gestured as if to strike him with an udder (dirra) but put it down instead, after which Abû Hurayra said: That he had struck me with it would have been dearer to me than if I possessed a vast range of the best livestock!
Abû Hurayra gave the following account of his mothers conversion:
I came to the Prophet weeping one day and said: Messenger of Allâh, I have been inviting my mother [Umayma bint S.ubayh. or S.ufayh. ibn al-H.ârith] to Islâm and she always refuses. Today I asked her again and she said something about you I hated to hear. Ask Allâh to guide Abû Hurayras mother! Whereupon the Prophet said: O Allâh! Guide Abû Hurayras mother. Then I returned home cheered up by the Prophets supplication. When I arrived at the door of the house I found it closed. Hearing my footsteps, my mother said: Abû Hurayra, do not come in yet. I could hear the sound of water. She washed herself and wore her robe (dir`) and headcover (khimâr) then she opened the door and said: Abû Hurayra! I bear witness that there is no God but Allâh and that Muh.ammad is the servant and messenger of Allâh! I returned at once to the Prophet , weeping for joy, and said to him: Messenger of Allâh, good news! Allâh has answered your request and guided my mother! He glorified and praised Allâh, thanking Him and saying good things. I said: Messenger of Allâh! Ask Allâh that He make me and my mother beloved to his believing servants and that He make them beloved to us. The Prophet said: O Allâh! Make Your little servant here meaning Abû Hurayra and his mother beloved to Your believing servants, and make the believers beloved to the two of them. Not one believer is brought into existence who hears about me without seeing me except he loves me.
Aqils freedman Abû Murra related that Abû Hurayra lived in a house neighboring his mothers house and that he would stand at her door and say: Peace be upon you, dear mother! and the mercy and blessings of Allâh whereupon she would answer: and upon you, my dear son! Then Abû Hurayra would say: May Allâh have mercy on you just as you raised me when I was little! and his mother would reply: May Allâh have mercy on you just as you treated me well in maturity!
He is the beneficiary of the Prophets supplication on his behalf according to the following h.adîths:
(a) Zayd ibn Thâbit said: While I, Abû Hurayra, and a third man were in the mosque one day, supplicating Allâh Most High and remembering our Lord, the Prophet came out to us and sat with us. When he sat we became silent. He said: Continue what you were doing. So I supplicated, then my friend, before Abû Hurayra, while the Prophet said ?mân to our supplication. Then Abû Hurayra supplicated saying: O Allâh! I ask you all that my two friends asked of you and I ask you for knowledge that shall not be forgotten. The Messenger of Allâh said îmân. We said: Messenger of Allâh! We, too, ask for knowledge that shall not be forgotten. He said: The boy from Daws asked for it before you!
(b) I said: Messenger of Allâh, truly I hear from you many h.adîths which I forget. The Prophet said: Spread your cloak. I spread my cloak and the Prophet made a scooping gesture with his hands, then said: Wear it. I wore it, and I never forgot a thing thereafter.
This miracle of the Prophet is all the more remarkable in view of eight factors peculiar to Abû Hurayras situation:
He is extremely meticulous and reliable in his narrations, which are all faultless in their least detail as stated by al-Dhahabî, although Abû Hurayra said he used to be forgetful before the Prophets du?. The Tâbi`î Umara ibn Amr also witnessed that Abû Hurayra had the best memory of the Companions that surrounded him, as cited further below. Further, Abû Hurayra was careful to differentiate between the Prophets words and his own, pointing out the latter with the words hâdhâ min kâsî This is from my own bag.
He was illiterate yet narrated more h.adîths from the Prophet than Abd Allâh ibn Amr, who wrote down all that he heard and was a polyglot. Abû Hurayra said: None of the Companions of the Prophet can narrate more from him than I, except that in the case of Abd Allâh ibn Amr [ibn al-Âs], he used to write whereas I cannot write. What is narrated concerning Abû Hurayras ownership of books or notebooks is not confirmed by the scholars of h.adîth. Even if it were, it does not preclude the possibility that these were copied on his behalf and not by his own hand since he himself declared that he did not write.
