Lesson From Bukhari Shareef

  كتاب العلم

The Book of Knowledge 

Imam Bukhari started his book with the Chapter of Wahy, followed it with the Chapter of Iman and then with the Chapter of knowledge. The reasons for starting with the Chapter of Wahy have already been discussed in that chapter. After Wahy, the Iman is the basis of whole Deen, regarding both the beliefs as well as the deeds. After obtaining Iman, one has to know the things related to it, and in order to follow them as per Shari’ah he needs to have knowledge. That is why Imam Bukhari followed the Chapter of Iman with that of knowledge. There exists a debate amongst the scholars whether the knowledge is axiomatic (self-evident)بديهي  or speculative ظني . Qadhi Ibn al-Arabi and Imam Razi are of the opinion that knowledge is axiomatic, hence does not need any definition, whereas Imam Ghazali says that knowledge is speculative and accepts specificationتعديد  Mulla Ali Qari says that the knowledge is a Noor (light) that is borrowed from the niche of the Prophet-hoodمشكاة نبوة  of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). Allah puts it in the Qalb of a believer by which hidden things get manifest for him.

  بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم باب فَضْلِ الْعِلْمِ

 وَقَوْلِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى  يَرْفَعِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ 

 وَقَوْلِهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ  رَبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًا .

Chapter 1 : In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. The excellence of knowledge.

And the saying of Allah: “Allah will exalt, in degree those of you who believe and who have been granted knowledge. And Allah is aware of what you do (58:11)

And the statement of Allah Ta’ala: My Lord, Increase me in knowledge (20:114) 

Virtues of knowledge

Imam Bukhari has started with virtues or excellences of knowledge rather than the true state or actualityحقائق  of knowledge. Qadhi Ibn Arabi says that it is because Imam Bukhari believes that the knowledge is so evident that it does not need any definition, and secondly he is not discussing the actuality of things in this book. Imam Bukhari has quoted two verses of the Holy Qur’an in this Baab and has not mentioned any Hadith under this Baab. The verses are:

يَرْفَع الله الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ والَّذِينَ أُوتُوا العِلْمَ دَرَجَاتٍ والله بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبيْرٌ

Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do. (58:11)

رَبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْماً

Increase me in knowledge (20:114)

By quoting these two verses, Imam Bukhari intends to prove the significance and excellence of knowledge. In the first verse Allah Ta’ala says that ‘He raises the status of a believer’ and then specifically mentions the raising of the status of those who have knowledge - thereby establishing the excellence of these people over those who do not have knowledge. In the second verse Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is asked to invoke for increase in his knowledge, this also proves the excellence of acquiring knowledge, otherwise Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) would not have been directed to ask for something that is not excellent. 

Knowledge means the knowledge of Shari’ah

Knowledge here means the knowledge of the Shari’ah. Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

 فَأَعْرِضْ عَمَّنْ تَوَلَّى عَنْ ذِكْرِنَا وَلَمْ يُرِدْ إِلَّا الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا () ذَلِكَ مَبْلَغُهُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ ضَلَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اهْتَدَى()

Therefore turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder and does not desire anything but this world's life. That is their goal of knowledge; surely your Lord knows best him who goes astray from His path and He knows best him who follows the right direction. (53:29,30)Knowledge is of various kinds, viz., Fardh (obligatory), Wajib, Sunnat, Mubah (permissible) and Haram (forbidden). The worldly knowledge that benefits humanity like medicine, mathematics, physics, chemistry etc. is permissible in Islam, whereas the knowledge that is harmful to humanity like sorcery, witchcraft etc. is Haram (forbidden). The knowledge that is neither useful nor harmful like some of the subjects taught these days at university level are useless to humanity, hence not liked by Islam.Allaama Ibn Abdul Barr has quoted a Hadith in Jamia Bayaanul Ilm on the authority of Abdullah bin Umar (RA):

عن عبد الله ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ألعلم ثلاثة فما سوى ذالك فهو فضل آية محكمة و سنة قائمة و فريضة عاذلة

Rasulullah said, “Knowledge is either the verses of Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Fareedha Aadila and anything beyond these is extra”. 

Non-Citation of Hadith in this Baab

The scholars of Hadith give different explanations for this. Some say that Imam Bukhari did not get any Hadith that fulfilled his criterion for this Baab. Others say that Imam Bukhari had first written the titles of the chapters (i.e., Tarjamatul Baab), and forgot to write Hadith under this Baab. Ibn Hajr says that Imam Bukhari believed that these two verses were self explanatory, hence enough for this Baab. And Allah knows the best. 

باب : مَنْ سُئِلَ عِلْماً وَهوَ مُشْتَغِلٌ فِي حَدِيثِهِ فَأتَمَّ الحَدِيثَ ثُمَّ أجابَ السَّائِلَ

Chapter 2: That who was asked about knowledge while he was busy in some conversation and completed his talk before answering the questioner. 

