The Companions Who Narrated More Traditions than the Others
God Almighty created people with different dispositions and potentials so that human social life may be maintained through mutual help and division of labor. Therefore, as in every community, there were among the Companions, besides good farmers and successful tradesmen or businessmen, those who were inclined to learning or to commanding armies, or who were endowed with administrative ability. Some of them, especially those who were called Ashab al-Suffa (those who stayed in the antechamber of the Mosque of the Prophet) never missed the teaching of God’s Messenger and tried to memorize his every word. These Companions later narrated to people whatever they heard from, or witnessed in, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Fortunately, they outlived the others by God’s Will and, together with ‘A’isha, Mother of Believers, may God be pleased with her, constituted the first, golden channel through which the Sunna of the Prophet was handed down to future generations. The following is a brief description of their characters and lives:
Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him
Abu Hurayra was from the tribe of Daws in the Yemen. He became a Muslim in the early days of the seventh year of Hijra at the hands of Tufayl ibn ‘Amr, the chief of his tribe.
When Abu Hurayra emigrated to Madina, God’s Messenger was on the campaign of Khaybar. He joined him in Khaybar. God’s Messenger changed his name, ‘Abd al-Shams, into ‘Abd al-Rahman, saying: A man is not the slave of either the sun or moon.
Abu Hurayra was very poor and modest. One day God’s Messenger saw him with a cat in his arms and nicknamed him Abu Hirr, meaning the father or owner of a cat, and people began to call him Abu Hurayra. However, he liked to be called Abu Hirr, since this title was given to him by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.159
Abu Hurayra lived together with his mother and desired very much that his mother too should be a Muslim. One day he went to God’s Messenger and asked him to pray for the conversion of his mother. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, stretched out his arms to pray and, before he lowered them, Abu Hurayra ran to his house. He believed that the prayer of the Messenger would not be rejected. When he arrived home, his mother stopped him at the door. She was doing the total ritual ablution. After the ablution, she opened the door and proclaimed the confession of faith: There is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
After his mother’s conversion, Abu Hurayra requested God’s Messenger to pray to God that believers should love him and his mother. God’s Messenger did so.160 Therefore, love of Abu Hurayra is a mark of belief. Believers love him.
Abu Hurayra had an extraordinarily keen memory. He slept in the first third of night; in the second third he prayed and did his daily supererogatory recitations and, in the last third he went over the Traditions he had memorized in order never to forget them.
Abu Hurayra had in memory more than five thousand Traditions. He always attended the discourses of God’s Messenger and had a great inclination to learn his Traditions. Also, he was a lover of knowledge. One day, he was praying in the mosque, ‘O God, grant me knowledge I will never forget’, when God’s Messenger heard him and said, O God, Amen!161 Again, one day he went to the Messenger and said, ‘O Messenger of God! I want to not forget anything I hear from you.’ The Messenger asked him to take off his cloak and spread it on the ground, which Abu Hurayra did. The Messenger then prayed and emptied his hands out onto the cloak as if he had filled them with something from the Unseen. Then, he ordered Abu Hurayra to fold up the cloak again and to hold it to his breast, which he did. After narrating this incident, Abu Hurayra used to say: ‘I folded it up again and held it to my breast. I swear by God that [since then] I have not forgotten anything I heard from God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.’162
Abu Hurayra paid no heed to the world. He usually fasted three or four days successively without eating anything because of poverty. Sometimes he writhed with hunger on the ground and said to those passing by, ‘Istaqra’tuka,’163 which means both ‘Will you not recite to me some Qur’an?’ and ‘Will you not feed me?’ Ja’far Tayyar understood him better than anybody else and took him as a guest.164 Abu Hurayra endured all such hardships with becoming patience for the sake of Hadith. To those who sometimes warned him, saying, ‘You are narrating too many Traditions’, he used to reply in utmost sincerity: ‘While my Emigrant brothers were busy in the bazaar doing business, and my Helper brothers with farming, I tried to keep my soul and body together to keep company with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.’165 He also responded to such objections: ‘Were it not for the verse, Those who conceal the clear signs and the guidance that We have sent down, after We have shown them clearly in the Book, they shall be cursed by God and the curses. (al-Baqara, 2.159) I would not narrate anything.’166
