Spotlight on Sahih al-Bukhari

Rocking the foundations of Islam

A Moroccan court has recently banned a book named "Sahih Al-Bukhari...The end of a legend" by Rachid Aylal, which openly criticises the famous hadith collection. Some Moroccans are outraged by the censorship, others by the content. By Safaa Shibli

The verdict, which was returned by a court in Marrakesh, mentions that the governor of the city has deemed some of the book's pages a threat to the "spiritual security" of the citizens, saying the contents contradict common religious norms.

The ruling is the latest in a series of bans witnessed by the Moroccan arts and culture scene recently. A few months ago, Kama Sutra, a piece by artist Khadija Tanana, was removed from the Tetouan Centre of Modern Art. Kama Sutra includes illustrated sex positions inspired by the renowned Arab heritage book "The Perfumed Garden" by Tunisian Muḥammad Al-Nafzawi. The removal of Tanana's piece was widely seen as staggering by Moroccan intellectuals.

Following the release of his book about Al-Bukhari, Rachid Aylal became the target of vicious threats. Some of these threats were made in public while other critics ridiculed the contents of the book. Aylal revealed that his book-signing event in Marrakesh had also been barred upon the order of the city's governor.

Mostafa bin Hamza, head of the Baath Islamic Institute for Sharia Studies, has undermined the book and labelled its writer "ignorant". He has also offered a financial reward to anyone producing a work of research that acclaims Al-Bukhari, unlike Aylal's book which strips the prominent Sheikh of his sacred aura.

Defamation and death threats

"Even before the book was published, I began receiving dozens of death threats on a daily basis, phone messages from anonymous numbers and fake Facebook accounts on Facebook," admits Aylal. "I don't know why these people think that Islam is represented by a single person."

Morocccan journalist and author Rachid Aylal (photo: Rachid Aylal)
Rachid Ayal: "Some people are trying to drag Morocco down into a swamp, suppressing a whole range of freedoms. But it wonʹt work. Morocco chose its path a long time ago and there is no way back... especially with the 2011 Constitution, which was a huge victory for Moroccans"

After the book was banned, Aylal had no option but to depend on a few trusted associates to handle delivery of the book to buyers in utter secrecy. They would conceal copies of the book to avoid confiscation, a process that Aylal has described as a "struggle".

"The book will be delivered to buyers, whenever and wherever they want, despite the ban and against all the odds," says Aylal, who has since managed to increase the number of secret distributors.

Commenting on the verdict, Aylal said: "If the book of Sahih Al-Bukhari is considered to be Islam, then the Prophet – peace be upon him – did not fully deliver the message. According to this logic, for 200 years after his death Muslims remained without the full version of Islam and it was Al-Bukhari who made it complete."

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Comments for this article: Rocking the foundations of Islam

The title is ridiculous. Yes, it is reductionist to say that one man, the narrator Bukhari, means Islam. It is also reductionist to imply, through the title of the article, that a book refuting al-Bukhari rocks the foundations of "Islam". It seems that the writer has a narrow definition of what "Islam". Islam as history, social norms, psychological sets, belief, way of life, unity and contradiction, multitudes (from Dakar to Bali). I think before making such a statement, the writer should have listed the "foundations of Islam".

Anonymous16.06.2018 | 21:20 Uhr