Pray as if This is your Last Prayer


You often hear the khatheeb or imam, right before the salah starts, saying “pray as if this is your last prayer.” Sure, but what does it mean, and how do we do it?

As one of the righteous people of the past said:

Pray as if Jannah is on your right side, Hellfire is on your left side, the siraat (bridge over Hellfire) is under you, the angel of death is behind you (waiting to take your soul any minute), your sins are above you (waiting to crush and destroy you), and this is the last deed, the one that decides if you go to Jannah or Jahannam forever.

Imagine that these are the last few moments of your life, of your last salah. Imagine the green, lush gardens on your right. Imagine the heat, the smoke, on your left. Imagine a bridge under you, thinner than a hair and sharper than a sword.

Imagine the angel of death, like the head of a team, waiting behind you; waiting to take your soul at any instant.

Imagine your sins, the ones people know about and the ones they don’t, the ones you make excuses for and the ones you justify, the things you know you should do but don’t, all hovering above you like a giant black mountain, waiting to crush you from their collective weight.

This is it; this is your last chance, your last moment, your last deed, before your books are closed, your story is over. Life is upon the ending; will your ending be good, or evil?

It’s your choice, to decide right now, in these last moments as you pray your final farewell prayer to dunya.

How would you pray in those moments? Nobody knows when they will be; they may very well be right now.

That is the feeling you want to capture in your heart and mind as you pray. Everything else in this life will fade away compared to that.

Try it. You will feel the difference for yourself.

Source: Friday Khutbah at ISNA by shaykh Alaa Syed, August 22, 2014.

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The Lost Legacy



We live in an era where knowledge is abundant and is available at our finger tips in variety of formats (audio, video, ebooks…) and on variety of devices and platforms (tablets, smartphones, laptops….). However, we lack the enthusiasm,  passion, dedication and commitment to seeking knowledge. Here are few of the inspiring stories of past to rekindle that spark.

  • Imam Zafar said “We used to sit down and take our spots for the circle of Imam Ali Madini after the Asar prayer. The circle would take place next day. We would sit all night, for fear that if we come tomorrow, we may not find a good spot to sit”  (Subhanallah, nowadays people spend entire nights outside malls and shops to get good deals and bargains on Black Friday and Boxing Day or to meet celebrities)
  • Salaba mentions that “I saw Ibraheem harbi in gathering, seeking knowledge Arabic language and Grammar, for 50 years, never missing out” (Note that Salaba would have had to attend the same study circle for 50 years for him to notice Ibraheem Harbi’s dedication)
  • Someone asked Abdur Rahman about the knowledge he benefited from father Abu Hatim, he said “My father would be eating his food and I would be reading to him… as he walks, I would read to him..he goes into washroom, and I would read to him…my father would go inside the house – looking for something – I would still be reading to him.”  Abdur Rahman then told his own story: “We were once in Egypt for studying. We had not taken any hot soup for 7 months. During the daytime, we would go from one sheikh to another, and at night, we would sit down and exchange notes. One day, we went to one of our sheikh’s circle, we were informed that sheikh is sick. On our way back, we saw a fish,  we decided to buy it. However, when we got back home, it was time to go again to yet another lecture, so we left the fish at home. That fish stayed in the same place for 3 days. When it started to rot and smell,  we decided to eat it raw”
  • One of the teachers of Bhukari mentions that “for 30 years, I never fed myself with my own hands, my sister used to put food in my mouth, I would be busy writing hadiths”.
  • Ibn Hajar said that he read the entire Bhukari in 40 hours! and Shaheeh Muslim in 4 gatherings (each gathering is like 4 hours, so in 16 hours)

More stories to follow in the next post…..Stay tuned…

Do you know of similar stories of dedication in our times? Please share in the comments


Lecture delivered by Sheikh Abdul Ghani at Abu Huraira Center. See the videos: Part 1 and Part 2



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How to Pass Tests: Lessons from the Du’a of Prophet Ibrahim


In Surah Al-Anbiyaa, Allah says:


Translation: Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned. (Surah Al-Anbiya, verse 35)

In this verse, Allah uses the word “nablukum” (نبلوكم). This is a present-tense (mudaari’) form of the word “balaa.” From the grammar itself, scholars note, this means that Allah says that he will test you again and again and again, continuously.

Not only that, Allah also mentions good (khayr) and evil (sharr) are both tests. It won’t be always bad things in sequence like illness, loss of job, etc. but it will also be a test with goodness to see if we are thankful.

