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Biography of Imam Malik Ibn Anas

(93-179 of Hijra)
Imam Malik Ibn Anas (93-179 of Hijra)
He is Malik Ibn Anas Ibn Malik Al-Ashbahi Al-Himyari. He was born on year 93
Hijri in Medina. He grew on a surrounding immersed with knowledge, and he started
learning since he was a teenager. Because of his intelligence, in the fresh age of 21, he
was given permission to issue fatwas. He felt enough to learn from the scholars who
came to Medina. He taught knowledges in Medina, thus he was known as “Imam Darul
Hijra” (Imam of The Emigration Land), and during his lifetime, he never went out of
Medina but to perform the major and minor pilgrimage.

Teachers and Students of Imam Malik

Among his teachers were Nafi’, Ayyub As-Sikhtiyani, Humaid Ath-Thawil, Salamah Ibn
Dinar, Atha’ Al-Khurasani, Az-Zuhri, and many other scholars beside them. He
particularly took many of his lessons in jurisprudence from Rabi’ah Ar Ra’yi. As for his
students, among them were Abdullah bin Mubarak, Abdurrahman Ibn Mahdi, Abdullah
Ibn Wahab, Ibn al Qasim, Al-Qa’nabi, Sa’id Ibn Manshur, Qutaibah, Yahya Ibn Bukair,
and other scholars.

Praises for Imam Malik

He was a great scholar in Islam. Imam Ash Shafi’i said, “If the scholars are mentioned,
then Malik is the star.” Yahya Ibn Qathan said, “None has more valid hadith than Malik,
he was the leader in the matter of hadith.” Ibn Uyaina said, “Who are we compared to
Malik? We’re just following his footsteps.” Abdurrahman Ibn Mahdi didn’t want to
prioritize other scholars before Imam Malik.

He was famous as a strict, discipline, and cautious scholar in issuing fatwas. One day,
someone came to him bringing forty questions, and he answered only five of them.
Once he said, ” Shield of a scholar is the answer, ‘I don’t know’. If he forgot about it,
then he is defeated in his battle.”

He ever beaten by the government of his time because of a misunderstanding of the

Governor of Medina regarding his opinion. Thus, some people who envy him stood up
and provoked the government against him. His arms were beaten so badly that he
couldn’t raise his hands during his prayer.
He has several writings and many of them has reached us today, among them is the
book “Al Muwatha’.

The Death of Imam Malik

He died on year 179 Hijri, in Medina, the city of the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah
be upon him-.

