Translated by Husain Patel

Translator’s note: Below is a translation of an excerpt from an Urdu article by Mawlana Nur al-Hasan Rashid Kandhlawi ((Born in 1370 AH / 1950 CE, Mawlana Nur al-Hasan Rashid Kandhlawi is a renowned scholar and researcher from Kandhla, India. His father, Mawlana Iftikhar al-Hasan Kandhlawi (1340 – 1440 AH / 1922 – 2019 CE), was a khalifah of Mawlana ‘Abd al-Qadir Raipuri and a student and brother-in-law of both Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi and Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi. They descend from the great Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh (d. 1245 AH), from whose descendants there have been many notable people of knowledge and piety. Mawlana Nur al-Hasan graduated from Mazahir al-‘Ulum, Saharanpur, where his main teacher was Mawlana Muhammad Yunus Jaunpuri. He also attended some private hadith lessons from Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi himself, who had by then ceased his hadith lectures in Mazahir al-‘Ulum. (Translator) )) on the services of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri ((Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri (1225 – 1297 AH / 1810 – 1880 CE) was one of India’s foremost scholars of hadith in his time. His teachers included Mufti Ilahi Bakhsh Kandhlawi, Mawlana Mamluk al-‘Ali Nanautwi and Shah Muhammad Ishaq Dihlawi, the latter of whom he spent two years with in Makkah. He is the first person to ever print a critical edition of Sahih al-Bukhari, completing it in 1270 AH (1853 CE). He also published critical editions of Sahih Muslim with Imam al-Nawawi’s commentary, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawud, Muwatta Malik, Mishkat al-Masabih, Taqrib al-Tahdhib and many other important hadith-related texts. This was all done from his printing press, Matba‘ Ahmadi, which was founded by his teacher Mawlana Wajih al-Din Saharanpuri in Delhi in 1260 AH (1844 CE) and then passed into Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s care, before being moved to Meerut. After returning to Saharanpur, he taught hadith for over three decades from his home and at Mazahir al-‘Ulum, for which he was one of the founding fathers. He was also asked to lay the first brick for the building of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband. Among his students were Haji Imdadullah Makki, Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi, Mawlana Muhammad Ya‘qub Nanautwi, Mawlana Shibli Nu‘mani, Mawlana Muhammad ‘Ali Mungeri and Pir Mehr ‘Ali Shah.  (Translator) )) to the field of hadith, titled ‘Hadrat Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri ki Khidmat-i-Hadith.’ The article was contributed to a seminar held in March 2007 at Jami‘ah Islamiyyah, Muzaffarpur (Azamgarh, India), on the topic of the sciences of hadith in the Indian subcontinent during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The seminar was held under the auspices of Mawlana Dr Taqi al-Din Nadwi and all of the contributions were then published in a book titled, ‘Hindustan awr ‘Ilm-i-Hadith: Tairhwi awr Chawdhwi Sadi Hijri Mai’ (India and the Science of Hadith in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries Hijri). The article was also published in Al-Shariq, a magazine under the supervision of Mawlana Taqi al-Din Nadwi, in 2008 (1429 AH).

After the Holy Qur’an, Sahih al-Bukhari is the most important, distinguished, high-ranking and reliable authority for the Muslim Ummah. It holds the honour and distinction of being the most authentic book after the Book of Allah. Sahih al-Bukhari is the foremost book to be consulted for every facet of the blessed prophetic life, every aspect of religious duty and worship and all religious dealings and matters. Needless to say, for such an extraordinarily prestigious book that is so fundamental for the Ummah’s rulings and beliefs, verifying and cross-referencing its text and selecting the most accurate wording is vital. Furthermore, it is undoubtedly necessary to unravel its subtleties and finer points, to resolve intricate and vague elements and to expound its purport and content as far as possible.

