PART ONE – ‘AMAL
What we want to look at is not a specific piece of information. It is not that we want to examine the hadith or we want to examine what happened in the construction of the Muwatta’, for example. What we want to see, first of all, is what we might perceive as the first construct, the first understanding of what the total Islamic reality was. Kitab wa sunna, the Book of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and the sunna of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayi wa sallam. And we want to observe in the natural, inevitable, inescapable evolution of the Muslim Community and its intellectual apparatuses, how the Muslims’ perception of their own fundamental foundational reality, in the Book and the sunna, altered and changed, in both their perception of it and in their method of deriving it, rather than some suggestion that the sunna changed or a different version took place. We would find in these changes that in the process of change certain details went to the wall, certain details got crushed, certain things changed emphasis. But what we want to do in the end of the day is to find out, perceive, be conscious of, the relationship between the basic methodology, from which the Muslims derived their fundamental knowledge of the Book and the sunna, and its inevitable connection with the political power reality of the time. So, (to start at the end before we get to the beginning) we would say that we will perceive that the ‘aqida, both from the point of view of kalam, from the point of view of the method by which the ‘ulama’ make their statements, and the power structure itself of an Amir with a government, with an army, with judges who can hold and bind and punish and intimate, that this political structure is wedded inexorably to this dynamic, live machinery of the methodology of Islam.
In other words, correctly speaking, in Islam there is no way you can separate the power elite from a chosen ideological position of what will be the character, identity, the method, the nature of the Islamic phenomenon in its root form.
The great historical example of this we would take as the Islam in Spain at the time of the Murabitun, of the people of Ibn Tashfin; that Islam having its foundation in the school of the ‘amal of the Ahl al-Madinah while at the same time having its political connection to the rule of government in the East. The arrival of the Muwahhidun, was headed by Ibn Tumart, who, to take power, presented himself as a Mahdi having access to a book which contained esoteric knowledge, which he said he derived from the Ahl al-Bayt and from Sayyiduna ‘Ali. And with it came this ideological heavyweight who was Imam al-Ghazali. The Ghazali position became a dominant factor. It was not particularly in relation to the sufic phenomenon, but it was Imam al-Ghazali in his role as the one who presented a view of kalam, of the ‘how-you-talk-about’ Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and what is now known as the Ash‘ari position. The Ash‘ari kalam talks about Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, in terms of necessary attributes, the mother attributes, the acts of Allah, the attributes of Allah, and the essence of Allah, and so on and so on … and later is the formula which becomes popularised right down to the time of Ibn ‘Ashir where he divides the deen into the kalam of Ash‘ari, the fiqh of Malik, and the tasawwuf of Imam Junayd.
So, this whole trend comes by a change in political leadership. Equally, one could write a history of the Azhar University and its fiqh and you will find that the absolute basis of the deen was radically redefined according to whether the Fatimis were there, or whether the dynasties were there, or whether the Uthmaniyya were there, or whether the English and the French were there, or, and we will complete it by saying, whether the Americans and the Israelis were there. And you will find that with every change in the political structure, the very foundations of the deen were redefined in harmony with the political reality.
Now, since everyone says today that the Muslims have been defeated, and that there is nowhere an Islamic government, there is nowhere a country governing by Kitab wa sunna. Although many express and confirm the formula theoretically of Kitab wa sunna, every common Muslim on the hajj from every country complains to you that in his country it is not the case.
We will also find on examination, and this is still the end of the affair, before we come to the beginning, that the current regimes of the Muslims – whatever one wants to say about them politically – have a common, dominant concept of the foundations of the deen. There is a common ideological position that has been taught from Indonesia to the Maghrib. There are certain basics that are accepted and, within that, there are some more radical and some less radical. There is a conservative dimension that is presented with certain characteristics, and there is a radical, modernist dimension that presents itself with other characteristics. And these two aspects, the modernist and the highly traditional dominant school, are in uncomfortable and often intellectually contradictory cohabitation. Whatever this ‘aqida and this foundational basis and this methodology is, has to be examined in the light of the plight and the dilemma of the Muslims today in their passivity, acquiescence and inability to establish the deen in terms of a functioning shari‘ah with an activated fiqh.
