Outstanding Hadith Collections: Bulugh al-Maram

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The book of hadiths called Bulugh al-Maram (‘Attainment of the Objective’ or the full name ‘Attainment of the Objective according to Evidence of the Legal Judgements’) was written by imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (1372-1448) and is a compilation of the hadiths taken from the collections by imams al-Bukhari, Muslim and others, which serve as the basis of the Sharia regulations.

The Sunnah (the hadiths of the Prophet) stands as the second source of Muslim faith and law after the Quran. Initially, the hadiths were passed on by word of mouth as retold by the Prophet’s companions, then they were written down on the orders of Caliph Umar.

The multitude of the hadiths was collected together by righteous imams of subsequent centuries. The most complete and authentic of them are the collections prepared by the imams al-Bukhari and Muslim. Each one contains more than 7,000 hadiths. The righteous imams had travelled to every part of the Arab world at the time in order not to miss one single hadith attributed to the Prophet. They devoted their whole lives to this. Their books served as the basis for subsequent compilations undertaken by virtuous scholars of faith in the centuries that followed.

Wherein, then, lies the difference between the hadith collections of the imams al-Bukhari, Muslim, an-Nasai, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah (the Six canonical Books of Hadith ‘Kutub al-Sittah’) and the subsequent compilations from them made by such teachers of Islam as khatib al-Tabrizi, imam an-Nawawi, imam al-Asqalani and others?

One can liken the hadith collections of Kutub al-Sittah to a dictionary or an encyclopedia. They are the sum total of all human knowledge, yet it is almost impossible to read through a dictionary or an encyclopedia from page one to the very last page. Instead, a man opens a textbook where this knowledge is related in an abridged and systematized form. The books of Kutub al-Sittah are the encyclopedias of Muslim faith. The compilations from them are the textbooks of Muslim faith.

One of such compilations was the book by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani ‘Bulugh al-Maram’ (‘The Attainment of the Objective’). Imam al-Asqalani’s main objective was to compile a collection of hadiths which would be handy to use for the purposes of substantiating the sharia and fiqh. This the author reveals in the Foreword. Imam al-Asqalani says that he was very meticulous in selecting the hadiths so that “the one who memorises it will excel among his peers”. The imam does believe that his work shall assist both “the beginner and the learned person who is seeking more knowledge”.

The collection contains some 1,500 hadiths divided into 16 books. The hadiths contained in each of those books give a consistent account of all the Muslim regulations starting from purification an ablution in Book One, the rules of prayer, funerals, zakat, fast, pilgrimage. Doing business, marriage, crimes in the books following it and ending with miscellaneous etiquette in the last Book 16. This way the very first chapter of the ‘Attainment of the Objective’ goes on to state that sea water an be used for ablution while the creatures living in it can be used for food.

The book of hadiths ‘The Attainment of the Objective’ remains an indispensable companion of all the students of sharia and fiqh and shall be very useful for any Muslim who wishes to comprehend the Islamic law.