Editing the text of Sahih al-Bukhari is more important, delicate and significant in comparison to editing and composing other books. For this purpose, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri undertook all of the efforts and arrangements that such an immense task warrants. The version that he chose as his base text (asl) was the one produced by ‘Allamah al-Yunini. ((This refers to the widely-acclaimed manuscript prepared by the great 8th century hadith expert, Imam Abu l-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Yunini (d. 701 AH), which was cross-referenced with several other reliable manuscripts and the variations were meticulously recorded. The great grammarian, Imam Ibn Malik (d. 672 AH), also took part in this project which spanned dozens of gatherings. The author of this article does not mean that Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali had the original Yunini manuscript itself. As was the case in the days before printing presses, scholars and students would make their own copies (furu‘) of such authoritative manuscripts. One such copy of the Yunini manuscript was by a later hadith master, ‘Abdullah ibn Salim al-Basri (d. 1134 AH) of Makkah, who also invested many years in cross-referencing and revising his version further. This Basri manuscript was the basis for Shah Waliyyullah’s (d. 1176) copy, which in turn was used by his great-grandson, Shah Muhammad Ishaq Dihlawi, to prepare his own copy. It was Shah Muhammad Ishaq’s manuscript that was acquired by Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali, his student, as the basis for this edition. Another crucial connection that his edition has with the Yunini manuscript is that he also used Irshad al-Sari for cross-referencing, which is a commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari by Imam al-Qastallani (d. 923 AH / 1517 CE) in which he used the original Yunini manuscript directly for verifying the text of the Sahih. (Translator) )) He did not only emend and print this version, but in order to properly reconstruct its text, he also made use of other manuscripts of al-Firabri’s recension ((Imam Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Firabri (d. 320 AH) was the student of Imam al-Bukhari through whom the Sahih has most popularly been transmitted. The most notable non-Yunini manuscript that Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali had access to was one that noted textual variants from the manuscript of Imam Radi al-Din al-Saghani (650 AH / 1252 CE), who had access to a manuscript which had been recited to Imam al-Firabri himself and had his handwriting on it. For this reason, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s edition included certain wordings and textual variants that no other commentator had mentioned. See Mawlana Taqi al-Din Nadwi’s introduction to his reprint of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s edition and annotations.  (Translator) )) of Sahih al-Bukhari that have been produced by other esteemed hadith experts. In total, he collated 19 notable manuscripts of Sahih al-Bukhari for this purpose, which he has listed in his introduction. ((What this means is that in his introduction he has assigned 19 abbreviations to denote the manuscripts that are the sources of the textual variants that he has noted in his edition. There are actually only 17 manuscripts in this list, as one of these abbreviations is for ‘the majority’ and, in one case, he has mistakenly used two different abbreviations for the same source (Ibn Hammuyah al-Sarakhsi). This also does not mean that he had all 17 of these manuscripts for cross-referencing, but rather that the ones he did use noted textual variants from these 17. Besides these 17, there are some more abbreviations that he uses that he has not defined in the introduction, perhaps because he was unaware of who they specifically referred to, but saw them referenced in the manuscripts. Altogether, he had 10 main manuscripts in front of him for cross-referencing, as he mentions in his footnotes just before hadith number 74. (Translator) ))

The differences that the Mawlana found between these manuscripts and his own base text were all included in his critical edition in a way that every variation in words or narrations were noted in the margin with complete clarity and proper referencing. If any wording had been preferred by a particular scholar or is unique to one particular manuscript then this has also been noted and referenced. In the event of any wording being found in two or more manuscripts, they have all been mentioned separately, with references, in one place. If any wording is such that multiple copyists have all chosen it [in their manuscripts], but the Mawlana himself prefers an alternative wording through analysing supporting evidences, then that is also mentioned.

