“The forunners, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar,
and those who have followed them in doing good,
Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.
He has made ready for them gardens with rivers flowing under them,
timelessly forever without end.
That is the great victory.”
(Surat at-Tawba: ayat 101)
As-Salaamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah.
A’udhu billahi min ash-shaytanir-rajim.
Now we come to the heart of this matter – I am saying that what is called madh-hab and madh-habism, effectively, is unacceptable, and that if you stop with Shafi’i, or stop with Abu Hanifa, or any madh-hab of any other name or claim, then you have chosen it as a religion – because it is not the same as that based on the ‘amal of Madinah. And even if it claims Malik’s name and does not connect to the ‘amal of Madinah by conviction, by subscription, and by application, it is not this primal teaching.
We are saying that there is only one Islam and it is not narrow. I am not being sectarian. I am not being like the Khawarij. I am not saying we are the only ones who have got it and nobody else has got it, I am saying that is all there is! And it is not narrow, it is broad, and it has never stopped. Nor is this saying in some way, ‘amal, behaviour, is something disconnected from hadith. The point is that all the ‘amal of Madinah that we find acceptable is the proof of the hadith, the evidence of a hadith already acted upon. So hadith knowledge, usuli knowledge, as we defined it earlier you will recall, lock-in to this central issue of the ‘amal of Madinah as given preference by Imam Malik. If you get the principle then the legal detail and subtle aspects will come to you later. The thing is, if you get this principle then you will find all the legal arguments over the use of qiyas and taqlid and istihsan and so on – all these terms will take their place. You will find it proven for you, demonstrated for you, in a way that does not offend your intellect. But you must take this central thesis, and if you reject this central thesis, then basically you have abandoned what the Sahaba had inherited – once it is presented to you in this manner.
So we are really approaching now the point where we come to talk about Imam Malik. And you must grasp the high importance that is placed on him. In fact you will see that, properly speaking, there is no-one who has any claim to any higher position than him for the future of the Muslims after the Sahaba and the great ones among the Tabi’in. I am saying that we come to Malik as the one who takes it all and passes it on. And all these others took from him, acknowledged him and accepted him. And now we are going to look at Imam Malik, and talking about him is something so delightful, and so sweet, and so perfumed and so fine that there is not anything better that you could expect to speak about except the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, himself.
Now we will look at some statements of Qadi ‘Iyad’s and then move on to another stage of our examination of the matter and we will come from that to al-Muwatta of Imam Malik. Here is one tribute to him from al-Mahdi, who said:
“One of the expert authorities of the mu‘tazila from al-Qarawiyyin said, ‘I came to Malik ibn Anas and asked him in the presence of the people about a particular question related to predestination,’ – this matter of the mu’tazili debate -. ‘He gestured to me with his hand that I should keep silent but when the session had finished and the people had gone he said to me, “Ask me now,” for he had very much disliked to respond to my question in the presence of the people.’”
This Imam who at the time had been a mu’tazili claimed that not a single question of all the questions the mu’tazila asked had remained, but that he had asked Malik about it and Malik had answered him regarding them all, establishing by that an irrefutable argument demonstrating the utter falsehood of the mu’tazili school, until the mu’tazili had simply run out of questions and had to get up and go away. Now also on this matter of the mu’tazilis, if you want the final evidence without going into the realm of ‘aqida, without going into the realm of the philosophical schools of the mutakallimun, without going to al-Ash’ari, you will find in al-Muwatta, in the Book of Qadr, the whole issue defined totally and utterly, and basically being the summation of what this noble man referred to. So that you need never get caught in the mu’tazili trap and game, which I have likened to the jews in Surat al-Baqarah asking about the cow to the point that the purpose of the cow is nearly lost.