Some claim that other Companions were opposed to Abu Hurayra’s narrating Hadith. This is obviously groundless. For many Companions like Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah Al-Ansari, Anas ibn Malik and Wasila ibn Aslam narrated from him many Traditions. Some asked Abu Ayyub al-Ansari why he narrated from Abu Hurayra despite his earlier conversion. Abu Ayyub used to answer them: ‘He heard from God’s Messenger many things that we did not hear.’167
Apart from those Companions who narrated Traditions from Abu Hurayra, many leading figures of the first generation following the Companions also received from him numerous Traditions. Among them were Hasan al-Basri, Zayd ibn Aslam, Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyib, who took Abu Hurayra’s daughter in marriage in order to benefit from him more, Sa‘id ibn Yasar, Sa‘id al-Makburi, Sulayman ibn Yasar, Sha‘bi, who received Traditions from five hundred Companions, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Qasim ibn Muhammad, who is accepted as a link in the chain of the spiritual guides of the Nakshbandi way. Hammam ibn Munabbih and Muhammad ibn Munkadir were the most famous. The number of those who received Traditions from Abu Hurayra amounts to eight hundred.168
‘Umar appointed Abu Hurayra as a governor to Bahrain. However, when he made a small amount of wealth by trade during his period of office, ‘Umar summoned him from office for investigation. He was found guiltless and ‘Umar wanted him to return to his office, but Abu Hurayra declined, saying: ‘That is enough for me as a governor.’169
Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, despite claims to the contrary by biased Orientalists such as Goldziher, and their blind followers in the Muslim world like Ahmad Amin, Abu Rayya and ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Razzaq, was never against ‘Ali in favour of the Umayyads. He should have supported ‘Ali in the internal conflicts in order that seditions should be crushed but he preferred to remain neutral. He narrated from God’s Messenger this hadith: Seditions will appear, during which the one who sits [silent] is better than the one who stands [to participate in them]; the one who stands is better than him who walks [to take part in them], and the one who walks is better than him who runs [in them].170 This hadith might not have been related to the internal conflicts during the Caliphate of ‘Ali. However, Abu Hurayra was of the opinion that it was related to those conflicts and he joined neither side.
Abu Hurayra was opposed to the government of the Umayyads. He stood in front of Marwan ibn Hakam and narrated to him the hadith: The destruction of my Community will be in the hands of a few callow (young) men from the Quraysh.171 Marwan responded to him, saying: ‘May God’s curse be upon them!’, pretending not to have understood whom Abu Hurayra meant. However, Abu Hurayra added: ‘If you like, I can inform you of their names and characteristics.’
He was frequently heard to pray in public: ‘O God, do not make me live until the sixtieth year (of the Hijra).’172 This supplication of his was so famous among people that whoever saw Abu Hurayra recalled it. He had heard from God’s Messenger that some inexperienced, sinful young men would begin to rule the Muslim Umma in the year sixty after the Hijra. Abu Hurayra died in the year of fifty-nine and Yazid succeeded Mu‘awiya one year later.
It is futile to try to show that, unlike other Companions, ‘A’isha, Mother of Believers, was opposed to Abu Hurayra’s narration of the Prophetic Traditions: she was not. Both ‘A’isha and Abu Hurayra lived a long life and, except the following, there is not an incident showing that ‘A’isha criticized Abu Hurayra for his narrations. Once, Abu Hurayra was narrating Traditions in the vicinity of ‘A’isha’s room, while ‘A’isha was praying. After the prayer, ‘A’isha came out only to find that Abu Hurayra had left. She remarked: ‘The Traditions of God’s Messenger should not be narrated in this way, one after another,’173 meaning that they should be narrated slowly and distinctly in order that the listeners could understand and memorize them.