Through this painstaking diligence, this version of Sahih al-Bukhari via the narration of al-Firabri that was produced by Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali came to include the merits of the all of the versions [that he used for cross-referencing] as well as document their textual variants, such that further revision or refinement is not needed. ((The fact that Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s edition is the best has also been attested to by Dr Ahmad Faris al-Sallum in his introduction to al-Mukhtasar al-Nasih, where he considered it to be even better than the famed Amiri print that was printed from Amiri Press, Bulaq (Cairo), in 1313 AH (1895 CE), after being prepared by a committee of scholars upon the decree of Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid. Besides Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s expertise and diligence, a key factor that gives so much value to his edition is his access to many crucial manuscripts, most notably a version of the Saghani manuscript, as mentioned above. (Translator) )) The features of all nineteen manuscripts that were in front of the Mawlana have been assimilated and absorbed in a way that they are all are reflected in his critical edition. Moreover, there are other additional supplements to the text that make it not just an authentic representation of these nineteen manuscripts, but also granting it its own distinctive merit.

Just like morning dew on the branches of a flower. [Iqbal]

Some supplements to aid with understanding the text

Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali did not stop at emending the text of Sahih al-Bukhari, he also adopted as many other means that he could to make it as beneficial and reader-friendly as possible. One such instance is where the notable manuscripts or commentators of Sahih al-Bukhari vary with regards to selecting a particular wording or the inclusion or exclusion of a part of it. That is to say, some words of the text or of a narration may be included by some manuscripts, but not by the others; or the commentators of Sahih al-Bukhari may have mentioned a variation in terms of the inclusion or exclusion of some words or in the order of some of the text. In such cases, the Mawlana would write [the conjoined Arabic letters] sad and ha at the beginning and end of that text. ((This is an abbreviation for ‘sahih’ (correct) that was commonly written by copyists above a portion of the text to indicate that they were aware of other textual variants for this part, but concluded that the one they chose was correct. Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali explains in his introduction that he would write it on top of a word to signify that manuscripts differ in including that word and that he judged its inclusion to be more correct. Whereas, when he preferred to exclude a particular part, he wrote this abbreviation in between the words at the place where other manuscripts include it. (Translator) ))

This is not the only explanatory feature in the Mawlana’s work. He has also used other symbols and abbreviations for clarifying various things, such as symbols for denoting items that are grammatically conjoined (‘atf and matuf alayh) or related, as well as prepositional phrases (jar and majrur). ((Other abbreviations are also used, as Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali has explained towards the end of the twentieth chapter of his introduction. (Translator) )) All possible steps have been taken to prevent the reader falling into error.

Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri’s Annotations (Hashiyah): Features and Methodology

Upon producing the complete version of a text, the most important task is to provide clarity to the parts that are subtle and vague, to unravel the finer academic and technical points and to explain and expound on relevant topics of discussion. Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali, who was familiar with the vastness and depths of this shoreless sea, intended to accomplish this as well as he could, writing extremely comprehensive annotations ((On the comprehensiveness of the annotations, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi says that a beginner student of Sahih al-Bukhari who studies them with reflection will not need any other commentary (see the introduction to Al-Kanz al-Mutawari 1:474). (Translator) )) on the entire book (with the likely exception of the last three parts). ((This is a reference to the fact that these latter parts were believed to be annotated by Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi. Mawlana Nur al-Hasan (the author of this article) has mentioned elsewhere that Mawlana Nanautwi’s annotations begin from the chapter titled al-Muharibin (after hadith number 6801 according to Muhammad Fu’ad ‘Abd al-Baqi’s numbering). This was the conclusion of Mawlana Muhammad Yunus Jaunpuri, based on certain stylistic changes in the annotations after this point (see Qasim al-Ulum Hadrat Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi: Ahwal-o-Athar wa Baqiyat-o-Mutalliqat by Mawlana Nur al-Hasan). However, both Mawlana Yunus Jaunpuri and Mawlana Nur al-Hasan thereafter changed their stance to all of the annotations being by Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri himself. Mufti Taqi Usmani is also of this opinion. For more details, see Muntasir Zaman’s Hadith Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri and the Canonical Hadith Literature. (Translator) ))

The Mawlana’s methodology seems to be that he would first identify the parts that require commentary and explanation. Then, after consulting all available commentaries, books of hadith and relevant material, he would decide which scholar or commentator’s discourse was the most befitting for explaining that particular text. He would then select the passage from that book and write a footnote. For parts that did not demand a very detailed discussion, he wrote with brevity, while parts that required more clarification would be given a footnote of medium length or longer.