What we want to look at will take us from this primal material directly to the situation today with the proposition that if one wishes an activist Islam, of people of Kitab wa sunna, founded on the Book of Allah and the sunna of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and accepting the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun and the Salaf as our model, and Madinah as its place, then we need to know what we would require to activate the living Islam.
We find that Zayd ibn Thabit said:
“When you see the people of Madinah doing something, know that it is the sunna.”
“There were men among the people of knowledge of the Tabi‘in who reported certain hadiths and had heard certain hadiths from others, and they would said, ‘We are not ignorant of this, but the ‘amal is other than it.’’
So here Imam Malik, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, is making a statement of enormous importance which cannot be dismissed by someone today; it cannot be ignored because it is Imam Malik who said it, and we will speak more about Imam Malik himself and his importance, but for the minute we will stay intellectually with the concept that we are not interested in being a school. We are talking about identifying how the sunna is recognised, passed on, kept alive in the first recorded phase of the process, after the earliest stage of the Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun.
Ibn al-Mu’adhdhal said:
“I heard a man ask Ibn al-Majishun – who was a student of Imam Malik – ‘Why did you relate a hadith and then ignore it?’
“He said, ‘It is so that it will be known that we ignored it with full knowledge of it.’”
It is that we ignored the hadith with full knowledge of its existence. This refers to the fact that an action was being followed which had more weight than the text.
Now, on this simple statement hangs the destiny of foundational knowledge of Islam and how it was perceived by a series of communities through the first stages of time after the Tabi‘in and the Tabi‘in of the Tabi‘in. The transformation of this consciousness is so radical and so deep that we find a highly developed stage of Islamic society later utterly unable to grasp this concept and unable to conceive the underlying thesis from which it is made; and also the political necessity to redefine that position from being Kitab wa sunna, to being in fact the specific, idiosyncratic, private version of how things are, of a school based on a man along with other schools based on other men, each having contradictory and conflicting elements and versions of one reality, so that the people later logically say, “Why are there these differences when there is one sunna, there cannot be four, and therefore we will prefer the sunna to these,” the implication being, “These people do not embody the sunna and the sunna itself is the hadith.” But the hadith is the text and the sunna is the behaviour.
Let us pull back again from this: I have to reiterate because it is so simple, and at the same time it has managed to cause a complete transformation in the consciousness of the Muslims over a period of time.
“I prefer a thousand taking from a thousand over one taking from one, because one from one can strip of the sunna right out of your hands.”
So here again in the earliest stage, there is a political, an existential concept, that seems to have in it some deep underlying sanity which is that a thousand people can be relied upon to protect one action, but that one person relating from another person will make the thing vanish. This perception, in time, will be turned round so that a thousand taking from a thousand will be put forward as utterly unreliable, whereas the written text, from one passed to one, will be considered verification.
What one has to ask is whether it is in fact a primitive methodology being supplanted by a sophisticated methodology, or whether it is a political psychology altering its focus from one kind of man, with one kind of integrity, confirmed civically, giving way to a scholar who has a piece of paper which he passes on in a ritualised, systematised manner to another person, and that becomes a validation of everything. In other words, we have moved from politically free man, now mistrusted, to the private bureaucrat who does not trust but insists on total acceptance. But we are anticipating. . .
Ibn Abi Uways said:
“I heard Malik say, ‘This knowledge is a deen, so look to the one from whom you take it. I have met seventy people who said, “The Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said . . .” within those pillars – and he pointed to the pillars inside mosque of Madinah – and I did not take anything from them. Had one of them been entrusted with a treasury, he would have been trustworthy. But they were not the people of this business.’”
Yahya ibn ‘Abdullah said to Abu Zur‘a:
“This is not za‘za‘a from zawba‘a; this is not turbulence taking it from the whirlwind; you remove the veil and you look at the Messenger, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with his Companions in his presence: Malik from Nafi‘ from Ibn ‘Umar.”
