Imam Bukhari is a famous Hadith expert together with Imam Ahmad, Imam Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, An-Nasai, and Ibn Majah. It has been unanimously agreed that Imam Bukhari’s work is the most authentic of all the other works in Hadith literature put together. As agreed by all the scholars, Sahih Al-Bukhari is the most authentic book after the Holy Quran.
The full name of Imam Bukhari is Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Ibrahim Ibn Al-Mughirah ibn Bardizyah Al-Jufri Al-Bukhari. His great grandfather, Al-Mughirah, settled in Bukhara after accepting Islam. He was born on Friday, 13 Shawwal 194 AH (July 21, 810 CE) in the city of Bukhara (a city in present day Uzbekistan). His father was an Alim (Islamic Scholar) and learned from number of famous scholars including Imam Malik ibn Anas. His father died when he was infant and his mother took on the entire responsibility of bringing him up.
His Pursuit of Knowledge:
Imam Bukhari began studying Hadiths while he was still young. He completed his initial studies, especially of Hadith, in Bukhara (his birth place). At the age of 16, he had memorized many books of famous scholars including Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak’s book ‘Al-Waki’. Besides memorizing the Hadith and the book of early scholars, he also started studying biography of all the narrators (Ravi) who take part in a transmission of Hadith, the date of their birth and death, their place of birth and etc.
At the age of eighteen, Imam Bukhari visited Makkah accompanied by his mother and brother. After performing the Hajj (pilgrimage), his brother and mother returned to Bukhara but Imam Bukhari stayed there for further education. He spent two years in Makkah and learned Hadith and other religious studies from Islamic Scholars of Makkah. After that, he went to Madinah and get further education in the field of Hadith, Fiqh and Islamic jurisprudence for four years. After spending six years in Makkah and Madinah, he left for Basra, Kufa and Bahdad and visited Egypt and Sham (Syria). He himself said:
“To seek knowledge, I traveled to Egypt and Syria twice, Basra four times, spent six years at the Hijaz (Makkah & Madinah) and left for Kufa and Baghdad on so many occasions accompanied by Muhaddithin (Hadith collectors or Hadith Experts).”
Many stories have been told about Imam Bukhari’s struggle in collecting Hadiths. He travelled to many different places just to gather the precious gems that fell from the lips of Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.).
His Memory and Intellect:
Imam Bukhari had an extremely strong memory from an early and his memory was considered to be inhuman. In his early period of acquiring knowledge, he memorized seventy thousand Hadiths and later in his life, this figure reached three hundred thousand. His brother Rashid bin Ismail stated that in his childhood:
“Imam Bukhari used to go with us to the scholars of Basra to listen to Hadiths. All of us used to write Hadiths down except Imam Bukhari. After some days, we condemned Imam Bukhari saying that, you had wasted so many days work by not writing down Hadiths. Imam Bukhari asked us to bring our notes to him. So we all brought our notes, upon which Imam Bukhari began to read Hadiths one by one from the top of his head until he narrated to us more than fifteen thousand Hadiths. Hearing these Hadiths, it seemed that Imam Bukhari was re-teaching us all of the Hadiths we had noted.”
He did not depend on pen and paper as much as he relied on his sharp memory which was a result of Allah’s gift of intelligence and superb memory to him.
Mohammad ibn Azhar Sajistani said:
“I used to go to Sulaiman Ibn Harab accompanied by Imam Bukhari for listening to Hadiths. I used to write the Hadiths but Imam Bukhari wouldn’t. Someone said to me, ‘Why doesn’t Imam Bukhari note the Hadiths down?’ I told him, ‘if you missed any Hadith in writing, you could obtain it from the memory of Imam Bukhari.”
There is one remarkable incident took place in Baghdad when Imam Bukhari visited the place. 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 Hadiths and changing the testimonials and the text of the Hadiths. The Hadiths were recited by ten people to Imam Bukhari. When the Hadiths were recited, Imam Bukhari replied to all in one manner, “Not to my knowledge.” However, after the completion of all the Hadiths, he repeated each text and testimonial which had been changed followed by the correct text and testimonial. Such was the amazing memory of this great Hadith Scholar.
His Attributes and Qualities:
- Amazing Memory:As mentioned in above point, Imam Bukhari had an amazing memory.
- Abstinence / Generous:Imam was left with a considerable amount of wealth by his father. However, due to his generosity, he spent it all in the path of Allah. At the end, he had been left with no money forcing him to spend his day on one or two almonds.
- Simple and Humble:He was a simple person. He used to look after his own needs. Despite being an honorable man, he always kept a little number of servants for himself.
- Fear of Allah:He was blessed with the highest rank of piety and righteousness. He feared Allah in everything he did as he was blessed with highest rank of piety and righteousness. He kept himself away from backbiting and suspicion and always respected people’s rights. He was very polite, tolerant and gentle and never got angry when mistreated by others. He always prayed forgiveness for those who attributed evil to him. If he needed to correct any person, he would never embarrass him in public.
