Imam Malik


Naima Sohaib

Muslim Heroes series No. 5

Translated by Eman Asif Misbah

Copyright  2016 Naima Sohaib

Shakespir Edition

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, including photocopying, recording, Internet or any storage and retrieval system without prior written permission from the Publisher.

Available in print at Dawah Books


Translated from the Urdu book “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Azeem Shakhsiat” by Naima Sohaib

Table of Contents

Title Page


Imam Malik – Introduction


Family Background

Educational Activities in the City of Madina

Education and Upbringing

Start of Religious Lectures

Reverence for Ahadith and Love for the Prophet

Political Conditions

Selflessness and Modesty

Imam Malik – a Man of Principles

Caution Exercised in Rulings

Main Principles of Maliki School of Thought

Mautah Imam Malik


Personality and Character


About the Author

About the Translator


[][] Foreword

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

This booklet is fifth in a series, translated from a book compiled on Muslim heroes by my good friend Naima Sohaib. The selection includes Muslim scholars, philosophers, reformers and military generals. It tells us about these unique individuals who selflessly worked for the cause of Islam.

This booklet is about an extraordinary Muslim hero from the world of learning. Imam Malik Bin Anas was known as the scholar of Madina. He started teaching in the Prophet’s (SAW) mosque at a very early age. Since our hero lived upto the ripe old age of ninety, he witnessed the change from the Umayyad dynasty to the Abbasid one. Most of the caliphs he encountered had a deep love of learning and he commanded their respect. Yet he never humbled himself before them and expected them to behave as ordinary students when they came to listen to his sermons.

Malik Bin Anas is specially recognized for his voluminous book Al-Mautah. Chronologically, this is supposed to be the second most authentic Islamic book written after the Quran. Today, the Maliki School of Thought continues to guide millions of Muslims.

May Allah reward Sana Dossal, Misbah Anwar and Sohaib Umar for editing this piece of work, Nadeem Siddiqui for the design work, and Asif Misbah, my husband for his constant encouragement and support.

Eeman Asif Misbah

Imam Malik

The Founder of the Maliki School of Thought and the Most Notable Scholar in Madina in Second Hijri


His name was Malik, his Kuniat Abu Abdullah, and his title Imam Darul-Hijrah (the Imam of Madina).


Imam Malik was born in 93 Hijri in Madina.

[]Family Background

Imam Malik belonged to a family of scholars. His great-grandfather Abu Amir reverted to Islam in the era of the Prophet (SAW). There are some traditions that point out that he was a Companion of the Prophet (SAW). Abu Amir was the first one in his family to take up residence in Madina. Imam Malik’s grandfather Malik was a notable Taba’ee. He was closely affiliated with Usman (RA), to the extent that he was involved in the dangerous task of the burial of Usman (RA) after he was martyred. Malik (the grandfather) was also a student of Talha (RA), Aqueel Bin Abi Talib (RA), Abu Huraira (RA) and Ayesha (RA). He also taught the science of Ahadith to Suleman Bin Yasaar who was among the seven great mujtahideen in Madina.

Imam Malik’s uncle Abu Suhail Nafay was also an expert of Hadith. His students Imam Zehri and Imam Ismael rose to a position of prominence in the field of Hadith.

[]Educational Activities in the City of Madina

Before touching upon the educational achievements of Imam Malik it would be important to discuss the educational culture prevailing in Madina at that time. After the death of the Prophet (SAW), many of his Companions left Madina for other places. Despite this Madina remained the centre of religious learning. Ayesha (RA), Abdullah Bin Umar (RA), Abu Huraira (RA), Abdullah Bin Abbas (RA) and Zaid Bin Thabit (RA) were the main personalities engaged in disseminating and propagating Islamic education. Later, the dedicated efforts of their students continued the tradition. Madina became the hub of religious education for the entire Islamic empire.

Prominent among Ayesha’s (RA) students were her nephews Qasim Bin Mohammad Bin Abi Bakr and Urwa Bin Zubair. Among Abdullah Bin Umar’s (RA) students Nafay and Abdullah Bin Dinar achieved eminence. Kharija Bin Zaid learnt from his father Zaid Bin Thabit (RA). Saeed Bin Musayyeb gained knowledge from Abdullah Bin Abbas (RA) and Abu Huraira (RA). Besides these other well-known scholars were Imam Zehri, Imam Jafar Sadiq and Rabia Rai.

During the time of Umar Bin Abdul Aziz, the congregation of the Fiqha-e-Sabaa (The Seven Great Scholars) was considered to be the single most important legislative body of that era. Even the Supreme Court in the country took advantage of this council. In this assembly, the rulings given by the Companions came under discussion and other important issues of that time were also touched upon. Many a times, cases of law were also taken up by this Council.

[]Education and Upbringing

It is not difficult to imagine what kind of religious environment Imam Malik grew up in, considering his family background and the educational and spiritual atmosphere present in Madina. In those days the curriculum was simple and subjects were few. The main fields were Quran, Hadith and Fiqh. Imam Malik also tried to master these subjects. He learnt the recitation of the Quran and was certified by Imam ul Qura Abu Dareem Nafay. He was an expert in his field and his methodology of recitation is the basis for all Qirat (recitation) practiced in the Islamic world today.

