Did Abu Huraira Plagiarize from Jewish Texts?

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

Did Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنهُ) Plagiarize from Jewish Texts?

By Quran By Quran and Bible Blog Contributor yousif632

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            This article will be a response to a document written by a man named Yosef on the al-Imamiyyah server,[1] which alleges that the famed hadith narrator Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) plagiarized his narrations from Jewish texts rather than hearing them directly from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It is alleged that the following hadith had been copied from Jewish sources by Abu Hurairah, who changed it slightly and applied it to Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“Narrated Abu Huraira: A bedouin came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “My wife has delivered a black child.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, “Have you camels?” He replied, “Yes.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “What color are they?” He replied, “They are red.” The Prophet (ﷺ) further asked, “Are any of them gray in color?” He replied, “Yes.” The Prophet asked him, “Whence did that grayness come?” He said, “I think it descended from the camel’s ancestors.” Then the Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Therefore, this child of yours has most probably inherited the color from his ancestors.””[2]

First of all, before actually getting into this, it is very clear that the author of the al-Imamiyyah document misunderstood this Hadith completely. He states in the article:

“Abu Huraira claims that Muhammad concluded that the reason for the child’s unusual pigment was the result of the color of the Bedouin’s livestock.”

This is completely false. Muhammad (peace be upon him) merely compared how some of the Bedouin’s camels were grey in color to his wife delivered a black child. The Prophet pretty much gets the Bedouin to answer his own question by using basic genealogy, which is that the color most probably came from one of the ancestors. This was a comparison, and in no way at all was the Prophet blaming the color on the Bedouin’s livestock.

Moving on, Yousef quotes Genesis Rabbah to show that Abu Hurairah copied from Jews. However, the conclusion of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi is totally different to that of the Prophet, as he actually says that it is due to the white portraits in his home as to why he has a white son. The story in Genesis Rabbah is as follows:

“It happened once that a black man married a black woman and she had a white child. The father took the child to Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi and said: “Maybe this isn’t my son?” He (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) said: “Do you have portraits in your house?” He (the black man) said: “Yes.” (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) asked: “Of black or white (people)?” He (the black man) said: “White.” He (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) concluded: “This is why you have a white son.”

Though there are similarities in the stories (both have a man who is confused as to why his wife gave birth to a child of a different color), the conclusion is completely different.

Yosef also quoted an incident with Rabbi Akiva. This is the exact same story as the one in Genesis Rabbah. Like Rabbi HaNasi, Rabbi Akiva blamed the images within the enquirer’s home for why the enquirer’s child was white. Here is the story:

“A king of the Arabs asked Rabbi Akiva: I am black and my wife is black, but she has borne me a white son. Shall I kill her because she has played the harlot while under me? He (Rabbi Akiva) said to him: Do you have images within your house? He (A King of the Arabs) said to him: Yes. He (Rabbi Akiva) said to him: Are your household images white or black? He (A King of the Arabs) said to him: White. He (Rabbi Akiva) said to him: When you were busy with her, she set her eyes on the images and bore (a child) like them. Now if you are surprised over this matter, learn from the Jacob’s flock. They were conceived from the sticks, as stated (in Genesis 30:39): Then the king of the Arabs thanked R. Akiva. Thus, when any woman is alone with her husband in holiness, in the end he produces righteous children from her.”

Since the conclusions are completely different, this should be enough to refute the allegation of plagiarism. However, we will dive a little deeper into this.

In a hadith in Sunan Ibn Majah, the same incident narrated:

“It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that a man from the desert people came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah, my wife has given birth on my bed to a black boy, and there are no black people among my family.” He said: “Do you have camels?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “What color are they?” He said: “Red.” He said, “Are there any black ones among them?” He said, “No.” He said: “Are there any grey ones among them?” He said- “Yes.” He said, “How is that?” He said: “Perhaps it is hereditary.” He said: “Perhaps (the color of) this son of yours is also hereditary.””[3]

However, this hadith is not on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), but rather it is narrated by Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) through a totally different chain! The chain goes as follows:

Imam Ibn Majah >Abu Kurayb > Abaatu bin Kulayb Al-Laythi Abu Ghassan > Juwayriyya bin Asma’a > Na’fiin > Ibn Umar (RA) (as a direct witness to this event)

This shows that Abu Huraira did not make up any story at all from the influence of Jewish texts, but rather this was a real-life incident that happened with the Prophet, and we have two witnesses: Ibn Umar and Abu Huraira.

