“Millions of Muslims from the early history of Islam to the present have come to be familiar with the name Abu Hurayrah in speeches and lectures, in Friday sermons and seminars etc.
Abu Hurayrah became a Muslim at the hands of At-Tufayl ibn `Amr the chieftain of the Daws tribe to which he belonged. When At-Tufayl returned to his village after meeting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and becoming a Muslim in the early years of his mission, Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of the first to respond to his call. He was unlike the majority of the Daws who remained stubborn in their old beliefs for a long time.
When At-Tufayl visited Makkah again, Abu Hurayrah accompanied him. There he had the honor and privilege of meeting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who asked him, “What is your name?” “`Abdu-Shams (Servant of the Sun),” he replied. “Instead, let it be `Abdur-Rahman (the Servant of the Most Gracious),” said the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). “Yes, `Abdur-Rahman (it shall be) O Messenger of Allah”, he replied.
Abu Hurayrah loved the Prophet a great deal. He never got tired of looking at the Prophet, whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun. At the same time, listening to the Prophet’s speech never bored him. Often he would praise Allah for his good fortune of being in the company of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); he used to say, “Praise be to Allah Who has guided Abu Hurayrah to Islam. Praise be to Allah Who has taught Abu Hurayrah the Qur’an. Praise be to Allah Who has bestowed on Abu Hurayrah the companionship of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).”
Regarding the main point of the question, we can say that although Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) spent four years with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) which is relatively a short period compared to the number of Hadiths he narrated, he was completely dedicated to the noble cause of accompanying the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his active memory enabled him to memorize many Hadiths of the Prophet.
Abu Hurayrah set out to memorize, in the four years that he spent with the Prophet, the gems of wisdom that emanated from his lips. He realized that he had a great gift and he set about to make use of it in the service of Islam.”
He had free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhajirin, he had no trade to busy himself with. Unlike many of the Ansar, he had no land to cultivate nor crops to tend. He stayed with the Prophet in Madinah and went with him on journeys and expeditions.
Many Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to show amazement at the great number of Hadiths Abu Hurayrah memorized. This often made them question him on any Hadith to verify its authenticity. Once Marwan ibn Al-Hakam wanted to test Abu Hurayrah’s memory. He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain he placed a scribe, unknown to Abu Hurayrah, and ordered him to write down whatever Abu Hurayrah said. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurayrah again and asked him to recall the same Hadiths which the scribe had recorded. He reiterated them without omitting a single word, to everyone’s surprise.
Abu Hurayrah was concerned to teach and transmit the Hadiths memorized by him, as well as to convey the religious knowledge in general. It is reported that one day as he passed through the market of Madinah, it saddened him a bit to see people engrossing in the business of buying and selling. Unable to conceal this feelings, he uttered: “How feeble you are, O people of Madinah!” “What do you see that is feeble in us, Abu Hurayrah?” they asked. “The legacy of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is being distributed and you remain here! Won’t you go and take your portion?” “Where is this, O Abu Hurayrah?” they asked. “In the mosque,” he replied.
Upon hearing this, people quickly rushed to the mosque, while Abu Hurayrah stayed behind waiting to see what would be their remark when they returned. When they saw him, they said: “O Abu Hurayrah, we went to the mosque and entered and we did not see anything being distributed.” “Didn’t you see anyone in the mosque?” he asked. “O yes, we saw some people performing prayer, some people reading the Qur’an and some people discussing what is halal and what is haram.” “Woe unto you,” replied Abu Hurayrah,” that is the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).”
Abu Hurayrah underwent much hardship and difficulties as a result of his dedicated search for knowledge. He was often hungry and destitute. He said about himself: “Whenever I got afflicted with severe hunger, I would go to a Companion of the Prophet and ask him about a verse in the Qur’an and (stay with him to) learn it so that he would take me with him to his house and give me food.”
The time came of course when the Muslims were blessed with great wealth and material goodness of every description. Abu Hurayrah eventually got his share of wealth.
He had a comfortable home, a wife and a child. But neither this fortune change his personality nor make him forget his days of destitution. He would say, “I grew up as an orphan and I emigrated as a poor and indigent person. I used to take food for my stomach from Busrah bint Ghazwan. So praise be to Allah Who has perfected his religion and made Abu Hurayrah an Imam.” (This last statement is a reference to the time when he became governor of Madinah.)
Abu Hurayrah spent much of his time in spiritual worship and devotion to Allah. Qiyam al-Layl, staying up for the night in prayer and devotion, was a regular habit of his family, including his wife and his daughter. He would stay up for a third of the night, his wife for another third and his daughter for a third. In this way, no hour of the night would pass without `Ibadah, Dhikr and Salah in the house of Abu Hurayrah.
Muslims owe a debt of gratitude to Abu Hurayrah for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Abu Hurayrah died in the year 59 A.H. at the age of 78. May Allah have mercy on Abu Hurayrah, and accept him among His righteous slave-servants.”