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The Sultan Edition – By Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

It is a great honour for Signatora to present to the Muslim World a facsimile edition of the most authentic classical edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, the Sultan edition that was commissioned by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, Allah have mercy on him, and printed in 1313 AH / 1895 CE in Egypt in nine volumes with clear font and elegant typesetting.

A group of sixteen erudite scholars from Egypt, led by the Grand shaykh of al-Azhar, Shaykh Ḥassūnah al-Nawāwī, reviewed it; and later shaykh al-Islam, the highest religious authority in the Muslim World, approved it, alongside another committee of the most learned scholars in the Ottoman Caliphate.

What made this edition unique was the fact that it was printed according to the famous Yūnīnī manuscript – the most authoritative handwritten manuscript of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, which was in the royal library of the Sultan. He sent this invaluable treasure to the scholars in Egypt to make sure that the new edition would be corrected according to it. When they had finished, they sent it back, but later, with the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate, it unfortunately disappeared. That incident alone added even greater importance to this edition.

The Sultan edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī has become a piece of antiquity, and several generations of scholars grew up hearing about it, but never seeing it.

Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, who taught Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī several times, has in his library a rare, flawless copy of this Sultan edition, to which he generously offered access for use in the reproduction of this new edition.

After the Noble Qur’an, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī is the most authentic book for Muslims. Sultan Abdul Hamid II, having the will to serve Islam in the best way, and seeing that printing has become popular and the production of manuscripts has declined, turned his attention to producing a precise and corrected print of this most important book of hadith – a perfect copy, after which no other print is needed.

One hundred and twenty-seven lunar years have passed since the publication of this edition, yet to this day it still remains the best edition. Modern printing technologies, new-fangled fonts, or the new academic centres have not been able to produce a better printed edition than this Sultan edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, whether in the accuracy of the text, the precision of the vocalisation and letters, or in the beauty of its production and the elegant typesetting.

Imam Sharaf al-Dīn Abū al-Ḥusayn ‘Alī b. Muḥammad al-Yūnīnī al-Ḥanbalī (d. 701 AH / 1301 CE) excelled in correcting and comparing his copy with the most authoritative handwritten source-manuscripts available in his era. He carefully made notes of all of the differences between the manuscripts, organising and editing the text with precision. For each of the source-manuscripts he assigned abbreviations to refer to them in the margin-notes. Thus, in that editing process, he became a pioneer in the art of producing critical editions.

Imam al-Yūnīnī spent his entire life studying, teaching, and comparing manuscripts of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. In 667 AH / 1268 CE, he gathered together the most famous scholars of Damascus and organised meetings for them to read and correct Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. Although he was the leading authority of hadith, he invited the most famous grammarian, Ibn Mālik, (d. 672 AH /1273 CE), author of the one-thousand-line ode on grammar, to attend and participate in the process of editing his copy of the Ṣaḥīḥ.

The reading, reviewing and editing process was completed in seventy-one sessions, resulting in the most authoritative edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, called the Yūnīnī Manuscript. What makes the Sultan edition the best edition of Sahih al-Bukhari is that it relied upon the Yūnīnī Manuscript, bringing out its treasures and presenting its abbreviations, comments and nuances.

A group of top scholars attending the prestigious Al-Azhar University, who had never worked together on any previous project, dedicated themselves to proofreading this edition, comparing it painstakingly and forensically with the original Yūnīnī Manuscript, while it was in their hands.

The printers and proofreaders in the renowned Amiri Press in Būlāq, Egypt exerted their efforts to publish Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī to the highest standards of beauty and perfection.

As this valuable edition became a rare work of art, difficult to obtain, we, in Signatora wished to republish it for two reasons. The first is that it is, without doubt, the most authentic and correct edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī. The second is that we wanted to revive the legacy of Sultan Abdul Hamid II and remind Muslims of his edition that still challenges the most modern editing and printing methods to this day.

A number of attempts have been made to republish the Sultan edition, but with many changes. What distinguishes our edition is that it reproduces the original Sultan edition as it was. We have not added or omitted anything from the text. No pages have been removed – we have even kept the original tables of corrections in their place.

The printing was done through producing a facsimile copy of the original. We chose luxury coated paper, and gilded the binding, as was the norm in editions that were presented to royal libraries. Gold was used instead of bold fonts for the titles of section, chapters and the beginning of every hadith.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II, may Allah reward him, offered his edition to the public for free, by making it Waqf. Therefore, the phrase, “Endowment for the sake of Allah Almighty” appeared at the top of every page. This sentence was removed, as with it being kept, no one would be able to sell or buy it.

The seal of Sultan Abdul Hamid II and the Coat of Arms of the Ottoman Empire during his reign have been placed on both sides of the binding of each volume, just as it was in the original edition.

What also makes this edition unique is that we exclusively published with it, “Introduction to Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī”, which is a new book written by His Eminence shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi.

This book deciphers the Ṣaḥīḥ and sheds light on the life of its author in a way that was never done so thoroughly before. It covers all the topics that every reader of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī needs to know.

We at Signatora present this edition of the valuable Sultan edition of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, which is our first publication, to the lovers of the Prophet ﷺ from all backgrounds, to the seekers of knowledge from all levels and to the Muslim World, praying that Allah Almighty accepts from you and us our work and grants you and us success in serving Islam and its sacred knowledge in every possible way.