Services of the Indian ʿUlamā to Bukhāri Studies: A Timely Contribution

View this article in PDF: Services of Indian Ulama to Bukhari Studies – A Timely Contribution (Total pages: 7)

Written by Hadrat Maulana Dr. Khalīl al-Raḥmān Sajjād Nuʿmānī[2]

ABSTRACT [1]: The Indian Subcontinent has been an important center of Hadith sciences in the Muslim world throughout history. This article focuses on two Indian Hadith scholars who made tremendous contributions to the study of the most celebrated book of Hadith ever, Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri. The first scholar, Hadrat Maulana Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri, published the first printed edition of the book in history using early printing technologies. The second scholar, Hadrat Maulana Dr. Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwi al-Maẓāhiri, carried Hadrat Sahāranpūri’s work into the modern age with a new edition that has been published in recent times.


Even as early as the era of Prophethood, the rays of Prophetic Light had already begun to fall upon Indian soil. Then, later, during the caliphate of ʿUmar al-Fārūq, the Muslims started bringing the message of tawḥīd from Arabia to Sindh. Among those who arrived were the two Companions Ḥakam b. Abi ‘l-ʿĀṣ al-Thaqafi and Mughīrah b. Abi ‘l-ʿĀṣ al-Thaqafi. Their brother, ʿUthmān b. Abi ‘l-ʿĀṣ al-Thaqafi, had been appointed by ʿUmar as governor of Bahrain and Oman, and during his rule he dispatched expeditions to the Indian port cities of Thane, Bharuch, and Debal. Indeed, according to ʿAllāmah Ibn Ḥazam, ʿUthmān al-Thaqafi himself actually graced these three places with his blessed presence. Then later, during the caliphates of ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, and Muʿāwiyah (May Allah be pleased with them), the attention of the Caliphate was still directed toward India, for Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr has clearly written:

كان الصحابة في زمن عمر وعثمان فتحوا أوائل بلاد الهند

During the time of ʿUmar and ʿUthmān, the noble Companions conquered the periphery of India. [3]

If we accept the arrival of the noble Companions as fact, then it is no surprise that the tābiʿīn and the atbāʿ al-tābiʿīn must have come in large numbers; some of them must also lie buried in the dust of this land.

Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr writes regarding General Muḥammad b. Qāsim and the armies sent by the Umayyad Caliphs:

وكان في عساكرهم وجيوشهم في الغزو الصالحون والأولياء والعلماء من كبار التابعين من كل جيش منهم شرذمة عظيمة ينصر اللّه بهاديته

And within each army and battalion a large group of righteous individuals, saints, and scholars from among the senior tābiʿīnwould be positioned. And it was especially by way of [their blessings] that Allah would grant victory. [4]

Among the blessed senior tābiʿīn and atbāʿ al-tābiʿīn who’s coming to India is established, a few names are noteworthy:

  • Saʿd b. Hishām al-Anṣāri, the first cousin of Anas b. Mālik;
  • Rabīʿ b. Ṣabīḥ al-Saʿdī;
  • Isrā’īl b. Mūsā al-Baṣri

Through the blessings of these honorable personalities, India was illuminated by the light of Islamic knowledge from the very beginning, especially the knowledge of Hadith. Indeed, when one Arab traveler from Jerusalem, Abu ‘l-Qāsim al-Maqdisi, came to India in the fourth century Hijrī, he wrote enthusiastically about how he had seen that the study of Hadith had spread far and wide throughout the region of Sindh.