“This is not,” – and he makes names which deliberately make a mockery of the concept of Islam – “This is not za‘za‘a from zawba‘a; this is not turbulence taking from the whirlwind.” He said, “What this is is that you remove the veil and you are looking directly at the Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with his Sahaba, in his presence.”
And what is that? It is from Malik who heard it from Nafi’ who had it from Ibn ‘Umar, a hadith, directly.
So we are talking about an intimacy of place, an intimacy of time, and a nobility of person that means qualitatively that the heart of the matter is utterly incontrovertible, confirmed and without any doubt whatsoever. Now, this quality, that has been mentioned by Yahya ibn ‘Abdullah in his conversation with Abu Zur‘a, and this very high spiritual criterion which has been set by Malik, are on a different level from what we will later find is the very underlying principle which confirms Islam in the later methodology. The confirming factor of the isnad would become that the man could be entrusted with a treasury; but the confirming factor of Malik is that while he could be entrusted with a treasury, that is not the point; he would also know what it meant to transmit the hadith, to pass it from one to another.
There was a consciousness of process, but this consciousness of process was to be existential, direct and verifiable from man to man, neither with an intermediary textual process nor any intermediary textual apparatus.
Now, Abu Dawud said:
“The soundest transmission of hadith from the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is from Malik from Nafi‘ from Ibn ‘Umar. Then Malik from az-Zuhri from Salim from his father. Then Malik from Abu’z-Zinad from al-A‘raj from Abu Hurayra.”
The point being that in these three or four steps you are right in the Madinah of the Messenger, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with the Sahaba. It’s what the earliest speaker said, “It is as if the veil were lifted and you were there.”
This has to be borne in mind because we are coming to something so different. You are going to see this primal comprehension swept aside to be replaced with something of a very different nature.
“‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was tested with these things and he did not answer them.” Ibn az-Zubayr said, “I do not know.” Ibn ‘Umar said, “I do not know.”
Here again Malik, who was famous for saying, “I do not know” in questions of fiqh, was not doing this out of some idiosyncrasy, he was doing it out of an understanding of precisely what he wanted to preserve. And what he wanted to preserve was the minimal, inescapable, necessary, obligatory process by which legal judgements would be passed, that would involve punishments, withholdings and grantings. So, his “I do not know” indicated a judgement in law, that to throw out the case was in itself a libertarian concept. He could have taken another way of dealing with the matter which came to him as a faqih. In his fiqh he could have said, “I have not got a basis, but I will make a decision.” But he looked and saw nothing in the essential matter of what had to be preserved in the Qur’an, the sunna, and what came before him, and rather than interposing his personal viewpoint, he would throw it out of court and say, “I do not know.” So that non-judgement, not reaching a judgement, was an absolute pillar of his social justice and his political method.
Now, the implications of this are that when Malik, in the Muwatta, says that he does think something, then the weight of that has to be taken into account with enormous gravity because his not knowing is in itself a sunna derived from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. We are now gauging the quality and the flavour and the identity of one methodology before we come to look at another.
Ibn Mahdi said:
“When you see that the Hijazi loves Malik ibn Anas, know that he is one with the sunna. When you see someone carping at him, know that he is the opposite.”
So if someone finds fault with Malik ibn Anas, he is someone who is opposing the sunna. So when we hear today, in this place, that someone who presents himself as an Islamic leader criticises Malik ibn Anas, then Ibn Mahdi, this noble man from the Salaf, says, “When you find such a person, know that he is opposing the sunna.” So it seems that this way is either confirmed or it is rejected. And to reject it, is reject the sunna. Let us go further.
“Malik went to the mosque one day and he was leaning on my hand. A man called Abu Turayda, who was suspected of being misguided, met him and said to Malik, ‘Abu ‘Abdullah! Listen to something from me. I want to speak to you about it and argue with you and tell you what my opinion is.’
“Malik said to him, ‘Be careful I do not testify against you.’
“He said, ‘By Allah, I only want the truth. Listen: if it is correct, say yes or speak.’
“And Malik said, ‘If you defeat me?’
