Al-Bukhari’s methodology in portraying Prophet Mohammad’s
Originally published in Arabic
On February 10-2009
Translated by Mohammad Dandan
A researcher or a reader in Sahih Al-Bukhari needs quite a bit of effort to find what he needs. For it has its unique feature that differentiates it from other books of Hadith (Reported sayings of the prophet-PBUH-). It is the scattering of the same Hadith among hundreds of chapters, sections and books, narrating it in different forms and with different Ascription (The supposedly uninterrupted chain of authorities on whom a tradition is based), and with different headings. Although the general method in Sahih Al-Bukhari is to arrange Hadiths juristically, yet the overlapping between subjects of discussions and Hadiths subjects of discussions and Hadiths renders this method futile.
Besides, Sahih Al-Bukhari lacks the organizational approach to the extent that a researcher, at first glance, would think that Al-Bukhari is not up to the standards of being an author, especially if his book was compared with other books of Hadiths and History contemporary to his time, like (Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d) and Sahih Muslim, both of which is better organized, arranged and sectioned. But with a discerning eye and a sagacious mind, a researcher can detect Al-Bukhari’s shrewdness through this intended chaos in his book…by which certain Hadiths are distributed among heaps of other Hadiths which sound quite good, fine and well intentioned. And by doing so, those Hadiths that Al-Bukhari scatters among thousand others, he expresses his own conviction and his impression of Islam, and by which he tried to tarnish the image and reputation of the prophet (PBUH), exploiting every opportunity to re-introduce them under different headings derived from its own subjects. He used to labor to coin those headings which points to the real intention for re-mentioning it.
If you wanted to assassinate an adversary by poison, it is inconceivable that you bring him a glass full of poison and ask him to drink it. It is more reasonable that you bring him a glass of honey laced with enough poison to get the job done. This is exactly what Al-Bukhari has done. He placed his concentrated poison in the middle of thousands of harmless Hadiths, some of which say something positive, and others do not say much at all. He made sure to plant some Hadiths that praise and laud the prophet, with special attention to Hadiths narrated by Abu Hureira that urge and exhort obedience to the Sultan, any Sultan, thereby guaranteeing that his Sahih will always receive protection from governing authority, why shouldn’t be so, and Al-Bukhari always warns against sedition, discord, dissension and strife against the Sultan.
This organized chaos in Sahih Al-Bukhari has its own methodology; we will get acquainted with through one Hadith that he scattered in the folds of his book.
Hadith Um Haram, which Al-Bukhari fabricated claiming that the prophet (PBUH) used to enter her home and sleep there. He dispersed it through different locations of his book, and narrated it in different forms; it was obvious that he would take any opportunity to narrate it listing it under any title. We give few examples to illustrate:
Within the chapter titled (Calling for jihad and martyrdom for men and women), Al-Bukhari narrates it as follows:
“The prophet used to go in on Um Haram Bint Melhan, she would feed him, and Um Haram was married to Ubada Ibn A-Ssaamit, the messenger (PBUH), entered her place, she fed him and deloused his hair, then messenger of Allah(PBUH), fell asleep, then he woke up laughing, she said: I said what makes you laugh O messenger of Allah?, he said ,people from my Umma ,I saw them fighting in the cause of Allah , they ride the waves of this sea, kings on their thrones, or like kings on their thrones, Iss-haaq doubted, she said: I said O messenger of Allah, ask Allah to include me with them, messenger of Allah prayed for her, then he rested his head, then he woke up laughing, I said what makes you laugh O messenger of Allah? He said people from my Umma, I saw them fighting in the cause of Allah, as he said in the first time, she said: I said O messenger of Allah, ask Allah to make me one of them, he said, you are one of the firsts, so I rode the sea during the time of Mu’aaweya Ibn Abi Sufyaan, she fell off her animal when she exited the sea and died”
The funny part in this is the fact that the narrator of this Hadith is Um Haram herself, who the Hadith describes as dead at the end of the narration, meaning she probably narrated it after her death.
