Criticism On Imam Bukhari

Question

I would greatly appreciate your comments on the following: "Al-Bukhari's methodology in portraying Prophet Mohammad's Personality (sws)" published in the Ahl-Al-Qur'an website http://www.ahl-alquran.com/English/show_article.php?main_id=5938 )


Answer

This is an article written by Dr. Ahmed Mansour, titled "Al-Bukhari's methodology in portraying Prophet Mohammad's Personality (SWS)" published in the Ahl-Al-Qur'an website http://www.ahl-alquran.com/English/show_article.php?main_id=5938

This is a website that promotes the Qur'an as the only source of understanding Islam and does not give any values to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) or Hadith.

The article bring examples from the collection of Bukhari and argues that these examples evidence that Bukhari intentionally wrote his collection in a way to disfigure the personality of the Prophet (sws) as part of the Persian plot against Muslims (given that Bukhari was originally Persian).

I have read the article and found three difficulties in it which to me are enough to reject the derived conclusions. Two of the difficulties are related to the methodology of the article and one relates to the technical aspects of it:

Methodological Problems:

Most of the criticisms that the author makes about the collection of Bukhari equally apply to most of the other books of Hadith as well. These include repeating Ahadith under different headings, having contradictory Ahadith next to each other, and even the example of supposedly disfiguring Ahadith in the collection of Bukhari. For example the Hadith about Umme Haram that has been so extensively criticized by the author has been mentioned in other books of Hadith as well, including the Imam Malik's al-Muatta. Imam Malik lived about a century before Bukhari so there is no possibility of him learning it from Bukhari (and Imam Malik was a pure Arab!). I am therefore not sure why the author has picked up only Bukhari here and is investing this much on his Persian roots. It seems like if the theory of the author is correct then the whole body of the Ahadith need to be considered as a plot against Islam and the Prophet (sws) and this definitely needs strong evidences and analysis. The article starts by saying that the collection of Bukhari has some unique features that distinguishes it (negatively) from the other books of Hadith. I do not see any comparative analysis to show these features are unique to the Bukhari collection.

I am always amazed of the judgments made about people who lived centuries before us in an attempt to decide what the motives of those people were. Even with the developed courts of our time and while the accused person is available and in the presence of some advanced tools of investigation it is a very difficult job to assess the motivations and intentions of an accused person. I am not sure how the author can so conveniently and in so much detail determine the motivations and detailed conspiracy plans of a person who lived more than 1200 years ago. The author could simply express his reservations about some of the Ahadith in the collection of Bukhari (and other books of Hadith) that to him were problematic. There is however a huge analytical gap between concluding that these Ahadith are problematic and then judging that they have been put in the collection of Bukhari intentionally as part of the Persian plot against Islam. I do not see any methodologically valid attempts in the article to fill out this gap.

The above takes away any needs to look at the details of the article and review their validity. I am willing to do this once the above two methodological problems are satisfactorily rectified. However as an example of the technical problems of the article, I would like to refer to one of these technical problems:

Technical Problems (an example):

The author writes extensively about the Hadith that says the Prophet (sws) went to Umme Haram's house and stays there. He finds it difficult that the Prophet (sws) would go to a woman's house and stay there alone. Whether the Hadith is reliable and reported with accuracy is another issue. What I do not see in the article is a reference to the fact that according to the scholars of Hadith and history, Umme Haram was the aunt of the Prophet (sws) from breastfeeding (Reza'yee relationship) and was therefore Mahram to the Prophet (sws) (al-Muntaqi, Sharhe al-Muatta 3:66). al-Nawawi says that the scholars have consensus about this (Sharhe al-Nawawi ala Muslim, 6:393). Based on this additional piece of information, the Prophet (sws) did not enter to the house of a stranger but entered to the house of his aunt. The least that the author could do was to refer to this piece of information and then probably explain why he did not find the information to be satisfactory. Unfortunately this vital piece of information is totally ignored or neglected in the article.

I would also like to emphasis on the point that other than the Qur'an, no other Islamic text is 100% reliable and no Hadith can be accepted unless it is inline with the Qur'an and is tested from the narrators' point of view. In no way I want to imply that there are no problematic Ahadith in the collection of Bukhari or other books of Hadith or that there were people among narrators of Hadith who would intentionally fabricate a Hadith to disfigure Islam and the Prophet (sws). However to prove a Persian plot against Islam and to prove that a well known scholar of the past was part of this plot and that his whole work was to contribute in the plot needs much more than what can be found in the above article.

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