A False Accusation Against Imam al-Bukhari

This is from the Rand Report: 

“Let us look at the parameters of Al Bukhari’s claim. If we allow one single hour to process each hadith he would have had to work non-stop for about seventy years. Each hadith would have had to be traced back to the Prophet through a long transmission chain each link of which had to be closely examined, with each chain consisting of six or seven individuals of successive generations, all but one of whom were dead. Yet he is said to have completed this work in sixteen years. Was it physically possible for Al-Bukhari to have examined that many hadith? The answer is no.”

The Response 

Whoever wrote this either does not know what he is talking about or is being deliberately deceptive (im being very nice). When al-Bukhari mentions the huge numbers of hadith (600,000) he clearly means chains. The total number of hadiths (authentic and weak) that are in the major books not counting repetitions and variant versions is somewhere over 10,000. If a person studied 5 hadiths a day (not an outrageous number at all), he would have covered all those hadiths within 5 yrs.

If we take al-Hafiz as-Suyuti as an example, we find his marwiyaat (i.e. the stuff he had narrations for), for example, numbered 300,000 (counting by chains). When you consider that obviously the number of chains accessible in the Age of Riwayah (Narration) would logically have been much more it is to be accepted that the Imams of the Age of Riwayah had more hadiths.

Al-Bukhari mentions 600,000 from which he chose the hadiths of his sahih. Abu Dawud mentions that he chose the hadiths of his sunan out of 500,000. Ahmad chose the hadiths of his musnad out of abt 1 million he had recorded/learned/memorized. Other major huffaz also had huge comparable numbers. at the same time, we find them mentioning these huge numbers we see in their books and their statements they placed only a fraction of those numbers. Either they were all conspiring to pull the wool over our eyes (very hard to do since it would have to have been a mass conspiracy of 1000’s of muhaddithin) or they were referring to the chains.

Anyone who studies their statements will find over and over again that they frequently refer to each new chain as an individual hadith. Thats why we find a number of statements from all these early huffaz all indicating that the total number of authentic hadiths (w/o repetition is 4,000-5,000).

Additionally, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Shaykh al Albani during the course of his life covered well over 100,000 chains. So these numbers are not in the least bit outrageous. As for al-Bukhari having to have studied all the narrators, so what? He wrote a book called at-Tarikh al-Kabir. It literally does mention pretty much the overwhelming majority of narrators who come up in chains of hadiths. If you dont believe me, try it and see. Take any hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari and look at its narrators and see if you find an entry for them in at-Tarikh al-Kabir.

In summary, whoever wrote this is in clear error. At best, he is ignorant and at worse (and more likely), this is vile, false propoganda to cause the Muslims to doubt their religion.

(I will follow in sha Allah with a post on the number of authentic hadiths)


20 responses to “A False Accusation Against Imam al-Bukhari

  1. As Salaam alaykum Wa rahamtullah, jazakAllahu khayran for this….

    Also to note soem(very little number) fo the chains might not be that long, since it was bukhari who started his studes in the very eary part of the 3rd century hijri.

    Also it is possible for many of the chains to have the same chain with the same narrators halfway through and then spread into multiple different chains.

    thsi woudl make the effort less time consuming.

    Also sicne Bukhari had such a high standard it was jsut as possible for him to start excluding ahadeeth which he didnt feel strong enough for his sahih, all he needed to do was fine one small problem with the hadith and he would get rid of it, and no more chain criticism woudl be necessary.

