Rocking the foundations of Islam
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."
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."