He accompanied the Prophet for only three years and yet narrated several hundredfold more h.adîths from him than Abû Bakr al-S.iddîq , who accompanied him for twenty-three.
He was content to live from hand to mouth for the duration of his time with the Prophet , not leaving his presence at all, as opposed to other Companions who worked for gain and were not as assiduous in accompanying him, as stated by Ibn Umar. Abû Hurayra said:
Lo! The people are saying: Abû Hurayra narrates too much. If it were not for two verses in the book of Allâh I would not narrate a single h.adîth. (Those who hide the proofs and the guidance which We revealed, after We had made it clear in the Scripture: such are accursed of Allâh and accursed of those who have the power to curse. Except such of them as repent an amend and make manifest the truth. Toward these I relent. I am the Relenting, the Merciful.) (2:159-160) Truly, our brethren among the Muhâjirîn were busy with business transactions; and truly, our brethren among the Ans.âr were busy working their lands; and truly, Abû Hurayra all this time kept company with the Prophet provided he had quelled his hunger, attending what they did not attend and memorizing what they did not memorize.
You could see me at times faint from hunger between the house of `Âisha )# and the Pulpit [in the Prophets mosque]. I would wake up to see someone recite something over me and I would say to him: I am not [insane] as you may thinkonly hungry!
I was raised an orphan and emigrated to Madîna moneyless. I was one of the needy people of the S.uffa. (A reference to the group of seventy destitute Companions known as The People of the Shelter, whom Abû Hurayra represented before the Prophet .)
I was just over thirty when I first came to the Prophet .
He was persistent and assiduous in pursuit of the h.adîth from the Mouth of Felicity. This is shown by the following narrations: - Ubayy ibn Kab: Abû Hurayra was bold with the Prophet . He would ask him about things we dared not ask about.
Abû Hurayra: I asked the Prophet : Messenger of Allâh! Who is the most felicitous person to obtain your intercession on the Day of Resurrection? He said: O Abû Hurayra! I knew that surely no one would precede you in asking such a question, due to the persistency I have observed in you in obtaining h.adîth. The most felicitous person to obtain my intercession on the Day of Resurrection is he who said lâ ilâha illAllâh sincerely from his heart, or the narrator hesitated his soul (min nafsih).
I divided my nights into three parts: in one third I would pray, in another sleep, and in the last third I would recollect the h.adîth of the Prophet .
He lived until the age of 78. The Prophet took age-span into consideration and was aware of it since he said to Ruwayfi ibn Thâbit al-Ans.ârî: Ruwayfi! It may be that you will live a long life after me. Therefore, inform the people  Ruwayfi lived on for more than forty years after the Prophet spoke these words.
Almost all of this time Abû Hurayra was prominent in Madîna the epicenter of Islâm where he engaged in full-time teaching. All this resulted in a massive transmission of h.adîth to the Successors, as opposed to other Companions who either died early or were too busy governing, campaigning, or working, or moved to remote areas and embraced worship such as Abd Allâh ibn Amr:
- On the day of Jumua Abû Hurayra used to come forth, grasp the two pommels of the Prophets pulpit standing, and say: Abû al-Qâsim the Truthful, the Confirmed, related to us and he would not cease narrating until he heard the door of the imâm open.
- Umara ibn Amr ibn H.azm said: I sat in a gathering of elders among the Companions of the Prophet , about ten to twenty of them including Abû Hurayra. The latter began to relate to them h.adîths of the Prophet which some of them did not recognize at first, then they would remember them. He did this repeatedly. I realized that day that he was the best of them at preserving narrations from the Prophet .
- Makh.ûl narrated: People decided to meet one night in one of Mu`âwiyas tents. They gathered, and Abû Hurayra stood among them narrating reports from the Messenger of Allâh until dawn.
