Sahih Bukhari: An Introduction

This book of Imam Muhammad bin Isma’eel al-Bukhari (rahmatullah alayh) is known as ‘Sahih-ul-Bukhari’, but it original name is very long. According to Hafiz Ibn Hajar its name is: ‘Al-Jami’us Sahih Al-Musnad min Hadith Al-Rasool Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam wa Sunanihi wa Ayyamihi’. But, according to Ibn Salah the name is: ‘Al-Jami’ul Musnad Al-Sahih Al-Mukhtasar min Umoorir Rasool Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam wa Sunanihi wa Ayyamihi

Compilation Background

Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah), in the preface of his book Fathul Bari, has mentioned the compilation background of Sahih Bukhari, that are as follows:

(1) The books that were compiled before Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) had both Za’eef and Sahih traditions, that might prove difficult for people to differentiate between Sahih and Za’eef. Therefore, he intended to write a book that contains only true and authentic traditions. 

(2) Also, he was inspired to compile a book by his teacher Ishaq bin Rahwaih (rahimahullah) who asked his students: “It would be better if you collect the authentic traditions.” Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) says that it stuck to his heart and he started compiling his Sahih

(3) Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) saw a dream that he is moving a fan on the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). The scholars of the age told that it meant that he shall remove the falsehood and lie surrounding the traditions of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) says that it inspired him to write ‘Al-Jami’us Sahih’. 

Extraordinary Caution & Carefulness in Compiling Sahih Bukhari

Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) paid his utmost attention to compile his book. He says that he did not write even a single Hadith in his book without having bath and praying two Rak’ats. Some biographers also have quoted Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) saying: “I did not include any Hadith in this book but when I consulted Allah, prayed to him and insured its authenticity

Duration of Compilation

Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) himself says that he has compiled this book within a period of sixteen years. He selected these traditions from among six hundred thousand ones. 

Objective of Sahih Bukhari

The objective of Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) is to collect Sahih and authentic traditions. The original name of the book indicates to it. Moreover, he described it on many places of his book as he says: “I mentioned in my book only Sahih traditions and rejected so many Sahih traditions because of their length.” There is a famous quotation of him that he has mentioned only Sahih tradition in his book and the Sahih traditions he left is more than he mentioned. 

This is a proof that he intended to collect only authentic traditions, but he did not intend to collect entire Sahih traditions. So, there are many Sahih traditions in other books of Hadith apart from Bukhari. It is worth mentioning that though Imam Bukhari (rahmatullah alayh) had determination to collect authentic traditions but the Fiqhi derivations of Imam Bukhari sayings of the Companions and their successors mentioned under the titles of chapters are not as authentic as the other traditions. But, they also include many useful things. 

Number of Traditions in Sahih Bukhari

Hafiz Ibn Salah said that the number of traditions in Bukhari is four thousand with repetations. But, the renowned commentator of Sahih Bukhari, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) has mentioned the number of traditions in Bukhari with details:

(1) Number of Marfu’ Muttasil traditions with repititions = 7394

(2) Number of Marfu’ Mu’allaq traditions with repititions = 1341

(3) Mutab’aat etc. = 344
                                                         Total: 9082

(1) Number of Marfu’ Muttasil traditions without repititions = 2602

(2) Number of Marfu’ Mu’allaq traditions without repititions = 0159
                                                   Total: 2761

Repetition of Traditions in Bukhari & its Reason

Sahih Bukhari is not only a collection of traditions but also it contains Fiqhi derivations and interpretative judgments. It is known to all that most of the time one Hadith contains so many meanings and matters so the particular Hadith is mentioned under various titles. Sahih Bukhari also consists of repeated traditions. But, Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) has hardly repeated any Hadith with the same chain of narration and words. Most of the time, he mentioned the repeated Hadith with other chain of narration, while sometime he shortens it and mentions only the part concerning to the title. 

Conditions of Imam Bukhari for Acceptance of Hadith in His Sahih

It is not easy to describe the conditions of Imam Bukhari (rahahullah) and the authors of rest five Hadith books for accepting Hadith. Since, they have not clearly set up these conditions. They have only indicated it vaguely at some places in their books. Later, the scholars have derived their conditions after a thorough study of their books and the narrators’ biography. There are two books on the subject that are complementary of each other. One is ‘Shurootul Aaimmah Al-Khamsah‘ of Imam Abu Bakr Hazmi while the other ‘Shurootul Aaimmah Al-Sittah‘ of Abul Fazl Maqdisi. The summary of Bukhari’s condition is that he narrates from those who are reliable, trusted and narrate with continuous chain to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). He preferred the traditions of more than one narrators and accepted the traditions of single narrator also provided he is reliable. For example, analyzing the terms and conditions of Sihah Sittah, we divided that students of Imam Zuhri (rahimahullah) in five categories:

1.      Those who had high class Hifz (brainpower) and had accompanied Imam Zuhri (rahimahullah) for a long time. 

2.      Those who had high class Hifz (brainpower) but had not accompanied Imam Zuhri (rahimahullah) for a long time. 

3.      Those who did not have high class Hifz (brainpower) and had accompanied Imam Zuhri (rahimahullah) for a long time.

4.      Those who did not have high class Hifz (brainpower) and have not accompanied Imam Zuhri (rahimahullah) for a long time. 

5.      Those who are weak or those about whom there is no details available. 

From amongst the five categories, Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) only relies on the first category of narrators and these narrators meet his conditions of accepting a Hadith. He sometimes mentions some selected traditions of narrators from the second category and in some cases he refers to the traditions of the narrators from second and third category for strength. Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) accepts the traditions of the narrators from first and second categories definitely and refers to the traditions of the narrators from third and forth category for strength. Imam Abu Dawood and Imam Nasai (rahimahumullah) accept the traditions of the narrators from first to third categories wholeheartedly and refer to the traditions of the narrators from the forth and fifth categories for strength. Imam Tirmizi (rahimahullah) accepts the traditions of the narrators from first to fourth category and refers to the traditions of the narrators from fifth category for strength. While, Imam Ibn Majah (rahimahullah) accepts the traditions narrators from all categories. 

It is noteworthy that the traditions narrated with the word ‘a’n’ (from) where the narrator did not mention clearly that he listened it from his sheikh, Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) applies a condition that the meeting between the narrator and his sheikh should be proved. While, Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) set the condition that only a possibility of meeting should be found. 

Fiqhi Derivations in Bukhari’s Titles

First of all, Imam lays out a chapter and then mentions the Fiqhi matter that is derived from the below Hadith and sometimes mentions a part of the Hadith. This is called as ‘Tarjamatul Bab‘ (headline). All the authors of Sihah Sittah, except Imam Muslim (rahimahullah), adopt the same method. But, Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) has presented it as an art and has applied his mind so artfully and thoroughly that scholars are amazed to realize it. At some places, the headline matches the text below while sometimes the relation between the title and the Hadith is quite ambiguous. Therefore, the commentators have paid exclusive attention to it, even some of them have written separate books over the topic. 

Status of Sahih Bukhari & Its Significance

Sahih Bukhari holds the first position among Sihah Sitta, therefore it is called ‘most authentic book after the Quran’. Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Imam Ibn Salah, Imam Nawawi, Hafiz Ibn Kathir and other scholars of Islam (rahimahumullah) have written that the Ummah has unanimously agreed that the traditions of Sahih Bukhari and Muslim are reliable and authentic except a few of them. 

Related Article: Muwatta Imam Malik : An Introduction
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Translated and prepared by: 
Mufti Obaidullah Qasmi, Maulana Afzal Qasmi, Mufti Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi

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