Sahih-e-Bukhari: A debate on its reliability

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A group of Muslims accuse the Shias of being misguided, as among other so-called deviations, Shias reject the most authentic book of the Sunnis – Sahih-e-Bukhari.

While we do not wish to delve on the reliability or lack thereof of Sahih-e-Bukhari at this stage, we believe this is a perfect case of the kettle calling the pot black.

The question these Muslims need to ask themselves is whether they themselves believe in Sahih-e-Bukhari. If indeed the book is the most authentic book of the Sunnis after the Holy Quran and among its so-called ‘sisters’, then why do we find so many traditions of the Sahih-e-Bukhari being summarily rejected by these Muslims. And yet they have the audacity of accusing Shias of rejecting it. Maybe if they themselves believed in Sahih-e-Bukhari, their accusations would have some merit and make the Shias look at the book more closely. It is the rejection of these Muslims of their own most reliable source that makes the Shias reject Sahih-e-Bukhari.

كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّهِ أَن تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ

It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.’ (Surah Saff (61): Verse 3)

Our claim that Sunnis reject Sahih-e-Bukhari might sound absurd to some Muslims. After all, Sahih-e-Bukhari is the most authentic book of the Sunnis and is widely quoted on matters of beliefs, jurisprudence (fiqh), history and ethics.

The point over here is whether Muslims believe in all traditions of Sahih-e-Bukhari or just carefully select the ones that suit their objectives and gloss over the ones that go against their view. If indeed Sahih-e-Bukhari is the sister of the Quran according to these Muslims, all traditions of the book must be accepted regardless of whether they go in their favour or against them. After all, we believe in the Quran in toto and don’t take verses that suit our objectives and reject the others. Likewise, its sister (Sahih-e-Bukhari) must be meted the same level of acceptance by the Muslims.

An engaging debate between a great Shia scholar with a Sunni scholar will prove our point.

Debate between Shaikh Bahai and a Sunni scholar

During his journey to Egypt Shaikh Bahai got acquainted with a Sunni scholar who was antagonistic towards the Ahle Bait (a.s). Given the environment of Egypt and its hostility towards Shias and the Ahle Bait (a.s.), this was not altogether surprising and it only made the Shaikh careful about protecting his own identity as a Shia.

The Sunni scholar got close to Shaikh Bahai and among other subjects they discussed the Shias, who the Sunni scholar referred to as Raafizis (deniers of the Sunni caliphs). Shaikh Bahai, who for all practical purposes posed as a person following the Sunnah (Sunni) used to tell the Sunni scholar that in Mecca he had opportunities of interacting with the Shia Raafizis. On this the Sunni scholar told him that the faith of the Rafizis was absolutely wrong and that they didn’t have any proof for the veracity of their beliefs. He asked Shaikh Bahai if he was able to convince any of the Raafizis.

Shaikh Bahai informed him that he tried hard to convince them, but in the end they would pose a question to him that overturned all his arguments. The Sunni scholar asked in surprise that being such a learned scholar why he wasn’t able to suitably answer their question. To this Shaikh Bahai replied:

During our debates they would challenge that in Sahih-e-Bukhari there is a tradition where the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had said:

Fatima (s.a.) is a part of me, one who troubles her has troubled me!

Shaikh Bahai told the Sunni scholar that the Shias in Mecca told him that there were certain personalities on whom there is Allah’s curse as they had troubled Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and she departed from the world unhappy with these persons. There was a tradition to this effect in the Sahih-e-Bukhari five pages after the previous tradition. Due to this argument Shaikh Bahai was helpless in countering the Shias in Mecca.

The Sunni scholar countered – They are liars! There is nothing like this in Sahih-e-Bukhari! Tonight I will read the book and rebut their objection by the morning

The next morning the Sunni scholar approached Shaikh Bahai and said – I told you the Shia Rafizis are blatant liars. They said that the second tradition is after five pages from the first tradition. They are wrong; it is after seven pages from the first tradition. Saying he left as if he had scored a victory over the Shias!

