Abu Hurairah was born in Banu Daws tribe from the region of Tihamah on the coast of the Red Sea. His father had died, leaving him with only his mother and no other relatives. His name at birth was Abd al-Shams ("Servant of the Sun").
Abu Hurairah embraced Islam through Tufayl ibn Amr the chieftain of his tribe. Tufayl had returned to his village after meeting Muhammad and become a Muslim in the early years of his mission. Abu Hurairah was one of the first to respond to his call, unlike the majority of Tufayl's tribesmen. Abu Hurairah accompanied Tufayl to Mecca to meet Muhammad who renamed him Abd al-Rahman (servant of the Merciful, one of the 99 Names of God). Abu Hurairah then returned to his tribe for many years.
He was present during the Expedition of Dhat al-Riqa. Some scholars claim, the expedition took place in Nejd (a large area of tableland in the Arabian Peninsula) in Rabi‘ Ath-Thani or Jumada Al-Ula, 4 A.H (or beginning of 5AH). They substantiate their claim by saying that it was strategically necessary to carry out this campaign in order to quell the rebellious bedouins in order to meet the exigencies of the agree d upon encounter with the poliuygytheists, i.e. minor Badr Battle in Sha‘ban, 4 A.H. Muhammed received the news that certain tribes of Banu Ghatafan were assembling at Dhat al-Riqa with suspicious purposes.
Muhammad proceeded towards Nejd at the head of 400 or 700 men, after he had mandated Abu Dhar - in the Umayyad version, the Umayyad chief who killed Abu Dhar is given this honor: Uthman bin Affan - to dispose the affairs of Madinah during his absence. The Muslim fighters penetrated deep into their land until they reached a spot called Nakhlah where they came across some bedouins of Ghatfan.
The opinion according to Saifur Rahman al Mubarakpuri, however, is that Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign took place after the fall of Khaibar (and not as part of the Invasion of Nejd). This is supported by the fact that Abu Hurairah and Abu Musa Ashaari witnessed the battle. Abu Hurairah embraced Islam only some days before Khaibar, and Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari came back from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and joined Muhammad at Khaibar. The rules relating to the prayer of fear which Muhammad observed at Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign, were revealed at the Asfan Invasion and this scholars say, took place after Al-Khandaq (the Battle of the Trench).
In 629 (7 AH) he went to Medina with some others from his tribe. Since Muhammad was absent due to the Battle of Khaybar, he stayed in the masjid. He had a wife, Bushra, according to Fadi'l Aa'mal.
His mother, Maymouna Bint Subaih, who was still a polytheist, was with him. He prayed for her to become a Muslim, but she refused.
One day, he again invited his mother to believe in the One God and His Prophet. She answered with some bad words about the Prophet. Abu Hurairah went to the Prophet with tears in his eyes. "Why are you crying, Abu Hurairah?" asked the Prophet. "I always invite my mother to Islam, and she always refuses," said Abu Hurairah. "I asked her again today. But she said some things about you that made me sad. Can you pray to Allah for her to turn to Islam?" The Prophet prayed for Abu Hurairah’s mother to accept Islam. When Abu Hurairah went home, he found the door closed. He heard the splashing of water. He tried to enter the house, but his mother said, “Wait a minute. Don’t come in yet.” Then she got dressed and said, "You can come in now." When Abu Hurairah went inside, his mother said, "I declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger." Abu Hurairah again went to the Prophet crying. But this time his tears were tears of joy. "I have good news, Rasul'Allah ... Allah has answered your prayer and guided my mother to Islam."
Abu Hurairah wrote:
When I was afflicted with severe hunger, I would go to a companion of the Prophet and asked him about an ayah of the Qur'an and (stay with him) learning it so that he would take me with him to his house and give food. One day, my hunger became so severe that I placed a stone on my stomach. I then sat down in the path of the companions. Abu Bakr passed by and I asked him about an ayah of the Book of God. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn't. Then Umar ibn al-Khattab passed by me and I asked him about an ayah but he also did not invite me. Then the Messenger of Allah passed by and realized that I was hungry and said: "Abu Hurairah!" "At your command" I replied and followed him until we entered his house. He found a bowl of milk and asked his family: "From where did you get this?" "Someone sent it to you" they replied. He then said to me: "O Abu Hurairah, go to the Ahl as-Suffah and invite them." Abu Hurairah did as he was told and they all drank from the milk. Abu Hurairah then spent one year and ten months with Muhammad in Medina, before the Prophet's death on 8 June 632 in Medina.
Abu Hurairah helped pass and teach the religion of Islam on through narrating the traditions of the Prophet to the early Muslims.
