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Bukhari & Muslim

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

Excerpts from books on the study of ahadith literature, with comments:

"The Principle of Charity is ideally suited for studying the canonization of the

Sahihayn because the canonical culture surrounding them has depended entirely on the compatibility of the two texts and their authors with prevailing notions of truth and

authenticity. (82: For a very brief but parallel discussion of the “critical gentleness” with which Muslim scholars treated their canonical texts, see Aziz al-Azmeh, “The Muslim Canon,” 212.) From the early second/eighth century, many pious Muslims who collected

the sayings of their Prophet recognized that an exacting criticism of both those who

reported these traditions and the traditions themselves was necessary to identify forged

material. 83 Their opponents from among the Muslim rationalists and the more analogy based legal schools of Iraq, however, were very skeptical of their claims to be able to collect and authenticate statements transmitted orally." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 45]

I have elsewhere pointed out the absurdity of expecting accuracy of transmission via a chain of human whispers extending over a course exceeding two centuries.

“The isnad for us is religion; were it not for the isnad,” they claimed, “whoever wanted could say whatever they wanted.” (84: “Al-isnad 'indana din, law la al-isnad la-qala man sha’a ma sha’a, wa lakin idha qila lahu man haddathaka baqiya;“ see al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, ed. Mustafa 'Abd al-Qadir Ata, 14 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1417/1997), 6:164.) It was the very authenticity of these isnads, however, that the hadith scholars’ opponents doubted." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 45]

The above claim is only partly correct. The other side of the same coin is: “The Qur'an for us is the source of the Religion; were it not for the Qur'an, whoever wanted could say whatever they wanted.”

"... al-Bukhari’s career in particular marred by scandal. For over two centuries after al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s deaths, the study and collection of hadiths continued unabated. Al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s remarkable contribution came with their decision to compile books devoted only to hadiths they considered authentic (sahih). This act broke stridently with the practices of the transmission-based school and thus met with significant disapproval in the immediate wake of the authors’ careers. In the fourth/tenth century, however, the initial controversy surrounding the sahihayn and their authors dissipated as a relatively small and focused network of scholars from the moderate Shafi'i tradition began appreciating the books’ utility. ...

As noted elsewhere on this site, the status of women in Islam is said to have declined in the 4th century of Islam, so it is possible that this may be related to the uncritical acceptance of ahadith demeaning women as 'deficient in intelligence' etc. ... Drawing on developments in legal theory shared by all the major non-Shiite schools of the fifth/eleventh century, they declared that the community’s alleged consensus on the reliability of the sahihayn guaranteed the absolute certainty of their contents." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 6]

This appears to have been a major error in the whole saga of trying to discover the root cause/s of the corruption in muslim thought and action over the centuries. How can anyone become 'absolutely certain' in the 5th century AH, of ahadith compiled by means of a chain of 'human whispers' in the 3rd century AH? That they claimed 'consensus' of the community to be the determining factor was a logical fallacy, an 'appeal to majority', also known as a 'bandwagon fallacy'. The consensus of the people of the present does not automatically mean that something is 'absolutely certain', even if it were combined with an actual consensus rather than an 'alleged' consensus' of the people of the past. As Allah s.w.t. states:

[6:116] "And if thou obey most of those on earth, they will lead thee astray from Allah's way. They follow nothing but mere conjecture, and they do nothing but lie."

The 'alleged consensus' was apparently a lie, as was the claim that consensus implied 'absolute certainty'. muslims have had to pay a heavy price for many swallowing the lie coupled with a fallacy (i.e. 'appeal to majority'), as evident in our present day and age. If muslims had listened to his a.s. teachings with sincerity and piety, and pondered over the Word of Allah, they would not have falsely accused him of being a british agent, as shown in the article entitled 'anti-Ahmadiyya'. They would have discarded their erroneous notions about there being a permission to engage in offensive Jihad, the alarming increase in terrorism we have been observing in the world especially in the 21st century, would have been nipped in the bud as far back as a century ago, in my humble opinion.  "As the division between different schools of theology and law became more defined, scholars from the competing Shafi'i, Hanbali and Maliki schools quickly began employing the sahihayn as a measure of authenticity in debates and polemics. By the early eighth/fourteenth century, even the hadith-wary Hanafi school could not avoid adopting this convention. With the increased division of labor between jurists and hadith scholars in the mid-fifth/eleventh century, the sahihayn also became an indispensable authoritative reference for jurists who lacked expertise in hadith evaluation. Finally, al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s works served as standards of excellence that shaped the science of hadith criticism as scholars from the fifth/eleventh to the seventh/thirteenth century sought to systematize the study of the Prophet’s word. ... Scholars directed the compelling authority of the sahihayn only against others, and within the closed doors of one school of law or theology, they had no compunction about ignoring or criticizing reports from either collection." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 7]

They were sensible to keep the door of criticism and review open. What has happened to the minds of some/many in our era?

