Abu Abdullah, Malik Bin Anas Bin Malik Bin Amer Al-Asbahi was born in Madina in the year 93 AH (714 CE). His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Madina after embracing Islam. Malik became the Imam of Madina, and one of the most renowned Imams of Islam.
He received his education in what was the most important seat of Islamic learning, Madina, and where lived the immediate descendants and followers of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Born into a well-to-do family, Malik did not need to work for a living. He was attracted to the study of Islam and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Fiqh. It is said that he learned from over 300 Tabi’een (students of the Companions). Malik held the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in such reverence that he never narrated or taught any Hadith without being in a state of ritual purity. Ismail Bin Abi Uwaiss said, “I asked my uncle – Malik – about something. He made me wait, did Wudhu, and then said, ‘La hawla wala quwata illa billah’. He did not give any Fatwa without saying that 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 about it. Al-Haytham said, “I once was with Malik when he was asked more than 40 questions and I heard him reply, ‘I do not know,’ to 32 of them.” Yet, he was the man about whom Ash-Shafi’ee said, “When scholars are mentioned, Malik is like the star among them.” Malik said that he did not sit to give Fatwa, before 70 of the Madina scholars first witnessed to his competence in doing so.
He is the author of Al-Muwatta (“The Approved”), the book of narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him) together with the sayings of his companions, their followers, and those after them. Malik said, “I showed my book to 70 scholars of Madina, and every single one of them approved it for me, so I named it ‘The Approved’.”
Imam 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 80 narrations with this chain in the Muwatta. Malik composed Al-Muwatta in the course of 40 years, having started with 10,000 narrations until he reduced them to their present number of a little less 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. When the governor of Madina demanded and forced people to take the oath of allegiance to Caliph Al-Mansour, Imam Malik issued a fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion. He based this opinion of the Hadith, “The divorce of the coerced does not take effect.”
This resulted in many people finding courage to express their opposition, but the Imam was arrested, found guilty of defiance, and publicly flogged.
Imam Malik’s Fiqh came to be known as the Maliki Madhhab, one of the four well-known schools of thought. He died in the year (179 AH) 796 CE in Madina and was buried at Al-Baqi.
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