- While on the road to Makka for pilgrimage the wind blew so hard that Umar asked: Can anyone narrate to us something [from the Prophet ] about the wind? None of those present could answer. When news of this reached Abû Hurayra, he rode up to Umar and said: Commander of the Believers! I was told that you asked about the wind, and I myself heard the Prophet say: The wind is a spirit from Allâh (swt). It brings mercy and it brings torment. Therefore, when you experience it, do not curse it but ask Allâh for its goodness and seek refuge in Him from its harm.
Notwithstanding the above, he left a large amount of narrations untold out of fear for his life if he were to reveal all that the Prophet had told him about forthcoming events, particularly in connection with the Banû Umayya. Thus he decried the governor of Madîna Marwân ibn al-H.akam, warned of a terrible disaster about to befall the Arabs, and prayed for death before the year 60, the year Yazîd ibn Mu`âwiya came to power:
- Abû Hurayra said: Woe to the Arabs for a disaster that is fast approaching! The rule of young boys: if you obey them they shall enter you into the Fire, and if you disobey them they shall strike your necks with the sword.
- Another version also from him states: Woe to the Arabs for a disaster that is fast approaching at the turn of the year 60! The public trust will become spoils of war, almsgiving will be considered a fine, people will only bear witness for their friends, and lusts will govern.
- Umayr ibn Hâni al-Anasî narrated that Abû Hurayra used to walk in the marketplaces and say: Hold on to the two temples of Mu`âwiya! O Allâh, do not let me reach the year 60!
- Seek refuge in Allâh from the turn of the year 60 and from the rule of young boys (imârat al-s.ibyân). and he said: The world will not pass before it first belongs to a mean fool son of a mean fool (luka ibn luka). Some versions have and the rule of fools (imârat al-sufahâ).
- The above reports show Abû Hurayras familiarity with the report of Abû Sa`îd: I heard the Messenger of Allâh say: There will be, after sixty years, [a later generation who have ruined worship and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception] (19:59). Then there will be a later generation who recite Qurân but it will not reach beyond their throats. Three types will be reciting the Qurân [at that time]: the Believer, the hypocrite, and the open rebel. Confirming the above is the famous saying of `Alî at S.iffîn: People! Do not loathe Mu`âwiyas leadership. If you were to lose him, you would see heads parting with their necks like colocynths (kal-h.anz.al)! Al-Bayhaqî said: `Alî and Abû Hurayra spoke such things only because they heard them from the Messenger of Allâh .
- Ibn Ajlân narrated that Abû Hurayra used to say: Verily, I am reporting narrations today which, if I had said a word of them in the time of Umar, my head would have rolled.
- If I told you everything I knew, people would charge me with violating the law and they would say: Abû Hurayra is mad! Another narration states: You would have pelted me with dung.
- Abd Allâh ibn Amr ibn al-`Âs. stood weeping before the Kaba which had been destroyed and burnt by the army of H.usayn ibn Numayr al-Sakînî in the year 63 and said: People! By Allâh, if Abû Hurayra had informed you that you would be fighting the grandson of your Prophet and burn the House of your Lord, you would have said there is no worse liar than Abû Hurayra! and now you know, therefore, expect Divine revenge.
- Abû Hurayra said: I preserved from the Messenger of Allâh two large vessels of knowledge. I disseminated the first one among the people. Were I to disseminate the second, my gullet would be cut.
Another version states: I preserved three vessels, of which I disseminated two. Ibn H.ajar said the gist of this is that Abû Hurayra disseminated more than what he kept secret. Thus the first vessel in the h.adîth of al-Bukhârî is larger than the second. - Abû Hurayra also said, I heard the Messenger of Allâh say: The destruction of my Community will take place at the hands of boys (ghilma) from the Quraysh. I can name them if you wish. They are the Banû Fulân and the Banû Fulân.
Another sound version has boylings (ughaylima). - Abû Hurayra also narrated that the Prophet said: Those who will destroy the people are this particular clan (hâdhâ al-h.ayyu) of the Quraysh. They said, What do you order us to do, Messenger of Allâh? He replied: If only the people stayed away from them (law anna al-nâsa itazalâhum)!
