It has been over a month since I received three recently published books by a new and exciting publishing house, Bukhari Publications. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the time yet to give the books the detailed and meticulous review they deserve. That said, I have for a long time considered the necessity of producing less formal reviews that might not stand up to the standard of an academic journal but nevertheless satisfy the need of the common reader to get basic feedback on a new book and answer the pressing question of whether or not it is worth buying.
As I was only able to get through two of the three books of the series, I intend this short review to focus on the two titles which are translations of Imam Yusuf al-Nabahani’s forty hadith collections on (i) the virtues of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and his nation and (ii) the virtues of sending prayers on the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). The third book, an original work by Shaykh Omar Subedar entitled “How to Live the Life of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)” is a compilation of the daily habits of the noble Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). In other words, it compiles the daily sunnahs in a convenient list format with brief source references for each.
At first glance, it is hard to differentiate any particular book of the set from the other, as they share the basic cover design and only differ in their titles and the shade of olive green employed for the background. Given the similarity of the titles of al-Nabahānī’s two works, The Virtues of the Prophet and His Nation (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and The Virtues of Sending Prayers on the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and the fact that the translator (Rashad Jameer) is the same for both, I nearly fell under the false impression that I was sent two copies of the same book.
It also required me to read the back cover before I realized that both of al-Nabahānī’s works are in fact from the Arbaʿīn genre of hadith works. I imagine it would be useful in future editions to provide that detail somewhere on the front cover page, given the great appeal of 40-hadith collections.
That said, the excellent cover design, typesetting, and editing work deserves commendation. I am typically very apprehensive when reading a new publisher as my skepticism about the quality of translation, transliteration, copy editing, etc… in English Islamic literature is usually quite justified. These books provide immediate comfort with an excellent choice of paper, cover design, and fonts.
The translation offered by Rashad Jameer is fluid, accurate (wherever I happened to read at least), and accessible. More importantly, al-Nabahānī is known for his inclusion of spurious and problematic narrations in his books. This work, unlike many translations of al-Ghazālī’s books, includes necessary, yet brief critical comments on the hadith in the footnotes. I also commend the use of footnotes over endnotes, as the immediate reading of critical rulings on hadith is usually necessary for the average reader.
While the translator does not provide commentary on the hadith, the brevity of the two works allow for the inclusion of some excellent appendices. In the Virtues of Sending Prayers book, for example, we are given a collection of ṣalawāt that runs equal in length to the forty hadith collection itself and provides some unique ṣalawāt such as that of Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, Imam al-Shāfiʿī, Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Jaʿfarī, and Mawlānā Zakariyyā al-Kāndhlawī, may Allah have mercy on them all.
The other work’s appendices provide the prophetic lineage, the Prophet’s various names (upon him blessing and peace), and details on the prophetic sandals. All in all, both works are concise and yet rich in content. I look forward to reading the forthcoming works of Bukhari Publications.
Lastly, a few final constructively-critical comments (in compliance with Shaykh Omar Subedar’s kind request). In Shaykh GF Haddad’s introduction to both works, Wasāʾil al-Wuṣūl is mentioned as a commentary on al-Tirmidhī’s al-Shamāʾil al-Muḥammadiyyah. As far as I know, the Wasāʾil is heavily reliant on the Shamāʾil but is not its commentary and differs in many ways, including its structure and style. It would also have been useful to perhaps provide some mention of the status of al-Nabahānī in the field of hadith criticism and provide a general warning about reading his works without a decent takhrīj of their hadith. Lastly, a few typographical and editing issues can be addressed in future editions to make the works more polished (e.g. inconsistent use of the “h” for the Arabic tā marbūṭah and the unnecessary al- attached to Dimashq in a reference to Tārīkh Dimashq).
Overall, I recommend both works for both individual reading and for study in spiritual study-circles at the masjid. I apologize for the rushed nature of this review, as I was seeking to accommodate some people who I was sure would be seeking to purchase books at ISNA this year and would want some suggestions on whether or not to buy the books.