Al-Imaam Al-Bukhaaree: Al-Muhaddith Al-Faqeeh

By Aboo Naasir – hafidhahuLlaah

Adapted from his translation of Al-Adab Al-Mufrad of al-IMaam al-Bukhaaree [RahimahuLlaah] pp. 28-35

[This piece is based on Siyar A'alam an-Nubalaa by Imam Adh-Dhahabee and Muqaddimah Fath al-Baaree by Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaanee (may Allah be pleased with them both)].

He is Ameer al-Huffaadh (leader of the great scholars of hadeeth), Sayyid al-Fuqahaa (the chief of the scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence), Abu Abdullah, Muhammad bin Ismaa‟eel bin Ibrahim bin al-Mugeerah bin Bardizbah al-Ju‟fee al-Bukhaaree. The name al-Bukhaaree is an ascription to his place of birth, Bukhara (Uzbek: Bukhoro) in present day Uzbekistan. Imam al-Bukhaaree was born on Friday, 13th of Shawwal, 194 AH after the Jum‟ah prayer.

His Family

His father, Abu al-Hasan, Ismaa‟eel bin Ibrahim al-Ju‟fee was also an eminent scholar of hadeeth who learnt from Imam Malik (rahimahullah) and met other great scholars such as Abdullah bin Mubarak and Hammad bin Zayd (rahimahumallah). Ahmad bin Hafs related that shortly before his death, Imam al-Bukhaaree‟s father said, “I do not know any single dirham in my wealth from an unlawful means or a dirham from an ambiguity.” However, Abu al-Hasan died while al-Bukhaaree was only a child. So the Imam grew up under the tutelage of his mother who was also a righteous woman and an ardent worshipper.

His Early Studies

As a young boy, Imam al-Bukhaaree learnt the Qur‟an, studied many books on the Islamic Sciences and heard and narrated ahaadeeth from the scholars of his time. Since then, he was known to be intelligent brilliant and hardworking. Muhammad bin Abee Hatim (rahimahullah) said, “I asked Abu Abdullah, "How did your affair start?‟ He replied, "I was inspired to memorize hadeeth when I was in school.‟ So I enquired, "How old were you then?‟ He answered, "Ten years old or younger. Then I used to attend the classes of ad-Daakhilee and others. One day while he was teaching the people he said, "Sufyan narrated from Abee Zubayr who reported from Ibrahim.‟ So I said to him that, "Abu Zubayr did not report (narrations) from Ibrahim.‟ He berated me, but I said, "Refer to the source.‟ So he went in and checked it and then came out and said to me, "what then is it, O young man?‟ I answered, "It is Zubayr bin Adiyy who related from Ibrahim.‟ He took a pen from me and corrected his book. He then said, "Youre correct.‟‟.

When Imam al-Bukhaaree was asked how old he was then, he said, “I was only eleven years old.” He continued, “By the time I turned sixteen, I had memorized the books of Ibn al-Mubaarak and Wakee‟ and known their rulings.”

Haashid bin Ismaa‟eel, who was together with Imam al-Bukhaaree as a student said, “In our student days in Basra, he would memorize whatever he heard and he did not use to write (due to the strength and reliability of his memory).” Abu Bakr al-Kaloozaanee said, “I have not seen any one like Muhammad bin Ismaa‟eel (al-Bukhaaree); when he holds a book of Knowledge and looks at it, (reading it) once, he memorizes it completely from that one (reading).”

His Journeys for Learning

Imam Al-Bukhaaree traveled to the Arabian Peninsula in 210 AH at age 16 together with his old mother and his brother to perform hajj. He later stayed in Madeenah where he commenced the compilation of his monumental work on the biographies of narrators of hadeeth called "style6". His journeys in search of knowledge also took him to places like Basra, Kufah, Shaam, Hums, Asqalaan, Egypt and Baghdad learning from the scholars of the cities.

