Abu Hurairah… A Copy of the Prophet, With a Cat Up His Sleeve

Thursday 17 June 202101:12 pm
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أبو هريرتـ(نا)... نسخة عن الرسول، بهرّة في كمّيه

The Near and the Far

The spatial proximity and distance from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a key factor in capturing and collecting his Hadith, which later took on the form of teachings that had to be followed. They later formed, for the most part, a reference for Islamic law, and some say even the most important reference after the Qur’an. This proximity to the prophet — living with him, drinking from his own container, and perhaps using his tools — has an important place and stature when it came to collecting his narrations and then later using them to prove an argument or deny it. And who would be closer to the Messenger than a wife like Aisha and a cousin like Ali?

As if he is not real due to his extreme idealism... What is the secret of the never ending interest in Abu Hurairah’s biography, his image, and his actions?

But the two entered into a deadly conflict, religious and moral on the surface but political and economic within. The conversations that revolve in their orbits, as a result of the centrality of these two people, became a factor of rift and dispute rather than them being aimed at substantiating the real Islam or the correct teachings.

Among the most prolific narrators of the Prophet’s Hadith was Abu Hurairah, perhaps history did not come across a more problematic narrator that sparked as much controversy. Even his name and lineage are still a matter of dispute, since in the pre-Islamic period of Jahiliyyah (or “Age of Ignorance”), ‘Abd Shams’ (meaning “Servant of the Sun”) was among his many possible names, alongside the places in which he had lived, and the period during which he accompanied the Prophet.

Then his name, Abd al-Rahman bin Sakhr al-Dawsi, appears in texts with the phrase “most likely”. His name might even be Ziyad for instance, or Maher, or any other name. This “most likely” serves to bolster and feed into the construction of illusion within such a problematic personality. So how can we be so sure of every Hadith he narrated and at the same time not know of a definite name for him?

History did not come across a more problematic narrator that sparked as much controversy as Abu Huraira. In texts detailing his many names, the phrase “most likely” appears, feeding into the construction of illusion in his persona

Sources agree that Abu Huraira’s origins go back to the Yemeni tribe of Banu Daws, and that he came to the Prophet to announce his conversion to Islam following the Battle of Khaybar during the 7th year of Hijrah. But they differ when it comes to determining the name of Abu Hurairah, and Ibn Hajar cites more than twenty sayings about it in “Al-Isabah Fi Tamyiz Al-Sahabah” (a book of hadith collection). It was due to the large number of hadiths that Abu Hurairah had conveyed from the Prophet (5,374 hadiths) — despite the short period in which he stayed with him (three years, it is sometimes said to be four) — that raised and still raises the messy controversy around it.

Denial and Confirmation

The Shiites went to the extent of discrediting Abu Huraira by denying most of the hadiths that the man narrated from the Holy Prophet. Whereas the Sunnis went too far in believing his words to the extent of thinking him infallible of forgetting, and between this and that, another level of sedition arose, and could be ignited at any time.

It does not matter whether Abu Huraira accompanied the Prophet Mohamad for several years or saw him just once, how likely is it to have over 5,000 Hadith in less than 4 years?

In literature, politics, and even in science, we often find those followers who accompany leaders and imitate their message, even identifying with their personality to the point of disappearance. Thus, the follower speaks in the tongue of the leader, and perhaps explains the message or the saying in a better and clearer way. It does not matter here whether he accompanied the leader for several years or covered himself with his quilt and wore his socks. We can find many similar examples in history when the follower wears the skin of the one being followed and forgets his original skin, whether in faith, belief, or perhaps for some hidden purpose.

But we cannot deny the need for the presence of these explainers or interpreters. Perhaps intellectual belief systems and arguments were used against such people, and we have in the disciples of Christ a perfect example of this, or even in the Marxists of the beginning of the last century, for instance. Can we say that Lenin and Trotsky are not Marxists, or that Luke and Matthew are not Christian enough?

From this we can see that Abu Hurairah was closer to the Prophet than the two arch rivals at the time. While Ali bin Abi Talib had a political and religious project and Aisha bint Abi Bakr had another political plan, he was another version of the Prophet with a ‘cat in his sleeves’. He spoke in his tongue (on his behalf) and talked of his secrets about what he thought might be the opinion of the Prophet on this or that issue.

Even in the simple Hadith that dealt with trivial concerns of daily life, he was an image of the Prophet, perhaps the truest image, as it was free from any long-term purposes or goals, and he succeeded in what Ali and Aisha failed in

Abu Hurairah was closer to the Prophet than the two arch rivals at the time. While Ali bin Abi Talib had a political and religious project and Aisha bint Abi Bakr had another political plan, he was another version of the Prophet, with a ‘cat in his sleeves’

Some accuse the credibility of Abu Huraira using his relationship with Ka’ab al-Ahbar, the Jew who was accused of “planting” the Israʼiliyyat in Islam. Najah al-Ta’i writes in his book “Jews in the Dress of Islam”: Ka’ab launched himself fully to prove whatever he wanted of the myths and the Israʼiliyyat that were distorting Baha al-Din. He was assisted in this by his greatest disciples, such as Abu Huraira.”

