Imam Malik: Commander of Muslims in Hadith


His Name

Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abi `Amir.


Abu `Abdullah


Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abi `Amir ibn ‘Amr ibn al-Harith ibn Aiman (`Uthman) ibn Khudhail (Al-Asbahy-a royal tribe branch of Himyar in Yemen) Imam Suyuti (May Allah be pleased with him) says that Imam Malik’s lineage goes to Ya`rab ibn Yashjab ibn Qahtan. As some report in the following way: Zhu Asbah, al-Harith ibn Malik ibn Zaid ibn Ghouth ibn Sa`ad ibn ‘Awf ibn ‘Adi ibn Malik ibn Zaid ibn Sahl ibn ‘Amr ibn Qais ibn Mu`awiya ibn Jasham ibn ‘Abd Shams ibn Da‘il ibn al-Ghouth ibn Qutn ibn ‘Areb ibn Zhaher ibn Ayman ibn Humse‘ ibn Himyar ibn Saba ibn Yashjab ibn Ya`rab ibn Qahtan.

Imam Malik’s Mother’s Name

`Aliyah bint Sharek ibn ‘Abdur Rahman al-Azdiyah Other Names related to Him: Imam Darul-Hijrah and al-Madni (due to his remaining in al-Madinah the majority of his life.


According to Hafiz Adh-Dhahabi, Sam‘ani ibn Farhun, and others Imam Malik was born in the year 93 A.H. due to the report of Yahya ibn Bukhair one of the elder students of the Imam. Others have said he was born in 90 A.H. some say in 95 A.H. and Yaf‘ei reports in Tabaqatul-Fuqaha, 94 A.H. Extraordinarily, he remained in the womb on his mother for more than the usual nine months. Some say two years while others say he remained in her womb for three years before he was later born in Madinah.


Mutaraf ibn ‘Abdullah al-Yasari says that the Imam was tall, well-built, fair complexion, blond-haired, large-eyes and nose, broad forehead with hardly any hair on it referred as (Asla`in Arabic ) the same is said about `Umar  and `Ali  (May Allah be pleased with them). He had a very profuse and thick beard that reached down to his chest. He used to trim his moustache near the corners of his lips and said it was disapproved to fully shave them. He followed the Sunnah of `Umar  ibn Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) who used to pull his moustaches hair near the lips when he was in deep thought of something. From this it is established that `Umar  (May Allah be pleased with him) had hair on both sides of the lips. He used to wear very elegant and expensive clothing, usually wearing white, and frequently changing them. He would put on Musk and other fragrances on his clothing. He would wear his turban and have part of it come down underneath his chin and the tail of it between his two shoulders. He would also wear a shawl-like garment that would cover the head and shoulders.

Education and Knowledge

The Imam’s Family was in itself a place of knowledge because his childhood was in the beautiful gardens and land of Madinah. He learned and memorized the Qur’an in his youth. He recited to Imam ul-Qurra, Nafi` ibn Abdur-Rahman (whose recitation is the foundation of the entire Muslim Ummah today and he passed away in the year 169 A.H.) and also received his (Sanad) certification and permission to teach others from him. In the beginning of his quest for knowledge the Imam did not have many means to acquire it properly so he sold the ceiling beams of his home to purchase books and papers for enabling him to do so. After some time Allah Almighty bestowed him with a lot of wealth and money. The Imam’s memory was also extraordinary. It is reported about the Imam that he had the best memory in all of Hijaz, likewise in the knowledge of Hadith and Fiqh. Imam Shafi`i   says about him, “If Malik and Ibn Uyainah where not here, the knowledge of Hijaz would be gone.” Imam Dhahabi said, “There remains no scholar in Madinah after the Tabi`en comparable to Imam Malik’s knowledge, jurisprudence, eminence, and memorization.” He practiced extreme care in regards to narrating Hadith for just anyone. Imam Malik says, “I do not accept knowledge from four types of people: (1) a person well-known to be foolish, even though all the other people narrate from him, (2) a person involved in committing heresy and calling others towards the innovation in Deen, (3) a person who lies in regular conversation with people, even though I do not accuse him as liar in regards to Hadith, (4) and a person who is pious worshipper or scholar, but does not properly and correctly memorize what he narrates.” It was said to Imam Malik, “Why don’t you take narrations from ‘Amr ibn Dinar? He replied, “I went to him (‘Amr ibn Dinar and I found him narrating Hadith to others while in a standing position. So I thought to myself that the Hadith of the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) is too great and majestic to take them in a standing position.”

