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Regarding the Narratives of Abu Hurairah


Shites claim that it is impossible for one man, Abu Huriara, to hear so many hadith, from our prophet (saws), hence a large number of them are fabricated.

So my question is, can you please explain to me how one man, Abu Huriara, can narrate so many hadith from our beloved prophet (saws), when he (Abu Huriara) only lived along side the prophet (saws) for a small number of years.

Also is there any man or men from the shia side who have a large number of hadith, attributed to their name.

May Allah Bless Your Efforts.


Question from Canada

Dear brother, I am not aware of any rules in the science of Rejal (knowledge of narrators of ahadith) suggesting that a narrator can be rejected merely based on the number of ahadith that are narrated from him/her. If this is the only reason that a Shia brother is rejecting Abu Hurairah than I am interested to see a reference to this ruling from a Shia or a mainstream book of Rejal and that how exactly it can be applied in this case.

Having said that, I do agree that the notion of "Abu Hurairah narrating a huge number of ahadith while being with the Prophet for only few years" can raise some questions for a rational mind.

I try to clarify this by the following facts:

  1. If one counts the number of ahadith narrated in Bukhari from Abu Hurairah, one will come up with a figure more than 1000. This however does not mean that Bukhari has narrated 1000 different ahadith from Abu Hurairah. Many of the ahadith in hadith books are repeated often with minor differences in the context. According to Ibn Hajar, in Fat'h Al-Bari, there are no more than 446 ahadith from Abu Hurairah in Bukhari and the rest are just repetitions.  This is equally the same for the other books of hadith. Also we cannot simply add up the number of ahadith of Abu Hurairah in different books of hadith to get the total figure. Again many of these ahadith are repeated across books of hadith. For instance according to a count by Al-Dhahabi, in Syar Alam Annobala, if we count the ahadith from Abu Hurairah in the book of Muslim  (ignoring the repeated ones), we will find that only 98 of them are different from those narrated in Bukhari. It is therefore possible to conclude that the total number of narrations from Abu Hurairah in Sahihayn (ignoring the repeated ones) is no more than about 544 hadith (446 + 98). I however do appreciate that comparing to the other companions' ahadith narrated by Abu Hurairah are significantly more.

  2. Abu Hurairah was keeping the company of the prophet from three (as narrated in Bukhari) to more than four (as stated in Fat'h Albari) years. The prophet was not a silent man, he used to advise and preach for people as much as possible. Also not all the ahadith are about narrations form the prophet, many of them are about his practices and daily life.

  3. The reports and the ahadith suggest that the life style of Abu Hurairah was different from that of most of the companions. While others were engaged with their family affairs and job, Abu Hurairah (with no wife or job) used to spend most of his time accompanying the Prophet wherever he would go and also asking him questions. Abu Hurairah also lived much longer than many of the other companions.

  4. In the mainstream school of thought Abu Hurairah is a famous narrator of hadith. We cannot rule out the possibility that there could be fabricated ahadith in some books of hadith that are falsely attributed to Abu Hurairah simply for the sake of the credit.

Based on the above, I don't think it is hard to believe that Abu Hurairah has heard and seen a lot from the Prophet after accepting Islam.

Let me now come to the point of view of the Shia school of thought:

In the book Al-Rijal by Ibn-Dawood Helli that is one of the popular Shia books of Rijal, the name of Abu Hurairah has come as the 821st entry under the title: "The list of people who are praised and have not been considered as weak by (Shia Scholar) colleagues to my knowledge":

I am aware of only one hadith in the main Shia books in which Abu Hurairah is categorically called a liar (that is in the book Al-Khisal by Al-Sadooq). On the other hand you will find a good number of ahadith narrated from Abu Hurairah in some of the Shia books that are considered extremely reliable by Shia scholars. Among them is Amali by Al-Toosi that (according to many Shia scholars) is even more reliable than the main four collection of Shia ahadith. According to my count, there are 34 ahadith narrated from Abu Hurairah on a variety of subjects in this book. The number is not small if you consider that usually Shia ahadith are originated from their Imams rather than a companion. In no place in these books (as far as I see) there are any comments from the author expressing any concerns about the reliability of these ahadith because of Abu Hurairah.

