Al-Bukhari: the master in the science of Prophetic narrations
November 14 2019 09:07 PM
A view of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque in Doha.

His mother woke up and said happily: “What a pleasant dream! Allah’s messenger Ibraaheem, may Allah exalt his mention, appeared in my dream, and said: ‘O woman! Allah restored your son’s eye sight because of your frequent supplications’.” She said: “O Allah, make it a glad tiding. O Allah answer my supplications and restore the sight of my child.”
The pious mother walked to her son’s room, hardly able to move her feet. When she reached his bed, she was about to wake him up but she hesitated. Her broken heart was beating and she kept tenderly and kindly caressing his head with her shaky hands. She was still supplicating and hoping that Allah would answer her frequent supplications and cure her son. The young boy woke up and started looking in amazement and moving his eyelids in confusion. He said in a breaking voice:
“Mother! I can see you, I can see your beautiful face! I can see my room and my toys!”
All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah! Allah gave me back my eyesight!!”
She was so happy that she thought she was dreaming. But she soon realised that it was real when she saw her beloved son running and playing as he used to do. Filled with faith and happiness, she said: “All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah who has the power to do everything.”
One day, when the mother was tidying up the house in the morning, she came across a few papers containing some narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. She remembered her beloved husband and said sadly and painfully while wiping the tears off her cheeks: “May Allah have mercy on you, Mohamed’s father. You were a man who used to fear Allah. You dreamed for a long time that your son Mohamed would be a religious scholar! I promise you that I will do my best to achieve your dear wish, Allah willing.” Then she called her son kindly, and Mohamed hurried to her obediently. Then, she said to him: “It is time for you, my son to seek religious knowledge and benefit yourself and the people around you. Tomorrow I will send you to a small school where you can memorise the Qur’an, learn Prophetic narrations and study the Arabic language to become an honourable scholar like your father, Ismaa’eel, may Allah have mercy on him.
The young boy, Mohamed, said cleverly: “Mother! Was my father an eminent scholar?”
The mother replied: “Yes, my son.” Mohamed, then said politely: “I promise you, Mother, that I will follow his footsteps seriously and exert all my efforts.”
The city of Bukhaaraa (now in Islamic Uzbekistan) was located at that time in one of the greatest countries beyond the Transoxus (now Turkistan). Schools of knowledge where people could learn Arabic, the Qur’an, history, and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) were spread throughout the city. The young boy, Mohamed Ibn Ismaa’eel Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on them, then set out to quench his thirst for knowledge from these sweet springs. Early in his life, he showed signs of intelligence that surprised everyone around him. He had a sharp mind, an attentive heart, an amazing memory, and an incredible ability to memorise. Before he was ten, he had memorised the whole Qur’an, mastered the Arabic language, covered much of the Fiqh, and memorised many Prophetic narrations. His pious good mother always encouraged her son and prepared a suitable atmosphere for him to acquire knowledge. When Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, finished his studies in the small schools, his wise mother thought to send him to the well-known study circles in Bukhaaraa, Samarqand, Bekend, Marw, and Nesabor. He became famous among the scholars to the point that he used to argue with his professors and even corrected them sometimes!!     
The success and physiognomy of Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, didn’t end there. His shaykh and teacher Mohamed  ibn Salaam al-Bekandy, may Allah have mercy on him, the scholar of Buhaaraa and the scholar of Prophetic narrations across the Transoxus (now Turkistan), used to ask him to revise some of his books and corrected any mistakes he found. Scholars used to wonder in astonishment: “Who was that boy who edits the books of his professor?!”
Imaam Bekandi, may Allah have mercy on him, used to say proudly about his clever student: “This boy is unique of his kind.”
On many occasions Imaam Bekandi, may Allah have mercy on him, talked to his colleagues about his student, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, who memorised 70,000 Prophetic narrations by heart. In addition to this, he never reported a narration of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, or the generation following them unless he knew when and where they were born, as well as where they lived and died!
The years passed and Mohamed Ibn Ismaa’eel, may Allah be pleased with him, reached the age of 16 years. He felt a great need to go and seek knowledge in every corner of the world to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He headed to Makkah, accompanied by his mother and elder brother, Ahmad, in 210 AH to perform Haj (pilgrimage) and seek more knowledge. After the pilgrimage, his mother and brother Ahmad returned to Bukhaaraa while he stayed in Makkah to move between its domes of knowledge: East, and west; North and South. Before the end of two years in this sacred city, he started writing his book The Issues of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and their Followers which marked the beginning of his renowned books.
 Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, always loved to visit Madinah. Among the fruits of his visits to that blessed place was writing his book The Big Book of History, which is considered the first book that comprises the names of the narrators of Prophetic narrations and the details of their lives. From that wonderful sacred spot, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, set out on a relentless endeavor to visit all the Islamic territories out of his love for compiling the Prophetic narrations. He traveled to Hijaaz (Saudi Arabia), Levant (Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon), Egypt, and Khurasaan (a vast area between north east Iran, southern Russia, and western Afghanistan). He visited Basrah and settled for some time in Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasid state at that time. He greatly benefited from these journeys seeking knowledge. He had the pleasure of meeting most the narrators of Prophetic narrations at that time, sat with them, listened to the narrations, and memorised whatever knowledge they had.
One night, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, had a strange dream that later had a great impact on his life. He saw himself standing before the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, holding a palm-leaf fan in his hand with which he pushed all evil away from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He was so confused and surprised that he went to his scholars, may Allah have mercy on them, asking them to interpret his dream. They said happily: “You will clear the lies and false claims away from the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.” Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, then remembered his teacher, shaykh Is-Haaq ibn Raahawayh, the prominent scholar of Khurasaan, when he told his students once: “It would be great if you can compile a concise and brief book containing the authentic narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.”
These words echoed in Al-Bukhari’s heart and he remembered that dream which was always in his mind since he started learning the Prophetic narrations. Thereupon, he immediately made an intention to actively and seriously pursue this mission and started to strive in his long journey of writing this great book in 217 AH when he was twentythree.
Because of that dream, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, travelled thousands of miles moving from one Islamic territory to another, undergoing all sorts of difficulties, hardships, and weariness, sometimes to obtain only one narration of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He sometimes even had to eat grass to satisfy his extreme hunger after he had spent all his money. Even the few hours of night in which he snatched short naps to rest a while, were not so resting for him, as he used to wake up fifteen to twenty times a night to lit his lamp and sit to classify the narrations he had collected. Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, made a pact with himself that he wouldn’t include a narration from any narrator until he had personally met him, and listened to the narration with his own ears. He never accepted narrations except from the ones who were known for being honest, diligent, accurate, fearing Allah, and having a sharp memory. After this process, he would have a ritual bath; pray two Rak’as and then include only the narration that had met all these conditions in his book.
After 16 years of continuous effort and hard work, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, finished his valuable book that comprised around 7,000 authentic narrations which he selected from amongst 600,000 authentic and non-authentic narrations.  He overlooked many authentic narrations so that his book wouldn’t be too long. He chose to name the book The Authentic Book Encompassing a Brief Authentic Narrations of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, his Tradition and Life to become the title of the most authentic book after the Qur’an. The book is known as ‘Saheeh Al-Bukhari’ (The authentic narrations reported by Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him). This book became well known and it gave him a high rank that someone like him truly deserved to achieve. He, may Allah be pleased with him, had a vast knowledge, great manners, a tolerant nature, dignity, and an untainted tongue. He cared so little for this life, he had deep faith, and had Allah’s consciousness at all times. After Imaam Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, became famous throughout the world, thousands of scholars came to him as students of the leader in memorisation of authentic narrations until the number of people who attended his study circles in Baghdad reached 20,000. Among the most remarkable figures of his students were Imaams At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’ee, Muslim, and others, may Allah have mercy on them.
In 250 AH, Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, left to Nisabor, a city in Khurasaan and stayed there for a while teaching the people. Then he decided to return to his dear city, Bukhara, and when he did the people rushed to welcome him in a great celebration in which huge tents were pitched and decorations were hung. They threw flowers and golden and silver coins on the Imaam upon his arrival into the city. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of happiness that prevailed throughout all Bukhaaraa. Allah Willed, out of mercy to the Imaam, that Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, would only meet his Lord after peace and happiness had found their way into his heart again. One day, the people of Samarqand sent a message for him asking him to come. He agreed and packed with great joy. When he started walking towards his animal he said: “Take me back, I have become weak and very ill”. When they took him back to his house, he said some supplications then he laid on his bed sweating a lot, then his pure soul ascended to its Creator. His death, may Allah have mercy on him, was on a Friday night, the beginning of the month of Shawwaal, 256 AH (870 CE). He was sixty-two years old when he died. He was buried in the village of Khartank which is now known as ‘Khawaajah Saaheb’. May Allah have mercy upon the great Imaam and may Allah admit him into Paradise. Aameen.

