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Christopher Melchert



The celebrated Sahih of al-Bukhari (d. 256/870) includes a long book of qur’anic commentary. It is unusual in the Sahih as a whole in relying heavily on reports from Companions: 72 percent of all the unique reports given full isnads in the book, as opposed to only about 9 percent of all reports in the whole Sahih. It is also unusual in the density of comment from later authorities (without isnads) and in the number of comments from Bukhari himself. Bukhari accepts without demur that the Qur’an includes loan words. In comparison with other commentaries on the Qur’an such as those of ’Abd al-Razzaq before him and al-Tabari and Ibn Abi Hatim after, Bukhari’s evidently plays down disagreement over the interpretation of words, legal applications, and textual variants. In comparison with the commentaries of al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa’i, Bukhari’s includes very many comments from philologists. Bukhari’s commentary is valuable for making out the larger history of Qur’an commentary inasmuch as it testifies to the development of genre expectations in the mid-ninth century CE. It shows that the synthesis of hadith and adab approaches was already under way, as well as other developments previously remarked in commentaries of the tenth and eleventh centuries.

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