Imam Malik ibn Anass

Sidna al-Imam Malik ibn Anass (93/712-179/795), may Allah be pleased with him, the Imam of Dar al-Hijra -Madina- and the eponymous founder of the Maliki school, was born sometime between 708 and 715 in Medina, where he spent most of his life and where he died. Imam Malik studied with a number of well-known scholars of Medina and then, as his fame spread, acquired many pupils of his own. In 762 he lent the weight of his reputation to the revolt of Sidna Mohammed Nafs Zakiyya (called “the pure soul”; 145/730) against the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur. He openly stated that Sidna Mohammed Nafs Zakiyya had more right to the title of caliphate and testified to his merit. This led him suffering great affliction for his political stance. But his prestige did not suffer, and he regained royal favour. The next three caliphs, al-Mahdi, al-Hadi, and Harun al-Rashid, were personally interested in his work, and Harun, while on a pilgrimage in the last year of Malik's life, even attended one of his lectures. The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim (composed 987) reports that Imam Malik addressed a treatise on the land tax to Harun, a counterpart to the famous Kitab al-Kharaj of the jurist Abu Yusuf (d. 213/798). After spending his entire life in Medina, Imam Malik died in 179/795 and was buried there in the blessed al-Baqi‘ Cemetery (His tomb).

Imam Malik's activity belongs to the period of Islamic jurisprudence when the supreme legislation provided by the Holy Quran and the Tradition (Hadith) of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was in need of clear interpretation to complete the needs of Muslims and the expanding borders of Islam. It became the task of Imam Malik to ensure the Islamic character of public administration as well as to suggest ways in which individual Muslims could lead more pious lives. Before Imam Malik's time, the Prophetic Hadith as well as was the compendia of the decisions of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) on various issues was considered authoritative guidelines for behaviour. Imam Malik's achievement was to combine these two sources of authority. Malik set forth, drawing on the Hadith, the legal practices that had evolved in Medina. He at times based legal doctrines on the actual practice (’amal) of Medina, at times appealed to the consensus (ijma'a) among the authorities of Medina, and at times drew on sound opinion (ra‘y) or consideration of what is best (istihsan). The subsequent Maliki jurisprudence emphasized the first two principles but downplayed that latter two. Unlike later jurists, Imam Malik does not restrict Hadith or the concept of Sunnah (Practice) to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) alone. Despite the sound consistencies of his own procedure, the use of hadith to support existing legal opinion came to play a vital role in the subsequent systematization of Islamic legal thinking and in the codification of Islamic law.
The three main sources for Maliki legal scholarship are the Imam's Kitāb al-Muwatta’ (The Smoothed Path) and the Mudawwana (The Compendium) of Sahnun ibn Said ("Abdessalam Tanukhi Qayrawani," d. 240/854), a student of Malik's pupil Ibn al-Qasim (d. 221/806), and the textual histories of both works are complex, and the Risala, a synopsis of Maliki fiqh, of Mohammed Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 389/974), the student of Abul Hassan Ali ibn Abi Matar al-Iskandari (d. 339/924). The Muwatta’ is arranged in chapters that deal with the ritual and legal concerns of the Muslim community, and it represents the accepted legal practice of Medina as it was taught by Imam Malik and his contemporaries. The enduring and widespread influence of the Muwatta’ in mainly due to the authentic Madinese doctrine it presents and is in part attributed to the activities and geographical distribution of successive generations of Imam Malik's pupils. Soon after Imam Malik's death, Fustat in Egypt became a major centre for the elaboration of Maliki legal doctrine; Qayrawan in Tunisia and Fez in Morocco quickly followed. The Moroccan Maliki school based in al-Qarawiyyine University of Fez become later the most considerable centre of Malikism in the world.


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