In his various country trips, Imam Bukhari met with reputable teachers who can be trusted. He himself said that he had written Hadiths from 1,080 teachers and all of them were experts in Hadith. Among his teacher were:
- Ali ibn Al-Madini
- Yahya ibn Maeen
- Mohammad ibn Yusuf Al-Firyabi
- Mohammad bin Yusuf Al-Baykandi
- Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh
And many others.
Number of people who had narrated the Hadith from Imam Bukhari is unknown. However as per some sources, around 90,000 people had heard Hadiths directly from Imam Bukhari. Among the students of Imam al-Bukhari are:
- Muslim bin Hajjaj (famously known as Imam Muslim)
- Abu Isa Mohammad Al-Tirmidhi (famously known as Imam Al-Tirmidhi)
- Abu Abd-ur-Raḥman Aḥmad ibn Shuaib Al-Nasai (famously known as Imam Al-Nasai)
- Abdullah bin Abd-ur-Rahman Al-Darimi
- Muhammad bin Nashr Al-Marwazi
- Abu Hatim Ar-Razi
- Abu Bakar bin Ishaq bin Khuzaimah
And many others.
Imam Bukhari has written many books during his life. His work is not only in the discipline of the Hadith, but also other sciences such as Tafsir, Fiqh, and Tarikh (History).
- Al-Tarikh Al-Kabir
- Al-Tarikh Al-Ṣaghir
- Al-Tarikh Al-Awsaţ
- Khalqu Afalad ibad
- Adh-Dhuafa Ash-Shaghir
- Al-Adab Al-Mufradlullah Al-Jailani
And many more.
We will discuss in detail about the most famous book of Imam Bukhari which is the collection of Sahih Hadith entitled ‘Al-Jami As-Shahih’, popularly known as Sahih Al-Bukhari.
There is a unique story about compilation of this book. It is said that one night, Imam Bukhari saw Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) in his dream. He was standing in from of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.), having a fan in his hand and driving away the flies from the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). Imam Bukhari then asked the meaning of the dream from interpreters of dream. They interpreted the dream that he (Imam Bukhari) will destroy and erode the lies that are included in a number of Hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). This dream encouraged him to write the book ‘Al-Jami As-Sahih’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari). Imam Bukhari was very careful in compiling the Hadith. According to Al-Firbari, one of his students, he heard Imam Bukhari said:
“I compile the book Al-Jami As-Sahih in the Grand Mosque (Majid Al-Haram), Makkah and I did not include a Hadith except afterIstikharah Prayer (guidance prayer)of two rakahs, ask Allah for help, and after believing that the Hadith is truly authentic.”
Imam Bukhari studied, in details, the lives of narrators, to make sure they were trustworthy and would not fabricate or change the wording of a Hadith. If he discovered that someone in a chain openly sinned or was not considered trustworthy, that Hadith was immediately discarded and not included in his book unless a stronger chain for it existed.
People of the city were extremely happy and greeted him with great zest and zeal. Imam Bukhari established a Madrassah (school) in the city where he spent a great deal of time teaching with satisfaction.
Owing to his honesty, kindness and fact that he was trustworthy, Imam Bukhari used to keep away from the rulers of that time due to the reason that he may incline to say things to please them.
Once the governor of Bukhara, Khalid bin Ahmed, called Imam Bukhari to his house and asked Imam to teach his son. Imam Bukhari, in response to the offer, replied:
“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.”
The governor said:
” If my son was to attend your Madrassah (school), he should not sit with ordinary people’s children. You (Imam Bukari) would have to teach him separately.”
Imam Bukhari answered:
“I cannot stop any person from hearing Hadiths.”
Upon hearing this, the governor got angry at him and ordered Imam Bukhari out of Bukhara. However, he then settled in Khartang Village (today known as Hartang) which is about 30 KM from Samarkand, Uzbekistan. After this incident and due to some other reasons, caliph of Baghdad dismissed the governor of Bukhara, Khalid bin Ahmad. He was expelled from his palace in extreme disgrace and dishonor and then was thrown into prison, where he died after few days.
Expulsion of Imam Bukhari from his homeland caused painful aches inside him. He spent rest of his days in Khartang, Samarkand. On 1 Shawwal 256 AH (870 CE), Imam Al Bukhari passed away at the age of 62 years in a Khartang, Samarkand. The grave of Imam Bukhari is in in Khartang, Samarkand.
Scholars Praising Imam Bukhari:
Al-Hafiz ibn Rajah Al-Hanbali said about Imam Bukhari:
“He (Imam Bukhari) is one of Allah’s signs walking on the Earth.”
Abu Abdullah bin Hammad Al-Marwazi said:
“Muhammad ibn Ismail is the Faqih (Islamic jurist expert in Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic Law) of this Ummah.”
Abu Bakr Mohammad ibn Ishaq 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 (S.A.W.) than Mohammad ibn Ismail.”
To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.