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Al Bukhari: The Imam of Hadith and Sunnah

Al Bukhari: The Imam of Hadith and Sunnah

He is the ever renowned scholar of hadith and his hadith collection Sahih Al-Bukhari is considered the most authentic book next to the Qur’an.

He is the ever renowned scholar of hadith and his hadith collection Sahih Al Bukhari is considered the most authentic book next to the Qur’an.

He is Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abu Al-Hasan Isma`il ibn Ibrahim ibn Al-Mughirah Al-Ga`fi Al-Muhkari, known as Al Bukhari[1], the ever well-known scholar of hadith. His collection of Hadith “Sahih Al Bukhari” is considered the most authentic book in Islam next to the Glorious Qur’an. This article sheds light on some of the sides of Imam Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al Bukhari biography, works, sheikhs and students.

Al Bukhari’s birth and early life:

Abu `Abdullah Al Bukhari was born on Friday 13 Shawwal, 194 A.H. in the city of Bukhara in Khorasan[2] (Uzbekistan) in a family renowned for their uprightness and righteousness. His father Isma`il was a practicing scholar and noble man, but he did not remain long and passed away while his children were too young.[3] His son Muhammad showed significant love of seeking Islamic knowledge. Therefore, his mother sent him to the circles of the Qur’an and Hadith to learn in them.[4]

Imam Al Bukhari showed peerless learning capacities and excelled all his classmates. He was once asked, “When did you start seeking Hadith knowledge?” He said, “I was bestowed the talent of memorizing Hadith while I was in the kuttab (small school). He was asked, “How old were you at that time?” He answered, “10 years or less.”[5] He was exceptionally talented in memorization which helped him memorizing thousands of hadiths in a very early age. Once, his classmates censured him for not writing hadiths like them. He told them that he committed all the hadiths they learned to memory. They tested his memory which proved perfect. One of the stories circulated about this unique talent is that of Salim ibn Mujahid who said, “I was with Muhammad ibn Salam Al-Baikandari who said to me, “If you came a little while ago, you would saw a young boy memorizing 70000 hadiths.” Salim said, ‘I went out searching for this boy until I met him.” Salim said, “I told him, ‘You allege that you memorize 70000 hadiths?’ The young Al Bukhari replied in the affirmative and said, “I will not mention a hadith from the Sahabah or their followers but I have knowledge about their birth, death and residence. [6] Actually, Al Bukhari was a nonpareil seeker of knowledge.

Al Bukhari’s pursuit of knowledge:

Al Bukhari started knowledge seeking in the Kuttab. He memorized the whole Qur’an at the age of 10 years then he moved to Hadith learning. When he reached 16, he has memorized the entire hadiths narrated by Ibn Al-Mubarak and Waki`.[7] He traveled for narrating hadiths to Balkh and Nishapur. Then, he went to Makkah and remained in it for a while, then traveled to Baghdad, the Levant and Egypt. He got a lot of knowledge and narrated many hadiths. It is reported that his sheikhs is counted as more than 1000 scholars.[8]

Al Bukhari started teaching Hadith when he was 17 years old.[9] He used to say, “I memorized one hundred thousand authentic hadiths, and I memorized two hundred inauthentic hadiths.”[11] Among the Sheikhs of Al Bukhari were: Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Hammad ibn Shakir, Makki ibn Ibrahim and Abu `Asim An-Nabil. Among those who narrated from Al Bukhari were: Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i, Muhammad ibn Nasr Al-Marwazi; and many others.[11]

Al Bukhari’s writings:

Imam Al Bukhari compiled numerous books but the most widely known of them is “Al-Jami` Al-Musnad As-Sahih Al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasullillah wa Sunanih wa Ayyamih.” It is translated as “The Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadith with Connected Chains regarding Matters Pertaining to the Prophet, His practices and His Times.” It is known as Sahih Al Bukhari.

Imam Muhammad ibn Isma`il compiled other books including, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, At-Tarikh Al-Kabir, Khalq Af`al Al-`Ibad, Raf` Al-Yadain fi As-Salah, and Al-Kuna.

