He was ‘Ubaydullaah bn Abdil-Kareem bn Yazeed bn Farrookh, an Imaam, leader of hadith memorizers, the muhaddith of Ray. He was born 194 Hijrah. He heard narrations from personalities such as Muhammad bn Saabiq, Qurrah bn Habeeb, Aboo Nuaym, al-Qa’nabee, Khallaad bn Yahyaa, Amr bn Haashim, Eesa bn Meenaa (the famous Qaaloon), Ishaaq bn Muhammad al-Far’wee, AbdulAzeez bn Abdillaah al-Ausee, Yahyaa bn Bukayr…Ahmad bn Hambal and others in his level.
He started learning hadith at a tender age. He travelled to Hijaz, Levant, Egypt, Iraq, the Peninsular and Khurasan. He wrote a lot of narrations. He started his journey for knowledge when he was thirteen years old. He started teaching at age 32.
Among those who reported from him were Aboo Hafs al-Fallaas, Har’malah bn Yahyaa, Ibn Waarah, Aboo Haatim, Muslim bn al-Hajjaaj (the author of Saheeh Muslim), Abdullaah bn Ahmad (son of Imaam Ahmad), Aboo Awaanah al-Isfarayeenee and many others.
He sat with Imaam Ahmad and had a group study with him. It was Aboo Haatim and others that gave him the Kunyah of ‘Aboo Zur’ah’ after ‘Abu Zur’ah ad-Dimashqee.
Abu Zur’ah said: 'I wrote from Ibrahim bn Musa a hundred thousand hadith, and from Aboo Bakr bn Abee Shaybah another hundred thousand hadith.' Abu Zur’ah was told about a man that swore that he would divorce his wife if he (Aboo Zur’ah) had nor truly memorized two hundred thousand hadith as was being said. When he was asked if the man should face the consequence if it had not been like he thought, Aboo Zur’ah said: ‘I have memorized two hundred thousand hadith as a person would memorize ‘qul huwa-llaahu ahad…’’
Ibn Abee Haatim said Aboo Zur’ah said: ‘I wonder about a person who makes verdicts in matters of divorce but who has memorized less than a hundred thousand hadith.’
Ibn Abee Shaybah said: ‘I have not seen anybody who memorized hadith as Aboo Zur’ah did.’
Al-Imaam Ahmad said: ‘There are about seven hundred thousand authentic hadith and this lad – referring to Aboo Zur’ah – has memorized six hundred thousand of them.’
Ibn al-Junayd said: ‘I have not seen anyone who knew the hadith of Maalik [bn Anas; the one connected and disconnected among them] as Aboo Zur’ah, so also is the rest of knowledge.’
A Qaaree, Suwayd bn Ghaflah once recited: wa ‘Eeshin ‘Een, intending ‘wa hoorun ‘een’, that recitation was reported to Aboo Zur’ah who was wondrous and said: ‘I memorized in qiraa’aat about ten thousand hadith this recitation is not there.’
Ishaaq bn Raahaaway said: ‘Any hadith not known by Aboo Zur’ah has no basis.’
Fadlak as-Saaigh said: ‘…I entered upon ar-Rabee in Egypt and he asked me where I was from I said from Ray, he said, you left Aboo Zur’ah (and came here), indeed Aboo Zur’ah is a sign. Verily whenever Allaah makes a person a sign, he makes him prominent such that there will be no second of him.’
Ibrahim bn Har’bee al-Askaree said he saw Aboo Zur’ah in a dream leading the angels in Sallaah in the fourth heaven, he asked him what made you attained this status he said: ‘my raising the two hands at bowing and when rising from it.’
Aboo Haatim said Aboo Zur’ah would not eat cheese and vinegar.
Aboo Zur’ah was mild in criticizing narrators unlike his friend Aboo Haatim, he was tougher.
Ibn Waarah, Aboo Haatim and others were there when Aboo Zur’ah was to die. There was a confusion as to how he was to be led to say the shahaadah, so they mentioned the chain of the hadith of shahaadah at death wherein the Messenger of Allaah - salallaahu alahyi wa sallam - said: ‘whoever’s last statement is laa ilaa-ha illa llaah would enter the Jannah,’ so it was Aboo Zur’ah who finished the chain and the actual statement of the Messenger of Allaah - salallaahu alahyi wa sallam - which eventually served as his last statement on earth.
Aboo Zur’ah died at age 56. May Allaah be merciful to him.
Adapted from Siyar ‘Alaamin Nubalaa pp 65-85.
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