Abu Hurayrah and ʿUmar


Ml Mohammad Taha Karaan

3 August 2001

Shi‘i critics of Abu Hurayrah tend to quote sources very selectively, and those who subsequently quote from them, having no access to the original sources, do not know anything but the citations produced for them by these critics. If it is true that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab disapproved of profuse narration in the manner that Abu Hurayrah used to narrate, then the following quotation contained in the same “Tarikh Dimashq” of Ibn ‘Asakir throws a different light upon the issue:

It reached the ears of ‘Umar that Abu Hurayrah was narrating hadith.He said to Abu Hurayrah: “You narrate from Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam what you have not heard. Were you with  us on the day Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam was with us in the house of so-and-so?” Abu Hurayrah replied: “Yes, and I know why you ask about that. It is because on that day Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said: ‘Whoever wilfully ascribes false words to me should take his place in the Fire.’ ” Thereupon ‘Umar said: “Now you may go and narrate hadith as you wish.” (“Tarikh Dimasqh” vol. 67 p. 344)

Had those critics of Abu Hurayrah been honest in providing their readers with an objective picture of Abu Hurayrah, they might have informed them that it was Abu Hurayrah’s habit to start every session of hadith with these words of Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam: “Whoever wilfully ascribes false words to me should take his place in the Fire.” (“Tarikh Dimasqh” vol. 67 p. 345)

To conclude the issue, and to hit the final nail into the coffin of the mendacious story about ‘Umar beating Abu Hurayrah, we will quote two separate incidents in which ‘Umar wholeheartedly accepted the testmony of Abu Hurayrah in hadith:

1) Imam Ahmad and Imam Muslim narrate that once‘Umar passed by  Hassan ibn Thabit as he was reciting poetry in the masjid. ‘Umar made a negative remark about it, upon which Hassan said, “I used to do this in the presence of one better than you (meaning Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam).” Hassan then turned to Abu Hurayrah and said, {I ask in the name of Allah: did you hear Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam ordering me to reply on his behalf (to the poets of Quraysh) and saying ‘O Allah, aid with Ruh al-Qudus (the Holy Spirit)?’ ” Abu Hurayrah replied, “By Allah, yes.” ‘Umar thereupon held his silence in acceptance. (“Sahih Muslim” vol. 7 p. 162; “Musnad Ahmad” vol. 5 p. 222)

2) Imam Bukhari narrates that a woman who had tattoed herself was brough to ‘Umar. ‘Umar stood up and announced, “I ask you in the name of Allah; is there anyone amongst you who heard what Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said about tattooing?” Abu Hurayrah stood up and said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin, I heard.” ‘Umar asked, “What did you hear?” Abu Hurayrah replied, “I heard Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam saying, ‘A woman shall not tattoo, nor have herself tattooed’ ” (“Sahih al-Bukhari”, vol. 7 p. 214)


Abu Hurayrah lived during the times of 4 of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt: Ali, Hasan, Husayn, and ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin. He narrated hadith in the masjid of Madinah in their presence, yet not one of these venerable Imams is on record as having condemned Abu Hurayrah, or having warned their followers against him or against reporting hadith on his authority. Despite the fact that the Imams of the Shi‘ah delivered severe censure against several narrators (like the prolific Zurarah, Abu Basir et al) we find that they have not even once pointed a finger of accusation at Abu Hurayrah.

This probably explains why the Shi‘i narrator critic, Taqiyy ad-Din al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, known as Ibn Dawud al-Hilli (died 647 AH) makes mentions of Abu Hurayrah in the First Division of his book on hadith narrators. The First Division of this book is restricted to those narrators who merit the description of “mamduh” (praiseworthy). He writes: “Abu Hurayrah: the well known companion of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. Mentioned by at-Tusi in his Rijal.” (“Rijal Ibn Dawud” p. 198)

We have here Ibn Dawud’s testimony to the praiseworthiness of Abu Hurayrah, as well as his testmony to the fact that Abu Hurayrah is mentioned by at-Tusi in his book on hadith narrators, without adding any comments of a disparaging nature.


