Hadith · Knowing the Prophet · Saheeh Al-Bukhari

Who was Imam Al-Bukhari (Part 1)?

blind hearts

It has been unanimously agreed that Imam Bukhari’s work is the most authentic of all the other works in hadeeth literature put together. The authenticity of Al-Bukari’s work is such that the learned scholars of Islam said,

“The most authentic book after the Book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an) is Saheeh Al-Bukhari.”

Imam Bukhari was born on a Friday, 13th Shawwal in the year 194 A.H. in Bukhara in the territory of Khurasan (Uzbekistan). His real name is Muhammad ibn Isma’eel ibn Al-Mugheerah Al-Bukhari.

The Love of Hadeeth is in the Blood

His family was known for its righteousness and nobility. Remember that the hadeeth narrators are scrutinized. You cannot narrate a hadeeth from someone unless you know about their character. Therefore, we see that the scholars reject some ahadeeth due to a weak chain or it being fabricated. About Imam Bukhari’s father, the people said that they don’t remember a single incident when he backbited, said something hurtful to others, or had a quarrel with someone. This is a quality that we need to instill in ourselves; if we wish to become students and narrators of hadeeth then we need to work on our character first.

[The Etiquettes of Learning and the Story of Prophet Musa]

His father, Isma’eel, was a practicing scholar – a muhaddith. He had spent time with Imam Maalik and Hammad ibn Zaid (the teacher of Imam Abu Haneefa). He traveled with ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak (one of the greatest scholars).

Imam Bukhari has a chapter on his father in his book Tareekh Al-Kabeer [the History of the Narrator]. This is one of those admirable moments where a son (a hadeeth scholar himself) has written about his father (another scholar).

Through this we learn that the love of the hadeeth was in their blood.

Leaving the Doubtful Matters

However, that is not all. We learned in our du’a post that one of the reasons our du’as are not accepted is due to our haram earning. We are not as conscious about our living as we should be. Working in banks, insurance companies and other haram businesses is taken lightly by many of us.

[Why Allah doesn’t Answer Our Du’as?]

Imam Bukhari did not meet his father. There are two opinions about his death; he either died while Imam Bukhari was still in his mother’s womb (like the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) or he died in his infancy.

Along with the love of the hadeeth this family was known for its warah. Warah is leaving that which is doubtful. It means that if you are doubtful about your earning, you do not keep working at the same place but find a better job and leave that about which you have doubt.

[That which is Lawful is Clear]

At the time of his death, it is reported that Imam Bukhari’s father was asked about his condition that how he felt returning to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala meaning whether or not he had Husan Zaan about Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He replied,

“By Allah! I do not know of a single dirham of doubt or haram in my earnings.”

How many of us can claim that?

Bukhara was a city of trade and commerce. There were many opportunities to make money but Isma’eel (raheemullah) did not cheat or use illegal ways to increase his wealth.

He was not a rich man but because of his abstaining from the haram Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala multiplied his earning many times. This is barakah [blessing]. Imam Bukhari lived his entire life on his father’s inheritance. The scholars say that this was a miracle from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He did not work for a living as he was busy collecting ahadeeth.

It teaches us to have good thoughts about Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and stay away from the haram. Do not cheat Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by any means. Be conscious of your earning, your relationships, etc. Stay away from haram.   

[18 Sources of Barakah]

Under the Mother’s Care

After his father’s death, Imam Bukhari’s upbringing was left to his mother. We have already shared in the story of Lady Hajar and Prophet Isma’eel ‘alayhi salaam, the role of a mother in the upbringing of her children. We stated that many of the esteemed scholars would not have attained such lofty positions without the sacrifices of their mothers.  We do not know the name of Imam Bukhari’s mother but she was a great lady – someone who never complained, attended to her children’s needs, and spent her nights in worship. She was an ascetic and remained patient when her husband passed away.

[A Mother’s Single-Headed Upbringing]

Naming Imam Bukhari: Muhammad

Ibn Qayyim said,

“It is not the name that makes a child, but it’s the intention behind the name when you give them that name.”

Many a times, we choose name for our children because we found it in the Qur’an or it sounds good, it rhymes well, etc. That is not right. Imam Bukhari’s parents named him Muhammad with the intention that he will love the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and be like him.

Note that the family already has the love for ahadeeth – his father is a muhaddith. His mother is an Abida, a Zahida and Sabira and they name their child Muhammad so that he will love the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. While we have many plans for our children since their birth, how many of us think of instilling the love of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam?

As we mentioned in the Seerah post, the most beloved names to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala are ‘Abdullah and ‘Abd ar-Rahman, Imam Bukhari’s parents gave him a kunyah at the time of birth. They called him Abu ‘Abdullah. They combined Muhammad and Abdullah – how far-sighted they were!

[Etiquette of Naming Children]

Imam Bukhari Loses His Eyesight

Not only did Imam Bukhari lose his father with his birth but also his eyesight. He was born with weak eyesight and later he became blind in his infancy. Imagine, this is an orphan child looked after by his widowed mother and they live in a city that is not known for Islam or for Islamic scholarship. But, later Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by His Love and Rahmah raises this boy to become the most influential person not only in Bukhara but world over. Everyone who is a Muslim has heard the name Imam Bukhari, even if they do not know his biography.

Lesson: It teaches us that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Maalik ul Asbab. Don’t look at your limited means or constricted circumstances. If you are sincere to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and honest in your dealings, He will protect you and provide for you from ways you cannot imagine. Seek izza [honor] only from Him (see Surah Fatir ayah 10).

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an, it is not the eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts (22: 46). Imam Bukhari might be blind from the eyes but he was not blind from the heart.

[It is Not the Eyes that Grow Blind, but the Hearts]

Having another completely healthy elder son, Imam Bukhari’s mother sympathized with Imam Bukhari and dedicated herself to his care. She would spend nights praying to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to restore his eyesight. We learn that a mother’s du’a for her children is not rejected. It might be delayed but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala answers it.

The Eyesight is Restored

Three or four years later his eyesight was restored through a miraculous incident. The mother without wasting any time took the little boy to the Masjid to memorize the Qur’an.

The scientific studies indicate that being blind increases one’s memory. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes one aspect of our lives weak, He strengthens us in another aspect. While blind people cannot see their other senses are sharp. Imam Bukhari’s mother taught him how to effectively use his brain. She would do activities with him that strengthened his memory.

[Blind People and the Memory]

See the wisdom of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He decided to temporarily blind the child so that he could work on his memorizing skills. He was to grow up memorizing not only the Qur’an but also over hundred thousand ahadeeth with their chains. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not only restored his eyesight but granted him perfect vision. Imam Bukhari wrote all his books without a candle. He would sit under the moonlight and see perfectly. SubhanAllah!

Mother’s Nurturing of the Love for Knowledge

By the age of six, Imam Bukhari had memorized the entire Qur’an. The mother doesn’t show off her hafidh child as a trophy kid, unlike many people today, but rather she noticed the love for hadeeth in her son and nurtures it. She had observed that after finishing off his Qur’an lesson, he would voluntarily go and sit in hadeeth circles. So, she encouraged her son and regularly took her to these circles while waiting outside the Masjid. This is a woman whose name no one knows yet she has done a great favor on us by raising Imam Bukhari so beautifully. She invested her full time and skills in him. Imam Bukhari would not have been Imam Bukhari without his mother. She should be an inspiration for the mothers of today who take their toddlers to play schools and play groups but the same effort and attention is not paid to studying the Deen of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us, aameen.

[Compiled from Omar Suleiman’s class on The Life of Imam Bukhari, Lost Islamic History and the-faith.com]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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