Abu Hurairah(RA) was brought up as an orphan.In the pre-Islamic time his name was ‘Abd Shams. When he embraced Islam, the Messenger (SAW) called him ‘Abd Ar-Rahman. His kunya was Abu Hurairah, which means father of the kittens; he was named so by the Prophet (SAW) because of his fondness for cats.
Abu Huraira(RA) became a Muslim at the hands of At-Tufayl Ibn Amr who was the chief of the tribe to which he belonged. After embracing Islam he accompanied At-Tufayl to Makkah after the expedition of khaybar. Thereafter he accompanied Prophet Muahmmad(SAW) for four years only.This is more interesting because he alone was responsible for the preservation and transmission of more than a thousand hadiths. In Saheeh Al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim, they are 608; 325 of which were agreed upon (i.e. reported by both Al-Bukhaari and Muslim), while 93 of them were only reported by Al-Bukhaari, and 190 others were only reported by Muslim. His hadiths reach the number 5374 with their reiterations. Ahmed b. Hanbal’s hadith reach 3862. Some record this number as 3848 and 3879. The hadith of Abu Hurairah in the Six Books and al-Musnad of Ahmad b. Hanbal that are not reiterations are said to have reached 1336 or 1579.
This is due to, two special features in the personality of Abu Hurairah: the first was his unique memory, and the second was his complete devotion to learning from the Prophet to the extent that he hardly left the company of the Prophet, except at night.
Abu Hurairah was one of the Ahl-ussuffah who almost lived at the masjid of the Propeht, since he (then) had no wife or children to worry about. In fact, Abu Hurairah’s devotion to learning as much as he could from Prophet Muhammad (saw) made him quit all worldly activities and did suffer physically in the cause. As Abu Hurairah(RA) mentions how he would be so hungry that he would tie a rock around his stomach to alleviate the hunger pains. So he took that opportunity tp learn the deen, sacrificing everything to attain it. He knew the value of his limited time with the Prophet (saw). After the Prophet ﷺ passed away, Abu Hurairah went back to work to earn a living for himself and started a family. He became very wealthy in the business of selling horses and colts. His business success indicates that Abu Hurairah did have the ability to earn a good living and run a business, and that during the life of the Prophet ﷺ he found it more worthy to learn from him “full time” than to do it “part-time” like other sahabah. He sacrificed his personal comforts to learn as much as possible from what Allah (swt) taught His messenger. He learnt from the Prophet(saw) by heart,he was not a scribe.
Imam Ash- Shaafiy (RA) said about him, “No one in his period was more capable of narrating traditions with such a memory than Abu Hurairah.”
Al-Bukhaari (RA) said, “Almost eight hundred or more Companions, followers (the generation after the Companions) and people of knowledge narrated through Abu Hurairah.
Regarding the specially strong memory of Abu Hurairah history tells us that once the governor Marwan Ibn Al-Hakam asked Abu Hurairah to teach him some of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad(saw) and ordered his scribe to sit behind a screen and write down whatever was reported by Abu Hurairah. A year later he called him in and asked him about the same traditions. To Marwan’s astonishment, Abu Hurairah repeated them verbatim, without adding or dropping a single word.
Abu Hurairah’s keen interest in knowledge is illustrated in the following incident. Zaid ibn Thabit reports, “Once while Abu Hurairah, a friend of ours and I were praying and remembering Allah in the masjid, the Prophet care and joined us. He asked us to continue with our prayers. My friend and I prayed first, and the Prophet said, ‘Amen’. Then Abu Hurairah prayed, ‘O Allah I ask of you what have been asked by my friend, and I further ask for knowledge that I will never forget.’ The Prophet said, ‘Amen’.”
At Abu Hurairah’s personal front was his mother who was still a disbeliever. Thus he persisted in preaching Islam to his mother, but she would not budge, insisting on her disbelief. Once Abu Hurairah came to the Prophet(saw) with tears in his eyes because due to his dawah to her she became indignant and said few bad words about the Prophet. He asked the Prophet to pray for her guidance, and the Prophet prayed, “O Allah! Give guidance to the mother of Abu Hurairah.” The same day as he arrived at home,he heard noise of someone washing inside. His mother asked him to stop after a while she came out saying the shahadah. This made Abu Hurairah(RA) shed tears of joy.
Abu Hurairah was a man who spent his days fasting and his nights in prayers. He used to pray one third of the night, then awaken his wife who then would pray for another third, then he would wake his daughter to pray in the last third. Thus, not one hour of the night passed in Abu Hurairah’s house without prayers
Besides these Abu Hurairah was also known for his humility, generosity and piety.He got married to the woman whom he used to serve, and he was later appointed as the governor of Bahrain and Madinah by different caliphs. He changed from a workman to a master, from a lost man in the crowd to an Imam and outstanding man, from a worshiper of accumulated stones to a believer in Allah but his humility and piety never left him rather it increased.
At the time of his death, when he was 78 years of age while his visitors were invoking Allah to cure him of his disease, he was imploring Allah saying, “O Allah, I love to meet You, so love to meet me.” And soon he passed away.
This was the man who played the major role in preservation of the sunnah of the Prophet (saw). Verily, Allah is pleased with them. May Allah join us with them in highest levels of jannah.