Mālik b. Anas b. Mālik b. Abī ʿĀmir b. ʿAmr b. al-Ḥāritt ht b. Gthtaymān b. Kthtutt htayn b. ʿAmr b. al-
Ḥāritt ht al-Aṣbaḥī, often referred to as Mālik ibn Anas (Arabic: ‫ ;مالك بن أنس‬711–795 CE / 93–179 AH)
for short, or reverently as Imam Mālik by Sunni Muslims, was an Arab Muslim jurist, theologian,
and hadith traditionist.[3] Born in the city of Medina, Malik rose to become the premier scholar
of prophetic traditions in his day,[3] which he sought to apply to "the whole legal life" in order to create
a systematic method of Muslim jurisprudence which would only further expand with the passage of
time.[3] Referred to as the Imam of Medina by his contemporaries, Malik's views in matters of
jurisprudence were highly cherished both in his own life and afterwards, and he became the founder
of one of the four orthodox legal schools of Sunni law, the Maliki rite,[3] which became the normative
rite for the Sunni practice of much of North Africa, Andalusia, a vast portion of Egypt, and some parts
of Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Khorasan,[4] and the standard rite for several prominent orthodox
Sufi orders, including the Shadiliyya and the Tijaniyyah.[5]
Perhaps Malik's most famous accomplishment in the annals of Islamic history is, however, his
compilation of the Muwatta, one of the oldest and most revered Sunni hadith collections and one of
"the earliest surviving Muslim law-book[s],"[3] in which Malik attempted to "give a survey
of law and justice; ritual and practice of religion according to the consensus of Islam in Medina,
according to the sunna usual in Medina; and to create a theoretical standard for matters which were
not settled from the point of view of consensus and sunna."[3] Composed in the early days of
the Abbasid caliphate, during which time there was a burgeoning "recognition and appreciation of
the canon law" of the ruling party, Malik's work aimed to trace out a "smoothed path" (which is
what al-muwaṭṭaʾ literally means) through "the farreaching differences of opinion even on the most
elementary questions."[3] Hailed as "the soundest book on earth after the Quran" by al-Shafi'i,[4] the
compilation of the Muwatta led to Malik being bestowed with such reverential epithets as Shaykh of
Islam, Proof of the Community, Imam of the Abode of Emigration, and Knowledgeable
Scholar of Medina in later Sunni tradition.[4]
According to classical Sunni tradition, the Prophet Muhammad foretold the birth of Malik, saying:
"Very soon will people beat the flanks of camels in search of knowledge and they shall find no one
more expert than the knowledgable scholar of Medina," [6] and, in another tradition, "The people ...
shall set forth from East and West without finding a sage other than the sage of the people in
Medina."[7] While some later scholars, such as Ibn Hazm and Tahawi, did cast doubt on identifying
the mysterious wise man of both these traditions with Malik,[8] the most widespread interpretation
nevertheless continued to be that which held the personage to be Malik. [8]Throughout Islamic history,
Malik was venerated as an exemplary figure in all the traditional schools of Sunni thought, both by
the exoteric ulema and by the mystics, with the latter often designating him as a saint in their
hagiographies.[9][10] Malik's most notable student, al-Shafi'i, who would himself become the founder of
another of the four orthodox legal schools of Sunni law, later said of his teacher: "No one constitutes
as great a favor to me in the Religion of God as Malik ... when the scholars of knowledge are
mentioned, Malik is the guiding star."[1]
His full name was Abu Abdullah Mālik ibn Anas ibn Mālik Ibn Abī 'Āmir Ibn 'Amr Ibnul-Hārith Ibn
Ghaimān Ibn Khuthail Ibn 'Amr Ibnul-Haarith.
Malik was born the son of Anas ibn Malik (who is not the Sahabi with the same name) and Aaliyah
bint Shurayk al-Azdiyya in Medina circa 711. His family was originally from the al-Asbahi tribe
of Yemen, but his great grandfather Abu 'Amir relocated the family to Medina after converting
to Islam in the second year of the Hijri calendar, or 623 CE. His grandfather Malik ibn Abi Amir was a
student of the second Caliph of Islam Umar and was one of those involved in the collection of the
parchments upon which Quranic texts were originally written when those were collected during the
Caliph Uthman era.[11] According to Al-Muwatta, he was tall, heavyset, imposing of stature, very fair,
with white hair and beard but bald, with a huge beard and blue eyes.

Living in Medina gave Malik access to some of the most learned minds of early Islam.
He memorized the Quran in his youth, learning recitation from Abu Suhail Nafi' ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman,
from whom he also received his Ijazah, or certification and permission to teach others. He studied
under various famed scholars including Hisham ibn Urwah, Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, and—along
with Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi Sunni Madh'hab—under the household of the Prophet's
lineage, Jafar al Sadiq.[12] This fact may explain the mutual respect and relative peace that has often
existed between the Hanafi and Maliki Sunnis, on one hand, and the Shi`is on the other.

Golden Chain of Narration[edit]

Malik's chain of narrators was considered the most authentic and called Silsilat al-Dhahab or "The
Golden Chain of Narrators" by notable hadith scholars including Muhammad al-Bukhari.[13] The
'Golden Chain' of narration (i.e., that considered by the scholars of Hadith to be the most authentic)
consists of Malik, who narrated from Nafi‘ Mawla ibn ‘Umar, who narrated from Ibn Umar, who
narrated from Muhammad.

Mention in Hadith[edit]
The Prophet Muhammad reportedly said in a hadith authenticated by Muhammad ibn `Isa at-
Tirmidhi: “Very soon will people beat the flanks of camels in search of knowledge, and they shall find
no-one more knowledgeable than the knowledgeable scholar of Madina.” Qadi Ayyad, Al-
Dhahabi and others relate from Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah, ‘Abd ar-Razzaq as-San‘ani, Ibn Mahdi, Yahya
ibn Ma'in, Dhu’ayb ibn `Imama, Ibn al-Madini, and others that they considered that scholar to be
Malik ibn Anas.[14]

