Imam Bukhari explains in the following conversation, what are the principles for people who want to become a muhadith (Hadeeth specialist). However, I would also like to extend this guideline for anyone to understand the nature of hadeeth literature and its sciences in order to understand the authority that Hadeeth have with Muslims and with Allah Almighty which would obviously explain why would Allah mandate Muslims to follow the speech and practices of prophet Muhammad that is not entailed in the Qur’an. One of the Islamic principles in this regard is that
“There is no obligation where there is no ability”
and this is an established shariah principle in Islam. This statement has a number of angles in its application, however, the angle in this regard stems from the idea that Allah is not going to mandate any people with an obligation that requires those who are obligated to perform the action beyond their ability. In other words, if there is an obligation, then there is ability, and in this instance, following the messenger of God is an ability that any human can fulfill, which would make therefore the sunnah as the second legal authority after the Qur’an.
At any rate, the following shows the intellectual prowess of Imaam al-Bukharee, his life, his mission, and his overall intellectual integrity, truly a flawless figure in Islamic history (not to mean infallible), so flawless that no heretical group in Islam can attack al-Bukharee which only shows that anyone who attempts to, only exposes themselves as having a problem with their own faith in Islam, and the only people that comes to mind in this regard are progressives (who are generally beyond the pale of Islam) and modernist, who borderline and are the precursor for secularism and progressive ideology.
Wali relates the story saying,
“When I became a rational and mature adult and I developed a passion toward the science of hadith, I went to Imam Bukhari (may Allah be pleased with him) and explained my intentions to him.
He advised me thus, “Son, before you set out to pursue any field, make sure you are well-grounded with its prerequisites and demands. And remember that a person cannot become a perfect scholar in the science of hadith (muhadith), until and unless he writes four things with four other things, which are as indispensable as four things, which resemble four other things.(He must write these things) in four times, with four conditions, in four places, upon four things, from four types of people, and for four objectives. All of these four-angled things can only be achieved with another four things coupled with another four. Once all these things are achieved, four things will become insignificant before him and he will be tried with four other things. If he exercises patience in these four trials, Allah (swt) will honor him with four things in this world and award him four things in the hereafter.”
I said, “May Allah (swt) have mercy upon you. Please explain these four-angled things for me.
He said, “Certainly. The four things he has to write are:
(1) the statements and commands of Allah’s Messenger (saws).
(2) the sayings of the Companions (r.a) and their relative ranks,
(3) the sayings of the Followers (r.a) and their ranks (i.e who among them are reliable and who are not), and
(4) the conditions of all the narrators who narrate hadiths.
These (four pieces of information) must be written together with the following four things:
(1) the actual names of the narrators,
(2) their appellations or titles [kuna],
(3) their places of residence, and
(4) their dates of birth and death (to determine wether the narrator actually met the people he has narrated from).
(These are indispensable to him) just (as four things are necessary with four other things
(1) as praises [tahmid] of Allah swt (are necessary) with the khutba,
(2) as salutations [salawat], (are necessary) with mention of the name of Allah’s Messenger saws,
(3) as (the recitation of) bismillah (is necessary) with a sura (of the Qur’an), and
(4) as the takbir (is necessary) with the salat.
These resemble four other things (which are names of four categories of hadith):
(1) the musnadat [narrations traceable to the Messenger saws],
(2) the mursalat [narrations transmitted by a Follower from the Messenger saws directly without a Companion between],
(3)the mawqufat [narrations traceable only to a Companion r.a], and
(4) the maqtu’at [narrations traceable only to a Follower].
(These things must all be written) in four times:
(1) in his childhood,
(2) in his age of discernment (i.e close to maturity),
(3) in his youth, and
(4) in his old age.
(In other words, he must continue acquiring hadiths at all times throughout every stage of his life. They must be written) under four conditions:
(1) while his is occupied,
(2) while he is free,
(3) in his poverty, and
(4) in his affluence.
(In other words, he must diligently pursue the knowledge of these things no matter what his circumstances may be. This is done) at four places:
(1) in the mountainous terrain,
(2) on the seas,
(3) in cities, and
(4) in rural areas.
(In other words, he must endeavor to acquire this science from the right teacher, no matter where that teacher is located. He writes what he has acquired) upon four things:
(1) upon stones,
(2) upon shells,
(3) upon skins, and
(4) upon bones.
(In other words, even when he does not find paper he will continue recording it somewhere) until he finds the paper upon which to preserve it. (He acquires it from four different types of people
(1) from his seniors,
(2) from his juniors,
(3) from his counterparts, and
(4) from the books of his father, provided he has firm conviction that these are his father’s books.
(In other words, he endeavors to acquire this science in every way possible without feeling ashamed to obtain it even from his juniors. He has four objectives for doing all of these things
(1) to acquire (this science) solely for the pleasure of Allah swt,
(2) to practice upon the hadiths which conform to the verses of the Holy Qur’an,
(3) to propagate (the science) to those who seek it, and
(4) to write it out so that it can be a source of guidance to those who will come after him.
Thereafter, the aforementioned four things cannot be acquired (unless he has first acquired) four other things that are part of human acquisition:
(1) the knowledge of how to read and write,
(2) lexicography and vocabulary,
(3) morphology, and
together with four other things that are not of human acquisition, but are bestowed by Allah swt:
(1) sound health,
(3) an ardent desire for learning, and
(4) a retentive memory.
Once all the aforementioned four-angled things are attained by him, then four things will become insignificant before him:
(1) his family,
(2) his children,
(3) his wealth, and
(4) his native land.
He will then be afflicted with four things:
(1) his enemies will rejoice at his distress,
(2) his friends will reproach him,
(3) the ignorant will taunt him, and
(4) the scholars [‘ulama’] will be jealous of him.
Once he exercises patience on these calamities, Allah swt will honor him with four things in this world:
(1) the honor of contentment [qana’a],
(2) conviction coupled with awe and dignity,
(3) the pleasure of sacred knowledge [`ilm], and
(4) eternal life.
(On top of that) Allah swt will honor him with four things in the hereafter:
(1) the honor of intercession on behalf of whomever he pleases,
(2) the shade of the throne of Allah swt on the day when there will be no shade available except the shade of His throne,
(3) the privilege to provide water to whomsoever he pleases from the pool of Muhammad saws [al-Kawthar], and
(4) close proximity with the Prophets [anbiya`] in the Highest of the High Places [a`la `illiyyin].
So now, my son, I have told you whatever I have heard from my teachers [masha’ikh]. Now you have the choice to either pursue this field or to abstain from it