Imam Bukhari’s humility

ما انتفعت بك أكثر مما انتفعت بيImam Bukhari said to his student at-Tirmidhi:

‘I have benefitted from you more than you have benefited from me’



To save his immaculate reputation

Al-‘Ajlooni related that Imam Bukhari- may Allah have mercy on him- once traveled by boat on a journey to seek out knowledge and that he had taken with him 1,000 dinars. One of his fellow travelers ingratiated himself with Imam Bukhari, outwardly showing him love and admiration. During the sea-voyage the man often made a point to sit in his company. On long journeys, friendships develop faster than normal, and during the course of the time they spent together, Imam Bukhari informed the man that he had 1,000 dinars with him.

The morning after Imam Bukhari spoke about the money, the man woke up and began to cry, scream, rip his clothing apart, and slap his own face as if he had just been afflicted with a great loss. His fellow shipmates asked him what was wrong, and he refused to answer at first, as if he was still in a state of shock and could not bring himself to speak about his situation. After they continually insisted that he tell them what the matter was with him, he finally said “I had a bag that contained 1,000 dinars and I lost it”.

The crewmen who were in charge of the ship began to search the passengers. One by one everyone was being searched, and upon realising what was happening, Imam Bukhari, making sure that no one was looking, threw his bag of money over the side of the ship . When the entire ship and all of its passengers were searched and when no bag of money was found, those in authority on the ship went back to the man who had made up the story and chastised him for making a false claim and or putting them through so much trouble.

As soon as the ship finally reached the shore, the passengers began to disembark; meanwhile Imam Bukhari’s old friend went to him and asked him what he had done with the bag of money?

“I threw it into the sea,” Imam Bukhari matter-of-factly replied.

“And you are patiently accepting the fact that you have just lost such a huge sum of money? The man asked in bewilderment.

“O Ignorant one,” Imam Bukhari said, “do you not know that I have spent my entire life gathering the Ahadeeth of the Messenger salallahualayhiwasalam and that the world now acknowledges my trustworthiness. Would it then have been befitting for me to subject myself to the accusation of theft? And shall I lose the precious pearl (ie: My knowledge and achievements as a scholar) that I have earned over a lifetime over a limited number of dinars?

Excerpt taken from “The biography of Imam Bukhaaree Allah have mercy on him by Salajideen ibn ‘Alee ibn ‘Abdul Maujood. Translated
by Faisal Shafeeq.”

Imam Bukhari’s Memory in the Test of Baghdad

Imam Bukhari, rahimahullah, was tested a few times in his life. One of the early tests, which really showcases the powerful memory that Allah blessed him with, occurred as follows.

While in his twenties, imam Bukhari’s fame spread over much of the Muslim world — something rare in the time before internet, before email, before YouTube, our modern era where news travels almost instantenously.

As he arrived in Baghdad, word of his arrival spread, and the scholars of Baghdad devised a test for imam Bukhari — to prove to the world that he’s not that good.

During that time, to learn ahadith, you travel to the scholars of ahadith, sit in their halaqaat, and listen. They dictate ahadith to you. If a scholar comes from far, he brings exotic ahadith that nobody heard before; all the students (and other scholars) benefit from learning it from him.

Also, as a student of knowledge, someone who studies ahadith for a while, you quickly learn the “usual” or common ahadith that go around; such as the first hadith in Bukhari, that actions are by intentions.

Instead of exotic ahadith, the ten scholars each decide to narrate ten common ahadith each — but with a twist. Instead of narrating the hadith normally, with the chain, they would swap chains of authentic ahadith.

This is a very delicate point of the science. Most of the introduction to the science of hadith deals with features that weaken a hadith, and most of those features have to do with narrators in the chain. In this case, they took 100 authentic ahadith, each with an authentic chain, and transplanted the chain to a different hadith.

On the surface, it appears that they’re honouring imam Bukhari, by inviting him to their circles to learn and teach. But really, they had a more sinsiter motive.

Imam Bukhari arrives. The first scholar steps up and narrates his first hadith with a different chain. Imam Bukhari says, “Maa 3indiy,” (“I don’t have it” or “I don’t know it”). And again for the second hadith. And the third. And all ten.

The students start wondering. Imam Bukhari doesn’t know these basicahadith?

The second scholar steps up, and the same scene repeats. And the third, and fourth, all the way to the tenth.

At this point, the students are very confused. These are all simple, straight-forward (appearing) ahadith.

Imam Bukhari figured it out. So his turn to speak arrives. He tells the first scholar: “you narrated the first hadith with chain this-and-that. The correct chain is this.” And he corrects the first hadith. And the second. And the tenth; all the way to the last of the 100.

And everyone in the masjid of Baghdad, the key center of learning of ‘ilm at that time, sees this occur in front of them.

Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) comments: “It’s not surprising that Imam Bukhari saw through their chain-swapping, for he is a master; nor is him knowing the correct isnad that surprising, because he’s memorized these hadith in the past.

“But what’s really interesting is that he memorized the 100 ahadith, with chains, the first time he heard them, and narrated them back in the same order.

It’s very clear that Allah blessed him with a photographic memory.

And thus, imam Bukhari’s popularity and reputation only grew, and he soared through the first test.

What lessons can you extract from this story to apply to your life?Please post a comment and share it with us.


  • Collector’s Edition: Sahih al-Bukhari. By Yasir Qadhi. 2012.