Al-Bukhari then remembered his teacher, shaykh Is-Haaq Ibn Raahawayh, the prominent scholar of Khurasaan, when he told his students once: “It would be great if you can compile a concise and brief book containing the authentic narrations of the Prophet.”
These words echoed in Al-Bukhari’s heart and he remembered that dream which was always in his mind since he started learning the Prophetic narrations. Thereupon, he immediately made an intention to actively and seriously pursue this mission and started to strive in his long journey of writing this great book in 217 AH when he was twenty three.
Because of that dream, Al-Bukhari traveled thousands of miles moving from one Islamic territory to another, undergoing all sorts of difficulties, hardships, and weariness, sometimes to obtain only one narration of the Prophet. He sometimes even had to eat grass to satisfy his extreme hunger after he had spent all his money. Even the few hours of night in which he snatched short naps to rest awhile, were not so resting for him, as he used to wake up fifteen to twenty times a night to lit his lamp and sit to classify the narrations he had collected.
Al-Bukhari made a pact with himself that he wouldn’t include a narration from any narrator until he had personally met him, and listened to the narration with his own ears. He never accepted narrations except from the ones who were known for being honest, diligent, accurate, fearing Allah, and having a sharp memory. After this process, he would have a ritual bath; pray two Rak’as and then include only the narration that had met all these conditions in his book.
After sixteen years of continuous effort and hard work, Al-Bukhari finished his valuable book that comprised around 7000 authentic narrations which he selected from amongst 600,000 authentic and non-authentic narrations. He overlooked many authentic narrations so that his book wouldn’t be too long. He chose to name the book “The Authentic Book Encompassing a Brief Authentic Narrations of the Prophet, his Tradition and Life” to become the title of the most authentic book after the Quran.
The book is known as ‘Sahih Al-Bukhari’ (The authentic narrations reported by Al-Bukhari). This book became well known and it gave him a high rank that someone like him truly deserved to achieve. He had a vast knowledge, great manners, a tolerant nature, dignity, and an untainted tongue. He cared so little for this life, he had deep faith, and had Allah’s consciousness at all times. After Imam Al-Bukhari became famous throughout the world, thousands of scholars came to him as students of the leader in memorization of authentic narrations until the number of people who attended his study circles in Baghdad reached 20,000. Among the most remarkable figures of his students were Imams At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i, Muslim, and others.
In 250 AH, Al-Bukhari left to Nisabor, a city in Khurasan and stayed there for a while teaching the people. Then he decided to return to his dear city, Bukhara, and when he did the people rushed to welcome him in a great celebration in which huge tents were pitched and decorations were hung. They threw flowers and golden and silver coins on the Imam upon his arrival into the city. There was an overwhelming atmosphere of happiness that prevailed throughout all Bukhara.
Allah Willed, out of mercy to the Imam, that Al-Bukhari would only meet his Lord after peace and happiness had found their way into his heart again. One day, the people of Samarqand sent a message for him asking him to come. He agreed and packed with great joy. When he started walking towards his animal he said: “Take me back, I have become weak and very ill”.
When they took him back to his house, he said some supplications then he laid on his bed sweating a lot, then his pure soul ascended to its Creator. His death was on a Friday night, the beginning of the month of Shawwal, 256 AH (870 AD). He was sixty-two years old when he died. He was buried in the village of Khartank which is now known as ‘Khawajah Saheb’.
May Allah have mercy upon the great Imam and may Allah admit him into Paradise.