Abu Hurayra's
Two Vessels of Knowledge

by Sh. G. F. Haddad


“I was told of a Hadith where Abu Huraira (radhia-Allahu `anhu) said that he was taught two kinds of knowledge. One was the shariah and the other if he was to tell them they would chop off his head.
Has anyone heard of this hadith and its authenticity.”

No wording of this hadith mentions the Shari`a. As for the meaning, it is related to knowledge of the Fitan or political dissensions connected with Yazid ibn Mu`awiya.

Abu Hurayra left out certain hadiths untold out of fear for his life if he were to reveal all that the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - had told him about forthcoming events (of which the Prophet predicted literally thousands), particularly in connection with the Banû Umayya.

Consequently Abu Hurayra decried [i.e. publicly denounced] 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:1

1. 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."2

2. 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."3

3. `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 [i.e. his head]! O Allâh, do not let me reach the year 60!"4

4. "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`)."5 Some versions have "and the rule of fools" (imârat al-sufahâ').6

5. The above reports show Abû Hurayra's familiarity with the report of Abû Sa`îd: "I heard the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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 Qur'ân but it will not reach beyond their throats. Three types will be reciting the Qur'ân [at that time]: the Believer, the hypocrite, and the open rebel."7 Confirming the above is the famous saying of `Alî at S.iffîn: "People! Do not loathe Mu`âwiya's leadership. If you were to lose him, you would see heads parting with their necks like colocynths (kal-h.anz.al)!"8 Al-Bayhaqî said: "`Alî and Abû Hurayra spoke such things only because they heard them from the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him."9

6. 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."10

7. "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."11

8. `Abd Allâh ibn `Amr ibn al-`As. stood weeping before the Ka`ba which had been destroyed and burnt by the army of H.usayn ibn Numayr al-Sakûnî12 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 - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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."13

9. Abû Hurayra said: "I preserved from the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - two large vessels of knowledge. I disseminated the first one among the people. Were I to disseminate the second, my gullet would be cut."14 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.

10. Abû Hurayra also said, "I heard the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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."15 Another sound version has "boylings" (ughaylima).

11. Abû Hurayra also narrated that the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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 i`tazalûhum)!"16 This is precisely what Abû Dharr did. Ibn `Umar similarly said: "I heard the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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 - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - answered, 'In Paradise.' Another stood asking the same, whereupon the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - 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!'"17 (This is to silence the hypocrites of our time whose inner belief is that the Prophet, upon him peace, knew nothing or little of the ghayb!)

12. 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!'"18


1Under the rule of Yazîd ibn Mu`âwiya three scandals took place: al-H.usayn ibn `Alî was killed; Madîna was ransacked for three days during which the Companions were massacred, after which no survivor of the battle of Badr was left on earth; and a thousand unmarried women gave birth to fatherless children; finally, the Ka`ba was destroyed and burnt, at which time Yazîd died.

2Narrated by Ibn Abî Shayba.

3Narrated from Abû Hurayra by Ma`mar ibn Râshid in his Jâmi`

(Mus.annaf 11:373), al-H.âkim (1990 ed. 4:530), and Nu`aym ibn H.ammâd in al-Fitan (2:703 #1981). Al-T.abarânî narrates something similar in al-Awsat. (2:106) with a weak chain cf. al-Haythamî (4:199).

4Narrated from `Umayr ibn Hâni' al-`Anasî by Ibn `Asâkir in Mukhtas.ar Târîkh Dimashq (29:206) and by Ibn Sa`d (4:340-341) as well as al-Bayhaqî in the Dalâ'il, al-Dhahabî in the Siyar, Ibn H.ajar in al-Is.âba (7:443), and Ibn Kathîr in al-Bidâya (6:228-229). "Hold on to the two temples of his head" i.e. love him while you still can, as his epigones will not be so lovable.

