Imām Al-Bukhārī

Imām Al-Bukhārī is a leading pillar in ahadith and amongst the al-Sahih al-Sittah. Scholars unanimously agreed that Imām Al-Bukhārī’s work, the Sahih Bukhārī is the most authentic hadith collection of all the other works of Hadith.

His Name, Background and Family

His full name is Abu Abdullah Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl ibn Ibrahim Ibn Al-Mughīrah ibn Bardizyah Al-Jufri Al-Bukhārī. He was born in Bukhara on Friday, 13 Shawwal 194 AH (July 21, 810 CE). His great grandfather, Al-Mughirah, settled in Bukhara after accepting Islam. His father was a scholar and learned from number of famous scholars including Imām Malik ibn Anas. His father died when he was infant and his mother took on the entire responsibility of bringing him up.

This was a time when many sects of the Muslim Ummah were thriving and people were forging ahadith for political and personal gain.

During his infancy, Imam al-Bukhārī had weak eyesight that manifested into blindness. Desperate for her son, his mother made excessive, sincere, and constant dua’ for her son during the taḥajjud prayers. This period extended for a lengthy two to three years. One night, Imam al-Bukhārī’s mother received the glad tidings of Ibrahim عليه السلام in a dream, who said that Allah ﷻ had granted Imam al-Bukhārī vision because of her dua’. It is report that Imām Al-Bukhārī would write books without a candle but only from the light of the moon.

His Journey to Seek Knowledge

Imām Al-Bukhārī began studying while he was still young, especially in hadith studies. At the age of 16, he had memorised many books of famous scholars including Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak’s book ‘Al-Waki’. He also began studying the biographies of all the hadith narrators.

Imam al-Dakhili was a muhaddith in Bukhara who would narrate ahadith. In his circle, he narrated a sanad to which Imām Al-Bukhārī, as an 11 year old, objected to. Imām Al-Bukhārī distinctly pointed out that the chain of narration he verbally listed was incorrect. Imam al-Dakhili was taken back as an eleven year old was telling him he was wrong. He then consulted his own writings and found himself to be incorrect and the young al-Bukhari to be correct. Before Imam al-Dakhili told the young child, he asked for the correct sanad and al-Bukhari was able to verbally list the correction. Impressed, Imam al-Dakhili remarked that this young man was going to have a special status with Allah ﷻ.

At the age of sixteen, Imām Al-Bukhārī went for Hajj accompanied by his mother and brother. His family returned, but Imām Al-Bukhārī remained in Makkah to study for two years. He then went to Madina to study there for four years. He studied all the Islamic sciences paying attention to hadith studies. Imām Al-Bukhārī wrote two texts sitting next to the grave of the Prophet ﷺ. One of them was al-Tārīkh al-Kabīr which discussed the qualities of the Hadith narrators. The other was Qadaya as-Sahaba wat-Tabi’een which praised the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ and affirmed their trustworthiness and knowledge in a time where deviant ideologies took issue with the Sahaba.

He finally travelled through the Muslim lands to study, places like, Basra, Kufa, Baghdad, Egypt and Shaam.

It was in the circle of Ishaq ibn Rahwayh where Imām Al-Bukhārīi heard from his teacher that he wished for a compilation of the most authentic and reliable in the most concise way that every Muslim can benefit from. It just settled in the heart of Imām Al-Bukhārī. His teachers reported that he would take the values of his teachers and that whenever he was given a hadith, he would implement the lesson of the Hadith in his life. After learning for an additional sixteen years, Imām Al-Bukhārī had transmitted hadith from over 80,000 narrators.

To seek knowledge, I travelled to Egypt and Syria twice, Basra four times, spent six years at the Hijaz (Makkah & Madinah) and left for Kufa and Baghdad on so many occasions accompanied by Muhaddithin (Hadith collectors or Hadith Experts).

Imām Al-Bukhārī

Imām Al-Bukhārī is known to have an excellent memory (some say photographic). He memorised hadith in the 10,000’s, it is believed he memorised over 300,000 hadith. His brother Rashid bin Ismail says,

Imām Al-Bukhārī used to go with us to the scholars of Basra to listen to Hadiths. All of us used to write Hadiths down except Imām Al-Bukhārī. After some days, we condemned Imām Al-Bukhārī saying that, you had wasted so many days work by not writing down Hadiths. Imām Al-Bukhārī asked us to bring our notes to him. So we all brought our notes, upon which Imām Al-Bukhārī began to read Hadiths one by one from the top of his head until he narrated to us more than fifteen thousand Hadiths. Hearing these Hadiths, it seemed that Imām Al-Bukhārī was re-teaching us all of the Hadiths we had noted.

