His name is Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ismail bin Ibrahim bin al-Mughirah bin Bardizbah al-Bukhari. His father Ismail was a well-known muhaddith (scholar of hadith) in his time and had been in the company of Imam Malik, Hammad bin Zaid and Abdullah bin al-Mubarak.
Imam Bukhari was born in Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan, in 194 Hijri. His father passed away during his childhood. He memorised the compiled books of Imam al-Waqidi and Abdullah bin al-Mubarak at the age of 16. He has an exceptional memory; after listening to a hadith he could repeat it from memory. He had memorised 2000 hadiths in his childhood.
After completing Hajj with his mother and brother, he remained in Mecca for two years before travelling to Madinah, Damascus, Egypt, Kufa, Basra, and Baghdad, in search of knowledge.
There are over 20 books compiled by Imam Bukhari, some notable ones are:
- Al-Jami’ al-Musnad as-Sahih al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasulullah (s.a.w) wa Sunanihi wa Ayyamihi, also known as as-Sahih al-Bukhari
- Qadhaya as-Sahabah wa at-Tabi’in, a book on the sahabahs and tabi’ins’ knowledge and trustworthiness
- At-Tarikh Al-Kabir, a book on the biographies of hadith narrators
- At-Tarikh As-Ṣaghir, a brief history of Rasulullah, his sahabahs and the narrators that came after them.
- Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, a topical book of hadiths on manners and morality
Scholars have agreed that his Ṣaḥih is regarded as the most authentic book after the Qur’an. This compilation consists of roughly 7275 hadiths, with repetitions. Without repetitions, the total number of hadiths is around 2600, categorised into 98 chapters.
Imam Bukhari started the compilation at the mere age of 23 at Mecca. He took 16 years to finish the manuscript, spending 5 of those years at Basra, after which he sought approval from his teachers. This includes Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, ibn al-Madini, and Yahya bin Ma’in.
Reflecting the caution and honour of this work, Imam Bukhari would perform ghusl (sunnah bath) and pray two raka’ahs of solat istikharah asking Allah for guidance, before placing a hadith in his compilation after being completely contented.
HIS STRICT REGULATIONS
There are several strict regulations and conditions to be met before Imam Bukhari includes a hadith in his book:
- The hadith must consist of all five requirements agreed upon for a sahih (authentic) hadith, i.e.: have righteous narrators with precision in narrating, possess connected chain of narrators and are hadiths with no known defects nor conflicts compared to other hadiths.
- If more than one narrator receives a hadith from the same individual, Imam Bukhari would pick only one based on who is closest to the individual as a student, and also based on their capability in memorisation and precision in narrating.
- The narrators must be well-known for learning and preserving hadith.
- It must be known that consecutive narrators in the chain met each other.
It is said that the number of his students reached up to a few hundred thousand. Some of them were great scholars of Hadith, such as Imam at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Khuzaimah and Abu Hatim.
In 250 Hijri, he settled in Nishapur, where he met Imam Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj, who would eventually compile his Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, which is considered as the second most authentic hadith compilation.
Political issues drove him out from Nishapur and later on from his hometown, Bukhara. He passed away in Samarqand, in 256 Hijri, at the age of 62.