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Introduction to Sahih al-Bukhari

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For other uses, see Bukhari (disambiguation).
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Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic:صحيح البخاري‎), as it is commonly referred to, is one of the six canonical hadith collections of Islam. These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by the PersianMuslim scholar Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, after being transmitted orally for generations. Sunni Muslims view this as one of the three most trusted collections of hadith along with Sahih Muslim and al-Muwatta [1]. In some circles, it is considered the most authentic book after the Qur'an.[2][3] The Arabicword sahih translates asauthentic or correct.[4]


[edit] Actual title

Al-Bukhari traveled widely throughout the Abbasid empire from the age of 16, collecting those traditions he thought trustworthy. It is said that al-Bukhari collected over 300,000 hadith and included only 2,602 traditions in his Sahih.[6] At the time when Bukhari saw [the earlier] works and conveyed them, he found them, in their presentation, combining between what would be consideredsahih and hasan and that many of them included da'if hadith. This aroused his interest in compiling hadith whose authenticity was beyond doubt. What further strengthened his resolve was something his teacher, Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Hanthalee – better known as Ibn Rahoyah – had said. Muhammad ibn Ismaa'eel al-Bukhari said, "We were with Ishaq ibn Rahoyah who said, 'If only you would compile a book of only authentic narrations of the Prophet.' This suggestion remained in my heart so I began compiling the Sahih." Bukhari also said, "I saw the Prophet in a dream and it was as if I was standing in front of him. In my hand was a fan with which I was protecting him. I asked some dream interpreters, who said to me, 'You will protect him from lies.' This is what compelled me to produce the Sahih."[7]

The book covers almost all aspects of life in providing proper guidance of Islam such as the method of performing prayers and other actions of worship directly from the Islamic prophet Muhammad.Sahih al-Bukhari is the work of over 16 years by Bukhari, who before writing any Hadith in this book performed ablution and two units of prayer asking guidance from Allah. Then he would do the necessary research and investigation, observing if the particular Hadith fits in to his strict criteria of authenticity and if he is sure that the Hadith is authentic, he wrote it in the book.

Bukhari finished his work around 846, and spent the last twenty-four years of his life visiting other cities and scholars, teaching the hadith he had collected. In every city that he visited, thousands of people would gather in the main mosque to listen to him recite traditions. In reply to Western academic doubts as to the actual date and authorship of the book that bears his name, Sunni scholars point out that notable hadith scholars of that time, such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (855 CE/241 AH), Ibn Maīn (847 CE/233 AH), and Ibn Madīni (848 CE/234 AH), accepted the authenticity of his book[8] and that the collection's immediate fame makes it unlikely that it could have been revised after the author's death.

During this period of twenty-four years, Bukhari made minor revisions to his book, notably the chapter headings. Each version is named by its narrator. According to Ibn Hajar Asqalani in his book Nukat, the number of hadiths in all versions is the same. The most famous one today is the version narrated by al-Firabri (d. 932 CE/320 AH), a trusted student of Bukhari. Khatib al-Baghdadiin his book History of Baghdad quoted Firabri as saying: "About seventy thousand people heardSahih Bukhari with me".

Firabri is not the only transmitter of Sahih Bukhari. There were many others that narrated that book to later generations, such as Ibrahim ibn Ma'qal (d. 907 CE/295 AH), Hammad ibn Shaker (d. 923 CE/311 AH), Mansur Burduzi (d. 931 CE/319 AH) and Husain Mahamili (d. 941 CE/330 AH). There are many books that noted differences between these versions, the best known being Fath al-Bari.

[edit] Distinctive Features

Amin Ahsan Islahi, the notable Islamic scholar, has listed three outstanding qualities of Sahih Bukhari [9]:

  1. Quality and soundness of the chain of narrators of the selected ahādīth. Imam Bukhari has followed two principle criteria for selecting sound narratives. First, the lifetime of a narrator should overlap with the lifetime of the authority from whom he narrates. Second, it should be verifiable that narrators have met with their source persons. They should also expressly state that they obtained the narrative from these authorities. This is a stricter criterion than that set by Imam Muslim.
  2. Imam Bukhari accepted the narratives from only those who, according to his knowledge, not only believed in Islam but practiced its teachings. Thus, he has not accepted narratives from the Murjites.
  3. The particular arrangement and ordering of chapters. This expresses the profound knowledge of the author and his understanding of the religion. This has made the book a more useful guide in understanding of the religious disciplines.

M Junaid Tahir

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