(Both the traditions are sourced from Sahih-e-Bukhari, vol. 4, Book of Initiation of Creation, Chapter of the Excellence of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Relatives, Chapter of Fatima’s (s.a.) Virtues)

Now there will be some who will deny this debate accusing the Shias of concocting it. While the debate is real, even if one were to treat it as a fabrication, the two traditions under question from Sahih-e-Bukhari are very real and by no means a fabrication.

Defending Abu Bakr in a lost cause

Of course not all Sunni scholars are like the Egyptian counterpart of Shaikh Bahai, who rejected the tradition of Sahih-e-Bukhari outright. These Sunni scholars know that Abu Bakr is in a corner by rejecting the claim of Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and incurring her displeasure and in this way being the subject of Allah’s and the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) eternal displeasure. They have tried to defend Abu Bakr by countering that Abu Bakr did not want to conclude the matter on the testimony of a lone individual although he was personally convinced about the witness’s honesty in this regard. (Sharh al-Mawaaqif vol 8, pg 356 by Al-Jurjani).

Again these scholars are trapped by their ignorance of Sahih-e-Bukhari underscoring that Sunni scholars themselves haven’t studied the book in detail else they would not be making such fundamental errors in interpretations of laws.

In the 3rd volume of Sahih Bukhari pg 143 there is an incident wherein the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) concluded a matter on the lone testimony of Abdullah b. Umar.

Are the scholars going all out to defend Abu Bakr implying that Abu Bakr was more cautious than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Abdullah b. Umar was a more reliable witness than Fatima Zahra (s.a.)?

Why was it not important to tread the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in this regard and accept the lone testimony of Fatima (s.a.) or Ali b. Abi Taalib (a.s.)?

Is following the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) an option that one exercises depending on what suits his own interests?

In conclusion

The aforementioned traditions highlight some important points most conclusive in nature since no less a book than Sahih-e-Bukhari has recorded them:

1. Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) was displeased with the Shaikhain (Abu Bakr and Umar) and never spoke to them ever again after the talks on Fadak failed. Therefore to conclude everything was hunky dory between her (s.a.) and Shaikhain is false. The Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) household of which Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) was the most important member along with Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) did not have a good rapport with the companions and were displeased with them.

2. Not only Lady Fatima (s.a.), even the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was displeased with the Shaikhain as the tradition clearly states one who displeases Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) has incurred the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) displeasure.

3. Allah Himself is displeased with the Shaikhain as the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was displeased with them both as Allah declares in the 57th verse of Surah Ahzaab (33):

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا

Surely (as for) those who displease Allah and His Apostle, Allah has cursed them in this world and the hereafter, and He has prepared for them a chastisement bringing disgrace.

It is clear that Abu Bakr and Umar had displeased the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) by virtue of displeasing Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and in this way also incurred Allah’s Displeasure according to the aforementioned verse.

4. Some have erroneously, rather deliberately, concluded that in the matter of Fadak, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was not upset with Abu Bakr and Umar and remained silent out of respect for Lady Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and patched up relations with them after her demise. This mischievous interpretation is another attempt to distort the truth and is wrong on several counts the most important one being that when Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.a.) both of who are superior to Ali (a.s.) are displeased on a matter (Abu Bakr and Umar), it does not behove even a common Muslim to take a contrarian stand, let alone Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) whose sense of judgement between truth and falsehood was a benchmark for the nation.

Also, these Muslims conceal the fact that Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) was the foremost witness to testify that Fadak was Lady Fatima’s (s.a.) property and his testimony was summarily rejected on the ground that he was her (s.a.) husband. Likewise, testimonies of Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace be upon them) were also rejected. Under the circumstances, it is absurd to suggest that Imam Ali (a.s.) was pleased with Abu Bakr and Umar when the two had branded his entire family including him as liars unfit to provide a simple testimony in a property dispute in contravention of Ayat-e-Tatheer (Surah Ahzaab (33): Verse 33.

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