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Abu Hurayra and the Falsification of Hadith

By: Yasin T. al- Jibouri
In the same year (7 A.H./629 A.D.), a young and very poor man from the Daws tribe of southern Arabia (Yemen), met the Prophet immediately after the battle of Khaybar and embraced Islam. He is well known in history as “Abu Hurayra,’ the fellow of the kitten, after a kitten to which he was very much attached. His name shone neither during the lifetime of the Prophet nor of the four “righteous caliphs’ but during the un-Islamic reign of terror of the Umayyads which lasted from 661 to 750 A.D. It was then that the Islamic world witnessed an astronomical number of “traditions’ which were attributed, through this same Abu Hurayra, to the Prophet of Islam. Since these traditions, known collectively as hadith, constitute one of the two sources of the Islamic legislative system, the Shari’a, it is very important to shed a light on the life and character of this man even if some readers may consider this chapter as a digresion from the main topic.
It is of utmost importance to expose the facts relevant to Abu Hurayra so that Muslims may be cautious whenever they come across a tradition narrated by him or attributed to him which, all in all, reached the astronomical figure of 5,374 “traditions,’ although he spent no more than three years in the company of the Prophet, a fact supported by the renown compiler al-Bukhari, whenever such company did not involve any danger to his life, and despite the fact that Abu Hurayra did not know how to read and write… The reader can easily conclude that this figure is unrealistic when he comes to know that Abu Bakr, friend of the Prophet and one of the earliest converts to Islam, narrated no more than 142 traditions.
‘’Omar ibn al-Khattab, the story of whose conversion to Islam is narrated earlier in this book, narrated no more than 537 traditions. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan narrated no more than 146 traditions. And Ali, the man who was raised by the Prophet and who was always with him, following him like his shadow, and whose memory and integrity nobody at all can question, narrated no more than 586 traditions. All these men, especially Ali and Abu Bakr, spent many years of their lives in the company of the Prophet and did not hide when their lives were in jeopardy, as is the case with Abu Hurayrah, yet they did not narrate except a tiny fraction of the number of “traditions,’ many of which cannot be accepted by logic and commonsense, narrated by or attributed to Abu Hurayra.
This is why it is so important to discuss this man and expose the factories of falsification of hadith established by his benefactors, the Umayyads, descendants and supporters of Abu Sufyan, then his son Mu’awiyah, then his son Yazid, all of whom were outrightly hypocrites and had absolutely nothing to do with Islam.
Abu Hurayra's name is said to be ‘Omayr ibn ‘Amir ibn ‘Abd Thish-Shari ibn Tareef, of the Yemenite tribe of Daws ibn ‘Adnan[57]. His mother's name is Umaima daughter of Safeeh ibn al-Harith ibn Shabi ibn Abu Sa’b, also of the Daws tribe. His date of birth is unknown, but he is said to have died in 57, 58, or 59 A.H., and that he had lived to be 78. This would put the date of his birth at 677, 678 or 679 A.D.
When he came to the Prophet, he was young and healthy and, hence, capable of enlisting in the Prophet's army. But he preferred to be lodged together with the Muslim destitutes at the Suffa referred to above. Most of the time which Abu Hurayra spent with the Prophet was during the lunches or dinners the Prophet hosted for those destitutes.
Abu Hurayra himself admitted more than once that he remained close to the Prophet so that he could get a meal to eat. Another person who used to shower the destitutes of the Suffa with his generosity was Ja’far ibn Abu Talib (588 - 629 A.D.), the Prophet's cousin and a brother of Ali ibn Abu Talib. He was, for this reason, called “Abul Masakeen,’ father of the destitutes. This is why, Abu Hurayra used to regard Ja’far as the most generous person next only to the Prophet. When the Prophet mandated military service for all able men in the Mu'ta expedition, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib did not hesitate from responding to the Prophet's call, but Abu Hurayra, who considered Ja’far as his patron, preferred not to participate, thus violating the order of the Prophet. History records the names of those who did likewise.