“He said, ‘Then you follow me.’
“Malik said, ‘And if I defeat you?’
“He said, ‘Then I will follow you.’
“Malik said, ‘And if a man comes and speaks to us and defeats both of us?’
“He said, ‘We will follow him.’
“Malik said, ‘Abu Turayda, Allah sent Muhammad, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, with the deen and I see you moving. I see you shifting. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz said, “Whoever makes his deen a target for conflict has moved away from it.” There is no argument about anything in the deen. Hypocrisy and argument in knowledge remove the light of iman from the heart of the slave.’”
And is that, Abu Turayda’s position, not the position of the modernists?
Now look at this other aspect:
Abu Talib al-Makki said:
“Malik was the furthest of people from the school of the mutakallimun, and the strongest of them in hatred for the Iraqis, and the firmest of them in the sunna of the Salaf among the Companions and the Tabi‘in.”
Now, here three things have been mentioned: That he was the furthest from the schools of the mutakallimun, and this relates to the last, of course, that he was the nearest to the sunna of the Salaf among the Companions and the Tabi‘in; that is, by his correct, dynastic relationship with the Qur’an, and by the impeccable path that he had taken out of the sunna of salla’llahu alayhi wa sallam, in its absolute certainty, which the previous story demonstrates; and that involved also what is referred to here as hatred for the Iraqis. Now, it is very well-known that Iraq was a place from which controversy and trouble came because, of course, part of the first fitna took place and was based precisely in Iraq. Also all the concepts and new ideas, and all the invasion of ideas from the East and from Iran came into Iraq to make all the trouble, uncertainty and intellectual insecurity in the new Muslim community.
Malik’s freedom from all this was based on this correct relationship that he had to the sunna. Now, again, to clarify, we are not talking about the leader of a madh-hab. We are talking about the most important Imam of the Muslims, as the guardian of the sunna, living in its place, al-Madinah al-Munawwara.
Malik’s book, al-Muwatta, is the corner-stone of this knowledge and there is a story that the khalif said to Malik:
“Let me take your Muwatta and put it in the Ka‘ba, or on top of the Ka‘ba, and let me declare that that is to be the book that governs all the Muslims.” – and according to this story, Imam Malik said – “No, because there were different people in different places, and different riwayats, and it would not be correct to make one dominate all the others,” – or words to that effect.
Now, various things have been said about this story. One is that it is true and he did not want to impose this on all the people. But a deeper thing has been said; and that is that Imam Malik could never, since he had the truth or the sunna, as it has been expressed here, compromise it with anything other than it, because he has indicated that there is no room, in the matter of the sunna, for debate or for discussion. In the Muwatta it is absolutely clear that the foundational evidence is non-negotiable, and then where he gives his views, it is clearly stated as his statement and his view, separate from what is the sunna. Nevertheless, his statement and his view has to be given that high place due to him as the Imam who has founded everything that he says on this knowledge. Therefore, it is unthinkable that he would deny the very foundation that he had spent a lifetime establishing in the creation of the Muwatta.
Deeper even than this is that statement of Shaykh Nayfar who said:
“Look, if Imam Malik had said to the Khalif, ‘You may make this book the statutory book of law for all of the Muslims,’ it would have become the ideological book of the regime. It would have been in the hands of other fuqaha’ outside of the influence of Imam Malik, to take the book, to play with it, and from it derive whatever judgements the regime wanted at the expense of the veracity of the basic material. In other words, if this book was the book, then they could say, when they did something that people opposed; ‘But this is the regime of Imam Malik’s Muwatta.’ He would have given his authority, his legal authority to the regime, but he considered that what was in the Muwatta was in itself an active critical judgement of any regime that presented itself historically.”
This is the point of view of Shaykh ash-Shadhili an-Nayfar, who is the master of the knowledge of the ‘amal of the Ahl al-Madinah in our time.
A man asked Malik:
“Who are the people of the sunna, Abu ‘Abdullah?” – All of this, remember, is defining the primal Islamic position in its first stage of identifying itself, following the rule of the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun – “Who are the people of the sunna, Abu ‘Abdullah?”
