Malik ibn Anas, known as Imam Malik, is a famous name in Islamic history. He was not only a great scholar of Hadith, but also a jurist after whom was founded one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence: the Maliki school. He was 13 years younger to Imam Abu Hanifa and 103 years elder to Imam Bukhari. He compiled the first compendium of Hadith named Al-Muwatta. He was the most leading personality of his time in Madinah and was called Imam Darul Hijrah due to his remaining in Madinah the majority of his life. Abu ‘Abdullah Malik ibn ‘Anas ibn Malik ibn Amr al-Asbahi was born in Madinah in the year 93H (714CE). His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Madinah after embracing Islam. Malik became the Imam of Madinah, and one of the most renowned Imams of Islam. He received his education in what was the most important seat of Islamic learning, Madinah, and where lived the immediate descendants and the followers of the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, were living. Born into a well-to-do family, Malik did not need to work for a living. He was highly attracted to the study of Islam, and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Fiqh. It is said that he sought out over three hundred Tabi’in or those who saw and followed the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He mastered the science of Hadith at the age of 17 and began to issue Fatwa after 70 scholars confirmed his eligibility for the purpose. He collected more than 100, 000 Hadiths written by his hand.
Malik held the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in such reverence that he never narrated, taught any hadith or given a fatwa without being in a state of ritual purity, ghusl. Isma’il ibn Abi ‘Uways said, “I asked my uncle (Malik) about something. He had me sit, made ablution, then said, ‘la hawla wala quwata illa billah’. He did not give any fatwa without saying it first.” Also, Malik saw fatwa as a sensitive, precise, and important action that can have far reaching results, and used to be extremely careful about giving it to the extent that if he was not sure about a matter, he would not dare to talk. Al-Haytham said, “I once was with Malik when he was asked more than forty questions and I heard him reply ‘I do not know’, to thirty two of them.” Yet, he was the man about whom Ash-Shafi’i said, “When scholars are mentioned, Malik is like the star among them.” Malik said that he did not sit to give fatwa, before seventy of the Madinah scholars first witnessed to his competence in doing so. He is the author of Al-Muwatta’ (“The Approved”), formed of the sound narration’s from the Prophet together with the sayings of the companions, their followers, and those after them. Malik said, “I showed my book to seventy scholars of Madinah, and every single one of them approved it for me (kulluhum wata ani alayh), so I named it ‘The Approved’.” Imam Al-Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains of transmission was “Malik, from Nafi, from Ibn ‘Umar.” The scholars of hadith call it the Golden Chain, and there are eighty narrations with this chain in the Muwatta’. Malik composed al-Muwatta’ in the course of forty years, having started with ten thousand narrations until he reduced them to their present number of fewer than 2,000. Like all scholars of Islam, Malik was famous for his piety and integrity. He courageously stood up, and was prepared to suffer, for his convictions. In Hadith, the Imaam was the leader of all of Madinah, where his chain of narrators were the most authentic and called “SILSILATUL-ZHAHAB” or “THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF NARRATORS” (ie. Narrated from Malik from Nafi’ from Ibn Umar (Radhi Allahu Anhu). The Imaam would not just narrate Hadith from anyone, rather he would take great caution and narrate only from authentic and reliable sources. Even other great scholars and companions of his time bear witness to that like, Imaam of Makkah, Sufyaan bin Uyainah, who says, “May Allah have mercy upon Malik, he is extremely critical of the men (in regards to the chain of narrators of a Hadith). He would also say, “Imaam Malik only used to narrate to others authentic Hadith, he would not report except from reliable narrators, I don’t see Madinah but in decrease (ie. in regards to the knowledge) after the death of Malik.” One of his most greatest pupils, Imaam Shaf’iee (RA) says about him, “That when Imaam Malik was in doubt over a Hadith he would totally disregard it.”