And ibn Azhar Sajistani confirms,

“I used to go to Sulaiman Ibn Harab accompanied by Imām Al-Bukhārī for listening to Hadiths. I used to write the Hadiths but Imām Al-Bukhārī wouldn’t. Someone said to me, ‘Why doesn’t Imām Al-Bukhārī note the Hadiths down?’ I told him, ‘if you missed any Hadith in writing, you could obtain it from the memory of Imām Al-Bukhārī.”

Due to his ability to retain hadith, he learnt at a much faster pace and soon was well known within the land. Unfortunately this led to some jealousy amongst some Islamic schools. People constantly doubted his abilities and tested his hadith knowledge. On one occasion, ten schools came together each bringing 10 hadith, but to trick him they swapped the chains of them with one another. The Hadiths were recited by ten of the brightest students from each school. When they asked Imam to recall them, he said, they are ‘Not to my knowledge’, the whole gathering were mesmerised, especially how they had revealed the true Imām Al-Bukhārī. But Imām Al-Bukhārī was not finished, he then stated every single hadith narrated was not a hadith, as every chain with matn was incorrect. He then went ahead and recited the matn with the wrong chain and then with the right chain. He recalled all 100 like this. Now the gathering was truly mesmerised. Unfortunately, the Islamic schools were still jealous.

Imām Al-Bukhārī was someone who upheld his credibility and dignity, knowing that he was trusted by the people to narrate hadith. On one occasion, he was traveling by boat while carrying 1,000 gold coins. There was another traveller who devised a plan to steal the coins. In the middle of the night, the traveller woke up screaming that he had lost his gold coins and described the bag that he had “lost” identical to that of Imām Al-Bukhārī. The other travellers on the boat searched for the bag but none could find it, and when they could not locate the bag, the became upset with the traveller for waking them up. The traveller came to Imām Al-Bukhārī and asked him where the bag of coins was. Imām Al-Bukhārī said that he had thrown the bag, his life savings, overboard. When further questioned on his actions, Imām Al-Bukhārī said, “…don’t you know that I have spent my life collecting the ahadith of the Prophet ﷺ, and the world knows me as trustworthy? And that they trust me and take my ahadith? Do you want me to sell all of that for a thousand dinars?” Imām Al-Bukhārī could have argued his case but did not want people to have any doubt about his character.

Sahih Bukhari

The full name of this work is ‘Al-Jami As-Sahih’, popularly known as Sahih Al-Bukhari.

There is a unique story about compilation of this book. It is said that one night, Imām Al-Bukhārī saw Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) in his dream. He was standing in from of Prophet Mohammad ﷺ, having a fan in his hand and driving away the flies from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Imām Al-Bukhārī then asked the meaning of the dream from interpreters of dream. They interpreted the dream that he (Imām Al-Bukhārī) will destroy and erode the lies that are included in a number of Hadiths of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. This dream encouraged him to write the book ‘Al-Jami As-Sahih’ (Sahih Al-Bukhari). Imām Al-Bukhārī was very careful in compiling the Hadith. According to Al-Firbari, one of his students, he heard Imām Al-Bukhārī said:

I compile the book Al-Jami As-Sahih in the Grand Mosque (Majid Al-Haram), Makkah and I did not include a Hadith except after an istikhara prayer of two rakahs, ask Allah for help, and after believing that the Hadith is truly authentic.

Imām Al-Bukhārī studied each and every narrator in the chain, in terms of biography and condition. He made sure they were not liars or sinners and they have good memory, as well as people who could stand their ground. People full of integrity. Imām Al-Bukhārī knew hadith in the 100,000s but he limited his collection to only the sahih of the sahih.

The process of compiling this book was carried out by Imām Al-Bukhārī in the two holy cities i-e Makkah and Madinah and it took him 16 years to compile this book. Although he had memorized a large number of Hadiths, he only chooses 7,275 Hadiths for this book and there is no doubt about the authenticity of these Hadiths. He gained the approval of the Hadith masters Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ali ibn al-Madini, and Yahya ibn Ma’in. Scholars agree he was a mujtahid himself, but followed the school of Imam Ahmad.