Some claim that Imam Abu Hanifa said: ‘I do not take the opinions of three Companions as evidence in jurisprudence. Abu Hurayra is one of them’. This is simply a lie told against Abu Hanifa. Allama Ibn Humam, who is one of the greatest jurists of the Hanafi School, regarded Abu Hurayra as a significant jurist. Besides, there is nothing to prove that Abu Hanifa said that.
Abu Hurayra narrated more than five thousand Traditions. When gathered together, they make perhaps a volume one and a half times the length of the Qur’an. There are numerous people who have memorized the Qur’an in six months or even quicker. Abu Hurayra had a very keen memory and spent four years with God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, who prayed for the strength of Abu Hurayra’s memory. It would be tantamount to accusing Abu Hurayra of deficient intelligence to claim that he could not have memorized around five thousand Traditions. In addition, all of the Traditions he narrated were not directly from God’s Messenger himself. As leading Companions like Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, ‘A’isha and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari narrated from him, he also received Traditions from them.
While Abu Hurayra was narrating Traditions in the presence of Marwan ibn Hakam, at different times, the latter had them written down by his secretary secretly. Sometimes later, he asked Abu Hurayra to repeat the Traditions he had already narrated to him. Abu Hurayra began, ‘In the name of God, the All- Merciful, the All-Compassionate’, and narrated the same Traditions exactly with the same wording.174 So, those who criticize Abu Hurayra for narrating the Prophetic Traditions should be ashamed and silenced.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, may God be pleased with him
He was born four or five years before the Hijra. He had a keen intelligence and memory, and was an inspired man. God’s Messenger prayed for him: O God, make him perceptive and well- versed in the religion and teach him the hidden truths of the Qur’an.175 In his life, he came to be called, ‘The Great Scholar of the Umma’, or ‘the Sea’, that is, ‘One Very Profound in Knowledge’, or ‘the Translator (Clarifier) of the Qur’an’.176
He was a very handsome, tall man endowed with great fluency of speech. His memory was such that he memorized a poem by ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a of eighty couplets at one reading. Besides his profound knowledge of Qur’anic interpretation, Tradition and jurisprudence, he was also well-versed in literature, particularly in the poetry of the pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari relates, in his Tafsir, either a couplet or verse from him in connection with the interpretation of almost each verse of the Qur’an.
He was greatly loved by the Companions. Despite his youth, ‘Umar included him in his Advisory Council, the other members of which were chosen from the elders among the Companions. When asked why he had included that young man in the council, ‘Umar tested the council about their level of understanding of the Qur’an. He asked them about the meaning of the sura al-Nasr: When comes the help of God, and victory, and you see men entering God’s religion in throngs, then proclaim the praise of Your Lord, and seek His forgiveness; for He is Oft-Returning [in grace and mercy]. The elders answered: ‘It orders the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to praise God and seek His forgiveness when he sees people entering Islam in throngs after the help of God and victory came.’ ‘Umar did not like this and put the same question to Ibn ‘Abbas: ‘What does this sura mean?’ Ibn Abbas replied: ‘This surah implies that the death of God’s Messenger is near. Because, when people enter Islam in throngs, it means that the mission of Messengership has terminated.’ ‘Umar turned to the council and explained: ‘That is why I include him among you.’177
Ibn ‘Abbas was very famous for his deep insight, profound learning, keen memory, high intelligence and perceptiveness. Besides, he was very modest. When he entered a place where people gathered, people would stand up in respect for him, but this made him uncomfortable and he asked them: ‘I beg you, for the sake of the help and shelter (you gave to the Prophet and the Emigrants), do not stand up for me!’
