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Sahih al-Bukhari (book)

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Sahih al-Bukhari
Author Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Bukhari
Original title صحیح البخاری
Language Arabic
Subject Hadith and Sunna
Published 1401/1981
Publisher Dar Ibn Kathir, Beirut-Damasqus

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Arabic: صَحیح البُخاری ) is the most reliable hadith-collection among Sunni Muslims, and is one of the six books—known as Sihah al-Sitta (six Sahihs)—written by Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Bukhari (b.194/810 - d.256/870). The complete title of the book is Al-jami' al-musnad al-Sahih al-mukhtasar min 'umur-i Rasul Allah (s) wa sunanih wa 'ayyamih (The referenced authentic short collection of the Holy Prophet's (s) practices and times).

Sahih al-Bukhari has been compiled in 97 books and 3450 sections, and, counting its repeated hadiths, the number of hadiths cited by the book is 7275 and, without the repeated ones, it is 4000.

According to al-Bukhari, hadith-collections in his time included both authentic (Sahih) and inauthentic hadiths, and he thus decided to compile only the authentic ones in a volume. He was encouraged to do this by his master Ishaq b. 'Ibrahim al-Hanzali known as Ibn Rahawayh.

The Author

Al-Bukhari was born in Shawwal 13, 194/810 in Bukhara located in the present Uzbekistan, and died in Khartang village near Samarkand in 256/870. His father Isma'il b. Ibrahim was a hadith scholar of that time, but he died when al-Bukhari was young. Al-Bukhari was deported from Bukhara four times. In one of these cases, when he issued a fatwa according to which two children become mahram if they drink the milk of one and the same sheep, people and the scholars of the city revolted against him and deported him from the city.

On another occasion, because of his beliefs about the Qur'an, he was deported from Neyshabur by the great Sunni scholar, Muhammad b. Yahya al-Dhuhli who later asked the ruler of Bukhara to deport al-Bukhari from there too, saying that: whoever joins Muhammad b. Isma'il al- Bukhari shall be considered as guilty.

His paternal ancestor (Mughira) was converted to Islam by the ruler of Bukhara, and inhabited there. Al-Bukhari went to Mecca when he was 16 years old, and learned hadith there. He then went to Egypt and other Islamic countries to collect hadiths, and when he went back to Bukhara, he had collected 600,000 hadiths of which he only considered 7,275 ones as authentic in his well-known work, Sahih al-Bukhari.

Features of the Book

Al-Bukhari spent 16 years for collecting the book, and he selected its hadiths from among the 600,000 ones that he had collected. The book is a well-known hadith-collection (jami' al-hadith) for Sunni Muslims. A hadith-collection is a book containing hadiths regarding both issues of religious beliefs and those of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), a feature exhibited by Sahih al-Bukhari.

Sahih al-Bukhari is structured into 97 books and 3,450 sections; taking account of its repeated hadiths, it contains 7,275 ones, and setting aside the repeated ones, as Nawawi says, it includes 4,000 hadiths, though Ibn Hajar says that on this count, it contains 2,761 hadiths. Moreover, the number of its hadiths is different in different versions of the book; for example, Firabri has cited 300 hadiths more than those cited by Ibrahim b. Ma'qil al-Nasafi, and the latter cited 100 hadiths fewer than those cited by Himad b. Shakir al-Nasawi.

Bukhari's Condition

Al-Bukhari had a criterion for authentic (Sahih) hadiths that is known as "Bukhari's condition". According to this criterion, a hadith is authentic if great scholars of hadith agree on the reliability of each individual in the chain of its narrators up to a well-known companion of the Holy Prophet (s), its chain of narrators being continuous without any gaps in between. Accordingly, al-Bukhari considered the continuity of the chain of narrators, reliability of narrators, and the lack of troubles in the text of hadiths in order to select an authentic hadith. It might as well be found that the condition is not satisfied in the case of all hadiths in this book; some hadiths appear in the book despite the fact that they violate this condition.

On the other hand, there are many hadiths which satisfy Bukhari's condition but they find their way into his book just because they do not conform to his own approach. Hakim al-Neyshaburi has sought to cite hadiths which satisfied Bukhari's or Muslim's condition, but remained uncited by them.

The Structure of Chapters

Sahih al-Bukhari is structured like books in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), but it also includes some other sections such as the origins of creation, heaven and hell, prophets, and in particular, the Holy Prophet (s), and the exegesis of the Qur'an.