Praising Imam Malik, Qadi ‘Iyad says:
“It was from this standpoint, of this high estimate of Imam Malik, that Shafi’i argued convincingly against Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani, the student of Abu Hanifa, in support of the superiority of the knowledge of Malik over that of Abu Hanifa when the two of them argued with each other on this point. Shafi’i said to him, ‘Do you want fairness, or do you just want to exalt one man over another by affiliation?’ He said, ‘I want to be fair,’ Shafi’i said, ‘I ask you to answer me, by taking an oath in Allah. Who knows more of the Book of Allah – what is the abrogated and what is the abrogating ayat?’ Muhammad ibn al-Hasan said, ‘By Allah, it’s your man.’ Shafi’i said, ‘Then answer me, by taking an oath in Allah, who is more knowledgeable of the sunna of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace?’ He said, ‘By Allah, it is your man.’ Shafi’i said, ‘Who then is more knowledgeable of the opinions of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace?’ He said, ‘By Allah, it is your man.’ Shafi’i said, ‘Nothing then remains but qiyas [analogy].’ Muhammad ibn al-Hasan said, ‘Our man is more given to qiyas,’ and Shafi’i responded, ‘But qiyas can only be done on the basis of these other things. On what basis then do you do qiyas?’ Shafi’i continued, ‘Yet we do not make, regarding our man, nearly the same claim which all of you make about yours on this issue.’”
“May Allah be merciful to ash-Shafi’i and to Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, who indeed, both of them, are most fair-minded, and that which Shafi’i had spoken above, is the truth of absolute certainty. Ijtihad, qiyas, and the derivation of ruling can only be done on the basis of usul, therefore, whoever is most knowledgeable of the usul, the rulings he derives will have the greatest validity and his qiyas will be the more imbued with truth. But if this is not the case, then whenever the mujtahid’s knowledge of the usul is deficient he will be making qiyas based on delusion, and he builds on the brink of a pit.”
So then he goes on to say, basically that by this examination, by this principle, we find Malik not dependent in any way, and having a complete usul established beyond question, and that it was acknowledged for him by all the people of his time.
He then goes on to some material which we will not examine in detail, I will just tell you the outline of it. And that is, he then goes on to a deep examination of Abu Hanifa’s position, of Imam Shafi’i’s position and Ibn Hanbal’s position, with the deepest Islamic courtesy and with the most astute and perspicacious and enjoyable intellectual brightness and capacity, and basically annihilates, to put it mildly, the validity of their claims.
Having annihilated them, he then most courteously acknowledges their exquisite manners, their good character and their good intention in all of this. But the point that he comes to in the end is that Islam cannot be based on these excellent scholars’ personal idiosyncratic capacity to demonstrate their gifts, and it is not on that Islam can be founded. And Islam does not end up a matter of inkpots – it remains a matter of swords, and blood, and ‘ibada. Make no mistake! And he says this is with Malik. And we have the historical evidence to prove it, and we are coming later, insha’Allah to the on-going, post-Malik phenomenon of this Islamic pattern, which you will see is so removed from everything that is being presented today on every side, as somehow the Islamic phenomenon. And you will recognise it having continued from this time, from the time of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, right up until the present day in an unbroken chain. A never ‘lost Islam’ but an always ‘moving Islam’, and never claiming or establishing empire or state or instituted power structure, but always like a plant establishing itself, growing up and then withering away and being swept aside.
Sufyan ibn Uyayna from Ibn Jurayj from Abu Zubair from Abu Salih from Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with all of them:
“The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, ‘There will come a time when the poeple will beat the livers of their camels in search of knowledge and they will not find an ‘alim with more knowledge than the one of Madinah.’”
“From M’an ibn ‘Issa Abi al-‘Mundhir at-Tamimi from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar from Abu Musa al-Ash’ari: The one upon who we ask blessings and peace said, ‘People will come from the east and the west in search of knowledge and they will not find an ‘alim with more knowledge than the ‘alim of the people of Madinah.’”
Another version from Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah says, The Messenger said:
‘The world will not come to an end until an ‘alim appears in Madinah, and people will beat the livers of their camels to come to him. There will never appear on the face of the earth a man with more knowledge than him.’
Now this great hadith, every single person is in agreement, refers to Imam Malik! Nobody has assigned it to anybody else, and this is in itself a kind of seal on the whole matter. Speaking of this hadith he says:
“From the standpoint of the authenticity of its transmission and its complete credibility on the ground of intellectual analysis, there is nothing more that can be added.”
