(Here I have compiled all that I have written so far in the introduction of this great book and the scholar who wrote it… )
Whenever I am about to start a new series of lectures, I ask myself these questions: “Do I really want to learn for the sake of Allah? Or is it just a good way to pass my time? How can I make it most beneficial for my duniya and akhirah?”
As I got my things together to sit in peace and listen to the online class of Sahih Bukhari… the great book of Hadith… the same questions began to swirl around me and I realized that the most important thing would be to thank Allah that he had freed my mind and my life from all unnecessary things and enabled me to invest my time in the pursuit of knowledge and inspiration with which I might improve my character and deeds to please Allah (swt)… and the best way to express my thanks and appreciation for this great knowledge would be to share it with others. So I made this silent promise to myself that after every session I would devote a slot of time in which to share the points which touched me most of all so that they get inscribed not just in my diary or in my blog or in my mind… rather I wish them all to take permanent residence in my heart and soul so that they stir me into becoming a better person by implementing them in my day to day life… Like my teacher always says:
Knowledge is not what you have collected as information rather it is the experience you have attained by acting upon it which becomes a part of your character and personality… that is your share of the knowledge… that only is your wisdom.
My teacher Dr Farhat Hashmi taught the book Sahih Bukhari many years ago but had to discontinue while some of its chapters were still remaining. Now after 18 years she has restarted the journey from where she had left. When she told this fact at the start of the lecture I was just so extremely amazed at her determination and her undying hope in Allah’s help and mercy. Any ordinary person like me would give up after not being able to complete a thing for 18 weeks or 18 months thinking whats the use to do it now… or what does it matter anyway… after all she has done such a huge amount of work in all these years… so she could have thought that it was enough what she had done so what’s the big deal if one book was left incomplete… BUT NO… that’s not the way great people think… they are committed till the end and this is what makes them so great in Allah’s eyes.
So this is the first lesson I learnt in todays session even before it began… that if you cannot complete some important stuff then no matter how many months or years go by you can still get back to it and look towards Allah for his help and guidance… Because He is the one whose mercy has no end… so our hopes in him should also never end…
And so when she started giving the lecture she began by praising Allah and with so much feeling and passion that it made her cry and I was again sitting there mesmerised and speechless… surely when the heart feels the importance of something then the words are not merely words… rather they become alive with passion when they emerge straight from the heart and overflow through the eyes too…
So the next lesson I learned was to have that awareness of Allah’s mercy which moves the heart… and that awareness cannot be attained unless you live for Allah and spend your days and nights in his remembrance and seeking his pleasure even when people are benefitting from you and express their pleasure to you.
Today’s session was devoted to a short re-cap of Imaam Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) and to find out what was so different about him that Allah chose him to be the author of the greatest book of Hadith.
First comes the role of a mother… and the blessings which come in the form of adversities…
Imam Bukhari became an orphan when he was a small child. His mother had to bear the great responsibility of raising him alone. He became very ill and lost his eyesight… imagine what a calamity it must have been for that woman whose small son had become blind… she was a great pious woman and so she just put her trust in Allah and begged him to heal her son and promised to devote him in the path of Allah… she made constant duas and cried to Allah day after day until one night she saw in her dream that Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) was telling her that Allah had listened to her duas and due to her crying and begging he has recovered her son. The next day she woke up to find that the dream had come true and her son could see after all…
The lesson in this story is that Allah has his ways of blessing us… if he had not caused the father to die early this woman could not have given such an undivided and passionate attention to her son…
If Allah had not taken his eyesight this child could not have gained such a sharp memory because when one sense is taken away, it causes all the other senses to become exceptionally strong and receptive.
Also it was this illness and loss of sight which made his mother pray such intensely and consistently to Allah and to cry and make duas like she would not have made in ordinary circumstances.
And imagine the happiness she must have experienced when the child became well again and regained his sight… what must have been the state of her heart? What gratitude must she have to experience such a miracle?
The determination with which she educated her son and raised him as a righteous muslim… was all due to experiencing the endless mercy of Allah through adversity… and the consequence is that whatever Imam Bukhari achieved in his life went into his mother’s account by virtue of her undying hope in Allah and her praying and her commitment.
So this holds a great lesson for me and all the mothers that we should stop blaming people and circumstances for whatever we think is lacking in our children and once and for all decide that this is a matter between us and our Lord… pray to him only… cry before him… complain to him only… remember our sins and ask forgiveness… do whatever good that we can to compensate for our shortcomings of the past and BELIEVE in Allah that he can heal the hearts and he can return the sight of the hearts that have gone blind… just like he can return the sight to eyes that become blind…
Yesterday I wrote about the role of Imam Bukhari’s mother in his life… today let us have a look at the person who became one of the greatest scholars of all times…
Imaam Bukhari’s name was Muhammd bin Ismail… His great grandfather whose name was Mugheerah was the first person to embrace Islam from among the tribe of fire worshippers. In today’s world of information of all kinds bombarding us from all directions it becomes so easy to just read by such facts like a breeze… but it made me reflect deeply on the fact that what has been said in just one sentence must have taken that one person an unimaginable amount of struggle and sacrifice of such magnitude which went down into the coming generations producing great islamic scholars.