Imam Malik also began to formally study the science of Hadith in his childhood. His first teacher of Hadith was Nafay who served Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) for 30 years. During this period Nafay collected the pearls of knowledge from his master and spent the rest of his life spreading this valuable knowledge. Many famous scholars of Hadith were his students. Imam Malik was also one of them. The Imam states, “When I used to go to Nafay, I was a mere lad. A slave would accompany me. When Nafay would step out of his house, he would relate Ahadith to me.”

Imam Malik had so much faith in the knowledge of his teacher that he says that when he used to hear the Ahadith of Ibn Umar (RA) from Nafay’s tongue, he did not seek to verify it through any other source.

Later on the traditions that Imam Malik heard from Nafay and that Nafay had heard from Ibn Umar came to be known as “Talai Zanjeer” (the golden chain).

Imam Malik also acquired education from Mohammad Bin Shahab Az-Zahri. He was a well-known scholar of Hadith. Many of the Ahadith related by him are included in the Seven Great Books of Ahadith. After Abu Bakr Hazm, he was the second compiler of Ahadith in history. The critics of Ahadith consider Imam Zahri to be the most reliable in terms of content and credibility. This vast ocean of knowledge was transferred to Imam Malik from Imam Zahri. Imam Malik is deemed to be second to none out of all of Zahri’s students.

To attain the knowledge of Ahadith Imam Malik also learned under the tutelage of Imam Jafar Sadiq, Mohammad Bin Al-Munkadir, Mohammad Bin Yahya, Abu Hazim and Abu Saeed Yahya. If we glance at the list of Imam Malik’s teachers, we find no less than 93 names of eminent scholars.

Imam Malik was instructed in the science of Fiqh by Ar-Rabiah who was so highly esteemed in the field if Ijtehad (religious analogy) that he was given the title of “Rai” (one who gives an opinion). Rabiah was specifically appointed in the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW). He had a long list of brilliant students but he had a special bonding with Imam Malik. So much so that in the science of Asma-ur-Rijaal he has been called Sheikh-e-Malik. (Asma-ur-Rijaal is an extraordinary discipline that Muslims created to check the credibility of the compilers of Ahadith. Sheikh-e-Malik means the teacher of Malik).

This is the same Rabiah whose mother is mentioned in various books of Islamic learning. The story goes like this: Before Rabiah’s birth, his father left for jihad to fight in the war of Khurasan. He left an amount of 30,000 dinars with his wife. When he returned after 27 years, his son had matured into a remarkable young man who was a lecturer at the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW). When his father beheld this glorious sight, he was filled with joy. After some time, when he questioned his wife about the money that he had left behind, she asked if money was dearer to him or the glory of his son. He replied that the status of his son was much more important. The wife stated, “Exactly! It all went in the education and upbringing of your son.”

Imam Malik was very selective in his choice of teachers. He chose only those educators who were well known for their character and honesty, and who had extraordinary mental acumen. Imam Malik himself states, “There were scores of teachers in Madina, to whom people would flock to learn Ahadith. But I never went to them to seek knowledge. Of them, some did not possess the depth of knowledge and some were generally ignorant.” This caution exercised by Imam Malik was beneficial to his students. Before accepting any tradition from a scholar they would check if the Imam had included his name in his books. If they found his name in the writings of their teacher, they accepted it, otherwise they would reject it.

Imam Malik did not travel to different places for the attainment of knowledge. One reason is that Madina itself was the centre of Islamic education. Another reason was that most of the great scholars existing at that time would visit Madina from time to time, especially during the Hajj season. During these visits, they would share their vast knowledge with others. When we take a look at the list of Imam Malik’s teachers, we find some names that were not residents of Madina. This shows that he must have benefited from their company while they were in Madina.

Imam Malik possessed an unusually good memory. He says about himself, “Once something enters my mind it does not slip out.” This does not mean that it was easy for the Imam to accomplish what he did in the field of Islamic learning. He narrates, “Nafay would teach in the afternoons. I would leave for Baqi where Nafay resided in the scorching heat of the day without any shade.” He mentions another teacher, Sheikh Ibne Hermuz, “I would visit him in the morning and come back at night.” We can see what hardships he undertook for the attainment of his objective. His sincerity towards learning and the hard struggle for its achievement made him an accomplished scholar in a short time, much to the envy of his contemporaries.

[]Start of Religious Lectures

At a young age, Imam Malik was firmly established as a prominent teacher of Hadith and Fiqh. Shoaba, the greatest scholar of Hadith in Kufa, says about him, “A year after the death of Nafay when I came to Madina I found Imam Malik heading a substantial circle of students.” At this time, Imam Malik was probably 24 years old. Before conducting a regular session, he took the approval of 70 esteemed scholars of Madina regarding his capability for religious decrees. Then only did he agree to assume this position. His teacher Rabiah Rai was still alive when he became known as an expert of Hadith and Fiqh. After the death of Rabiah in 136 Hijri, Imam Malik became the Imam of Fiqh and Ijtehad (Religious Analogy).