Al Bukhari’s devoutness:

Imam Al Bukhari was a pious, practicing and devout knowledgeable scholar. He was distinguished with his exact observance of the Sunnah without any slackness or indolence. There is nothing more evidencing on his sincerity than the spread of his “Sahih Al Bukhari” that is considered as the most authentic book next to the book of Allah, the Qur’an. Imam Al Bukhari was a shining star in the space of piousness and fear of God. He used to say, “I hope that I meet Allah and that He does not call me into account for backbiting anyone.”[7] Yet, his absorption with Hadith did not impede him from observing Jihad. It is reported that he would frequent places of archery to be prepared for Jihad. He was reported to go to borderline cities defending the Muslim state.

Scholarly Praise of Al Bukhari:

–          Raja’ Al-Hafiz said, “He (Al Bukhari) is one of Allah’s signs walking on the Earth.”[13]

–          Al-Husain As-Samarqandi said, “Muhammad ibn Isma`il is singled out with three characteristics in addition to his praised ones. He was a reserved man, unambitious about what people have and completely bent on seeking knowledge.”[14]

–          An-Najm ibn Al-Fudayl said, “I saw in a dream the Prophet was walking and Muhammad ibn Isma`il was walking behind him, wherever the Prophet place his foot Muhammad Ibn Isma`il would place his foot.”[15]

–          Yahya ibn Ja`far said, “If I was able to give to Muhammad ibn Isma`il from my lifetime, I would do that because my demise equals the death of one man while the demise of Al Bukhari means the demise of knowledge.”[16]

–          Na`im ibn Hammad said, “Muhammad ibn Isma`il is the Faqih of this Ummah.”[17]

–          Ibn Khuzaymah said, “I have never seen underneath the sky one who is more knowledgeable and memorizer of the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) than Muhammad ibn Isma`il.”[18]

–          Al-Hafiz Abu `Amr Al-Khaffaf said, “Muhammad ibn Isma`il is more knowledgeable of hadith than Is-haq ibn Rahawayh, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and other scholars with 20 degrees. Whoever speaks badly about him, I curse him 1000 curses. Muhammad is the most pious and purest scholar and I have not seen anyone like him.[19]

–          `Abdullah ibn Hammad said, “I hoped that I was a hair in the chest of Muhammad ibn Isma`il.”[20]

Al Bukhari’s words:

–          I know nothing that people may need but is found in the Qur’an and Sunnah.[21]

–          I hope that I meet Allah and that He does not call me into account for backbiting anyone.

–          I did not start teaching hadith until I became full-aware of the authentic and the inauthentic narrations, reviewed all the books of opinion and visited Basra 5 times or about that, and left no authentic hadith but I wrote it except what I deemed it not authentic. [22]

–          I never willed to start any speech that included the worldly life but I will start with praising and commending Allah.[23]

Al Bukahri’s trail and death:

When Imam Al Bukhari reached Nishapur he was majestically welcomed. The scholar of Nishapur at that time was a man called Muhammad ibn Yahya Adh-Dhahli. Shortly after Al Bukhari’s arrival, ِAdh-Dhahli’s hadith circle became empty. He got furious and enraged against Al Bukhari, and thus started spreading false rumors about Al Bukhari. He disseminated that Imam Al Bukhari believed that the Qur’an is created. Although Al Bukhari never said so and he was completely innocent of this, Muhammad ibn Yahya continued his allegations and fight against Al Bukhari until he compelled Al Bukhari to leave the whole city and return to his homeland Bukhara.

Then, Al Bukhari was subject to another ordeal by the ruler of Bukhara who asked A-Bukhari to visit him and narrate Sahih Al Bukhari to his children. Imam Al Bukhari was a self-proud man, he refused saying, “Knowledge is to be sought,” meaning that if anyone wanted to learn Sahih Al Bukhari, he should come to the circle of Hadith. This caused alienation between him and the ruler. In addition, the former rumors reached that ruler who was already aggravated by Al Bukhari’s reaction. Thereupon, He expelled Imam Al Bukhari out of Bukhara.[24]

As he has grown old, the expulsion of Imam Al Bukhari caused painful aches inside him. On 1 Shawwal 256 A.H.[25] Imam Al Bukhari passed away at the age of 62 years in a small town near Samarkand called Khartank. May Allah confer His Mercy upon our greatest Imam!

