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Birth: He was born during the era of Waleed bin Abdul Malik. There is also a difference of opinion on his birth, however the widely accepted view is that he was born in 93 ah. He had also mentioned this himself and he passed away on the 14th of Rabi uth Thaani 179 ah. during the reign of Harun Rashid. His full name is Malik bin Anas bin Malik bin Abu Amir Asbahi Yamni.
During his era, learning the science of hadith was the topmost mission of most families and in his family there was no difference. He first memorized the Quran and then began to study Ahadith. His mother also encouraged him to go and study at the feet of Rabe’ah and he continued doing this for a long period. Such was his concentration on this subject that whatever he learnt on that day, he used to memorize and revise and one day when his sister went past, she noticed him sitting under a tree and studying by himself. She then brought this to the attention of her father who replied, “He is someone who is busy learning the hadith of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him.”
Classes held by him.
It is mentioned that after he qualified, he used to hold classes within Masjidun Nabawi shareef. This is where he taught others hadith and also Islamic law or fiqh. It is mentioned that students used to attend these classes from far off places in the Muslim empire. No exact date has been mentioned when he had started these classes but when he became very old, he used to hold these classes at his residence. It is also reported that he had began these classes while his teacher Hadrat Rabe’ah May Allah have mercy on him was still alive.
There are also false reports that when his blessed mother was pregnant with him, this pregnancy lasted three years. There is no basis in this report. Another false report is that he began his own classes because his eminent teacher had become angry with him. Again this is a baseless report. Yes, what we do know is that when his eminent teacher passed away, he was forty three years old, hence it is only logical that he may have begun his own classes prior to this.
There is also no solid evidence in this regard. Yes it is reported that his father was someone who used to make arrows or quiver and perhaps he may have helped in this regard. He was also attracted to knowledge from a very young age, hence, whatever he may have done in this regard was something which was part time. There is also another report that he may have helped his brother who used to sell cotton material and he may have also used this to support himself while acquiring knowledge.
He was also someone who used to accept the gifts that were sent to him by the rulers of the day. However, this was opposite to Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah have mercy on him who never accepted the gifts of any ruler either the during the Ummayad period or the Abbasid period.
His connection with the rulers of the day.
Even though he had close relationship with the rulers of the day, yet, he displayed more respect and love for the Ulama and for knowledge. In the book Miftahus Sa’aadat, it is mentioned that once Harun Rashid asked him to visit him at his palace so that he could personally teach his two sons Mamun and Ameen. However, he replied in the following manner, “O slave of Allah! It is better that you approach me so that my children can also listen to the Mu’atta. O Ameerul Mo’mineen! knowledge is something which is not found with you and if you display respect for it, it would possess respect and if you display disrespect for it, it will certainly create disrespect for you. Knowledge is something which you have to approach, it does not approach anyone itself.”
When Harun Rashid heard this, he sent his both sons to the great Imam so that they could also join the other students of the great Imam. The great Imam also advised him that his sons were not to cross over the shoulders of other students and wherever they found a place at the back of the class, they were to sit on this spot. Another incident is reported where Harun Rashid one day asked him to bring the Mu’atta to him so that he could personally listen to it, however, the great Imam refused to accept this request and Harun Rashid was forced to come personally to the residence of the great Imam to listen to the Mu’atta.
His status in the field of Hadith.
One day, Imam Shafi May Allah have mercy on him mentioned, “when the subject of hadith is mentioned, then without doubt, Imam Malik is like a shinning star and in (this regard) I owe no one a greater favour than him.” Imam Mohammed Abu Zahra mentions that there was two outstanding qualities of the great Imam in matters of fiqh. The first is that besides having an impact on fiqh, he used his great intellect and opinion in making a decision. As much as he used fiqh in his decisions, so much so, he also used his own opinion. The latter day Ulama also classify him as being among the people of Rai or those who used their own opinion to make a decision. Another quality of his decision was that it removed a lot of inconvenience and hardship from people.
Hadrat Naaf’a Moula Abdullah ibn Umar May Allah have mercy on him.
The great Imam learnt fiqh and various other issues from him. One important point to be borne in mind is that the chain of narration between the great Imam and the blessed Ashaab is also considered a golden chain. In other words, it constituted only two people. Imam Malik narrated from Naa’fa who narrated from Abdullah ibn Umar May Allah have mercy on them. He also learnt hadith from Ibn Shahaab Zuhri and many reports from him are reported in the Mu’atta. He also learnt hadith from Abdullah bin Zakwaan who was also famously known as Abu Zinaad.
This was also considered as the final teacher of the great Imam. The great Imam also learnt fiqh from this eminent scholar which was only reported from the blessed Ashaab and Taaba’een. Among the first teachers of the great Imam is Rabee’at Ar Raa’i. This was someone who taught the great Imam how to extract laws of shariah from the various ahadith. It is also mentioned that he enjoyed the company of three groups of Ulama. The first were those he visited during the days of Hajj. The second group were the Ulama from Madina shareef and the third category were the various material he had read which had been written by eminent scholars.
The appearance of different sects during the Abassid dynasty.