    Allahu Alim

  2. wa alaykum assalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    wa iyyak

    yes, exactly… that’s the point… sure he was picking from 600,000 hadiths but many of them were the same hadith repeated. when he knows that this is the best isnad hes got for that hadith (because its consistent with all the other reliable narrations and coming from the most reliable/famous of narrators) its not necessarily the most painstaking task in the world to choose that particular route to place in his book. Don’t get me wrong, its not something just anybody can do, but clearly, its not like this writer is making out.

    another example to illustrate: Yahya b. Ma’in learned the hadiths of Hammad ibn Salamah from 18 different shaykhs. After he had learned his hadiths already from 17 different shaykhs, he went to another shaykh to hear them from him. Obviously he was a bit suspicious as to why Yahya was coming to hear from him, after all he must already have Hammad’s hadiths so he became angry at him and refused to narrate to him (perhaps he was thinking he was mocking him or trying to test him or something along those lines). So he went to another shaykh. This shaykh had the same thought, so he asked him the reason. Ibn Ma’in said: I saw that Hammad had mistakes in his hadiths, so I wanted to be able to sort out his mistakes from the mistakes of his students. When all of his students consistently narrate the same way (in mistaken fashion) from him, I know the mistake is from him, but if only one of them does so, I know the mistake is from his student.

    In reality, having many hadiths is in itself a tool to sort what is authentic from what is weak. The Imams of Hadith would not have been able to sort out the correct hadiths from the mistaken hadiths nor the reliable narrators from the weak narrators without having heard and gathered the hadiths from numerous routes. That was why they would hear them over and over from different routes. To see where the mistakes were, where the inconsistencies were, and who they were coming from, as ‘Ali ibn al-Madini, al-Bukhari’s famous teacher, said, “Any topic, until all its routes are not gathered, the errors will not be clear from the correct (narrations).”

  3. This should prompt you to maybe write a post on Ilal (Hidden Defects) or Mu’allal ahadeeth. Allahu Alim

  4. assalamu alaykum

    in sha Allah, most of my posts in the relatively near future will focus on issues related to sciences of hadith. in the process, i will in sha Allah try to deal with matters relating to ilal and ma’lul hadiths.

  5. Pingback: Got ‘Ilm? » Blog Archive » The Total Number of Authentic Hadiths

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  7. Bismillah

    It is interesting to see such a premise come to light again. This exact premise, the aim to cast doubt on hadith by casting doubt on the source was first put forth by orientalists Schact and others. Sheikh Azami {and many of his books are in English} demonstrated in hadith sciences and on Islamic jurisprudence the unjustifiable nature of such premises that aim at sheddin doubt on the sources of islam and the true lack of scholarship on the part of those who present the premises and at times arguments.

    In any event the war on Islam comes in many shades and this is the light war that is waged from the sidelines, the aim, get Muslims to doubt in the certainty of Islam so that Islamic knowledge becomes a pool of confusion and doubt.

    Unfortunately, with rise of the critique of scholar so and so and person so and so by the unlearned we have opened the door to critique in a very irresponsible way. So that the end result is confusion regarding who to follow. The we have the orientalist readership the brothers who want access to ilm but dont want the confusion of the first camp so they turn to Muslim and non Muslim orientalists for ilm the result confusion in the ranks.

    The key at this stage must be twofold one attain ilm and have a strong ibadah program to ward off shaitan and company.

    The confusion will clear only when ilm is acompanied by adab and ibadah until then we will sit on the sidelines in wonder and distress with ourselves and each other.

    One last word in hadith studies the non-muslim is never and authority that is agreed upon by the scholars of hadith that should be clear to those who can not research and did up responses to those who accuse Islam of being lies and stories of the ancients as for the researchers may Allah [swt] be with you you are on the front line.


  8. assalaamu alaykum

    jazakumullahu khayran for your comments and insights…

    the works of Shaykh Azami referred to in Brother Shawkani’s posts can be found here:





  9. Assalamu alaykum

    As a muslim i can’t help but be proud of the science of hadith that the muslims have created. But recently i have started to think there might be a problem with this beautiful science. I might be wrong about this but isn’t there one problem with authenticating the Isnad of a hadith. The problem i’m talking about is what happens if the narrator lies about who he is and gives a name of a trustworthy narrator. Later the scholars check out this name and conclude the person is trustworthy. This is a problem because that person(who was an unreliable narrator) who lied about his name will now get his false hadith accepted. Can someone help me and tell me what the scholars did to combat this. I think bukhari might have solved this problem but i’m not sure. Thanks for you time.