Many of the ahadith in praise of Ahl Al-Bayt are in fact narrated by Abu Hurairah. On the other hand many of the ahadith that Shia criticise Abu Hurairah about their content are also narrated in Shia books.

It is also interesting that there are ahadith from Ali Ibn Al-Husayn (RA), Muhammad Al-Baqir (RA), and Jafar Al-Sadiq (RA) - the 4th, 5th and 6th Imams of Shia - narrated from Abu Hurairah in the most reliable mainstream books of Hadith.

It seems like the classic Shia scholars had less problem with accepting ahadith of Abu Hurairah. It seems like the more recent Shia scholars are showing more opposition towards the ahadith of Abu Hurairah.

In my opinion there is a certain reason behind this:

There is not even a single hadith (to my knowledge) from the Prophet against Abu Hurairah. Yet, Imami Shia scholars reject Abu Hurairah based on his number of ahadith or a single hadith from Shia Imams. In comparison you will find that there are many Shia narrators who have been called liars by Shia Imams or were famous for being drunk or having false beliefs or have been even cursed by Shia Imams in some occasions. Yet (after some justification arguments that are beyond the scope of this post) their ahadith are accepted by Shia.

The book Al-Kafi, for instance, is considered as one of the main sources of Shia ahadith and was considered as an all reliable book by many classic Shia scholars (to the degree that some Shia scholars even claimed that the book had been endorsed by Imam Mahdi of Shia). Today however most of the Shia scholars do agree that the majority of the ahadith of Al-Kafi are weak. According to a very famous Shia scholar, known as Shahid Al-Thani, out of 16,121 ahadith of Al-Kafi, 9,485 are weak (i.e. 59%) and only 5072 (i.e. 31%) can be considered as authentic (Sahih) while the rest fall in between. Most of the other Shia books of hadith have a similar (if not worse) condition. Despite this, many factors (that are not directly relevant to the subject of this post) have prevented Shia scholars to openly and seriously reject this number of hadith with a clear conscious.

Overall, in my opinion, the late establishment and difficult condition of the science of Rejal in Shia and consequently the not very promising condition of the Shia ahadith (in terms of reliability) has resulted the latter time Shia scholars to criticize Abu Hurairah (knowing that rejecting him means rejecting many of the main stream Ahadith). This (in my opinion) was an attempt to equalize the conditions of the two schools of thought in terms of Hadith.

You asked: "Also is there any man or men from the shia side who have a large number of hadith, attributed to their name."

In deed there are and I leave you with some examples with no further comments about them:

  • The Shia scholars Al-Najjashi and Ibne Dawood in their famous books of Al-Rijal and Abdul Hussain Sharafeddin in his book Al-Muraje'at state that the very reliable narrator of Shia ahadith, Aban Ibn Taqlab, has narrated 30,000 ahadith from Imam Sadiq (RA)

  • Again in Al-Rijal of Al-Kashi we read that another very reliable Shia narrator Muhammad Ibn Muslim has acquired 30,000 ahadith from Imam Baqir (RA) and 16,000 from Imam Sadiq (RA).

  • In the same book it is mentioned that another Shia narrator, Jabir Ibn Yazid Al-Ju'fi, has learned 70,000 ahadith from Imam Baqir (RA).

Dear brother, please note that in this post I only present you with a number of facts and some concluding remarks based on them. There is no question that every hadith has to be tested from both points of view of narrators (Riwayah) and content (Diraya). (Irrespective of who is the narrator or what book has recorded the hadith) any hadith that is not inline with the Qur'an, the Sunnah and, if relevant, the established facts of history and science cannot be considered as a reliable one or should be understood and interpreted in the light of the above mentioned bases.

Hope this helps.

In need of your prayers.

Abdullah Rahim
November 3, 2003

Answer published by Abdullah Rahim