He then says:
“We will mention something of the salaf of the Imams and what they have said and the testimony of the Imama of Malik and his precedence over everybody else.”
“Ash-Shafi’i said, ‘If a transmitted report comes to you from Malik, then grasp it firmly in your hand and never let it go.’ And once he said, ‘Whenever a transmitted report comes to you then know that Malik is the star of guidance.’Whenever a mention is made of the ‘ulama then know that Malik is the star of guidance. Not a single other attained in knowledge the level that Malik reached, by virtue of his prodigious memory, the precision and the perfection with which he did everything, and the absolute care with which he proceeded in all matters. Whoever is searching for authentic hadith has no choice but to go to Malik.”
“Malik ibn Anas was my teacher, Malik ibn Anas was my master. There is no-one who did more for me out of sheer kindness and generosity than Malik. From him we took our knowledge. I was only a small boy among the youths who served Malik. I have made Malik the argument of my justification regarding what is between Allah and me.”
So from him, you see his love for Imam Malik, and this is very, very important. Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam said:
“Malik and Sufyan ibn Uyayna were like two inseparable friends, but Malik was the radiant star of piercing brightness that could never be reached. Had it not been for Malik and Ibn Uyayna, the knowledge of the Hijaz would have been lost forever. ‘Abdallah, the father of Mus’ab az-Zubayri said, ‘Let there be no doubt, Malik ibn Anas is the lord of all the Muslims.’ Al-Layth ibn Sa’d would think of Malik and he would say, ‘Malik! Malik! Malik!’”
“Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam said, ‘Whenever Malik expresses an opinion which has not been expressed by those before him, know that Malik’s opinion is an irreversible proof which requires you to go against contrary opinions, for Malik is an Imam.’ It was said to him, ‘Is this also true of the opinions expressed by ash-Shafi’i?’ and he said, ‘No!’”
“Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘If it were said to me, “Choose for this umma an imam”, I would choose for it Malik.’” Abu Ishaq al-Fazari said, ‘Malik is an irreversible argument. He is a beloved man about whom you can be completely at rest, and follows closely the reports, [i.e. the hadith] and the ways of those that went before him.’”
“Ibn Mahdi was asked, ‘Who has greater knowledge, Malik or Abu Hanifa?’ He said, ‘Malik is more knowledgeable than even the main teacher of Abu Hanifa!’”
Now al-Muwatta of Imam Malik, which we have translated into English for the first time in history – basically is the size of an ordinary book, and if you put this book alongside the Qur’an, after the Qur’an, then you have all the documentation you need for Islamic governance and Islamic education from now till the grave, and after the grave, and in the grave. You can put it in the panniers of your donkey, or in your saddle-bag, or in your travelling-kit. The Qur’an of Allah subhanu wa ta’ala, which is not comparable to any book, and alongside it you can put al-Muwatta of Imam Malik, of which Imam Shafi’i said:
“After the Book of Allah there is no more reliable book.”
And you have the complete pattern of Islamic guidance with nothing missing, and with no manner possible for you to go wrong. So this is a very, very significant thing, and you must understand its importance.
In every sphere you will find it is relevant, there is not anything outdated in it. You will find it has no place for banking! You will find all the elements of a sophisticated economy. You will also find that slavery is a necessary and continuing part of the human business, and the political transaction of life. And it has never been abolished, it cannot be abolished! The only issue is whether it is according to the compassionate, wise and fruitful laws laid down in the Islamic phenomenon by the appearance of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, and by the event of the Qur’an al-Karim, or a slavery with no rules, which degrades and humiliates and destroys people without ever being questioned – because slavery is today practised!
It is practised all over africa, it is practised inside the united states, it is practised in Europe, it is practised in the Arabian Peninsula – only they do not call it that. But the people are slaves, are more bound in slavery than the worst excesses of the christian and jewish slavers who brought the slaves to the united states of America. But you will see there is no avoidance of slavery, and it is a necessary part of society. And the fantasy, the christian lie of presenting themselves as these humanists who wish to abolish slavery, while they are the traders in slaves, is completely exposed by this. So, al-Muwatta is of the greatest importance for you, for your ‘ibada, for the unity of your people, and for the governance of your affairs and for adab between you, between men, and between men and women, and even with children, and with old people, so that everyone is given their place, and everyone is treated with courtesy. So the step we are moving to now, is to see where this goes after Malik. And what I want to do later, is to show you this next stage, to show you that it continued and that it never stopped continuing, because if you lose that, then you will fall into despair, and you will take paths that deviate from the Sirat al-Mustaqim.
