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Abū‘abd Allāh Muhammad Bukhārī
Jamil Ahmad


Few persons in the world have even been endowed with a proverbial memory. One of them is Bukhārī, the greatest compiler of Hadīth (narratives pertaining to the Prophet’s life and his sayings) that Islam has produced. He is said to have retained in his memory one million Ahadīth (plural of Hadīth) with full details of all the different sources and reporters of each Hadīth which came down to him. His Sahīh Bukhārī (collection of Hadīth) is universally recognised as the most authentic collection of Ahadīth of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sws).

Abū‘abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl, later known as Imām Bukhārī, was born in Bukhārā on 13 Shawwāl, 194 A.H. (July 21 810 A.C).

The newly-born child had scarcely opened his eyes in the world when he lost his eyesight. His father was immensely grieved at it. His pious mother wept and prayed to God to restore the eyesight of her newly-born child. And by the Grace of God, the eyesight of the newly-born child was fully restored.

He lost his father when he was still a child. He was brought up by his illustrious and virtuous mother.

He began his study of the Hadīth 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 Hadīth in Makkah and Madīnah. He was still 18 years old, when he wrote a book on the decisions made by the Companions of the Prophet (sws) and their followers.

His elder brother, Rashīd ibn Ismā‘īl reports that the young Bukhārī used to attend the lectures and discourses of learned men along with him and other pupils. But, unlike other pupils he never took notes of these discourses. They criticised him for not taking notes of the lectures and thus wasted his time. Bukhārī did not give any reply. One day, being annoyed by their consistent criticism of his carelessness, Bukhārī asked his felllow pupils to bring all they had noted down. By that time, his fellow pupils had taken down more than 15 thousand Ahadīth. Young Bukhārī, to the amazement of all, narrated all the 15 thousand Ahadīth from his memory with minutest details which had not been noted down by the follow pupils.

Later, he started on a study pilgrimage of the world of Islam, which lasted 16 years. Of this period, he spend five years in Basrah, visitng Egypt, Hijāz, Kūfa and Baghdād several times and wandered all over Western Asia in quest of knowledge and learning . During his travels he reported Ahadīth from 80,000 persons. With the help of his exceptional memory he could retain these Ahādīth with all their sources in his mind to be penned down at an opportune times.

The fame of young Bukhārī 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 Bukhārī.

Dāramī, who was a spiritual teacher of Bukhārī admits that his learned pupil had deeper insight into the Hadīth.

Bukhārī devoted not only his entire intelligence and exceptional memory to the writng of the momentous work, Sahīh Bukhārī, he attended to the task with utmost dedication and piety. He used to take bath and pray whenever he sat down to write the book. A part of this book was written by him sitting by the side of Prophet’s grave at Madīnah.

Bukhārī returned to his native place, Bukhārā, 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 Bukhārā to teach him and his children the Ahadīth of the Prophet at his Palace. This he declined and migrated to a town near Samarkand. Here he breathed his last one 30 Ramadān, 256 A.H. (31 August 870 A.C.)

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 is still a favourite place of Muslim pilgrimage.

His monumental work, Sahīh Bukhārī established his reputation as the one of the greatest compilers of Ahadīth in Islam.

It is said that Bukhari retained in his memory one million Ahadith of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sws) with all the details of their sources and reporters. Out of the million Ahadith which he had learnt from some 80,000 reporters, he selected 7,275 Ahadith and, according to Ibn Hajar, 9,082 for his monumental work, Sahīh Bukhārī. He took 16 years to complete it.

This monumental work of Bukharai has been acclaimed by thousands of scholars, and erudite theologians as a rate accomplishment. More than 53 commentaries, some of these in around 14 volumes, have been written on Sahīh Bukhārī.

This book is divided in various chapters, for which he had planned a complete scheme. In his selection of Ahadīth, he exercised great prudence on his part.

Bukhārī is the author of about two dozen other books on religion, Islamic philosophy and history. But his monumental work in Sahīh Bukhārī, whose hundreds of commentaries and translations have appeared in different languages during the last one thousand years.


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