Abdul-Ghani Ad-Daqr wrote that Malik was 'the furthest of all people' from dialectic theology who
was the most knowledgeable of their discussions without accepting their views. [15] G.F. Haddad, on
the other hand, argued that Malik was not completely averse to the idea of dialectic theology; on the
contrary, Haddad points to Malik having studied 'at the feet of Ibn Hurmuz,' a master in dialectic
theology, for 'thirteen to sixteen years'.[16]
Regarding Malik's unique contributions to the field of theology specifically, it is known that he was a
strict opponent of anthropomorphism,[16] and deemed it absurd to compare the attributes of
God which were given in "human imagery" such as that of God's "hands" or "eyes" with those of
man.[16] For example, when a man asked Malik about the meaning of Quran 20:5, "The Merciful
established Himself over the Throne," it is related that "nothing affected Malik so much as that man's
question," and the jurist fervently responded: "The 'how' of it is inconceivable; the 'establishment'
part of it is unknown; belief in it is obligatory; asking about it is an innovation." [17][18]
Beatific vision[edit]
Malik was a supporter of the orthodox Sunni doctrine of the beatific vision,[19] and he is said to have
cited Quran 75:22-23 ("That day will faces be resplendent, looking toward their Lord,") and 83:15
("Nay! Verily, from their Lord, that day, shall they [the transgressors] be veiled,") as proof of his
Faith's nature[edit]
When asked about the nature of faith, Malik defined it as "speech and works" (qawlun wa-'amal),
which shows that Malik was averse to rigorously separating between faith and works. [22]
Malik seems to have been a proponent of intercession in personal supplication.[20] For example, it is
related that when the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur asked Malik about whether it was preferable to face
the Prophet's tomb or the qibla whilst doing the personal prayer or dua, Malik responded: "Why
should you not face him when he is your means (wasīla) to God and that of your father Adam on
the Day of Resurrection?"[23] Regarding this tradition, the thirteenth-century hadith master Ibn Jamāʿa
said: "The report is related by the two hadith masters Ibn Bashkuwāl and al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ in al-Shifā,
and no attention is paid to the words of those who claim that it is forged purely on the basis of their
idle desires."[24] While both Ibn Taymiyyah and, much more recently, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's
grandson Sulaymān did indeed reject the authenticity of this tradition, [25] their opinions were
characterized by the vast majority of mainstream Sunni scholars such as al-Zarqānī as "stemming
either from ignorance or arrogance."[26] Historically, it is known that Malik's statements on the validity
of intercession remained a core doctrine of the Maliki school, and practically all Maliki thinkers of the
classical era accepted the idea of the Prophet's intercession.[27] It is also known, moreover, that the
classical "books of the Mālikīs are replete with the stipulation that du'ā [personal supplication] be
made while facing the grave."[28]
On the basis of several early traditions, it is evident that Malik held the early Sufis and their practices
in high regard.[29] It is related, moreover, that Malik was a strong proponent of combining the "inward
science" ('ilm al-bātin) of mystical knowledge with the "outward science" of jurisprudence.[29] For
example, the famous twelfth-century Maliki jurist and judge Qadi Iyad, later venerated as
a saint throughout the Iberian Peninsula, narrated a tradition in which a man asked Malik "about
something in the inward science," to which Malik replied: "Truly none knows the inward science
except those who know the outward science! When he knows the outward science and puts it into
practice, God shall open for him the inward science - and that will not take place except by the
opening of his heart and its enlightenment."[30] In other similar traditions, it is related that Malik said:
"He who practices Sufism (tasawwuf) without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith (tazandaqa),
while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Sufism corrupts himself (tafassaqa). Only he who
combines the two proves true (tahaqqaqa)."[31]
While there are a few traditions relating that Malik, while not an opponent of mysticism as a whole,
was nonetheless adverse specifically to the practice of group dhikr, such traditions have been
graded as being munkar or "weak" in their chain of transmission.[32]Furthermore, it has been argued
that none of these reports - all of which relate Malik's disapproving amusement at being told about
an instance of group dhikr happening nearby - explicitly display any disapproval of the act as such,
but rather serve as a criticism of "some people who passed for Sufis in his time [who] apparently
committed certain excesses or breaches of the sacred law."[32] As both their chains of transmission
are weak and not consistent with what is related of Malik elsewhere, the traditions are rejected by
many scholars, although latter-day critics of Sufism do occasionally cite them in support of their

