Sahih al-Bukhari is compiled by Bukhari, the most outstanding scholar of hadith narrations and hadith criticism. It contains around 2,500 ahadith without repetitions and 7,563 ahadith with repetitions. It is the most important book in Islamic literature after the Book of Allah. It is the first book to only include the ahadith without interpretations of the companions (ra) and their successors.
The book is famously known as Sahih al-Bukhari, but it was originally titled:
الْجَامِعُ الصَّحِيحُ الْمُسْنَدَ مِنْ حَديثِ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَسُنَنِهُ وَأيَّامِهِ
'al-Jami' as-Sahih al-Musnad min hadith Rasuli-llah sala Allahu-alyhi wa salam wa sunatihi wa Ayamihi.' (Ibn as-Salah, 'Ulum al-Hadith, Vol. 1, p. 26, Ibn Hajar, Fth al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 8)
Imam al-Bukhari spared no effort to check ahadith soundness and the attributions of their narrators. He did not include any hadith except after praying guidance prayer (salat al-Istikharah). (al-Khatib al-Bughdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, Vol. 2, p. 327.) Whilst he had memorized thousands of sound ahadith, he chose only those with the highest rank of authenticity. Bukhari said:
صنَّفتُ الجامعَ من ستمائة ألف حديث في ست عشرة سنة.
"I compiled al-Jami' (Sahih al-Bukhari) from 600.000 ahadith in sixty years." (Tuhfat al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 17)
Sahih al-Bukhari - the best book after the Qur'an
Muslim scholars adhere to the notion that Sahih al-Bukhari is the best book after the book of Allah (the Qur'an).
There are four sources of the Islamic legislation; Qur'an, Sunnah, Ijma (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy) in that order.
Whilst the Sunnah, or prophetic ahadith, come second, Bukhari's compilation is the most authoritative. It follows Bukhari's Sahih is the best book after the Qur'an.
The Shafi' jurist Nawawi said:
اتَّفَق الْعُلَمَاءُ رحِمَهُمْ اللهُ عَلَى أَنَّ أَصَحُّ الْكُتُبِ بَعْدَ الْقُرْآنِ الْعَزِيزِ : الصَّحِيحَانِ الْبُخَارِيَّ وَمُسْلِمٌ ، وَتَلَقَّتْهُمَا الْأُمَّةُ بِالْقَبُولِ ، وَكِتَابُ الْبُخَارِيِّ أُصَحُّهُمَا
"Scholars agreed that the most authentic books after the Glorious Qur'an are Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim whom Muslim nation has accepted them as such. But Sahih al-Bukhari has a higher rank of authenticity." (Sharh an-Nawawi, Vol. 1, p. 14)
The famous mufassir Ibn Kathir said:
أَجْمَعَ الْعُلَمَاءُ عَلَى قَبُولِ صَحِيحِ الْبُخَارِيِّ وَصِحَّةٍ مَا فِيه ، وَكَذَلِكَ سَائِرُ أهْلِ الْإِسْلامِ
"Scholars, and all Muslims, consensually agree on accepting Sahih al-Bukhari as well as the authentication of its content." (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, Vol. 24, p. 11)
Reasons Behind Compilation of Sahih al-Bukhari
The Shafi'i jurist ibn Hajar cited three reasons behind Bukhari's efforts to compile his Sahih:
1. Compilation of only prophetic ahadith in one book, because before Bukhari no scholars would include the interpretations of the companions and their successors (ra).
2. He heard his Sheikh Ishaq ibn Rahawyah saying 'it would be better if you compiled a short book of the sound ahadith of the Prophet (saw).'
3. Whilst there was a major trend when people started lying against the Prophet (saw), Bukhari saw a dream (Ru'yah): He was himself defending the Prophet (saw) from those who lie against him. (Ibn Hajar, Hadi as-Sari, pp. 4-7)
Conditions of Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih
Imam al-Bukhari did not mention the criterion he followed, but through enquiry, scholars determined his conditions as the following:
1. Isnad Mutasil (sound chain of narrators attributed back to the Prophet).
2. The narrator must be Muslim, trustful, not a mudalis 'fraudulent', his memory is not confused, trustworthy, has a sharp memory, uncommunicative and believes not in any false believes.