Who does Allah test the most? Rasulullah says:

قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاَءً قَالَ ‏ “‏ الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ يُبْتَلَى الْعَبْدُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاَؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاَءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ وَمَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ خَطِيئَةٍ.‏”‏

Sa`d bin Abu Waqqas, said: “I said: “O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?” He said: “The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Later in Surah Baqarah, Allah mentions about Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam):


Translation: And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. (Surah Baqarah, verse 124)

In this ayah, Allah mentions that he ibtilaa Ibrahim (alayhi salaam). Ibtilaa is an even more difficult, intense form of balaa. Allah also says, “fa atamma hunn.” This means that Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) aced all his tests and scored 100%. He showed the perfect responses and did exactly what he needed to do. This makes him an ideal model to learn from and emulate.

As many parents can testify, among the most difficult test to bear is the loss of a child. Not only did Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) receive a child late in his life when he reached a very old age, but Allah asked him to leave his wife and child alone, in the middle of a barren desert, without a word to them. No food, no water, no lodging, no supplies, nothing. This appeared outwardly as certain death for the two of them.

What did he say as he walked away from them?


Translation: Alhamdulillah (Praise to Allah), who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication. (Surah Ibrahim, verse 39)

In this du’a, we find the key which allowed Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) to succeed in his tests: shukr (thankfulness). Despite this trial, he said “alhamdulillah” and he praised Allah, and thanked him for the blessings he gave.

We can extract and apply this lesson to our own lives: when Allah tests us with hardship, whatever difficulty we experience, we should always be thankful and focus on the good of what Allah gave us. Like Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam), this enables us to pass difficult tests much more easily.

And finally, the best part of all this: don’t forget that Allah says that whoever thanks him, gets more:


Translation: And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” (Surat Ibrahim, verse 7)

May Allah give us the tawfique to learn real life lessons from these stories and implement them in our lives, ameen ya rabb!

Source: Khutbah delivered by shaykh Aarij Anwer at Al-Huda Institute Canada on August 30th, 2013

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Understanding Culture vs. Religion


As we continue our foray into Medini seerah, we notice that Medinah, at the time of hijrah, was divided culturally. It contained three distinct groups: Al-Aws, Al-Khazraj, and the Jews. All three held roughly equal power, with no one being significantly stronger than the other; Medinah had no clear leader who all the groups answered to.

Medinah was not only multi-cultural, but multi-religious! Which brings us to an important discussion: what is the difference between culture and religion, and how do we find a balance bewteen the two?

First, definitions: culture consists of normal actions that people do. For example, it includes the way people in a certain country dress, or what foods they commonly eat.

Religion, in contrast, consists of divine acts of worship from Allah (directly, in the Qur’an) or rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam). Religion, or deen, makes up an encompassing way of life.

Consider, now, the rulings on these two facets. In religious actions, the default ruling is that they are haram, until they are proven acceptable by the shari’ah. This is based on the famous hadith of rasulullah, collected by Imam Nawawi in his famous 40:

مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ

He who innovates things in our affairs for which there is no valid (reason) (commits sin) and these are to be rejected. (Saheeh Muslim)

For culture — normal, every-day actions — the default is that it’s permissible. To support this, rasulullah said:

لا طَاعَةَ لِمَخْلُوقٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

There is no obedience to a created being if it involves disobedience of the Creator. (Ahmed, Haakim)

What kind of proof suffices to prove that an action is imperissble? Mainly two:

  • It doesn’t contradict a muhkam (clear, unambiguous) verse — not a verse that is open for interpretation and difference of opinion; and:
  • It doesn’t contradict any saheeh hadith from the sunnah of rasulullah.

Action Item: Read about natural and religious actions. Acquire a habit of changing your intentions so that you can get rewarded for normal, cultural, every-day actions (like eating and sleeping)!


  • AlKauther: The Victorious One. Taught by Shaykh Alaa Syed. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2012.
  • AlMaghrib: Code of Scholars. Taught by Muhammad Alshareef. University of Toronto, Toronto, August 2005.
  • AlMaghrib: Light of Guidance. Taught by Yasir Qadhi. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2006.
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Respect: A Lesson from Al-Abbas


Someone asked Al-Abbas (radiallahu anhu), the uncle of rasulullah, a question: are you akbar than rasulullah?

In Arabic, literally, this means “are you greater than rasulullah.” But the obvious connotation is that the questioner asks about age: are you older than him?

Al-Abbas said:

رسول الله أكبر مني و لكن ولدت قبله
Rasulullah is greater than me, but I was born before him.