During this period, even the native inhabitants of India and Sindh had begun to produce great scholars of Hadith, some of whom even attained the honor of being considered tābiʿī and tābiʿ al-tābiʿī. Furthermore, prominent Hadith scholars from around the Muslim world came to India in the fourth and fifth centuries in order to acquire knowledge for themselves, and during their stay they benefitted the local students with their own knowledge as well. Some examples of these great personalities that came to India for the sake of knowledge of Hadith are as follows:

  • From Andalusia in the fourth century Hijrī, the famous Hadith master Abu Bakr Muḥammad b. Muʿāwiyah b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Andalūsi al-Marwazi al-Qurṭubi (d. 358 AH);
  • From Sijistān, the great scholar and Hadith master Abu Aḥmad Khalaf b. Aḥmad b. Khalaf b. Layth al-Farqadsajzi (d. 399 AH);
  • The renowned exegete, Hadith master, and spiritual teacher Shaykh Abu ʿUthmān al-Ṣābūni (d. 449 AH);
  • The renowned Hadith master from Nīshāpūr Ḥāfiẓ Abu ‘l-Ḥasan al-Nīshāpūri;
  • The sixth century Andalusian Hadith master, Abu ‘l-Ḥasan Saʿd al-Anṣāri (d. 541 AH).

On one hand, knowledge of Hadith remained in vogue throughout India. On the other hand, scholars that came through the Khyber Pass brought rational sciences, jurisprudence, and legal theory, whose study became very widespread as well. Later on there came a time when, by Allah’s decree, the very center of Islam’s reformation and revival transferred to India [from the Arab lands]. During this time, at the hands of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaq Muḥaddith Dehlawi (d. 1052 AH), a new age began in the study of Hadith, and much contribution was made towards its instruction, publication, and research. After him, at the hands of Imam Walīullāh, his descendants, and intellectual heirs, India provided such services to the science of Hadith that even the scholars of the Arab world had to admit that in this age, the greatest service to the science of Hadith had been performed by the scholars of India.

Of all the branches of the blessed Walīullāhi tree that have spread across the width and breadth of this country, perhaps the most fruitful and evergreen branch is the one that blossomed out of the towns of Deoband and Sahāranpūr, those blessed regions from which an outpouring of benefit spread throughout the world. Were one to make a record of the contributions of its Hadith scholars, even an abridged version would be quite lengthy. In this very brief article, the author intends to reveal a recent contribution to the science of Hadith, the credit for which goes to the Hadith scholars associated with those blessed districts.


The most famous and respected book of Hadith is Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri, and it is no secret among the people of knowledge that the honor of printing it for the very first time belongs to [a scholar who was] a branch from the celebrated Walīullāhian tree: Ḥaḍrat Maulana Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri. He was the student of Shāh Muḥammad Isḥāq Dehlawi, who himself was the maternal grandson of Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Dehlawi. Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri was the first person, not only in India but the entire world, to publish Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri in printed form (note that before this, all existing manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri were handwritten). Not only did he publish Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāriin printed form, he also included with it a marginal commentary of such quality that great scholars have viewed it as an exemplary synopsis of all the most famous commentaries prior. Therefore, through the efforts of Ḥaḍrat Sahāranpūri, a printed version ofṢaḥīḥ Bukhāri came before students of Prophetic knowledge for the first time ever – the first volume in 1851 and the second volume in 1853. It should be remembered that it was not until ten years later that printing of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri began in Egypt.

We can glean the passion that Ḥaḍrat Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri had for the knowledge of Hadith from the fact that even before the publishing of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri, he had published Sunan al-Tirmidhifrom the printing press that he had established, along with his own marginal commentary. In the same year that he printed the first volume of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri in 1851, he also published Ṣaḥīḥ Muslimalong with its commentary by Imam al-Nawawi. Within a few years of that, he also published such important works as the following, with the total number of his works amounting to forty.

  • Sunan Abī Dāwūd,
  • Mishkāt al-Maṣābīh (with his own marginal commentary),
  • Muwaṭṭa Imam Mālik,
  • Ḥiṣn al-Ḥaṣīn,
  • Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb,
  • Risālat al-Jurjāni,
  • The Muqaddimah of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥaq,
  • Irshād al-Sārī

When trying to glean how overflowingly blessed the personality of Ḥaḍrat Maulana Aḥmad ʿAli Sahāranpūri truly was, aside from looking at his services to research and publishing, we can also take a look at the names of some of his great students, such as the likes of

  • Sayyid al-Ṭā’ifah (The Leader of the Company) Ḥājī Imdādullāh Muhājir Makkī,
  • Ḥujjat al-Islām (The Proof of Islam) Muḥammad Qāsim Nānōtwi,
  • Muḥaddith-i Zamānah (Hadith Master of the Age) Rashīd Aḥmad Gangōhi,
  • Muḥammad Amīn Ḥasani Naṣīrābādi,
  • Muḥammad Yaʿqūb Gangōhi,
  • ʿAllāmah Shiblī Nuʿmāni,
  • Muḥammad ʿAlī Mōngēri,
  • Salāmatullāh Jīrājpūri.