3. The narrator must be alive in the time of whom he narrated from (al-Mu'asarah).
4. The narrator must have met his Sheikh (al-Liqa'). (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 1, p. 7)
Does Sahih al-Bukhari include all sound ahadith?
The purpose of compiling Sahih al-Bukhari was not to compile all authentic ahadith, but to be the source of only authoritative ahadith. Bukhari himself narrated other sound ahadith, other than what he included in his Sahih, in manyother books authored by him. Thus, he only included in this version what meets certain conditions he stipulated in this version.
لَمْ أُخَرِّجْ فِي هَذَا الْكِتَابِ إلّا صَحِيحًا ، وَمَا تَرَكْتُ مِنَ الصَّحِيحِ أَكْثَرْ
"I did not include in this book except sound (ahadith) and I left many sound ahadith (out in number what I included)." (Ibn Hajar, Hadi as-Sari, p. 18.)
He used to say,
أَحْفَظُ مِئَةَ أَلْفِ حَديثٍ صَحِيحٍ ، وَمِئَتَيْ أَلْفِ حَديثٍ غَيْرِ صَحِيحٍ
"I memorize 100 thousand sound ahadith and 200 weak ahadith" and in other narrations 1.000.000 total ahadith. (Azrkashi, an-Nukat 'ala Ibn as-Salah, p. 64)
Whilst he memorized at least 100,000 sound ahadith, he only included 2,500 ahadith he found meet his conditions.
Muslim Devotion to Sahih al-Bukhari
When Bukhari published his compilation, people from all over the Muslim world gathered to hear, copy and study his compilation.
It was narrated over 100,000 students heard it from him. Many versions were published and many of his students, and their students, started teaching it.
Muslim scholars later wrote hundreds of commentaries on it.
The following commentaries are the most popular:
1. A'lam as-Sunan by Khattabi (388 A.H.). It is the oldest surviving commentary on Bukhari's Sahih.
2. Fath al-Bari by Ibn Hajar (852 A.H.). It is the best commentary has been ever produced on Sahih al-Bukhari. It took 25 years to complete it.
3. 'Umdat al-Qari, by Mahmud al-Ayni (855 A.H.). It is a very simple commentary with no major details.
4. Irshad as-Sari by Qasttalany (923 A.H.). The author summarized the last two commentaries into one version.
Women's Role in Preserving Sahih al-Bukhari
Bukhari narrated a number of ahadith that urge women to learn and pursue hadith studies.
He included a chapter entitled "Is it allowed to specify (teaching) a day for women?" citing a number of ahadith promoting the notion of education.
He narrated that Abu sa'id al-Khuduri said:
قَّالَتِ النِّسَاءُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى َاللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ غَلَبَنَا عَلَيْكَ الرِّجَالُ، فَاجْعَلْ لَنَا يَوْمًا مِنْ نَفْسِكَ. فَوَعَدَهُنَّ يَوْمًا لَقِيَهُنَّ فِيهِ، فَوَعَظَهُنَّ وَأَمَرَهُنَّ.
"Some women requested the Prophet (ﷺ) to fix a day for them as the men were taking all his time. On that he promised them one day for religious lessons and commandments." (Sahih al-Bukhari 101)
These ahadith encouraged women to take a role in learning and teaching Bukhari's Sahih.
For example, Fatimah Razali's version of it was the most accurate, authoritative copy and her isnad of the book was one of the highest, if not the highest, chain of narrators, so students used to seek her hadith sessions. Due to her devotion to Sahih al-Bukhari, some people thought that she was one of Bukhari's teachers.
Karimah Marzuyah, a female hadith scholar, was also one of Bukhari's Sahih narrators with a very strong isnad to Bukhari. Many scholars and jurists studied and heard Bukhari's Sahih from her.
Sahih al-Bukhari is one of the authoritative books in shari'ah. It has been served by male and female scholars over the centuries. Whilst it's of the highest rank, it is not the only sound hadith compilation.
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