Imam Bukhari

Imâm Bukhârî was a man with a very strong memory. When we look at his memory, it is as if his body from head to toe stored it. Seeing his memory, the memory of Abû Hurayrah radiyallâhu `anhu is rekindled in the hearts of Muslims. Hashid ibn Ismâ`îl states that in his childhood: “Imâm Bukhârî used to go with us to the Scholars of Basra to listen to Ahâdîth. All of us used to write Ahâdîth down, except Imâm Bukhârî. After sixteen days, we thought about it and we condemned Imâm Bukhârî saying that, ‘you had wasted so many days work by not writing down Ahâdîth.’ Imâm Bukhârî asked us to bring our notes to him. So we all brought our notes, upon which Imâm Bukhârî began to read Ahâdîth one by one from the top of his head until he narrated to us more than fifteen thousand! Hearing these, it seemed that Imâm Bukhârî was reteaching us all of the Ahâdîth we had noted.”

Muhammad ibn Azhar Sajistânî says: “I used to go to Sulaymân ibn Harab accompanied by Imâm Bukhârî for listening to Ahâdîth. I used to write the Ahâdîth, but Imâm Bukhârî wouldn’t. Somone said to me, ‘Why doesn’t Imâm Bukhârî note the Ahâdîth down?’ I told him, ‘if you missed any Hâdîth in writing, you could obtain it from the memory of Imâm Bukhârî.’”

Imâm Bukhârî’s memory could be understood by knowing that if he glanced through a book, it would be committed to memory instantly. In his early period of acquiring knowledge, he memorised seventy thousand Ahâdîth and later in his life, this figure reached three hundred thousand. Of these, one hundred thousand were sahîh (rigorously authenticated) and two hundred thousand were not sahîh (hasan, da`îf, etc). Once he went to Balkh and the inhabitants desired that he should recite one Hadîth from each of his shaykhs. Then he orated from one thousand Shaykhs one thousand Ahâdîth.

Sulaymân ibn Mujâhid says: “One day I was present in the company of Muhammad ibn Salâm Baykandî. Muhammad ibn Salâm said, ‘If you had come earlier, I would have shown you the child who has seventy thousand Ahâdîth in his memory.’ Sulaymân stood up from his company and started looking for Imâm Bukhârî. Shortly he found him and asked, ‘Are you the one who has committed seventy thousand Ahâdîth to memory?’ Imâm Bukhârî replied, ‘I have learnt more Ahâdîth than this by heart. I even know the place of birth, death and residence of most of those companions from whom the Ahâdîth are narrated.”

His Extraordinary Intellect

Along with his extraordinary memory, he also had a very sharp intellect. He did not depend on pen and paper as much as he relied on his mind and memory. People examined the capabilities of Imâm Bukhâri in the science of Hadîth repeatedly but he always remained successful as a result of Allâh’s gift of intellegence and superb memory.

Hâfiz Ahmad ibn `Adî describes: “When the people of Baghdad had learnt that Imâm Bukhârî was due to arrive there, the Muhaddithîn of Baghdad decided to test him by changing the text and chains of transmission of one hundred Ahâdîth. They joined the chain of one Hadîth with the text of another and attached the chain of this Hadîth with the text of the prior. Like this, they mixed up the text and chains of transmission of one hundred Ahâdîth and gave these to people who would test Imâm Bukhârî with these.

“When Imâm Bukhâri arrived at Baghdad, the people held a gathering in his honour, in which most of the Ulamâ, nobles and public were present. One person stood up according to the plan and asked a question regarding a Hadîth with its altered chain of transmission. Upon this, a second person stood up and recited in similar manner. Like this, the people completed the hundred Ahâdîth and awaited Imâm Bukhârî’s reply. He said that he had not apprehended those Ahâdîth. When he saw that everyone had finished asking questions, he stood up and described the chain of transmission of the first Hadîth read and then gave its correct chain. Like this, he detailed the faulty chains on the Ahâdîth of all one hundred set up by the scholars. He had given the correct chains of transmission to every Hadîth. When he finished, the entire audience was full of praise and recognition of the superiority and greatness of Imâm Bukhârî.”

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