BIOGRAPHY OF IMAM BUKHARI (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ)
الحمد لله رب العالمين ، والصلاة والسلام على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين
Imam Bukhari (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ) is one of the most distinguished scholars of Hadith in Islamic history. His book Sahih Bukhari, accepted as the most authentic book of Hadith, is one of the greatest sources of Sahih Ahadith in Islamic literature. He was born on Friday, 13 Shawwal, 194 H (July 16, 810 AD) in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Imam Bukhari's father Ismail ibn Ibrahim ibn Mughaira al-Ju'fî was a also a Hadith scholar, and student of Imam Malik Ibn Anas (رضئ اللہ تعالی عنہ). Ibn Hibban mentioned him in his book 'Reliable Narrators' (كتاب الثقات), and recorded that Isma’il heard Ahadith from Imam Malik. He also sat in the company of Abdullah Ibn Mubarak and others. Hadith Scholars of Iraq related Ahadith from him.
Ismail was an industrious and wealthy person who left a good deal of wealth at the time of his death. He died when Imam Bukhari was an infant. Thus, the responsibility of upbringing of the Imam was shouldered by his mother.
It is reported that the grand father of Imam Bukhari, Al-Mughaira bin Bardizbah had settled in Bukhara after accepting Islam. Information about Imam's ancestors is sketchy except that his great grand father Bardizbah ibn Bazzabah and his ancestors were Persian, following the religion of their forefathers.
Imam Bukhari received early education in Bukhara. He was famous for his exceptional memory right from his childhood. He memorized Quran early and inherited interest in Ahadith from his father. It is reported that by early teens he learned over 300,000 Ahadith and memorized Ahadith collections of Abdullah Ibn Mubarak, a companion of Imam Abu Hanifah, and others. He also sat in the company of many Hadith scholars of his time to learn Ahadith. His teachers include, (i) Ishaq Ibn Rahway, (ii) Ali Ibn Madini, (iii) Dhihaak Ibn Mukhlid, (iv) Makki Ibn Ibrahim Khadhali, (v) Ubaidullah Ibn Musa Abasa, (vi) Abdul Quddoos Ibn Hajjaj, (vii) Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Ansari, (viii) Shaikh ad-Dakhili, etc.
Muhammad Abu Hatim ibn Idris al-Razi (811–890), a contemporary Hadith scholar of his time, who knew him personally, recorded the statement of Imam Bukhari about his early education, as follows:
"I began to go regularly to Shaikh ad-Dakhili and others. One day, Shaikh ad-Dakhili was describing Ahadith to his students. While describing the chain of a Hadith, he said 'Sufyan reported from Abu Zubayr from Ibrahim.' On this I said to him, 'Abu Zubayr never related anything from Ibrahim'. 'On this the Shaikh rebuffed me. I told him, 'please refer to your original copy, if you still have it.' The Shaikh went and looked at it and then came back and said, 'alright then how it is supposed to be read, young man? I said, 'It is actually Zubayr ibn Uday, and he narrated the Hadith from Ibrahim. On hearing this, the Shaikh took his pen and corrected his book, saying, you are right.'
Muhammad Abu Hatim recorded another incident, as follows.
"It was reported to me (Abu Hatim) by two Senior students who attended Hadith classes along with young (Imam) Bukhari. They noticed that several days had passed the boy was attending the classes but was not writing anything down. They asked him about it. He ( Imam Bukhari) told them, ‘You are here longer than me. Why do you not tell me what you have written?’ They did so, and the total came to over fifteen thousand Ahadith. When they finished reading, the Imam repeated from memory every word of every Hadith they had read to him and asked them, 'Do you still think that I come here for nothing or that I am wasting my time?"
Another Hadith scholar Sulayman ibn Mujahid cited the following incident.
"One day I was in the company of Muhammad ibn Salam Baykandi. He told me, 'If you had come a little early, I would have shown you the child who has seventy thousand Ahadîth in his memory. I was amazed. I stood up, and started looking for that child. Shortly I found him. I asked, 'Are you the one who has memorized committed seventy thousand Ahadît?' Imam Bukhari replied, 'I have learned more Ahadith than this. I even know the place of birth, death and residence of most of those companions from whom the Ahadith are narrated."
When Imam Bukhari was 18 years old, he went for Hajj along with his mother and brother. After Hajj, his mother and brother returned to Bukhara, but he stayed in Makka-al-Mukarrama for two years for further education. From Makka, he went to Madina and stayed there for one year. This was the time his great travels began in pursuit of Ahadith collection. He traveled to Basra, Balkh, Merv, Nishapur, Rayy, Baghdad, Kufa, Makkah, Madina, Wasit, Egypt, Damascus, Qaysariya, Asqalan, Palestine, Syria, etc., and wrote Ahadith narrated by over one thousand people.