And he replied, “Those who do not have a title by which they are known. Not a Jahmi, not a Rafidi, not a Qadari.”
And we will say, by obvious logical extension, not a Maliki, not a Hanbali, not a Shafi‘i, not a Hadithi. . . not a Jami‘at al-Islamiyya, or Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, not anyone who held any name that identified himself, separating himself from the Muslims, because we also know that Malik, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, said:
“Anyone who calls himself by any name other than a Muslim, has made a bid‘a on the deen.” – here he has categorically defined it. He went further and also said – “All the people of sects are kuffar.”
The implication of this is that the Islamic body, the jama‘a of the Muslims, the community of the Muslims, have only one path, and that it is a civic pattern under an Amir governed by the Shari‘ah.
And we will see that that has conditions, without which that statement itself would not be true, because Amirate is not simply a matter of giving someone a title. It is a commitment to this primal position that is Islam in its full definition. Malik said:
“Knowledge is not by a lot of riwaya. Knowledge is a light which Allah places in the heart.”
By saying this, Malik blocks the road to the creation of an elite who took their authority and their position as an elite from their superior educated methodology of access to hadith by riwaya rather than a totally integrated human being in whose heart Allah had put a light.
Malik also said:
“The adab of Allah is the Qur’an” – courtesy, the transaction of the manners of Allah, is the Qur’an – “The adab of the Messenger, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is the sunna. The adab of the Salihun is the fiqh.”
And here Malik, in that quintessential way, proving that the great statements of Islam can be made very simply, has indicated the basic triad on which Islam must be built. The adab of Allah is the Qur’an. The adab of the Messenger, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is the sunna. The adab of the Salihun is the fiqh.
So you will go from knowledge of the Qur’an to knowledge of the sunna and directly to fiqh, directly to the functioning justice system. And the functioning justice system can only take place by the primal creation of an Amir who upholds that law and gives due place to the fuqaha’.
The second term of the triad is the sunna. And we must understand this is the crucial dimension which has to be recovered and saved if we are not to lose the very thing that Malik is indicating. Because what Malik means by sunna is behaviour – and we can now go to the Arabic language and remember that sunna is synonymous with ‘amal: sunna is action, and ‘amal is behaviour. Hadith is synonymous with athar, text, traces, documents. It is not synonymous with action in the language of man.
Ibn Mahdi said:
“There is no book after the Book of Allah which is more beneficial for people than the Muwatta.”
Imam Shafi‘i said:
“There is no book of knowledge on the earth more correct than the book of Malik.”
Now, any book coming after it, any collection of hadith coming after this, would not displace Malik’s book from its primacy after the Qur’an al-Karim, because its prior position and its author and its place and its evidences place it above anything that would come, historically, after it. It cannot be displaced by anything coming after it and nothing can be more correct than it, when anything coming after it is dependent on it for isnad.
Sa‘d al-Qurashi said:
“His hadith:” – Imam Malik’s, clearly stated – “there is not one who rejects them in the entire universe.”
Now the asanid of the hadith of Malik were written, so even by the methodology that involved correcting hadith, the asanid and the hadith of Malik were written by Qadis – by Qadi Isma‘il, Abu’l-Qasim al-Jawhari, Qasim ibn Asbagh, Abu’l-Hasan al-Qabisi, Abu Dharr al-Harawi, Abu Bakr al-Qabbab, Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Khalaf as-Sijilmasi, al-Mutarriz, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Jizi, Ahmad ibn Fahzad al-Farisi, Qadi Abu Mufarrij, Ibn al-A‘rabi, Muhammad ibn Sharus as-San‘ani, Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman an-Nasa’i, Abu Muhammad ibn ‘Adi al-Jurjani, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim Jami‘ ibn as-Sakawi, Ibn ‘Ufayr, Abu ‘Abdullah as-Sarraj an-Nisapuri, Abu’l-‘Arab at-Tamimi, Abu Bakr ibn Ziyad an-Nisapuri, Abu Hafs ibn Shahin, ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz ibn Salama, Abu’l-Qasim al-Andalusi, Abu ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-Barr, Qadi Ibn Mufarrij, and Muhammad ibn ‘Ayshun at-Tutaytili. Ibn Habib and Muslim have works on the subject of Malik’s shuyukh.