The atmosphere in Imam Malik’s class was very formal and the setting was grand. Expensive carpets were laid out, perfume was sprayed and the floor was impeccably cleaned. Imam Malik would be seated in the centre of the class, on a high seat where the second caliph Umar Bin Khattab (RA) used to sit. Then the recitation of the Ahadith would start.

There was pin-drop silence in the gathering. Imam Shaafai says, “We would be scared to turn the pages of our books in case there was a rustling sound.” Despite the presence of so many students, scholars, elite and tourists, there was commendable silence in the audience. There was no noise or commotion, nobody even dared to speak in a loud voice.

Imam Malik commanded so much respect and awe that during his lectures students were careful not to move in their positions. A poet comments on this state, “If the Imam would stop giving answers, the audience would sit with their heads down and no one would dare ask the question again. He was held in such high esteem that he could be called the King of Piety stationed at his seat of honour. It is strange that people would be awed by him although he was not a king.”

Present among the listeners were both rich and poor, elite and ordinary laymen, and there was no distinction among them. However, Imam Malik did seat the capable and voracious learners nearer to him. Before the teaching session would start, he would call out for the serious and dedicated students to come and sit in the front of the class.

His teaching method was such that he would listen while the students would recite one by one. When needed he would intercede to correct the mistake. In the Hadith terminology, this method is called “Qurat-ul Talmeez Ala Sheikh”. Another method that was prevalent was called Qurat-ul-Sheikh alal- Talmeez” in which the Sheikh recited and the students corrected their own mistakes. The mode employed by Imam Malik was safer and better. The Instructor would not repeat the Ahadith again but would make the student read out what he had written. This way, he would correct any errors made by the student. Also, it would become clear to all the students the distinction between the actual words of the Hadith and the commentary by the teacher. In the other method, the words of the Hadith and those of the Sheikh were liable to get mixed up. In Imam Malik’s class the dictation of Ahadith was done slowly and with reverence. First he would finish a Hadith completely and then start the next one.

[]Reverence for Ahadith and Love for the Prophet (SAW)

It has been generally seen that scholars who are involved day and night with the teaching of the Quran and Hadith generally are not as careful or respectful as they should be towards these sources of divine guidance. Imam Malik was a different case altogether. He was so reverent towards the being of the Prophet (SAW) and the words uttered by him, that this attitude deserves a special mention.

Before commencing the teaching session of Ahadith, Imam Malik would take a purification bath, apply perfume and don beautiful garments. Then after commencing his lecture, he would not change his position in reverence for the words of the Prophet (SAW). According to Musab Bin Abdullah, “When Imam Malik would mention the Prophet (SAW), the colour of his face would change and his head would bend down in respect.”

An incident in this regard has been cited by his student Abdullah Bin Mubarak, “One day when Malik was relating some Ahadith, a scorpion bit him and must have bitten him about ten times. The Imam’s face acquired an uneasy contour because of the pain but he did not stop the flow of his words. When the session ended and the class had dispersed, I asked him the cause of his discomfort. He communicated the reason for his uneasiness and said that in normal circumstances he would not have sat so patiently but because he was relating Ahadith of the Prophet (SAW), he dared not discontinue the lecture.”

This extreme respect was reserved only for the Ahadith sessions. When he held Fiqh classes, he would come to the podium in whatever state he was in.

Imam Malik spent his entire life in the city of Madina but the awe and reverence of Majid-e-Nabvi was embedded deep in his heart. He used to step outside the precincts of the haram to relieve him. Throughout his life he refused to ride an animal in Madina because the Prophet (SAW) lay in that city. Even when he became old and weak he refused a mount because he felt ashamed to ride any animal that would scrape the mud of the earth where the Prophet (SAW) lay.

If any student or scholar would raise his voice during a Hadith session, Imam Malik would ask him to lower his voice. Because Allah commands us in the Quran, “O you who believe! Do not raise your voice above the voice of the Prophet (SAW).” Imam Malik was of the opinion that raising one’s voice during the Ahadith class was like amplifying your voice above that of the Prophet’s. Once he even warned Caliph Mansoor when he spoke in a loud tone.

Imam Malik had a special fondness for the Mosque of the Prophet (SAW). Once Caliph Haroon decided to restore the steps leading to the pulpit of the Prophet (SAW) to its original state. The pulpit originally had three steps but later additional steps had been added. The Caliph wanted to decrease them to the earlier number. When the Imam found out the intention of the Caliph, he asked him to reconsider because the steps of the pulpit were old and the wood had become weak. A slight rearrangement could easily cause cracks in the wood. The idea was to preserve this remembrance of the Prophet (SAW). Caliph Haroon accordingly refrained from making any changes.

In his later years, Imam Malik chose to stay in Madina, and did not venture out for fear of dying outside the city of the Prophet (SAW). He wanted to die and be buried in Madina. Whenever an opportunity or request would come inviting him out of the city, he would refuse. Once Caliph Mehdi sent him an invitation to go to Baghdad with him. He also sent 2000 gold coins to Imam Malik. When the Imam refused, the Caliph again sent a request through a messenger. The Imam delivered the hadith to him that said, “Madina is better for them.” He told the messenger that he could take away the bag of money but stepping out of Madina was impossible for him.

