I was a young girl when I first heard about Abu Hurairah (RadiAllahuanhu). His description fascinated me. Known for his fondness for cats, he would often carry a kitten on his arm – sometimes playfully hidden in his sleeves. This was the reason he was given the nickname ‘Abu Hurairah’ – Father of the Kitten!
This esteemed scholar and narrator of the highest number of Prophet’s (Salulahualaihiwasalum) hadiths could have such a gentle and playful side to him amazed me. ‘What a man,’ I thought in fascination. From that day onwards, he held a soft spot in my heart. Every time I would hear or read his name, I would feel an unexplained fondness for him. My attachment and respect continued over the years.
Recently, I came across a hadith that I had not known before – a story that unravelled the cause of my affection for the Father of the Kitten; defined my status with Allah (SubbhanawaTaala) and also taught me a valuable lesson on love.
The incident was narrated by Abu Hurairah (RadiAllahuunhu) himself. He relayed his experience at calling his non-Muslim mother to Islam. One day he went to the Messenger of Allaah (Salulahualaihiwasulum) and asked him to pray for her guidance. Prophet (Salulahualaihiwasulum) made dua for his mother. His supplication was answered immediately. Allah (SubbhanawaTaala) guided Abu Hurairah’s (RadiAllahuunhu) mother to Islam the same day. He went back joyously to the Prophet (Salullahualaihiwasullum) to announce the good news.
Then he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah to make my mother and me dear to His believing slaves, and to make them dear to us.’ Prophet (Salullahualaihiwasullum) obliged and supplicated on his behalf, ‘O Allaah, make this slave of Yours and his mother dear to Your believing slaves, and make the believers dear to them.’
Abu Hurairah ended the narration of this experience with the following words: “There is no believer who hears of me or sees me, but he loves me.” (Bukhaari, 4546)
SubbhanaAllah! As I reached the end of his account, my heart stilled for a moment. Did I have tears in my eyes when I read those words? Did they explain my long-cherished fondness for this noble Sahabah?
The story also struck poignantly on a more personal level. It was the realization that my love for this Companion of Prophet (Salullahualaihiwasullum) implied that a weak and sinful person like me may be among those described as Allah’s believing servants. My heart fluttered with new-found happiness and I closed my eyes with awe for Him (SubbhanawaTaala).
We as human beings have a consuming need for love and to be loved by others. Abu Hurairah (RadiAllahuunhu) sought it through the supplication of Prophet (Salullahualaihiwasullum). As a result, he became beloved to millions of Muslims. What do we do to gain such love? Do we go about pleasing people in the hope of gaining their acceptance? Do we seek the capricious love that diminishes with people’s fickle fancies or one dependent on selfish material gains?
Or, we seek the pure, deep, lasting and beneficial love? Where does this elusive but most powerful emotion come from?
Allah (SubbhanawaTaala) who is Al-Wudood – The Loving – gives us the comprehensive answer to our questions on love.
“When Allah loves a slave, He says to Jibreel, ‘I love so-and-so, so love him.’ So Jibreel loves him and then calls out to the people of heaven, ‘Allah loves so-and-so, so love him.’ And the people of heaven love him, and then acceptance is placed in the Earth for him.” (Bukhari 3209)
Therein lies the secret to true acceptance and love. Like Abu Hurairah (RadiAllahuunhu) I now embark on the quest for this profound acquisition – love.