Abu Hurairah and Cats

Abu Hurairah and cats
Abu Hurairah and cats

Abu Hurairah was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad. It seems that many followers and associates of the Prophet enjoyed having cats around and some loved cats. Perhaps this was in part a way to respect the Prophet himself. He led the way and demonstrated a love of domestic cats. I would hope that more Muslims, in 2015, follow this aspect of the Prophet’s life but I don’t see it. In general, Muslims are not known to be cat lovers.

The Arabic for Abu Hurairah is Abū Hurayrah, “Father of the Kitten”. The name has also been described as “father of cats”.

A small male cat or kitten in Arabic is hurayrah, which tells us the origin of his name as he was the caretaker of a small male cat. I wonder if the cat was adult or a kitten. I think he must have been an adult cat who just happened to be small. Perhaps he was one of the original miniature cats 😉 .

He must have been a great lover of domestic cats, equal to the Prophet Muhammad. Apparently, he carried his cat companion in a bag and took him wherever he went.

Abū Hurayrah was also a major and important narrator of hadiths, the sayings (teachings) of the Prophet. He was said to have a photographic memory which no doubt served him well. He lived 603–681. The Prophet lived from about 570 to 632 so Abu Hurairah was 33 years younger than Muhammad.

There is a legend about Abu Hurairah’s small cat. It has been recited by Annemarie Schimmel in her book: Deciphering the Signs of God. Schimmel was a German scholar who wrote on Islam. She died in 2003.

His cat saved the Prophet from a snake bite. The Prophet petted the cat. This left the four lines on the forehead, the mark of a tabby cat. This seems to be another variation on the theme of how tabby cats got their ‘M’ mark. It also tells us that Abu Hurairah’s small cat was a tabby cat, which is unsurprising because the tabby coat is the most common having been taken from the North African wildcat ancestor; particularly so in the days when the Prophet was alive.

In addition, as the Prophet stroked the cat this resulted in the well-known ability of the domestic cat to self-right when falling so that they always land on their feet! A nice legend but only a legend because this skill is a result of the cat’s evolution and survival. The domestic cat is partly arboreal. They like living in trees and where there are no tress, high places. The domestic cat needs vertical spaces.

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