Two pages later, Al-Bukhari narrates the same Hadith with slight adjustment, under a new title “Section in the merit and preference of those who fight in the cause of Allah, and perish, then he is one of them”
( It was narrated by Um Haram that she said, the prophet slept one day close by me, then he woke up smiling, I said what makes you laugh? He said people from my Umma, I saw them riding this green sea, as if kings on their beds, she said ask Allah to make me one of them, he prayed for her, then he slept again, then he did the same, she said what she said before, he answered her likewise, she said ask Allah to make me one of them, he said you are one of the firsts. She accompanied her husband Ubada Ibn A-Ssaamit on an expedition. It was the first time the Muslims rode the sea with Mu’aaweya, upon their return from war, back to Syria; her riding animal jumped her killing her.
And under a new title “Section of Women’s invasion at sea” , Al-Bukhari narrates “messenger of Allah entered Ibnet Milhan place, he reclined, then he laughed, she said why are you laughing O messenger of Allah, he said people from my Umma ride the green sea…etc…….”
Under another title, “Section of what it has been said in fighting the Byzantines”
Al-Bukhari relates the same story in a different form, going like this:
Someone came to Ubada Bin A-Ssaamit when he was in Humms, in a building with his wife Um Haram who related the Hadith, “The first army from my Umma to invade by sea, their rewards are guaranteed, Um Haram said: I said O messenger of Allah am I with them? He said: you are with them…etc….
Then under the heading “Whoever visits others and takes a nap at their place”…Al-Bukhari relates the Hadith in the original form, exactly.
And regardless of differences in forms of narrating of the Hadith, what Al-Bukhari intends to, becomes deep-rooted in the subconscious of the reader, the gist of the Hadith and its general perimeter, which is, the prophet used to go in on Um Haram, sleeps at her place, eats there, drinks there and delouses him too, the rest of incidental extras are but touchups to fortify the principal idea and help the reader swallow it hook, line and sinker.
Al-Bukhari has a unique methodology in composing those narrations. He is keen to finalize the dramatic plot for his narration. This skill manifests itself the best in his composition of the story accusing Ayesha (Prophet’s wife) of unsavory behavior, traditionally referred to as Hadith Al-Ifk (Gossip of Untruths). This story is testimonial to his ability in dramatic writing, where the star roles, the secondary roles, stage help, evil characters, the prominent actors representing good causes, with tears, the ooh’s, the aah’s, the wronged wife, bewildered father, devastated mother, the husband beset by rumors hounding his beloved one, unable to believe in any of it….then the grand finale…everyone is relieved…including the reader. The shrewdness of Al-Bukhari is in the formation of his style as he composes each narration considering its particular conditions. For he has a goal in composing that narration, and the story comes to fulfill that goal. We will get acquainted with Al-Bukhari’s skill in this narration that he ascripted to Anas (That Um Seleem used to spread a cot for the prophet (PBUH), to take a nap at her place, and when he would fall asleep, should would collect his sweat in a little bottle, save some of his hair that fell off, then she gathered everything in a little sac. When Anas Bin Malik drew nearer to his death, he asked to have some of that stuff in the sac included in his shroud.) Al-Bukhari delivered what he wanted in the very beginning of the narration, which is, the prophet (PBUH) used to sleep at Um Seleem, and she used to collect his sweat and hair while he was asleep, and he would leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. The rest of the story is nothing but to serve the initial part of it.
The same method was used by Al-Bukhari in the case of Um Haram. He started by stated the objective of the narration, which is the entry of the prophet (PBUH) into her house in the absence of her husband and him sleeping there. He followed his hidden purpose with a long story about the vision he had while asleep, Jihad, sailing the seas, then the death of Um Haram. The reader is absorbed with details, dreams and stories about the unknown, and what happened to Um Haram, and he swallows from the beginning what Al-Bukhari intended for him to swallow and the issue is reduced to tidbits about what Um Haram, and not what the story hints at the prophet’s character.
It is symptomatic of Al-Bukhri’s slyness, for him to make the narrative plot, tied to the original topic and founded on it, for the prophet (PBUH) had to have slept at Um Haram’s home, in order for him to see a dream, and tell her what is going to happen in the future. And he had to have slept at Um Seleem’s, for her to collect his sweat and hair, later on to be given to Anas to seek blessing by placing it in his death-shroud. One would think, couldn’t Anas have been able to collect the sweat and hair, during the time he served the prophet (PBUH) for ten years? And he would not have needed Um Seleem or her troubles? But if that were to take place, then would he have the chance to tarnish the prophet’s character?