While on the road to Makka for pilgrimage the wind blew so hard that ‘Umar asked: “Can anyone narrate to us something [from the Prophet] about the wind?” None of those present could answer. When news of this reached Abû Hurayrah, he rode up to ‘Umar and said: “Commander of the Believers! I was told that you asked about the wind, and I myself heard the Prophet say: ‘The wind is a spirit from Allâh. It brings mercy and it brings torment. Therefore, when you experience it, do not curse it but ask Allâh for its goodness and seek refuge in Him from its harm.’”
Following the passing of Muhammad, Abu Hurairah spent the rest of his life teaching ahadith in Al-Medinah, except for a short period as governor of Bahrain during the reign of Caliph ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, and when he was the governor of Al-Medinah during the rule of the early Umayyad caliphs. Abu Hurairah died in 681 or 59 AH at the age of 78 and was buried at Al-Baqi'.
Sunni Muslims view Abu Hurairah as one of the major narrators of Hadith, and like other companions, that he was trustworthy. They also believe that he was blessed with an unfailing memory, especially for ahadith, as a miracle bestowed upon him by God after Muhammad prayed for him. They also depict him as a man living an ascetic and humble life, cherishing knowledge and worship. Like they would quote, in his own words:"I was a poor man, and used to stick to Allah's Apostle contented with what will fill my stomach, and the Muhajirin (emigrants) used to be busy trading in the markets, and the Ansar used to be busy looking after their properties. One day I heard Allah's Apostle saying, 'Who will spread his Rida' (a garment covering the upper body) till I finished my speech and then fold it, (i.e. wear it), in which case he will never forget anything he had heard from me?" So I spread my garment which I was wearing; and by Him Who sent Muhammad with the Truth, ever since, I have never forgotten whatever I heard from him (the Prophet)."
Sunni's portray Abu Hurairah as one who loved the prophet a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun and he was never tired of listening to him. Often he would praise God for his good fortune and say: "Praise be to God Who has guided Abu Hurairah to Islam. Praise be to God Who has taught Abu Hurairah the Quran. Praise be to God who has bestowed on Abu Hurairah the companionship of Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace."
"On reaching Madinah, Abu Hurairah set his heart on attaining knowledge. Zayd ibn Thabit, the notable companion of the Prophet reported: 'While Abu Hurairah and I and another friend of mine were in the Masjid praying to God Almighty and performing dhikr to Him, the Messenger of God appeared. He came towards us and sat among us. We became silent and he said: "Carry on with what you were doing.'"
"So my friend and I made a supplication to God before Abu Hurairah did and the Prophet began to say Ameen to our dua."
"Then Abu Hurairah made a supplication saying: 'O Lord, I ask You for what my two companions have asked and I ask You for knowledge which will not be forgotten.'"
"The Prophet, peace be on him, said: 'Ameen.' "We then said: 'And we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten, and the Prophet replied: 'The Dawsi youth has asked for this before you.' With his formidable memory, Abu Hurairah 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 use it to the full in the service of Islam."
He had free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhajirin he did not busy himself in the market-places, with buying and selling. 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.Narrated Abu Hurairah: People say that I have narrated many Hadiths (The Prophet's narrations). Had it not been for two verses in the Qur'an, I would not have narrated a single Hadith, and the verses are: "Verily those who conceal the clear sign and the guidance which We have sent down ... (up to) Most Merciful." (al-Baqarah 2:159-160). And no doubt our Muhajir (emigrant) brothers used to be busy in the market with their business (bargains) and our Ansari brothers used to be busy with their property (agriculture). But I (Abu Hurairah) used to stick to Allah's Apostle contented with what will fill my stomach and I used to attend that which they used not to attend and I used to memorize that which they used not to memorize. (Sahih Bukhari 1.118)
Narrated Abu Hurairah:
I said to Allah's Apostle "I hear many narrations (Hadiths) from you but I forget them." Allah's Apostle said, "Spread your Rida' (garment)." I did accordingly and then he moved his hands as if filling them with something (and emptied them in my Rida') and then said, "Take and wrap this sheet over your body." I did it and after that I never forgot any thing. (Sahih Bukhari 1.119, Sahih Bukhari 1.120)
Shi‘ite tradition rejects the authenticity of Abu Hurairah's ahadith, seldom accepting only when there are similar hadith narrated by Sahabah (companions) and family of Muhammad who are considered reliable by Shi‘ah. Abu Hurairah reportedly accepted Islam a few years before Muhammad's death, during the event of Khaybar. The Shi‘ah considered him as an enemy of Imams ‘Ali, Al-Hasan and Al-Husain, due to having been in favour of Mu‘awiyah according to Shi‘ite sources, and thus hold him in low regard.
However, it is mentioned that he had taken the side of Al-Husayn and Banu Hashim, when they attempted to bury the body of Al-Hasan near that of his grandfather, Muhammad, but had faced opposition from Mu‘awiyah's family, Banu Umayyah.