Imam Bukhari: His Life and Works part 5


Reason of Compilation

Imam al-Bukhari compiled this work due to the existing compilations of hadith in

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his time consisting of a mixture of authentic (sahih), good (hasan), and weak
(da’eef) reports. So Imam al-Bukhari sought to compile a collection with only the
most authentic reports included. His resolve was greatly strengthened by his teacher
Ishaq ibn Rahawaih.

Al-Bukhari stated regarding his teacher: “We were sitting with Ishaq ibn Rahawaih
and he said ‘If only you would collect a concise compilation of the authentic
Upon hearing this I developed a strong desire in my heart so I began
compiling Al-Jami’ al-Sahih.

Muhammad ibn Sulaiman ibn al-Faaris said: “I heard al-Bukhari say:

  ‘I saw the
Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) in a dream, I was standing in front of him
with a fan in my hand, and I was shooing the flies from around him. So asked someone
who was skilled in dream interpretation about this. He said ‘You are deflecting away
from him the lies, so thus he encouraged me to compile al-Jami’ al-Sahih.’

His Methodology

Imam al-Bukhari would only collect the hadith that met all of the conditions of

authenticity. He categorized it in the same fashion of the scholars of fiqh, in that
each chapter addressed different issues of fiqh. In many places he would entitle the
chapters of the book with his opinion on a certain matter in fiqh. For example in
the “Book of Salat” there is a chapter entitled “Chapter on the obligation of
takbeeratu al-ihram”.

On different occasions Imam al-Bukhari would repeat, summarize, or mention a portion
of the hadith. He did this for various reasons that dealt with the chain of
narrators, for example sometimes you would have the same hadith being narrated by
two different companions. On other occasions it was done to remove some doubt as to
the reliability of the narrators in the chain. For example some narrators would
narrate the text in full while others would narrate the text in a summarized manner.
In other instances there might be an addition of a narrator in the chain, while the
same narrator was left out of another chain, so he would mention both chains to
resolve the seemingly conflicting chains and to clarify why the narrator was added
in one chain and not the other.

Another reason he did this was due to the text (matn) of the hadith itself. For
example sometimes the hadith was very long so he split it up and placed parts of it
in different chapters, but these hadith were never mentioned in their entirety.
Sometimes the text was short, but there was more than one legal judgment resulting
from it, in such instances the text was reiterated.

Commentaries on al-Jami’ al-Sahih

Hajji al-Khalifah author of the book “Kashf al-Dhunun” stated: “There are eighty

two commentaries on Sahih al-Bukhari.” the most prominent of which are:

  1. A’laam al-Sunan – by al-Khataabi

  2. Sharh ibn Bataal – by ibn Bataal

  3. Al-Khair al-Fadih – by bin al-Teen al-Safaaqasir

  4. Al-Kawkab al-Durari – by al-Karamaani

  5. Al-Fath al-Bari – by Ibn Hajr

  6. ‘Umdah al-Qari – by al-‘ini

  7. Irshaad al-Shaari – Al-Asqalaani

Other Works

(1) Al-Adab al-Mufrad – This is a collection of hadith that are mostly concerned
with the manners and ethics of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This work has been
published a number of times and there are also some

commentaries on it.

(2) Al-Tarikh (“The History”) – These are a collection of biographies in the style

of the scholars of hadith. Actually, al-Bukhari wrote three such works: al-

Kabeer (“The Large”), al-Sagheer (“the small”) and al-Ausat (“the

intermediate”). The most important of these is al-Kabeer.

(2a) Al-Tarikh al-Kabeer – This is one of the first works that al-Bukhari

compiled. He wrote it while in Madina. It contains biographical information on

some 40,000 narrators. He said that for each narrator in the book he could

reproduce an incident concerning his life but he did not do so as that would

make the book too long. Al-Bukhari’s teacher Ishaq ibn Rahawaih praised the

book immensely. In fact, it has been passed on to posterity and stands as

one of the classic biographical works. Abu Ahmad al-Hakim stated that no

compiler of any biographical work who came after al-Bukhari could do without

referring to this work.[1] It has been published in eight volumes.

(3) Asami al-Sahaba – Al-Bukhari was the first to compile an entire work solely

on the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Perhaps this work

laid the foundation for the works to come later on this topic.

(4) Al-Musnad al-Kabeer – It is said that al-Bukhari wrote a work containing one
hundred thousand hadith. From the title of this work, it seems that this would be
it. Some of the later scholars have mentioned this work but it seems that it no
longer exists today.

(5) Kitab al-Kuni (“The Book of Patronyms”) – Many narrators were referred

to as Abu Fulan (“Father of so and so”) and sometimes it is difficult to identify

exactly whom the referred narrator is. This work by al-Bukhari is of

monumental help in identifying such narrators. According to Abu Ahmad al-

Hakim, Imam Muslim’s work on this same topic is almost simply a transcript of

al-Bukhari’s work with the addition of only simple comments.1 Later scholars,

such as al-Nasai, al-Hakim and al-Dhahabi also wrote on this topic and

benefited greatly from al-Bukhari’s work.

(6) Khalq Afaal al-Ibad (“The Creation of the Acts of the Slaves [of God]”) –

The early enemies of Islam were not able to drive the Muslims away from

Islam so they had to turn to trying to destroy Islam from within. They tried this

first by casting doubts on the Qur’an by saying that it was created.[2]

They denied the attribute of speech to Allah although it is clearly confirmed on a

number of occasions in the Qur’an. Another group of people arose who

denied qadr, saying that Allah did not know about something until that event

actually occurred.[3] This innovation began during the last days of the period of

the Companions. After that there began a discussion of the actions of the

humans – are they created by Allah or is the person of complete free will.

Two extremes appeared, one claiming no role for human beings while the

other claimed that humans created their own deeds themselves. Al-Bukhari

wrote this book to address these three innovations and to confirm Allah’s

attribute of speech, confirm qadr and the knowledge of Allah of all things and

confirm Allah’s creating of the actions of the slave. This book was written

during al-Bukhari’s last years after he was accused by al-Dhuhli of being an


(7) Kitab al-Illal – This is a work on the most difficult science of the sciences of

hadith: the spotting of defects or mistakes in what look like sound hadith. Al-

Bukhari, his teacher Ali ibn al-Madini and Abu Hatim al-Razi were all experts in

this field.

With the exception of Khalq Afaal al-Ibad, all of the above works deal with hadith

or hadith sciences but al-Bukhari also had some works on specific fiqh topics,

such as the following: Kitab al-Hibah (“The Book of Endowments”), Rafa al-

Yadain (“Raising of Both Hands [in the Prayer]”, a refutation of the Hanafis), al-

Qirat Khalf al-Imam (“Reciting behind the Imam”), Kitab al-Ashriba (“The Book of
Drinks”) and Qadhaya al-Sahaba wa al-Tabieen (“Judgments of the Companions and
Followers,” this was his first work, written while he was eighteen years old).

A tafsir of the Qur’an has also been ascribed to him but it was either part of the

Sahih or it has been lost over time.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at

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