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Al-Bukhari, his “Sahih”, and the Hanafis

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Refuting Modernist 'Hanafis'

Waqar Akbar Cheema

1. Introduction

Great minds always tend to differ on some points. The same has happened within the Islamic tradition. Except for the rare anomalous opinions (nawādir) of jurists, the differences among pious scholars of the salaf have always been from the category of ikhtilāf (when paths are different but the destination is same) and not khilā(when both path and destination are different).[1]

Naturally, such differences existed between Al-Bukhari (d. 256/870) and his contemporary Hanafi scholars as well. Lately, however, some self-styled ‘Hanafis’ are trying to present such natural differences in an altogether different light and to win some brownie points against Al-Bukhari and his epic hadith compilation. In this post we shall allude to evidence to counter such irresponsible depiction of things.

2. Hanafi narrators of Sahih al-Bukhari

One of the allegations the modernist ‘Hanafis’ levy against Al-Bukhari is that while he narrated from people with Mu’tazalite and Kharjite tendencies he did not narrate from Hanafis.[2]

Besides the scholars who have, in their commentaries or elsewhere, clarified that Al-Bukhari did narrate from people people with Hanafi association, a certain scholar – Mufiḍ Al-Rahman Al-Shatghami – has produced has a dedicated work titled, “Al-Wardah Al-āḍirah fī aḥādīth talāmīdh Al-Imām Al-Aʻẓam wa-aḥādith Al-ʻulāmaʼ Al-Anāf fī Al-Jāmiʻ Al-aḥīḥ lil-Imām Al-Bukhārī.[3]

In this work Al-Shatghami has mentioned the details of 115 students of Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Hanafi scholars from whom Al-Bukhari narrated in his aḥīḥ work. Even though one can question proper student-teacher relation between Abu Hanifa and some of the narrators mentioned in this work, it nevertheless offers enough evidence to remove the false impression given by these modernist ‘hanafis.’

3. Early Hanafi Commentaries of Sahih al-Bukhari

As al-Bukhari’s wonderful work achieved fame Hanafi scholars also received it with reverence it deserved despite their differences with some of the positions of al-Bukhari known through his chapter headings. Since the time of Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni (d. 855/1451) Hanafi scholars have produced a number of commentaries on Sahih al-Bukhari of various lengths. In the last two centuries the Hanafi scholars of Subcontinent alone have produced around two dozen exegeses and scientific studies on Sahih al-Bukhari.[4]

This is, however, not to suggest that earlier Hanafi scholars did not produce any commentary works on the celebrated hadith text. Below is the mention of some of pre-‘Ayni Hanafi commentaries of Sahih al-Bukhari.

(i) Commentary by Fakhr al-Islam ‘Ali bin Muhammad al-Bazdawi (d. 482/1089).[5] Unfortunately, nothing is known about it – not even the title.

(ii) “Al-Nijāḥ fī Sharḥ Kitāb Akhbār al-Ṣiḥāḥ” (النجاح في شرح كتاب أخبار الصحاح) by Najm al-Din Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin Muhammad al-Nasafi al-Hanafi (d. 537/1143).[6]

Haji Khalifa (d. 1067/1657) tells us:

ذكر في أوله أسانيده عن خمسين طريقاً إلى المصنف

In the beginning Al-Nasafi mentioned fifty chains of narrators back to the author [Al-Bukhari][7]

This shows how well received had Sahih al-Bukhari become by the time of Abu Hafs al-Nasafi. Mahmud bin Ahmad al-Farabi (d. 607/1210) quoted from it heavily in his “Khulāsa al-Haqā’iq lī mā fīhī min Asālīb al-Raqā’iq”[8]

(iii) Commentary by Radi al-Din Hasan bin Muhammad al-Saghani al-Hanafi (d. 650/1252)[9]

(vi) Commentary by Qutb al-Din Abdul Karim bin Abdul Nur al-Halabi al-Hanafi (d. 735/1334) which covered half of Sahih al-Bukhari in ten volumes.[10]

(v) “Al-Talwīḥ fī Sharḥ al-Jāmi’ al-Ṣaḥīḥ” (التلويح في شرح الجامع الصحيح) by ‘Ila’ al-Din Ibn Qalij al-Mughaltai (d. 762/1361) and it is said to have been a huge one.[11]

4. Al-Tahawi’s references to al-Bukhari

At least at two instances in his Sharh Mushkil al-Athar al-Tahawi (d. 321/933) refers to al-Bukhari’s insights regarding hadith narrators (Muhammad bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Wasiti[12] and Rija’ bin Abi Rabi’ah).[13]