Although he himself was one of the most knowledgeable among the Umma, Ibn Abbas showed great respect to scholars. For example, he helped Zayd ibn Thabit mount his horse by holding the stirrup steady and explained: ‘We have been ordered to behave like this towards our scholars.’ In return, Zayd ibn Thabit kissed his hand without his approval and remarked: ‘We have been ordered to behave like this towards the relatives of God’s Messenger.’178
As noted above, Ibn Abbas did not like people to stand up for him to show their respect. However, when he was buried, something occurred that was as if the dead had stood up in respect for him and the spirit beings welcomed him. A voice was heard from beneath the grave:
O soul at peace! Return unto your Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing! Enter you among My servants! Enter you my Paradise! (al-Fajr, 27.30)179
Ibn ‘Abbas brought up many scholars in every branch of religious knowledge. The School of Makka in jurisprudence was founded by him. Leading scholars of the generation following the Companions such as Sa‘id ibn Jubayr, Mujahid ibn Jabr and Ikrima acknowledged: ‘Ibn ‘Abbas taught us whatever we know.’
The number of the Traditions narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas is about sixteen hundred.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, may God be pleased with him
‘Umar the second Caliph, had nine sons, among whom only ‘Abdullah is called Ibn ‘Umar (the son of ‘Umar), to mean that ‘Abdullah is one worthy of being called by the name of his celebrated father ‘Umar.
Although ‘Umar is the second in greatness among the Companions, ‘Abdullah may be regarded superior to his father in knowledge, piety, worship and devotion to the Sunna of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Especially his care in following the Prophet’s example was such that, Nafi‘, the tutor of Imam Malik, narrates: ‘While we were descending from the hill of ‘Arafat, Ibn ‘Umar entered a hole. When he came out back, I asked him what he had done in the hole. The Imam answered: ‘While descending from ‘Arafat, I was behind God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He went down into that hole and relieved himself. I felt no need to do that now, but I do not like to oppose him.’180 Also, Ibn ‘Umar was never witnessed to drink water in more or less than three swallows because he saw God’s Messenger drink it in three swallows.
Ibn ‘Umar was born in the early years of Islam. He many times witnessed his father being severely beaten by the Makkan polytheists.181 When Muslims of Makka emigrated to Madina, he was about ten years old. God’s Messenger did not include him in the army which fought at Badr because he was too young. When he was also excluded from the army which fought at Uhud, he returned home in utmost grief and was not able to sleep all night long, saying to himself: ‘What sin have I committed that they did not include me in the army fighting in the way of God’s Messenger?’182
Ibn Khalliqan relates in Wafayat al-A‘yan (The Death of the Notables) from Sha‘bi:
Once in their youth, ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr, his brother Mus‘ab ibn Zubayr, ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar were sitting in the vicinity of the Ka‘ba. They had the idea that each should pray God for something special in the hope that the prayer would be accepted. Ibn Zubayr prayed: ‘O God, for the sake of Your Grandeur, of Your Honour and Majesty, make me a ruler in Hijaz’. His brother Mus‘ab stretched out his arms and prayed: ‘O God, for the sake of Your Honor and Majesty, of your Grandeur, of Your Throne and Seat, make me a ruler in Iraq.’ ‘Abd al-Malik held his hands open toward heaven and prayed: ‘O God, I ask You to make me a ruler over all the Muslims and secure, through me, the unity of Muslims even though at the cost of some lives’. It was the turn of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar to pray. He prayed: ‘O God, I ask You not to take my soul before You guarantee Paradise for me!’183
The prayer of the first three was accepted, ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr ruled for some time in Hijaz and was eventually martyred by Hajjaj, the Tyrant, the notorious governor of the Umayyads. His brother Mus‘ab likewise ruled in Iraq for a short time. ‘Abd al-Malik succeeded his father, Marwan, in Caliphate and was able to secure the unity of Muslims, though at the cost of many lives and much bloodshed.
