“Let me scale the heights that cannot be scaled, for reaching high things is difficult whilst reaching low things is easy. You want to scale the heights without any effort, but honey cannot be gathered without beestings.”
Gaining knowledge is a rahma from Allah bestowed upon His slaves. As related by Abu Tamaam (above quote), it is not easy. It calls for patience and endurance along with the capability to do ‘justice’ to it. Attainment of knowledge is attainment of valuable pearls which the owner has to protect.
Gaining knowledge is a rahma from Allah bestowed upon His slaves.
The question is how? How to attain knowledge while staying humble, how to apply it and earn the pleasure of Allah , how to spread it while seeking the same benefit for our brothers? The answer lies in the lives of our great Sahaabas and Imams and one such great Imam is Imam Bukhaari (rahimullah). Let us embark on his journey of knowledge and aim to derive benefits from it, in shaa’ Allah.
JOURNEY TO KNOWLEDGE
Abu ‘Abd-Allaah Muhammad ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Ibraaheem al-Bukhaari was born in Bukhaara in Shawwaal of 194 AH, and grew up as an orphan.
At the age of 10:
Imam Bukhaari was already a scholar at the age of 10 having memorized the Qur’an, learnt much of fiqh and the Arabic language. But his area of interest was hadith. It is related from Imam Bukhaari’s student that one of Bukhaari’s Shaykh had wrongly narrated a chain of hadith. Imam Bukhaari pointed out that it was incorrect. The Shaykh refused to accept his mistake but seeing Bukhaari’s persistence checked his books to find that Bukhari was indeed correct. Bukhaari’s students asked him his age at the time of the incident. He replied, “I was not more than 10 years….”
Imam Bukhaari was not a mere parrot memorizing without analysis. He was not only well versed with the hadith and their chain of narration but also was well aware of the history of every member in the chain.
He was blessed with a photographic memory which he rightly put to use in the path of Allah . He would simply glance at a page and would end up memorizing it without having to write it down unlike other students.
At the age of 16:
Imam Bukhaari was successful in encapsulating the knowledge of all towns that he visited, the only ones being left were Mecca and Medinah. This desire was fulfilled when his mother and brother set out for Hajj. He accompanied them and grasped the knowledge of all the scholars in Medinah and headed to Mecca. When it was time to return to Bukhaara, Bukhaari insisted on staying back to which his mother agreed. At the age of 16, he had become an Imam, an Allama.
At the age of 18:
At this time, he began his writing career. In Makkah, he wrote At-Tareekh al Kabeer, one of the most important books on the science of hadith until today. The literal translation of the title is “The Big History” which for Imam Bukhaari, was the names of the narrators of the hadith.
He followed this book with al-Jaami’ al-Saheeh al-Musnad min Hadeeth Rasool-Allaah wa Sunanihi wa Ayaamihi commonly known as Sahih Al Bukhaari today. He was a sincere man only seeking to spread authentic ahadith rather than publicizing himself.
Compilation of Sahih al Bukhaari
Imam Bukhaari took 16 years to complete this book. At the time of compiling this collection, he had over 700,000 ahadith in his memory of which only 7563 made it to the book. Of the 7563, only 2550 ahadith are without repetition.
Imam Bukhaari took 16 years to complete Sahih al Bukhaari. At the time of compiling this collection, he had over 700,000 ahadith in his memory of which only 7563 made it to the book. Of the 7563, only 2550 ahadith are without repetition.
The question is if Imam Bukhaari was so knowledgeable, then why did he take so long to compile it? This was because of the precision with which he made the compilation along with the fear of Allah . Imam Bukhaari said that each time before making an entry into the book, he would shower and offer two rak’ah Istikhaara seeking Allah’s guidance.
One of his students related, “I had slept over at Imam bukhaari’s house for a few nights. I found the Imaam wake up at least 18 times during the night and would write something and then go back to sleep. He used to make corrections in the ahadith that he was compiling.” It is this precision that makes even the titles of the various books within Sahih al Bukhaari wisdom in itself.