Malik was a supporter of tabarruk or the "seeking of blessing through [the veneration of]
relics."[33] This is evident, for example, in the fact that Malik approvingly related the tradition of a
certain Atā' ibn Abī Rabāh, whom he saw "enter the [Prophet's] Mosque, then take hold of the
pommel of the Pulpit, after which he faced the qibla [to pray]," thereby supporting the holding of the
pommel for its blessings (baraka) by virtue of its having touched the Prophet Muhammad.
Furthermore, it is also recorded that "when one of the caliphs manifested his intention to replace
the wooden pulpit of the Prophet with a pulpit of silver and jewels," Malik exclaimed: "I do not
consider it good that people be deprived of the relics of the Messenger of God!" (Lā arā yuḥrama al-
nāsu āthāra rasūlillāh).[33]

Sunnah of the Prophet[edit]

Malik considered following the sunnah of the Prophet to be of capital importance for every Muslim. It
is reported that he said: "The sunnah is Noah's Ark. Whoever boards it is saved, and whoever
remains away from it perishes."[34]

Differences of opinion[edit]
Accounts of Malik's life demonstrate that the scholar cherished differences of opinion amongst
the ulema as a mercy from God to the Islamic community.[35] Even "in Malik's time there were those
who forwarded the idea of a unified madhhab and the ostensive removal of all differences between
the Sunni schools of law," with "three successive caliphs" having sought to "impose the Muwatta and
Malik's school upon the entire Islamic world of their time," but "Malik refused to allow it every time ...
[for he held that the differences in opinion among the jurists]" were a "mercy" for the people. [36] When
the second Abbasid caliph al-Mansur said to Malik: "I want to unify this knowledge. I shall write to the
leaders of the armies and to the rulers so that they make it law, and whoever contravenes it shall be
put to death," Malik is said to have responded: "Commander of the Believers, there is another way.
Truly, the Prophet was present in this community, he used to send out troops or set forth in person,
and he did not conquer many lands until God took back his soul. Then Abu Bakr arose and he also
did not conquer many lands. Then Umar arose after the two of them and many lands were
conquered at his hands. As a result, he faced the necessity of sending out the Companions of
Muhammad as teachers and people did not cease to take from them, notable scholars from notable
scholars until our time. If you now go and change them from what they know to what they do not
know they shall deem it disbelief (kufr). Rather, confirm the people of each land with regard to
whatever knowledge is there, and take this knowledge to yourself." [37]
According to another narration, al-Mansur, after hearing Malik's answers to certain important
questions, said: "I have resolved to give the order that your writings be copied and disseminated to
every Muslim region on earth, so that they be put in practice exclusively of any other rulings. They
will leave aside innovations and keep only this knowledge. For I consider that the source of
knowledge is the narrative tradition of Medina and the knowledge of its scholars." [38] To this, Malik is
said to have replied: "Commander of the Believers, do not! For people have already heard different
positions, heard hadith, and related narrations. Every group has taken whatever came to them and
put it into practice, conforming to it while other people differed. To take them away from what they
have been professing will cause a disaster. Therefore, leave people with whatever school they follow
and whatever the people of each country chose for themselves." [38]
Knowing the limits of knowledge[edit]
Malik is famous for declaring: "The shield of the 'alim is: 'I do not know.' If he neglects it, he will
receive a mortal blow."[39] Elsewhere, a certain Khālid ibn Khidāsh related: "I travelled all the way
from Iraq to see Mālik about forty questions. He did not answer me except on five. Then he said: ʿIbn
ʿIjlān used to say: If the 'alim bypasses 'I do not know,' he will receive a mortal blow." [39] Likewise, al-
Haytham ibn Jamīl said: "I saw Mālik ibn Anas being asked forty-eight questions, and he replied to
thirty-two of them: 'I do not know.'"[39] Later on, Malik's disciple, Ibn Wahb, related: "I heard ʿAbd Allāh
ibn Yazīd ibn Hurmuz say: 'The 'ulema must instill in those who sit with him the phrase 'I do not
know' until it becomes a foundational principle (asl) before them and they seek refuge in it from
Religious disputation[edit]
Malik is said to have detested disputing in matters of religion, saying: "Disputation (al-jidāl) in the
religion fosters self-display, does away with the light of the heart and hardens it, and produces
aimless wandering."[40] Needless argument, therefore, was disapproved of by Malik, and he also
chose to keep silent about religious matters in general unless he felt obliged to speak in fear of "the
spread of misguidance or some similar danger."[41]

