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FaithHistory

A Short Biography of Imam Bukhari

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A man asked Imam Bukhari, “When I recite the Quran, is my recitation created or not?” Imam Bukhari replied, “When you recite the Quran, your voice is created.”

Any person having slightest knowledge about the Sunnah of Prophet () has definitely come across the name of Imam Al Bukhari. His full name is Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Ismail ibn Ibrahim ibn Mughirah ibn Bardizbah Al Jufi Al Bukhari. He was of Persian origin and was born in Bukhara, Uzbekistan in the year 194 Hijri (809 AD). At that time, Mohammad bin Harun-ur-Rashid was the (6th Abbasid) Caliph of the Muslim world. 

Imam Bukhari’s ancestors were Zoroastrians and his great grandfather Al Mughirah accepted Islam at the hand of a person from the Tribe Al Jufi. The father of Imam Bukhari was a businessman and he attended some lectures of Imam Malik ibnu Anas. However, Imam Bukhari’s father died at an early age and he grew up under the supervision of his mother who was a very pious woman. It is reported that at a very young age Imam Bukhari almost lost his eyesight and his mother continued to pray to Allah day and night for her son’s recovery and one day Imam Bukhari’s eyesight was perfected.

Imam Al Bukhari was a student of knowledge from an early age. It is reported that he memorized the entire Quran within one year when he was only six years old. When Imam Bukhari was around the age of 10, he developed a tremendous zeal towards the Hadith and started to memorize them. It is reported that Imam Bukhari was a person with a photographic memory and he just needed to read a book once and after that, never in his life, he was in need to look back. By the age of 16, Imam Bukhari memorized all the major compilations of Ahadith available at Bukhara. 

At around 210 Hijri Imam Bukhari went for Hajj with his mother and brother. At that time, being in Makkah and its vicinity was like a lifetime opportunity for students of knowledge. Imam Bukhari thus decided to stay in Makkah for some time and as a result, his mother returned to Bukhara with his brother without him. Imam Bukhari then stayed for around six years in Makkah, Madina, and Hijaj and studied Ahadith from all the major scholars of that time.

At the age of eighteen, Imam Bukhari wrote his first book called Ilm-ul-Rijal i.e. Science of Men. This is a book of 9 volumes comprising a detailed study/biography of the people who narrated Hadith. This is one of the most complicated branches in the field of the science of hadith and by authoring this book at such an early age Imam Bukhari indicated that he was going to have a great impact in the field of Islamic studies and his name and fame started to spread like wildfire. 

Imam Bukhari also travelled to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Harat, Damascus, and many other cities to learn more about the literature of Hadith from the giant and senior scholars of his time. It is reported that Imam Bukhari spent more than thirty years travelling around the Muslim world acquiring knowledge. The total number of his teachers was more than 1000.

At that time the undisputed living Master of Hadith in the entire Ummah was Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died on 241 Hijri) who was settled in Baghdad. Imam Bukhari had the opportunity to study under Imam Hanbal, and he also studied under Abu Bakr ibn Abdillah (died on 219 Hajri), Yahya Ibn Moyeen (died on 233 Hijri), and Mohammad Ibn Rafi (died 245 Hajri) who were all distinguished scholars of their generation.

The real legacy of Imam Bukhari were his students. It is reported that Imam Bukhari had more than 90,000 students. Most notable among them are (i) Imam Muslim ibn Hajjaj [died on 261 Hijri], (ii) Iman Abu Dawood As Sijistani [died on 275 Hijri], (iii) Imam Mohammad ibn Isa At Tirmidi [died on 279 Hijri], and (iv) Imam Abu Abdir Rahman An Nasai [died on 303 Hijri]. Imam Muslim used to have enormous respect and honour for Imam Bukhari. Their generation is called the golden age of Hadith. 

As Imam Bukhari had a photographic memory, he became a master of Hadith when he was only eighteen years old. Such unprecedented and exceptional achievement from a young man was not very easy for everyone to readily swallow. For this reason, Imam Bukhari had to face extempore tests and he, without hesitation, allowed his knowledge to be tested.

During one such occasion, ten senior scholars of Baghdad decided to test Imam Bukhari at the grand Mashjeed of Baghdad in front of the public in order to ascertain his depth of knowledge. The scholars intentionally kept the text of the Ahadith correct but changed the name of one or two narrators from the chain of narrators and then recited one hundred Ahadith to Imam Bukhari.