During a trip to Baghdad, the Scholars of Baghdad intended to test his brilliance and intelligence. They mixed up the chains of transmission for 100 ahaadeeth giving completely different Isnaad (chain of transmission) for a completely different Matn (text) such that it would require the one who knows the hadeeth together with their chains of transmission to be able to distinguish between them. The 100 ahaadeeth with their mixed up chains of transmission were distributed amongst ten scholars who would examine Imam Bukhaaree one after the other. People were gathered to witness the event and during the test, for each of the hadeeth read with the chain of transmission (as mixed up), Imaam Bukhaaree said, “I do not know.” People wondered at the answer of Ameer al-Mu‟mineen fee al-Hadeeth! After all the examiners had finished questioning him concerning the narrations, he turned to the first and said, “Concerning your first hadeeth, it is such and such…”, citing the correct chain of transmission for the text. He did the same thing to the second examiner until he read all 100 ahaadeeth with their correct chains of transmission and texts to the 10 examiners. Hence, the Scholars attested to his knowledge of Prophetic narrations and narrators and respected his dexterity and precision. His Teachers Having travelled far and wide in his pursuit of knowledge, Imam al-Bukhaaree studied under the leading scholars in his time. Al-Bukhaaree recalled, “When I visited Balkh, they requested me to dictate to them from (the narrations) of every person from whom I had written hadeeth. So I narrated 1000 hadeeth to them from 1000 persons from whom I had written down hadeeth.” Therefore, due to their large number and eminence those who wrote the biography of the Imam would either classify his teachers according to their city of residence or according to their ranking as reporters of hadeeth.

Here, Allah willing, it will suffice to only mention some of them:

  • Imam Makkee bin Ibraaheem
  • Abdan bin Uthman
  • Yahya bin Yahya
  • Qutaybah bin Sa'eed
  • Ahmad bin Hanbal
  • Ishaq bin Rahwayh
  • Alee bin al-Madeenee
  • Yahya bin Ma'een.
  • (May Allah shower blessings on them all).

    His Students

    It has been reported that a large number of people, some of whom were scholars in their own respects attended the learning circles of the Imam. Sometimes in a single lesson, up to 10,000 people would be present listening to him – may Allah shower blessings on him. Haafidh Ahmad bin Hamdoon narrated, “I saw al-Bukhaaree during the funeral of Muhammad bin Yahya Adh-Dhuhlee. People were asking him (about the reliability) of narrators and Ilal (hidden defects in ahaadeeth) and al-Bukhaaree was going through them like the arrow as if he was reading Qul Huwallahu Ahad…”

    Some of his major students are:

    Imaam Muslim bin Hajjaaj bin Muslim al-Neesabooree (who compiled Saheeh Muslim), Imaam Abubakr bin Abee Dunya, Imaam Abu ‟Issa Muhammad bin Issa at-Tirmidhee (the author of Sunan at-Tirmidhee), Abu Qaasim al-Baghawee, Abubakr al-Bazzaar, Imaam Abubakr bin Ishaaq bin Khuzaymah amongst others – may Allah shower blessings on them all.

    Imam al-Bukhaaree's Death

    He passed away on the night of Eid al-Fitr, 1st of Shawwal, 265 AH in the city of Khartank.

    His Works:

    Some of the works of Imam al-Bukhaaree include:

  • Tareekh al-Kabeer
  • Tareekh al-Awsat
  • Tareekh as-Sageer on the biographies of the narrators of hadeeth.
  • Khalq Af‟aal al-'Ibaad on the fact that the actions of man are created.
  • Raf‟u al-Yadayn about the raising the hands in the different postures during the Salaat.
  • Al-Qiraa‟at Khalf al-Imam basically on the recommendation of reciting Soorat al-Faatihah behind the imam during obligatory prayers.
  • Birr al-Waalidayn regarding dutifulness to parents.
  • Saheeh al-Bukhaaree: In this book, he stipulated to compile only ahaadeeth that fulfill the stipulated conditions for a Saheeh (authentic) hadeeth. He also stipulated that the compilation would cover a wide range of subjects such as Worship, Rulings, Virtues of Deeds, Etiquette and Character, Stories of the Past Peoples and Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them), the Signs of the Last Hour.