5Narrated from Abû S.âlih. the mu'adhdhin, from Abû Hurayra by Ah.mad and Ibn Abî Shayba (7:461 #37235) with the number 70 cf. al-Haythamî (7:220) but cited by al-Suyût.î in Ziyâdat al-Jâmi` al-S.aghîr (#2040) and the Kanz (#30854) with the number 60. Also - second sentence only - from Abû Hurayra, Hâni` ibn Nyâr, and H.udhayfa ibn al-Yamân by al-Tirmidhî (h.asan) and Ah.mad with sound chains cf. Fath. (1:129-131).

6Cf. Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhîd (2:303) and al-Shawkânî, Nayl al-Awt.âr (9:167).

7Narrated from Abû Sa`îd by Ah.mad, al-Bukhârî in Khalq Af`âl al-`Ibâd (p. 117), al-T.abarânî in al-Awsat. (9:131), Ibn H.ibbân (3:32 #755), and al-H.âkim (1990 ed. 2:406 s.ah.îh. and 4:590 isnâd s.ah.îh.), all "with a good strong chain meeting the Sunan criteria": Ibn Kathîr, Bidâya (6:228) cf. al-Haythamî (6:231).

8Narrated from al-Sha`bî from al-H.ârith al-A`war by Ibn Abî Shayba (7:548 #37854).

9Cited by Ibn Kathîr in al-Bidâya (6:228).

10Narrated by Ibn `Asâkir in Mukhtas.ar Târîkh Dimashq (29:192) and cited by al-Dhahabî.

11Narrated by Ibn Sa`d (4:57, 2:119).

12Yazîd ibn Mu`âwiya's general.

13Narrated from `Ubayd Allâh ibn Sa`îd by Ibn `Asâkir in Târîkh Dimashq (13:206) and cited by al-Dhahabî in the chapter on `Abd Allâh ibn `Amr in the Siyar (4:266).

14Narrated by al-Bukhârî.

15Narrated by al-Bukhârî and Ah.mad.

16Narrated by al-Bukhârî, Muslim, and Ah.mad.

17Narrated from Ibn `Umar by Abû Ya`lâ (10:66 #5702) and, as part of a longer narration, by Ibn Abî H.âtim in his `Ilal (2:256 #2262).

18Narrated by Mâlik in his Muwat.t.a'.


Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions.

Hajj Gibril


Wa `alaykum as-Salam:

“Here's the hadith from Bukhari:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 121:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
I have memorized two kinds of knowledge from Allah's Apostle. I have propagated one of them to you and if I propagated the second, then my throat would be cut (i.e. killed).”

As I showed - I hope - the correct meaning is "two vessels" (wi`a'ayn), not "two kinds." The hadith is about upheavals that were to take place on and after the year 60. It is not about spiritual or religious knowledge.

As for the report in the introduction to Imam al-Ghazzali's Minhaj al-`Abideen quoting Sayyidina `Ali as saying "I have been given some knowledge which, if I shared it with the people, they would declare me a kafir and kill me and consider such a heinous thing to be great," it is apparently inauthentic since it attributes to the Companions the hatred of knowledge and its rejection. If authentic, perhaps it means the people of Iraq, and the knowledge in question is their betrayal of al- Husayn radyAllahu `anh, but Allah knows best.

Regarding the question:

I have heard it said that the 'vessel of knowledge' that Sayyidina Abu Hurayra (May Allah be pleased with him) was given by the Messenger of Allâh - Allâh bless and greet him and his Family - which he didn't disseminate out of fear of having his throat cut was "esoteric" spiritual knowledge of deen, whose zahiri meaning if stated would have led to people with less understanding wishing to cut his throat - as with some of the "controversial" statements of the awliya which taken at outward face value appear to be deviant or even kufr. Is this an interpretation of this hadith that has ever been accepted by the ulema or the mutassawufeen ?

This interpretation is defended by some of the latter, however, in truth, it is far from Abu Hurayra's own elaborations on his own words, as I hope I have made clear by citing him at length. Further, Mulla `Ali al-Qari pointed out - in his epistle against Wahdat al-Wujud - that Abu Hurayra is not known as a spiritual master among the Sahaba, unlike, for example Sayyidina `Ali, Allah be well-pleased with both of them. And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril

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latest update: 2012-08-09


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