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The Life of Imam Al-Bukhari

His mother woke up with a start and said happily:

“What a pleasant dream! Allah’s messenger Ibrahim appeared in my dream, and said:

“O woman! Allah restored your son’s eye sight because of your frequent supplications”.

She said: “O Allah, make it a glad tiding. “O Allah answer my supplications and restore the sight of my child.”

The pious mother walked to her son’s room, hardly able to move her feet. When she reached his bed, she was about to wake him up but she hesitated. Her broken heart was beating and she kept tenderly and kindly caressing his head with her shaky hands. She was still supplicating and hoping that Allah would answer her frequent supplications and cure her son.

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The young boy woke up and started looking in amazement and moving his eyelids in confusion. He said in a breaking voice:

“Mother!! I can see you, I can see your beautiful face! I can see my room and my toys!”

All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah! Allah gave me back my eyesight!”

She was so happy that she thought she was dreaming. But she soon realized that it was real when she saw her beloved son running and playing as he used to do. Filled with faith and happiness, she said: “All perfect praise be to Allah! All perfect praise be to Allah who has the power to do everything.”

Seeking Knowledge

One day, when the mother was tidying up the house in the morning, she came across a few papers containing some narrations of the Prophet . She remembered her beloved husband and said sadly and painfully while wiping the tears off her cheeks:

“May Allah have mercy on you, Muhammad’s father. You were a man who used to fear Allah. You dreamed for a long time that your son Muhammad would be a religious scholar! I promise you that I will do my best to achieve your dear wish, Allah willing.”

Then she called her son kindly, and Muhammad hurried to her obediently. Then, she said to him: “It is time for you, my son to seek religious knowledge and benefit yourself and the people around you. Tomorrow I will send you to a small school where you can memorize the Quran, learn Prophetic narrations and study the Arabic language to become an honorable scholar like your father, Isma’eel.”

The young boy, Muhammad, said cleverly: “Mother! Was my father an eminent scholar?”

The mother replied: “Yes, my son.” Muhammad, then said politely: “I promise you, Mother, that I will follow his footsteps seriously and exert all my efforts.”

The city of Bukhara (now in Islamic Uzbekistan) was located at that time in one of the greatest countries beyond the Transoxus (now Turkistan). Schools of knowledge where people could learn Arabic, the Quran, history, and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) were spread throughout the city.

A Unique Student

The young boy, Muhammad Ibn Isma’il Al-Bukhari then set out to quench his thirst for knowledge from these sweet springs. Early in his life, he showed signs of intelligence that surprised everyone around him. He had a sharp mind, an attentive heart, an amazing memory, and an incredible ability to memorize.

Before he was ten, he had memorized the whole Quran, mastered the Arabic language, covered much of the Fiqh, and memorized many Prophetic narrations. His pious good mother always encouraged her son and prepared a suitable atmosphere for him to acquire knowledge.

When Al-Bukhari finished his studies in the small schools, his wise mother thought to send him to the well-known study circles in Bukhara, Samarqand, Bekend, Marw, and Nesabor. He became famous among the scholars to the point that he used to argue with his professors and even corrected them sometimes!!

The success and physiognomy of Al-Bukhari didn’t end there. His shaykh and teacher Muhammad  Ibn Salam Al-Bekandy the scholar of Buharaa and the scholar of Prophetic narrations across the Transoxus (now Turkistan), used to ask him to revise some of his books and corrected any mistakes he found. Scholars used to wonder in astonishment: “Who was that boy who edits the books of his professor?!”

Imam Bekandi used to say proudly about his clever student: “This boy is unique of his kind.”

On many occasions Imam Bekandi talked to his colleagues about his student, Al-Bukhari who memorized seventy thousand Prophetic narrations by heart. In addition to this, he never reported a narration of the companions or the generation following them unless he knew when and where they were born, as well as where they lived and died!

Travel for Hajj

The years passed and Muhammad Ibn Isma’il reached the age of sixteen years. He felt a great need to go and seek knowledge in every corner of the world to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He headed to Makkah, accompanied by his mother and elder brother, Ahmad, in 210 AH to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) and seek more knowledge.

After the pilgrimage, his mother and brother Ahmad returned to Bukhara while he stayed in Makkah to move between its domes of knowledge: East, and west; North and South. Before the end of two years in this sacred city, he started writing his book The Issues of the companions and their Followers which marked the beginning of his renowned books.

Al-Bukhari always loved to visit Madinah. Among the fruits of his visits to that blessed place was writing his book: “The Big Book of History” which is considered the first book that comprises the names of the narrators of Prophetic narrations and the details of their lives.

From that wonderful sacred spot, Al-Bukhari set out on a relentless endeavor to visit all the Islamic territories out of his love for compiling the Prophetic narrations. He traveled to Hijaz (Saudi Arabia), Levant (Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon), Egypt, and Khurasan (a vast area between north east Iran, southern Russia, and western Afghanistan).

He visited Basrah and settled for some time in Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasid state at that time. He greatly benefited from these journeys seeking knowledge. He had the pleasure of meeting most the narrators of Prophetic narrations at that time, sat with them, listened to the narrations, and memorized whatever knowledge they had.

One night, Al-Bukhari had a strange dream that later had a great impact on his life. He saw himself standing before the Prophet holding a palm-leaf fan in his hand with which he pushed all evil away from the Prophet. He was so confused and surprised that he went to his scholars asking them to interpret his dream. They said happily:

“You will clear the lies and false claims away from the Prophet.”

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