After listening to them, Imam Bukhari confessed that he did not hear any of the Ahadith. He then instantaneously corrected one hundred Ahadith with the correct isnaad. Everyone present there was entirely mesmerized to experience such a demonstration of talent. Imam Ahmad ibnu Hanbal remarked that he never saw anyone like Imam Bukhari from the entire province of Khorasan. 

Gradually, Imam Bukhari became the most accepted and renowned scholar of his time. Imam Bukhari has written many books in different branches of Islam e.g. Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh and Tarikh (History). However, his most famous work, for which Imam Bukhari is mostly known for, is his book called “Jami Al Sahih” (popularly known as Sahih Al Bukhari) which is regarded by many as the most authentic book after the Book of Allah.

Imam Bukhari spent around 15 years on this task and he examined around six hundred thousand Ahadith and selected the most authentic 7275 Ahadith for his book. Imam Bukhari did salatul istikhara (guidance prayer) every time for selecting each and every Hadith. 

It is reported that Imam Bukhari once embarked on a ship for travelling to a distant land and he had 1000 gold dinar with him. During the journey, he shared the information of having such an amount with a fellow traveler. The next morning, that traveler started to cry and scream that he lost 1000 gold dinar. The captain of the ship decided the search each and everyone on board.

Imam Bukhari contemplated about what is going to happen. It is understandable that, even if the crewmen found 1000 dinar with Imam Bukhari, nobody was going to believe that Imam Bukhari has stolen the money. Moreover, Imam Bukhari could have provided adequate specifications about the dinar to prove that the money was his. However, Imam Bukhari moved to the corner of the ship and silently threw his bag into the ocean while no one was watching.

When the crewmen searched Imam Bukhari they found nothing. The traveler did not expect that and he asked Imam Bukhari about the money. Imam Bukhari said that he threw the entire bag of 1000 dinars into the ocean. The man was stunned and asked him “How could you do that?” Imam Bukhari replied: “Do you not know that I have spent my entire life accumulating the Ahadeeth of the Prophet and everyone acknowledged my truthfulness. Would it be wise for me to have even an allegation of theft and thereby risking the acceptance about work for few handful Dinars?”  

Imam Bukhari ultimately settled in Bukhara where he was greatly revered by the people. However, in the last years of his life, Imam Bukhari encountered severe tests and trials. The Governor of Bukhara at that time asked Imam Bukhari to visit his house and teach Hadith to his son. Imam Bukhari refused to obey such order saying, “I give greater respect to knowledge rather than to people, for it is they who are in need of the knowledge and it is they who should seek it.” The Governor was upset with the refusal and was looking for a scope to punish Imam Bukhari. 

During that time a controversy regarding Khalq-E-Quran (whether the Quran is created or not) was widespread among the Muslims. A man asked Imam Bukhari an ambiguous question like “When I recite the Quran, is my recitation created or not?” Imam Bukhari replied, “When you recite the Quran, your voice is created.” This answer reached Muhammad ibn Yahiya Az-Zuhali (former teacher of Imam Muslim) who complained to the Governor that Imam Bukhari is preaching that the Quran is created. The Governor now took this opportunity and ordered Imam Bukhari to be expelled from Bukhara. 

Imam Bukhari then settled in a village named Khartang (at present known as Hartang) which is around 30 km from Samarkand. However, the issue of expulsion from his beloved homeland was a matter of continuous grief for him. Imam Bukhari continued to live in Khartang until he passed away.

On the night of Eid-ul-Fitr of 256 Hijri (870 AD) Imam Al Bukhari passed away and he was buried there. Imam Bukhari passed away at the age of 62 years and with his demise, the entire Muslim Ummah mourned. May Allah grant him the highest place in Paradise.


Bibliography

  • www.sunnah.com
  • Imam Bukhari: Life, Work, and Process of Compilation of Hadith [written by Dr. Mufti Mohammad Mazurur Rahman and published by Ashrafia Book House, Bangladesh]. 
  • The Muslim 100: by Muhammad Mojlum Khan.
  • Lecture of Sheikh Yasir Qadhi found here.
  • Miftaah Articles: Imam Bukhari.

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