Although the canonization of the Hadith literature would come two centuries or more after his death, al-Bukhari’s magnum opus became the centerpiece of that canon. Part of the reason that it took centuries for the canon to emerge is that early generations of Muslims disputed the proper role and authority of the Hadith. Opponents of the Hadith objected to the transmission and recording of these stories on the basis that they might come to rival the Qur'an, the “Book of God.” They also argued that the objectionable or embarrassing content of some Hadith made the religion an object of ridicule. For opponents of the Hadith, the Qur'an’s command to obey God’s messenger meant following only the Qur'an, which the Prophet had delivered at God’s command.
Supporters of the Hadith argued that the Qur'an’s command to obey God’s messenger required accepting the stories that were related about him and were passed on through sound chains of reliable narrators. Moreover, supporters...
Caravan on its way from Damascus to Mecca for the Hajj (Library of Congress)View Full Size