Imam Malik was passionately in love with the persona of the Prophet (SAW), his sayings and anything related to him. We know from traditions that Imam Malik had the good fortune of seeing the Prophet (SAW) in his dreams several times.

[]Political Conditions

Besides being a notable scholar, Imam Malik was a man with insight and strong principles. It seemed as if Allah had ensured that only truth would emerge from his tongue and made his heart the vanguard of truth. Many occasions arose in his life when the Imam cared not for his life or honour; he only stood to defend the truth. Before highlighting his historic role, it would be pertinent to look at the political background present at that time.

After the death of Ali, the fourth rightly guided caliph, the leadership of the Muslim Ummah passed into the hands of Banu Umayya. The Hashemite clan, which included the offspring of Ali (RA) and Fatima (RA), and that of the Prophet’s uncle Abbas (RA), could not bring themselves to accept their rule. They secretly tried to re-establish the power of the Hashemites. They would nominate an Imam among themselves for the attainment of their political and religious goals. Initially the Imams were chosen from the Alvi family (descendents of Ali), who were loyal to their cause till the end of their lifetime, and would then nominate another Alvi before their death. Later on, when Abu Hisham died in Syria, there was no other Hashemite present but Mohammad – the great grandson of Abbas (RA). Hence he nominated Mohammad before he died.

This was the first time that the secret caliphate passed from an Alvi to the family of Abbas. After Mohammad, his son Ibrahim became the Imam and then leadership passed on to Abul Abbas Saffah. In 132 Hijri, Saffah succeeded in seizing the caliphate from Banu Umayya. Marwan, the Caliph of Banu Umayya, accepted defeat and ran away. He was ultimately killed. After the death of Marwan and the seizure of the caliphate, Banu Hashim were still not satisfied and the fire of revenge burned in their hearts. They unleashed a reign of terror in the Muslim Ummah in order to erase the memory of Banu Umayya; to the extent that they dug out the graves of the Umayyad rulers. After becoming the Caliph, Abul Abbas Saffah decided that the right of the caliphate would be retained solely for the Abbasid clan among the Hashemites.

On one hand Banu Abbas left no stone unturned for the elimination of the Banu Umayyad clan. On the other hand, the descendants of Fatima and Ali (RA) were extremely upset at the decision of sole concentration of power in the hands of Banu Abbas. They believed that the caliphate was the right of all the Banu Hashim and not exclusively the offspring of Abbas (RA). Abul Abbas Saffah spent four years of his life battling these civil wars and internal skirmishes. The main player behind this movement, Abu Muslim Khurasani, was a Muslim with Persian background. He was extremely conniving and a genius at creating mischief among various parties. He had gained confidence among the Abbasids because of his extraordinary performance and dedicated services. He was able to generate feuds and warfare among the different Arab tribes because in his heart, he had a profound hatred for the Arabs. The strength of the Muslim Caliphate crumbled and their powerful empire disintegrated into hostile factions.

[]Selflessness and Modesty

After the death of Abul Abbas Saffah his brother Abu Jafar Mansoor became the Caliph of the Muslim Ummah. In 140 Hijri he visited the holy cities of Makkah and Madina in the course of performing the Hajj. Mansoor was a devoted follower and supporter of Imam Malik. Before the revolution that brought his family to power, he was a student of Imam Malik and used to attend the study circles initiated by the Imam. He recognized the worth of his teacher. In a gathering of scholars, he addressed Imam Malik, “O Abu Abdullah! I am fed up with the differences in Fiqh among scholars. Iraq has nothing to offer. Syria just has a passion for Jihad, there is no real knowledge there. Whatever value is left is here in Hijaz and you are the leader of the scholars in Hijaz. I would like to imprint your book Mautah on the covers of the holy house in Makkah so that people converge towards it. Also I would like to send copies of the book to all corners of the Muslim empire so that scholars consult it and pass religious judgments accordingly.”

Imam Malik replied, “The Companions of the Prophet (SAW) had spread throughout the Islamic world. Their students and scholars in each city have inherited their rulings and judgments. These rulings are popular in their areas. In such a scenario, it would be unwise and impractical to force the opinion of one person upon them especially when there exists the possibility of errors in the rulings.”

Mansoor stated that if Imam Malik had given him the permission, he would have done just that.

We should make a comparison between the humble attitude of Imam Malik and that of our current scholars as well as general public who make every effort to promote their school of thought and beseechingly appeal to the ruling class to promote their viewpoint. They even resort to schemes and unfair practices to achieve their ambitions.

Mansoor had the highest degree of respect for Imam Malik. We can gauge his emotional attachment by his comments to a courtier. Once Sufyan Soori, a noted scholar, went to the court of Caliph Mansoor and admonished him by using very harsh words. An astonished courtier asked Mansoor why he did not give orders for Sufyan’s execution. Caliph Mansoor asked him to shut up and replied, “There is no one else capable of respect but Sufyan Soori and Malik bin Anas.”

