The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim

The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon


The two 'Authentic' ḥadīth collections of al-Bukhārī and Muslim are the most famous books in Islam after the Qur'ān – a reality left unstudied until now. This book charts the origins, development and functions of these two texts through the lens of canonicity. It examines how the books went from controversial to indispensable as they became the common language for discussing the Prophet’s legacy among the various Sunni schools of law. The book also studies the role of the ḥadīth canon in ritual and narrative. Finally, it investigates the canonical culture built around the texts as well as the trend in Sunni scholarship that rejected it, exploring this tension in contemporary debates between Salafī movements and the traditional schools of law.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown, Ph.D. (2006) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago, is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has published articles on ḥadīth, Sufism and Arabic lexical theory.
[Brown] has produced an ambitious study that will itself become a canon for the study of the canonization of the Saḥīḥayn and so like them it is worthy of much attention and analysis.
Herbert Berg

This is an unusual book in many ways, all of them good. Its scope is strikingly broad, it is in conversation with the latest scholarship both in the field of specialization and also in the wider world of theory, and it is well-written. While one may disagree with some of Brown’s specific and general conclusions, this book deserves to be read for many years to come.
Jonathan E. Brockopp, Islamic Law and Society, 2010

“This study abandons the conventional genre to which the Orientalists, who have explored the prophetic tradition, have accustomed us: it really brings something new. […] this book deserves to be consulted for a good number of years to come.”
Michel Lagarde in Islamochristiana 37 (2011), p.306-307.

All those interested in Islamic intellectual history from the Classical to the Modern periods, Salafi Islam, canonization and the functions of ḥadīth in Islamic civilization.
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