He wanted to set the record set, and give a clear message to all of us. The respect the sahaba had for rasulullah was amazing. Uthman ibn Affan, in Hudaybiyyah, refused to make umrah before rasulullah. One of the messengers of Quraysh said “I have seen kings and ceasers, but I never saw people who loved their leader as much as him.” The sahaba even tried to catch his wudoo water! So can we learn to respect him as he deserve?

The tabi’een used to cry. When asked why, they said “the sahaba beat us on fast race-horses, and we follow them on crippled mules.” Meaning, the sahaba did the best, and reached the best rank.

But, they also said something interesting, which we should all write in gold:

من سار على الدرب، وصل
Whoever follows the path, will reach them

Meaning, whoever follows in the footsteps of the sahaba (and by extension, rasulullah) will reach them in jannah, inshaAllah, even though we will never reach them in rank.

This is also why we never call rasulullah simply “Muhammad,” but rasulullah. And we always append “salallahu alayhi wa sallam” to his name. Why? Why not simply “alayhi salaam” as for other prophets?

Because Allah says:

Surah Ahzab verse 56

Translation: Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [ Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [ Allah to grant him] peace. (Surah Ahzab, verse 56)

Allah even says, in this verse, sallimuw tasleema. Tasleema which is a beautiful, comprehensive, and complete term. It includes forgiveness in its meanings.

Beyond this, from humanity, Allah chose the righteous. From the righteous, he chose the prophets. From the prophets, he chose ulil azam — five, according to the stronger opinion — Ibrahim, Musa, Esa, Nuh, and Rasulullah (alayhum as-salaam). From these five, he chose the two khaleelaan (the two closest companions to Allah) — Ibrahim and rasulullah.

And from those, he chose rasulullah as the best human to ever walk on the face of the earth; the best of the best of the best of the best.

These are only a few lessons from the seerah. We can never reach the sahaba in rank and greatness, but as the tabi’een (the next generation) said, “whoever follows them will be with them.” May Allah allow us to be with them and with rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) in the highest levels of Al-Firdaus!

Source: Alkauther: The Victorious One. Taught by Shaykh Alaa Syed. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2012.

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Don’t Hesitate: Lessons from the Battle of Mu’tah


One of the unique characteristics of the battle of Mu’tah is that rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) appointed not one, but three commanders in the chain of command:

`Abdullah bin ‘Umar said: Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) appointed Zaid bin Haritha as the commander of the army during the Ghazwa of Mu’tah and said, “If Zaid is martyred, Ja’far should take over his position, and if Ja’far is martyred, Abdullah bin Rawaha should take over his position.” (Saheeh Bukhari)

The Muslims fought 300 against 1000 in Badr, and won by the will of Allah. In Uhud, similarly outnumbered 3:1, they won again. In Mu’tah, the Muslim army of 3000 faced 100,000 mushrikeen Arabs, and with them, another 100,000 professional Roman soldiers under the banner of Hiraqal (Heracules). They were outnumbered almost 70:1.

The battle started. Rasulullah narrated as if he could see the events unfold:

“Zayd bin Haritha took the banner and fought with it until he was martyred. Ja’far then took it and fought, bearing it until he was martyred,” after that Rasulallah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) became silent and the faces of the Ansar changed as they wondered whether there was anything terrible about Abdullah bin Rawahah. Then he said, “Abdullah bin Rawahah has taken it now and fought until martyrdom. They have been raised up to heaven – I saw in a vision – upon couches of gold. I noticed that the couch of Abdullah bin Rawahah was slanting away from those of his companions and I asked ‘Why is this?’ I was told, ‘They went straight ahead, whereas Abdullah bin Rawahah hesitated somewhat before proceeding.’” (Source)

We see an important lesson here: even though Abdullah ibn Rawaha, radiallahu anhu, hesitated for only a few moments, that resulted in a slightly less reward for him.

We need to seize opportunities for good when we see them. Not only do these opportunities pass us by (and we get no reward), but those who are the forerunners and the sabiqoon, the first ones and those who do not hesitate, beat us in reward.

Action item: Be cognizant of the opportunities around you. Budget some time, some money, some effort, to spend when these opportunities arise.

Source: Alkauther: The Victorious One. Taught by Shaykh Alaa Syed. University of Toronto, Toronto, May 2012.

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The Caller Footsteps


“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [33:21].