[]Imam Malik – A Man of Principles

The recognition given to Imam Malik by Caliph Mansoor could have inclined the Imam towards the Caliph. But Imam Malik was destined to speak and adhere to the truth. Nothing could come between him and the truth; not the injustices and cruelties imposed on him nor the generous gifts of money sent to him.

When Caliph Mansoor detected the unwillingness of Fatimi and Alvi families to accept the restricting of the government in the hands of Banu Abbas, he was furious and meted out harsh treatment against the rebels. When the oppression of the ruling class became unbearable, a man called Nafs Zakia from among the descendants of the Prophet (SAW) left Madina with a group of protesters in order to fight the Caliph. Imam Malik gave the ruling that the Caliphate was the right of Nafs Zakia. People objected that they had already taken the oath to serve the existing Caliph. The Imam replied that Caliph Mansoor had forcefully obtained the oath of allegiance from the masses. Any deed that is done by force had no validity in Shariah. He said the even if a divorce is obtained by force it has no legal effect.

Many people in Madina supported Nafs Zakia in his fight for the Caliphate, but he did not achieve success and was martyred in the battlefield fighting bravely till the end. His brother Ibrahim also came forward to assist him but he was also killed.

Caliph Mansoor appointed his cousin Jafar as the governor of Madina. Jafar took a new oath of allegiance from the people of Madina. He sent a message to Imam Malik to refrain from passing judgment against forced divorce, since people would draw the analogy between this and forcefully obtained vote of confidence. Imam Malik was obviously the last person to desist from his stance. Hence he was sentenced to be whipped 70 times.

The Imam was brought out like a criminal. His shirt was taken off and he was given seventy lashes. Blood oozed from his back. In this state, he was paraded through the streets of Madina on a camel. Imam Malik, weak and bleeding, was subjected to this inhuman torture but his tongue was busy in proclaiming the truth. Passing through the lanes of Madina, he kept saying, “Whoever knows me knows me, whoever doesn’t should know that I am Malik Bin Anas and I give the verdict that divorce under compulsion is invalid.”

Then he went to the Prophet’s Mosque, cleaned the blood from his wounds, took a bath and performed two rakats of prayers. Later he said, “When Saeed Bin Musayyeb was whipped he also came to Masjid-e-Nabvi and offered two rakats of prayer.” (Saeed was a noted Taba’ee).

Later when Caliph Mansoor found out about this episode, he was very sorrowful. He offered his apology and lodged a case against his cousin, the governor of Madina. This incident did not turn the people against Imam Malik, in fact, they became even more inclined towards him. His name became included among those who pronounced and defended the truth come what may.

Caliph Mansoor once came to know that religious scholars under his rule were not too happy with him. Late in the night he sent for all the scholars. Imam Malik performed an ablution and then applied a balm over his body before appearing in court. Caliph Mansoor addressed the scholars, “O knowledgeable ones! You are obligated to be obedient to me, but you say foul things about me behind my back. If I had made a mistake, then it was only proper that you should have counseled me.” Then he turned towards Imam Malik and asked, “What do you think of me?” The Imam replied, “For Allah’s sake, absolve me from replying to this question.” His silence on this issue gave away his true opinion. The Caliph repeated the same question to the other scholars. When one by one they all left, he turned back to Imam Malik and asked him why he smelled of the balm that was applied to dead bodies.

Imam Malik replied that he had thought this was the end of his life when he had been summoned in the middle of the night. The Caliph was stunned. He exclaimed, “Glory be to Allah! O Abu Abdullah! Do you expect that I would myself destroy a pillar of Islam?”

After the death of Caliph Mansoor, Mehdi, Haadi and then Haroon Rashid became the respective rulers. They would attend the sermons of Imam Malik and sit in his class. But as opposed to tradition, Imam Malik did not stoop to kissing their hands and no one had the nerve to ask him do so.

[]Caution Exercised in Rulings

A scholar of Fiqh is certainly a level above a scholar of Hadith. A Hadith expert is only an authority on the sayings of the Prophet (SAW), but a Fiqh expert in addition to his knowledge of Ahadith has command over analogical reasoning of the legal systems. For a scholar of Fiqh to be effective, he must possess powers of logical reasoning and have an eye towards the future. Everyone cannot attain the stature of a Fiqh scholar.

For Imam Malik, being a Fiqh scholar was a very responsible position. He himself relates that he did not start his work of Fiqh till he had the assurance of 70 scholars of Fiqh regarding his capability for the job. Despite the approval of the body of scholars, he exercised extreme caution in passing verdicts. He never passed a judgment on the basis of mere opinion or guesswork. One of his students commented that if he counted the “don’t knows” of Imam Malik he would fill slates and slates.

Ibn Abdullah relates that a man came to Imam Malik after traveling for six months. He asked Malik to solve the issue he had brought. Imam Malik replied that he did not possess enough knowledge to answer the question satisfactorily. The man was amazed, “I have reached here after a journey of six months to ask you this question. When I go back what will I tell the people (who are waiting for an answer)?” Malik very calmly answered that he should state the truth, which was that Imam Malik did not have a satisfactory answer.

