MUBASHIR IQBAL KITABA
Few persons in the world, across time and space, have ever been endowed with a proverbial memory. One of these was Imam Bukhari (RA), the greatest traditionist that the world of Islam has produced. He retained in his memory one million traditions with full details of all the different sources and reporters of each tradition. His Sahi Bukhari is universally recognized as the most authentic collection of traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Ismail, later known as Imam Bukhari, was born in Bukhara , on Shawwal 13, 194 AH (July 21,810 AC). He was the grandson of a Persian, named Bradizbat. This newly born child had scarcely opened his eyes in the world when he lost his eyesight. His father was immensely grieved by it. Imam Bukhari’s pious mother wept and prayed to Almighty Allah to restore the eyesight of her newly born child. During her sleep, she dreamt and saw Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who said: “Be pleased, your prayer has been accepted by God”. When she got up in the morning, the eyesight of the newly born child was fully restored.
Imam Bukhari (RA) lost his father when he was still a child. He was then brought up by his illustrious and virtuous mother. Little Bukhari began to study the traditions at the early age of eleven. In his 16th year , he made pilgrimage of the Holy places along with his mother and elder brother. There, he attended the lectures of the great teachers of traditions in Makkah and Medina. Imam Bukhari (RA) was only 18 years of age when he wrote a book.
Imam Bukhari’s elder brother, Rashid Ibn Ismail, reports that the young Bukhari used to attend the lectures and discourses of learned men of Balkh along with him and other pupils. But, unlike other pupils he never took notes of these discourses. They criticized him for not taking notes of the lectures and thus wasting his time. Bukhari (RA) did not give any reply. One day, being annoyed by their consistent criticism of his carelessness, Bukhari asked his fellow pupil to bring all they had noted down. By that time, his fellow pupils had taken down more than 15 thousand traditions. Young Bukhari, to the amazement of all, narrated all the 15 thousand traditions from his memory with minutest details which were not noted down by his fellow pupils.
Imam Bukhari (RA) then started on a study pilgrimage of the world of Islam, which lasted 16 years. Of this period, he spent five years in Basra, visiting Egypt, Hejaz, Kufa and Baghdad several times and wandered all over western Asia in quest of knowledge and learning. During his travels, he reported traditions from 80,000 persons and with the help of his exceptional memory he could retain these traditions with all their sources in his mind to be penned down at an opportune time.
The fame of young Bukhari (RA) had soon reached the distant parts of the Islamic world and wherever he went he was received with great veneration. People were wonderstruck by his deep learning and extraordinary memory.
A large number of learned and pious men throughout the world of Islam became the disciples of young Bukhari (RA). These included Sheikh Abu Zarah, Abu Hatim Tirmizi, Muhammad Ibn Nasr, Ibn Hazima and Imam Muslim (RA).
Imam Darami (RA), who was a spiritual teacher of Imam Bukhari (RA), admits that his pupil had deeper insight into the Prophet’s(SAW) Traditions. He was the wisest among the creation of Almighty Allah during his time.
Imam Bukhari (RA) devoted not only his entire intelligence and exceptional memory to the writing of this momentous work, “Sahi Bukhari”; he attended to the task with utmost dedication and piety. Imam Bukhari (RA) used to take bath and pray whenever he sat down to write the book. A part of this book was written by the learned Imam, sitting by the side of Prophets (SAW) grave at Medina.
Imam Bukhari (RA) returned to his native place, Bukhara, at last, and was given a rousing reception by the entire populace of this great cultural city. But, he was not destined to live here for long. He was asked by the ruler of Bukhara to teach him and his children the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) at his palace which he declined and migrated to Khartanak, a town near Samarkand where he breathed his last on Ramzan 30, 256, AH (August 31, 870 AC).
The entire populace of the town and the vicinity came out to pay their last homage to one of the greatest sons of Islam. His grave in Khartanak is still a favorite place of Muslim pilgrimage.
Imam Bukhari’s(RA) monumental work, Al Jami-al-Sahi, popularly known as Sahi Bukhari established his reputation as the greatest traditionist in Islam. It is recognized as the most authentic source material on the Sunnah.
It is said that Imam Bukhari (RA) had retained in his memory one million traditions of the Holy Prophet (SAW) with all the details of their sources and reporters. Once his religious teacher, Sheikh Ishaq Ibn Rahu urged that someone might collect in a book, the most authentic traditions of the Prophet of Islam. Imam Bukhari (RA) promised to fulfill his teacher’s wish. Out of the million traditions which he had learnt from 80,000 reporters, he selected 7,275 traditions and according to Ibn Hajar, 9,082, for his monumental work, Sahi Bukhari. He took 16 years to complete it. This monumental work of Imam Bukhari (RA) has been acclaimed by thousands of traditionsists, and erudite theologians as the best work on Holy Prophet’s(SAW) traditions.
Imam Bukhari (RA) is the author of about two dozen books on religion, Islamic philosophy and history. But, his monumental work is Sahi Bukhari, whose hundreds of commentaries and translations have appeared in different languages all over the world. It is respected and recognized as the most important and essential book in the world of Islam after the Holy Quran.
—The author is a PhD Research Scholar. He can be reached at: [email protected]