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How to achieve humbleness
Islam highly commends humbleness and simplicity and reckons that as one of the traits of a true believer. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Al-Kibr (proud and arrogance) is rejecting the truth and looking down upon people.”[Muslim, At-Tirmithi and Abu Daawood]
Humility is for one who is important and significant and he fears to gain notoriety or to become too great among people. As it was said, “Humble yourself, you will be as a glimmering star to the viewer on the surface of the water even if it is lofty.” We don’t say to an ordinary person, “Humble yourself.” But it is said to him, “Know the value of yourself, and do not place it in the wrong place!”
It was narrated by Al-Khattaabi, may Allah have mercy upon him, in Al-Uzlahthat Imaam ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak, may Allah have mercy upon him, came to Khuraassaan [in Persia] and went to a person who was known for his Zuhd and Wara’ [asceticism and cautiousness in piety], so when he entered where the man was, he (the man) did not turn around nor give him any consideration at all.
When ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak left, some of the people who were inside with the man said to him, “Don’t you know who he was?!” He said, “No.” He was told, “This is the ‘Ameer of the believers... ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak.” So the man was astonished and came out to ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak in a hurry apologising and absolving himself from what happened, saying, “O Abu ‘Abdur-Rahmaan! Forgive me and advise me!” Ibn al-Mubaarak said, “Yes... whenever you come out of your house and see someone, assume that he is better than you!” He knew that the man was conceited. When ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak inquired as to what the man’s profession was, he found out that he was a weaver!! Therefore, this educated Imaam noticed that this Mutazahhid (devoted pious person) possessed a kind of arrogance, conceitedness and feeling of superiority over others.
This disease sometimes envelops pious people; this is why he was offered advice that was easy for him. Many times we find this characteristic in some pious people, as well as some callers to Islam. But when it reaches the small students who misbehave with their scholars and teachers, this really hurts inside! There is no objection if you differ in opinion or judgment with a scholar as long as you are qualified to do so. The problem occurs when this difference of opinion becomes a destructive element to the scholar’s dignity, diminishes his value, disregards and disrespects him.
One should humble himself with his companions. Frequently when the spirit of competition and envy is agitated between companions and rivals, a person may feel superior over his companion, he may be pleased by harming him, degrading his value and importance, accusing him of defects or exaggerating his faults; faults that may have come to light when seeking advice, or correction. In reality this is called jealousy.
Humility is to humble oneself to one who is below you. If you find someone who is younger than you, or of less importance than you, you should not despise him, because he might have a better heart than you, or be less sinful, or closer to Allah than you. Even if you see a sinful person and you are righteous, do not act with arrogance towards him, and thank Allah that He saved you from the tribulation that He put him through. Remember that there might be some Riyaa’ (showing off) or vanity in your righteous deeds that may cause them to be of no avail, and that this sinful person may be regretful and fearful concerning his bad deeds, and this may be the cause of forgiveness of his sins.
According to Jundub, may Allah be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, mentioned that a man said, “By Allah, Allah will not forgive so-and-so,” and that Allah said: “Who is swearing by Me that I will not forgive so-and-so? I surely have forgiven so-and-so and nullified your deeds.” [Muslim]. Therefore, do not act in arrogantly towards anyone. Even when you see a sinner, do not show superiority towards him, nor treat him with arrogance and domination. If you feel that the sinner may perform some acts of obedience which you do not, and that you may also posses some defects which the sinner may not, then deal kindly with him, and gently give Da’wah which will hopefully be the cause of his acceptance and remembrance.
Your deeds also should not become too great in your eyes. If you do a good deed, or attempt to get closer to Allah through an act of obedience, your deed still may not be accepted. Allah Says what means: “…Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him].” [Qur’an 5:27] This is why some of the Salaf (predecessors) said, “If I knew that Allah accepted one Tasbeeh (saying “Subhaanallah”) from me, I would have wished to die right now!”
