The Authenticity of Sahīh Bukhārī
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

In some of your articles and answers published in this journal, you have pointed out that there are some problematic Āhadīth in Sahīh Bukhārī. I have often heard Sahīh Bukhārī being considered as the second most authentic book after the Qur’ān. If we are questioning the validity of Sahīh Bukhārī then is there no true authentic work of Hadīth for the common person to read or consult?


Answer: Before I specifically answer your question, it seems appropriate to elaborate the mode of transmission of Āhadīth and the criteria established by the scholars to ascertain their authenticity.

Āhadīth are in fact reports that have been transmitted by individuals and therefore are scrutinized in the light of the criteria that mainly hinge upon the personality of those individuals and the interlinked chain that is established between them. Hence, the criteria may be summarized as:


i. Checking the individuals




ii. Continuity

iii. Corroboration


Their brief explanation follows:


i. Checking the individual

Since at the core of this mode of transmission stands the personality of some individuals, it needs to be ascertained whether the transmitters had a good character and whether they were capable of retaining what they actually heard or observed.  In addition, that they had the ability to comprehend and express things without distorting the message.

ii: Continuity

An interlinked chain needs to be established between the transmitters. They must be shown to be in direct contact and communication with each other. In this respect, their respective locations and their proximity in time are investigated. Any unreasonable break, be it of location or time, raises doubts as to the authenticity of a report.

iii. Corroboration

Other corroborating reports are gathered to support the one at hand. It must be appreciated that as the significance of a report increases, it becomes imperative that it be corroborated by many other similar reports since any significant matter could not have been confined to a small number of people alone.

Thus, all the Hadīth literature is judged in light of these criteria. As far as your question about Sahīh Bukhārī is concerned, it should be kept in mind that this collection is a research work of a Hadīth scholar and like other accomplishments of human beings, cannot be devoid of the shortcomings to which all their works are subjected. Consequently, when the Āhadīth contained in it are judged, some stand up to the criteria and some have to be declared da‘īf or gharīb. Thus, the question is not about the authenticity of Sahīh Bukhārī as a whole but about the individual Āhadīth of which it is made up.

It must be appreciated that though the criteria delineated above provide a certain degree of reliability to a report, they can never substantiate its authenticity beyond a shadow of doubt. Just because a transmitter may have a highly good character, exceptionally good memory and outstanding ability to comprehend and express the facts and figures, it can never be claimed that he had an ‘infallibly’ good character, ‘unfailing’ memory and ‘perfect’ understanding. Furthermore, the expedition to collect information about those involved in the transmission of a report is another task that could never be fault free. It is for this reason that the authenticity of a Hadīth cannot be substantiated beyond a shadow of doubt. Consequently, it is advisable to consult a scholar who is able to refer the issue at hand to the two fundamental sources of Islam, the Qur’ān and Sunnah, and thereby guide the seeker accordingly.

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