Abu 'Abdullah Malik ibn 'Anas ibn Malik ibn Amr al-Asbahi was born in Madinah in the year 93H (714CE). His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Madinah after embracing Islam.
Malik became the Imam of Madinah, and one of the most renowned Imams of Islam.
He received his education in what was the most important seat of Islamic learning, Madinah, and where lived the immediate descendants and the followers of the companions of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, were living.
Born into a well-to-do family, 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. It is said that he sought out over three hundred Tabi'in or those who saw and followed the companions of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Malik held the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in such reverence that he never narrated, taught any hadith or given a fatwa without being in a state of ritual purity, ghusl. Isma'il ibn Abi 'Uways said, "I asked my uncle (Malik) about something. He had me sit, made ablution, then said, 'la hawla wala quwata illa billah'. He did not give any fatwa without saying it first." Also, 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 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'i 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.
He is the author of Al-Muwatta' ("The Approved"), formed of the sound narration’s from the Prophet together with the sayings of the 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 Approved'." Imam Al-Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains of transmission was "Malik, from Nafi, from Ibn 'Umar." The scholars of hadith 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, 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 oath of allegiance to Khalifah Al-Mansur, Imam Malik issued a fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion. He based this opinion on the hadith, "The divorce of the coerced does not take effect (laysa ala mustakrahin talaq)." This resulted in many people finding courage to express their opposition, but the Imam was arrested, found guilty of defiance, and publicly flogged.
Malik's followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school, Madhhab, based on his Ijtihad which became known as the Maliki Madhhab. This Madhhab spread in North Africa, Al-Andalus, much of Egypt, and some of Ash-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. Imam Malik died in the year (179H) 796CE at Madinah and is buried in the famous Al-Baqi' cemetery in Madinah.
From Al-Jumu'ah Magazine, vol. 11, issue 9 – Ramadhan 1420H