In 21 A.H./642 A.D., during the caliphate of ‘’Omar ibn al-Khattab, Abu Hurayra was appointed as governor of Bahrain. After two years, he was deposed because of a scandal. The details of that scandal are recorded in the books of Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih, the Mu’tazilite writer, and in Ibn al-Atheer's famous classic book Al-’Iqd al-Fareed. A summary of that incident runs as follows: When Abu Hurayra was brought to him, ‘’Omar said to him: “I have come to know that when I made you governor of Bahrain, you did not even have shoes to wear, but I am now told that you have purchased horses for one thousand and six hundred dinars.’ Abu Hurayra said, “I had horses which have multiplied, and I received some as gifts.’ ‘’Omar then said, “I would give you only your salary. This (amount) is a lot more than that (more than your salary for both years).
Pay the balance back (to baytul-mal, the Muslim state treasury)!’ Abu Hurayra said, “This money is not yours.’ ‘’Omar said, “By Allah! I would bruise your back!’ Saying this, ‘’Omar whipped Abu Hurayra till he bled. Then he thundered: “Now bring the money back!’ Abu Hurayra replied: “I am to account for it before Allah.’ ‘’Omar said, “This could be so only if you had taken it rightfully and had paid it back obediently. I shall throw you back to your mother as though you were dung so that she would use you to graze donkeys.’
According to the sequence employed by Ibn Sa’d in his Tabaqat, Abu Hurayra ranks in the ninth or tenth class. He came to the Messenger of Allah near the end of the seventh Hijri year. Hence, historians say that he accompanied the Prophet no more than three years[58] according to the best estimates, while other historians say it was no more than two years if we take into consideration the fact that the Prophet sent him to accompany Ibn al-Hadrami to Bahrain, then the Messenger of Allah died while he was still in Bahrain.[59]
Abu Hurayra was not known for his jihad or valour, nor was he among those who were regarded as brilliant thinkers, nor among the jurists who knew the Qur'an by heart, nor did he even know how to read and write… He came to the Messenger of Allah in order to satisfy his hunger as he himself said, and as the Prophet came to understand from him, so he lodged him among the people of the Suffa to whom the Prophet used to send some food.
Yet he became famous for the abundance of ahadith which he used to narrate about the Messenger of Allah. This fact attracted the attention of verifiers of hadith especially since he had not remained in the company of the Prophet for any length of time and to the fact that he narrated traditions regarding battles which he had never attended.
Some verifiers of hadith gathered all what was narrated by the “righteous caliphs’ as well as by the ten men given the glad tidings of going to Paradise in addition to what the mothers of the faithful and the purified Ahl al-Bayt, and they did not total one tenth of what Abu Hurayra had narrated all alone. This came despite the fact that among the latter was Ali ibn Abu Talib who remained in the company of the Prophet for thirty years.
Then fingers were pointed to Abu Hurayra charging him with telling lies and with fabricating and forging hadith. Some went as far as labelling him as the first narrator in the history of Islam thus charged. Yet he is called by some “Islam's narrator’ and is surrounded with a great deal of respect. They totally rely on him, even go as far as saying ‘Radiya Allhu ‘anhu,’ Allah be pleased with him, whenever they mention his name.