During the rule of Mamun, Mu’tasim and Harun Rashid through which the great Imam lived, two categories of people appeared. The first was considered as political opponents and the second was considered as religious opponents. What was his opinion in this regard. Before we mention that, it is important that we reveal the identity of these groups.
Among those who were considered as political opponents of the then rulers were the Shia and the Khaariji. And when it came to sects who were religious opponents, they were the Qadriyah, the Jahimiyah (or Jabariyyah) and the Marjiyah.
Shia menace. This was also considered as the oldest of the various sects and came into existence during the latter part of the rule of Hadrat Sayyiduna Uthman Ghani May Allah have mercy on him. They were firm in their belief that Khilfah should have been given to Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him and they were also divided into various other sub sects. These were people who had gone beyond religious boundary in their support for Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him and among them, there were the Sabi’ah and the Gharaabiyah.
Sabi’ah. These people followed Abdullah bin Saba. They also firmly believed that Ma’azallah Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him had Divine qualities in him. Some of these idiots were also burnt alive by Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him.
Ghaaribyah. They believed that Prophet hood was to have come to Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him, Ma’azzalah and that Jibraeel Ameen had made an error and had come to the Holy Prophet peace be upon him by mistake, Ma’aazallah. These people were also divided into two further groups, the first adopted a more accommodating stance while the other was extreme in its view. The first group is referred to as Zaydiyah. They claim to be followers of Zaid bin Ali Zainul Aabideen May Allah have mercy on him. They do not consider the khilaafah of Hadrat Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and Hadrat Sayyiduna Umar May Allah have mercy on them as being legitimate. However, they do not insult the other Ashaab. As for the second group which were extreme in their beliefs, they were also further divided in more groups. The main groups were Kaysaaniyah, Imaamiyah Ithna Ashariyah and Isma’iliyah.
Kaysaaniyah. These were people who supported Mukhtar who is considered the first leader of the Marwaaniyah cult.
Ithna Ashariyah. They maintain that there are twelve Imams who have disappeared from everyone. They will appear during the last days and fill the earth with justice and equality. Among the shia, these people have always been in the majority and they are mostly found in Iran.
Ismailiyah. These were people who were at the forefront of supporting the Faatimid dynasty in Egypt for a few years.
The second political opponent (in the form of a religious cult) was the Khaariji. These were people who had divorced themselves from the army of Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali May Allah have mercy on him because they did not agree with some of his decisions. Such was their extreme hatred for the blessed companion that one of them was also responsible for his eventual martyrdom.
The various cults during the Ummayyad dynasty.
The corrupts sects which appeared in this period were also signs of eminent danger to any future Islamic government. Another dangerous group which appeared in this era were those people who felt no one was entitled for khilaafah and that this was a position which could be acquired by anyone. These were those people who felt that anyone who committed a serious sin has actually committed kufr and hence out of the folds of Islam. They are also had many sub sects. Some with extreme beliefs. They were divided into the Azaariqah and the Abaadiyah.
Azaarikah – These were followers of Naaf’e bin Azrak. These were people who had extreme beliefs and can be compared to the latest Jamaat Islami sect because they are very similar in their beliefs.
Abaadiyah. These were followers of Abdullah bin Abaad Al Mirri At Taymi. They believed that those who opposed them were neither kaafirs not mushriks and were kufaar-e-ne’mat or people who have became guilty of being ungrateful to Divine Grace. The death of opponents was haraam and their martyrdom was permissible. They are also found in Maraakesh, Amaan, Western Africa and other parts of Arabia.
The Khaariji. Among these people, there were those who had left the folds of Islam through their kufr belief. They were divided into the Yazeediyah and the Maymuniyah groups. The first group had the belief that the Almighty will sent a Prophet among the non Arabs who will cancel the shariah of Islam. The second group were people who believed that one could marry ones nieces, ones grand children etc. They are also people who are reported to have refuted Surah Yusuf and did not accept it as part of the Quran.
The great Imam against non Sunni beliefs.
He was in the habit of giving short and precise answers to those who questioned any Sunni belief. He did not consider it worthwhile to become involved in long and lengthy debate. Once, someone asked him about the verse in the Quran and the meaning of the word “Ista wa”, in other words, the act of Allah being “ista wa” on the Divine Arsh. He remained silent for a while until he began to perspire and then declared, “This is something which cannot be comprehended through the intellect. Such types of question is Bid’ah and it is Waajib upon us to merely believe in the state of Ista wa. I can also see that you are misled”. When the questionnaire heard this reply he declared, “O slave of Allah, there is none worthy of worship but Allah. I had asked this question in Iraq, in Basrah and in Kufah but no one had given me such a clear explanation as you have.”
The issue of whether Imaan increases of decreases.
He was of the opinion that Imaan constituted beliefs, words and actions. He gave the opinion that at first, the qiblah was Baitul Muqaddas. However, later on, Muslims turned to the Kaba. At the same time, the Muslims were also fearful that perchance, their salah had been wasted, however, they were informed by the Almighty that He will not allow their belief to go to waste. This proves that in this context, salah was also part of Imaan and this is physical action. Therefore, Imaan constituted both action and words. At the beginning he used to extract the actual meaning of this from the outer meaning of the words of the Quran, however when he delved deeper into this, then he concluded finally that Imam was something which increased and when it came to the decrease of Imaan and the possibility of this, he remained silent.