  10. wa alaykum assalaam

    someone could not simply just lie about who he is. for example, Imam Malik had well known students who are known to be reliable transmitters of his hadiths. if someone were to narrate a hadith from him that none of them did, it would not be accepted from him (see the Introduction of Imam Muslim’s Sahih for discussion of this principle).

    Do you think that someone could have come along and told his students, “I am Imam Malik, honest”? In fact, it doesn’t even have to be Imam Malik. The narrators were known. Their teachers were generally known. Their students also. In fact, if a trustworthy narrator narrates from some trustworthy narrator that he is not known to have studied with, at the very least, that is a cause to doubt the reliability of the narration. Perhaps he heard it from an intermediary. Some scholars would reject such a chain outright. At the very least, it requires careful examination.

    Someone could not simply just come and pretend to be someone else. He would have been easily found out and discovered. The sciences of hadith are actually much more sophisticated and subtle than many people realize. This is why many of the great Imams said, “the ignorant people consider what we do like kihanah (divination).” This is because they can often times not even understand the subtle clues that lead them to realize a hadith is erroneous.

  11. Assalamu alaykum

    Thank you for your answer, it really helped explain things. On a different topic can i get your opinion as a fellow muslim on the hostility that the kafir show against the muslim science of hadith. Do you think this is because they are jealous they didn’t think of such a elaborate science for preserving their scriptures or for recording their history. I ask this because i am puzzled at their baseless allegations that the hadith are forgeries.

  12. It is a combination of ignorance, poor research, and evil motives in varying combinations depending on the individual. They have preconceived notions about our religious heritage based on their experience with the Bible. They tend to make unfounded assumptions about the nature and the development of the isnad system which then lead them to erroneous conclusions.

  13. Assalamu alaykum

    This is my last question. What would happen if the scholars studied an isnad and found a narrator called e.g. Abdullah ibn Ali. Now how would the scholars know that this Abdullah ibn Ali is the same Abdullah ibn Ali that is mentioned in the books that contain the biographies of the narrators. It could be some other person who’s name is also Abdullah ibn Ali. How do the scholars get around this problem. After all it could be that one Abdullah ibn Ali is an untrustworthy narrator while the other is a reliable one.

    Thanks for your time.

  14. wa alaykum assalaam

    in this case… they would have to see if that narrator was known to have a shaykh named abdullah ibn ali… if he did… then it is likely that one… if not then it is a problem… if he did have a well known shaykh named abdullah ibn ali and then he narrated from some unknown by the same name, he would be deceiving the students he is narrating to because he knows they will be thinking it is the other one… some narrators were actually known to do things like this… generally, such practices are exposed by the muhaddithin when they see him narrating strange hadiths which noone else narrates from that shaykh, they would recognize something is wrong and would try and investigate the matter to find the source of the mistake. keep in mind the muhaddithin were already doing such work while these narrators were still alive so they were able to compare their hadiths with the hadiths of others and find the anomalies and odd narrations. by investigating about them further, they could discover the reasons for them, which, in some case would be this type of deception that you have mentioned here. This is known as Tadlis ash-Shuyukh

  15. Assalamu alaykum

    Thank you for your answer. It is comforting to know that the scholars have considered this problem and have even have a term for it, which as you say is “Tadlis ash-shuyukh.

  16. Assalamu alaykum

    Is it true that the narrators were not supposed to narrate from people whom they met but did not learn anything from. And if they did learn something from this narrator how was it confirmed that this was indeed the case. What i mean is how did they know this person really did learn something from the person he/she narrated from.

    The reason i ask this question is because i read in a book that imam shafi(or atleast i think it was him) said a narrator should refrain from narrating from a person whom he met but did not learn anything from.

    Thank you

  17. Pingback: Online Resources for Studying the Sciences of Hadith « IBN AL HYDERABADEE

  18. Pingback: Authentication of Hadeeth : Redefining the Criteria - Page 2

  19. Jazak Allahu khayran

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