As a child, he had memorized over seventy thousand Ahadeeth without the aid of pen or paper; such was the fame of the young Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail Al-Bukhari.
Allah (swt) had blessed him with an amazing memory; the greatest evidence of this is his book of Ahadeeth an-Nabawi, commonly known as Sahih Al-Bukhari. It is universally acknowledged as the most authentic book after the Holy Quran.
Born in Bukhara (present day Uzbekistan), his father passed away during his infancy. Imam Bukhari became blind at a young age; it was his mother’s entreaties to Allah (swt), which led to the restoration of his eyesight. She then set him in the direction of attaining knowledge, which would benefit him and the rest of the world even today.
After acquiring his elementary education at the age of ten, Al-Bukhari obtained admission in the Hadeeth class of Bukhara. A year later, he had such a good retention of the text and chains of transmission of Ahadeeth that sometimes teachers got their corrections from him!
At the age of sixteen, he had memorized the books of learned companions of Imam Abu Haneefah. Then at eighteen, he visited Makkah for further education and later travelled to cities far and wide for the transmission of Ahadeeth. He gained immense knowledge.
Hashid ibn Ismail states: “Imam Bukhari used to go with us to the scholars of Basra to listen to Ahadeeth. All of us used to write Ahadeeth down, except Imam Bukhari. After sixteen days, we thought about it and we condemned Imam Bukhari saying that he had wasted so many days work by not writing down Ahadeeth. Imam Bukhari asked us to bring our notes to him. So we all brought our notes, upon which Imam Bukhari began to read Ahadeeth one by one from the top of his head, until he narrated to us more than fifteen thousand! Hearing these, it seemed that Imam Bukhari was re-teaching us all of the Ahadeeth we had noted.”
His own students bore witness that Al-Bukhari would wake up around twenty times every night to mark Ahadeeth. Furthermore, he would perform Salaat-ul-Istikara before recording each Hadeeth.
People would flock to the Masjid in Basra to learn from this Sheikh, who was often found in humble prayer. Yet, he remained a simple and hard working person. He fulfilled his needs himself and even laid bricks to construct an inn near Bukhara, hoping that: “On the Day of Judgment, this act will be of benefit to me.”
Imam Bukhari’s generosity extended beyond sharing knowledge. He often gave vast sums of money as Sadaqah and would spend his entire month’s earnings on his students. He also avoided backbiting and suspicion and once said: “I am hopeful that when I meet my Lord, He will not take account of me because I never backbite.”
Imam Bukhari died on the night of Eid-ul-Fitr 256 AH. He was around 62 years old. A scholar, worshipper, and a prosperous man, he always feared Allah and shone with the love of the Messenger (sa). From Salah to fasting, the Muslim Ummah realizes, how indebted it is to Imam Bukhari for furnishing us with the necessary details of going about our daily acts of worship. He compiled and circulated the Ahadeeth of the Prophet (sa) wherever possible and Allah (swt) spread his status to every corner of the world.