This is just to show that even within the later tradition, an enormous research was done on the asanid of the hadith of Imam Malik. Let us go further into the theme that we have been following. That was in reference to the Muwatta. Now let us go back to Imam Malik.
One of the governors of Madinah said to Malik:
“Why do you not dye as your companions dye?” – Why do you not henna the beard?
Malik replied, “Is that all you have left of justice, that I dye my beard?”
This is not an ordinary story of noble character. It is that if you take the sunna – the living from the living – you will automatically know what is important and what is not important. If you take the sunna from texts, every text that is authenticated has the same weight because it is the sunna and it is on paper. So, the fact that you will give justice to a widow in her legal claim, or to the poor man, and to assess whether the man has stolen and should be cut, or whether he has stolen and should be forgiven, takes the same weight on paper as whether the beard is dyed.
Imam Malik is not simply demonstrating nobility of character, he is rejecting a point of view about knowledge of the sunna of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam; he insists that you must follow the way of the fiqh and not the way of the report by which the sunna of the behaviour is given the same status as the sunna of justice. It is by this that we have today the people who are immaculately groomed, according to the sunna, in their dress, in how they sit, in how they greet, in how they speak to each other, and who are not paying zakat, which is a fard of the deen, and the zakat cannot be collected without an Amir who appoints a zakat collector. According to the obligation, a zakat collector must have it in his character to undertake to collect the zakat and he must be appointed for this reason. Because if the man does not pay the zakat then the process has to be completed according to the shari‘ah.
This is the politics of Malik fighting in Madinah for what has been totally lost and totally abandoned in this century.
“Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-‘Abbasi, the amir of Madinah, came to Malik on a camel while Malik was young. Malik remained in his seat and did not make room for the Amir of Madinah. Ibrahim sat on the small part of the rug left by Malik. Malik did not move while Ibrahim spoke for an hour. And then he said to him, ‘What do you say, Abu ‘Abdullah, about the one in ihram who kills a louse?’
“Malik said, ‘He does not kill it.’
“Ibrahim said, ‘He killed it. What is its fidya?’
“Malik said, ‘He does not do it.’
“He said, ‘He did it!’
“Malik said, ‘He does not do it.’
“The Amir said, ‘I tell you that he did it and you say, “He does not do it”!’
“Malik replied, ‘Yes.’”
Ibrahim got up in a fury. Malik remained silent for an hour and then turned to his students and said, “They want to play with the deen. The fidya is for the one who kills it unintentionally.”
So here is the pattern. And here is what can only be recovered by taking this position.
‘Abdu’l-Malik ibn al-Majishun said:
“A man of the people of Iraq asked Malik about the sadaqa of the habous, and he said, ‘When there is full and exclusive possession, it is carried out.’
“The Iraqi said, ‘Shurayh says that there is no habous in the Book of Allah.’
“Malik laughed – and he did not laugh often – and then he said, ‘May Allah have mercy on Shurayh! He does not know what the Companions of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did here in Madinah.’”
This is the value structure of primal Islam in the hands of men of knowledge and it was to be replaced by something totally different in nature and identity which went along with a politique and society of a totally different nature.
Abu Mus‘ab said:
“Abu Yusuf said to Malik, ‘Do you give the adhan with tarji‘ – that is, repeating the shahada in a loud voice after saying it in a low voice – when you do not have anything hadith regarding it?‘”
So here the matter is open in the time of Imam Malik. It is not something that emerged later.
And Malik turned to him and said:
“Subhanallah! – Glory be to Allah! I have never seen anything more extraordinary than this! It is called out in front of witnesses five times every day. And the sons have inherited it from their fathers from the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, until this very day, and he needs so-and-so from so-and-so in it! This is much more sound in our view than the hadith.”