Some of them may even regard him as being more knowledgeable than Ali due to one particular tradition which he narrates about himself and in which he says, “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I hear a great deal of your hadith which I have been forgetting!' He said, ‘Stretch your mantle,' had created the heavens, the earth, and all creation in seven days. When ‘’Omar heard about it, he called him in and asked him to repeat that hadith. Having heard him repeating it, ‘’Omar struck him and said to him, “How so when Allah Himself says it was done in six days, while you yourself now say it was done in seven?!’ Abu Hurayra said, “Maybe I heard it from Ka’b al-Ahbar…’ ‘’Omar said, “Since you cannot distinguish between the Prophet's ahadith and what Ka’b al-Ahbar says, you must not narrate anything at all.’ [60]
It is also narrated that Ali ibn Abu Talib has said, “Among all the living, the person who has told the most lies about the Messenger of Allah is Abu Hurayra al-Dawsi.’[61] Mother of the faithful ‘Ayisha, too, testified to his being a liar several times in reference to many ahadith which he used to attribute to the Messenger of Allah. For example, she resented something which he had once said so she asked him, “When did you hear the Messenger of Allah say so?’ He said to her, “The mirror, the kohl, and the dyestuff have all diverted you from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah,’ but when she insisted that he was lying and scandalized him, Marwan ibn al-Hakam interfered and took upon himself to verify the authenticity of the hadith in question.
It was then that Abu Hurayra admitted, “I did not hear it from the Messenger of Allah; rather, I heard it from al-Fadl ibn al-’Abbas.’[62] It is because of this particular narration that Ibn Qutaybah charged him with lying saying, “Abu Hurayra claimed that al-Fadl ibn al-’Abbas, who had by then died, testified to the authenticity of that tradition which he attributed to him in order to mislead people into thinking that he had heard it from him.’[63]
In his book Ta'weel al-Ahadith, Ibn Qutaybah says, “Abu Hurayra used to say: ‘The Messenger of Allah said such-and-such, but I heard it from someone else.’ In his book A’lam al-Nubala, al-Thahbi says that Yazid ibn Ibrahim once cited Shu’bah ibn al-Hajjaj saying that Abu Hurayra used to commit forgery.
In his book Al-Bidaya wal Nihaya, Ibn Katheer states that Yazid ibn Haroun heard Shu’bah ibn al-Hajjaj accusing him of the same, that is, that he forges hadith, and that he used to narrate what he used to hear from Ka’b al-Ahbar as well as from the Messenger of Allah without distinguishing one from the other.
Ja’far al-Iskafi has said, “Abu Hurayra is doubted by our mentors; his narrations are not acceptable.’[64]
During his lifetime, Abu Hurayra was famous among the sahaba for lying, forging and narrating too many fabricated ahadith to the extent that some of the sahaba used to deride him and ask him to fabricate ahadith agreeable with their own taste. For example, a man belonging to Quraish put on once a new jubbah (a long outer garment) and started showing off. He passed by Abu Hurayra and [sarcastically] said to him, “O Abu Hurayra! You narrate quite a few traditions about the Messenger of Allah; so, did you hear him say anything about my jubbah?!’
Abu Hurayra said, “I have heard the father of al-Qasim saying, ‘A man before your time was showing off his outfit when Allah caused the earth to cave in over him; so he has been rattling in it and will continue to do so till the Hour.' By Allah! I do not know whether he was one of your people or not.’[65]
How can people help doubting Abu Hurayra's traditions since they are so self-contradictory? He narrates one “hadith’ then he narrates its antithesis, and if he is opposed or his previously narrated traditions are used against him, he becomes angry or starts babbling in the Ethiopian language.[66]
How could they help accusing him of telling lies and of forgery after he himself had admitted that he got traditions out of his own pouch then attributed them to the Prophet?
