The real name of Imam Malik (RA), second of the four great Imams, was Abu Abdullah Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abi-Amir al-Asbahi. His lineage can be traced back to Yemen, though his great grandfather migrated to Medina after reverting to Islam.
Imam Malik (RA) was born in the city of knowledge, Medina, in the year 93 AH (711 CE).
Back then, Medina offered great opportunities for seekers of knowledge. Imam Malik (RA) benefitted from this and learnt a lot from huge sources of wisdom around him; this reflected in his personality, manners and especially in the monumental book penned down by him: al-Muwatta (The Approved).
The Life of Imam Malik (RA)
al-Muwatta (“The Approved”)
This book, primarily a compilation of Ahadith, is the magnum opus of Imam Malik (RA). Since the primary subject of the book was Islamic law and jurisprudence, Imam Malik (RA) showed the manuscript to as many as 70 jurists of Medina, and all of them approved it. Hence, the book came to be known as “The Approved”.
al-Muwatta would eventually go on to become the foundation for many other books on Ahadith, such as al-Tirmidhi, Muslim and even al-Bukhari.
Love For Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
Imam Malik (RA)’s love, respect and regard for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was paramount. He used to say:
The Prophet’s sacredness in death is as his sacredness was in life.
On account of his love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Imam Malik (RA) took a firm stand when it came to narrations of Ahadith. Once, Caliph al-Mansur forbade scholars from narrating the Hadith that stated: “The divorce of the coerced does not take effect”. But this did not deter Imam Malik (RA) from speaking the truth and narrating the correct Hadith.
As a result, Imam Malik (RA) was punished harshly and publicly humiliated. Yet, he said:
Whoever knows me, knows me; whoever does not know me, my name is Malik ibn Anas, and I say: The divorce of the coerced is null and void!
It was Jafar ibn Suleyman, the then-governor of Medina and cousin of the Caliph, who eventually freed Imam Malik (RA). After this incident too, the Imam forgave the Caliph.
A Teacher and Mentor
Due to the knowledge, scholarly ability and high intellect of Imam Malik (RA), many scholars and learners sought to be his students. His method of teaching was different — he was not fond of long lectures or sermons. Instead, he focused more on interactive classes; he even gave up Sama (the practice of lecture by the teacher) and adopted Ard (the practice of classroom-reading by students).
Imam Malik (RA) stayed aloof from useless talks and needless glorification of people and their titles. He once rebuked the Caliph for speaking too loudly whilst a Hadith was being narrated.
Imam Malik (RA) was 85 year-old when he died in 795 CE in Medina. He was buried in al-Baqi Cemetery.
Ismail ibn Abi Owais inquired many people about the last words of Imam Malik (RA). He was told that the great Imam recited Shahadah and finally said:
Their affair is for Allah, before and after.
Imam Malik (RA)’s ideology and fiqh developed into the Maliki Madhab or school of thought. Today, Maliki Madhab is quite popular in North and West Africa.
- al-Mudawwana al-Kubra