Abu Abdullah Malik Ibn Anas, the Shaikh of Islam, proof of the community, Imam of the abode emigration, knowledgeable scholar of Madinah (as predicted by the Prophet Muhammad [sa]) was born in Madinah in the year 714 CE, while his ancestral home was in Yemen.
Born in a well to do family Malik did not need to work. However, he was highly fascinated with the study of Islam, and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Fiqh. He received his education in the most important seat of Islamic learning, Madinah. He also became one of the four major Mujtahid imams whose school filled North Africa, Al-Andalus, much of Egypt and some of Ash-Sham, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Khurasan. Hence, Malik Ibn Anas was a Muslim legist who played an important role in formulating early Islamic legal doctrines.
One of the great achievements of Malik is a book Al-Muwatta (The Approved). This book was formed of sound narrations of the Prophet (sa) from the people of Hijaz together with the sayings of the companions, the followers, and those after them. He composed it in a course of forty years, having started with ten thousand narrations until he reduced them to their present number of fewer than two thousand. It was hailed by Ash-Shafi as the soundest book on earth after the Quran, nearest book on the earth after the Quran and the most beneficial book on earth after the Quran, according to four separate narrations. Malik said: “I showed my book to seventy jurists of Madinah, and every single one of them approved me for it, so I named it ‘The Approved’.”
Imam Malik is the connection of the entire Islamic community to the knowledge of the Sunnah as the scholars of the Prophet’s (sa) city, Madinah, preserved it. Like all scholars of Islam, Malik was famous for his piety and integrity. When the Governor of Madinah demanded and forced people to take the oath of allegiance to Khalifah Al-Mansoor, Imam Malik stood up courageously and was prepared to suffer for his convictions. He issued a Fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion and based his opinion on the Hadeeth narrated by Aisha (rta) “The divorce of the coerced does not take effect”. (Abu Dawood) This resulted in many people finding courage to express their opposition.
Malik had such veneration for the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) that he never narrated anything or gave a Fatwa unless in a state of ritual purity. Abi Uways said: “I asked my uncle about something. He made me sit, made ablution, sat on the couch, and said: La Hawla Wa La Quwwata Illa Billah. He did not give a Fatwa until he said it first. I heard Malik being asked forty-eight questions, to thirty-two of which he replied: ‘I do not know.’”
He was not only a great Muhaddith (Traditionist scholar of Hadeeth), but also a jurist who founded a Madhhab, or school of jurisprudence, which is named after him: the Maliki School of Islamic Jurisprudence. He gave lectures in law and religion in the Masjid of the Prophet (sa). People came from all over the Islamic world to learn from him and he attracted a considerable number of students. His followers came to be known as Malikis. He himself never left Madinah, and spent his whole life there in the cause of Islamic knowledge.
Imam Malik died in the year (179 AH) 796 CE at Madinah and is buried in the famous Al-Baqee cemetery in Madinah.