It must also be remembered that this basically is the record of ‘Umar, this is the triumph of Islamic governance. It is the record of ‘Umar, this extraordinary human being of powerful identity, rebellious, energetic, forceful, impatient, thrusting everything aside that he did not think was right. Being brought to tears by it. Finding nothing in his heart but love of his Prophet. Finding total obedience to him. Finding total allegiance to him. Finding a connection and closeness to him so that the one upon whom we ask Allah’s blessings and peace said:
“Oh ‘Umar, if you go into any valley, Shaytan cannot follow you into it.”
This bond which he held with the Sahaba, with ‘Ali and with Abu Bakr and all the Sahaba, a close bond in love, which produces this amazing phenomenon of his governance, which is the victory of Islam – which allowed Islam to burst out on the world, burst out in an explosion that no rationalist historian has ever been able to explain, either by saying that it was done by the sword, or that it was done by expansionism or anything else. They cannot explain it by rational means. It was done by the light from ‘Umar that was taken from his Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace.
And then alongside it and this is most important politically and spiritually, alongside it, al-Muwatta is the record of the Madinah not only of ‘Umar but of ‘A’isha, may Allah be pleased with them both. Again, ‘A’isha is the prototype of the Islamic woman. She is Umm al-Muminin. She has been named that by Allah! She has been singled out for special protection and attention in the Qur’an by the Creator of the Universe, to protect her reputation and to keep her safe because of Allah’s great love for her.
‘A’isha, may Allah be pleased with her, is the Islamic woman. And the significant thing is that she comes as wife, not as daughter and not as mother, she comes as wife, and as the wife of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace. And you know that the very story of it is a proof of this ‘wifeness’ over and against any other relationship, because as you know she was from the family of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and when the time came for her to enter the house of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, her mother took her on a camel and rode to his house. When they arrived at the house, remember she was a girl, the camel got down and they got off, and they were covered in dust from the ride. She took some water from her waterbag and wiped A’isha’s face to get the dust off it, to make her look pretty, and wiped her hair, and put her scarf on her, and then she said to her, “Come, come with me!” They went into the house and she in effect said to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, “Now I take my daughter and put her into your care.” She said to ‘A’isha, “Now you have come from me and you are going to him. You have left our household and you have entered his household.” She said, “You protect her and give her all that she requires and give her safety and provision as we gave her safety and provision. Now our contract is finished and your contract has begun.” She left and that was it. And from that you see the whole saga of the girl becoming woman, wife, and Umm al-Muminin. And so you see someone through the years, laughing and tumbling and knocking her husband to the floor, and all the tumult of a happy household. You see the troubles and the travails of the years that come, and you see her absorbing the deen of Islam, and then you see her through these last years of the delegations when the one upon whom we ask blessings and peace was exhausted. And it is from her that we get this moving and extraordinary picture of the one upon whom we ask blessings and peace, exerting himself to the point where he could not stand to pray. And so the famous saying of ‘Half the deen from ‘A’isha’, is not flattery, is not anything else but that you will see in the al-Muwatta how much comes from her, and you will see in it the picture of Islamic womanhood.
And all this is in al-Muwatta. So you get a picture of a complete functioning Islam with its khalif, Amir al-Muminin. And you get the presence and guidance and observation and behaviour of ‘A’isha, Umm al-Muminin. These are essential elements in al-Muwatta.
Now we will have a few more statements about Malik to complete the matter.
“Yahya ibn Ma’im said, ‘Malik constitutes one of the manifest proofs of Allah, over and against all human beings whom He created.’ He said, “Malik was an Imam in hadith and Yahya ibn Sa’id used to give Malik precedence over all the other students of al-Zuhri.”