One feature of the book are the titles of each section that are said to express al-Bukhari's own views of the issues in fiqh—they express, as it were, al-Bukhari's fiqh, since these titles involve his interpretations and explications of those hadiths which are difficult to understand. Al-Bukhari goes, so to speak, beyond a mere hadith-collector, and appears as a faqih—in some sections he does not even cite any hadiths or Quranic verses though the title displays his respective position.

Suspended Hadiths

There are some suspended (mu'allaq) hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari —that is, hadiths in which the first narrator or narrators in its chain are eliminated.

Regarding mawquf (stopped) hadiths (ones that are narrated from a companion, without referring to the Prophet (s)), Ibn Hajar says that al-Bukhari cites them in order to set the stage for the preference of his own view and choice vis-à-vis controversial issues, though these hadiths failed to satisfy his own condition.

Thus the main point of this book is said to be the compilation of hadiths which are authentic in al-Bukhari's own light (ones that do not contradict his own religious approach and tendencies). In his "ta'liq al-ta'liq" (Suspension of suspension), drawing on other works by al-Bukhari and others, Ibn Hajar has tried to complete and repair the chains of narrators of marfu' (hadiths attributed to the Prophet (s) with non-continuous chains of narrators) and mawquf (stopped) hadiths that appear as suspended in Sahih al-Bukhari.

The Book's Place among Sunni Muslims

When al-Bukhari finished his work, he presented it to great scholars of Sunni hadiths, such as Ahmad b. Hanbal, 'Ali b. Madini and Yahya b. Mu'in, and they testified that all its hadiths are authentic except four ones.

Sunni scholars have highly regarded of the book; they all agree that Sahih al-Bukhari, and then Sahih Muslim, are the most authentic books after the Quran. In spite of this, al-Shafi'i and some others take al-Muwata' by Malik b. Anas to be the most authentic book, calling it "the first principle", while calling Sahih al-Bukhari "the second principle". Ibn Hajar says that al-Shafi'i said this when Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim were not out yet. In any case, there is no book among Sunni Muslims better known than Sahih al-Bukhari , and its place is sometimes so exaggerated that it is counted as being in the same place as the Quran. According to Wajdi, some people were paid to read hadiths of this book in order to ask God for his blessings, just as the verses of the Quran are read for such purposes. The place of Sahih al-Bukhari is obvious from the many commentaries on the book.

Commentaries of Sahih al-Bukhari

According to the preface of Sahih al-Bukhari (printed in Mecca, 1376/1957) there were, by then, 59 commentaries (both complete and incomplete) on Sahih al-Bukhari, 11 of which had been published. Moreover, there were 29 people who wrote notes on the book, 16 people who wrote introductions to it, and there were 15 people who summarized the book. The book has been translated into different languages. Here are some of its commentaries:

1. The commentaries of Imam Abu Sulayman Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Khattab al-Basti al-Khattabi (d. 338/950) known as A'lam al-sunan.

2. Fat'h al-bari fi sharḥ-i Sahih al-Bukhari written by Hafiz Shahab al-Din b. Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 852/1448); this is regarded by Sunni scholars as the best commentary on the book.

3. 'Umda al-qari fi sharh al-Bukhari written by Mahmud b. Ahmad al-'Ayni (d. 855/ 1451).

4. Irshad al-sari fi sharh al-Bukhari by Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr al-Qatalani (d. 923/1517).


Sahih al-Bukhari is surrounded by an air of sanctity, and rarely does anyone dare casting doubt on the authenticity of its hadiths and their narrators. Abu al-Hassan al-Muqaddasi goes so far as saying that all narrators of the hadiths of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are reliable. Many have accepted its hadiths without any need to investigation or examination, and they even take such an acceptance to be a tenet of faith and Islam. With regards to some of its hadiths, Dhahabi says if they were not cited in Sahih al-Bukhari, I would bet that they are forged and unauthentic. According to Imam al-Ḥaramayn, if someone swears that all hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are words of the Prophet (s), he has rightly done so.

However, some Sunni scholars, such as Darqutni, have criticized the book, challenging the thought that its hadiths count as the most authentic ones. According to Ibn Hajar, 110 hadiths have been cited from Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, 32 of which are cited in both, and 78 of which are only cited in the former. Moreover, about 80 narrators of hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari have been considered unreliable. According to Muhammad Rashid Rida, objectionable hadiths in this book are way more than this. Much of such objections are directed at the narrators of hadiths in this book.