"Goldziher also makes a unique effort to explain how the sahihayn were both venerated and open to criticism. The heart of the canonical status of the books, he explains, was not a claim of infallibility, but rather the community’s demand that these two works be recognized as legally compelling indicators of “religious praxis” on the basis of the community’s consensus on their authenticity. He says: “[v]eneration was directed at this canonical work [i.e., al-Bukhari’s collection] as a whole but not to its individual lines and paragraphs.” Goldziher concludes that “the veneration [of the sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim] never went so far as to cause free criticism of the sayings and remarks incorporated in these collections to be considered impermissible or unseemly. . . .” As we shall see in Chapter Eight, Goldziher’s assessment proves correct until the early modern period, when criticism of the sahihayn became anathema to many scholars." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 11]

The early modern period refers to c.1500 CE - c. 1800 CE. Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a.s. appeared after the early modern period, becoming more active in religious discussion and debate around 1880 CE. He was or became a 'hadith-wary' hanafi anyway, and his greater emphasis on the Holy Qur'an, the Word of Allah, being made judge over the ahadith led to increasing fatwas and cries of kufr against him by those having 'blind faith' in the 'great' or ordinary scholars who preceded them, and spoon-fed dogmas.

"... Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767), would become a cornerstone of legal interpretive

effort in Iraq and the eponym of the Hanafi school of law. Unlike Medina, the Prophet’s adopted home where his legacy thrived as living communal practice, the polyglot environment of Kufa teemed with ancient doctrines and practices foreign to the early Muslim community. Many such ideas found legitimation in spurious reports attributed to the Prophet, and Abu Hanifa thus preferred a cautious reliance on the Qur'an and his own reasoning rather than to risk acting on these fraudulent hadiths." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 49]

It appears to me that [2:102] indicates that the fabrication of ahadith began in the lifetime of the Prophet s.a. himself, like Sulaiman a.s. was falsely accused of idolatry, as stated in the Hebrew Bible. Israr Ahmad Khan however opines that it happened at the hands of Ibn Saba in the time of Uthman r.a. [Authentication of Hadith - Redefining the Criteria, p. 2-3, 7]

"According to the historical critical method, we will exert all efforts to rely on multiple sources of close temporal proximity to the subjects they address, relying on isolated or later works only if the probability of their accuracy outweighs that of contrivance."  [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 16]

I have referred to this historical critical method elsewhere to point out that even in the eyes of non-muslim scholars, the Qur'an is a far more reliable and dependable source of information on the beliefs and practices, as well as the events that occured in the lifetime of our beloeved Prophet s.a. than sira or hadith literature compiled some 2-3 centuries afterwards, for the Qur'an was written down as it was being revealed. "For the occasionally disreputable period of al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s pre-canonical gestation, we have only what Muslim scholars dutifully preserved for us." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 16]

I have quoted this statement to show that muslims of the past have criticised bukhari and muslim, so those who insist on it's fallibility or near falibility ought to give it a second thought.

"Inquiring into the history of the sahihayn is a natural reaction to their conspicuous prominence in Sunni Islam today. Yet the fact is that Islam existed as a religion and faith tradition before al-Bukhari and Muslim and flourished for some time after them without paying any remarkable attention to the two books or their authors. We are thus inevitably faced with a question of change, of growth or emergence. Like the compound of Sunni orthodoxy itself, the canon was not then and is now. Faced with such a stark instance of transformation or change, examining the canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim as a linear process of maturation and subsequent tensions seems reasonable or even inevitable." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 18]

Muslims did follow the sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a., passed on by one gerneration of Muslims to the next, for 2-3 centuries before bukhari and muslim made their appearance. "We will avoid attributing individuals’ actions to broader political, cultural or economic forces unless there is explicit evidence for such a link. Certainly, we may speculate about the manner in which political context or the allocation of resources affected the canon, but we cannot definitively explain the canon as the direct result of these factors without some discernable evidence." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 19]

True, for suspicion can in some cases become a sin [49:12]. Discernible evidence is essential, which is why I have pointed out to what appears to be the case with the decline in the status of muslim women in/from the 4th century of Islam. And Allah knows best. Research will continue, InshaAllah.