The arrogant person never gives credit to anybody or mentions good about someone, and if he needed to do so, he would also mention defects of that person. But if he hears somebody reminding him about his own defects, he will not be flexible nor comply due to his inferiority complex. This is why it is among man’s moral integrity to accept criticism or comment without any sensitivity or discomfort or feelings of shame and weakness. Here he is, the Ameer of the Believers ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, raising the flag and lifting the motto, “May Allah have mercy on a person who informed us of our defects.”

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Importance of knowing Hadith narrators
The narrators of Hadith are the most honourable and respectable Muslims, as they are keepers and preservers of Sunnah. Most of them are the companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, who witnessed the acts and learnt the sayings of the Prophet. Others are the successors of the companions. Who were blessed by Allah and they are highly respected by all Muslims. They are shinning stars of Islam.
Their hearts were free from worldly desires. Reading their biographies will increase love and devotion towards them and develop more interest to be faithful and obedient in the heart of the Muslim who reads their biography.
Allah Almighty Says (what means): “Verily, We have sent down the Reminder, and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).” [Qur’an; 15:9] The above promise made by Allah is obviously fulfilled in the undisputed purity of the Quranic text throughout the fourteen centuries since its revelation.
However, what is often forgotten by many Muslims is that the above divine promise also includes, by necessity, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam,  for it is the practical example of the implementation of the Qur’anic guidance, the Wisdom taught to the Prophet  along with the Scripture, and neither the Qur’an nor the Sunnah can be understood correctly without recourse to the other.
Allah preserved the Sunnah by enabling the Companions and their followers to memorise, write down and pass on the statements of the Messenger of Allah and the descriptions of his way, as well as to continue the blessings of practicing the Sunnah. Later, as the purity of the knowledge of the Sunnah became threatened, Allah caused the Muslim nation to produce outstanding individuals of incredible memory-skills and analytical expertise, who journeyed tirelessly to collect hundreds of thousands of narrations and distinguish the true words of precious wisdom of their Messenger  from those corrupted by weak memories, from forgeries by unscrupulous liars, and from the statements of the enormous number of scholars, the Companions and those who followed their way, who had taught in various centers of learning and helped to transmit the legacy of Muhammad  - all of this achieved through precise attention to the words narrated and detailed familiarity with the biographies of the thousands of reporters of Hadith. Action being the best way to preserve teachings, the scholars of Islam also revived the practice of the blessed authentic Sunnah.
Unfortunately, however, statements will continue to be attributed to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, although the person quoting them may have no idea what the people of knowledge in the field of Hadith science have ruled regarding those Hadiths, thus ironically being in danger of contravening the Prophet’s widely-narrated stern warnings about attributing incorrect/unsound statements to him.
The methodology of the expert scholars of Hadith in assessing narrations and sorting out the genuine from the mistaken, fabricated, etc. forms the subject-matter of a wealth of material left to us by the scholars of Hadith (traditionists).
A Hadith is composed of two parts: the Matn (text) and the Isnaad (chain of reporters). A text may seem to be logical and reasonable but it needs an authentic Isnaad with reliable reporters to be acceptable. ‘Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak  (d. 181 AH), one of the illustrious teachers of Imaam Al-Bukhari  said: “The Isnaad is part of the religion, had it not been for the Isnaad, then people would have claimed whatever they wished.”
Among the sciences of Hadith is the study of the chain of reporters (the Isnaad). Many Muslim scholars have specialised in this field. It includes identifying the name of each and every narrator (reporter), his character (his truthfulness, piety, public behaviour), his ability and reputation as a memoriser and the types of narrations he is known to report, whether authentic, weak, fabricated, etc. In addition, each narrator should be identified by a rating given by other narrators who knew him. So all of these and many other details must be considered to know the degree to which a Hadith may be used as a basis for Islamic belief or practice (Shari’ah), or merely as a point of interest (not to be attributed to the sayings, etc. of the Prophet).
After the Book of Allah (The Qur’an), the books of Hadith collection that were collected by Imaams Bukhari and Muslim  are considered by the Muslim scholars to be the most authentic books of Hadith. However, there are other famous scholars in the field who compiled books of Hadith such as; Abu Daawood (d.275), At-Tirmithi (d. 279), An-Nasaa’i (d. 303) and others.

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