Today we also talk of transforming the world into a better place but even to bring change in one family seems impossible… why? Because we lack these important ingredients:
Sincerity, determination, focus, struggle and sacrifice
Imaam Bukhari’s father was also a Muhaddis (scholar of Hadith) His great role in his son’s life is that he made extraordinary effort to keep his income halal… and thus I learned that the effects of religiousness can reach the next generation only through halal means… and also that being a scholar didn’t prevent him from earning a halal livelihood for his family.
So from such a set of righteous and Allah conscious parents who so bravely faced the adversities of life… Allah caused Imaam Bukhari to become an extraordinary person right from the beginning. Even as a small child he had an exceptional memory and a yearning to sit in the company of scholars. His great desire was to memorize the Hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w) and he memorized tens of thousands of hadith along with the chain of narrations… not only that but he also knew the names and facts about all the narrators of each and every hadith. This was the talent which made him a favourite and the teachers used to be humble in front of him because he could pick out any little mistake with great accuracy…
We also have the talent of picking mistakes but from what and why? His intention was to keep the knowledge of hadith pure and free from any error whatsoever because of his love for Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w) But we point out mistakes in people’s looks and dresses etc Not to make them better but to let them down… and then we say that our religiousness has no impact on our children or our environment… the reason is that it should first impact our own hearts and our behaviours… only then we can hope to pass it on to others too…
Imaam Bukhari travelled for many years in the pursuit of knowledge and benefitted from the company of the greatest scholars of that time. For long periods of time he used to seclude himself away from people to write all that he learned… This book Sahih Bukhari is just one of his long list of books… How did he manage to write so much?
Obviously if you want extraordinary achievements then you cannot have them while enjoying the pleasures of ordinary lives… a great deal of sacrifice is required… not just of time and money but also of your physical and social needs and desires. Thus we see that Imaam Bukhari lived a very simple life…eating the most simple food, sleeping very little… spending the greater portion of his nights in worship and reading or writing.
The lesson which I learnt from this is that there is a delight in living a life of Allah consciousness and the first and foremost ingredient of such a life is the acquisition of knowledge… therefore Allah has placed a unique kind of joy in this process of becoming aware of him and his religion… but this enjoyment can be felt only when we give up our indulgence in food and rest and socializing. Because if our taste buds are always on fire for the worldly stuff then we cannot taste that deliciousness of knowledge which is a gift only for those who sacrifice their comfort and luxuries for its sake.
The other great quality of Imaam Bukhari was that he had great respect and care for the masjids. An incident has been recorded in which he was sitting in a masjid and one of his companions removed a piece of straw from his beard and blew it away… The Imaam kept looking at the piece of straw where it had landed on the ground and then picked it up on the way out and disposed it on the side saying that what didn’t look nice in my beard, shouldn’t spoil the place of worship too.
This incident makes me ashamed when I visualize the state of the masjids today. We are all ready to criticize but how many of us would stop to pick up and remove one piece of straw? One tissue paper? Caring is not in just criticizing but in making amends…
The other thing which I learned about this great scholar is that he was free from arrogance and had great respect for people. This caused him to be extremely careful when he had to criticize anyone or point out some flaw. He has written in one of his books that I have never done backbiting and I am sure that on the day of judgement Allah will not hold me accountable for it… how is that possible? It is possible only when you realize the magnitude of this sin and so you refrain from talking about people unless absolutely necessary.
He was not just careful about people but also had great respect for their things. At one point he was practicing archery when one of his arrows hit the post of a nearby bridge… he was so concerned about the damage it had caused that he at once contacted the owner of the bridge and offered to compensate for it financially… Apart from the lesson of honesty and responsibility which we derive from this incident the question also arises why was he busy in this activity when he had devoted his life to seeking knowledge? The answer is that it was his aim to act on every hadith before narrating it to others… and at that point he was acting on the hadith about the benefits of learning and teaching the skill of archery…
The book Sahih Bukhari was written over a period of 16 years… and the scholars of Islam are united on the opinion that after the Quran this is the most authentic book of all. The question is what gave this book such recognition and respect?
The answer lies in the fact that Allah is The Most Pure and He loves what is pure… so we see that Imaam Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) was extremely cautious in his selection of hadith and took only the most authentic hadith for this book.
It has been recorded that Imaam Bukhari used to make ablution and purified himself physically and also spiritually by praying nafl salah before writing each and every hadith. Thus he made special duas to Allah to make him write only what is true. Not only this but he also took care to choose the most pure places to write his book… e.g. the basic outline was prepared in Masjid ul Haram…
This shows that his intention was only to please Allah and he proved his intention by taking the most care for his personal and spiritual purification.
We also wish to do well but when it comes to the practical details we do not exhibit such care and concern for the state of our bodies or our hearts or the places of work… all three should be pure in order to produce a work which is pure and done purely for the sake of Allah….