In 250 AH, Imām Al-Bukhārī came to area of Nishapur in Khorasan. This is where he would attract thousands of students, including one of the most famous scholars of Hadith, Imam Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj. Scholars in Nishapur were upset that their students were flocking to Imām Al-Bukhārī, therefore, rumours were spread that Imām Al-Bukhārī had come to Nishapur in order to spread false information about the religion.

The rumors caused Imām Al-Bukhārī to leave Nishapur and return to his home city of Bukhara. In Bukhara, he was pressured by the governor to have Imām Al-Bukhārī give private lessons to his children due to their higher social class. Demanding that his lessons be public to people of all walks of life coupled with the envy of other scholars, Imām Al-Bukhārī was forced out of his home city.

After many years, Imām Al-Bukhārī returned to his hometown Bukhara. People of the city were extremely happy and greeted him with great zest and zeal. Imam Bukhari established a Madrassah (school) in the city where he spent a great deal of time teaching with satisfaction. Owing to his honesty, kindness and fact that he was trustworthy, Imām Al-Bukhārī used to keep away from the rulers of that time due to the reason that he may incline to say things to please them. Once the governor of Bukhara, Khalid bin Ahmed, called Imām Al-Bukhārī to his house and asked Imam to teach his son. Imām Al-Bukhārī, in response to the offer, replied:

I give greater respect to knowledge rather than to people, for it is they who are in need of the knowledge and it is they who should seek it.

The governor said

If my son was to attend your Madrassah (school), he should not sit with ordinary people’s children. You (Imam Bukari) would have to teach him separately.

Imām Al-Bukhārī replied

“I cannot stop any person from hearing Hadiths.”

Upon hearing this, the governor expelled Imām Al-Bukhārī form the city. The Imam moved to Khartang, a small village near Samarkhand. This incident did lead to the governor being improsoned by the Caliph.


After the expulsion and jealousy and hatred he had received all his life, Imām Al-Bukhārī admits how it made him sad, especially where all he did was good for the deen. In Kharteng, Imām Al-Bukhārī made the powerful dua, “Oh Allah, the Earth, despite its vastness, is becoming narrow and troubling me greatly, so take take me back to You”. On 1 Shawwal 256 AH (870 CE), Imām Al-Bukhārī passed away at the age of 62 years in a Khartang, Samarkand.

Notable teachers

Imam Bukhari says he had atleast 1080 teachers and all of them were experts in ahadith.

  • Ali ibn Al-Madini
  • Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
  • Yahya ibn Maeen
  • Mohammad ibn Yusuf Al-Firyabi
  • Mohammad bin Yusuf Al-Baykandi
  • Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh

Notable students

  • Muslim bin Hajjaj (famously known as Imam Muslim)
  • Abu Isa Mohammad Al-Tirmidhi (famously known as Imam Al-Tirmidhi)
  • Abu Abd-ur-Raḥman Aḥmad ibn Shuaib Al-Nasai (famously known as Imam Al-Nasai)
  • Abdullah bin Abd-ur-Rahman Al-Darimi
  • Muhammad bin Nashr Al-Marwazi
  • Abu Hatim Ar-Razi
  • Abu Bakar bin Ishaq bin Khuzaimah

Al-Hafiz ibn Rajah Al-Hanbali said about Imam Bukhari:

“He (Imam Bukhari) is one of Allah’s signs walking on the Earth.”

Abu Abdullah bin Hammad Al-Marwazi said:

 “Muhammad ibn Ismail is the Faqih (Islamic jurist expert in Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic Law) of this Ummah.”

Abu Bakr Mohammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaymah said:

 “I have never seen underneath the sky one who is more knowledgeable and memorizer of the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) than Mohammad ibn Ismail.”

Notable Works

  • Sahih al Bukhari
  • Al-Tarikh Al-Kabir
  • Al-Tarikh Al-Ṣaghir
  • Al-Tarikh Al-Awsaţ
  • Khalqu Afalad ibad
  • Adh-Dhuafa Ash-Shaghir
  • Al-Adab Al-Mufrad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.