Tuesday, March 29

Hadith in Bukhara

Narrated 'Aisha:

Some of the wives of the Prophet asked him, "Who amongst us will be the first to follow you (i.e. die after you)?" He said, "Whoever has the longest hand." So they started measuring their hands with a stick and Sauda's hand turned out to be the longest. When Zainab bint Jahsh died first of all (during the caliphate of 'Umar), we came to know that the long hand was a symbol of practicing charity, so she was the first to follow the Prophet and she used to love to practice charity.

(Sauda died later during the caliphate of Muawiya).

A hadith is a Mohammedan anecdote. There are estimated to be 10000 hadiths counting minor variations; each has a matn (text) and sanad (attribution; often in chains -- so and so heard so and so claim they heard Muhammad proclaim thus) Together, they describe the normative custom of Muhammad or the early Muslim community, and thus underpin the sunnah. Muhammad al-Bukhari, the 'original' Imam Bukhari (810-870 AD), is the scholar best known for authoring a hadith collection (the Sahih al-Bukhari), one that Sunni Muslims regard as the most authentic of such compilations. In Bukhara, the oldest monument left standing by Genghis Khan is the tomb of Ismail Samani; right across from it, the Karimov regime has constructed a concrete monument to Imam Bukhari in the shape of an opened Quran enclosing a hadith library.

Many years ago, as part of a theological discussion with taxi drivers in Cairo, I was asked "Who this man is?"

- His book is in every Muslim's house!
- He's not Arab!
- In fact a Russian!
- Like Salahuddin ibn Ayyubi (i.e. Saladin.)
- Hey, hey, Salahuddin was Kurdish, not Russian.
- I meant a non-Arab.
- But go on, guess, who this man is?

Muhammad al-Bukhari's father Ismail was a student of leading scholars of the day Hammad ibn Zaid and Imam Malik. Ismail al-Bukhari died when Muhammad was quite young. He did, though, leave his son enough wealth for financial independence and a life of scholarship. It is said that the boy was blind in childhood, but cured by his mother's tremendous capacity for prayer, which reached the prophet Abraham in the high heavens. When Muhammad al-Bukhari did gain sight, he exhibited for the rest of his life a photographic memory -- perhaps an allegory for the zeal of the recently-converted.

According to his own account, he began to attend the lectures of the local scholars around the age of ten. At the time, al-Dakhili was the foremost lecturer in Bukhara, and in one lecture on the Quran al-Dakhili read a hadith with the sanad “Sufyan from Abu al-Zubair from Ibrahim.” al-Bukhari told the lecturer that he was mistaken, and that the correct chain was al-Zubair ibn Adi from Ibrahim; because al-Zubair had never recorded hadith from Ibrahim. Al-Dakhili went to check his original, and had to admit his mistake to the ten-year-old.

At sixteen, he left Bukhara with his mother to perform the Haj. After the pilgrimage, he stayed on in Mecca and Medina, using these places as bases to visit other Arab cities in search of hadith scholars and carriers of chains of transmission. He writes:

I visited al-Sham (Syria-Palestine), Masr (Egypt) and al-Jazeera (i.e. the 'island', viz. the Arabian Peninsula) twice. Four times I went to Basra. I stayed in the Hijaz for six years. And I do not know how many times I visited Kufa and Baghdad along with the scholars of hadith.

Al-Bukhari is supposed to have eventually recorded hadith from 1,080 scholars, which he cross-checked, de-duplicated, edited for clarity and eventually wrote down in his magnum opus. It is claimed he heard over 300,000 hadiths, and included about 7,000 in the Sahih, including variations; there are about 2600 unique stories in that number, the rest vary in minor detail or attribution.

Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani wrote in his Hady-al-Sari (introduction) to the Fath al-Bari (an exegesis of the Sahih al-Bukhari) that al-Bukhari’s sources are divided into five categories:

The first category is those scholars who narrated hadith from the Tabieen (Followers), one generation removed from the Companions of Muhammad.

The second category of scholars is those people of the same generation as the first category, who did not have the fortune of receiving hadith from trustworthy Followers, but who nonetheless have some credibility because they were reciting words spoken in their own time.

Al-Bukhari places highest trust in the first two categories.

The third category is the “intermediate” trust category. These scholars did not meet any of the Followers but they received hadith from the leading scholars of the generation immediately following that of the Followers.

The fourth category consists of scholars in al-Bukhari’s own time. From these people, he used to record hadith that he did not hear directly from their teachers (who were also al-Bukhari’s teachers) or the hadith that he did not find with anybody else.

The fifth category is those people who were younger in stature or age than al-Bukhari whom he recorded from due to some benefit in their narrations, a category that includes al-Khwarezmi. By accepting material from those sources, al-Bukhari was applying the litmus of Waki' ibn al-Jarraah:

A person does not become a real scholar until he records from those older than him, those of the same age and those younger than him.

Some say that the word Bukhara derives from Vihara, the Buddhist monasteries of learning which apparently dotted the area much as they did Bihar. Another claims that the origin of the name is in a Chinese garden -- Bahar-e-Chin -- in the area. It could also be derived from the Sogdian βuxārak (Place of Good Fortune). By the 9th century, the Buddhist/Chinese/Sogdian influences were fading, the generation of Imam Bukhari shows Arab cultural consolidation; al-Bukhari himself seems to be the quintessential autodidact from the periphery who fortifies his arrival to the center with a virulent orthodoxy. He writes:

I don’t see any difference between praying Salah behind a Jahmi or a Rafidhi and a Christian or a Jew. They (i.e. the Jahmiyyah or Rāfida) are not to be greeted, nor are they to be visited, nor are they to be married, nor is their testimony to be accepted, nor are their sacrifices to be eaten.

The Jahmis in this context are the school of Mutalizah, who accepted many of the teachings of Jahm ibn Safwan. From Wikipedia:

Muʿtazilah is an Islamic school of speculative theology that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq, during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu'tazili school are best known for their having asserted that, because of the perfect unity and eternal nature of God, the Qur'an must therefore have been created, as it could not be co-eternal with God. From this premise, the Mu'tazili school of Kalam proceeded to posit that the injunctions of God are accessible to rational thought and inquiry: because knowledge is derived from reason, reason is the "final arbiter" in distinguishing right from wrong. It follows, in Mu'tazili reasoning, that "sacred precedent" is not an effective means of determining what is just, as what is obligatory in religion is only obligatory "by virtue of reason."

Rafidhi, or Deserters, is a term is used by Sunni extremists to refer to Shias, who do not recognize Abu Bakr (and his successors) as legitimate caliphs of the Muslims.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Abraham did not tell a lie except on three occasions. Twice for the Sake of Allah when he said, "I am sick," and he said, "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it." The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a journey) they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant, "This man (i.e. Abraham) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying, "Who is this lady?" Abraham said, "She is my sister." Abraham went to Sarah and said, "O Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth except you and I. This man asked me about you and I have told him that you are my sister, so don't contradict my statement." The tyrant then called Sarah and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked Sarah. "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than before and) was more confounded. He again requested Sarah, "Pray to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again and he became alright. He then called one of his guards (who had brought her) and said, "You have not brought me a human being but have brought me a devil." The tyrant then gave Hajar as a girl-servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked, "What has happened?" She replied, "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." (Abu Huraira then addressed his listeners saying, "That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e. the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar's son)."

A searchable compilation of hadiths can be found here.


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12:31 PM  

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