Al-Bukhari, in his Sahih, states the following: Abu Hurayra said once, “The Prophet said, ‘The best charity is willingly given; the higher hand is better than the lower one, and start with your own dependents. A woman says: ‘Either feed me or divorce me.' A slave says, ‘Feed me and use me.' A son says, ‘Feed me for the woman who will forsake me.'‘ He was asked, “O Abu Hurayra! Did you really hear the Messenger of Allah say so?’ He said, “No, this one is from Abu Hurayra's pouch.’[67]
Notice how he starts this “tradition’ by saying, “The Prophet said,’ then when they refuse to believe what he tells them, he admits by saying, ‘… this one is from Abu Hurayra's pouch’! So congratulations to Abu Hurayra for possessing this pouch which is full of lies and myths, and for which Mu’awiyah and Banu Umayyah provided a great deal of publicity, and because of which he acquired position, authority, wealth, and mansions. Mu’awiyah made him the governor of Medina and built him the Aqeeq mansion then married him off to a woman of honourable descent for whom he used to work as a servant…
Since Abu Hurayra was the close vizier of Mu’awiyah, it is not due to his own merits, honour, or knowledge; rather, it is because Abu Hurayra used to provide him with whatever traditions he needed to circulate. If some sahaba used to hesitate in cursing “Abu Turab,’ finding doing that embarrassing, Abu Hurayra cursed Ali in his own house and as his Shi’as heard: Ibn Abul-Hadeed says,
When Abu Hurayra came to Iraq in the company of Mu’awiyah in the Year of the Jama’a, he came to Kufa's mosque. Having seen the huge number of those who welcomed him, he knelt down then beat his bald head and said, “O people of Iraq! Do you claim that I tell lies about the Messenger of Allah and thus burn myself in the fire?! By Allah! I heard the Messenger of Allah saying, ‘Each prophet has a sanctuary, and my sanctuary is in Medina from Eer to [the mountain of] Thawr; so, anyone who makes it unclean will be cursed by Allah, the angels, and all people, and I bear witness that Ali had done so.’ When Mu’awiyah came to hear this statement, he gave him a present, showered him with his generosity, and made him the governor of Medina.[68]
Suffices us to point out to the fact that he was created governor of Medina by none other than Mu’awiyah. There is no doubt that verifiers and researchers who are free from prejudice will doubt anyone who befriended the enemy of Allah and His Messenger and who was antagonistic towards the friends of Allah and of His Messenger…
There is no doubt that Abu Hurayra did not reach that lofty position of authority, namely the governor of Medina, the then capital of the Islamic domains, except by virtue of the services which he had rendered to Mu’awiyah and other authoritative Umayyads. Praise to the One Who changes the conditions! Abu Hurayra had come to Medina with nothing to cover his private parts other than a tiny striped piece of cloth, begging passers-by to feed him. Then he suddenly became ruler of the sacred precincts of Medina, residing in the Aqeeq mansion, enjoying wealth, servants and slaves, and nobody could say a word without his permission. All of this was from the blessings of his pouch!
Do not forget, nor should you be amazed, that nowadays we see the same plays being repeatedly enacted, and history certainly repeats itself. How many ignorant indigent persons sought nearness to a ruler and joined his party till they became feared masters who do and undo, issuing orders as they please, having a direct access to wealth without being accounted for it, riding in automobiles without being watched, eating foods not sold on the market…?
One such person may not even know how to speak his own language, nor does he know a meaning for life except satisfying his stomach and sexual appetite. The whole matter is simply his having a pouch like the one Abu Hurayra used to have with some exception, of course, yet the aim is one and the same: pleasing the ruler and publicizing for him in order to strengthen his authority, firm his throne, and finish his foes.
Abu Hurayra loved the Umayyads and they loved him since the days of ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, their leader. His view with regard to ‘Uthman was contrary to that of all the sahaba who belonged to the Muhajirun and the Ansar; he regarded all the sahaba who participated in or encouraged the killing of ‘Uthman as apostates.
Undoubtedly, Abu Hurayra used to accuse Ali ibn Abu Talib of killing ‘Uthman. We can derive this conclusion from the statement he made at Kufa's mosque and his saying that Ali made Medina unclean and that he, therefore, was cursed by the Prophet, the angels, and everyone else. For this reason, Ibn Sa’d indicates in his Tabaqat that when Abu Hurayra died in 59 A.H./679 A.D., ‘Uthman's descendants carried his coffin and brought it to the Baqee’ to bury it as an expression of their appreciation of his having had high regards for ‘Uthman.[69]
Surely Allah has his own wisdom in faring with His creation. ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, the master of Quraish and their greatest, was killed although he was the Muslims' caliph bearing the title of “Thul-Noorayn’, the man with two celestial lights, and of whom, according to their claim, the angels feel shy. His corpse did not receive the ceremonial burial bath nor was it shrouded; moreover, it was not buried for full three days after which it was buried at Medina's then Jewish cemetery.