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Sources:

1- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz, 1st edition, Dar Al-Kutub Al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 1998. vol. 2, p. 104.

2- Ibid p 104

3- Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa An-Nihayah, Dar Al-Fikr, 1986, vol. 11, p. 25.

4- Ibid

5- Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali (d 463 AH), Tarikh Baghdad, Dar Al-Gharb Al-Islami, Beirut, Lebanon, 1st edition, 2002, vol.2, p. 324.

6- Ibn `Asakir Abul-Qasim `Ali Ibn Al-Hasan (d 571 AH), Tarikh Dimashq, Dar Al-Fikr, 1995, vol. 52, p. 63.

7- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Siyar A`lam An-Nubalaa’, Ar-Risalah Institution, 3rd edition, vol. 12, p. 393.

8- Ibn `Asakir Abul-Qasim `Ali Ibn Al-Hasan (d 571 AH), Tarikh Dimashq, Dar Al-Fikr, 1995, vol. 52, p. 58.

9- Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalani Ahmad ibn `Ali, Tahdhib At-Tahdhib, Da’irat Al-Ma`arif An-Nizamiyyah, India, 1st edition, 1326 AH, vol. 9, p. 50.

10- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz, 1st edition, Dar Al-Kutub Al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 1998. vol. 2, p. 105.

11- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Siyar A`lam An-Nubalaa’, Ar-Risalah Institution, 3rd edition, vol. 12, p. 439.

12- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Siyar A`lam An-Nubalaa’, Ar-Risalah Institution, 3rd edition, vol. 12, p. 439.

13- Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali (d 463 AH), Tarikh Baghdad, Dar Al-Gharb Al-Islami, Beirut, Lebanon, 1st edition, 2002, vol. 2, p. 340.

14- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Siyar A`lam An-Nubalaa’, Ar-Risalah Institution, 3rd edition, vol. 12, p. 448.

15- Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalani Ahmad ibn `Ali, Fat-h Al-Bari Sharh Sahih Al Bukhari, Dar Al-Ma`rifah, Beirut, 1379, vol. 1, p. 7.

16- Ibid p. 484.

17- Ibn `Asakir Abul-Qasim `Ali Ibn Al-Hasan (d 571 AH), Tarikh Dimashq, Dar Al-Fikr, 1995, vol. 52, p. 87.

18- Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalani Ahmad ibn `Ali, Fat-h Al-Bari Sharh Sahih Al Bukhari, Dar Al-Ma`rifah, Beirut, 1379, vol. 1, p. 485.

19- Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali (d 463 AH), Tarikh Baghdad, Dar Al-Gharb Al-Islami, Beirut, Lebanon, 1st edition, 2002, vol.2, p. 340.

20- Ibid

21- Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalani Ahmad ibn `Ali, Fat-h Al-Bari Sharh Sahih Al Bukhari, Dar Al-Ma`rifah, Beirut, 1379, vol. 1, p. 488.

22- Adh-Dhahabi Shams Ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qaymaz (d 748), Siyar A`lam An-Nubalaa’, Ar-Risalah Institution, 3rd edition, vol. 12, p. 416.

23- Ibid 445.

24- Ibid 465

25- Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn `Ali (d 463 AH), Tarikh Baghdad, Dar Al-Gharb Al-Islami, Beirut, Lebanon, 1st edition, 2002, vol.2, p. 340.

See also:

Muslim: The Leading Scholar of Hadith

Abu Dawud: The Faqih and Scholar of Hadith

At-Tirmidhi: Imam of Hadith and Fiqh

Imam An-Nasa’i: The Great Authority of Hadith

Ibn Majah: The Great Memorizer of Hadith

Mohamed Okasha is a graduate of Al Azhar University, Faculty of Languages and Translation, Department of Islamic Studies in English. He is a former editor in the Shari`ah section at Islamonline.net. Currently, he is an editor at the EDC (E-Da`wah Committee) in Kuwait.
Contact: mro@alnajat.com.kw

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6 thoughts on “Al Bukhari: The Imam of Hadith and Sunnah

Islamic Scholar Speeches

Masha Allaah, what and wonderful article! May Allah reward you for your efforts.

Adele

Jazak Allah khair for the article.

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Whatsupmydudes

Barak Allahu Feekun

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