Aside from the above fact that the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt never condemned Abu Hurayrah, we have another interesting fact the significance of which cannot be lost even to the least discerning of readers. That fact is that several of the high ranking members of the Ahl al-Bayt, including some of the supposedly infallible Imam’s, have narrated hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. Below follows a partial list:


Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah was the 3rd son of Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the brother of Hasan and Husayn. He was a learned scholar and fearless warrior who fought alongside his father during all his campaigns. Al-Mizzi, in the biography of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah given in his book “Tahdhib al-Kamal” (vol. 26 p. 148) mentions that Ibn al-Hanafiyyah narrates hadith from Abu Hurayrah. The hadith which he narrates from Abu Hurayrah are documented in Ibn ‘Asakir’s “Tarikh Dimashq” (vol. 54 p. 346-347).


‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas was the cousin, student and avid supporter of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. He requires no introduction as a learned member of the Ahl al-Bayt. Ibn ‘Abbas was a close friend of Abu Hurayrah, but more importantly, he narrated hadith from Abu Hurayrah. At least 5 of these ahadith appear in the 6 major books of hadith. These are listed by al-Mizzi in “Tuhfat al-Ashraf” (vol. 10 p. 137-139, no’s 13573-13577)


This Imam, as one of the supposedly infallible Imams of the Shi‘ah, stands in no need of an introduction. In “Sahih al-Bukhari” (vol. 3 p. 178) and “Sahih Muslim” (vol. 4 p. 28) there is a hadith which is narrated by one Sa‘id ibn Murjanah from Abu Hurayrah, that Rasulullah sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “Whoever sets free a Muslim man, Allah will set free a limb of his for every limb of the one who he has emancipated.” Sa‘id ibn Murjanah says that he then went to ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin and told him about the hadith. ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn asked him, “Sa‘id, have you personally heard this from Abu Hurayrah?” Sa‘id replied in the affirmative. ‘Ali ibn Husayn thereupon called for a slave of his named Mutarrif, and told him, “I set you free for the sake of Allah.” Ali ibn al-Husayn thereafter used to narrate the hadith to others. It can be seen in “Sahih al-Bukhari” (vol. 8 p. 181) and “Musnad Ahmad” (vol. 2 p. 420) where it is narrated from ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn by Zayd ibn Aslam; and in “Sahih Muslim” (vol. 4 p. 178) where it is narrated from Sa‘id ibn Murjanah by ‘Umar, the son of Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin.

This Sa‘id ibn Murjanah was a close follower of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin. In fact, he is listed by the Shi‘i expert al-Barqi as one of the major followers of Zayn al-‘Abidin (“Rijal al-Barqi” p. p. 9) At-Tustari, another Shi‘i hadith expert, states in his book “Qamus ar-Rijal” (vol. 4 p. 373) that Sa‘id ibn Murjanah was a Shi‘i, and he quotes al-Mamqani’s statement to the effect that Sa‘id ibn Murjanah was an Imami.


Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was the son of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, and to the Imami Shi‘ah he was the next in line of the twelve infallible Imams. His son, Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq has come to be identified eponymously with the creed of the Imami Shi‘ah. Twice in “Sahih Muslim” (vol. 3 p. 15) we find Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq narrating from his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, from ‘Ubaydullah ibn Abi Rafi‘, the scribe and loyal follower of Sayyiduna ‘Ali, from Abu Hurayrah.

Imam Shafi‘i too, remarked about the confidence which Imam Muhammad al-Baqir placed upon the ahadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah. He writes in his book, “ar-Risalah” (p. 455, line 1245): “We have similarly found Muhammad (al-Baqir) ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn narrating from Jabir from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam; and narrating from ‘Ubaydullah ibn Abi Rafi‘ from Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and he (al-Baqir) affirms all of that as the Sunnah.”


