A Gem Among Stones: al-Ṣaghānī’s Manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
By Muntasir Zaman
Modern concerns surrounding the disappearance of al-Bukhārī’s exemplar stem from a failure to grasp the nuances of Ḥadīth transmission. Consequently, Alphonse Mingana (d. 1937 CE), for one, has erroneously criticized the authorship of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. In general, Ḥadīth scholars deemed oral transmission as the most authoritative method of establishing ḥadīths and were, therefore, not as concerned with the disappearance of original manuscripts. The transmission of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, al-Qasṭāllānī (d. 932 AH) explains, rests primarily on the medium of oral transmission, not on manuscripts.
However, these concerns can be relatively assuaged by the presence of a valuable manuscript that was cross-referenced with al-Firabrī’s (d. 320 AH) holograph: Raḍī al-Dīn al-Ṣaghānī’s (d. 650 AH) manuscript. Given his acquaintance with al-Bukhārī, frequent study of the Ṣaḥīḥ under him, and access to al-Bukhārī’s exemplar, al-Firabrī’s manuscript of the Ṣaḥīḥ was on par with the original. As such, the significance of a manuscript that was cross-referenced with al-Firabrī’s holograph cannot be overstressed. This article will shed light on al-Ṣaghānī’s biography and the value of his manuscript of the Ṣaḥīḥ. Read the rest of this entry »
A Timeless Tale of Erudition: al-Yūnīnī and his Proverbial Manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
By Muntasir Zaman
While mapping out his genealogy of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852 AH) identifies nine routes of transmission from Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf al-Firabrī (d. 320 AH), the primary transmitter of the Ṣaḥīḥ from its author. These routes further multiply as the transmission spreads out in every successive generation. The invention of the printing press has allowed for the production of countless identical copies of a book with ease, but that is a privilege unheard of not too long ago. Hence, due to a range of factors related to methodology, memory, comprehension, attendance, and scribal oversight, the recensions of the Ṣaḥīḥ naturally differed in their details. In the 7th century AH, one Levantine scholar set out to collate the variants of the major recensions to produce the most accurate rendition of the work.
The legendary audition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in Damascus around the year 666 AH headed by the renowned Ḥadīth scholar, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Yūnīnī (d. 701 AH), with the aid of the celebrated linguist, Ibn Mālik (d. 672 AH), in a gathering of scholars who utilized critically acclaimed manuscripts of the Ṣaḥīḥ for cross-referencing is an awe-inspiring episode of literature preservation in human history. Al-Yūnīnī’s role in latter-day scholarship on the Ṣaḥīḥ by collating the variants of its major recensions into one manuscript cannot be overemphasized. Starting with al-Yūnīnī’s biography, this article will explore this phenomenal project on the Ṣaḥīḥ. Three folios from manuscripts related to the Yūnīniyyah have been appended for the purpose of illustration. Read the rest of this entry »
On the Manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: Discrepancies and Disappearance of the Original Copy
By ʿAbd al-Qādir Jalāl
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
Orientalist studies on Ḥadīth were part of a broader investigation into Islamic history. Their criticism on the reliability of Ḥadīth started as early as the nineteenth century; by 1848, Gustav Weil (d. 1889) had already criticized a substantial number of ḥadīths. The Hungarian Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) was the first to write a fundamental study on Ḥadīth, and his teachings deeply influenced subsequent critics, notable among whom was Joseph Schacht (d. 1969). Their contentions quickly found their way into the Muslim world, due in part to the writings of Aḥmad Amīn (d. 1954) and Maḥmūd Abū Rayyah (d. 1970), who did little more than reproduce outdated clichés. It was not long before Muslim scholars responded. One of the most vigorous rebuttals to Schacht’s ideas was by the late Muṣṭafa al-Aʿẓamī (d. 2018), who authored Studies in Early Ḥadīth Literature and On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. Muṣṭafā al-Sibāʿī (d. 1964) authored his masterpiece al-Sunnah wa Makānatuhā fī al-Tashrīʿ al-Islāmī to address similar criticisms by Maḥmūd Abū Rayyah. Others dedicated works to address specific topics, such as a vindication of Abū Hurayrah by ʿAjjāj al-Khaṭīb and ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-ʿIzzī, respectively.
In his timely contribution to this exchange entitled “Iʿlāʾ al-Bukhārī,” Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qādir Jalāl offers a robust rejoinder to modern criticisms on Ṣāḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. The roughly 200-page monograph, edited by Shaykh ʿAlī al-ʿImrān, comprises five chapters, tackling a range of topics related to the Ṣaḥīḥ from a defense of Imām al-Bukhārī to explicating ostensibly problematic ḥadīths to clarifying doubts surrounding the credibility of the Ṣaḥīḥ’s narrators. Iʿlāʿ al-Bukhārī, which can be downloaded here, is a valuable resource for those who seek clarity on the reliability and status of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
The following is an excerpt from the second chapter where the author examines three contentions surrounding the authorship of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and its recensions: (i) Imām al-Bukhārī passed away before producing a fair copy of the Saḥīḥ; (ii) the disappearance of the original manuscript penned by al-Bukhārī; and (iii) the multiplicity of recensions with discrepancies and additional material within them. On the preservation of Ḥadīth literature in general, the reader may consult our previous article. To make this article more reader-friendly, a paraphrased translation was adopted in several places. A diagram summarizing the present article and a brief biographical entry on al-Firabrī have been appended for the benefit of the reader. Read the rest of this entry »
The Preservation of the Ḥadīth Literature
By Muntasir Zaman
“Marks of ink on one’s mouth and clothes are emblems of honor.”
