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The Life and works of Imam Bukhari (RA)
Who is not aware of Hadhrat Imam Bukhari (R.A) and his kitaab ‘Saheehul- Bukhari’?
However in this present day, the majority of Muslims use his kitaab to refer to whenever in need of a supporting reference for their actions or deeds without the knowledge of the life of the great author.
Kitaabe-Bukhari has been given the status of being the most authenticated book after the Holy Qur’an. But why?
Although all aspects of Imam Bukhari’s life and great works cannot be covered in any book; this concise booklet aims to cover in general the life of Imam Bukhari (R.A) and as to how he compiled his kitaab so one may discover as to why it has been said that:
The dua that is made after completing Bukhari is accepted.
May the Almighty Allah shower His blessings upon such a great personality who has been the source of guidance for many through compiling such a kitaab. And may He also accept our humble effort. Ameen.
The famous and respected Muhaddith, Imam Bukhari’s (R.A) genealogy is as follows: Mohammed Ibn Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Mugheera Ibn Bardizbah.
His father Ismail was a well-known and famous Muhaddith in his time and had been blessed with the chance of being in the company of Imam Malik, Hammad Ibn Zaid and also Abdullah Ibn Mubarak (R.A.).
Imam Bukhari (R.A) was born on the blessed day of Friday 13 Shawwaal 194 (A.H). He had lost the use of his eyes in the early stages of his childhood. However, due to the pious and lengthy prayers of his mother his eyesight was returned miraculously. The news had reached his mother through a dream in which Hadhrat Ibrahim (A.S) had appeared and said, "Due to your bountiful and sacred prayers Allah Ta’alaa has returned the eyesight of your son."
The dream was proven to be true in the morning.
Ismail the father of Imam Bukhari (R.A) had died in Imam Bukhari’s childhood, leaving him in the care of his mother where he was nourished with love and care. At the age of sixteen after having memorized the compiled books of Imam Waki and Abdullah Ibn Mubarak, he performed Haj with his elder brother and mother. After the completion of Haj Imam Bukhari remained in Makkah for a further two years and upon reaching the age of eighteen headed for Medinah, and spent his nights next to the grave of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam compiling the books of ‘Qadhaayas-Sahaabah Wat-Taabi’een’ and ‘Taareekhul-Kabeer’ with the moonlight as a means of lighting.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) traveled a great deal in order to expand his knowledge. He made two trips to Syria and Egypt and stayed six years in Arabia. He also happened to return to Kufa, Baghdad and Basra four times and at times remained there for a period of five years. Also at Haj season he used to return to Makkah.
Imam Bukhari ( R.A) first started listening and learning ahaadeeth in 205 A.H., and after profiting from the Ulamaa of his town he started his travels in 210 A.H. There are a great number of teachers from whom Imam Bukhari (R.A) actually gained his much respected knowledge. It has been known to be said by Imam Bukhari (R..A) himself that, "I have written ahaadeeth from 1080 different people all of whom were scholars." However, he profited most from Ishaq Ibn Rahway and Ali Ibn Madeeni (R.A). Imam Bukhari (R.A) has narrated ahaadeeth from Ulamaa of five different categories. He has also narrated ahaadeeth from his students believing in the fact that no person shall be titled a scholar of ahaadeeth until he has narrated from his elders, youngsters and contemporaries.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) also had a vast amount of students. It has been stated that approximately 9 000 people were privileged to sit in his lessons where he taught his Kitab ‘Sahih-Ul-Bukhari’. There were travelers amongst these from all corners of the world in order to join these pious sittings and to be honoured with a glimpse of the knowledge that he held and which never failed to astonish anybody.
Imam Bukhari’s (R.A) memory was considered to be inhuman, for as soon as the praying of a hadith would finish Imam Bukhari (R.A) would repeat it orally. It has been known that in his childhood he had memorized 2 000 ahaadeeth.
There is one spectacular incident which took place in Baghdad when Imam Bukhari (R.A) took up temporary residence there. The people having heard of his many accomplishments, and the attributes which were issued to him, decided to test him so as to make him prove himself to them. In order to do that they chose one hundred different ahaadeeth and changing the testimonials and the text of the ahaadeeth they were then recited by ten people to Imam Bukhari (R.A).
There was a crowd of gathered people from within and outside the city to witness the outcome of such a test. When the ahaadeeth were recited Imam Bukhari (R.A) replied to all in one manner, "Not to my knowledge." However, after the completion of all the ahaadeeth Imam Bukhari (R.A) repeated each text and testimonial which had been changed followed by the correct text and testimonial, such was the memory of Imam Bukhari (R.A).
His abstinence was also an attribute which was incomparable and undauntless. He had been left a considerable amount of wealth by his father however, due to his generosity he spent it all in the path of Allah so that at the end he had been left with no money forcing him to spend his day on one or two almonds.
He never took advantage from the generosity of any king or ruler, although many occasions arose. Once he fell ill and when his urine was tested, the results showed that he had not consumed curry for a long time. Upon questioning he said, "I have not consumed curry for the last forty years.