This is precisely what Abû Dharr did. Ibn Umar similarly said: I heard the Messenger of Allâh say: This particular clan (h.ayy) of the Quraysh shall remain safe until they turn away from their Religion into apostates. A man stood up saying: Messenger of Allâh! Will I be in Paradise or in Hellfire? The Prophet answered, In Paradise. Another stood asking the same, whereupon the Prophet answered, In Hellfire. Then [he said], Say nothing to me as long as I say nothing to you. Were it not for fear that you would stop burying one another (lawlâ an lâ tadâfanû) I could certainly tell you about a great number of those who will be in the Fire and you would know who they are. If I am ordered to do it I shall certainly do it!
- H.umayd ibn Mâlik ibn Khuthaym was sitting with Abû Hurayra in his land of al-Aqîq when a group of the people of Madîna came to him. They dismounted and came to him. H.umayd said: Abû Hurayra said [to me]: Go to my mother and say to her, Your son sends his salâm and asks you to send us a little food. I went and she gave me three loaves of bread and some olive oil and salt. I carried it to them. When I put it in front of them Abû Hurayra said: Allâhu akbar. Praise be to Allâh Who has sated us with bread after the time when our only food was the two black ones: water and dates! The people did not leave anything except they ate it. When they went away, he said: Son of my brother, be kind to your sheep, wipe their mucus from them, improve their pastures, and pray in their vicinity, for they are from the animals of Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, there will soon come a time upon people when the flock of sheep will be dearer to its owner than the sons of Marwân!
- Much of the Sunna pivots on Abû Hurayra who symbolizes, more than any other Companion, the first transmission link between us and the Prophet . Consequently, the enemies of the Sunna attack him first. Following are some examples of these attacks: The fabrication that Abû Hurayra returned from Bah.rayn a millionaire, and that Umar had him lashed for grand theft and larceny until he passed out.
This is refuted by the sound narrations showing that Abû Hurayras wealth was licit and that neither Umar nor anyone else condemned him for it nor lashed him in the least. The misrepresentation of Abû Hurayra as the mouthpiece of the Umawî regime against `Alî (kaw) and the Family of the Prophet on the basis of some forged narrations. This is refuted by Abû Hurayras criticism of both Mu`âwiya and Marwân on certain occasions as well as his repeated banishment from the governorship of Madîna and the appointment of Marwân ibn al-H.akam in his place. Abû Hurayras narrations from the Prophet to the immense merits of `Alî and the Prophets Family in the Nine Books are numerous. The misrepresentation of Abû Hurayra as a fabricator of Prophetic narrations, again on the basis of obvious forgeries sans chains of transmission devised by Shî`â and/or Mutazilâ sources.
This is the weakest charge, refuted by the consensus of the Salaf of Ahl al-Sunna and the unanimity of early and late h.adîth Masters.
The Tâbi`î H.umayd ibn Abd al-Rah.mân said: Abû Hurayra accompanied the Prophet for four years.
However, Abû Hurayra himself stated that he accompanied the Prophet for three years on the authority of the Tâbi`î Qays ibn Abû H.âzim: I accompanied the Prophet for three years, and no time in my life was ever wiser and dearer to me than the time in which I collected what the Prophet said.
Yet al-Dhahabî considered H.umayds narration more correct than Qayss because Abû Hurayra also said: I came to Madîna at the time the Prophet was in Khaybar.
That is, in Muh.arram of the year 7, at which time Abû Hurayra arrived in Madîna and prayed the dawn prayer behind Siba ibn Arfata. Al-Dhahabî said: From Khaybar to the Prophets passing there are four years and a few nights. What reconciles all three statements is the fact apparently overlooked by al-Dhahabî that after he first arrived from Yemen to stay with the Prophet , Abû Hurayra was sent by him to be a muadhdhin on a one-year mission to Bahrayn with al-`Alî ibn al-H.ad.ram?.
In Umars caliphate Abû Hurayra was appointed governor of Bah.rayn, and in Mu`âwiya and Marwâns caliphates he was made governor of Madîna.