Al-Bukhari has a special method of choosing those words that suggest what ultimately he intends, it reflects itself in the type of his writings of the primary goal of his narration and his choice of terminology, that deliberate, intended choice.
We noticed his main objective in the story of Um Haram was mentioned in the very beginning, when he said “The messenger of Allah used to go to Um Haram Bint Melhan, and she would feed him. Um Haram was the wife of Ubada Ibn A-Ssaamit, The prophet (PBUH), went in ,she fed him ,deloused him, he fell asleep(PBUH), then he woke up laughing” up till now, the purpose has been set, the rest is nothing more than to serve that end and provide a cover.
Let us identify Al-Bukhari’s method in choosing the words that exemplifies a profound shrewdness in fulfilling his objective in tarnishing the prophet’s image.
He says: “The prophet used to enter in upon Um Haram Bint Melhan”, meaning he (got in the habit) of entering upon this lady who was neither a wife nor a mehrem (a person you cannot marry, due to familial or other marital constrictions), he says…he used to enter upon Um Haram Bint Melhan and she would feed him…here he descends with the prophet to the lowest forms of allegory by comparing him to (whoever) enters a home to be fed and watered, or to the lowest forms of allegory by comparing him to(whatever) enters a home to be fed and watered. Our Islamic manners prohibit us from openly saying what Al-Bukhari is alluding to by choosing such an expression.
Then he says…Um Haram was the wife of Ubada Bin A-Ssaamit…Here you can clearly see the ill-intentions of Al-Bukhari …he wants us to understand unequivocally that, that lady the prophet used to enter her home was married to one of his companions, perhaps if he was well intentioned, he would have said that the prophet used to enter the home of Ubada Bin A-Ssaamit …then there would be no room for allegations, hinting or assumptions, but this is what Al-Bukhari does not want to happen, he purposely said that Um Haram (whom the prophet used to enter in upon) was the wife of Ubada Bin A-Ssamit. This hint is fundamental in fulfilling the goal he started his narration with, and the rest is nothing but ornament towards that objective.
Notice that Al-Bukhari did not mention the name of Ubada Bin A-Ssaamit in this narration except to consolidate every word or digression or incidental sentence to serve his original goal. Then he repeats the expression about the prophet entering upon that woman, and repetition is an important factor in emphasizing suggestion and enforcing the psychological impact of such an expression. He says “the messenger of Allah entered in on her and she fed him” and he said right before that “The messenger of Allah used to enter in upon Um Haram Bint Melhan and she would feed him”, then he says “She fed him then deloused his hair”. He does not put that statement for naught, especially after he told us that that Um Haram was the wife of Ubada Bin A-Ssaamit, who was not present at the time, of course. Al-Bukhari leaves us, after these blatant suggestions, to imagine what it means for a man to be alone with a married woman in her home, while her husband was absent, She feeds him and delouses his hair, no barriers between them, she treats him as a husband, delouses his hair, a hidden allegations about lice and cleanliness, and the shortcomings of the prophet’s wives (The Mothers of The Believers) towards him and his needs….Then he says “ she started delousing his hair, so messenger of Allah fell asleep then woke up”. The reader will innocently ask…where did the prophet sleep? And how did he go to sleep while the woman is delousing him? Thousands of questions revolving around one subject or goal, and that is what Al-Bukhari intended exactly.
Al-Bukhari was fascinated with choice of sexually over toned words, even if the course of the narration does not require or bear it. In a Hadith, he says about Aisha “Abu Bekr scolded me and poked me in my side; the only reason that prevented me from moving was the position of the messenger of Allah and his head being on my thigh”. That was all to it. Al-Bukhari did not mention the reason for the scolding, because what was important for him was to prove to us that the messenger used to sleep with his head on Aisha’s thigh….The same emphasis on denuding the prophets in our minds, and to invade the privacy and sanctity of the prophet, For that reason, Al-Bukhari listed this Hadith alone under a title he coined from the subject matter of the Hadith, only to pass that sexual innuendo, even more, his infatuation with those sexual hints made him modify those narrations about the prophet’s death to a series of narrations especially woven to portray how the prophet used to lay down at the time of his death in proximity of Aisha’s body, as if there is worse time to depict that scene with such words or lowly suggestions. And of course, Al-Bukhari attributed those narrations to Aisha, we give few examples here:
“And when he complained, and his departure approached, his head resting on Aisha’s thigh, he fainted”—“Abdurrahman Bin Abi Bekr entered upon the prophet with my chest, his resting place”--- “and she used to say : he died between my midriff and my neck” ---
“Some of the blessings of Allah upon me are the death of the messenger of Allah in my home, on my day, and between my neck and my stomach”---Al-Bukhari repeated those narrations many times while chasing the prophet with that style of narration even on his death bed, at his last moments on this earth.