Imam Bukhari (RA) had one very special attribute which was to put everyone’s happiness before his own. One incident which proves this is when Imam Bukahri’s (RA) slave-girl was entering the room in which Imam Bukhari was seated however, approaching the door she stumbled; causing Imam Bukhari to warn, "Be careful as to where you are walking.’’ The slave-girl replied haughtily "How shall I walk when there is no place?’’ Upon hearing this Imam Bukhari threw up his hands and cheered," I have now given you the freedom to walk where you wish as of now you are freed." Someone later questioned Imam Bukhari if he had reacted out of anger, however, he replied "No, I have just pleased myself with my conduct.’’
Imam Bukhari always took notice of all things little which could help him earn the happiness of Allah Ta’ala. There is one such incident where there was a gathering. A man from within the crowd found a feather within his beard which he threw on the floor. Imam Bukhari followed the mans action and looking around to make sure no-one was looking and then bent in order to pick it up and placed it in his pocket. After leaving the mosque he threw it away aware of the fact that he had just done something in order to help keep the mosque clean.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) states himself that, "From the time of learning the prohibitions of backbiting till now, I have refrained from such an act."
There is also one incident when Imam Bukhari (R.A) was involved in Zohar prayers. After completing his salaah he started to pray his Nafl. On finishing this he turned towards his companions and lifting the bottom of his shirt said, “Is there anything inside this?" Suddenly a wasp fell out leaving 17 places which were swelling due to the violent stings of the wasp. One companion asked why the salaah was not discontinued. He replied, "I felt a certain pleasure from my salaah which I was reluctant to let go of."
The Governor of Bukhara made a special request for Imam Bukhari (R.A) to make daily visits to his home in order to teach his children. Imam Bukhari (R.A) declined stating that, "I give greater respect to knowledge rather than to people, for it is they who are in need of the knowledge and it is they who should seek it."
Upon hearing this the Governor was further annoyed by Imam Bukhari’s (R.A) answer and made a second request that Imam Bukhari (R.A) make a special arrangement to teach his children alone without anyone else being present which was also refused by Imam Bukhari (R.A). The Governor was infuriated by the second refusal and ordered Imam Bukhari (R.A) out of Bukhara. The people of Samarqand hearing of this quickly issued an invitation to Imam Bukhari (R.A) to come to their town. However, there was also a difference of opinion within the people of Samarqand which forced Imam Bukhari (R.A) to turn towards Khartang.
It was here that he spent the month of Ramadaan and in the month of Shawwaal headed towards Samarqand, where death found him whilst he was traveling. Imam Bukhari died in the month of Shawwaal 256 A.H., at the age of 62.
(To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.)
There are a number of books compiled by Imam Bukhari (R.A) however, Bukhari Shareef has gained great esteem and a high status in the learning and praying of ahaadeeth.
A specific date has not been known as to when he had started the writing of Bukhari Shareef, however, we do know that after he had finished he had shown the manuscript to his teachers Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (R.A) for approval who died in 241 A.H, along with Ibnul-Madeeni who died in 234 A.H, and lastly Ibn Maeen who passed away in 233 A.H. It has also been recorded that it took the noble writer a period of 16 years to gather the ahaadeeth and to write Bukhari Shareef which sets the date back to 217 A.H, as the year in which he started the compilation; Imam Bukhari (R.A) being merely 23 years of age.
Before Imam Bukhari (R.A) had started to collect ahaadeeth there had actually been quite a few published books of ahaadeeth in which Imam Bukhari (R.A) found ahaadeeth of both weak and strong testimonials, which gave him the idea to compile such a kitaab containing ahaadeeth of only strong testimonials. Ishaaq Ibn Rahway (R.A) agreed to this idea which strengthened Imam Bukhari’s (R.A) decision.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) states, "There was once a time during one of our sessions when my teacher Ishaaq Ibn Rahway remarked it would be appreciated if someone could collect ahaadeeth which held strong and reliable testimonials and write them in the form of a kitaab." This inspired Imam Bukhari (R.A) which was later strengthened by a dream in which Imam Bukhari (R.A) was positioned in front of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam with a fan in one hand to aid him in ridding the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam of all flies which would rest upon him. Upon waking, Imam Bukhari (R.A) visited several interpreters for an appropriate interpretation. They all answered that it meant he would in future cleanse the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam of all lies spoken by the people through narrating misunderstood ahaadeeth. This gave Imam Bukhari (R.A) great comfort and strength once he started the writing of his kitab Al-Jame-ul-Sahih. The complete name of the kitaab is ‘Al-Jame-ul-Sahih-al-Musnad-min-ahaadeethe-Rasulillah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam-wa-sunanihi-wa-Ayyaamihi,’ which means a collected version of ahaadeeth in the form of a kitaab which relates to us the sayings, actions and the life of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) had taken great care in writing the ahaadeeth and choosing those which met the standards and conditions which he set to find ahaadeeth with only strong testimonials which included only reliable and trustworthy testifiers. He spent 16 years in writing the kitaab, altering it a total of three times. Allaamah Ayni (R.A.) reports of Ibn Tahir’s remark that Imam Bukhari had written Sahih-ul-Bukhari in his hometown Bukhara. Ibn Bujair however, relates that he had started his compiling in Makkah, and some have reported of seeing him in Basra. There is still another differing remark made by others who comment on seeing him in Madinah to write his kitaab. However, we find Imam Bukhari (R.A) relating himself that he wrote Sahih-ul-Bukhari in Masjid-e-Haraam.