As for the prayer of Ibn ‘Umar, Imam Sha‘bi remarks: ‘Whether the prayer of the Imam was accepted or not will be clear in the Hereafter.’ Sha‘bi knew something: Ibn ‘Umar was never opposed to the descendants of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. Nor did he support the Umayyads. Hajjaj was afraid of him. Once, Hajjaj gave a sermon before the noon prayer. He lengthened the sermon until the time of the prayer had nearly ended. Ibn ‘Umar warned him: ‘O Governor, time is passing without waiting for you to finish your sermon.’
Hajjaj was full of rancor and enmity against Ibn ‘Umar. In the end, during a pilgrimage he got one of his men to injure Ibn ‘Umar on the heel with a poisonous spear while he was in pilgrim dress. Ibn ‘Umar died because of the poison.184
‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud and others, may God be pleased with them
Another of the Companions who narrated a considerable number of Traditions is ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud. He is among the first five or six to embrace Islam.
In his youth, Ibn Mas‘ud tended the flocks of the leaders of the Quraysh such as Abu Jahl and ‘Uqba ibn Abi Mu‘ayt. After he converted to Islam, he would no longer be separated from God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. He entered the Prophet’s house without asking leave to do so and so frequently that those who witnessed it thought he must belong to the Prophet’s family.185 As, during military or non-military expeditions, he carried the water bag, wooden sandals and couch of the Prophet, he was called ‘the Caretaker of the pattens, couch and water bag’.186
Ibn Mas‘ud worked some wonders. For example, while he was once being tortured in Makka, he became invisible to the torturers. God’s Messenger called him ‘the son of the mother of a slave’, and advised his Companions: Whoever desires to recite the Qur’an as if it were being revealed for the first time, let him recite it according to the recitation of the son of the mother of a slave.187
One day God’s Messenger told Ibn Mas‘ud to recite to him some Qur’an, Ibn Mas‘ud excused himself: ‘O Messenger of God, shall I recite it to you while the Qur’an is being revealed to you?’ However, the Messenger insisted: I would prefer to hear it from others [than myself recite it]. Ibn Mas‘ud began to recite the sura al-Nisa’. He was reciting the verse, How then will it be, when We bring forward from every nation a witness, and bring you as a witness against those? (al-Nisa’, 4.41), when God’s Messenger, whose eyes were filled with tears, stopped him, saying: ‘Stop, please. This is enough.’188
‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud was short and weak. Once he climbed a tree at the request of God’s Messenger for some purpose, and those who were present at the scene laughed at his legs. God’s Messenger warned them, saying: Those legs will weigh more than Mount Uhud according to the measure of the Hereafter in the other world.189
The Caliph ‘Umar sent him to Kufa as a teacher and with a letter in which he wrote to the Kufans: ‘O people of Kufa! If I did not prefer you over myself, I would not have sent Ibn Mas‘ud to you.’190 Ibn Mas‘ud lived in Kufa during the Caliphate of ‘Umar and brought up many scholars. The great scholars of the generation following the Companions such as Alqama ibn Qays, Aswad ibn Yazid al-Naha’i and Ibrahim ibn Yazid al-Naha’i grew up in the ethos established by Ibn Mas‘ud. One of the people attending Alqama’s courses asked him from whom he had learned all that he was teaching. When Alqama answered, ‘I learned from ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali and Ibn Mas-‘ud’, the man responded: ‘Good! Good!’
Ibn Mas‘ud continued to stay in Kufa during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman. However, ‘Uthman summoned him to Madina to investigate a groundless complaint about him. Ibn Mas‘ud did not want to go back to Kufa. He was very old. One day, a man came to him running, and said: ‘Last night I had a dream that God’s Messenger was telling you : “They have afflicted you much after me, so come to me!” You answered: ‘Right, O Messenger of God! I will not leave Madina any more.’ A few days later Ibn Mas‘ud became ill. ‘Uthman visited him and the following conversation took place between them:
– Do you have any complaints?