His standpoint in Taqdir and the actions of people.
This was also an issue which was highly debated in his era and which was highly debated during the Ummayyad dynasty. We have already discussed the appearance of certain groups who appeared in this regard. The first group were the Jabariyyah. They believed that man was completely not in control of his actions and his intentions. The other group was the Qadriyah. They believed that man was completely in control of his actions and intentions. Hence, if he did good, he would be rewarded and if he did evil, he would be punished. The great Imam did not consider the latter group to be mushriks and there is no clear fatwah of the great Imam to be seen in relationship to the first group. He used to also refrain from discussing people with these types of believes as this would harm ones religion.
His standpoint of the Quran.
The controversy surrounding the Quran was something which was stirred up by the Qadriyah and the Mu’tazali. He disliked the idea of getting into a debate on this issue with people like this. He also warned others not be get involved in this type of debates. However, he was clear on a cardinal principle in this regard which was later to become a serious issue during the era of Imam Ahmed bin Hambal May Allah have mercy on him. He declared very clearly that the Quran is the Divine Word of the Almighty and anyone who claimed that it was a creation would be severely punished and he should also be imprisoned and kept in prison until he does not make taubah from this belief.
His standpoint on being able to see the Almighty.
This was another point which was raised by the Mu’tazali who maintained that it was impossible to see the Almighty as it meant that the Almighty would be confined to time and space and this was impossible for the Almighty. The great Imam made it clear that people would certainly be able to see the Almighty in the hereafter.
The controversy in his era.
Many types of groups also appeared in his era having different beliefs and thoughts. The major groups were the Khaariji and the Shia who appeared during the Ummayyad period and during the Abbasid era. Each group was against the other. The Shia were people who completely rejected the khilaafah of the first three leaders of Islam and also continued to insult them. The Khaariji were people who rejected Hadrat Sayyiduna Ali, Ameer Mu’awiyah May Allah have mercy on him etc. As far as the Abbasid rule was concerned, they only accepted those leaders who were from the family of Hadrat Sayyiduna Abbas May Allah have mercy on him and no one else. He remained aloof from these issues and maintained that his view was like that of the general Muslim public and he supported the sequence of Muslim leaders as they appeared. He was also ridiculed by certain Shia in this regard but remained firm in his view.
This masterpiece was started in the reign of Mansur during the Abbasid era. Some say that he was encouraged to do so by Mansur himself. He also completed a draft of this at the final stages of Mansur’s reign. During the reign of Mehdi, this appeared in the form of a complete book. It is said that he spent nearly forty years preparing this masterpiece. There are nearly one thousand narrators to be found in this book. The most authentic copy of this is said to have been narrated by Yahya bin Yahya Al Laithi Al Maswadi Andalusi and also from Imam Mohammed bin Hasan Shaybaani May Allah have mercy on them. It was designed in such a manner that it guided people in their daily lives and also in their political environment.
It was also meant to guide the Muslims as well as the authorities so that they would protect themselves against mistakes caused by both the common people and the government. It contained the advice of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him the blessed Ashaab and the Ijmah of the Ahle Madina. This is mentioned by Imam Shafi May Allah have mercy on him. Although people consider this to be a book of hadith, yet, it contains issues pertaining to fiqh, hence this was his contribution to both hadith and fiqh. Another reason is that in his time, this was not considered as two different subjects. There are also many other manuscripts which were distributed among the Muslims of that era and which further propagated his mission in this world. It is said that these were manuscripts which were prepared by the great Imam himself. These include among others Maduniyyah, the Waadiyah etc.
The support of Ijtihad by the great Imam.
The great Imam acquired the knowledge of Fiqh from seven eminent jurists of their era and also acquired the knowledge of hadith from them. This is the reason that many questions were sent to him from all corners of the Muslim world and he used to answer according to the fiqh and hadith knowledge at his disposal. If there was no clear proof for a certain issue, he used to compare this with something similar and if there was nothing similar, he used to make Ijtihad.
During 146 or 147 ah, the governor of Madina shareef, Jafer bin Sulayman did have him punished. One of the reasons given was that the great Imam did not consider it permissible that people should be forced into swearing allegiance. In this way, it was giving the impression that he did not support the Bani Abbas. However, some historians feel that this was not the actually reason. The actual reason was that the great Imam made it clear that Mut’ah (or temporary marriage) was haraam while some members of the Bani Abbas considered it halal.
The great Imam was not someone who was stagnant in his ruling and opinion when it came to fiqh. Hence the opinion of Ibn Khaldun in this regard is incorrect. His opinion and ruling also took the environment into consideration in which he lived. His followers are to be found in the Hijaz, Basrah, Egypt, some parts of Africa, Andalusia, Maraakesh, Sudan etc. It was also followed by a large population in Baghdad but later on, this began to decrease. It was also established in Nishapur where there were various Madaaris which were established.