Before he actually placed a hadith in his compilation he used to perform ghusl and prayed to Allah through two rakah nafl prayers asking for guidance. Imam Bukhari ( R.A) worked such that only after being completely satisfied with the hadith in question did he give it a place in his kitaab. Due to this great care which was taken, the people were heard to say that the ahaadeeth which Imam Bukhari (R.A) has narrated have been so carefully phrased and with such precision that it is felt Imam Bukhari (R.A) had heard the ahaadeeth directly through the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.
Abu Zaid Marwazi reports that I was once asleep in between the ‘Black stone’ and ‘Maqaam-e-Ibrahim’ when the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam appeared in my dream he stated, "O Abu Zaid! For how long shall you teach Imam Shafi’s (R.A) kitaab ? When shall you start the teaching of my kitaab ?"
I questioned, "O Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam! Which kitaab is yours?" He replied, "Mohammed Ibn Ismail’s Al-Jame-ul-Sahih."
Hafiz Ibn Hajar (R.A) reports that Imam Bukhari (R.A) has kept it of utmost importance to only narrate ahaadeeth of a strong testimonial which can be proven by the name of the kitaab. However, along with this Imam Bukhari (R.A) also made an effort to explain all points which are difficult to understand, which is the reason why he has given a plentiful host of meanings for one sentence which may include a word that is in reality difficult to understand. Imam Bukhari (R.A) has included within his kitaab the art of narrating ahaadeeth which have been divided into eight different chapters. These chapters contain subjects which have been sub-titled and are famous for the ingenious way in which they have been phrased.
Imam Bukhari (R.A) has imposed conditions which all narrators and testifiers must meet before the hadith can be selected. One condition requires that all testifiers must have a strong memory. There are also restrictions made upon this condition :
1. All the Muhadditheen who possess great knowledge of ahaadeeth must agree upon the testifiers’ in question ability to learn and memorize, along with his reporting techniques.
2. The testimonial must be complete without any missing testifiers.
3. If there are two different narrators of a hadith related to them by a Sahaabi then the hadith shall be given a high stage in rank. However, if only one narrator can be found and the testimonial proves to be a strong one then this shall be accepted without any doubts.
Allaamah Nawawi (R.A) relates that all scholars in Islam have agreed that Sahih-ul-Bukhari has earnestly gained the reward of being the most authentic after the Holy Qur’an.
Sahih-ul-Bukhari consists of 7 275 ahaadeeth including those ahaadeeth which have been repeated. However, should the repeated ahaadeeth be excluded then the total number of ahaadeeth will be 4,000.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar counted the ahaadeeth and concluded that there was 7 397 where the ahaadeeth have been passed down from the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam directly and with the narrations of Sahabah or Tabi’een etc.; procuring a total of 9 407 ahaadeeth in all. Although after excluding the repetitions he found 2 353 narrations of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam and 160 sayings of the respected Sahabah totaling to 2 513 narrations in all.
A Distinctive Honour
Bukhari Shareef has been set apart from other compilations, gaining a distinctive honour due to the following reasons :
1. Whilst Imam Bukhari (R.A) was engaged in the writing of Bukhari Shareef, if the need arose to stop work for a period of time, then he would continue his work only after writing ‘Bismillah’ which is the reason why ‘ Bismillah’ has been found to be written in between in many places.
2. At the end of all chapters Imam Bukhari (R.A) has concluded by use of a word within the sentence so as to give one a point to ponder upon and hopefully so that one becomes more aware of the primary objective of life. e.g. after the first chapter he has included a word which brings one to think of their short life in this world and of their death. His intention is that one reads Kitaabe-Bukhari with death in mind.
3. Imam Bukhari (R.A) has paid great attention towards the beginning and ending his kitaab with an appropriate hadith. For the first hadith narrated within the kitaab is based upon intention which gives one the opportunity to be sincere with himself as to what he intends to gain from studying the words of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam which have been narrated throughout the kitaab. Also the last chapter which Imam Bukhari (R.A) has chosen to end his kitaab with is ‘Kitaab-ul-Tauheed’ which gives one a whole host of words which may be said in order to praise the oneness of Allah; for it is this which is believed to be the sole aid for all humans when they shall find themselves in the unbearable position of being reckoned for their sins on the Day of Judgment.
Hadhrat Shaikh Moulana Muhammad Zakariyya (R.A) has summed up the above in these words," Imam Bukhari (R.A) has commenced his kitaab with the hadeeth ‘ Innamal Aamaal....’ and concluded it with ‘Kalimataan.