Citing Nothing from Shiite Imams and their Companions

Al-Bukhari was contemporaneous with Shiite's 10th and 11th Imams, Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam Hasan al-'Askari (a), but he does not even cite one single hadith from these two Imams. Rarely did he cite hadiths from the companions and children of Imams (a), though there were great scholars and narrators of hadith among them.

There are hadiths that satisfy his condition of authenticity, but he does not cite them just because there were Shiite Imams or their companions among their narrators, and he scarcely cited few hadiths from Imam 'Ali (a), Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), Imam al-Sajjad (a), and Imam al-Baqir (a). On the contrary, he has cited hadiths from Khawarij and Nawasib, such as 'Akrama, 'Umran b. Hattan, and 'Urwa, while many Sunni scholars have taken them as unreliable.

It is interesting that the only hadith he has cited from Imam al-Sajjad (a) concerns a disapprobation of Imam 'Ali (a).

He has cited 446 hadiths from Abu Hurayra, who was a companion of the Prophet (s) for less than three years, 270 hadiths from 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, 242 hadiths from Aisha, 57 hadiths from Abu Musa al-'Ash'ari, and over 200 hadiths from Anas b. Malik, but he has cited only 19 hadiths from Imam 'Ali (a) who was the "gate of the city of knowledge" (as the Prophet (s) is cited as having said) and only one hadith from Lady Fatima al-Zahra (a), the Prophet's daughter.

Many fragmented and repeated hadiths

Another feature of Sahih al-Bukhari, considered by some as a weak point, is that it contains many fragmented or repeated hadiths. According to Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, the reason why some scholars of Maghreb and Abu 'Ali al-Neyshaburi have preferred Sahih Muslim over Sahih al-Bukhari is that the former never fragmented hadiths, trying to record their precise words.

Paraphrasing Hadiths

Al-Bukhari was not committed to citing the exact words of hadiths, paraphrasing them in some cases. Abu Rayya has appealed to stories according to which al-Bukhari never wrote down hadiths when he heard them, relying instead on his own memory, and he quotes from Ibn Hajar that sometimes al-Bukhari cites one hadith with the same chain of narrators with two different phrases.

Inauthenticity of the Content of some Hadiths

Some hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari have been objectionable because of their contents. According to Muhammad Rashid Rida, there are some contradictions in the contents of some of its hadiths, and Ibn Hajar's attempts to handle such contradictions are not satisfactory. He says it is difficult to show that there are forged hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari, but it includes hadiths that exhibit some signs of forgedness, such as the one referring to the Prophet (s) being influenced by witchcrafts, which was rejected by scholars such as Jassas and Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh. Some Shafi'is and other Sunni approaches have rejected some hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that are cited in books such as Ibn Jawzi's al-Intisar.

Some Instances of Sahih al-Bukhari's Hadiths

The following are some instances of hadiths in this book that are objectionable with respect to their contents.

  • The Prophet (s) is cited to have said that: if a fly falls in your dish, fully immerse it in the dish. For one wing of the fly is pain, and the other wing is healing.
  • The Prophet (s) did not believe his prophecy, until when Waraqa b. Nufal al-Masihi told him that he was really a prophet!
  • The Prophet (s) forgot some verses of the Qur'an, but he later remembered them when a Muslim recited those verses.
  • The prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham) (a) was asked to intercede (shafa'a) for someone on Dooms Day, but he told him that he has lied three times in his life; and thus asked him to go to another person for intercession.
  • God sent the Death Angel to take the Prophet Musa (a) (or Moses)'s life, but Musa (a) slapped in his face!
  • An ant bit a prophet's skin; the Prophet ordered to burn all those ants, and God blamed him for doing so. In Sunan al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet is cited to be Musa (a).
  • Al-Bukhari has cited a hadith in his Al-tafsir (The exegesis of the Qur'an) and his Al-jana'iz according to which: when 'Abdullah b. Ubayy died, his son went to the Prophet (s) and asked him to pray on his father's corpse. 'Umar complained that the Prophet (s) should not pray for such a person.

The Prophet (s) said God gave me the option when he told me: "whether thou ask for their forgiveness, or not, (their sin is unforgivable): if thou ask seventy times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them" (9: 80). But then a new verse was descended from God approving 'Umar's view: "nor do thou ever pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave" (9: 84). According to this hadith, God preferred 'Umar's view to that of the Prophet (s), which is odd. Though al-Bukhari cited the hadith in different parts of his book, it was rejected by scholars such as Abu Bakr al-Baqilani, Imam al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwayni, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Imam al-Dawudi, and others.

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