Full details about this burial are available on p. 160, Vol. 3 of the 2005 A.D./1426 A.H. edition of al-Tabari's Tarikh. Yet Abu Hurayra died after having enjoyed pomp and power. He was an indigent man whose lineage and tribal origins were not known to anybody. He had no kinship to Quraish. Despite all of this, the caliph's sons, who were in charge of running the affairs during Mu’awiyah's reign, took to bearing his corpse and to burying it at the Baqee’ where the Messenger of Allah was buried…! But let us go back to Abu Hurayra to examine his attitude towards the Prophet's Sunnah.
In his Sahih, al-Bukhari quotes Abu Hurayra as saying, “I learned the fill of two receptacles [of ahadith] from the Messenger of Allah: I have disseminated only one of them; as for the other, if I disseminate it, this throat will be slit.’[70]
Here is Abu Hurayra revealing what erstwhile is hidden, admitting that the only traditions he quoted were the ones that pleased the ruling authorities. Building upon this premise, Abu Hurayra used to have two pouches, or two receptacles, as he called them. He used to disseminate the contents of one of them, the one which we have discussed here that contains whatever the rulers desired. As for the other, which Abu Hurayra kept to himself and whose ahadith he did not narrate for fear his throat would be slit, it is the one containing the authentic traditions of the Prophet. Had Abu Hurayra been a reliable authority, he would have never hidden true ahadith while disseminating illusions and lies only to support the oppressor, knowing that Allah curses whoever hides the clear evidence.
Al-Bukhari quotes him saying once, “People say that Abu Hurayra narrates too many ahadith. Had it not been for two [particular] verses in the Book of Allah, I would not have narrated a single hadith: ‘Those who conceal what We have revealed of clear proofs and the guidance, after Our having clarified [everything] for people in the Book, these it is whom Allah shall curse, and those who curse shall curse them, too' (Qur'an, 2:159). Our brethren from the Muhajirun used to be busy consigning transactions at the market-place, while our brethren from the Ansar used to be busy doing business with their own money, while Abu Hurayra kept in the shadow of the Prophet in order to satisfy his hunger, attending what they did not attend, learning what they did not learn.’[71]
How can Abu Hurayra say that had it not been for a couple of verses in the Book of Allah, he would not have narrated a single hadith, then he says, “I learned two receptacles [of ahadith] from the Messenger of Allah: I have disseminated one of them; as for the other, if I disseminate it, this throat will be slit’?! Is this not his admission of having concealed the truth despite both verses in the Book of Allah?!
Had the Prophet not said to his companions, “Go back to your people and teach them’?[72] Had he not also said, “One who conveys is more aware than one who hears’? Al-Bukhari states that the Prophet urged the deputation of ‘Abd Qays to learn belief and scholarship ‘… then convey what you learn to those whom you have left behind.’[73] Can we help wondering: Why should the throat of a sahabi be slit if he quotes the Prophet?! There must be a secret here which the caliphs do not wish others to know. Here, we would like to briefly say that “the people of the remembrance’ was [a phrase in] a Qur'anic verse revealed to refer to Ali's successorship of the Prophet.
Abu Hurayra is not to blame; he knew his own worth and testified against his own soul that Allah cursed him, and so did those who curse, for having hidden the Prophet's hadith. But the blame is on those who call Abu Hurayra the narrator of the Sunnah while he himself testifies that he hid it then testifies that he fabricated it and told lies in its regard, then he further goes on to testify that it became confused for him, so he could not tell which one was the statement of the Prophet and which one was made by others. All of these ahadith and correct admissions are recorded in al-Bukhari's Sahih and in other authentic books of hadith.
