The actual title of the book commonly referred to as Sahih al-Bukhari, according to Ibn al-Salah, is: al-Jaami’ al-Sahih al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umuri Rasooli-llahi wa sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi. A word-for-word translation of the title is: The Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadith with Connected Chains regarding Matters Pertaining to the Prophet, His practices and His Times. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani mentioned the same title, replacing the word umur (English: matters) with hadith.
Al-Bukhari traveled widely throughout the Abbasid Caliphate from the age of 16, collecting those traditions he thought trustworthy. It is reported that al-Bukhari devoted 16 years to sifting the hadiths he included in his Sahih from a collection of nearly 600,000 narrations. Sources differ on the exact number of hadiths in Bukhari's Sahih, depending on whether a hadith is defined as a Prophetic tradition or a narration of that tradition. Experts, in general, have estimated the number of full-isnad narration at 7,397, and without considerations to repetitions or different versions of the same report, the number of Prophetic traditions reduces to approximately 2,602. At the time when Bukhari saw the earlier works and conveyed them, he found them, in their presentation, combining between what would be considered sahih (correct) and hasan (good) and that many of them included daʻīf (weak) hadith. This aroused his interest in compiling hadith whose authenticity was beyond doubt. What further strengthened his resolve was something his teacher, hadith scholar Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Hanthalee – better known as Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh – had told him.
The book covers almost all aspects of life in providing proper guidance of Islam such as the method of performing prayers and other actions of worship directly from the Prophet Muhammad. Bukhari finished his work around 846, and spent the last twenty-four years of his life visiting other cities and scholars, teaching the hadith he had collected. In every city that Bukhari visited, thousands of people would gather in the main mosque to listen to him recite traditions.
Amin Ahsan Islahi, the notable Islamic scholar, has listed three outstanding qualities of Sahih al-Bukhari:
Quality and soundness of the chain of narrators of the selected ahādīth. Muhammad al-Bukhari has followed two principle criteria for selecting sound narratives. First, the lifetime of a narrator should overlap with the lifetime of the authority from whom he narrates. Second, it should be verifiable that narrators have met with their source persons. They should also expressly state that they obtained the narrative from these authorities. This is a stricter criterion than that set by Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj.
Number of hadith
Ibn al-Salah also said: "The number of hadith in his book, the Sahih, is 7,275 hadith, including hadith occurring repeatedly. It has been said that this number excluding repeated hadith is 2,230." This is referring to those hadith which are musnad, those from the Companions originating from Muhammad which are authentic.