And in Hadith dealing with jurisprudence matters, Al-Bukhari made sure to follow a style of contradiction. He adhered to putting contradicting Hadith in the same location, under same title, to prompt the reader to compare and lead the reader to accuse the prophet of saying contradictory Hadiths, or have the reader develop doubts about Sharee’a and religion—as long as he considers those Hadiths as inspiration, or have doubts about rituals, especially since contradictory issues, included prayers and purification.
At the same time, Al-Bukhari did not forget his hobby of using suggestive terms in jurisprudence Hadiths, for Al-Bukhari relates that “the prophet used to lead us in prayers on the outskirts of Al-Medina, with a goat roaming around him, Zuhr two Ruk’a (segment, portion of ritual prayer), Asr, two Ruk’a, a woman, or a donkey would pass in front him, The intention of Al-Bukhari is to throw doubts about the number of Ruk’a…and in order for people not to assume that the prophet used to shorten Zuhr and Asr prayers, by praying two Ruk’a each, we see that Al-Bukhari placed a goat in front of the prophet while praying, then he depicts the donkey and the woman as walking in front of him while praying, and the intention is to create a calm peaceful atmosphere ,not an atmosphere of travel or with sense of danger, especially since he specified the location as the outskirts of Al-Medina ,where conditions are normal, with goats roaming freely, donkeys moving about in front of people praying and women strolling peacefully in front of the prophet and those praying with him.
This is how Al-Bukhari coins those suggestive expressions with deep cunning setups to serve his purpose of defaming the prophet of Islam, yet exhibiting innocence that fooled everyone for over a thousand years. With that innocence and the ability to fabricate, Al-Bukhari succeeded in creating a counterfeited personality for the prophet (PBUH), two centuries after his departure.
The peculiar thing about Al-Bukhari’s personality is Al-Bukhari himself. With all his popularity, he is in reality obscure. All we know about his Persian roots is that he is the descendent of Berzewieh, and as customary back then, he acquired an Arab patronage and an Arab name, as practiced during the Abbasid period. In his biography, nothing is mentioned about his upbringing, his family, his social status. All there is the names of those he heard Hadiths from, and names of those who heard Hadiths from him, and of course, his books. Those tidbits are not comparable to or suitable for his wide reputation, it does not live up to others’ biographies, which fills pages about scholars who lived before and after him and never achieved his widespread notoriety, some even lived before the age of recording. Yet, biographies were abundant about them, with more detailed descriptions, well known to people, and easy to find. Ask any fair-minded researcher to compare the biography of Al-Hasan Al-Bessri of the Umayyad period, way before the age of recording, brimming with information about him, to that of Al-Bukhari, or the biography of Sa’eed Bin Al-Musayyib with its many filled pages of information with few pages of Al-Bukhari’s. Of course I mean the biographies written by his contemporaries, not those who came later on, and worshipped him and everything he wrote, and composed volumes in his virtues and feats, fabrications that will startle the devil himself.
It sounds strange that Al-Bukhari who lived at the height of the recording age, and yet was not fortunate enough to have a biography that fits his era or his reputation that overwhelmed and spread far and wide later on.
Reason being that Al-Bukhari (Ibn Berzeweih), appeared suddenly carrying an Arab patronage and an Arabic name, to conspire against Islam with this book (Sahih Al-Bukhari) to score an intellectual and doctrinal victory over Islam, after his people, the Persians failed to defeat the Muslims during the Abbasid period.