No matter what stage of life we are going through, or whatever roles we are trying to fill: be it be as father, husband, son, friend, leader and others, we will always find guidance in the life of our beloved Prophet(peace be upon him). One such area of guidance is for the da’ee – people who call muslims and non muslims alike to the path of the Allah. In this paper, we will see glimpses of the best methodology, examples and guidelines for a da’ee from the Meccan era of the Seerah. Here are the 10 lessons:

1. A Da’ee should teach the basics and work on the Emaan first:

Most of the verses revealed in the Meccan era dealt with issues of Tauheed: oneness of Allah, concept of worship, day of judgment, accountability etc. Later in the Medinan era, the detailed rulings were revealed.
This was done so that the new Muslims could have their hearts fully attached to the deen so that when the time came to implement a command of Allaah, they did it with no hesitation. Aisha (RA) commented “…If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and …” [Bhukari]
People are more accepting of something if it doesn’t come in and demand a change in lifestyle immediately to something on the opposite side of the spectrum.
When we call people to Islam, we should focus on similar topics. We shouldn’t get into get into arguments about specific controversial rulings of Islam like polygamy, hijab, pork and wine. Similarly, when we teach our fellow Muslims, we should focus on purifying their hearts and increasing their Emaan, as opposed to “do this, this is halal, this is haram, don’t do this..” and so on.

2. A Da’ee focuses on creating a team of dedicated people:

Prophet (peace be upon him) did secret Daawah for three years. Also the pledge of Aqaba was done in secret. He established core group of Ansars first in medina and then told Muslims to migrate to Medina.
If you want to start an organization or dawah project, do not go out in the open and call people until you have established a strong core group. Go to people you know will sacrifice their time and effort. Also, try to start with the people around you. They know you best so they will be most likely to believe and help you. Even if the leader of the call is harmed, his followers will continue the obligation of calling others.

3. Da’ee makes use of all available resources even Non Muslims and other organizations:

Non Muslims are different in how each one of them deals with Muslims – we cannot simply say all are good or all are bad. People like Abu Talib, who gave protection to the Prophet (SAW) ,and Hisham bin Amr (who was instrumental in lifting the ban and boycott from Banu Hashim), played a key role in their support of the Muslims.
We should take advantage of the legal system and the environment we are living in. These days, da’ees should work with non profit and NGO organizations to fight against the bans, discrimination, and injustices against the Muslims.

4. Da’ee should always remember that guidance is from Allah:

The stern enemies of Islam, Umar (RA) and Abu Sufyan and others, enter Islam, and yet the strong supporter of the Prophet (SAW), his own uncle, Abu Talib died as a disbeliever. This clearly shows that the guidance is only from Allah. The caller to Deen, gives the message and then leaves the rest to Allah. If the person is not guided, then da’ee is not sad and is content with the decree of Allah.

5. Da’ee should focus on inviting the leaders, people in authority and those masses look upto:

When the Prophet (PBUH) arrived in Taaif, he went straight to the leaders. Generally, when giving dawah somewhere, one should meet with the leaders of the place because, with their support, the message will be passed along to their people.  In our times, we should try to give the message of Islam to movie stars, sports players, pop starts and other popular personalities. People look up to them and if they accept Islam, others would be more inclined to do so as well.

InshaAllah, we will continue with the remaining Five lessons in our next post.


  • The Quran: Saheeh International, AbulWasim Publishing House 1997
  • Rajab Isaam, Arees Institute BA Program,USA: Class of 2009
  • Yahya Abdulbary, Course: The Shepherd’s Path, NY, US: Almaghrib Institute.
  • Dr As-Sibaaie Mustafa, The Life of Prophet Muhammad Highlights and Lessons, Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House 2004
  • Abdullah Daud, Course: Seerah 101, Islamic Online University
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Imam Bukhari’s Teachers: Four Legends

Imam Bukhari, rahimahullah, studied from over 1000 teachers. The best of them were also the greatest scholars of his time. This is an important point: in the previous generation, four scholars lived who were stars of hadith sciences. Imam Bukhari not only studied under all four of these masters of hadith sciences, but he became the main student or protege of all four scholars.

As teachers, in that time, each teacher would teach many students. Over time, one would rise up as the top student, the one who the teacher considered his protege; the one who would continue his teachers into the subsequent generation. It’s a rare feat for a protege to be the main student of more than one teacher; especially in this case, when all four lived in different cities.