“Ayyub ibn Suwayd said, ‘Malik is the Imam of the abode of the hijra and the sunna. He is a man of unquestionable integrity and reliability. He is absolutely trustworthy.’ He also said, ‘Never have I seen a single person at all, who was more excellent in the area of hadith, than Malik. There was not a single person after the Tabi’in more faithful in hadith than he.’”
“At-Tustari said, ‘Abu ‘Abdullah az-Zubayr ibn Ahmad az-Zubayri while we were discussing and studying the different madh-habs among ourselves said, “With the madh-hab of Malik we can dispense with the madh-hab of all these others taken together, but the madh-hab of not a single one of them is enough for us to dispense with the madh-hab of Malik.”’”
“Humayd ibn al-Aswad said, ‘Malik said: “After the death of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Imam of the people among us in Madinah became Zayd ibn Thabit, the Imam after Zayd ibn Thabit was ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar,”’ – and then it goes on to say – “and from these men it all came to Malik.”
All the knowledge of the earlier people came through three men – Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri, Bakayr ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al-Ashajj, and Abu Zinad ibn Abi Dhakwan. The knowledge of these last three became the exclusive legacy of Malik ibn Anas.
“Abu Ishaq al-Jabnayani said, ‘The only madh-hab is the madh-hab of the people of Madinah, the madh-hab of Malik.’ “Malik,” ibn Waddah said, ‘Malik is all you need.’ And then, Abu ‘Ali ibn Abi Hilal said, “An-Nasa’i was asked about Mu’awiya. He replied, ‘Islam is a single, pure abode, and the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, are the doors to that abode. Whoever speaks evil about any one of them has broken into that house.’” Abu ‘Ali ibn Abi Hilal continued, ‘and it is my expressed opinion that Malik is the handle by which that door is opened. Whoever lays hand on the handle has only desire to open the door and enter. May Alah be pleased with all of the Companions without exception.’”
And so we come to al-Muwatta, and the power of the continuance of this salafi teaching is that in al-Muwatta we find gathered these three vital elements, usul, which allows one to make legal judgements on all necessary aspects of life, or open the way to a clear judgement of things that have now arrived that are not from the primal teaching. We find in it a body of hadith by the muhaddith who is over all the muhaddithun, who is recognised by everybody, and it is enough that Malik said it that everybody accepts it. Everytime that it appears in al-Bukhari, that in itself is a proof, in Muslim, that is a proof, with Malik’s giving it credence, it is accepted by everybody. So it is enough that you take the hadith in al-Muwatta to begin with and you have everything you need. Then when you go from it, you go from a sound base.
The people used to go just with al-Muwatta, just with the hadith in it. Remember that there were many, many hadith, but he only considered these necessary. There are only around eight hadith by Ja’far as-Sadiq. When Malik died, they found a room with one wall covered with books from ceiling to foor and they were all hadith. And he had known them all, and had examined them all, and he had made al-Muwatta, and in it he put those hadith that were necessary. In the first version there were more than three times, I think, the number of hadith that are in the final version, then he said, “That is all you need.” He knew these hadith but he dispensed with them. He said, “That is enough.” So it became within the compass of people to take this knowledge and apply it. And this is THE necessary element in the whole affair.
Later we are going to look at how people took this thing, as it were, that had come down until it narrowed, the whole stream, to Malik, and how it brached out again and went all over the Islamic world. I think now we can say, at this point, that we have seen how we arrive at Malik. And we have seen also, the high estimate that is made of Malik. And we have seen what he has based this knowledge on, which is a living, social phenomenon, encompassing a whole galaxy of people, a whole city – it is based on the record of a city, and that city is acceptable to him, and is honourable to him, is pleasing to him, and is confirmed by him. And without that, there is only bitterness in the heart, there is only retreat, there is only withdrawal from society and criticism, and unless you embrace Madinah you cannot honestly say that you are able to embrace the lord of Madinah, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace. And love for them is love for him, and proof of him, of his victory.
No Muslims take the full teaching that came from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, and arrive at Malik, and take it on, but they leave their houses and go out in hijra or jihad and involve in it their family and their on-going generations. If they go back to their house they have not received the Message.