In the Name of Allah; Most-Merciful, Most-Compassionate.
Muhammad ibn Isma’il ibn Ibrahim ibn al Mughirah al Bukhari, better known as Imam al Bukhari, is one of the greatest scholars in Islamic history (may Allah have mercy upon him). He was the Imam and muhaddith, among the most eminent of scholars, of the most pious people, of those sincere in striving for the sake of Allah in preserving and teaching the religion of Allah. Imam al Bukhari was called the Leader of the Believers in Prophetic narrations and was also know by the nickname of abu Abdullah. Most famously he is the author of the most authentic collection of Prophetic narrations, known as Sahih al Bukhari, which is the most authentic book in Islam after the Qur’an.
His father, Isma’il ibn Ibrahim ibn al Mughirah (may Allah have mercy upon him), was a known scholar of hadeeth and ascetic man, and a contemporary of Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on them both). He narrated from major scholars such as Abdullah ibn al Mubarak. However, the father of Imam Bukhari passed away during the early years of his life, and as such he was raised by his mother (may Allah have mercy upon her). His mother was known to be a pious and a woman devoted to Allah.
Interestingly, during his childhood Imam al Bukhari became blind and no doctors could assist him. His pious mother, may Allah have mercy on her, sought help from Allah with sincere, beautiful and trusting supplication and tears flowed from her eyes. Abu Ali al Ghassani narrates this history and explains that she saw a dream in which Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) told her that her du’a had been accepted and that following morning her son regained his sight.
Imam al Bukhari was born on jumah the 13th of Shawwal in the year 194 after the Hijra in the city of Bukhara (in modern day Uzbekistan). He began his studies at an early age; the first ‘school’ he attended was the home within which he lived. He memorized the Qur’an during these early years. After gaining a primary education he joined the school of hadeeth in Bukhara and studied with the scholars of his region. By the age of eleven he had memorized many texts and chains of narration whereby he was correcting his teachers. He was an eager student with a love of the Sciences of Hadeeth, which he studied with vigor and sincerity whereby Allah bestowed upon him an immense amount of knowledge.
At the age of 16 he went with his mother and elder brother to visit Mekkah and al Madinah. After the hajj his mother and brother returned home, however al Bukhari remained to further his studies. It was at this time he wrote his first texts, the most well-know of which is Tarikh al Kabir (The Great History). In order to further his studies during these years he travelled widely, such as his going to Egypt, Syria, Basra, Kufa and Baghdad in addition to his spending of six years in the hijaz. Imam al Bukhari devoted his life to studies and seldom worked in the fields of trade and business; he survived from the inheritance received from his father.
Imam al Bukhari was blessed with an immense and powerful memory as well as an amazing intellect. He was an honourable man known for his generosity and support of students of knowledge. He was a man who greatly feared Allah and was always wary of infringing upon the rights of others, with regards to the latter he showed great care in speaking about others while he evaluated them as narrators of Prophetic narrations. His methodology of collecting narrations shows his sincerity with Allah. For example, he prayed two rakah for guidance regarding every narration he added to his monumental Sahih text.
Imam al Bukhari was a specialist in the Sciences of Hadeeth, and specifically the investigation and collection of chains of narrations and narrators. His teachers in this field included Imam Ahmed (may Allah have mercy on both of them). Imam al Bukhari’s major text, Sahih al Bukhari, was checked over and reviewed by Imam Ahmed (they differed only on four narrations). Ibn Hajar says that Imam al Bukhari narrated from 1080 scholars as a result of his immense pursuit of knowledge. One of his prominent students was Imam al Tirmidhi, author of Sunan al Tirmidhi, from whom he collected some narrations (may Allah have mercy on both of them).
Muslim ibn al Hajjaj was also a student of Imam al Bukhari, who went on to write the second most authentic hadeeth text known commonly as Sahih Muslim (may Allah have mercy on them). Ibn Khuzaymah, author of Sahih ibn Khuzaymah another major text of Prophetic narrations, was also a student of Imam al Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on them both).
The Imam mentions two reasons why he engaged in writing what would become his Sahih. The first of which was at the advice or mentioning by one of his teachers. Second al Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) says that he saw the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in a dream, the interpretation of which was said to be al Bukhari would be a defender of the Prophetic way. He based his Sahih upon 600,000 Prophetic narration, which he evaluated by a unique and comprehensive methodology, in finality he agreed upon 7397 Prophetic narrations (according to Imam al Nawawi and ibn Hajar).
During his lifetime Imam al Bukhari also faced many trials. For example, some people would come to test, confront and challenge him. Routinely he would surpass these tests, despite how difficult they were made. Later, due to accusations made against him he lost many of his students and in order to avoid causing fitna he relocated himself to another city – it would be this place and within this context wherein he would be buried. Imam al Bukhari passed away in the year 256 (hijri) on Eid al fitr just before reaching the age of 62.
May Allah have mercy and shower blessings upon Imam al Bukhari.