"Ibn Hanbal and other early transmission-based scholars paid no heed to material lacking an isnad. These isnads, however, could be forged or inauthentic material simply equipped with one and then circulated." [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 51]

"Since the early days of Islam, the transmission of hadiths was a means for everyday Muslims

to bind themselves to the inspirational authority of the Prophet and incorporate his charisma into their lives. 25 Like all early Muslim scholarship, the collection and study of hadiths was not the product of institutions of learning; it was undertaken by devout individuals whose

eventual knowledge and pious allure earned them positions of respect and authority in their communities. 26

In the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods, however, a new perspective emerged in Muslim society. A self-aware scholarly and educated class (al-khaassa) appeared which began distinguishing itself from the masses (al-aamma). 27 The great legal theorist Muammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i (d. 204/819–20) thus divided knowledge of Islamic law and ritual into that which is demanded of the masses (aamm) and that which is the purview of the scholars (khaas).

This bifurcation between laymen and specialists also appears in the introduction to Muslim’s hadith collection. Just as al-Shafi'i articulates the domain and duties of a scholarly elite, so too Muslim urges a specialized corps of hadith scholars to study the sunna and guide the regular folk, who should not concern themselves with amassing hadiths beyond

a few authentic reports.

Abu Dawud al-Sijistani evinces the same legal paternalism in a letter to the scholars of Mecca explaining the content and structure of his Sunan. He may not, he warns, alert the reader to all the weaknesses of a hadith because “it would be harmful to the masses (al-aamma)” to reveal minor flaws that might undermine their faith in the report’s legal applicability. 28" [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 57]

It is in fact the duty of those who understand the science of hadith to leave the

common folk with trustworthy reports only. To do otherwise would be a

sin (Athiman), for the masses would believe and act on these hadiths. 32 (Muslim, 1:22).

[The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 58]

Unlike Muslim, al-Bukhari provides no methodological introduction to his Sahih. As we shall see in Chapter Five, later scholars spilled a great deal of ink attempting to reconstruct his requirements (rasm or shurut) for authenticity (sihha) from his Sahih and al-Tarikh al-kabir.

Except for some statements gleaned from his extant works, however, our understanding of al-Bukhari’s methods depends totally on either these later analyses or on statements attributed to al-Bukhari in later sources. [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 70]

An examination of al-Bukhari’s Sahih reveals that he was an independent scholar unconstrained by any particular school.77 In contrast to all four Sunni schools of law, he allows those who have had sexual intercourse ( junub) during the Ramadan fast to expiate their sin by performing charity but does not require them to repeat the day of fasting. In another break with the schools, he allows someone who has had intercourse and not performed ablutions to read the Qur'an.78 He also permits reading the Qur'an in the bathroom, declares 'umra to be mandatory just like Hajj, and allows women not to veil themselves (ihtijaab) in the company of slaves.79 [The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim, Jonathan A C Brown, p. 70,71]

Some of the permissions by bukhari sahib are shocking. His ability to reason appears poor, and his knowledge of the Qur'an deficient.

A personal reading of the book can be done by following the following link:



This is another book that has recently (8th February 2019) come to my attention, which I intend to examine, InshaAllaah:


"Product description:                                     

In today's complex and volatile world the consequences of relying on fraudulent and counterfeit Hadith to legitimize extremist behavior, issue violent fatwas, and justify blatant abuse, particularly of women, is not only far too easy but in fact dangerous. Israr Khan addresses the sensitive topic of Hadith authentication, focusing on the criteria adopted by classical scholars to maintain that concentration on the continuity and accuracy of the chain of narrators, rather than the textual content of Hadith, has led to particular Hadith being included which either contradict other Hadith directly, project the Prophet (SAAS) in an uncharacteristic light, or do not reflect and/or conflict with the teachings of the Qur'an.

The study traces in careful detail the historical development of the oral and written traditions, as well as the many targeted attempts at fabrication that took place, critiquing in methodical detail certain Hadith which have come to be widely accepted as "authentic." The prominent collections we have today, were made possible by the development of the science of Hadith criticism, and Muslim scholars deserve deep appreciation for their painstaking work, as well as their invaluable contribution towards preserving the Hadith literature to the best of their ability. However, insists the author, the process is ongoing, and the closed door policy which currently surrounds Hadith authentication needs to be carefully reexamined."

A review of the above book is given here:


(this article is being developed)

[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

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