Mohammad Abu Hatim recorded a statement of Imam Bukhari, in this context, as follows.
"Then I spent five years in Basra with my books, going for Hajj (again), and then returning from Makkah to Basra. I never related a Hadith unless I knew the authentic from the doubtful, and until I had studied the books of the rational Jurists about this Hadith. I know nothing that is considered essential, whether be it in regard to legislation, etiquette, society, or anything, that cannot be found in the Book of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) or the Sunnah of His Apostle (صلى الله عليه و آله وسلم)."
A spectacular incident is reported that took place in Baghdad where the Imam had taken up temporary residence. The people having heard of his accomplishments, decided to test him. They chose one hundred different Ahadith, changed the chain of narration and in some cases altered the text. These Ahadith were read in front of the Imam by 10 people. He was asked to testify. A large crowd had gathered to witness the test. After listening to each Hadith, the Imam gave a standard reply - 'not to my knowledge'. However, after completion of their recitation of all 100 Ahadith, the Imam repeated each text and testimonials which had been changed, followed by the correct text and testimonial.
Imam Bukhari wrote his first book titled 'Prophet's ﷺ Companions and their immediate successors' (قضايا الصحابه و التابعين) in Makka al-Mukarrama when he was staying there after Hajj.
Later, during his stay in Madina, he wrote his famous book titled 'The detailed History of Narrators' (التاريخ الكبير). In this book he compiled the biographies of narrators of Ahadith from the time of the Companions until his time.
He studied the lives of narrators, to make sure they were trustworthy in their reporting. They should not change the wording of the Hadith or concoct from their minds. If it came to his knowledge that the narrator is not trustworthy or an open sinner, he will not write down the Hadith unless there was another strong chain of narrators existed for that Hadith. He studied where and when the narrators lived, in order to make sure that if someone narrates from someone else, they must both have been in the same place at the same time and have actually met and discussed the Hadith.
He wrote three books about the narrators of Ahadith to establish the ability and trustworthiness of narrators in conveying the Ahadith. These are, (i) The detailed history of Narrators (التاريخ الكبير), (ii) The Standard History of Narrators (التاريخ الاوسط), and (iii) The Brief History of Narrators (التاريخ الصغير).
Imam Bukhari made stringent guidelines for acceptance of Ahadith. He was among the pioneering scholars who used a systematic approach in analyzing and labeling Ahadith into (i) 'Authentic' (Sahih - صحيح), (ii) 'Good' (Hassan- حسن), (iii) 'Perpetual' (Mutawatir - متواتر), (iv) 'Infrequent' (Ahaad - اَحاد), (v) Weak (Da'eef - ضعيف), and (vi) 'Concocted' (Mawdu - موضوع). Later, these classifications became a standard which was followed and further developed by the later Hadith scholars.
Imam Bukhari wrote several books, but his book Sahih Bukhari titled "The Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadith with Connected Chains regarding Matters Pertaining to the Prophet ﷺ, His practices and His Times" (الجامع المسند الصحيح المختصر من أمور رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وسننه وأيامه) is most famous among them. It is reported that it took him 16 years to complete this book. Sahih Bukhari is accepted by all scholars as the most authentic book of Hadith.
The Imam mentioned how the idea came to his mind for writing Sahih Bukhari, as follows.
"Once, during one of our Hadith sessions when my teacher Ishaq Ibn Rahway remarked, 'it would be appreciated if someone could collect Ahadith that held strong and reliable testimonials and write them in a book', the idea came to my mind to compile authentic Ahadith in a book."
What makes Sahih Bukhari so unique was Imam's meticulous attention to detail. He made far stricter rules than other Hadith scholars for accepting a Hadith as authentic. His collection of Ahadith is a monumental achievement and an irreplaceable cornerstone of the Science of Hadith scholarship. Through his work, Hadith studies became a science with governing laws that protected the field from innovation/corruption.
Sahih Bukhari is divided into 97 books, each with numerous chapters within it. After he finished the compilation, Imam Bukhari showed the manuscript to some of his teachers like Imam Ahmed, Ibn al-Madini, Ibn Ma'in, etc.
Over 80 guides have been written to explain Sahih Bukhari. The best among them are (i) Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani’s “Fath Al-Bari”, (ii) Shihab Ahmad Ibn Al-khateeb Al-Qastalani’s "Irshad As-Sari”, and (iii) Badr-ud-Deen al-Aini’s “Umda-tul-Qari”.