– Ibrāhīm al-Nakha‘ī
How has the Islamic civilization maintained the rich literary heritage of Ḥadīth developed by early Muslim scholars? What guarantee is there that the collections of ḥadīths in our possession have reached us accurately or that they were compiled by their purported authors? Far from being exhaustive, this article intends to provide answers to these questions. It begins by examining the procedures scholars instituted to ensure accurate transmission of Ḥadīth books. It then proceeds to study the practice of oral/aural transmission (samā‘) and public reading sessions and their influence in preserving the Ḥadīth literature. Thereafter, the article builds on three arguments that Ibn al-Wazīr al-Yamānī (d. 840 AH) posits in response to those who doubt the authorship of the major Ḥadīth collections. Before concluding, it sheds light on the usage of wijādah in terms of transmission and practice. The appendix contains diagrams on the transmission of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
Procedures for Preservation
The attention and care scholars gave to the vast literature of Ḥadīth to ensure that the efforts of their predecessors were not in vain is truly awe-inspiring. They were methodical in their treatment of the Ḥadīth literature. They laid out guidelines on issues like book authorization, auditions, and the handling of manuscripts and registers. Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ’s (d. 544 AH) al-Ilmā‘ ilā Ma‘rifat Uṣūl al-Riwāyah wa Taqyīd al-Samā‘ is among the most prominent titles on the subject. Although an oft-cited authority on the subject, Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ was by no means the first to address this topic. He drew extensively from earlier works like al-Rāmahurmuzī’s (d. 360 AH) al-Muḥaddith al-Fāṣil and al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s (d. 462 AH) al-Kifāyah fī‘ ‘Ilm al-Riwāyah and al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī wa Ādāb al-Sāmi‘. At times, scribes would devise creative techniques to prevent confusion when reading their manuscripts. For instance, Shu‘bah ibn al-Ḥajjāj (d. 160 AH) narrated the ḥadīth of Abū al-Ḥawrā’ to a student who wrote the ḥadīth and further added the word “ḥūr ‘īn” (wide-eyed damsel) as a note beneath the name Abū al-Ḥawrā’. The reason for this peculiar note was the presence of a narrator by the name Abū al-Jawzā’ in the same generation as Abū al-Ḥawrā’. To avoid confusing the two similar yet distinct narrators, the student diligently wrote ḥūr as a note to remind him of al-Hawrā’, which is the singular form of ḥūr. Read the rest of this entry »
In accordance with His promise to preserve the true teachings of Islām, Allāh has selected certain individuals or groups throughout Islām’s history to carry out the task of preserving the noble Islāmic legacy. At times of creedal turmoil, the likes of Ahmad ibn Hanbal stood against the Mu’tazilī heresy; at times of political instability, personalities such as Salāh al-Dīn al-Ayyūbī mobilized the Muslim armies for combat; and at times of spiritual degradation, reformers like al-Ghazālī let the ink of their pens flow to revive the true spirit of scholarship and worship. Thus manifested Allāh’s undertaking mentioned in the verse: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it.” (Qur’ān, 15:9)
The founding of an institution in Deoband, India, in the year 1866, was not the inception of a yet another sect. Rather, it was an extension of this continuous effort to preserve the noble Islāmic legacy. The scholars of Deoband have played a pivotal role in preserving Islām, be it the Qur’ān, the Sunnah and their connected sciences or Islām’s prestigious history. It is sad to witness such a noble legacy and rich heritage go largely unnoticed by many students and scholars of Islām. They have contributed tremendously in various fields of Islām, from Qurā’nic exegesis, to jurisprudence, to Arabic, to political reform. However, their contribution towards the revival and preservation of the blessed Sunnah is most noteworthy.
As a token of acknowledgment and a means of creating awareness, the following article was prepared to highlight their most important contributions in the field of Hadīth. More emphasis has been given to earlier scholars, although contemporary scholars are also occasionally cited. Among other sources, the book Dār al-Ulūm Deoband by Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ubayd Allāh al-Qāsīmī and a list published in a monthly newsletter by Dār al-Ulūm Deoband (Rajab, 1432 AH) were consulted. Honorific titles such as Shaykh, Mawlānā, Muftī, etc. were omitted from the lists.
Muntasir Zamān Read the rest of this entry »