Imam Malik had hordes of people coming to him with their queries. The government of the time had formally announced that the authority to give Islamic rulings at the time of Hajj had just been given to Ibn Abi Zaib and Malik Bin Anas. Despite this formal acknowledgement, Imam Malik used to exert a lot of effort and energy towards reaching the right conclusion. He did not leave a stone unturned in his quest for the truth.

Once somebody commented to the Imam that he made untiring efforts in giving rulings, so much so that according to Imam Malik’s own statement he had many a sleepless night when he was worried about an issue, although Muslims considered his judgment the last word on the subject. When the humble Imam heard of this, his comment was that in that case, he should work even harder (so as not to disappoint the people).

Imam Malik would accept his mistakes graciously without any rancour. His high qualifications did not pose a barrier to his self-improvement. Once his student Ibne Wahab corrected him by presenting an authentic Hadith. Imam Malik at once accepted his verdict and based his future rulings on this alteration.

Imam Malik was not in favour of imposing his opinions on others. The Caliph Haroon Rasheed, like his predecessor Mansoor, wanted the entire Muslim Ummah to abide by the rulings of Malik, but the Imam declined.

[]Main Principles of Maliki School of Thought

Imam Malik remained involved in the work of Islam for 62 years, be it lectures on Ahadith or giving religious rulings. In his lifetime, he saw his religious legal system – the Maliki School of Thought – gain mass popularity. It is appropriate to mention the distinguishing characteristics of the Maliki School of Thought.

p<{color:#000;}. The Maliki System of Law seldom resorted to Ijtehad (deduction by analogy). Most of the solutions came from reference to the Quran and Sunnah and from the traditions of the Companions of the Prophet (SAW). Imam Malik would avoid answering hypothetical questions – issues that could arise but had yet not taken place. He used to state: “Ask me about what has happened; leave out what has not actually occurred.”

p<{color:#000;}. Besides the Quran, Sunnah and occasional Ijtehad, weighting was also given to the tradition and collective action of the citizens of Madina. This was because Madina was the centre of Islamic caliphate since the time of the Prophet (SAW), center of Isalmic Shariah, education and legal system. The rulings given by the scholars in Madina were therefore accorded extraordinary importance.

p<{color:#000;}. Public welfare was also included among the rules of Fiqh in the Maliki School of Thought. When Imam Malik could not find any proof in the Quran and Sunnah he would deduce a ruling by keeping public welfare in mind. These principles contributed to the fulfillment of the same objectives for which Islamic Shariah existed i.e. for the betterment of humanity. For inclusion in the Fiqh, these laws had to meet two requirements:

p<{color:#000;}. they had to pertain to worldly affairs and not any form of worship.

p<{color:#000;}. they had to pertain to the needs of the society rather than the wants or luxuries. This could include religion, life, property, inheritance, intelligence, etc.

A few examples that can be quoted are the levy of taxes on the rich citizens in order to meet the defense expenditure of the state, the forfeiture of a thief’s possessions in exchange for the money or things looted by him (in addition to severing his hand), etc.

The followers of the Maliki School of Thought later on came to be known as the Ahl-e-Hadith (the followers of Hadith). In this school of law, emphasis was not laid on the writing of books as in the Hanafi and Shaafai disciplines.

The Maliki influence spread to the heart of Arabia, Spain, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait. To this day, the Maliki Fiqh is followed in Africa. In Spain, the official Fiqh of the Umayyad government was also the Maliki School of Law. Later, this school of thought also influenced the west because they were impressed with the simple values of the people of Arabia.

[]Mautah Imam Malik

Mautah is the most important publication of Imam Malik. According to a tradition, Imam Malik had started work on Mautah on the request of Caliph Mansoor. The Caliph had apparently felt the need for a comprehensive compilation which incorporated the firmness of Ibn Umar (RA), the leniency of Ibn Abbas (RA), and the exceptions of Ibn Masood (RA). Mautah was published somewhere between 130 Hijri and 140 Hijri. Besides Ahadith, the Mautah included the Sunnah of the Companions of the Prophet (SAW) and the Taba’een (the next generation after the Companions). It also contained the rulings of the scholars of Fiqh and the religious derivations and deductions made by Imam Malik himself. In the beginning the book included some 10,000 Ahadith. After a lot of critical analysis and arguments 8,000 were dropped and only 1720 remained.

The word ‘Mautah’ means to trample on something. Mautah signifies the path through which a lot of people have passed. Sunnah also means the pathway – of the Prophet (SAW) – while Mautah is the pathway of the Companions after the death of the Prophet. Thus the word Mautah is self-explanatory.

The subject matter discussed in the Mautah pertains to the rulings of Fiqh and hence it is known as the Book of Sunnah. The Mautah has the honor of being the second most authentic book (based on Ahadith) after the Quran. Another distinction is the fact that it contains short chains of narration. In Bukhari, for instance, we find 4-5 chains of narrators upto the Prophet (SAW), but the Mautah has chains that include only three narrators and at times only two connections. This makes it more reliable because the lesser the number of intermediaries the more likely that the Hadith is authentic. Imam Shaafai comments, “No book is more authentic than Mautah-Imam Malik on the face of this earth, besides the Book of Allah.”

