Al-Bukhari: the master in science of Prophetic narrations
November 04 2021 09:32 PM

His mother woke up with a start and said happily: “What a pleasant dream! Allah’s messenger Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, appeared in my dream, and said: “O woman! Allah restored your son’s eye sight because of your frequent supplications”. She said: “O Allah, make it a glad tiding. O Allah answer my supplications and restore the sight of my child.”
The pious mother walked to her son’s room, hardly able to move her feet. When she reached his bed, she was about to wake him up but she hesitated. Her broken heart was beating and she kept tenderly and kindly caressing his head with her shaky hands. She was still supplicating and hoping that Allah would answer her frequent supplications and cure her son. The young boy woke up and started looking in amazement and moving his eyelids in confusion. He said in a breaking voice:
“Mother!! I can see you, I can see your beautiful face! I can see my room and my toys!!”
All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah! Allah gave me back my eyesight!!”
She was so happy that she thought she was dreaming. But she soon realised that it was real when she saw her beloved son running and playing as he used to do. Filled with faith and happiness, she said: “All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah who has the power to do everything.”
One day, when the mother was tidying up the house in the morning, she came across a few papers containing some narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. She remembered her beloved husband and said sadly and painfully while wiping the tears off her cheeks: “May Allah have mercy on you, Muhammad’s father. You were a man who used to fear Allah. You dreamed for a long time that your son Muhammad would be a religious scholar! I promise you that I will do my best to achieve your dear wish, Allah willing.” Then she called her son kindly, and Muhammad hurried to her obediently. Then, she said to him: “It is time for you, my son to seek religious knowledge and benefit yourself and the people around you. Tomorrow I will send you to a small school where you can memorise the Qur’an, learn Prophetic narrations and study the Arabic language to become an honourable scholar like your father, Ismaa’eel, may Allah have mercy on him.
The young boy, Muhammad, said cleverly: “Mother! Was my father an eminent scholar?”
The mother replied: “Yes, my son.” Muhammad, then said politely: “I promise you, Mother, that I will follow his footsteps seriously and exert all my efforts.”
The city of Bukhaaraa (now in Islamic Uzbekistan) was located at that time in one of the greatest countries beyond the Transoxus (now Turkistan). Schools of knowledge where people could learn Arabic, the Qur’an, history, and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) were spread throughout the city. The young boy, Muhammad Ibn Ismaa’eel al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on them, then set out to quench his thirst for knowledge from these sweet springs. Early in his life, he showed signs of intelligence that surprised everyone around him. He had a sharp mind, an attentive heart, an amazing memory, and an incredible ability to memorise. Before he was ten, he had memorised the whole Qur’an, mastered the Arabic language, covered much of the Fiqh, and memorised many Prophetic narrations. His pious good mother always encouraged her son and prepared a suitable atmosphere for him to acquire knowledge. When Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, finished his studies in the small schools, his wise mother thought to send him to the well-known study circles in Bukhara, Samarqand, Bekend, Marw, and Nesabor. He became famous among the scholars to the point that he used to argue with his professors and even corrected them sometimes!!      
The success and physiognomy of Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, didn’t end there. His shaykh and teacher Muhammad  Ibn Salaam Al-Bekandy, may Allah have mercy on him, the scholar of Bukhara and the scholar of Prophetic narrations across the Transoxus (now Turkistan), used to ask him to revise some of his books and corrected any mistakes he found. Scholars used to wonder in astonishment: “Who was that boy who edits the books of his professor?!”
Imam Bekandi, may Allah have mercy on him, used to say proudly about his clever student: “This boy is unique of his kind.”
On many occasions Imam Bekandi, may Allah have mercy on him, talked to his colleagues about his student, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, who memorised 70,000 Prophetic narrations by heart. In addition to this, he never reported a narration of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, or the generation following them unless he knew when and where they were born, as well as where they lived and died! 
The years passed and Muhammad Ibn Ismaa’eel, may Allah be pleased with him, reached the age of sixteen years. He felt a great need to go and seek knowledge in every corner of the world to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He headed to Makkah, accompanied by his mother and elder brother, Ahmad, in 210AH to perform Haj (pilgrimage) and seek more knowledge. After the pilgrimage, his mother and brother Ahmad returned to Bukhaaraa while he stayed in Makkah to move between its domes of knowledge: East, and west; North and South. Before the end of two years in this sacred city, he started writing his book The Issues of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and their Followers which marked the beginning of his renowned books. 
Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, always loved to visit Madinah. Among the fruits of his visits to that blessed place was writing his book: “The Big Book of History” which is considered the first book that comprises the names of the narrators of Prophetic narrations and the details of their lives. From that wonderful sacred spot, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, set out on a relentless endeavour to visit all the Islamic territories out of his love for compiling the Prophetic narrations. He traveled to Hijaaz (Saudi Arabia), Levant (Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon), Egypt, and Khurasaan (a vast area between north east Iran, southern Russia, and western Afghanistan). He visited Basrah and settled for some time in Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasid state at that time. He greatly benefited from these journeys seeking knowledge. He had the pleasure of meeting most the narrators of Prophetic narrations at that time, sat with them, listened to the narrations, and memorised whatever knowledge they had. 
One night, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, had a strange dream that later had a great impact on his life. He saw himself standing before the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, holding a palm-leaf fan in his hand with which he pushed all evil away from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He was so confused and surprised that he went to his scholars, may Allah have mercy on them, asking them to interpret his dream. They said happily: “You will clear the lies and false claims away from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.” Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, then remembered his teacher, shaykh Is-Haaq Ibn Raahawayh, the prominent scholar of Khurasaan, when he told his students once: “It would be great if you can compile a concise and brief book containing the authentic narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.”
These words echoed in Al-Bukhari’s heart and he remembered that dream which was always in his mind since he started learning the Prophetic narrations. Thereupon, he immediately made an intention to actively and seriously pursue this mission and started to strive in his long journey of writing this great book in 217AH when he was 23. 
Because of that dream, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, traveled thousands of miles moving from one Islamic territory to another, undergoing all sorts of difficulties, hardships, and weariness, sometimes to obtain only one narration of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He sometimes even had to eat grass to satisfy his extreme hunger after he had spent all his money. Even the few hours of night in which he snatched short naps to rest a while, were not so resting for him, as he used to wake up fifteen to twenty times a night to lit his lamp and sit to classify the narrations he had collected. Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, made a pact with himself that he wouldn’t include a narration from any narrator until he had personally met him, and listened to the narration with his own ears. He never accepted narrations except from the ones who were known for being honest, diligent, accurate, fearing Allah, and having a sharp memory. After this process, he would have a ritual bath; pray two Rak’as and then include only the narration that had met all these conditions in his book. 
After 16 years of continuous effort and hard work, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, finished his valuable book that comprised around 7,000 authentic narrations which he selected from amongst 600,000 authentic and non-authentic narrations.  He overlooked many authentic narrations so that his book wouldn’t be too long. He chose to name the book “The Authentic Book Encompassing a Brief Authentic Narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, his Tradition and Life” to become the title of the most authentic book after the Qur’an. The book is known as Saheeh Al-Bukhari (The authentic narrations reported by Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him). This book became well known and it gave him a high rank that someone like him truly deserved to achieve. He, may Allah be pleased with him, had a vast knowledge, great manners, a tolerant nature, dignity, and an untainted tongue. He cared so little for this life, he had deep faith, and had Allah’s consciousness at all times. After Imam Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, became famous throughout the world, thousands of scholars came to him as students of the leader in memorisation of authentic narrations until the number of people who attended his study circles in Baghdad reached 20,000. Among the most remarkable figures of his students were Imams At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’ee, Muslim, and others, may Allah have mercy on them.
In 250AH, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, left to Nisabor, a city in Khurasaan and stayed there for a while teaching the people. Then he decided to return to his dear city, Bukhaaraa, and when he did the people rushed to welcome him in a great celebration in which huge tents were pitched and decorations were hung. They threw flowers and golden and silver coins on the Imam upon his arrival into the city. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of happiness that prevailed throughout all Bukhaaraa. Allah Willed, out of mercy to the Imam, that Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, would only meet his Lord after peace and happiness had found their way into his heart again. One day, the people of Samarqand sent a message for him asking him to come. He agreed and packed with great joy. When he started walking towards his animal he said: “Take me back, I have become weak and very ill”. When they took him back to his house, he said some supplications then he laid on his bed sweating a lot, then his pure soul ascended to its Creator. His death, may Allah have mercy on him, was on a Friday night, the beginning of the month of Shawwaal, 256AH (870CE). He was 62 years old when he died. He was buried in the village of Khartank which is now known as ‘Khawaajah Saaheb’. May Allah have mercy upon the great Imam and may Allah admit him into Paradise. Aameen.

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Two most authentic books of Hadith
Of all the works of Hadith, Saheeh Al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim are regarded as the most authentic and authoritative books, after Al-Qur’an. Indeed the very word “Saheeh” means “authentic”.
