Compiling the Ṣaḥīḥ: al-Bukhārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ in its Context

The study of al-Bukhārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ in modern scholarship has thus far lacked a full analysis of the process of its compilation and the context in which the work emerged. In this paper Dr Abu-Alabbas examines the social, political, and intellectual contexts in which al-Bukhārī compiled the Ṣaḥīḥ. He employs a historical and textual analysis of the work in relation to al-Bukhārī’s career and demonstrates how the tarājim (chapter-headings) of the Ṣaḥīḥ can help us detect contextual influence in the work. He argues that al-Bukhārī’s relocation to Transoxiana, debating Ahl al-raʾy, influenced his thinking, leading him to adopt some of his opponents’ views as this tends to surface in the concluding sections in the work. While relying on history and rijāl works in order to examine the contextual background, he also analyses works by al-Bukhārī such as his Khalq afʿāl al-ʿibād and Rafʿ al-yadayn fi al-ṣalāh. Dr Abu Alabbas concludes that the text of the Ṣaḥīḥ reflects a chronological progress over nearly two decades of al-Bukhārī’s career, leading to its completion about eight years before his death in 256/870.

Dr Belal Abu-Alabbas’ main research interests include Islamic law and legal theory, the hadith corpus, and the formative period of Islamic history. Among his publications are “The Principles of Hadith Criticism in the Writings of al-Shāfiʿī and Muslim,” Islamic Law and Society 24(4), pp. 311–335; and his book, Modern Hadith Studies: Continued Debates and New Approaches (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019) co-edited with Christopher Melchert and Michael Dann.