The Persians were the ones who exhausted the Umayyad with successive rebellions, some of which were plain open revolts; others were under the banners of Ahl-Albeit, until they were successful in dismantling the Umayyad Dynasty. Abu Muslim Al-Khurasaani was the real founder of the Abbasid Dynasty and the most powerful figure in its ranks, which ignited the Caliph Al-Mensour’s fears so he assassinated him. His followers revolted in Khurasaan under the leadership of his daughter Fatima Bint Abi Muslim Al-Khurasaani, but the Abbasid defeated them. The Persians revolted many times against the Abbasid, their efforts always ended in failure.
The Persians waged another form of war against the Arabs, a cultural, intellectual war , known traditionally as (Ash-shu’oobeyya—Non-Arab Populists--the believe in Islamic rather than Arab dominated commonwealth of nations), the most prominent among its leaders was Al-Hayythem Bin Adiyy, died in 207 Hijri, another definition for Shu’oobeyya, is to hate Arabs and be fanatic about Persian Ethnicity.
Al-Hayythem Bin Adiyy specialized in fabricating tales that defamed Arabs and their tribes. He used his knowledge of old tales, stories and poetry to revile Arabs and make up stories about their flaws. His most dangerous and effective methods were using poetry, anecdotes, storytelling and proverbs, all of these means were the most widespread and in use, but since most of those dealing with Hadiths and its authenticities, accused Al-Hayythem of fabricating and lying, his followers and students, ardent supporters of (Ash-shu’oobeyya-Non-Arab Populists), left Arab poetry and Arab lineage and concentrated on fabricating Hadiths and stories about prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his wives. They spread those lies, contradicting the Quran within what they labeled as Sunnah and prophetic biography. It is strange that most of the( Icons) and (High Priests) of Hadiths and oral Sunnah all appeared within a relatively short time, and all of them are of the Persian(Populists)…They were more skillful and dangerous than Al-Hayythem, because they specialized in falsification of Islam by fabricating Hadiths and attributing it to the prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
To summarize; the populist movement led a literary war against the Arabs started with Hammad the storyteller, ended with Al-Hayythem Bin Adiyy in the first Abbasid era. After this attempt was uncovered, the populist movement, in the second Abbasid era, waged a war, not against the Arabs this time, but rather against Islam itself, as a response to extinguishing their repeated armed rebellions in Khurasaan. The populist movement succeeded in corrupting Islam through fabricated Hadiths and Narrations spread by Al-Hayythem Bin Adiyy’s students, and if Al-hayythem died in 207 Hijri as an obscure weary unknown, one of his populist students, a Magi, succeeded beyond expectations, and became a mini-god sanctified by the riffraff of Muslims even today, although he has passed in 256 Hijri. He is Ibn Berzeweih, famous among us as Al-Bukhari, traced back to Bukhara in Khurasaan, the most anti Arab, anti Islam region in Persia.
So…what Abu Muslim Al-Khurasaani failed to accomplish militarily, and what Al-hayythem Bin Adiyy failed to implement culturally and historically, Ibn Berzeweih the Khurasaani, succeeded, popular with us as Al-Bukhari.
This way, Al-Bukhari managed to avenge, in the worst possible ways, for his people, his anti-Arab populist sentiment, from Islam and the prophet of Islam, and his vengeance is still ongoing, and in control, evident in what Al-Bukhari and his book represent as a religious importance in the hearts of millions of Muslims, who put his book ahead of the Quran, we were reared on this belief since infanthood, we swore by the book of Al-Bukhari in every matter, big or small, it became customary for people to say “Did I make a mistake in Al-Bukhari?”, meaning did I commit blasphemy? Because his book became the most sanctified, sacred, and nobody dared make a mistake while quoting Al-Bukhari.
It happened once, during a Quranic recitation at national Broadcasting Radio, one of the better known Recitors committed a mistake, when he was warned about, he became agitated and said, “Did I make a mistake in Al-Bukhari?”
I wonder…Did I commit a mistake regarding Al-Bukhari too?
I do not think so….All I have done, was to read what Al-Bukhari had written, with open eyes, at a time when Muslims closed their eyes and their minds for a short period of time not exceeding twelve centuries.
This research was the final part of the section dealing with Al-Bukhari in my book (The Quran….. and suffice the Quran) .At that time, the owner of the printing shop refused to print this portion, and it got lost, until, I found it later, still hand written, as before, to find its way to be published after nineteen years.