Birthday: July 19, 810
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mughīrah ibn Bardizbah al-Ju‘fī al-Bukhārī
Born Country: Uzbekistan
Born in: Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Famous as: Islamic Scholar
father: Ismail ibn Ibrahim
Died on: September 1, 870
Who was Muhammad al-Bukhari?
Muhammad al-Bukhari is one of the most revered compilers and scholars of Hadith, whose chief work, ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’, is considered to be second only to the Holy Quran as source of religious law by the Sunni Muslims. Born with exceptional memory and sharp intellect, he started studying the Hadith at the age of 10 At sixteen, he went to Mecca, where he also studied with renowned scholars, completing his first work, ‘Qadaya as-Sahaba wat-Tabi’een’, by the age of 18. Thereafter, he started visiting all the renowned centers of learning, studying with numerous scholars, collecting more than six lakh Hadiths. Later, at the suggestion of his teacher, Ishaq ibn Rahwayh, he decided to compile the authentic Hadiths so as to help ordinary Muslims. Eventually, out of the six lakh Hadiths that he collected, he chose only about 7,275 and compiled them as ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’. He died near Samarkand, at the age of sixty.
Childhood & Early Life
Muhammad al-Bukhari was born on 21 July 810 C.E. in Bukhara, an important city and centre of Islamic cultural in the ancient state of 2) Transoxiana. Today, the area falls under the Republic of Uzbekistan. His birth name was Abu Abdullah Mohamed bin Ismail Al-Bukhari.
His father, Ismail Ibn Ibrahim, was acknowledged as scholar of Hadithas well as a man of great piety and reputation. His mother, whose name is not known, was a woman of great devotion. Born younger of his parents’ two children, he had an elder brother named Ahmad ibn Ismâ`îl.
In 810, when Muhammad al-Bukhari was just few months old, his father passed away, leaving his two sons to be raised by his wife. He also left considerable property, which enabled them to lead a comfortable life.
As a child, he suffered from weak eyesight and although he received the best treatment available in those days, he soon became totally blind. Helpless, his mother began to pray earnestly to Allah, appealing to Him for her son’s eyesight.
After two or three years of constant prayer, Ibraheem (the Prophet) appeared to her in a dream and said that Allah had granted her son his vision because of her dua. The next day, Bukhari woke from his sleep to find his eyesight fully restored.
In spite of his weak eyesight and eventual blindness, he started his education quite early, studying the Holy Quran with his mother early in his childhood. His prodigious memory helped him to memorize the Holy Book by the age of six.
In 820 AD, when he was 10 years old, he began to study Hadith, very quickly memorizing the works of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubaarak. Here too he got help from his extraordinary memory. It is said that at the age of eleven, he corrected his teacher when he made a mistake.
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Sixteen Years of Travel
At the age of sixteen, Muhammad al-Bukhari went on a pilgrimage to Mecca with his mother and brother. After completing the Hajj, he stayed behind, studying with various scholars, completing his first book, ‘Qadaya as-Sahaba wat-Tabi’een’ by the age of eighteen.
After completing his education in Mecca, he moved to Medina, where he continued to study Hadith. Here he authored his second book ‘al-Tārīkh al-Kabīr’, writing it while sitting beside the grave of Prophet Muhammad.
After Medina, he went to other centers of learning. Of this period, he had later said, “To seek knowledge, I travelled to Egypt and Syria twice, Basra four times, spent six years at the Hijâz and left for Kufa and Baghdad on so many occasions accompanied by Muhaddithîn."
Traveling far and wide, he collected more than 600,000 Hadiths from more than one thousand scholars. Most prominent among his teachers during this period were Ishaq ibn Rahwayh and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal from Baghdad.
A unique quality about him was that he hardly ever wrote down the Hadiths he received. Possessing a strong memory and an equally strong intellect, he always saved them in his memory and was able to repeat them correctly weeks after he had listened to them.
Once in Baghdad, ten scholars decided to test his memory. Each of them recited ten different Hadith along with their sanad, purposely altering them so as to confuse him. To their surprise, Bukhari recited each of the 100 altered sanad in chronological order, later reciting the correct version.
Also, in Baghdad, he first got the direction of his life when his teacher, Ishaq ibn Rahwayh, told him to compile the authentic Hadiths in a concise manner so that they could be beneficial the average Muslims. He also told him to implement them in his life.
After traveling around for sixteen years, Muhammad al-Bukhari returned to Bukhara, possibly in 842 AD. Remembering the words of his teacher Ishaq ibn Rahwayh, he now started compiling only those Hadiths that he found to be authentic into a book called ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’, completing the work by 846 AD.
After completing ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’, he traveled around a lot, teaching the Hadiths to thousands of people. Concurrently, he continued making minor revision of his work, changing the titles of the chapters.
Around 864 AD, he moved to Nishapur. Here too, he attracted a very large crowd, which made the local scholars envious. They sent a man, who asked Muhammad al-Bukhari if the Holy Quran was created, to which he answered no because they were the words of Allah.
In order to confuse him, the man continued to ask questions about the words of Quran. In response to one such question Muhammad al-Bukhari said, "Our actions are created and the pronunciation is one of our actions."
The man then went back to the conspirators, who seized the opportunity to malign him, spreading that Muhammad al-Bukhari believed the words of the Holy Quran to be created. Very soon, people stopped attending his classes and he had to leave the town and return to Bukhara.
On his return to Bukhara, Muhammad al-Bukhari established a school, where he started teaching students. Shortly, he was approached by the Governor, who asked him to give private lessons to his children because of their social standing. Muhammad al-Bukhari declined to do so.
Muhammad al-Bukhari’s refusal made the Governor very angry. Eventually, he had to leave his native town and move to Khartank, a village near Samarkand. Here he spent the rest of his life.
Muhammad al-Bukhari’s is best remembered for his compilation work, ‘al-Jāmi’ al-Musnad al-Sahīh al-Mukhtaṣar min umūr Rasûl Allāh wa sunnanihi wa ayyāmih’, commonly referred as ‘Sahih al-Bukhari’. Considered as one of the six major Hadith collections, it covers almost all aspects of life and provides guidance to Muslims around the world.
Death & Legacy
It is not known if Muhammad al-Bukhari had any wife or children. He died in 870 A.D. in Khartank and was buried in Hartang Village.
After centuries of neglect, Imam al-Bukhari Complex has been built around his tomb. However, the ground level mausoleum tombstone that is visible today is only a cenotaph, with his grave lying underneath it. The complex also houses a mosque, a madrassah, a library, and a small collection of Qurans.