Next, let us discuss the hadith regarding the Prophet Musa’s death:

“Narrated Abu Huraira: The angel of death was sent to Moses and when he went to him, Moses slapped him severely, spoiling one of his eyes. The angel went back to his Lord, and said, “You sent me to a slave who does not want to die.” Allah restored his eye and said, “Go back and tell him (i.e., Moses) to place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his hand.” (So, the angel came to him and told him the same). Then Moses asked, “O my Lord! What will be then?” He said, “Death will be then.” He said, “(Let it be) now.” He asked Allah that He bring him near the Sacred Land at a distance of a stone’s throw. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Were I there I would show you the grave of Moses by the way near the red sand hill.””[4]

Yosef claims that Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) plagiarized the Jewish texts and took from them directly relating to God’s servant Musa (peace be upon him) regarding his death. Yosef writes:

“It must also be mentioned that in this narration, he only attributes its final sentence to Muhammad, whereas the rest of the recounting of the occurrence is provided with no other source. To reiterate, Abu Huraira does not attribute this knowledge to any other person. This indicates that he had heard this from the Ahlul-Kitab and accepted it as an authentic report about the life of Moses. The lack of any attribution, let alone an Isnad, shows that Abu Huraira did not hold to the Sunni standard of Rijaal in any sense whatsoever. He had accepted reports about those who preceded him by thousands of years without any method or science to affirm their historical veracity, and tended to mix them with other events about people contemporaneous to himself or the lives of the prophets of which he narrates upon.”

However, this was not narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira but rather he was narrating on the authority of the Prophet. This is demonstrable by simply quoting the narration in Imam Muslim’s collection.[5] The narration says (emphasis ours):

“حدثنا ابو هريرة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم”

“Abu Huraira narrated to us on the authority of the Prophet

This clearly demonstrates that Yosef did not do his homework or sufficient research in order to realize this. Abu Huraira narrated this directly from the Prophet. Just because he was retelling this story does not mean he was narrating on his own authority, as the evidence has already shown in the Hadith in Sahih Muslim. Abu Hurairah narrated upon the authority of the messenger of God.

Similarity in text does not imply plagiarism. We know that most of the stories of the Qur’ān, where there is clear knowledge of past scriptures, and also stories of prophets were mostly revealed in Mecca.[6] Mecca was a place where there were no Jews or anyone possible to have been teaching the Prophet these stories. Let’s say this hadith was narrated in Medina. The hostility between Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Jews was extremely high. The Jews hated him and plotted against him and even eventually had full scale war with him. Why would a Jew teach him or Abu Hurairah these things? If they did teach him these things, we would know about it. We pretty much know absolutely everything about the Prophet and who he interacted with. He is the most narrated man in all history. Similarity in text or narrating the same story does not imply plagiarism.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, the author of the al-Imamiyyah article poorly researched points and totally misunderstood the hadith of the black child. For the second hadith, the author did not bother to check where else this has been narrated as any basic student of ahadith would. Overall, this response clears the slander against Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him).

May Allah Almighty grant Abu Huraira an honorable status with his Lord. Āmin.


[1] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fxeN-k5dK4ithAD9vW6wUL9PI0aMK4nQm4D5ADE52pA/mobilebasic

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari 6847, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:6847.

[3] Sunan Ibn Majah 2003, https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:2003.

[4] Sahih al-Bukhari 1339, https://sunnah.com/bukhari:1339.

[5] Sahih Muslim 2372b, https://sunnah.com/muslim:2372b.

[6] More information on places of revelation can be found here: https://tanzil.net/docs/revelation_order

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