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Who is Imam Al-Bukhari?
Friday August 29, 2014 6:40 PM, Amal Al-Sibai

THE sources of knowledge that Muslims rely upon for almost every aspect of their lives are the Holy Qur’an revealed by Allah and Hadith; the traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) narrated and transmitted by men and women surrounding the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his lifetime. In order to preserve this knowledge, the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his way of life were recorded and compiled in books.


Among the most notable and trusted books of Hadith is the book of Imam Al-Bukhari but many of us do not know much about who he is. In fact, his book, Sahih Al-Bukhari is considered the most authentic and reliable book after the Holy Qur’an. His book contains 7,275 authentic and accurate sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he did not include any saying unless it is authentic.

Authentic in the science of Hadith means that it is conveyed by a trustworthy, competent person, both in the ability to memorize and to preserve what he wrote and it must have a connected chain of narration back to the person who saw or heard the Prophet (peace be upon him). For a Hadith to be deemed authentic, each person in the chain of narration should have no flaws in memory or in character.

In what was then known as Bukhara, or Uzbekistan today, Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Ibrahim ibn Mughira Al-Ja’afi Al-Bukhari was born on the 13th of Shawwal, the year 194 after Hijra. He was born into an ascetic family to a wealthy yet humble, pious, and generous father.

When Al-Bukhari was still a boy, his father died, and his mother spared no effort in looking after his health and providing him with the best education.

From a very young age, Al-Bukhari showed an interest and mental keenness for learning Hadith. He had an exceptional memory and devotion to learning. In his teen years, he had memorized 70,000 Hadith and later in his life, he memorized around 300,000 Hadith. Not only did he memorize the Hadith, but he studied the history of each person who narrated the Hadith. He had a remarkable memory and sharp intellect and he could memorize a book simply by briefly glancing at it.

Al-Bukhari sensed a need for compiling a book, which would encompass all of the authentic Hadith because up until his time, there was no such complete book. Some books on hadith contained a mix of authentic and weak Hadith, and most books contained some but not all of the authentic Hadith.

He also had a personal reason for documenting such a book of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Imam Al-Bukhari had a vision; he dreamt that he was fanning away flies from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which symbolizes his mission to dispel lies and false information about the Prophet (peace be upon him).

At age 22 he started the mammoth task of collecting authentic Hadith and he only recorded in his book those sayings which he found to be genuine after thorough scrutiny. He spent 16 years in research and examined over 60,000 sayings, from which he selected 7,275 sayings that are authentic and accurate.

He traveled great distances to seek knowledge of Hadith from scholars and narrators. He visited Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Basra, Iran, Makkah, and Madinah.

He inherited vast wealth from his father but he preferred a simple life and gave generously in charity to those in need and to his students. His passion for knowledge and for teaching left in him no care or concern for worldly pleasures. He ate very little and was thin. Because he had no time for eating lavish meals, he often went through a whole day only on a handful of almonds or dried leaves.

Not only was he a scholar but he was a sensitive person and vigilant worshiper. He split his nights into three portions: one-third for prayer, one-third for knowledge and his research in Hadith, and one-third for sleep. He despised backbiting or speaking ill of others. He was courteous, tolerant, and gentle. He never became angry if mistreated by other persons and if he needed to correct anyone, he would not embarrass that person in public.

An almost super-natural memory was a gift from God but he put his gift to good use. He dedicated his life to write a book that includes everything about our Prophet (peace be upon him) from his physical characteristics to his manner of speech to how he dressed, how he treated his wives in the privacy of his home, how he was with his companions, how he carried out business transactions, and how he performed acts of worship.

Hearing a saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari should render in us a bit more awe and appreciation for who Al-Bukhari was. (Saudi Gazette)


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