The devoted followers of the Ahl al-Bayt, in emulation of their leaders, followed the practice of unquestioningly setting store by the ahadith narrated from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam by Abu Hurayrah, and preserving those ahadith by narrating them to subsequent generations on the authority of Abu Hurayrah.


Abu Ayyub al-Ansari is a Sahabi for whom the Shi‘ah, for all the intensity of their dislike of the Sahabah, have a lot of respect. Ibn Mutahhar al-Hilli describes him as “mashkur” (deserving acknowledgement and thanks), and al-Fadl ibn Shadhan, a great Shi‘i muhaddith says about him that he was one of the first ones who returned to place themselves with Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. (“Jami‘ ar-Ruwat” vol.  p. 291). One of the greatest Abu Hurayrah critics, ‘Abd al-Husayn Sharaf ad-Din, proudly lists Abu Ayyub al-Ansari amongst those Sahabah who, according to him, were of the Shi‘ah. (“Ta’lif al-Ummah” p. 193)

This same Abu Ayyub is on record, in the book “al-Mustadrak” (vol. 3 p. 512) by al-Hakim an-Naysaburi, a muhaddith whom ‘Abd al-Husayn (again) proudly lists as a Shi‘i (“al-Muraja‘at” p. 175) as having narrated a hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. Someone enquired as to why he would narrate from Abu Hurayrah when he himself is a companion of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. He replied: “I prefer to narrate via Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam rather than narrating directly from the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam.” This was on account of his trust in the truthfulness and prodigous memory of Abu Hurayrah.


Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab was one of the most famous men of learning amongst the Tabi‘in of Madinah. Shi‘i historians invariably describe him as a loyal follower of Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-‘Abidin. In “Rijal al-Kashi” he is described as one of the disciples of ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn. Al-Fadl ibn Shadhan further remarks about him that in the beginning of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin’s tenure there were only 5 persons who were with him, and one of them was Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab. He also states that Sa‘id was brought up by Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. (“Jami‘ ar-Ruwat” vol. 1 p. 362)

This Sa‘id, who was brought up by Amir al-Mu’minin, and was amongst the closest supporters of his grandson ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, was also one of the most prolific narrators of Abu Hurayrah’s hadith. He spent much of his time in the teaching circle of Abu Hurayrah in the masjid of Madinah, and as if that was not enough, even married the daughter of his mentor Abu Hurayrah. The 6 major books of hadith alone contain about 280 ahadith which Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab narrates from his father-in-law, Abu Hurayrah.


There is probably no Imami Shi‘i who is not aware of Kumayl ibn Ziyad, the faithful follower to whom Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib taught the famous prayer which the Shi‘ah recite up to this day. This Kumayl ibn Ziyad too, as close as he had been to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, had never heard him say anything disparaging about Abu Hurayrah, which led him afterwards to narrate the words of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. A long hadith which he narrates from Abu Hurayrah can be seen in the “Musnad” of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (vol. 2 p. 309, 520, 525, 535).

The above are not the only faithful followers of the Ahl al-Bayt who narrated from Abu Hurayrah. A lengthier list would see the inclusion of the names of devoted followers of ‘Ali such as ‘Ubaydullah ibn Abi Rafi‘ (Sayyiduna ‘Ali’s private secretary); Khallas ibn ‘Amr al-Hajari; Shurayh ibn Hani (both of whom were commanders of Sayyiduna ‘Ali’s police force); Sulaym ibn Aswad (who was with Sayyiduna ‘Ali at Siffin); ‘Awf ibn Malik al-Jushami (who was with him at Nahrawan); Abu Razin Mas‘ud ibn Malik (who was with ‘Ali at Siffin too); and Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami. All of these men had narrated hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah.

The above were all followers of Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. But the same trend continued with those whom the Shi‘ah look upon as followers of the later Imams: they unreservedly narrated the ahadith of Abu Hurayrah. A few examples follow hereunder.