This annotating also had two styles: in some instances, he would write something from his own side whilst mentioning his sources and in others, when this would not be enough, he would opt for much more detailed footnotes [using extracts]. This detail would come in different forms. At times, he would cite concise but comprehensive extracts from two or more books in such a seamless manner that the entire relevant discourse would be fully reflected. Other times, he sufficed with one detailed extract from one book. Another style he adopted was to paraphrase a lengthy passage of up to four pages from a commentator. He would then carefully extract its gems so as to summarise it as much as possible without losing any of the core subject matter. This was a special quality of the Mawlana which is demonstrated in hundreds of places in the footnotes of Sahih al-Bukhari. When he only intended to direct the reader to a particular discussion from a book or commentary, he would not cover all of the points within that passage nor quote from it, sufficing instead with lightly touching upon the topic in his own words and mentioning the reference at the end.

One salient feature of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s annotations is that he has abstained from making it too wordy. He only adds a footnote, brief or detailed, where it will actually aid in properly interpreting the text or where it is hoped that it will untangle something complex. It was not the mawlana’s habit to annotate at unsuitable places. Along with this, he was also attentive to avoid repeating a discussion in more than one place as far as possible. To this end, he would only insert a footnote at that specific part of the text that needs it the most. If the same text had already appeared elsewhere, but in a secondary context [not as the focal point], then there will not have been a lengthy footnote at that place. Instead, he will have written that this discussion will come under such and such a chapter, sometimes even mentioning page numbers. Then, when the suitable place arrives for the explanation, he will write a footnote in accordance with his principles and methodology and also clarify that though that point may have come before, the appropriate place to actually discuss it is here. If ever that topic appears again in the text after this, then he would direct the reader to the earlier chapter wherein it had been resolved, citing the chapter title.

Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s sources in his annotations

In the introduction, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali has provided a list of the books that he consulted whilst authoring his annotations, which consists of sixty-five books, including eleven commentaries of Sahih al-Bukhari and six more hadith commentaries for Mishkat al-Masabih and al-Muwatta of Imam Malik. ((That is, five for Mishkat al-Masabih and one for al-Muwatta. There are actually two commentaries listed for al-Muwatta; the other being for Imam Muhammad’s recension of it. (Translator) )) However, we know that this is not an exhaustive list of all of his sources. This is not only because he ends the list by saying ‘and others’, but also because in the very first footnote of Sahih al-Bukhari he has cited a work which is not in the list. In this first footnote he cites a text from Shah Waliyyullah for a particular inference that he is making, but this text cannot be found in [Shah Waliyyullah’s] al-Musawwa, which is the only one of Shah Waliyyullah’s works mentioned in the reference list. Consequently, it can be said that there must also be other sources and references used by the Mawlana that he has not mentioned in his reference list.

Identifying the repetitions in Sahih al-Bukhari

One distinct habit of Imam al-Bukhari’s was to repeat a single hadith in multiple chapters due to the various rulings and inferences that could be deduced from this one hadith. Sometimes, one portion [of a hadith] is brought under one chapter and another portion of it in another. In such instances, not only general readers of Sahih al-Bukhari but sometimes even accomplished teachers and astute scholars have difficulty remembering all the details related to where, how and for which issue the Imam uses the hadith for evidence. For this, every time a portion of the hadith appears, it is necessary to mention the chapter and topic under which it or part of it has already appeared. Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali has taken care to point this out. For parts that have already passed, he will point it out saying: ‘this has passed in chapter so-and-so’; while for the portions that are yet to come, he says: ‘this will come in chapter so-and-so’. This has been observed from the first page to the last.