The Imam remained his entire life inside al-Hijaz and never travelled outside of it. In Hadith, the Imam was the leader of all of Madinah, where his chain of narrators were the most authentic and called “Zilzilatul-Dhahab” or “The Golden Chain Of Narrators” (ie. Narrated from Malik from Nafi’ from Ibn `Umar  (May Allah be pleased with them). The Imam would not just narrate Hadith from anyone, rather he would take great caution and narrate only from authentic and reliable sources. Even other great scholars and companions of his time bear witness to that like, Imam of Makkah, Sufyan ibn Uyainah, who says, “May Allah have mercy upon Malik, he is extremely critical of the men (in regards to the chain of narrators of a Hadith). He would also say, “Imam Malik only used to narrate to others authentic Hadith, he would not report except from reliable narrators, I don’t see Madinah but in decrease (ie. in regards to the knowledge) after the death of Malik.” One of his most greatest pupils, Imam Shafi`i   says about him, “That when Imam Malik was in doubt over a Hadith he would totally disregard it.” In Fiqh, the Imam was on a higher level than all the rest. Bahlul ibn Rashid says about him:, “I have never seen someone with the knowledge of deducing from the Qur’an as Malik, along with his great recognition of strong and weak narrations.” `Abdullah ibn Luhay`ah says, “I asked al-Nadhr ibn `Abdul-Jabar (Abul-Aswad) who has a saying after Rabi`ah in Madinah? He relpied, al-Ghulam al-Asbahi (ie. Imam Malik). Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbali says about the great Imam, “I compared Imam Malik to al-Awza`i, Thawri, Laith, Hamad, and al-Hakam in knowledge, and he is the leader in Hadith and Fiqh.”

 “I asked al-Nadhr ibn `Abdul-Jabar (Abul-Aswad) who has a saying after Rabi`ah in Madinah? He relpied, al-Ghulam al-Asbahi (ie. Imam Malik).

Teachers and Instructors

Imam Malik would only take knowledge from those men who were famous for their cleanliness, piety, and truthfulness, who were distinct in memorization and jurisprudence. The teachers mentioned in Muwatta from whom he narrated Hadith from are ninety five in total all of who were from Madinah. Thus making all of the various holders of knowledge who were scattered all around now brought together in one holder (Imam Malik), this is why he earned the name of “Imam Darul-Hijrah.” From all of the Imam’s teachers six of them were not from Madinah. So ninety five teachers are only those mentioned in Muwatta. Otherwise, `Allamah Zurqani and Dulaqi have written that his teachers were over nine hundred. Imam an-Nawawi has written in Tahzebul-Asma that of Imam Malik’s nine hundred teachers three hundred were from the Tabi`in and six hundred from the Tabi`n Tabi`in. The Imam’s greatest of all teachers was Nafi` the slave of Ibn `Umar  ( May Allah be pleased with him).

