in Islamic Texts
The English translation of
and the account of Jesus' (a) return
Sahih al-Bukhari is the foremost book of hadith for the Ahl al-Sunnah and is considered by them to be the most reliable book after the Qur'an. Its English translation was undertaken by Muhammad Muhsin Khan in 9 volumes and has been published in many editions.
The hadith under discussion appears in the Dar al-Fikr edition (which
is non-dated, though apparently recent) as follows:
Those with even a rudimentary understanding of Arabic text will be able to see that the underlined arabic text of the hadith (wa imaamukum minkum) and the English equivalent are completely different!
An accurate translation would be:
How will you do when the son of Mary descends and your imam is one of your number?
This translation can be seen in James Robson's translation of Khatib
al-Tabrizi's Mishkat al-Masabih, which quotes the hadith
from Sahih al-Bukhari:
Perhaps this is an innocent mistake by the translator of Sahih al-Bukhari?
The translation by Muhammad Muhsin Khan was checked and re-checked by
several scholars, as can be seen from the 'certificate' on the first page
of each volume:
So who is responsible for this error?
This 'certificate' also appears in an earlier edition published in Pakistan in 1971.
In that edition we find that the blatant 'error' does not occur!
The hadith is translated more accurately. Notice the volume,
page, and hadith numbers in the edition below, which are identical
to the Dar al-Fikr edition mentioned above.
So it seems that this 'error' is actually a clear and deliberate tampering
with the text of the translation. It crept into later editions which
are reprinted even now and still reflect this distortion (tahrif).
This includes the later editions printed in Pakistan. Even the online
have the wrong translation. For example, see:
What is the reference to 'Fateh ul-Bari' in the distorted versions?
Fath al-Bari is the most famous commentary (sharh) on
al-Bukhari. It was written by Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani (d. 852
AH) a scholar of great repute amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah. Although
the analysis above demonstrates the clear and deliberate tampering of the
text, an investigation into the commentary on this hadith in Fath
al-Bari is even more revealing. It is a reasonably lengthy text
where Ibn Hajar quotes the opinions of various authorities regarding the
meaning and import of this tradition. Some of the comments are translated
It becomes apparent from the above extract that various explanations were quoted by Ibn Hajar to throw light on the meaning of this hadith and the identity of the imam. The tampering of the text of the Muhsin Khan translation was achieved by replacing the translation with one of the several explanations, the one colored red. All the others including the ones above colored blue were ignored.
So who is the "imam" mentioned in the tradition?
The Shi'ah understand this to be a reference to Imam al-Mahdi (a) who is the Twelfth Imam and Successor to the Prophet (s) from his Family (Ahl al-bayt). He is the righteous Qa'im al-Hujjah, behind whom Jesus (a) will pray when he descends. See for details:
Kindly send any comments or suggestions about this site, or any relevant factual data with full references to be included in it, to the Shi'a Encyclopedia team of the Ahlul Bayt DILP.
Case study created: March 2000
Last updated: March 2000