The first release of this edition of Sahih al-Bukhari

Upon completing the very arduous phase of verifying, annotating and cross-referencing the first volume ((The book was divided into two volumes, with the second one starting at Kitab al-Maghazi. (Translator) )) of Sahih al-Bukhari, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali turned his attention to its publication. The printing of the first volume began in [the publishing house] Matba‘ Sayyid al-Akhbar, Delhi, of Sayyid ‘Abd al-Ghafur (the brother of Sir Sayyid Ahmed) on 18th Jumada l-Akhir 1264 AH (May 1848 CE). However, the speed of printing was very slow. In six months (until Dhu l-Hijjah 1264 AH), only 184 pages were printed. Meanwhile, the edition of Sunan al-Tirmidhi that was prepared by Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali had been completed with annotations [ready for publication]. For this, after temporarily pausing his efforts of publishing Sahih al-Bukhari, the Mawlana had the publication of Sunan al-Tirmidhi started from Matba‘ al-‘Ulum, Delhi. While the publication of Sunan al-Tirmidhi was ongoing, arrangements were made at his own printing press, Matba‘ Ahmadi. Subsequently, both of the Mawlana’s projects on Sahih al-Bukhari and Sunan al-Tirmidhi were transferred to Matba‘ Ahmadi. In this way, the first publication of the first volume of Sahih al-Bukhari from Matba‘ Ahmadi was completed in Rajab 1267 AH (May 1851 CE). By this time, the publication of the second volume had also begun, which reached completion in Muharram 1270 AH (1853 CE). It should be noted that in the Islamic world, Sahih al-Bukhari was published for the first time 23 years after this publication, in 1292 CE. ((This is probably the oldest date of publication that the author of this article came across, though there were some before then. The earliest print for Sahih al-Bukhari in the Islamic world seems to have been in Egypt in 1279 AH (1862 or 1863 CE). The first print from outside the Islamic world also emerged at the same time by Brill, Leiden, from 1862 to 1868 (see Mujam al-Matbuat al-‘Arabiyyah wa l-Muarrabah by Joseph Elian Sarkis). Regardless, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri’s print was by far the earliest. (Translator) ))

Only 325 copies of this first edition were printed, with the expenses of printing each copy amounting to 18 rupees. Per part (juz`), 5 rupees 8 annas was fixed as the copyist’s wage, 3 rupees 12 annas was the price of the paper, 4 rupees 8 annas were spent on the printing and 12 annas on miscellaneous expenses. The selling price was fixed at 25 rupees which was quite a large amount for that time period. On average, 25 rupees was how much a household’s monthly expenditure would amount to in order to fare adequately. Despite this high price, the demand for Sahih al-Bukhari and buyers’ desire for it was such, that despite being well over most people’s spending power, it was sold out very quickly. Thus, it was likely the very same year that the need for a second print arose. After that, its publication and sale picked up such pace that within only ten years more than eight editions were released, not only from the Mawlana’s own printing press, but various others from Delhi, Bombay etc.

The complete revision of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s edition

Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali had started revising and rechecking the text from the time of its first publication. In the second release [of the first edition], which was mentioned earlier, an introduction had been added. ((This introduction consists of twenty-seven sections (fusul) on very useful issues relating to the book, its author and the sciences of hadith that are essential for a student of Sahih al-Bukhari to know. (Translator) )) The prints that followed, having been released by other scholars and printing presses, did not contain Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s corrections, additions or alterations, but it could not be that he would neglect the task that he had undertaken as his life’s ambition. However, before a revised edition containing all of his corrections additions or alterations could be printed, the movement of 1857 began, the brunt of which was also felt by the Mawlana’s printing press. All of its knowledge resources, copies of printed books and the Mawlana’s extremely valuable personal library were all destroyed – not a single book or paper remained. The Mawlana was in Saharanpur when this tragedy befell. There was no chance to return to Delhi for restarting the printing press. Nevertheless, the Mawlana’s deep connection with Sahih al-Bukhari remained as before. It was most likely at this time that the Mawlana restarted efforts on the Delhi edition. Scribal or typing errors that were in the first edition were corrected. The annotations were completely rechecked and some of the wording was modified. The references were researched and refined further while some footnotes and citations were added and others were removed.