The scholars and servants of Hadith will be able to appreciate just how arduous and delicate the task of printing a book like Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri for the first time must have been. It involved searching for the most authentic copies among all the handwritten manuscripts ofṢaḥīḥ Bukhāri available at the time. Then each and every word of those manuscripts had to be examined critically and compared to all the other manuscripts. What level of meticulousness in knowledge, and how many long and hard hours of effort and exertion this must have required?

All the scholars of Hadith throughout the Muslim world recognize that out of all the copies of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri, the copy that Ḥaḍrat Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri presented to the Muslim world is the most authentic and respected. This is because he had two special manuscripts in front of him. One was the manuscript of the great seventh-century Hadith master Imam al-Ṣaghāni, which is considered by Hadith scholars to be a very authentic manuscript ofṢaḥīḥ Bukhāri because it is identical to the version that was certified by Imam Bukhāri’s direct student, Imam al-Farbari.

The other manuscript was that of his teacher, Shāh Muḥammad Isḥāq Dehlawī, which was actually a copy of the manuscript of his maternal grandfather Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Dehlawi. Furthermore, Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Dehlawi’s manuscript actually belonged to his famous father, Shāh Walīullāh Dehlawi. That manuscript’s most unique quality was that it was a copy of the manuscript of the great Hadith master of the twelfth century Ḥijri, ʿAbdullāh b. Sālim al-Baṣri. This scholar spent twenty years of his life exerting himself in the study of the manuscript of the eighth century scholar Imam ʿAllāmah Sharaf al-Dīn Abu ‘l-Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Yunīni, which was unanimously considered to be the most authentic manuscript at the time. After conducting comparative research and examination of each and every word, he [al-Baṣri] prepared his own manuscript.

Incidentally, it should be remembered that Shāh Walīullāh Dehlawi had the honor of having only one intermediary between himself and Shaykh Sālim b. ʿAbdillāh al-Baṣri [i.e. the son of the aforementioned ʿAbdullāh b. Sālim] in the chain of knowledge. This is because Shāh Walīullāh’s teachers included Shaykh Muḥammad Afẓal Siālkōti and Shaykh Abu Ṭāhir al-Kurdi, both of whom were outstanding students of Shaykh Sālim b. ʿAbdillāh al-Baṣri. Furthermore, Shāh Walīullāh also acquired knowledge from the son of Shaykh Sālim al-Baṣri.

In any case, these were the two authentic copies of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārithat Maulana Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri used as models in preparing his own manuscript. Aside from that, he also consulted other well-regarded manuscripts. And through this exhaustive research and effort, he presented this most important book in Hadith studies to the Muslim world.

So may Allah reward him with the best reward that He bestows upon His righteous servants.


Until today, this old edition of Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri that Ḥaḍrat Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri prepared has continued to be published in this Subcontinent of ours. It was written in the old style, with its lithographic printing, cryptic symbols between the lines, and the running marginal commentary written in Persian font across three directions of each page. Our senior scholars were, of course, were quite at ease using books written in this sort of formatting. For the new generation of scholars, however, it was becoming harder and harder, and as for scholars in the Arab world, for them it was even more difficult. It was necessary for this great book to be presented in a modern format. The honor of this task went to our country’s outstanding Hadith scholar, Ḥaḍrat Maulana Dr. Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwi al-Maẓāhiri (May Allah preserve him). After years of hard work, he came out with an edition that was beautiful to behold to be presented before students of Prophetic knowledge all around the Muslim world. However, he did much more than merely updating the book’s format. Rather, he rendered numerous valuable enhancements and services to the book on many levels. For example:

  • Whatever sources Ḥaḍrat Aḥmad ʿAlī Sahāranpūri had consulted when preparing his original manuscript and marginal notes, Dr. Taqī al-Dīn Nadwi has actually gone back and analyzed those sources. And wherever errors had crept into the various editions printed by the later publishers, he pointed these errors out. In order to conduct this meticulous analysis, he mentions in his introduction that he benefitted greatly from the work al-Taṣwībāt li Mā Fī Ḥawāshī al-Bukhāri min al-Taṣḥīfāt, the author of which was another Indian Hadith scholar, Ḥaḍrat Maulana ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Aʿẓami (the student of the great Hadith master Ḥaḍrat Maulana Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-Aʿẓami).
  • He compared Ḥaḍrat Sahāranpūri’s manuscript with other copies, particularly the one that was commissioned by the Ottoman Caliph, Sultan ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd II, which a committee of sixteen scholars from al-Azhar had prepared after having compared several old manuscripts. Dr. Taqī al-Dīn Nadwi also compared the original handwritten manuscripts of Ḥadrat ʿAbdullāh b. Sālim Baṣri and Imam al-Ṣaghāni in the same way.
  • If the original text contained any portions that needed correction or explanation, he consulted however many necessary books and provided references for them.
  • For each hadith, he has also taken care to point out where it has been recorded in other books. He has also meticulously noted in which other places in his book Imam Bukhari has narrated any other chains of that same hadith.
  • He made use of the explanations of two great Hadith masters of India: Ḥaḍrat Maulana Rashīd Aḥmad Gangōhi and Shaykh al- Ḥadīth Ḥaḍrat Maulana Zakariyyā.


Ḥaḍrat Maulana Taqī al-Dīn al-Nadwi al-Maẓāhiri (may Allah preserve him) needs no introduction within the circles of knowledge not just in the Subcontinent, but even around the Muslim world. Several of his papers can be found in the archives of Al-Furqān Journal. From the very beginning, he had earned the trust of my honorable father Ḥaḍrat Maulana Muḥammad Manẓūr Nuʿmāni as well as the trust of Ḥaḍrat Maulana Sayyid Abu ‘l-Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Nadwi. After acquiring knowledge from Dār al-ʿUlūm Nadwat al-ʿUlamā, he also taught Hadith there. He also served as Shaykh al- Ḥadīth at Gujurat’s famous center of learning, Dār al-ʿUlūm Falāḥ-i Dārayn in Tadkesar. But perhaps his greatest good fortune was that he gained bountiful intellectual and spiritual benefit from Shaykh al-Ḥadīth Ḥaḍrat Maulana Muḥammad Zakariyyā. And it is surely from the blessing of this very interaction that long before his abovementioned work on Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhāri, he had already presented the Islamic world with numerous scholarly texts that he edited, enhanced with exhaustive Hadith research, and published in beautiful editions that are a pleasure to behold. Among these edited works of his are the following:

  • Maulana Khalīl Aḥmad Sahāranpūri’s famous book, Badhl al-Majhūd, a commentary of Sunan Abū Dāwūd;
  • Shaykh al-Hadith Maulana Muḥammad Zakariyyā’s valuable work, Awjaz al-Masālik, a commentary on the Muwaṭṭa of Imam Mālik;
  • Maulana ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Lakhnawi Farangi Maḥalli’s outstanding work, al-Taʿlīq al-Mumajjad, a commentary of the Muwaṭṭa of Imam Muḥammad;
  • and [also by Maulana ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Lakhnawi Farangi Maḥalli]Ẓafar al-Amāni, a commentary of the Mukhtaṣar of Imam al-Jurjāni.

