"I wrote this article nearly a decade ago. Though my research in Islamic theology has remarkably expanded in the past decade, I still hold this article dear to me. Something I wrote with great passion and zeal."
-Maasid Siddiq Ganai
The young boy insisted, “I want to write more Aḥādīth”. He had just written forty Aḥādīth which he listened from his teacher, Az-Zuhrī (رحمه الله). It was the day of Eīd and that didn’t stop
this lad from coming to the home of his teacher in order to seek knowledge. But forty Aḥādīth were more than sufficient for one day and so Imām Az-Zuhrī (رحمه الله) said to him, “go home, memorize these first and then we shall proceed”, the boy’s reply was surprising, “I have already memorized them”.
This young boy grew up to be called as the scholar of Ḥijāz and the Imām of Dārul Hijrah, He was Abū ‘Abdillah Mālik Ibn Anas Al-Aṣbahī. Born in 93 H in Madinah, Malik died there as well in the year 179 H. The Imām and Muḥaddith about whom Ash-Shāfi'ī (رحمه الله) said that,
“Had it not been for Mālik and Sufyān Ibn ‘Uyaynah, the knowledge of Ḥijāz would had disappeared”.
Born in a well-off family Malik (رحمه الله) did not need to work for a living. He was highly attracted to the study of Fiqh and ended up giving his entire life studying Fiqh.
He gained knowledge from Rabī’ah, from many of the great jurists among the Tābi'ūn, and so extensive was his study under the instruction of Az-Zuhrī, that he is considered to be one of his most famous students. He also heard much from Nāfi’, the free slave of Ibn ‘Umar. Those narrations that he related from Nāfi’ became well known, and according to the convention among some of the scholars of Ḥadīth, that chain is called the golden chain: Mālik from Nāfi’ from Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه)”[i].
Mālik grew up in a household which was engaged in the science of Traditions and Ḥadīth. His family was interested in the knowledge of the reports and traditions of the Companions and their fatāwá. Mālik was originally known as 'the brother of An-Naḍr', a brother of his who was esteemed for his knowledge. Then his own desire to seek knowledge grew to such an extent that people began to say, 'An-Naḍr, the brother of Malik.'[ii]
Imām Mālik (رحمه الله) held the Ḥadīth of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in such reverence that he never narrated, taught any Ḥadīth or given a fatwá without being in a state of ritual purity. Ismā'īl Ibn Abi Uways said; "I asked my uncle, Mālik, about something. He had me sit, made ablution, then said, 'Lā Ḥawla Walā Quwata Illā Billāh." He did not give any fatwá without saying it first."
Mālik would view fatwá as an important action that can have far reaching consequences. He, thus, 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 Mālik 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-Shāfi'ī said,
"When scholars are mentioned, Malik is like a star among them."
Mālik said that he did not sit to give fatwá, until seventy scholars of the Madinah first witnessed to his competence in doing so.