Moreover, possibly Al-Tahawi even narrated a hadith on the authority of Al-Bukhari.[14]

5. Summary and Conclusion

Al-Bukhari narrated from the students of Abu Hanifa and other Hanafi scholars. Hanafi scholars too received the work of al-Bukhari well and wrote commentaries to it. Moreover, a great hanafi scholar al-Tahawi quoted al-Bukhari’s opinion regarding narrators and their reports. He possibly even narrated a hadith on al-Bukhari’s authority. Therefore, the fact that al-Bukhari and early Hanafis had mutual differences is not a big deal. The differences, however great, were not a reflection of animosity or mutual accusation of heresy and those who try to blow the natural differences among great minds out of proportion are only doing a disservice to the ummah.

.Further reading:

Abu Ghuddah, ‘Abdul Fattah / Zaman, Muntasir (trans.): Imām Abū Hanīfah and The Statement of Imām al-Bukhārī “Some People Say”: Between Fact and Fiction

References & Notes:

[1] Al-Kafawi, Abu al-Baqa’, al-Kulliyat, (Beirut: Resalah Publications, n.d.) 61

[2] Shukurov, Atabek, Hanafi Principles of Testing Hadith, (London: Avicenna Academy, 2015) 134

[3] Al-Shatghami, Mufiḍ Al-Rahman, Al-Wardah Al-hāḍirah fi ahadith talamidh Al-Imam Al-Aʻẓam wa-ahadith Al-ʻulamaʼ Al-Ahnaf fi Al-Jamiʻ Al-sahih lil-Imam Al-Bukhari, (Karachi: ZamZam Publishers, 2002)

[5] Khalifa, Haji, Kashaf al-Zanun, (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, n.d.) Vol.1, 553; see also Qinnoji, Siddiq Khan, Al-Hitta fi zikr al-Sihah al-Sitta, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutab al-Ta’lmiya, 1985) 194; Kahala, ‘Umar Rida, Mu’jam al-Mu’allifin, (Beirut: Maktaba al-Mathna, n.d.) Vol.7, 192; al-Lucknawi, ‘Abdul Hayy, al-Fawa’id al-Bahiyya fi Tarajim al-Hanafiyya, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifa, n.d.) 124

[6] Ibid.; see also ‘Arshi, Imtiaz Ali, “Najam al-Nasafi” included in Monthly Ma’arif,  Lucknow:  57:6, June 1946,  450

[7] Khalifa, Haji, Kashaf al-Zanun, Vol.1, 553 and Vol.2, 1929

[8] Ibn Qutlubagha, Qasim, Taj al-Tarajim, (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 1992) 284

[9] Khalifa, Haji, Kashaf al-Zanun, Vol.1, 553; al-Babani, Isma’il bin Muhammad, Hadya al-‘Arifin, (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, n.d.) Vol.1, 281; Qinnoji, Siddiq Khan, Al-Hitta fi zikr al-Sihah al-Sitta, 193; Qinnoji, Abjad al-‘Ulum, (Riyad: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2002) 693

[10] Khalifa, Haji, Kashaf al-Zanun, Vol.1, 546; Qinnoji, Siddiq Khan, Al-Hitta fi zikr al-Sihah al-Sitta, 185; al-Babani, Isma’il bin Muhammad, Hadya al-‘Arifin, Vol.1, 610

[11] Khalifa, Haji, Kashaf al-Zanun, Vol.1, 546; Qinnoji, Siddiq Khan, Al-Hitta fi zikr al-Sihah al-Sitta, 185;  al-Babani, Isma’il bin Muhammad, Hadya al-‘Arifin, Vol.2, 467

[12] Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja’far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publications, 1994) Vol.2, 105; cf. Al-Bukhari, Tarikh al-Kabir, (Hyderabad Deccan: Da’ira Ma’arif al-‘Uthmaniya, n.d.) Vol.7, 223

[13] Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja’far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar,  Vol.10, 240; cf. Al-Bukhari, Tarikh al-Kabir, Vol.3, 312

[14] Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja’far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar,  Vol.5, 357 Hadith 2115; I say possibly because the isnad of the report goes as; Ahmad [bin Shu’aib al-Nasai’i] à Muhammad bin Isma’il à Ayub bin Suleman … As the editor Shu’aib al-Arna’ut mentions the narrator Muhammad bin Isma’il could be al-Bukhari the author of al-Sahih or he could be al-Sulami al-Tirmidhi as both of them narrated from Ayub bin Suleman and al-Nasa’i too narrated from each of them.

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Published : August 5, 2016

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