It would be appropriate to mention an incident related to Imam Malik’s sincerity of purpose during the compilation of this work. When Imam Malik was busy with the collection of Ahadith for Mautah, many other scholars of Madina also started compiling their own collections of Ahadith. When Imam Malik was apprised of this, he merely stated, “Only pure intentions will endure.” Time proved the veracity of this meaningful statement of Malik’s and his prediction proved to be true. The Mautah of Imam Malik is available to us to this day while the collections of other scholars of the time have been wiped out completely.

The Mautah also enjoyed the privilege of being admired by Caliphs Mehdi, Haadi, Rasheed, Mamoon and Amin. They made a special effort to travel for the purpose of acquiring knowledge of this book. To the extent that in the 6th century Hijri, Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi made a long journey from Cairo to Alexandria just to gain an understanding of this book.

Besides the Mautah, a number of other books are attributed to Imam Malik, but some scholars think that they were the work of his students.

Among Malik’s famous students are Imam Shaafai, Mohammad Bin Al-Hasan, Yahya Bin Yahya Laisy, Suleman Bin Daud Tuyalsi, Mohammad Bin Maubarak and Lais Bin Saad – all scholars of eminence and repute.


Imam Malik fell ill in 179 Hijri at the age of 86 years. He remained sick for about three weeks. People around him gauged from his condition that he would not live for long. The scholars of Madina gathered at his house. Tears were coming out of Malik’s eyes. When asked about the reason for his unhappiness, the Imam replied, “If I don’t have reason to cry, who else does? Oh, how I wish I was whipped for every ruling that I issued and I wish I had not passed any judgments.” Probably the God-fearing Imam was referring to the rulings made by deductive analogy, as there is always a chance of error in such judgments.

Some time later, his soul departed from his body. There was a large procession in his funeral prayers. The governor of Madina also came on foot and was among the ones who carried the body of the Imam on their shoulders. The last resting place of Imam Malik was prepared in Jannat-ul-Baqi.

Desolation and gloom was seen in the entire Muslim Ummah as the news of Malik’s death coursed through the Islamic caliphate. Sufyan Bin Ainia, a scholar, was stunned when he heard the sad news and commented, “Malik has not left his equal on the face of the earth.”

[]Personality and Character

The story of Imam Malik would be incomplete without a special mention of his unique character and selective life events. Let us take a brief look at his personality and lifestyle.

Physically the Imam was a tall man, heavily built. He had a broad forehead and a pleasing complexion. He used to don costly garments and used to order clothes from Aden. Aden, a city of Yemen, was famous in those days for its high-quality and expensive clothing. Imam Malik was fond of perfume. He was of the opinion that the blessings of Allah should be evident by the physical appearance of the person.

The Imam resided in a rented house. This was the blessed house where Abdullah Bin Masood (RA), the famous companion of the Prophet (SAW) used to live.

Imam Malik had a quiet temperament. He would give brief but comprehensive answers to questions asked. Once somebody asked how his morning had passed. He replied, “There has been a reduction in my life and an increase in my sins.”

Whenever he would be free from teaching he would recite the Quran. On Friday night and the night of the first day of the month, he would spend the entire night praying.

Imam Malik was a formidable personality, but he was devoid of ego and arrogance. At one time, Imam Shaafai was a student and a guest at Imam Malik’s house. He relates, “One day, after his dinner, Imam Malik inquired about the state of the citizens of Makkah. When it became dark, the Imam instructed me to go to sleep and departed. I was tired and fell asleep as soon as I lay on the bed. In the last part of the night, there was a knock on my door, somebody was telling me to get up for Fajr prayers. I got up and saw that Imam Malik himself was standing outside with a pot of water in his hands. I was highly embarrassed but he insisted that it was a duty to serve the guest.”

There was no malice or revenge in his nature; in fact he was very forgiving and tolerant. The governor of Madina, a man appointed by Caliph Mansoor, had the Imam whipped and paraded before the entire city. Caliph Mansoor was dismayed and shocked when he was informed and asked for the Imam’s forgiveness. He then issued orders that the governor should be humiliated and brought to Baghdad on a donkey. Imam Malik merely said, “I have no need for this revenge; I forgive this man due to the fact that he belongs to the family of the Prophet (SAW).”

Imam Malik had no interest in having his opinion accepted by people as the final word on religious matters. Two of the Caliphs, Mansoor and Haroon, tried to get his book, the Mautah, established in the Islamic caliphate as the final word on Fiqh. Imam Malik was not in favour of this option. He stated, “Don’t do that! The Companions of the Prophet (SAW) often differed in minor issues. They took up residence in different countries. Each one of them was on the right track.”

Today we see different groups of scholars trying to gather a following and trying to convince others to their point of view as the only right one. There is a shining example in Malik’s personality for our scholars to follow.