Adding Rijal al-Bukhari

All of the publications of Sahih al-Bukhari until that point had not included any effort to acquaint [readers] with the narrators of Sahih al-Bukhari. In this [second] edition, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali added Rijal al-Bukhari, in which he gives a succinct profile of the narrators by mentioning their name, lineage, [ancestral or geographical] attribution (nisbah) and teknonym (kunyah), wherever needed. It probably was not completed at that time because [in this second edition] it is only found in the first half [of Sahih al-Bukhari] and not in the second half. The narrators’ biographies for the second half were added later, and were printed as a part of that edition of Sahih al-Bukhari that was printed by the mawlana’s intellectual successor, his eldest son Mawlana Habib al-Rahman, from Matba‘ Mustafa`i, Kanpur, in the year 1308 AH.

The release of the second edition (Meerut 1283 AH)

Amidst the chaos of 1857, Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s printing press, Matba‘ Ahmadi, Delhi, was completely destroyed, leaving no trace. However, since the project that was the primary function of this press was still incomplete, he re-established it in Meerut approximately eight years later, in the year 1282 AH (1865 CE) under the same original name, Matba‘ Ahmadi. Among the earliest productions of this press was his final revised edition of Sahih al-Bukhari. The printing of this edition began in 1282 AH and was completed in 1283 AH (1865 – 1866 CE). This is the print that was then reprinted by various printing presses countless times throughout India. The people of knowledge have widely acknowledged that the Matba‘ Mustafa`i (Kanpur) edition of 1308 AH (1891 CE) is the finest and most correct version [of the Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’ Saharnpuri edition]. After this, the Asahh al-Matabi‘ (Delhi) edition, published in 1357 AH (1938 CE) has been considered the best. These days, the Asahh al-Matabi‘ print is the one that generally gets reprinted [in India] and no further efforts have been made on the typesetting or revision of the text [in these reprints]. It should be pointed out at this juncture that Hall al-Lughat and Shah Waliyyullah’s Al-Abwab wa l-Tarajim that are in the Asahh al-Matabi‘ print are not present in any of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s [original] editions. These are additions by Asahh al-Matabi‘.

Despite Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri’s incomparable toil and diligence in verifying and revising the annotations of Sahih al-Bukhari for over twenty years, some mistakes were bound to occur in the work of copyists or sometimes even citation errors. Considering that this relates to the most authentic of all books after the Book of Allah, Mawlana ‘Abd al-Jabbar Maui (a student of Mawlana ‘Abd al-Ghaffar of Mau), a scholar from Mau, Azamgarh, has rechecked and revised the citations that are in the footnotes with great attentiveness by returning to the sources. His corrections have been published in two brief parts which have the same size dimensions as [the standard dimensions of the original edition of] Sahih al-Bukhari. ((This book is called Al-Taswibat li ma fi Hawashi l-Bukhari min al-Tashifat. Later editions have used this to revise the annotations, such as the Altaf & Sons edition. (Translator) )) This work, despite its undoubtedly huge significance, is incomplete as Mawlana ‘Abd al-Jabbar did not have access to many of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s sources, some of which are even published. For this reason, the hope still remains that he revisits this project. ((This task was undertaken by Mawlana Dr Taqi al-Din Nadwi who published Sahih al-Bukhari with Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali’s annotations in sixteen volumes in 1432 AH (2011 CE) in which he has referenced the citations given in the footnotes with volume and page numbers. Another version with smaller text has also been printed in six volumes. (Translator) )) ‘To Allah belonged the matter before and (to Him it belongs) thereafter [Qur’an 30:4].