    These stipulations were due to the fact that the earlier compilations of hadeeth were either relatively brief, containing only narrations on a single subject or few others or restricted to the reports of one or few of the Companions from their students. In some cases, ahaadeeth and reports from the Companions were put together but were not subject based. Those who based their compilations on the different subjects like Imam Maalik bin Anas and Imaam Abubakr bin Abee Shaybah amongst others still had a number of narrations in their compilations not fulfilling the generally accepted conditions for a Saheeh Hadeeth.

    Imam al-Bukhaaree named the book, “Al-Jaami' as-Saheeh al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umoori Rasoolillaahi wa Sunanihi wa ayyaamihi” meaning “The Summarized Compilation of Authentic Narrations from the Affairs of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), his Sunnah and his Days.” It contains 9,082 ahaadeeth and has been widely read and taught all over the Islamic World since its compilation. Imam Shamsuddeen adh-Dhahabee (rahimahullah) said, “But for the Book, Saheeh al-Bukhaari, it is the most important book in Islam, and the most honored after the Qur‟aan…”

  • Al-Adab al-Mufrad: This book deals exclusively with the subject of moral etiquettes in Islam, focusing on the customs and traditions of the early Muslims. Although Kitab al-Adab (The Book of Manners) contained in Saheeh al-Bukhaaree explores the same subject, Al-Adab al-Mufrad was basically compiled as a separate work. So while Kitab al-Adab has 128 sections with 256 hadeeths, al-Adab al-Mufrad contains 644 sections with 1,322 ahaadeeth and narrations from the pious predecessors.

    Therefore, al-Adab al-Mufrad comprises more benefits from the daily life of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), his companions and the early Muslims. Also, while Imam al-Bukhaaree stipulated to collect only authentic ahaadeeth in his Saheeh as mentioned earlier, al-Adab al-Mufrad includes ahaadeeth and reports that are either Saheeh (authentic), or Hasan (Sound) or Da'eef (Weak). Regarding the significance of the book, Imam Abdur-Rahman al-Yamaanee al-Mu‟allamee – may Allah be pleased with him – said, “Those who really know Islam and stick to it have regularly emphasized that the weakness and failings and other forms of decadence that has befallen the Muslims were due to their distance from the reality of Islam; and I think that is owing to some things:

    One: Mixing up what is not from the religion with that which is from it.

    Two: Weak certainty about that which is from the religion.

    Three: Not acting according to the rulings of the religion. I believe that knowing the authentically related prophetic manners in worship and dealings; while at home, during journeys, while with others or alone, while active and inactive, and during wakefulness and sleep, while eating and drinking, during talk and silence and other aspects of human engagements and sticking to following it as is easy is the only remedy to those ailments. Many of those etiquettes are easy upon the soul; so if one acts by what is easy for him of it while abstaining from what contradicts it, he does not take long – Allah willing – before he seeks to improve upon it. So, after a while, he becomes a model in that for others. And by following that true guidance and adopting that great character – even if to some extent – the heart is illuminated, the mind is delighted, the soul becomes tranquil, and so, certainty becomes deep-rooted and the actions become good. When those who follow this path become large in number, those ailments soon disappear by Allah‟s leave. From the simplest of the compilations from the Books of Sunnah about the manners of the Prophet is the book, Al-Adab al-Mufrad by Imam Muhammad bin Ismaa‟eel al-Bukhaaree (may Allah be pleased with him): Imam al-Bukhaaree is famously known and his works are the best in quality and authenticity. This book of his, I mean al-Adab al-Mufrad, is, after his book - al-Jaami‟u as-Saheeh -, the most deserving of been given attention by the one who seeks to follow the Sunnah. This is because he carefully and painstakingly collected and preserved it pointing out the salient points of benefit (in it).

    However, the Ummah has unfortunately fallen short regarding the book; its manuscripts are very nice, and it has been repeatedly published. However, it is as if it does not exist because they (those publications) are error laden in their chains of report and text: errors that would not be discerned except by those well grounded in knowledge.”

    [See: Muqaddimah Saheeh al-Adab al-Mufrad pp. 7-8 by Imam Al-Albaanee (rahimahullah)]

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