Beyond mere narration, Abû Hurayra was also known for his fiqh among the Companions and gave fatwâ in Madîna for over twenty years. Zyad ibn Mina said: Ibn `Abbâs, Ibn Umar, Abû Sa`îd [al-Khudrî], Abû Hurayra, Jâbir, and their likes used to give fatwâ in Madîna, from the time of Uthmâns death until their own. More precisely, Abû Hurayra was in the median layer of those who gave fatwâ among the Companions:
Those who gave a formal response on a single question or more are no more than 153 men and women Companions . Those who gave an abundant number of responses are only seven: Umar, his son Abd Allâh, `Alî, Ibn `Abbâs, Ibn Mas`ud, the Mother of the Believers `Âisha, and Zayd ibn Thâbit. As for those who gave a moderate amount of responses between the two layers, they are only thirteen, out of whose fatwas a small volume could be gathered for each.
They are Umm Salama the Mother of the Believers, Anas ibn Mâlik, Abû Sa`îd al-Khudrî, Abû Hurayra, Uthmân ibn Affân, Abd Allâh ibn Amr ibn al-`Âs., Abd Allâh ibn al-Zubayr, Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî, Sad ibn Abû Waqqâs., Salmân al-Fârisî, Jâbir ibn Abd Allâh, Mu`âdh ibn Jabal, and Abû Bakr al-S.iddîq.
Hurayra used to fast in the daytime and pray in the dead of night with his wife and daughter. He was content with little, eating five dates for his pre-fast meal and breaking his fast with five, sometimes tying a stone to his stomach to contain his hunger. He had several prayer-spots in his house and within his door-step, and prayed in each of them once every time he entered or exited.
He was slightly swarthy, wide-shouldered, tooth-gapped, wore two braids (dhâ d.afîratayn), and dyed his white hair with henna. His beard was red. Khabbâb ibn Urwa said that he wore a black turban. He was of gentle and humble disposition, played with children, rode a donkey, and carried wood on his back from the marketplace even after he became governor.
He possessed a thread with two thousand knots and would not sleep until he had used it all for dhikr. He said: Verily, I make glorification (tasbîh.) of Allâh Almighty every day according to my ransom (qadar diyyatî), twelve thousand times.
Imâm al-Suyût.î recounted in one of his fatwas entitled al-Minh.a fîl-Sibh.a (The Profit In Dhikr-Beads) the story of Ikrima, who asked his teacher Umar al-Mâlikî about dhikr-beads. The latter replied that he had also asked his teacher al-H.asan al-Bas.rî about it and was told: Something we have used at the beginning of the road we are not desirous to leave at the end. I love to remember Allâh with my heart, my hand, and my tongue. Al-Suyût.î comments: and how should it be otherwise, when the dhikr-beads remind one of Allâh Most High, and a person seldom sees dhikr-beads except he remembers Allâh, which is among the greatest of its benefits?
On his death-bed Abû Hurayra wept. Asked why, he replied: Lack of provision and the hardship of the journey ahead.
In his last will he stipulated: Do not set up a tent over me nor follow my bier with incense (mijmara) but carry me briskly.
Marwân visited him as he lay sick and said: May Allâh cure you. Abû Hurayra said: O Allâh! I love to meet you, so love to meet me! When Marwân left him he did not reach the middle of the market-place before Abû Hurayra had expired.
When he died, the sons of Uthmân ibn Affân carried his bier while Ibn Umar walked in front of them, invoking Divine mercy on him. His high rank is indicated by the h.adîth of the Prophet : None hears a word, or two, or three, or four, or five words pertaining to what Allâh has commanded, and then learns them and teaches them to others, except he certainly enters Paradise.
Sources: Ibn H.ajar, Fath. al-Bârî, Kitâb al-Ilm, Bab H.ifz. al-Ilm and al-Is.âba 3:29; H.ilya 1:461-471 #85; Siyar 4:175-206 #222; T.abaqât al-H.uffâz. 1:35; Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâya wal-Nih?ya 8:111-122=Ma?rif ed. 8:103-115; al-Khat.îb, al-Sunna Qabl al-Tadwin p. 411-468.