Saheeh Al-Bukhari was compiled by Imam (leader) of Hadith, Mohammad Ibn Ismaa’eel al-Bukhari, born 194AH in Bukhara, central Asia. He travelled at an early age seeking knowledge to Hijaaz (Makkah and Madinah), Ancient Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc. He devoted more than 16 years of his life to the actual compilation of this work. He learnt from more than 1,000 scholars.
It is said that Imam Al-Bukhari  collected over 300,000 Hadiths and he himself memorised 200,000 of which some were unreliable. He wrote many books especially on the bibliography of Hadith narrators and other books on various issues of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). However, his book Saheeh Al-Bukhari, stands out for being the most authentic book of Hadith. It was also the first book to contain only authentic Hadiths, while previous books contained authentic and non-authentic Hadiths, as well as sayings of the companions  and others. Imam Al-Bukhari  died in his hometown, Bukhara in the territory of Khurasaan (West Turkistan), in the year 256AH. 
He grouped the traditions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, under various headings dealing with specific points of Islamic jurisprudence. In his time, the schools of law had been generally established and his objective was to catalogue the traditions he regarded as authentic in relation to their respective topics of jurisprudence.
Before he recorded each Hadith, he would perform ablution and offer a two-Rak’ah prayer and supplicate to Allah. Many religious scholars of Islam tried to find fault in the great remarkable collection, but without success. It is for this reason, they unanimously agreed that the most authentic book after the Book of Allah is Saheeh Al-Bukhari. 
Some facts about Saheeh Al-Bukhari:
1. It contains 7,275 Hadiths, which he chose from the large number of Hadiths that he had collected.
2. The number of complete unrepeated Hadiths is 2,230.
3. All the Hadiths mentioned are authentic.
4. The conditions for accepting a Hadith were very stringent. Such as:
a) The chain of narrators must be linked, i.e. every narrator must have met his predecessor, (the man of whom he heard the Hadith from, up to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.)
b) For it to be enclosed in the Saheeh, the narrators must be of the highest caliber regarding their piety, manners, memory, integrity, etc. 
5. The book is not a mere book of narrations; it is essentially a course of study on Hadith, its derivatives, inductions and research.
6. Each one of its 97 chapters is headed by a relevant verse from the Qur’an that complements the meaning of the Hadiths quoted. 
7. Finally, much more could be said about this monumental work, however, it is enough to say that many people have reached fame and achieved the highest qualifications by studying the book, researching it and commenting on it.
Saheeh Muslim:
Saheeh Muslim is the second most authentic book of Hadith after Saheeh Al-Bukhari, compiled by Imam Muslim ibn al-Hajaaj al-Nisapuri. Born in 202H and died in 261H. He travelled widely to gather his collection of Hadith to Iraq Hijaaz, Ancient Syria, and Egypt. He learnt from many scholars, most of which were Al-Bukhari’s teachers. He also learnt from the Imam Al-Bukhari himself  and became his most loyal student. Like Imam Al-Bukhari, Allah have mercy upon him, he, Allah have mercy upon him, wrote many books on the sciences of Hadith. 
He, Allah have mercy upon him, sought not so much to complement the issues at stake in the fiqh, the lslamic jurisprudence, but rather to produce a collection of sound traditions, an authentic record, on which future studies of Hadith could be based. 
Some facts about Saheeh Muslim:
1. The book contains 4,000 non-repeated Hadiths and 12,000 repeated ones.
2. Many narrations are mentioned in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, but with different chain of narrators.
3. In every chapter more than one Hadith with the same meaning but with different chains and text are listed. The first Hadith in each chapter is the strongest, followed by weaker narrations in order to strengthen weaker narrations.
4. Excellent classification.
5. The book is forwarded by a detailed introduction about the basis of the sciences of Hadith.
Saheeh Al-Bukhari is preferred over Saheeh Muslim based on the authenticity of the Hadiths. Imam Al-Bukhari was stricter in selecting Hadiths (chains) than Imam Muslim . Besides considering all the conditions of a Saheeh Hadith, Imam Al-Bukhari  stipulated a further condition that a narrator should meet the person from whom he is narrating the Hadith. 
Imam Muslim  however, did not stipulate the evidence of meeting the narrator from whom he is narrating, but according to him, it is sufficient to accept the Hadith of a narrator if he lives in the same period and there was the possibility of meeting the narrator from whom he is reporting the Hadith. So, the condition of Imam Muslim was less strict than the condition of Imam Al-Bukhari .  
While Bukhari’s compilation is considered the more reliable of the two, Muslim’s arrangement of his material has been recognised as superior, and rightly so. While Al-Bukhari  made the traditions in his collection testify to his own schedule of various points of law, Muslim  left them to speak for themselves.

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