How can anyone feel comfortable about a man whose justice was doubted by the Commander of the Faithful Ali ibn Abu Talib who charged him with lying, saying that among the living, nobody told more lies about the Prophet than Abu Hurayra?! ‘’Omar ibn al-Khattab, too, charged him of the same; he beat him and threatened to expel him. ‘Ayisha doubted his integrity and many times called him a liar, and many other sahaba cast doubts about his accuracy and rejected his contradictory ahadith, so he would once admit his error and would sometimes prattle in Ethiopian[74]. A large number of Muslim scholars refuted his traditions and charged him with lying, fabricating, and throwing himself at Mu’awiyah's dinner tables, at his coffers of gold and silver.
Is it right, then, for Abu Hurayra to become “Islam's narrator’ from whom the religion's injunctions are learned?
Judaica and Jewish doctrines have filled the books of hadith. Ka’b al-Ahbar, a Jew, may have succeeded in getting such doctrines and beliefs included into the books of hadith, hence we find traditions likening or personifying Allah, as well as the theory of incarnation, in addition to many abominable statements about the prophets and messengers of Allah: all of these are cited through Abu Hurayra.
[57] According to Al-Munjid fil lugha wal a`lam, however, Abu Hurayra's name is recorded as `Abd al-Rahman ibn Sakhr al-Azdi, and that he died in 59 A.H./678 A.D. The same reference indicates that this man spent a long time in the company of the Prophet, which is not true at all; he accompanied the Prophet from time to time for only 3 years. The Publisher of this Munjid, namely Dar al-Mashriq of Beirut, Lebanon, is sponsored by the Catholic Press of Beirut. Undoubtedly, the information about Abu Hurayra in this Arabic-Arabic dictionary must have been furnished by some Sunnis who try their best to elevate the status of Abu Hurayra even at the risk of sacrificing historical facts and data.
[58] Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 4, p. 175, where the author quotes Abu Hurayra talking about himself in a chapter dealing with the characteristics of Prophethood.
[59] This paragraph and the ones that follow are excerpted from my translation of Dr. Muhammed al-Tijani al-Samawi's book Shi`as are the Ahl al-Sunnah (New York: Vantage Press, 1996), pp. 207-215.
[60] Refer to the book titled Abu Hurayra by the Egyptian author Mahmoud Abu Rayyah.
[61] Ibn Abul-Hadeed, Sharh Nahjul-Balagha, Vol. 4, p. 28.
[62] Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 2, p. 232, in a chapter dealing with a fasting person who wakes up finding himself in the state of janaba. Malik, Mawta', Vol. 1, p. 272.
[63] This is stated in al-Thahbi's book Siyar A`lam al-Nubala.
[64] Ibn Abul-Hadeed, Sharh Nahjul-Balagha, Vol. 4, p. 68.
[65] Ibn Katheer, Al-Bidaya wal Nihaya, Vol. 8, p. 108..
[66] Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 7, p. 31.
[67] Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 6, p. 190, in a chapter dealing with spending on the wife and children.
[68] Ibn Abul-Hadeed, Sharh Nahjul-Balagha, Vol. 4, p. 67.
[69] Ibn Sa`d, Tabaqat, Vol. 2, p. 63.
[70] al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 38, in a chapter dealing with learning.
[71] Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 37.
[72] al-Bukhari, Sahih, Vol. 1, p. 30.
[73] Ibid.
[74] Abu Hurayra was bi-lingual. He spoke Arabic (his mother tongue) and Amharic. Historically speaking, during Abu Hurayra's time, Amheric was the language of aristocrats due to the fact that the Ethiopians had for many years colonized Yemen till they were kicked out of it at the hands of Sayf ibn Thi Yazun (or Yazin), Himyar's king who died in 574 A.D.

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