Ibn Qayyim said:
“The walls, the places and the areas have no effect in the preference of statements.” – and by saying that he rejected all, everything – “The walls, the places and the areas have no effect in the preference of statements.”
Qadi ‘Iyad gave his famous answer which completely obliterates this superficial observation:
“Madinah is not esteemed for its houses or for its streets, but for the presence of the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, in it and his Companions.”
Abu Hurayra, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, from the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“There are angels on the roads of Madinah.’
And ‘A’isha, radiya’llahu ‘anha, relates that salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“The cities were opened up by the swords,” – and in brackets we should mention that this is now denied by the modernists who have adopted another methodology – “The cities were opened up by the swords and Madinah was opened by the Qur’an.”
Again the implication of this is that in Madinah you have the city opened by the Qur’an, because the Qur’an was sent down in it and therefore the co-habitation and nearness and intimacy and harmony between the Qur’anic revelations and their meanings and their legal judgements and the sunna of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the legal judgements of the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun that followed in Madinah, were in the closest intimate harmony in a world that did not exist anywhere else.
Ibn ‘Umar said:
“When a sedition occurs, if people would only refer the business to the people of Madinah, and if they agree on something,” – that is, they do it – “then the business would be put right. But when a dog barks, the people follow.”
Now let us look at the record with quite simple, pragmatic, human understanding, and let us apply it within our own context of understanding the human situation because Malik looked at the proximity and the intimacy and the nearness of this affair.
Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abi ‘Amir al-Asbahi. His great-grandfather, Abu ‘Amir al-Asbahi, is reported to have been a Companion of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. His grandfather Malik was one of the great Tabi‘in. He died around 100 hijra, and related from ‘Umar, Talha, ‘A’isha, Abu Hurayra and Hassan ibn Thabit, and he participated in the burial of Sayyiduna ‘Uthman, the third of the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidun, radiya’llahu ‘anhu.
Everybody, almost everybody, remembers and has a very distinct experience of his own grandfather. And that grandfather in turn talked of his father, and that is a shared experience in every family, where there is survival, to such an extent that I can transmit the ordinary hadith and the sunna of my grandfather, and I know stories that were told about his parents. This is common, especially where there is continuity between generations in a place. If there is movement from a place to a place, some of this gets lost, but where there is continuity in a place, this passing on is known. It is known to the human being, it cannot be denied. When it is in a town of the size of al-Madinah al-Munawwara, which is a like a small, medium-sized town of today, if you have generations, if you have the father, the grandfather, the great-grandfather there, you have a clear record. You have a civic confirmation.
As the matter is in fact the total opening of the final revelation of the last religion that Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, has given to mankind, and everybody in Madinah knows that what is common there is not only for them, but for the whole world, that what salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said and did had co-existent importance with the revelation of the Qur’an as part of this new religion, and that the transmission of actions and knowledges are part of the living process, and error in it is most grievous, is not this the most vivid, absolutely clear means by which we have in front of us the total process in its best form? So that if we have that record, nothing that comes after it is going to have this flavour, because what we find is that not only do we know what the sunna is and have statements as well as actions of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and of the Sahaba, and the Tabi‘in and the Tabi‘i’t-Tabi‘in, but also that we have the qualitative taste of active political awareness, as opposed to a people who consider that primal participation to be in the hands of an elite whose expertise is a document in paper and ink. So that we go from a people who are counted, when they come to a place, by the swords they leave in the courtyard, to a people counted by the pens that they leave in the mosque courtyard when they record the hadith of the muhaddithun.
When Imam Muslim arrived in the city, it is described that so many thousands of inkpots were there. But when these other people gathered at a gathering it was recorded in the literature of the time that so many thousands of swords were in the courtyard. This is the qualitative political difference that we find.
Imam Malik was born in 93 hijra in Madinah and died in 179 hijra. He married Fatima, and his sons were Yahya, Muhammad, and Hammad. When Malik lived in Madinah, all the knowledge of the epoch was there. Malik related from 900 or more shuyukh. He wrote down 100,000 hadiths with his own hand. Included among those from whom he related were 900 Tabi‘in and Tabi‘i’t-Tabi‘in like his father. And he learnt from the whole city of Madinah.