These four teachers are:

  1. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (founder of the Hanbali madhab)
  2. Yahya ibn Ma’een
  3. Ali ibn Al-Madini
  4. Ishaaq ibn Rahwayh

When Imam Ahmed met Imam Bukhari while the latter was in his twenties, and praised him greatly; the other three scholars are much more important, because they met Imam Bukhari when he was older, and spent much more time with him. Imam Bukhari wrote his prototype (Saheeh Bukhari v1.0) and showed it to the latter three shuyookh in order for them to give him critical feedback.

Realize that Imam Bukhari did not compile Saheeh Bukhari on his own; it represents a product of the greatest scholars of hadith of his time. He wrote a manuscript for each of them, each of which is a giant and a legend and his teacher.

Once they provided feedback, he collected all their feedback and incorporated it — so much so that, he tells his teachers, “if any of them objected to any hadith in my collection, I didn’t argue, I just removed it.” And he demanded the highest grade of ahadith, nothing less.

Also, Imam Bukhari narrated his saheeh to approximately 90,000 students over a span of 40 years. Remember, he lived before the printing press; he would narrate in front of his students, who would inscribe this information in their notes. And as authors tend to do, he would change certain things. He would change a hadith here or there (replace it with a similar hadith from a different chain, for example), shuffle around the order, tweak his chapter headings, and so on — thus creating muliple versions of Saheeh Bukhari.

We consider his main student to be Muhammad ibn Yusuf Al-Firabi; he was from the last batch of Imam Bukhari’s students, and he lived a long life; his represents the most authentic version of Saheeh Bukhari, and the version we read today.

What lessons can you derive from this piece of history? Post them in the comments and share it with us.


  • Collector’s Edition: Sahih al-Bukhari. By Yasir Qadhi. 2012.
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A Legend in the Making: Imam Bukhari’s Early Life

Imam Bukhari, rahimahullah, is now a well-known scholar because of his saheeh collection of ahadith. It took him years to finish. But, this was not the beginning of his fame; in fact, the Muslims and scholars saw, from an early time, his intellectual strength and capability; he achieved fame well before he completed his most famous book.

Now, let us breeze through some details about the early life of this great scholar.

A Mistake in the Chain: Age 11

Imam Bukhari began to sit in circles of knowledge early — as early as eleven years of age. To sit in these circles, you need to first memorize the Qur’an; so we know he memorized it quite early in his life.

In those early days of Islam, the society and culture was still very much based out of oral tradition — people would memorize and narrate more than they would write. At that time, for a teacher to appear with written notes would be an embarrassment; teachers always taught from memory.

As Imam Bukhari sat in class, the teacher made a mistake in the name of one narrator of the chain. Imam Bukhari pointed this out. His teacher, embarrassed, consulted his notes; and sure enough, found that he made a mistake in the name of the narrator.

Even from age 11, Imam Bukhari accumulated fame; not just as a parrot memorizer of information, but as an analytical mind. We see here that he thought critically about the chain of narration (which is how he found the mistake.)

Labayka Allahumma Labayk: Age 16

At age 16, Imam Bukhari’s mother took him and his older brother for Hajj. Upon his arrival in Mecca, Imam Bukhari loved the city — not just the ‘ibaadah, the rites of Hajj and umrah, but the knowledge.

The greatest centers of Islamic learning during his time included Mecca and Medina. Hajj is something you do once in a lifetime. The trip itself takes several months; you might never come again. Scholars normally stayed a minimum of five to six months, if not several years, before returning home. And scholars congregate from around the world, every year, to these two cities.

Halaqaat (teaching circles) of knowledge abounded everywhere, with scholars from Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, etc. and all over the world, all exchanging and trading knowledge. It was normal to spend 4-5 years there before returning home.

So what does this mean for Imam Bukhari? As a student of knowledge, Mecca became one of the best places you can visit. You don’t have to travel to seek knowledge — scholars come to you, in Mecca and Medinah. The international scholarship mesmerized Imam Bukhari.

He begged his mother to allow him to stay, and seeing his excitement, she agreed; his older brother accompanied her home. (This is how we know he has an older brother — from this incident; he has no known other siblings.)

Also, Allah blessed Imam Bukhari’s mother with wealth; she could afford to not have her son work. This enabled him to study the deen full time; he only returned home at the end of his life.

His First Book: Age 18

At age 18 (the age we normally finish high school and start university), Imam Bukhari completed his first book, entitled “Qadaayah As-Sahaba” (rulings of the sahaba). Other books followed; by age 19, he wrote At-Tareekh Al-Kabeer, one of the most important books on the science of hadith until today; he completed all nine volumes by age 19.