Dr. Taqī al-Dīn Nadwi is special in that he also completed a doctorate in the science of Hadith from the University of al-Azhar, and he has taught in the universities of the United Arab Emirates for more than thirty years, where he is among the senior-most authorities in Hadith, a teacher of teachers. I do not know how many Arab scholars must have graduated as his students. Beyond the academic circles, word frequently reaches us of how he is respected even within government circles. Nevertheless, he considers it the most valuable accomplishment that his relationship with his teachers and shaykhs from Nadwah, Sahāranpūr, and Deoband remains as that of a humble servant. His accomplishments are the topic of praise in every gathering, and yet he is the embodiment of the verse of poetry:

پیوستہ رہ شجر سے ، امید بہار رکھ

Remain attached to the tree and have Spring’s expectation!

After having said all this, I cannot help but mention that along with having achieved this lofty status in knowledge and research, he had from the very beginning of his life felt the need to develop himself in matters of the heart. He wanted to acquire spiritual pleasure, longing for the Divine, and a deep love for Allah. Therefore he would present himself before the People of Allah in the garb of a humble servant. Was amount of benefit that he received in Sahāranpūr very little? Nevertheless, he still sought a cure for his spiritual heart at the Market of Gnosis of the Knower of Allah, Ḥaḍrat Maulana Muḥammad Aḥmad Ṣāḥib Pratābgarhi with such persistence that he honored him with ijāzat and khilāfat. And now for the past few years he has also received the special attention and love of the Blessing of the Age, Ḥaḍrat Maulana Zulfiqar Ahmad Naqshbandi Mujaddidi (May Allah prolong his blessings).

I pray that Allah Most High bestows blessing in the life of the honorable Maulana, and may He make his children, grandchildren, students, and admirers all inheritors of his special qualities. And may He grant all of his services, and especially this particular service to Ṣaḥīh Bukhāri, a complete and total Acceptance.

I, the humble writer, congratulate from the bottom of my heart the Hadīth master of India, Ḥaḍrat Maulana Taqī al-Dīn Nadwi Maẓāhiri (May Allah preserve him), on this recent magnificent service of his to the science of Prophetic Hadith. I welcome it while reciting a verse of poetry:

مؤذن مرحبا بروقت بولا                   تری آواز مکے اور مدینے

The muezzin timely called out: Hail!,

May your voice reach Makkah and Madīnah.

[1] This is an English translation by Shoaib A. Rasheed of the original Urdu article, “ʿUlama-i Hind Kī Ḥadīthī Khidmāt Mēn Ayk Waqīʿ Aur Khūbṣūrat Iḍāfah,” (A Timely and Beautiful Addition in the Indian Scholars’ Services To Ḥadīth) in Al-Furqān Monthly Journal, Lucknow, p. 47-53, vol 80, issue 12, December 2012/Muharram 1434. The translator would like to acknowledge his grandfather Abdul Rahim, as well as Mujtaba and Saadia Husaini for their abundant help.

[2] Ḥaḍrat Maulana Dr. Khalīl al-Raḥmān Sajjād Nuʿmāni (b. 1955) is a well-respected Indian Islamic scholar and educator. He is the editor of Al-Furqan Monthly Journal and the head of the charitable, educational, and research organization, Rahman Foundation. He is involved in interfaith dialogue, and an insightful writer on social and political issues. Ḥaḍrat Sajjād Nuʿmāni was raised under the guidance of his illustrious father Ḥaḍrat Maulana Muḥammad Manzūr Nuʿmāni. He acquired sacred knowledge at Dār al-ʿUlūm Nadwat al-ʿUlamā in Lucknow, and at Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, and received a doctorate in Quranic studies from the Islamic University of Madinah. Apart from his academic achievements, he was guided along the path of Tasawwuf by Ḥaḍrat Pīr Zulfiqar Ahmad, who subsequently granted him khilāfah (authorization) in the Naqshbandi order. He holds regular spiritual gatherings at the Khānqah-i Nuʿmāniyyah Mujaddidiyyah.

[3] Al-Bidāyah wa ‘l-Nihāyah, Volume 1, Page 87

[4] Ibid

One thought on “Services of the Indian ʿUlamā to Bukhāri Studies: A Timely Contribution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s