Imam Bukhari has written many books. These include (i) Sahih Bukhari, (ii) Tarikh-Al Kabeer (and Tarikh al-Awsat, and Tarikh as Sageer), (iii) Khalq A’faal Ebaad, (iv) Kitaab al-Wuhdan, (v) Adab al-Mufrad, (vi) Kitaab Adh-Dhua’fa, (vii) Juz Raf al-Yadain, (viii) Juz Al-Qirat Kalful Imam, (ix) Tafseer Al-Kabeer, (x) Kitab Al-Ilal, (xi) Kitaab Al-Manaqib, (xii) Qadhaya As-Sahabah wa at-taba'in, (xiii) Kitab al-Ashribah, (xiv) Kitab al-Hibah, (xv) Kitab al-Mabsoot, etc.Imam Bukhari had a large number of students. It is reported that over 9000 people used to sit in his lessons when he taught his Sahih Bukhari. There used to be many travelers among this crowd who used to travel long distances to listen to his sermons. There are some well known names among his students like (i) Tirmidhi, (ii) Muslim, (iii) Nasa’i, (iv) Ibrahim Ibn Ishaq Al-Harawi, (v) Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Dolabi, (vi) Mansoor Ibn Muhammad Bazdoori, etc.
Imâm Muslim ibn Hajjâj reported that in 250 AH, Imam Bukhari arrived in Nishapur. After hearing the news of his arrival, people were jubilant. Muhammad ibn Yahya adh-Dhuhlî was the ruler of Nishapur. He led a huge crowd of people to the outskirts of the city to receive Imam Bukhari. Imam Muslims wrote, 'I had never seen such a reception ever given to a scholar or a ruler'.
In Nishapur, Imam Bukhari began giving lectures on Ahadith. A crowd used to gather to listen to his lecture. However, his popularity became an eye sore to some people in Nishapur. They started to insinuate the ruler about the Imam. Gradually the ruler started suspecting about the Imam. The conspirators sent a person to attend Imam's lectures and find something to defame him. This man asked Imam, whether Qur'ân was created or not created. The Imam knew the intention of the questioner. He paused for a while but the person insisted for his reply. On this, the Imam said 'Quran is the word of Allah and is not created. Then the man posed certain more questions to confuse the issue. On this, the Imam explained 'our (human) actions are created and our pronunciation of Quranic verses is one of our actions.'
This statement of Imam was conveyed to the ruler who had believed that 'even the pronunciation of Quran was eternal'.
It is clear that the difference of opinion was not on the essence that the Quran is the word of Allah. Adh-Duhli, the ruler, and some people following the Hanbali school of thought in Nishapur considered that the pronunciation of the word of Allah is also not created, while Imam Bukhari, Muslim and others considered the pronunciation is created because it is part of one's acts.
After this, a mass propaganda campaign was initiated against the Imam and people were made to believe that Imam considers the word of Allah as created. The ruler openly disconnected his ties with the Imam and stopped people from attending Imam's lectures. When things went out of control, the Imam decided to leave Nishapur to his home town Bukhara.
The Imam received a mammoth welcome in Bukhara on his arrival. He established a school there and started teaching Ahadith. However, he faced rivalry in Bukhara as well. Some people started spreading false stories about him. The Governor of Bukhara was incited to act against the Imam. The Governor asked the Imam to come to his home everyday and teach his son. The Imam replied, 'I do not want to abuse knowledge and carry it to the doorstep of the ruler'. If anybody wants to learn, they should come to my school.' On this the Governor said, he cannot let his son sit with commoners in the school and the Imam should teach his son alone. The Imam did not agree. On this, the Governor became angry. A fatwa was issued by a group of Ulema against the Imam to banish him from Bukhara.
The Imam was distressed to leave his home land. He decided to go to Samarkhand. On his way he was told that the people of Samarkhand were divided about him. He stopped his journey at a village called 'Khartang'. He spent two months there and became ill. When people of Samarkhand knew that the Imam had stayed back from travel to their city, a large delegation from Samarkhand came to pursue him to travel to Samarkhand. But by this time, he had become very week from his ailment.
He died on the night of Eid al-Fitr, the first night of Shawwal in the year 256 AH (870 AD). He was 62 years old. He was buried in Khartang. (Tadhkira-tul-Huffaz 2/122, Shadhrat adh-Dhahab 2/135, Tahdhib at-Tahdhib 9/47, Al-Wafiyaat 1/55, etc.)
It is claimed that Imam Bukhari was a follower of Hanbali school of thought. Some people claim he was follower of Shafi'i school of thought. Ad-Dhahabi said Imam Bukhari was a mujtahid, a scholar capable of making his own ijtihad.
It is reported that when Imam Bukhari went to Nishapur, Imam Muslim came to him and kissed his forehead and said, 'O Teacher, O leader of the Muhadditheen, give me permission to kiss your feet.' Imam Tirmidhi said, 'in the field of narrators I have not seen anyone more knowledgeable than Imam Bukhari'. Ibn Khuzaimah said, 'I have never encountered anyone more knowledgeable than Imam Bukhari in Ahadith.