Sahih al-Bukhari introduction
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Arabic: صحيح البخاري, Ṣaḥīḥ may be translated as “authentic“ or “sound.”), is the common name for al-Bukhari’s The Authentic, Abridged, Chain-Supported Collection Regarding Matters Pertaining to the Messenger of God, His Traditions, and His Times. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī is one of the six major hadith collections of Sunni Islam (kutub al-sittah). It was compiled by Persian scholar Muhammad al-Bukhari around 846 CE/232 AH.
The Science of Narrators (ʿilm al-rijāl; lit ‘Knowledge of Men’), refers to the discipline of biographical evaluation within Islamic hadith studies in which the narrators of hadith are evaluated to establish their credibility using both historic and religious knowledge. The aim is to distinguish authentic and reliable hadiths from unreliable. Sunni Muslims view this as one of the two most trusted collections of hadith along with Sahih Muslim.
Sahih al-Bukhari, together with Sahih Muslim is known as Sahihayn. There are total 34,126 Hadiths.
According to Ibn al-Salah (d.1245), the book is entitled: al-Jaami’ al-Ṣaḥīḥ al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasooli-llahi wa sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi (The Authentic, Abridged, Chain-Supported Collection Regarding Matters Pertaining to the Messenger of Allah, His Traditions, and His Times). Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d.1449) mentioned the same title, replacing the word umur (English: matters) with hadith.
It is reported that Bukhari traveled widely throughout the Abbasid Caliphate from the age of 16, collecting those traditions he thought trustworthy. He devoted 16 years to sifting the hadiths he included in his Sahih from a collection of nearly 600,000 narrations. Sources differ on the exact number of hadiths in Bukhari’s Sahih, depending on whether a hadith is defined as a Prophetic tradition or a narration of that tradition. Experts, in general, have estimated the number of full-isnad narration at 7,563, and without considerations to repetitions or different versions of the same report, the number of Prophetic traditions reduces to approximately 2,602. At the time when Bukhari saw the earlier works and conveyed them, he found them, in their presentation, combining between what would be considered sahih (correct) and hasan (good) and that many of them included daʻīf (weak) hadith. This aroused his interest in compiling hadith whose authenticity was beyond doubt. What further strengthened his resolve was something his teacher, hadith scholar Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Hanthalee – better known as Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh – had told him. “We were with Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh 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.”
Sahih al-Bukhari contains around 2,600 ahadith without repetitions and 7,563 ahadith with repetitions. It is an important book in Islamic literature. It is the first book to only include the ahadith without interpretations of the companions and their successors. Al-Bukhari is considered to be the most authentic source of Hadith.
The book is divided into a variety of chapters covering a range of issue regarding Fiqh as well as other subjects. It 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. Bukhari finished his work around 846/232 AH, 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 Bukhari 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, scholars point out that notable hadith scholars of that time, such as Ahmad ibn Hanbal (855 CE/241 AH), Yahya ibn Ma’in (847 CE/233 AH), and Ali ibn al-Madini (848 CE/234 AH), accepted the authenticity of his book and that the collection’s immediate fame makes it unlikely that it could have been revised after the author’s death without historical record.
During this period of twenty-four years, al-Bukhari made minor revisions to his book, notably the chapter headings. Each version is named by its narrator. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his book Nukat asserts the number of hadiths is the same in each version. The most famous one today is the version narrated by al-Firabri (d. 932 CE/320 AH), a trusted student of Bukhari, from which all printed editions derive today. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi in his book History of Baghdad quoted Firabri as saying: “About seventy thousand people heard Sahih Bukhari with me”.
Firabri is not the only transmitter of Sahih al-Bukhari. Many others narrated the 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.
Much later, Muhammad Fuad Abdul Baqi numbered Bukhari’s hadiths 1–7563, and its books 1–97. Hadiths may be cited by book name, chapter name, and narrator name; by Baqi’s hadith number (“Bukhari 3894”); or by Baqi’s book number plus the hadith’s offset (“Bukhari 34.176”). The popular USC-MSA English hadith numbering system of volume number, book number, hadith number (“Bukhari Vol. 4 Book 56 Hadith 791”) contains many errors, does not correspond to any printed edition, and is now deprecated.
- Quality and soundness of the chain of narrators of the selected ahādīth. Muhammad al-Bukhari has followed two principal 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 Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj.
- Muhammad al-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.
- 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.