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Muhammad Bin Ismail Al-Bukhari simply known as Imam Bukhari was a well known Muslim of Persia Origin (Abdul-Maujood, 2005). He was born in 810/194 in Bukhara City (common day Uzbekistan) to a hadith scholar father, Ismail Ibn Ibrahim (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985).
However, he never interacted much with his father, who died when he was still young, and he grew up under the care of his mother. Despite this unfortunate loss of a father figure, he grew up to be a great Muslim figure known for his contribution to the Muslim theology through his numerous literary works (Katheer, 1985).
In fact, one haditha Al Djami as-salih became second to Koran in the category of Muslim sacred books (Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari 1988).
Abdul-Maujood (2005)) describes Al-Bakhuri early life as a young student, and says Imam Bukhari started his formal studies in 205 (A.H.). He adds that the indication that the young Imam would be regarded with admiration for his excellent memory was evident from his early years.
The first work he memorized at the very tender age was by Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak (Katheer, 1985). His early formal education life turned out to be a success because of his mother’s input.
According to Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari (1988), his mother was an educated and a very spiritual woman, and she supervised the boy’s education with a lot of dedication and keenness. Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari (1988) adds that Imam’s intellect was demonstrated from a very tender age.
The young boy possessed intellectual capacity plus excellent memory capabilities which were far beyond his age. According to Ghani & Khaliq, (1985), Imam Bukhari learned the whole Koran at the age of seven and his library of memorized poems was very extensive at the age of ten.
Imam Bukhari’s childhood life narration would not be complete without mentioning the myth that surrounded his life when he was young. It is said that he became blind when he was young and no famous doctor was able to treat his blindness (Abdul-Maujood, 2005).
It took his mother intervention through prayers to the Allah to restore his eye sight. It is said that his mother had been praying diligently to Allah and one night she had a dream of a positive answer to her prayers. That particular morning Imam Bukhari’s eyesight was restored.
According to Abdul-Maujood (2005), it is not known whether the story was a myth of not, but to date, it has elicited much admiration for the Imam.
His intellectual capacity exceeded his teachers’ as the by time he was 16, he knew everything that the teachers from the small town could teach him (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985). During this same time, he went on pilgrimage together with his mother and brother to Mecca, but he was never to return.
The ambitious and extremely intelligent youngster stayed behind, and spent the next 16 years in Medina, where he frequented the burial place of the prophet Mohammed (Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari, 1988).
During his stay in Medina, he developed a habit of collecting and reading haditha by Prophet Mohammed and other believers, a habit which earned him great fame when he became a writer himself.
According to Katheer (1985), the Muslims believed that reading haditha which were written by prophet Mohamed was pleasing to Allah. Imam fulfilled this, and it turned out to be of benefit to Islamic beliefs and practices.
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His stay in Medina is seen as his journey in search of knowledge and it is at this place that his writing career began (Abdul-Maujood, 2005).
His search for knowledge surpassed that of his predecessors and that is why he became a premier scholar (Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari, 1988). According to Abdul-Maujood (2005), those who recited haditha during that time simply did so without bothering to know the meaning.
This was not the case with Al-Bukhari as he first sought for meaning before he could commit any haditha to his memory. His strategy of obtaining meaning in haditha made him to become a great jurist (Katheer, 1985). His contemporaries such as Naeem Ibn Hammad and Muhammad Ibn Bishr called him Faqih of the nation as his knowledge in Fight was very extensive (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985).
The fact that he was a great scholar is widely accepted based on the many praises on his abilities (Katheer, 1985). He interest in hadith was so much he made sure he studied books on Iraq jurists to guide him while narrating haditha.
Many praises showered towards Imam Bukhari have to do with his remarkable memory which was evident since his childhood (Abdul-Maujood, 2005). It is said that when he attended Ahadith classes offered by scholars of Basra he never wrote anything down.
His peers thought he was just passing time but were astonished when they put him to test as he read more than fifteen hadith from his head (Katheer, 1985). The test was conducted sixteen days after the classes, and during the test he acted as if he was teaching the other hadith from a secret book in his head (Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari, 1988).
His astonishing memory capability went on to be portrayed since it was known that if he glanced at any book, he could immediately commit it to memory (Katheer, 1985).
The memorizing capability was very important to him, and it is said that during his early years of acquiring knowledge he committed over three thousand hadithas to his memory. The same was to benefit him his literature work as he frequently quoted hadith in his work.
His admirers refer to this extraordinary gift of memory and intellect as a gift from Allah (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985). His intellectual capacity was very outstanding and it was put to test many a times, but he always managed to impress (Ahmad ibn Hajr’s, 1982).
Once the people of Baghdad decided to test his intellectual capability by changing the chain and text of one hundred hadith, he however, surprised them when he rearranged the hadith correctly.
The people of his native town were always fascinated by this intellectual capability, and whenever he was due to arrive in town, they would gather just to hear him recite the hadithas (Katheer, 1985).
The way he conducted his personal life portrays him as a self sufficient person who led a very simple and humble life. His simplicity was an acquired trait as by any standard he had inherited massive wealth from his father (Katheer, 1985).
This wealth did not make him a lazy person, as he was known to be very hard-working despite being wealthy. He preferred a simple life, and he never indulged in the luxuries of wealthy people. He kept a limited number of servants, and he even helped them in their work at times (Ahmad ibn Hajr’s, 1982).
He is known to have demonstrated great fear to Allah through his actions. His admirers among the Muslim community cite this fear of Allah as an indication that he upheld righteousness (Katheer, 1985). Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari (1988) say that he was known to avoid instances, where he could find himself in situations, which compromised Allah teachings.
He could keep off from backbiting and suspicion conspiracies and he also known for his high respect of peoples’ rights (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985). His fear of Allah was demonstrated by his vigilant and diligent worship, which he observed by praying Sunnah and fasted as required by Koran.
During the month of Ramadan, he was known to read the whole Koran each day, and recited at least ten chapters of the Koran at night (Katheer, 1985). He followed the teachings on forgiveness by the holy Koran and he was never known to get angry even when mistreated by others, instead, he prayed for their forgiveness (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985).
Hajr’s (1982) says that Al-Bukhari was known to be of very pious character. He never cared about the pleasures of the world, and whatever wealth he had he donated to charity. What mattered to him was hadith of which he was willing to sacrifice anything its’ sake (Ghani & Khaliq, 1985).
He was so humbled such that once when he went to visit Adam Ibn Iyas he was forced to eat grass as his money delayed to arrive. His generosity is widely known especially among his students. It is speculate that he would give three thousand dirhams worth of gifts in one day.
Katheer (1985) adds that his generosity was not just in terms of money, but he was also generous at heart and emotionally.
In recap, Imam Bukhari was and is still a great scholar and intellectual person of high moral values. The fact, that he lived under the guidance of the holy book of Koran shows he upheld righteousness in all aspects of life. He used his great talent of extraordinary memory, and high level of intelligence to contribute positively to Islamic theology.
Abdul-Maujood, S. (2005). “The Biography of Imam Bukharee”, Maktaba: Dar-us.
Ghani, A. & Khaliq, A. (1985). Al-Imam al-Bukhari wa Sahihuhu. Jedda: Dar al-Manara.
Hajr’s, A.(1982). “Introduction to Fath al –Bari “. Hady al- Sari (Riyadh: Dar al -Ifta),1: 477-493.
Katheer, I. (1985). “Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya”. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al –Ilmiyya.
Taqi al-Din al- Mudhari (1988). Al-Imam al-Bukhari: Imam al-Huffadh wa al- Muhadditheen. Damascus: Dar al-Qalam.