Muhammad Ibn Ismail Bukhary
Prominent figures of Uzbekistan

His full name is Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Ismail ibn Ibrahim al-Djufi al-Bukhariy.

Ismail al-Bukhary Bukhary is a great Muslim figure, and a well-known theologian of the 9th century, who has been renowned in the Muslim world for 1000 years. He is the author of the haditha "Al-Djami as-salih", or "Trustworthy", which is the second Muslim book, after the Koran.

Hadji Ismail Bukhary was born in 810 in Bukhara. His father was a very educated man, highly respected by his contemporaries and written about in many books. While Ismail was still a child, his father died. Ismail was left to be cared for only by his mother, who then raised him. She was an educated, beautiful and spiritual woman, who supervised the boy's education on various subjects. Ismail was keen-witted and bright, possessing rare intellect for his age. He had exceptional abilities and an amazing memory. At the age of 7 he learned the entire Koran; at the age of 10 he knew by heart several thousand poems, and shared his knowledge with the theologians of Bukhara.

When he was 16, there were no teachers in remaining Bukhara able to teach him further. The young man, along with his mother and brother, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Soon after visiting Mecca, his mother and brother returned to Buhkara without Ismail, who had decided to stay in Mecca for the next 4 years. Ismail spent 16 years by the burial place of Mohammed the prophet in Medina. The entire time, he read hadithas to Mohammed, collected by himself, in order to receive his Blessing. It was the collecting and studying of hadithas - legends about the deeds and words of Mohammed the prophet and his fellow believers, in which Imam Al-Bukhariy achieved his undying fame. His work was not only God-pleasing, it served practical purposes.

At that time, Islam didn't have codified laws. Ordinary Muslims, leading their everyday lives, as well as Muslim legislators and judges, had to be guided by the Koran and Sunna, which were a sum of traditions and hadithas. By the time of Imam Al-Bukhariy had been written a large number of hadithas for every occasion in life. However, these were not all trustworthy as, in a state of fierce religious and political struggle; all sides had tried to reinforce themselves through the prestige of the prophet, adding to his words. In many cases, Iranian and Central Asian nationalists used to put words in the prophet's mouth praising their hometowns. Thus, such hadithas as, for example, the one glorifying the wonderful qualities of Samarkand and the mild manners and pure faith of its residents, were disseminated.

These surely were counterfeit hadithas: the Arabs reached Samarkand long after Mohammed the prophet had died. Counterfeit hadithas glorifying other places, too, were numerous. It was urgently needed therefore to verify the hadithas. Occasionally some of them were rejected because of their content, but more often when the sequence of witnesses could not be determined. Usually such sequences were roughly the following: "I was told it by so-and-so passing it on from someone else who had been told it by so-and-so, etc., and he heard the prophet said this". Then, after this introduction, came the haditha itself. The more respected and reliable the first witness was, i.e. one of the prophet's contemporaries, the more trustworthy the haditha was determined to be. And vice versa, if there was a witness who was not found reliable from a religious or moral point of view, the haditha was rejected as a fake.

His visits to the main cities of the Muslim world: Mecca, Medina Basra, Kufa, Cairo, Nishapur, Baghdad, and others took imam Al-Bukhary 40 years. When he stayed in Baghdad, where many theologians lived, he was required to undergo a test. The theologians read him hadithas intentionally out of order, and he corrected them immediately. By that time, he knew by heart 600 thousand hadithas and passed the test. Imam Al-Bukhary devoted all of his life to collecting hadithas. He heard hadithas from more than a thousand sheikhs, and he himself wrote down 200 thousand hadithas from his teachers and researchers. From this vast ocean of hadithas (800 thousand) he picked out as the most trustworthy only 7397. They make up his book "As-Sahih", which became the most popular among all other collections.

After his 40 year-long travels, Imam AI-Bukhariy returned to Bukhara. At the time Bukhara was one of the most progressive towns of Central Asia, in terms of politics, economy, and culture. During the rule of the Samanids, many palaces, mosques, mausoleums, and madrassahs were built in Bukhara. It is very probable that in the 9th century there were advanced educational establishments as well. There was also a great book bazaar in Bukhara. The Bukhara of the Samanids was famous for its library, in the Emir's palace. Only one library in Shiraz could compete with it in all of Central Asia

Upon his return to Bukhara, the Imam was greeted with rejoicing and showered with money. He gathered thousand of followers around him and in the name of Allah, i.e. free of charge, taught them hadithas.

Such famous theologians as Imam Muslim and Imam Termeziy were his disciples.

But some people were envious of Al-Bukhary's popularity. They told lies about the Imam to the ruler of Bukhara, Khamid ibn Akhmad Zakhri. The Emir called Al-Bukhariy to the palace and ordered him to teach two of the Emir's sons hadithas. This order made the Imam angry and he refused to go to the palace. He explained his refusal with the words: "Knowledge shouldn't go to students, students should come to knowledge". The Emir reacted with an order for the Imam to leave the town within 2 days. Al-Bukhariy decided to travel to Samarkand but didn't reach it. On the way he stayed in the village of Khortang, where some of his relatives and followers lived. There the imam fell ill and died. His death occurred in 870 and he was buried in the village of Khortang.

The great popularity of "As-Sahih" makes the Imam's burial place worth making pilgrimages to.

Since the 9thc. Muslims have made hajj to the Imam's tomb. Near the tomb, a small mosque was built. The mosque was demolished twice to be replaced with a newer version. The final mosque, now standing, was built in the 16th century.

Today, this place is one of the most revered spots, not only in Uzbekistan, but in the whole of Central Asia, and many Muslim countries.

In 1974, the religious activists of the whole world celebrated the 1200th anniversary of Imam Al-Bukhary. In the same year, the book "Sahih AI-Bukhary" was published in Tashkent, a minaret was built, and the Imam's tomb restored.


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