Imam Malik greatly valued knowledge. We have already mentioned the special preparations he would make for the sessions of Ahadith. When Caliph Mehdi stopped at Madina after Hajj, he ordered both his sons Moosa and Haroon to listen to the recitation of Mautah from Imam Malik. The princes sent for the Imam to come and teach them the book. Imam Malik replied, “Knowledge is a priceless commodity, the interested ones themselves walk towards it.” At last, the two princes themselves appeared before him. The guide accompanying the princes asked the Imam to begin the recitation. Malik told him that it was traditional that the students should read and the teacher should listen. When Caliph Mehdi was informed, he told his sons to follow the tradition of the scholars. In the end, the princes started reading the book and Imam Malik heard them out.

After Mehdi, the next Caliph Haroon Rashid also stopped at Madina after Hajj. He also summoned the Imam for the dictation of his book. Imam Malik refused and appeared before him without the book. When the Caliph complained about his behaviour, he stated, “Haroon! This knowledge has flown from your house (referring to the Prophet), it is upto you to demean it or to exalt it!” Caliph Haroon was speechless. Then he appeared with his two sons in the Imam’s class. When he saw the multitude of students he requested that they should be asked to leave. The Imam answered that it was not possible to sacrifice the interest of the masses for the interest of a few individuals. Caliph Haroon than seated himself on a higher platform. Imam could not bear this and told Haroon that humility would be preferable. Ultimately, Caliph Haroon sat among the regular students for the hearing of the Mautah.

On the one hand, Imam Malik showed no special consideration to the Caliphs and other important officials, but on the other when Imam Abu Haneefa came to meet him, he spread his own sheet for him. Sometimes, he would go to receive and welcome his students outside the city.

There is no doubt that the Abbasid Caliphs had their fair share of faults, but it goes to their credit that they had a love for knowledge and they highly respected religious scholars. Using their inclination towards scholars, Imam Malik used his influence to bring their attention towards the deprived of Madina. The Caliphs would not turn down any request made by the Imam and they would open their treasury to alleviate the suffering of the poor in Madina.

Imam Malik never misused this influence to hoard wealth for himself but tried to work for the betterment of the downtrodden elements of the city – those who had low income and low status. Today, the elite and the socially networked elements of the society need to emulate the example set by Imam Malik. Individuals who have been blessed with wealth, power, connections and status should use these for the uplifting of the masses. Activities of public welfare are longer lasting and better for the Hereafter. On the other hand, efforts for personal gains are not worthwhile because they are short-lived and do not benefit us in the next life.

The outstanding characteristics of Imam Malik’s personality were his intelligence, sincerity of purpose, scholarship, recognition of the truth and its pronouncement without fear and intense love for the Prophet (SAW). Imam Malik was one of those scholars who gained enormous popularity during his lifetime. He received the titles of Imam-ul-Kabeer (the great Imam), Imam Darul Hijra (Imam of the Migration City) and Imam-e-Madina. The system of Fiqh established by Imam Malik has been guiding hundreds of millions of Muslims for the past thirteen centuries.


[] Reference books

p<{color:#000;}. Hayat-e-Malik by Syed Suleman Nadvi

p<{color:#000;}. Aila-i-Kalimatul Haq ki Riwayat Islam Main by Mian Mohammad Afzal

p<{color:#000;}. Seerat A’imma-e-Arba by Raees Ahmad Jafry

p<{color:#000;}. Tazkira A’imma-e-Arba by Islam-ul-Haq Mazhari

p<{color:#000;}. Tareekh e Islam by Moeenuddin Nadvi

[] About the Author

Naima Sohaib, 40, is the author of “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Azeem Shaksiat”, a 500-page book in Urdu about twenty most prominent Muslim scholars, reformists, revivalists and caliphs of the last 1400 years, including several from the twentieth century. The book is written in easy language, punctuated occasionally by pertinent and thought-provoking comments by the author.

Naima has a Masters in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi and did her B.Sc. in Mathematics from Lahore College for Women. She has also authored several storybooks for children. She lives in Karachi with her husband and four daughters.

[] About the Translator

Eeman Asif Misbah, 45, is the English translator of the original Urdu book. She converted from Hinduism in 1996 after studying Islam for several years. Her passion to seek knowledge about great personalities of Muslim history led her to the present translation work. She is an avid reader of Islamic books.

Eeman is an MBA from Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. An expert in human resource management and general administration, she worked in the financial sector before her marriage. She lives in Karachi with her husband and two children.

Imam Malik

Malik bin Anas is the founder of Maliki school of thought. He was a famous Muslim scholar and an expert on Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh). He began teaching at an early age, and went on to become one of the most influential and respected scholars of his time. He is the author of the famous book Al-Mautah, one of the earliest collections of Ahadith. Besides the sayings of the Prophet, it also contains the practices of the Prophet’s companions, traditions and customs of Madina and his own religious deductions and derivations. It is considered one of the most authentic books ever written after the Quran. His chain of narrators was considered the most authentic and called "The Golden Chain of Narrators" by notable hadith scholars. The Maliki school of thought gained immense influence and spread into Arabia, Africa, and Spain. He left a mark on the world, and is remembered as a true Muslim hero from the world of learning. 

  • Author: Naima Sohaib
  • Published: 2016-08-22 09:35:12
  • Words: 8008
Imam Malik Imam Malik