Imam Malik learned from him for twelve years and attained the knowledge of Hadith and Dirayah (Fiqh). It is for this reason that many narrations are from Nafi’ (May Allah be pleased with him). This was called the golden chain of narrators because it was the best chain in Muwatta. Shah Waliyullah Dehlawi has written that Harun al-Rashid asked Imam Malik, “You have mentioned `Ali  and Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) only a few time in your book, why?” He replied, “They were not here in Madinah, nor did I find any of their students or companions.” Shah Saheb writes on, “That this proud honor was given to Imam Abu Hanifa (May Allah be pleased with him).” Also he says that `Abdullah ibn Mas’ud narrations are even less than these two, `Ali  and Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him). Here is a list of some of Imam Malik’s teachers: 1. Nafi` (the servant of Abdullah ibn `Umar  (May Allah be pleased with him) 2. Abul-Zanad, `Adbullah ibn Zakwaan 3. Hishaam ibn `Urwah ibn Zubair 4. Yahya ibn Sa`ed al-Ansary 5. `Abdullah ibn Dinar 6. Zaid ibn Aslam (servant of `Umar  ibn Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) 7. Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Shihab al-Zhuhry 8. Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr ibn Hazm 9. Sa`ed ibn Abu Sa`ed al-Maqbari 10. Sumay servant of Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) 11. Ayyub Sakhtiyani 12. Abdur-Rahman ibn al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) 13. Thawr ibn Zaid Dabli 14. Ibrahim ibn Abi Ablah al-Maqdisi 15. Rabi`ah ibn Abu Abdur-Rahman 16. Humayd Taweel 17. `Aishah ibnt Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas In Qira’ah (recitation of Qur’an): Nafi’ ibn Abu Nu`aym al-Qari His Pupils and Students: Imam Malik’s students reach to the thousands. Some have mentioned so many that they can not be counted, like Hafiz ibn Kather and Dhahabi. Qazi Iyyadh has mentioned over One thousand three hundred have narrated Hadith from the great Imam. Hafiz Dar-Qutni has mentioned One thousand. Hafiz Abu Bakr Khateb al-Baghdadi has mentioned Nine hundred and three. Even some of the Imam’s Teachers were his students, like: 1. Zhuhri Abul-Aswad 2. Ayyub Sakhtiyani 3. Rabi`ah al-Ra`i 4. Yahya ibn Sa`ed al-Ansari 5. Muhammad ibn Abi Zi`ab 6. Ibn Jareh 7. A`mash 8. Abu Suhail, Nafi’ ibn Malik

Eminent Pupils

1. Imam Muhammad 2. Imam Shafi`i   3. `Abdullah ibn Mubarak 4. Laith ibn Sa`ad 5. Shu`bah 6. Sufyan Thawri 7. Ibn Juraij 8. Ibn Uyainah 9. Yahya al-Qattan 10. Ibn Mahdi 11. Abu Asim al-nabil 12. `Abdur-Rahman al-Awza`i.

Eminent Narrators in Imam Malik’s Muwatta':

Before the Imam would narrate any Hadith or dictate it to people, he would perform wudu’ or take a bath, put on his best and most expensive clothing, groom himself

1. Abdullah ibn Yusuf al-Tunisi 2. `Abdullah ibn Muslimah al-Qa`nabi 3. Abdullah ibn Wahab al-Misri 4. Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laithi 5. Abu Mus`ab al-Zhuhri His respect of Teaching of Hadith: After Abdullah ibn `Umar  (May Allah be pleased with him) and his servant and pupil, Nafi` (May Allah be pleased with him) the great Imam narrated Hadith and taught from the age of seventeen to about seventy nine. He gave service to the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him), giving lessons on Fiqh and issuing Fatawa for sixty two years of his life. Before the Imam would narrate any Hadith or dictate it to people, he would perform wudu’ or take a bath, put on his best and most expensive clothing, groom himself, put on musk or another fragrance, then proceed to the gathering of Hadith with the utmost dignity and respect. In every gathering coal ambers of ‘Uod (a special and beautiful fragrance derived from a unique tree) would be burnt continuously until the lesson was over. In the Imam’s gatherings there would always be plush and expensive mats or carpeting spread out on the floor and when he would arrive there would be pin-drop silence out of the respect for him the people would remain totally quiet. In the gatherings their would be the students all around the sitting place of the Imam, just like how a king’s servants would gather around his throne. There would be Muftis, `Ulama, and leaders present in the gathering. Such respect was present in these gatherings that anyone who pass by would think that a king must be delivering his message and one who sit down in it would be taken away with awe.

`Abdullah ibn Mubarak reports that one time the Imam was bitten by a scorpion under his garment over ten times while narrating Hadith.During the narration of the Hadith he did not stop in order to remove it, rather he continued to narrate until the end. I noticed the discoloration of his face when the Imam was being bitten. Afterwards when all the people had left, I came to the Imam and asked him what had happened. He replied, “A scorpion was biting me under my garment, I could not have kept my patience because of myself restraint, rather it was out of the respect of the Hadith of the Holy Prophet ( Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) that I did not remove it. Subhanallah!!!


Imam Malik believed that the Qur’an, which is the last message of Allah, was Ghair Makhluq, not a creation. He also believed that Allah is on His Throne just as he has described in the Qur’an. He believed that Allah Almighty has the knowledge of everything and that the believers will see Him with their eyes on the Day of Judgment. He believed that Iman (faith) is to declare it by mouth, and is manifested through actions that will increase by obedience and decrease by committing sins. He believed that anyone who uses abusive language against the Holy Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) should be given death sentence and that repentance should not avail them. He believed that Abu Bakr and `Umar  (May Allah be pleased with them ) were the best in the Ummah after the Holy Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) and that those who follow the beliefs of the Qadriyyah Sect‘s, prayer is not valid behind them and their women can not be married.