At-Tareekh Al-Kabeer literally translates to “The Big History.” History, to Imam Bukhari, included the names of narrators of hadith. This nine volume compendium documents the names of every single narrator of hadith from the time of rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to Imam Bukhari’s time.

That’s a lot. And this is one of the most advanced sciences within the science of hadith, called “Ilm Al-Rijaal” (knowledge of men). In Medinah U, they study this topic in a full class. Imam Bukhari, at age 18-19, wrote a foundational book in his field; we still use that book as a reference today — even scholars in their sixties and seventies, use 18-year-old Bukhari’s book to figure out who narrators are.

Slowly but surely, his fame and aptitude spread. And no doubt, Allah blessed him with many blessings, including his aptitude in memorization; he had a very clear, strong, photographic memory — as we mentioned in the story of his test in Baghdad. He would read a page once, and memorize it, immediately.

That summarizes the early life of Imam Bukhari. He also travelled extensively during his early years; he sought knowledge in Mecca and Medinah, as well as Baghdad, Kufa, Egypt, and other major cities and major learning centres.

And that summarizes the early life of Imam Bukhari, rahimahullah.

Lessons from Imam Bukhari’s early life:

  • Invest in youth development. Youth can change the world.
  • Encourage youth to be creative and explore interesting ideas.
  • Let youth develop in areas they find interesting and are passionate about.
  • Be humble as a teacher; you are not above your students are not above rectifying you.
  • As a teacher, allow students to speak with confidence, and express arguments that differ with yours
  • Post your own gems and lessons in the comments!


  • Collector’s Edition: Sahih al-Bukhari. By Yasir Qadhi. 2012.
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Imam Bukhari’s Memory in the Test of Baghdad

Imam Bukhari, rahimahullah, was tested a few times in his life. One of the early tests, which really showcases the powerful memory that Allah blessed him with, occurred as follows.

While in his twenties, imam Bukhari’s fame spread over much of the Muslim world — something rare in the time before internet, before email, before YouTube, our modern era where news travels almost instantenously.

As he arrived in Baghdad, word of his arrival spread, and the scholars of Baghdad devised a test for imam Bukhari — to prove to the world that he’s not that good.

During that time, to learn ahadith, you travel to the scholars of ahadith, sit in their halaqaat, and listen. They dictate ahadith to you. If a scholar comes from far, he brings exotic ahadith that nobody heard before; all the students (and other scholars) benefit from learning it from him.

Also, as a student of knowledge, someone who studies ahadith for a while, you quickly learn the “usual” or common ahadith that go around; such as the first hadith in Bukhari, that actions are by intentions.

Instead of exotic ahadith, the ten scholars each decide to narrate ten common ahadith each — but with a twist. Instead of narrating the hadith normally, with the chain, they would swap chains of authentic ahadith.

This is a very delicate point of the science. Most of the introduction to the science of hadith deals with features that weaken a hadith, and most of those features have to do with narrators in the chain. In this case, they took 100 authentic ahadith, each with an authentic chain, and transplanted the chain to a different hadith.

On the surface, it appears that they’re honouring imam Bukhari, by inviting him to their circles to learn and teach. But really, they had a more sinsiter motive.

Imam Bukhari arrives. The first scholar steps up and narrates his first hadith with a different chain. Imam Bukhari says, “Maa 3indiy,” (“I don’t have it” or “I don’t know it”). And again for the second hadith. And the third. And all ten.

The students start wondering. Imam Bukhari doesn’t know these basic ahadith?

The second scholar steps up, and the same scene repeats. And the third, and fourth, all the way to the tenth.

At this point, the students are very confused. These are all simple, straight-forward (appearing) ahadith.

Imam Bukhari figured it out. So his turn to speak arrives. He tells the first scholar: “you narrated the first hadith with chain this-and-that. The correct chain is this.” And he corrects the first hadith. And the second. And the tenth; all the way to the last of the 100.

And everyone in the masjid of Baghdad, the key center of learning of ‘ilm at that time, sees this occur in front of them.

Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) comments: “It’s not surprising that Imam Bukhari saw through their chain-swapping, for he is a master; nor is him knowing the correct isnad that surprising, because he’s memorized these hadith in the past.

“But what’s really interesting is that he memorized the 100 ahadith, with chains, the first time he heard them, and narrated them back in the same order.

It’s very clear that Allah blessed him with a photographic memory.

And thus, imam Bukhari’s popularity and reputation only grew, and he soared through the first test.

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  • Collector’s Edition: Sahih al-Bukhari. By Yasir Qadhi. 2012.
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