– I have many complaints.
– Of what?
– Of my sins while going to God.
– Is there something you desire?
– I desire God’s mercy.
– Would you like me to send for a doctor?
– The ‘doctor’ has made me ill. So, there is nothing the doctor you will send can do for me.191
Ibn Mas‘ud spent twenty-three years in the company of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. The number of the Traditions he narrated is about 800.
Besides those four great Companions we have so far given some information about, ‘A’isha Siddiqa, Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah and Anas ibn Malik may be mentioned as the other Companions who excelled in the number of Traditions they narrated.
‘A’isha lived with God’s Messenger for nine years. She was a woman of great talents, having a keen intelligence and memory and a deep insight and perceptiveness. She had a great curiosity to learn new things and asked God’s Messenger for explanation of the matters she could not understand well enough.
Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri was among those who lived in the antechamber of the Mosque and was always with God’s Messenger. He lived a long life and a time came when he was regarded as the most knowledgeable person of Madina.
Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah is the son of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Haram al-Ansari, who was martyred in the Battle of Uhud. After the death of God’s Messenger, he lived in Madina, Egypt and Damascus. He gave lectures in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina. The leading scholars among the generation succeeding the Companions such as ‘Amr ibn Dinar, Mujahid and Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah attended his lectures.192 People gathered around him in Damascus and Egypt and asked him about God’s Messenger and his Traditions.
Anas ibn Malik served God’s Messenger for ten years in Madina. After the Messenger’s death, he lived a very long life, during which he must have taught the Prophetic Traditions to those around him.
All the Traditions recorded in Kanz al-Ummal, including authentic and defectively transmitted ones, number 46,624. It is possible for even a single person to memorize them within a short time. Among the Traditionists of early Islamic ages were many who memorized more than a hundred thousand Traditions, including fabricated ones. So, it is a deception and, at the same time, deceptiveness based on prejudice and evil intent, to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Sunna, claiming that the number of the Traditions narrated from certain Companions is too great for them to have memorized and narrated.
159. I. Hajar, 4.202.
160. Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 158; I. Sa‘d, 4.328.
161. Hakim, Mustadrak, 3.508.
162. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 159; I. Sa‘d, 4.329, 330.
163. Bukhari, “At‘ima,” 1.
164. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 10.
165. Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 42; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 159; I. Sa‘d, 4.332.
166. I. Sa‘d, 4.330–1.
167. Hakim, 3.512; I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 8.109.
168. I. Hajar, 4.205.
169. I. Sa‘d, 4.335–6; I. Athir, 6.321; I. Hajar, 4.210.
170. Bukhari, “Fitan,” 9; Muslim, “Fitan,” 10.
171. Bukhari, “Fitan,” 3; I. Hanbal, 2.288.
172. I. Kathir, 8.122.
173. Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 160.
174. Hakim, “Mustadrak,” 3.509–10.
175. Bukhari, “Wudu’,” 10; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 138.
176. I. Athir, 3.291.
177. Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 110/3.
178. I. Hajar, 2.332.
179. I. Kathir, Tafsir, sura al-Fajr, verses 27-30. Haythami, Majma‘, 9.285.
180. I. Hanbal, Musnad, 2.131.
181. I. Hisham, Sira, 1.374.
182. Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 6; I Sa‘d, 4.143.
183. I. Khalliqan, Wafayat al-A‘yan, 2.30.
184. I. Sa‘d, 4.185–7.
186. Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Ashab,” 27; I. Sa‘d, 3.153.
187. I. Ma’ja, “Muqaddima,” 11; Hakim, Mustadrak, 2.318; I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 2.369.
188. Tirmidhi, “Tafsir al-Qur’an,” 5.
189. I. Sa‘d, 3.155.
190. Ibid., 157.
191. I. Kathir, 7.183.
192. I. Hajar, 1.213.