The canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The formation and function of the Sunni Hadith canon

Author: 
Brown, Jonathan A. C.
Year: 
2006

     The two h[dotbelow]adith collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim, the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn, are the most revered books in Islamic civilization after the Qur'An. This dissertation addresses how, when and why these two books achieved this status and identifies their principal functions in Islamic civilization. This study approaches these question through the conceptual framework of canonization, a process of interaction between text, authority and communal identification. During the lives of al-Bukhari and Muslim and in the years immediately after their deaths, their compilation of h[dotbelow]adith collections devoted solely to authentic Prophetic reports proved controversial within the Sunni community. In the fourth/tenth century, however, a network of Shafi`i scholars began studying the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn and employing them as standards against which to measure their own h[dotbelow]adith. In the late fourth/tenth century, the influential Sunni h[dotbelow]adith scholar al-H[dotbelow]akim al-NaysaburIi adopted this notion of the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn as a standard of authenticity and applied it to polemical purposes: he claimed that the standards that al-Bukhari and Muslim had employed in selecting h[dotbelow]adiths met the requirements of both Sunni h[dotbelow]adith scholars and their rationalist foes. Spreading outward from al-H[dotbelow]akim's students in the early fifth/eleventh century, the idea of the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn as a common standard of authenticity, authoritative reference and exemplum of h[dotbelow]adith scholarship gained currency among Sunni scholars. In the seventh/thirteenth century, the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn also acquired a significance in Muslim societies far beyond the world of scholarly debate. From Mali to India, al-Bukhari's and Muslim's works became symbols for the Prophet's charismatic authority and liminality in the realms of ritual and historical narrative. From the fifth/eleventh century onward, the Sunni tradition built up a canonical culture around the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn and their authors that recast the history of the two books and affirmed their authoritative station. Some h[dotbelow]adith scholars, however, did not accept this attempt to protect the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn as institutions of authority. Instead, these scholars continued to apply the methods of h[dotbelow]adith criticism to the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn . This tension has continued with the emergence of the Salafi movement in the modern period, where the standing of the S[dotbelow]ah[dotbelow]ih[dotbelow]ayn has crystallized Muslim debate over text, authority and communal identification.

Advisor(s): 
Kadi, Wadad