Imam Malik was one of the most respected scholars of Fiqh also known as Imam Darul Hijrah. His great grandfather Abi Aamer, who was from Yemen, embraced Islam in 2 AH and migrated to Madinah. He participated in all the battles alongside the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) except the Battle of Badr. Malik was born near Madinah in 93 AH. He received his education in Madinah and contacted about 900 scholars for collecting Hadiths. He acquired a great amount of knowledge from the disciples of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
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 over 100,000 Hadiths written by his hand.
Imam Abu Hanifa met Imam Malik and recognized his scholarship. Imam Shafie was a disciple of Imam Malik.
Imam Malik was the first to compile an authentic book of Hadith named “Al-Muwatta.” It contained 1,720 Hadiths. The book was approved by 70 scholars and thus called Muwatta (The approved). Many commentaries have been written on the book. Imam Shafie, who was one of Malik’s students for nine years, said: “Imam Malik is like a star among scholars.” Imam Malik memorized the Qur’an in his youth and studied under famous scholars like Hisham ibn Urwah, Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri and Imam Jafar Al Sadiq, the descendant of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
He served and protected the science of Hadith for over 70 years in Madinah and expired at the age of 87. He was so attached to the city of the Holy Prophet that he performed Haj only once and never went outside the city. His jurisprudence was later developed into the Maliki School of Thought, which was promoted in Morocco, Algeria and Spain.
Imam Malik compiled Al-Muwatta in the course of 40 years, having started with 10,000 narrations until he reduced them to their present number. Imam Bukhari said that the most authentic chain of transmission of Hadith is called Silsalat Al Zahabi (golden chain), which has only three links — “Malik from Nafi from Ibn Umar and then from the Holy Prophet” (peace be upon him).
There are 80 narrations with this chain in this book. Imam Shafie regarded Al-Muwatta as the most authentic book on earth after the Holy Qur’an.
Imam Malik was very strong in defending Shariah and did not care for the likings of the ruling class.
Madinah governor during Abbasid Caliphate arrested and flogged him publicly for issuing a Fatwa against ruling Caliph Mansur. When the caliph came to know about it, he dismissed the governor and apologized to Imam Malik. He also sent 3,000 dinars and invited Imam Malik to live in Baghdad but he refused the offer saying that he preferred to live in the city of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Imam Malik also issued a Fatwa against the will of Caliph Haroon Rashid for which he was severely punished. But once, when the caliph came to Madinah he asked him to teach Hadith to his princes. But Imam replied that the wealth of knowledge does not go to the doors of others.
Haroon Rashid was wise enough, he came with his princes to the gathering of Imam Malik and attended his lecture like others.
Haroon Rashid had suggested that Imam Malik’s book, Al-Muwatta, should be put in the Holy Kaaba and all Muslims be told to follow it in all matters of jurisprudence. But Imam Malik refused, saying “Refrain from this as the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) themselves held opposing views on subsidiary issues.”
Imam Malik’s daughter Fatima had memorized Al-Muwatta.
Imam Malik fell ill and died on 14th of Rabiul Awwal 179 AH. Emir of Madinah Abdul Aziz Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ibraheem led his funeral prayers. He was buried in Jannatul Baqee.
It is reported that the Holy Prophet had said: “Very soon will people beat the flanks of camels in search of knowledge, and they shall find no one more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable scholar of Madinah” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi). Scholars consider that the scholar referred to was Malik ibn Anas. (May Allah’s peace and blessing be upon them all).
n Abu Tariq Hijazi is a scholar and author of several books.