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Bukhārī, Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mughīra al-

By:
Jonathan A. C. Brown
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Bukhārī, Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mughīra al-

Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mughīra al-Bukhārī ( AH194–256/810–870 CE)was the most revered Sunnī ḥadīth scholar. He was born in Bukhara to a wealthy landowning family that had converted to Islam from Zoroastrianism in the time of his great-grandfather. His scholarly travels took him to study with the greatest ḥadīth scholars of his day, among them Abū Bakr ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr al-Ḥumaydī (d. 219/834), Isḥāq ibn Rāhawayh (d. 238/853), Qutayba ibn Saʿīd (d. 240/854), Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (d. 241/855), Yaḥyā ibn Maʿīn (d. 233/848), and ʿAlī ibn al-Madīnī (d. 234/849). Al-Bukhārī enjoyed a lengthy stay in Neyshābūr from 864–869CE, where he met and began teaching a promising junior, Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj. Al-Bukhārī also mentored the famous ḥadīth scholar Abū ʿĪsā al-Tirmidhī. Unfortunately, Neyshābūr's senior scholar, Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā al-Dhuhlī (d. 258/873), seems to have been threatened by al-Bukhārī and quickly began stirring up sentiment against him. Finally, al-Bukhārī was driven from the city, ostensibly because he believed that the actual uttered words of the Qurʿān were created (ultimately the Sunnī orthodox position). He returned to his native Bukhara, where he remained briefly before the governor of the city ordered him expelled, possibly because he refused to offer the governor's children private lessons, but probably because word of al-Bukhārī's “heresy” had caught up with him. He made his way down the Zeravshan river valley before dying in the village of Khartank outside of Samarkand, a tired exile.

Al-Bukhārī's initial fame came from his massive biographical dictionary of ḥadīth transmitters, the al-Tārīkh al-kabīr (The Great History). His immortal fame, however, came from his al-Jāmiʿ al-musnad al-ṣaḥīḥ (The Authentic Collection), soon to be known simply as Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. Divided into ninety-seven chapters dealing with a wide range of legal, ritual, historical, and dogmatic issues, this work was a mammoth encapsulation of al-Bukhārī's scholarly worldview as expressed in ḥadīths that he felt met the highest standards of authenticity. It contains approximately 7,397 full-isnād ḥadīths, or 2,602 ḥadīths not counting repetitions, which the author selected from a pool of 600,000 narrations. The work also included earlier scholarly opinions and limited commentary from the author himself as elucidations.

Although al-Bukhārī was retroactively claimed by several Sunnī madhhabs (legal schools), he predated their crystallization and was an independent scholar of the ahl al-ḥadīth tradition. Al-Bukhārī left no exposition of his methods of ḥadīth criticism, and Muslim scholars quickly began spilling ink in an attempt to reconstruct them. By the mid-900s CE Sunnīs had recognized al-Bukhārī's Ṣaḥīḥ as a basic ḥadīth reference, and by 1000 it had become, along with Muslim's Ṣaḥīḥ, the exemplification of authenticity in regard to the Prophet's sunnah. From the 1300s onward most scholars of note wrote a commentary on al-Bukhārī's collection, the most famous being Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī's (d. 852/1449) Fatḥ al-bārī (The Revealing by the Creator). After the 1200s the book acquired a ritual use as well: reading it was thought to bring blessings and cure illness, and it was read out loud in mosques in the two months before Ramadan. The Moroccan sultan Mawlā Ismāʿīl (d. 1727) used the Ṣaḥīḥ as the center of a cult of esprit de corps for an elite army unit, the “Slaves of al-Bukhārī.”

See also AHL AL-ḤADīTH; ḤADīTH; ḤAJJāJ, MUSLIM IBN AL-; and SUNNī ISLAM.

Bibliography

  • Arberry, A. J.“The Teachers of Al-Bukhārī.”Islamic Quarterly11 (1967): 34–49.
  • Brown, Jonathan A. C.The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon. Leiden, Netherlands, 2007.
  • Fadel, Mohammad. “Ibn Ḥajar's Hady al-Sārī: A Medieval Interpretation of the Structure of al-Bukhārī's al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥīḥ: Introduction and Translation.”Journal of Near Eastern Studies54 (1995): 161–195.
  • Lucas, Scott. “The Legal Principles of Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-Bukhārī and Their Relationship to Classical Salafi Islam.”Islamic Law and Society13, no. 3 (2006): 289–324.
  • Melchert, Christopher. “Bukhārī and Early Hadith Criticism.”Journal of the American Oriental Society121 (2001): 7–19.
  • Najmī, Moḥammad Ṣādeq. Sayrī dar Ṣaḥīḥayn: Sayr va barrasī dar do ketāb-e mohemm va madrak-e ahl-sonnat. Tehran, Iran, 2001.
  • Quiring-Zoche, Rosemarie. “How al-Buhārī's Ṣaḥīḥ Was Edited in the Middle Ages: ʿAlī al-Yūnīnī and His Rumūz.”Bulletin d’Études Orientales50 (1998): 191–222.
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