Love for Madinah

Imam Bukhari – I was asked what is the most authentic chain of narrators. I replied from Malik from Nafi`from Ibn `Umar ( May Allah be pleased with him). Imam Nasai`– After the Tabi`in the most understanding, reliable, trustworthy, man in Hadith is Imam Malik.

Even when the Imam attained old age and became very weak he never rode on an animal in Madinah his entire life. He understood that it was against the respect of Madinah to ride on the particular land in which the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) was buried in. Imam Shafi`i    says, “I saw at the door of Imam Malik’s home beautiful horses from Khurasan and Egyptian Mules. So I said to him they were very nice. He said they are yours as a gift from me. I said that you should keep one for yourself. His reply was that I am embarrassed to do so! How can I ride on them when the body of the Holy Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be with him) is buried here in Madinah and the land is being rode on with the hooves of horses?

Some Sayings about Him by Other Scholars

Mus`ab Zubairi – Imam Malik was reliable, safeguarded, trustworthy in Hadith, a great scholar, jurist, proof-bearer, and god-fearing man. · Yahya ibn Mu`en – He is the Commander of the faithful in Hadith. Yahya ibn Sa`ed al-Qattan – He is the Commander of the faithfulin Hadith. `Abdur-Rahman ibn Mahdi – There is no more trustworthy in Hadith Nabawi on the face of this earth than Imam Malik. `Abdur-Rahman ibn Mahdi – Sufyan Thawri is the Imam of Hadith not the Imam of Sunnah while Awza`i is the Imam of Sunnah not the Imam of Hadith, but Imam Malik is the Imam of Hadith and the Imam of Sunnah. · Imam Abu Hanifah – I have never seen anyone more fast understanding, correct answering, and test-taking than Imam Malik. · Imam Shafi`i   – After the Tabi`in  Imam Malik is the Proof-Bearer on this entire earth for or against all of the people. · Imam Shafi’i – Knowledge is encircled by three men: Malik ibn Anas, Sufyan ibn Uyainah, and Laith ibn Sa`d. · Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbali – I was asked whose Hadith should be memorized by heart if from anyone? I replied Malik ibn Anas.  Imam Bukhari – I was asked what is the most authentic chain of narrators. I replied from Malik from Nafi`from Ibn `Umar ( May Allah be pleased with him). Imam Nasai`– After the Tabi`in the most understanding, reliable, trustworthy, man in Hadith is Imam Malik. He has hardly never narrated from a weak narrator apart from Abu Umayyah `Abdul-Kareem who is Matruk. Imam Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasai, and Hakim have all reported in a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “The time has come near that people will travel by camels in search for religious knowledge and they will not find a greater scholar than who is in Madinah.” Sufyan ibn Uyainah says that the scholar of Madinah upon which the Hadith indicates is none other than Imam Malik.

Malik's Demise

The great Imam reached the age of eighty four or eighty six or eighty seven or ninety years when he became ill on a Sunday and this illness continued to get worse for three weeks until on the 11th or 14th of Rabi` Awwal  179 A.H. when he finally passed away. He was buried in the famous graveyard in Madinah called Jannatul-Baqi`.


The great Imam left behind three sons: Yayha, Muhammad, and Hammad. His remaining wealth that was inherited was 3300 dinars.


Imam Malik wrote many books that can be referred to in the introduction of Oujasul-Masalik (commentary of Muwatta Imam Malik). Muwatta Imam Malik is the first Hadith work after the Qur’an arranged into juristic Sections and organized accordingly. Imam Bukhari’s Sahih is secondary to the work of Imam Malik in this regards. Then after these two (Imam Malik and Imam Bukhari) others followed, like Imam Muslim and Imam Tirmidhi, who based their books upon the books of the two erudite scholars (i.e. Imam Malik and Imam Bukhari).

Taken, with slight editorial modifications, from: www.islamcan.com
Related Links:
Ibn Majah: The Compiler of Sunan
Imam Ibn As-Salah (577-643 AH)
Imam Ash-Shafi`i (150- 204 AH)
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

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