Shaving the mustache[edit]
In the Muwatta, Malik writes: "Shaving the mustache is an innovation."[33] Elsewhere, it is written that
he "detested and condemned" shaving of the mustache and, furthermore, "disliked inordinate length
for the beard."[33] While several other scholars held both the clipping (qass) and the removal (ihfā') of
the mustache to be sunnah, Malik only considered the former to be truly prophetically prescribed,
deeming the latter an unpalatable innovation.[33]

Physical appearance[edit]
The available physical descriptions of Malik relate that he "was tall, heavy-set, imposing of stature,
very fair, with white beard ... [and] bald ... [with] blue eyes."[33] Furthermore, it is also related that "he
always wore beautiful clothes, especially [those that were] white."[33]

Malik died at the age of 85 in Medina in 795 and is buried in the famous Jannat ul-Baqi cemetery
across from the Mosque of the Prophet. Although there was a small shrine constructed around his
grave during the medieval period, with many Muslims visiting it to pay their respects, the
construction was razed to the ground by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during their campaign of
demolishing many of the traditional Islamic heritage sites after the kingdom's establishment in 1932.

Malik's last words were related by one Isma'il ibn Abi Uways who said, "Malik became sick, so I
asked some of our people about what he said at the time of his death. They said, "He recited
the testification of faith and then he recited:
Their affair is for God, before and after.[42]

Imam Malik wrote:

 Al-Muwatta, "The Approved," which was said to have been regarded by Shafi'i to be the
soundest book on Earth after the Qur'an.
 Al-Mudawwana al-Kubra, written down by Sahnun ibn Sa'id ibn Habib at-Tanukhi (c. 776-7 –
854-5) after the death of Malik ibn Anas.

Imam Malik’s Early Years

Abu Abdullah, Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Amer al-Asbahee was born in Madinah in the
year 93 A.H. (714 CE). His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in
Madinah after embracing Islam.

Born into a well-to-do family, Imam Malik did not need to work for a living. He was highly
attracted to the study of Islam, and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Fiqh.
Imam Malik received his education in what was the most important seat of Islamic
learning, Madinah, and lived where the immediate descendants and the followers of the
companions of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, were living.

It is said that Imam Malik sought out over three hundred Tabi’een or those who saw and
followed the companions of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam. Imam Malik held
the hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, in such reverence that he never
narrated, taught any hadeeth or gave a fatwa without being in a state of ritual purity,
Ghusl. Ismael ibn abi Uwaiss said, “I asked my uncle Imam Malik – about something.
He had me sit, made ablution, then said, ‘Laa hawla wala quwata illa billah.’ He did not
give any fatwa without saying it first.”

Also, Imam 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. Al-Haytham said, “I once was
with Imam Malik when he was asked more than forty questions and I heard him reply, ‘I
do not know,’ to thirty two 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
seventy of the Madinah scholars first witnessed to his competence in doing so.

Imam Malik became the Imam of the Madinah, and one of the most renowned Imams of

Imam Malik’s Famous Muwatta

He is the author of al-Muwatta’ (“The Approved”), formed of the sound narrations from
the Prophet together with the sayings of his companions, their followers, and those after
them. Malik said, “I showed my book to seventy scholars of Madinah, and every single
one of them approved it for me (kulluhum wata-ani alayh), so I named it ‘The

Imam Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains of transmission was “Malik, from Nafi,
from Ibn Umar.” The scholars of hadeeth call it the Golden Chain, and there are eighty
narrations with this chain in the Muwatta. Malik composed al-Muwatta in the course of
forty years, having started with ten thousand narrations until he reduced them to their
present number of fewer than 2,000.

Like all scholars of Islam, Imam Malik was famous for his piety and integrity. He
courageously stood up, and was prepared to suffer, for his convictions. When the
governor of Madinah demanded and forced people to take the oath of allegiance to
Khalifah 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 hadeeth, “The
divorce of the coerced does not take effect” (laysa ala mustakrahin talag). This resulted
in many people finding courage to express their opposition, but Imam Malik was
arrested, found guilty of defiance, and publicly flogged.

Imam Malik’s followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school, Madh-hab, based on his
Ijtihad which came to be known as the Maliki Madh-hab. This Madh-hab spread in North
Africa, al-Andalus, much of Egypt, and some of al-Sham, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and
Khurasan. Today, Malikis are mostly found in North and West Africa, Egypt, Sudan and
the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

On Monday 14th of Rabi-ul-Awwal 179 A H., Imaam Malik (R.A) took leave from this
world in the city of Madinah and is buried in the famous al-Baqie cemetery.