Before proceeding with the cases, it would be of interest to note that ‘Abd al-Husayn Sharaf ad-Din, the leading Abu Hurayrah critic amongst the Shi‘ah, has in his book “al-Muraja‘at” given a list of one hundred narrators, all of whom, he boasts, are of the Shi‘ah. Each one of the following cases happens to be included in ‘Abd al-Husayn’s list, and it is justified to assume that he regards them as being of his sect, even taking pride in the fact. However, all of them, as will be seen, have narrated hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah.


‘Abd ar-Razzaq was from San‘a in Yemen. His Shi‘i proclivities are a matter of pride to a person like ‘Abd al-Husayn who mentions him as no. 53 of his 100 Shi‘i narrators. This same ‘Abd ar-Razzaq is the author of a voluminous compendium of hadith entitled “al-Musannaf” which is filled with not only hundreds of ahadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, but even a very large number of the jurisprudential rulings of Abu Hurayrah. ‘Abd ar-Razzaq is furthermore the narrator of the famous “Sahifah of Hammam”. This is a collection of about 150 hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah to his student, Hammam ibn Munabbih. This collection was reduced to writing by Hammam, who handed them down to his student, Ma‘mar ibn Rashid. ‘Abd ar-Razzaq later acquired these ahadith from Ma‘mar, and dutifully reported them to a large number of hadith students, amongst whom was a young Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The “Sahifah of Hammam” can be seen in the form Ahmad ibn Hanbal received it directly from ‘Abd ar-Razzaq in the 5th volume of his “Musnad” Most, if not all of the ahadith of this collection appear in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim.


Al-A‘mash is another narrator in whose alleged Shi‘ism Shi‘i scholars like ‘Abd al-Husayn takes pride, whilst at the same time paying scant attention to the fact that al-A‘mash profusely narrates from Abu Hurayrah. An example of the ahadith which he narrates from Abu Hurayrah can be seen in “Sahih al-Bukhari” vol. 9 p. 147 and “Sahih Muslim” vol. 8 p. 67.


‘Ubaydullah ibn Musa was a hadith narrator with pronounced Shi‘i sympathies, which led to the inclusion of his name in ‘Abd al-Husayn’s list. However, this same ‘Ubaydullah saw no reason to desist from narrating the ahadith of Abu Hurayrah. He is one of the narrators of the “Sahifah” of Abuz Zinad, from al-A‘raj, from Abu Hurayrah, which is a collection of Abu Hurayrah’s ahadith similar to the one of Hammam ibn Munabbih. The contents of this “Sahifah” have been incorporated into later works such as the 6 canonical ones.


Khalid ibn Makhlad al-Qatawani’s Shi‘i leanings have earned him a place in ‘Abd al-Husayn’s list of 100 Shi‘i narrators. But Khalid too, unreservedly narrated the ahadith of Abu Hurayrah. Ahadith which he narrates on the authority of Abu Hurayrah abound in the two “Sahihs” of al-Bukhari and Muslim.


Mansur ibn al-Mu‘tamir, despite the fact that his was only a very mild inclination to Shi‘i tendencies, was included into ‘Abd al-Husayn’s list. Mansur narrates the ahadith of Abu Hurayrah via al-Hasan al-Basri, Abu Hazim al-Ashja‘i and Mujahid ibn Jabr.

The above are but a few examples of a large number of hadith narrators with established or alleged Shi‘i tendencies, whose devotion to ‘Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt never for a moment stood in the way of perpetuating the hadith legacy of Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah.


Finally, in summary, it may be concluded that

1. the early Shi‘i works on hadith narrators have recorded no disparaging statements about Abu Hurayrah from the Imams of the Shi‘ah

2. the Imams of the Shi‘ah have themselves narrated hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, and set store by it

3. the early followers of the Imams followed the example of the Imams in narrating from Abu Hurayrah and relying upon his expertise and trustworthiness

In light hereof, what remains to be said for those who remain bent, for reason they themselves are best aware of, to present Abu Hurayrah as an unscrupulous liar? Isn’t it time they started opening their hearts to Truth?