In Fiqh, the Imaam was on a higher level than all the rest. Bahlool bin Raashid says about him, “I have never seen someone with the knowledge of deducing from the Qur’an as Malik, along with his great recognition of strong and weak narrations.” Abdullah bin Luhay’ah says, “I asked al-Nadhr bin Abdul-Jabbar (Abul-Aswad) who has a saying after Rabi’ah in Madinah? He relpied, al-Ghulam al-Asbahi (ie. Imaam Malik). Imaam Ahmed bin Hanbal says about the great Imaam, “I compared Imaam Malik to Awzaa’eey, Thawri, Laith, Hammaad, and al-Hakam in knowledge, and he is the leader in Hadith and Fiqh.” Imaam Malik’s students reach to the thousands. Some have mentioned so many that they can not be counted, like Hafiz bin Katheer and Zhahabi. Qazi Iyyadh has mentioned over 1300 have narrated Hadith for the great Imaam. Hafiz Dar-Qutni has mentioned 1000. Hafiz Abu Bakr Khateeb al-Baghdadi has mentioned 993. Even some of the Imaam’s Teachers were his students, like: 1. Zhuhri Abul-Aswad 2. Ayyub Sakhtiyaani 3. Rabi’ah al-Ra’iee 4. Yahya bin Sa’eed al-Ansaari 5. Muhammad bin Abi Zi’ab 6. Ibn Jareeh 7. A’amash 8. Abu Suhail, Nafi’ bin Malik. Some eminent pupils were: 1. Imaam Muhammad 2. Imaam Shaf’iee 3. Abdullah bin Mubarak 4. Laith bin Sa’ad 5. Shu’bah 6. Sufyaan Thawri 7. Ibn Juraij 8. Ibn Uyainah 9. Yahya al-Qattaan 10. Ibn Mahdi 11. Abu Aasim al-nabeel 12. Abdur-Rahman Auwzaa’ee. Malik’s followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school, Madhhab, based on his Ijtihad which became known as the Maliki Madhhab. This Madhhab spread in North Africa, Al-Andalus, much of Egypt, and some of Ash-Sham, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Khurasan. Today, Malikis are mostly found in North and West Africa, Egypt, Sudan and the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. According to some of the great scholars of the past, Imam Malik was broadly regarded as the scholar of Madinah. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said: “Soon people will beat the flanks of camels seeking knowledge, and they shall not find a single person more knowledgeable than the erudite scholar of Madinah. (Jami Al-Tirmidhi). Imam Malik was held high in the eyes of other great scholars, such as, Imam Abu Hanifah, who said, “My eyes have never fallen on anyone faster in understanding, correct in answering, and examining as Imam Malik.” Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal said, “I have compared Imam Malik to Awza’i, Hammaad, Aal-Hakim, Thawri, Laith, in knowledge, but he is the leader in Hadith and Fiqh.” The number of Imam Malik’s students was in the thousands. Qazi Iyadh has mentioned that over 1300 narrated Hadith for the great Imam. Some of the most famous teachers whom he studied with were: Mohammed bin Shihaab Al-Zuhree; Ja’far ibn Mohammed Al-Sadiq; Nafi’ ibn Sarjis Al-Daylami; Mohammed ibn Munkadir and Ayyoub Al-Sakhtiyani.
Imam Malik protected the Shariah and courageously upheld it. When the governor of Madinah demanded and forced people to take oath of allegiance to Khalifah Al-Mansour Abbasi, Imam Malik issued a fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion. He based this opinion on the Hadith: “The divorce of the coerced does not take effect.” He gave unbiased decisions and never bowed to political authorities. “He supported Muhammad Zakia Alawi by issuing a Fatwa against the Abbasid Caliph Mansoor, for which he was arrested and was publicly flogged seventy times by Ja’far, the brother of Caliph Mansoor. When Mansoor heard about this, he asked Imam Malik to visit Iraq and to forgive him for the incident. Later, Imam Malik forgave him because of the Caliph’s relationship with the Prophet (pbuh). “Once Caliph Haroon Rasheed invited him to his court to read his Muwatta but he declined to go and politely advised that “my regards to the Caliph, knowledge should be visited and not that it should visit the people”. Later the Caliph, with his sons, came to his mosque and attended the discourse like others. The Imam died at the age of 86. He was buried in the famous cemetery of Madinah, Jannatul-Baqee, near his tutor Nafi’ Maula Ibn Umar (R.A.). He had left behind three sons, Yayha, Muhammad and Hammad. May Almighty Allah reward him for his great services to the Ummah.
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own, firstname.lastname@example.org)