SNMC Heritage Imam Malik bin Anas
Imam Malik was a Tabi’ at-Tabi‘i (a Muslim of the 3rd Generation). He lived his whole life in Madinah, the City of the Prophet (SAW), during the transition period between the Umayyad and Abbasid Khilafah. He was the second of the four major mujtahid Imams, and being born and living in Madinah he witnessed first-hand the traces and actions of the Companions and Followers.
Imam Malik grew up in a household which was engaged in the science of traditions and hadith. He first studied under his grandfather (a great Tabi’) and memorised the Qur’an. He also spent at least 7 years with the scholar ibn Hurmuz and from an early age sat in the circles of prominent jurists and memorized many ahadith with their transmission chains. He eventually took a post in the Prophet’s (SAW) mosque as a faqih (jurist) and teacher of ahadith when he was thoroughly versed in all Islamic disciplines
Imam Malik gave fataawa in a prudent manner and disliked having them written down. In fact, he often hesitated in giving fataawa, famously answering with “I do not know” at times, unless he could thoroughly substantiate his rulings based on the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Muwatta at one stage contained 10,000 hadiths. However, by the end, it contained only 1700. Imam Malik feared including other than what was from the Prophet (SAW) and employed a vigorous editorial regime whereby he deleted many reports yearly, According to Shah Waliullah, the book is a collection of the most authentic Ahadith of the Prophet (SAW) selected by Imam Malik after a thorough examination of their sources.
Imam Malik saw the exchange of leadership from the Umayyad Khilafah to the Abbasid Khilafah, the revolt of the Kharajites (who were violent and withdrew allegiance to the Khalifah) and ‘Alawites (another deviant group). He also heard of accounts of the revolt of Ibn az-Zubayr against the Umayyad Khilafah when the sacredness of the two Harams was violated.
Imam Malik took the correct Islamic position of not rebelling against the Khalifah, nor abandoning the allegiance to him, nor being content with the improper rule. Instead, he sought to reform the Khalifah through proper means. He established this position upon ahadith and not mere neutrality.
Imam Malik once taught the athar, “The word of divorce proclaimed under duress is not divorce, and she is not haram for you, so return to your home” (Muwatta 29.28.78) which was built upon ahadith. Those that were partaking in the rebellion against the then Khalifah al-Mansur took the principle from this athar, being oaths made under duress are invalid, to trumpet “scholarly support” for their rebellion (i.e. – withdrawal of allegiance and subsequent hostility). As the un-Islamic rebellion against the Khalifah was in motion, al-Mansur practically forbade Imam Malik to teach this athar whereas the rebels encouraged him to teach it. Imam Malik would regularly advise the governors and rulers, for he feared that they would be inconsistent in the application of Islam. Imam Malik, unaware of the motivations of the rebels, hence disregarded the Khalifah’s request and fearing none but Allah (SWT), continued his traditional way of being a muhaddith and faqih. This meant he continued to teach and did not censor the hadith.
The governor of Medina, who was officially appointed by the Khalifah, had Imam Malik whipped severely to the point that his shoulders became dislocated. Yet he did not change his stance over the hadith.
When the Khalifah al-Mansur later met Imam Malik during Hajj, he sincerely apologized to him, vowed to punish the governor for the outrage, asked the Imam to come and meet him in person and offered the Imam residence in Baghdad. The Imam accepted the apology but refused to go to the Khalifah’s court and the free residence. He asked that al-Mansur should rather come and visit him in Medina.