Hadith of Bukhari
Bukhari’s Hadith (Sahih Bukhari)
The author Kathryn Walbert, in her book “Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students,” identifies five important areas that researchers who wish to assess a primary source must consider. As Walbert points out, “in order to properly grasp a primary source, you’ll want to identify it, contextualize the source, examine the source in detail and then assess and evaluate the source” (Walbert 2). In this paper, I will examine an excerpt from the Muslim literature Sunna known as the Hadith of Bukhari, which is a collection of sayings from the Prophet Muhammad. Specific to Walbert’s piece, I will describe the source’s historical background, investigate its factual information, analyze it using the specified framework, and finally evaluate it by comparing it to another primary source, among other things.
To begin, if we are to identify the character of the source, we should note that Hadith is, at its core, an oral history record. In addition to being a collection of teachings from the Muslim prophet Muhammad, it is also a collection of anecdotes from Muhammad’s life. The collection was put together by a number of academics, one of which being Muhammad al-Bukhari, who lived in the ninth century. It has long been recognized as a valuable resource for Muslims, second only to the Quran in terms of significance. The Hadith of Bukhari was narrated by a number of different individuals. However, while some of them are plainly identifiable (for example, Aisha, one of prophet Muhammad’s wives), the identities of others are less evident or may even be unknown to the modern reader. The source was created within around 200 years of the death of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, according to current estimates. All of the hadiths in the excerpt were compiled by Muhammad’s disciples and faithful Muslims, thus they are all authentic. The source was developed by Muhammad al-Bukhari in the Persian city of Bukhara, according to the location of the source’s creation (Bukhara is a city in present-day Uzbekistan).
Furthermore, in terms of the historical background of the source, it should be noted that it was created during the 9th century, which is referred to as the Islamic Golden Period (Parkinson 321). The Abbasid caliphs promoted the expansion of Islam and actively supported academia. When Baghdad was designated as a House of Wisdom, the city rose to become “the leading intellectual hub in the Islamic world,” according to historians (Parkinson 321). Studies of Persian as well as Greek, Indian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Phoenician scholars were translated into Arabic, and the importance of education was highly regarded throughout the Islamic world. It was also during this period that the Persian civilisation exerted the greatest effect. According to this interpretation, Muhammad al-Bukhari was a Persian from Bukhara, which was at the time one of the largest centers of Islamic study, and he received his education from renowned academics while also being a devout Muslim himself (Muhammad al-Bukhari). Muhammad al-Bukhari wrote his book because he intended to make a positive contribution to his faith by gathering the correct rules and rejecting inaccurate facts or legends that had been passed down through the generations.
When one decides to investigate this primary source further, one will discover that it contains factual and biographical information about the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, as well as information about the reaction of Heraclius (the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire) to the invitation of Muhammad’s people to convert to Islam, among other things. Some of the specifics of the conversation between Heraclius and the storyteller cannot be verified, while others are possible. For example, in his book Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium, Kaegi uses reputable primary sources to demonstrate that Heraclius was a practitioner of astrology during his reign (Kaegi 31). Facts and opinion are intermingled in the source’s presentation. As a result, the viewpoints expressed in hadiths are unanimously positive to Muhammad, and the accounts told by different narrators are unified by a common understanding of Muhammad’s chastity and kindness, as well as his fairness and religiousness.
It is not stated in this source why this or that narrator was chosen by the author for inclusion in this or that passage. Some of the narrators are members of the prophet’s family, although others are not, and it is unclear what criteria were employed by Muhammad al-Bukhari in deciding who should be given voice to which individual in particular. It is noteworthy to note that there are some discrepancies in this source. A hadith states, for example, that Waraqa, a relative of Khadija who believed in prophet Muhammad, “became a Christian” during the pre-Islamic period, although another hadith states that Khadija’s relative did not practice the religion that the inhabitants of that town practiced. Yet another thing that startled me was how abruptly some stories ended, as if the logical chain had been interrupted. According to Aisha’s hadith, for example, it is not specified if Muhammad began reading after the angle pressed him into hiding in the cave. There are few aspects in this source that are still a bit ambiguous to me. Examples include the question of why Muhammad is supposed not to harm just Muslims although Jews and Christians, both of whom are regarded as following a similar faith and thought to have shared prophets, are similarly reported not to harm only Muslims (by Muslims). It would have been logical for the prophet to advise his people not to hurt anyone who shared the same religious beliefs as they did.
Additionally, the information is delivered in each hadith from the first person point of view, which is a unique feature. This increases the trustworthiness of the source and produces the illusion of a first-person description of the event. Furthermore, the creator of the source strives to appeal to the emotions and religious beliefs of his or her audience through the use of metaphors. To give just one example, he characterizes Muhammad as a human being who does not exist in a state of complete freedom from fear, doubt, and inner struggle. While doing so, he is shown as someone who is capable of accepting the mission that has been given upon him. The author also makes an appeal to his readers’ religious beliefs by invoking religious characters (such as angels) throughout the text.
Also, if one were to analyze this source, one would have to state that it is only to a certain extent dependable. On the other hand, it conveys information that appears to be accurate and has been verified by other sources. On the other hand, it transmits information that cannot be confirmed, that is not presented in the Quran, and that is based on aural testimonies that may or may not be true gossip. When compared to the Quran, this source does not have the same level of reliability as the latter. In addition, it contains numerous illogical passages that are not supported by the author’s comments about the veracity of the stories included inside.
As a whole, the Hadith of Bukhari is an essential fundamental source of Islam since it provides insight into the religious beginnings of the faith, as well as into the personality of the prophet Muhammad. At the same time, it should be approached with caution due to the unreliability of the narrators and the possibility of author prejudice.