This was Imam Bukhaari. He was sincere for the sake of Allah . He protected the ahadith with utmost capacity. He would not take a hadith from any scholar except that he would ask about every person in the chain, about their history from birth to death.
This was Imam Bukhaari. He was sincere for the sake of Allaah. He protected the ahadith with his utmost capacity. He would not take a hadith from any scholar except that he would ask about every person in the chain, about their history from birth to death.
The knowledge of a scholar is jarrh wa ta’deel which means that they label a person as righteous, a murtad, a shia’, etc., based on which the hadith is classified as sahih or da’eef. The scholars have commented that when Imam Bukhaari had to pinpoint a deviant or a liar, he would only mention the words ‘his credibility is questioned’. He would never blame a person outright even if the masses knew of the person’s evil. It was because of this that Imam Bukhaari was able to make his statement by which he was sure he could stand in front of Allah with a clear conscience.
Imam Bukhaari was a businessman that everyone loved to deal with. He was very just in his transactions even if it meant a loss for himself. Whenever he was asked to save some of his earnings he would reply,
“What Allah has for me is better than this.”
Trials and Tribulations
A scholar named Az Zuhali sent his students to listen to Imam Bukhaari. But Zuhali’s students got addicted to Imam Bukhari and never returned. This enticed jealousy within him against the Imam to the point that he instigated rumours about him. He said that Imam Bukhaari claimed that the Qur’an is created which was the greatest fitnah of that time.
During one of the Imam’s halaqah, a questioner persistently asked him about this issue. After ignoring him several times, Imam Bukhaari finally replied, “The Qur’an is the word of Allah and the voice is a creation and questioning me about it is a bid’ah.” This statement was enough for the ignorant to misquote the Imam.
When one of Bukhaari’s student, Ahmad, told him about the rumors, he replied,
“Whoever says that Qur’an is a creation is a kaffir and whoever calls a muslim a kaffir is a kaffir.“
When Ahmad asked him to take action, the Imam said, “I leave it to Allah. Don’t you know the hadith from the Prophet to be patient in trials and tribulations.” The only dua’ that the Imam made to Allah was, “O Allah! I left my town to teach these people. They talk about me because of jealousy and you know that it is a lie.”
“O Allah! I left my town to teach these people. They talk about me because of jealousy and you know that it is a lie.”
Back to Bukhaara
Imam Bukhaari returned to Bukhaara, his birthplace, where he was greeted with utmost love and respect. He began teaching once again and his students grew in number. At this stage, the leader of Bukhaara asked Imam Bukhaari to teach his children Sahih al Bukhaari and Tareekh al Kabeer. But Bukhaaari refused saying that ‘Eating a jifa would be better than stepping foot into the palace’. He also said that, “If you don’t like my answer, then stop me from imparting knowledge so that I have an excuse in front of Allah.”
Imam Bukhaari was thrown out of Bukhaara thereafter.
Imam Bukhaari’s Last Days
After being thrown out, Imam Bukhaari stayed at his friends place at Samarqand. After some time, he was summoned by the leader of Bukhaara. At this point, Imam Bukhaari made dua’ to Allah,
“O Allah, don’t unite me with him; and take my soul.”
He died shortly after this at the age of 62, all alone.
Imam Bukhaari’s life was a journey solely for the sake of Allah . He studied under 1080 scholars. He was blessed with knowledge and fame that surpassed all bounds, yet he remained humble. The consciousness of Allah never left him.
These are our great Imams who teach and remind us over and over again of the sweetness and happiness of seeking Allah’s pleasure and love. The following quote by Shaykh Abdul Aziz Ibn Baaz sums up all that a student of knowledge should strive for:
“O slave of Allah! O student of knowledge! It is upon you to be sincere in your worship, intending it solely for Allah. You must be serious and keen in seeking knowledge with perseverance, then act upon that which the knowledge necessitates, since what is required is implementation, and not that you become a scholar or achieve a high-class degree. Indeed the main purpose of seeking knowledge is that you act accordingly, guiding people towards good, consequently becoming the successors to the prophets in calling people to the truth.”