Why was Imam Bukhari against qiyas (analogy) and mind (reasoning)?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There are generally two schools called “ahl al-hadith” (people of hadith) and “ahl ar-ra’y” (people of reasoning) in the Islamic world.

According to some hadith scholars, verses of the Quran and hadiths can meet all needs; therefore, there is no need for qiyas (analogy). In fact, qiyas is a kind of ra’y and ijtihad; therefore, there is a possibility of erring. However, verses and hadiths express definite decrees, away from errors. In that case, it is necessary to refer to hadiths and sunnah, not to qiyas.

Hadith scholars arranged and classified the hadiths they collected according to topics like the chapters of fiqh books. Some hadith scholars like Bukhari, Ibn Majah and Darimi formed a separate chapter criticizing qiyas and ra’y in their hadith collections.

For instance, Bukhari used the title “Babu ma Yudhkaru min Dhammir-Ra'y wa Takallufil-Qiyas” (Criticizing Ra’y and excessive (exaggerated) qiyas) in his Sahih in the seventh part of the chapter entitled Kitabul-I’tisam. One of the hadiths he includes - as the narration of Abdullah b. Amr (b. al-As) - under this heading is as follows:

“Allah will not deprive you of knowledge after he has given it to you, but it will be taken away through the death of the religious learned men with their knowledge. Then there will remain ignorant people who, when consulted, will give verdicts according to their opinions whereby they will mislead others and go astray.” (Bukhari, I’tisam,7)

There is nothing strange in it because everybody loves his way and believes that it is the best way. As a matter of fact, those who are ahl ar-ra’y accuse those who are ahl al-hadith of memorizing without knowing the reality of the issues; on the other hand, ahs al-hadith state that ahl ar-ra’y go out of the Quran and sunnah and do things based on their own minds.

- Bukhari is generally adherent to the creed of ahl al-hadith and does not accept qiyas but he regards reasoning within the borders of verses of the Quran and hadiths permissible. (Bukhari, I’tisam, 12; Bukhari, Khalqu afalil-ibad, p. 154)

As a matter of fact, since Bukhari decrees that the words uttered by a drunkard person who has lost his mental balance has no legal value (Subki, II, 222), it should be regarded as evidence showing that he values mind (reasoning). According to what is understood from his quotes especially in his book titled Khalqu afalil-ibad, he adopted the views of Abdullah b. Mubarak, Abdurrahman b. Mahdi, Abu Ubayd Qasim b. Sallam, Fudayl b. Iyad, Sufyan b. Uyayna and Nuaym b. Hammad and was affected from them.

It is possible to summarize the views of Bukhari related to creed as follows:

All of the decrees of Islam were imposed in order to ensure both worldly and otherworldly needs and affairs of Muslims; there are numerous wise reasons behind all commands of God Almighty. It is an important issue to try to find them by searching in terms of understanding and interpreting Islam better.  

However, the reasons for the decrees related to worship cannot be known; therefore, asking questions to understand their reasons are not welcomed by scholars. For example, Imam Shatibi regards it makruh to ask questions like “why” related to the issues of worship whose reasons human mind cannot understand. He gives asking questions about why a woman does not perform the prayers she misses but she performs the fasting that she misses when she is in menstruation as an example. For, such a person asks about an issue that his mind cannot understand. (Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat, transl. Mehmet Erdoğan, İstanbul: İz Yayıncılık, 2003, p. 324)

Imam Bukhari reports that Abuz-Zinad states the following related to performing the deeds of worship a woman misses in menstruation:

“Sunnahs and religious decrees are often imposed in a way that the mind cannot understand. Muslims have nothing to do but to obey them. For example, a woman who is in menstruation performs the fasting she misses later but not the prayers.” (Bukhari, Sawm 41)

When a woman asked Hz. Aisha why a woman in menstruation performs the fasting she misses later but not the prayers, she gave the following answer: “Are you a Haruriyya (Kharijite)? When we were in menstruation, we were ordered to perform fasting later but we were not ordered to perform prayers later.” (Bukhari, Hayd 20)

To sum up, when Bukhari compiled Sahih Bukhari, which the Islamic ummah regards as the most acceptable, he probably used mind (reasoning) more than everybody else. For, a great mind is necessary in order to write a sahih (sound) book and particularly to pick the conditions for the acceptance of hadith among thousands of narrations. It is necessary to regard his preferring the hadith material he has to “ra’y” and “qiyas” as a manifestation of his adherence to his way (of hadith).

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