This is the heart of the “conspiracy theory” chosen by the Arabs. The tension in his relationship with the “Mother of the Believers” Aisha and Omar Ibn al-Khattab beating him and throwing him out from the mosque were another reason to undermine his credibility, in addition to the great number of his narrations, which were so many that the compilers placed him in the category of the “young boys and lads” that narrated about the Prophet. However, the story of the beating was not over narrating hadiths, but rather because he had unlawfully collected money during his guardianship over Bahrain. Also, Aisha denied the way he carried out his swift narration, which was not the way the Prophet worked as God’s Messenger.

Impartiality is the Trait of Innocence: He is All of Us in One Person

In the great dispute that took place, Abu Huraira did not take the side of any of the quarreling parties. Rather, he stepped aside and gave each party what would convince him, according to his own vision and thus the Prophet’s vision of the dispute. Thus, we sometimes see him praising the knowledge and wisdom of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib and sometimes singing the praises of the Mother of the Believers, Aisha. In this, he does not only speak in the tongue of his beloved messenger and on his behalf, but also speaks in ours — we, who differ in what shouldn’t be a subject of dispute in the first place.

He says what we think and what we want him to say. He is all of us in one person, and when he deals with the hadiths of the Messenger in certain issues, such as washing hands or how to go to the toilet, he brings us back what we have forgotten or what the Prophet himself forgot, explaining his message when it comes to the details of daily life better than he did.

It does not matter here whether he accompanied the Messenger for several years or only saw him once — at a lunch feast for example. What is important is that what he is saying is mostly identical to the ‘Mohammedan’ message, and at the same time, is consistent with the common sense that you recognize and accept. It is not odd that there are sacred hadiths like these that deal with daily concerns such as these, such as how to take a shower or use the toilet. Rather, what is odd are the believers who need holy teachings to perform ordinary actions such as these. How did they bathe before these hadiths had come down?

This impartiality, which made him not take a side in the conflict but rather agree to what is said as if he favors safety or following the wishes of the speaker, is what the rulers and companions had requested of him. Imam Muslim narrated from al-Zuhri, on the authority of Sa’id bin Al-Musaiyab, who narrated it from Abu Huraira: “Umar happened to pass by Hassan as he was reciting verses in the mosque. He (Umar) looked towards him (meaningfully i.e. Umar disapproved of that). Whereupon he (Hassan) noticed him and said, ‘I used to recite (verses) when one better than you (i.e the Prophet) had been present (here, in this very Mosque).’ He then turned towards Abu Huraira and said to him, ‘I ask you by Allah (to tell) if you had not heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) saying (to me): (Hassan), reply on my behalf; O Allah, help him (i.e. Hassan) with Ruh-ul-Qudus (the Holy Spirit).’ He (Abu Huraira) said: ‘By Allah, it is so’ (i.e. the Prophet had said these words).”

Al-Bukhari also narrated on the authority of Abu Zara’ bin Amr narrating from Abu Hurairah. He said: “A woman who used to practice tattooing was brought to Umar. Umar got up and said, ‘I beseech you by Allah, which of you heard the Prophet [PBUH] saying something about tattooing?’ l (i.e. Abu Hurairah) got up and said, ‘O Commander of the Believers! l heard him (say something).’ He said, ‘What did you hear?’ I said, ‘I heard the Prophet PBUH (addressing the ladies), saying, ‘Do not practice tattooing and do not get yourselves tattooed’.”

It is better for the companions and the rulers to refer to the Qur’an in the issues that they are puzzled in resolving or use common sense alongside their knowledge of the Messenger of God, and not search within recurrent hadiths about some simple daily life issues.

Also, many of the hadiths that are supported and highly reliable are essentially needless or self-evident and do not need a messenger to convey them, so why only denounce Abu Hurairah’s hadiths?

The name that historians settled on (Abd Al-Rahman) refers to “no one” in particular, as Arabs used the name “Abd” (servant) and its suffix “Allah” or “Al-Rahman” (the Most Merciful)  on those with unknown names, for all the people are the servants of Allah or Al-Rahman

Most of the events that were associated with Abu Hurairah are not predominantly historical and may not even exist in the form that we disagree on now. The name that historians settled on (Abd Al-Rahman) refers to “no one” in particular, just one of the faithful servants of Al-Rahman (the Merciful one), as Arabs used the name “Abd” (servant) and its suffix “Allah” or “Al-Rahman” on those with unknown names, for all the people are the servants of Allah or Al-Rahman (the Most Merciful)

But what’s important is that… he remains the narrator closest to the mind and heart of the Prophet, and the best representative of the message of Islam, a narrator of a unique style. It is as if he cannot be real due to his extreme idealism and perfectness. He absorbed the message more than its owner, and reproduced it according to what he had understood of it, his personal history, or the defect that accompanied his presence, and it was appropriate for the major events that afflicted the Islamic caliphate at the time, which made him a suitable “tongue” (mouthpiece) for everyone to put their divergent opinions on.

Abu Hurairah is the one who speaks on behalf of everyone. His Hadith, which dwarf women and place them in the second or third level on the ladder of creation, are our hadiths. He does not despise women, but rather we are the ones who do. We placed what we believe on his words and tongue — whatever we believe about them and whatever we want to promote about them. He is no more than a single imaginary narrator for all sides and parties. Everyone contributed into creating his legend and weaving its threads, and everyone later evaded adopting it, so he remained solitary, lonely, idiosyncratic, and not credible, denied by everyone and at times, used as refuge by everyone whenever they wished.

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