Purpose of Tarjamatul Baab

In the previous Baab the increase or advancement in knowledge was mentioned, and in this Baab, the method for achieving the same is mentioned. The best way for achieving knowledge is to ask questions to the learned persons (i.e., Ulema). Knowledge is the name of question and answer, and it is said that ‘a good question is half the knowledge’ -حسن السئوال نصف العلم . In this Baab the etiquettes pertaining to the student and the teacher are taught. Allah Ta’ala says:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لا تَعْلَمُونَ

“If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message” (16:43) 

Hadith No. 58

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ سِنَانٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا فُلَيْحٌ ح وَحَدَّثَنِى إِبْرَاهِيمُ بْنُ الْمُنْذِرِ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ فُلَيْحٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنِى أَبِى قَالَ حَدَّثَنِى هِلاَلُ بْنُ عَلِىٍّ عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ يَسَارٍ عَنْ أَبِى هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ بَيْنَمَا النَّبِىُّ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فِى مَجْلِسٍ يُحَدِّثُ الْقَوْمَ جَاءَهُ أَعْرَابِىٌّ فَقَالَ مَتَى السَّاعَةُ فَمَضَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - يُحَدِّثُ ، فَقَالَ بَعْضُ الْقَوْمِ سَمِعَ مَا قَالَ ، فَكَرِهَ مَا قَالَ ، وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ بَلْ لَمْ يَسْمَعْ ، حَتَّى إِذَا قَضَى حَدِيثَهُ قَالَ  أَيْنَ - أُرَاهُ - السَّائِلُ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ  . قَالَ هَا أَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ . قَالَ  فَإِذَا ضُيِّعَتِ الأَمَانَةُ فَانْتَظِرِ السَّاعَةَ  . قَالَ كَيْفَ إِضَاعَتُهَا قَالَ  إِذَا وُسِّدَ الأَمْرُ إِلَى غَيْرِ أَهْلِهِ فَانْتَظِرِ السَّاعَةَ . 

Narrated Abu Huraira (RA)

“While the Prophet was saying something in a gathering, a Bedouin came and asked him, "When would the Hour (Doomsday) take place?" Allah's Apostle continued his talk, so some people said that Allah's Apostle had heard the question, but did not like what that Bedouin had asked. Some of them said that Allah’s Apostle had not heard it. When the Prophet finished his speech, he said, "Where is the questioner, who enquired about the Hour (Doomsday)?" The Bedouin said, "I am here, O Allah’s Apostle." Then the Prophet said, "When trust is lost, then wait for the Hour (Doomsday)." The Bedouin said, "How will that be lost?" The Prophet said, "When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour (Doomsday.)" 


A Bedouin comes to Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and asks him a question about the Day of Judgment at a time when he was addressing the people. He (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) did not answer him immediately. Here the question arises, when should one answer a question? If the question is about the beliefs or is time related then one should answer it immediately. Once Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was delivering a sermon (khutba) and someone came and asked something about Deen, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stopped his sermon and first answered this person as his question was about a more important matter i.e., about his belief. But here in this particular Hadith under discussion, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was busy in more important issue than the question of the inquirer, that is why Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) didn’t answer him immediately. In answering the question one has to keep many things in mind - like the nature of question, the condition of inquirer, whether he is a local or from far off place and further the teacher should assess the overall scenario and then decide the timing and nature of the answer. 

Display of Politeness

In this Hadith, we see that a Bedouin asks his question in a crude manner, and does not wait for Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) to finish his talk. At the same time, we see that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) politely calls him in the end, answers his question and does not show any kind of anger to him. This act of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is a guideline of politeness that a teacher is supposed to show if he is questioned. 

Clarification for not understanding

The Bedouin in this Hadith asks the clarification as to how would honesty be lost. This shows that a Student should ask for clarification if he does not understand the answer. 

Suitable Answer

The Bedouin asked about the Day of Judgment and Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) told him the signs of that day. This means that a teacher should only answer what he thinks is suitable for the inquirer.

The Meaning of Trust -أمانة

It is said that the trust here means the same trust, which is mentioned in this verse of the Qur’an,

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَنْ يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنْسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولً

اWe did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish. (33:72 )

When this trust was offered to the heavens, earth, mountains etc.; all these realized their capabilities and found that they were unable to hold this trust. When it was offered to man, he did not look at his capability but set his eyes on the One Who was offering it, i.e., Allah (SWT), and thus accepted it as a true lover. That is why the Qur’an said – ‘he is unjust and foolish (as regards to his self)’ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولا Others say that this trust is the seed of Iman (faith). It is because of this seed of faith that one is able to do justice with every job one is supposed to do. Higher the grade of Iman, higher will be his ability to do justice. 

Timing of the Day of Judgement

"When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour (Doomsday.)"Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was asked about the timing of the Day of Judgment, since Allah alone knows that, so he only told the Bedouin the sign that points towards the nearness of that day. He told the Bedouin that when dishonest and untrustworthy people will be handed over the charge of administration, then it is the time to wait for the Day of Judgment. 

Why Imam Bukhari quoted this Hadith in this chapter

In this Hadith it is said that when the administration is handed over to dishonest and unfit people, that will be a sign of the nearness of Doomsday. Ibn Hajr says that this will take place only when the knowledge (of Deen) are lifted from the world, and only ignorant people will remain there in the world and no scholars of Deen is left. That is why this Hadith has been quoted in this chapter.