Some of the shaykhs who taught Malik in turn related from him; you see, as his status manifested itself, they in turn would take from him because of the high quality that he very quickly manifested as a young man in his work in Madinah.
The teachers of Malik from Madinah are: Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn ‘Ubaydullah ibn Shihab az-Zuhri, who was a Tabi‘i; Abu’l-Aswad, Tabi‘i; Ayyub ibn Abi Tamima as-Sakhtiyani, Tabi‘i; Rabi‘a ibn Abi ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, Tabi‘i; Musa ibn ‘Uqba, Tabi‘i; Hisham ibn ‘Urwa, Tabi‘i; Zayd ibn Aslam; Tabi‘i; Yazid ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Qusayt al-Laythi, Tabi‘i; ‘Amr ibn al-Harith al-Misri, Tabi‘it-Tabi‘in; Zayd ibn Abi Unaysa al-Jazari, Tabi‘it-Tabi‘in; Nafi‘ al-qari’ ibn Abi Nu‘aym, Tabi‘it-Tabi‘in; Muhammad ibn ‘Ajlan, Tabi‘it-Tabi‘in; Yazid ibn ‘Ubaydullah ibn Usama ibn al-Hadi, Tabi‘it-Tabi‘in;.
All the shaykhs of Malik were from Madinah except for six: Abu’z-Zubayr from Makka, Tabi‘i; Hamid at-Tawil from Basra, Tabi‘i; Ayyub as-Sakhtiyani from Basra, Tabi‘i; ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Muslim from Khurasan, Tabi‘i; ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Jazari from Jazira, Tabi‘i; Ibrahim ibn Abi ‘Ubla from Syria, Tabi‘i.
And so also we should bear in mind that this meant that while Malik took from Madinah he was perfectly aware of what there was to know what there was to be taken from Makka, from Basra, from Syria. From Imam Malik, and now we are talking about Imam Malik as the Imam of the Muslims, as the Imam of the Muslim Community, as the Imam of the Umma in its spiritual and political capital of Madinah, his scholars went out over the Muslim world. They spread.
Now we look at just the most important of this enormous range of people, of great scholars who came from Malik. We are now seeing that this knowledge spread out. It is not something that is in a little corner. We are not talking about madh-habs, we are talking about Islam, Book and sunna. This primal knowledge which we have been examining in this time now goes out from Madinah. Inside Madinah are: al-Mughira ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman al-Makhzumi, first generation; Nafi‘ ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Abi Nu‘aym, the Qari’ who is the Imam Nafi‘ of the Warsh riwaya of the Qur’an; ‘Abdu’l-Malik ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Salama, who is a second generation student; Mus‘ab ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Mus‘ab ibn Thabit ibn ‘Abdullah, second generation; Harun ibn ‘Abdullah az-Zuhri, third generation in Madinah. Thus, three generations in Madinah.
In Yemen, Yahya ibn Thabit, first generation. In the Hijaz, Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi‘i, second generation. In Iraq and the East, ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, first generation; Ahmad ibn al-Mu’adhdhal, first generation; ‘Abdullah ibn Maslama ibn Qa‘nab at-Tamimi, second generation; ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Mahdi ibn Hassan al-‘Anbari, second generation; Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn Waqid al-Waqidi, second generation.
Remember he was teaching over a long period of time which spread through four generations.
In Syria, Abu Mushir ‘Abdu’l-A‘la ibn Mushir al-Ghassani, second generation. In Egypt, ‘Ali ibn Ziyad al-Iskandarani, first generation, Asbagh ibn al-Faraj ibn Sa‘id ibn Nafi‘, first generation. Abu ‘Amr Al-Harith ibn Miskin, first generation. And the important ‘Abdullah ibn Wahb ibn Muslim al-Qurayshi who was quoted very much, second generation, Abu ‘Amr Ashhab, second generation, Al-Mufaddal ibn Fadala, second generation.
In North Africa – and this is very important because the teaching went west -what you you have to understand is that the main body of Islam, the Islam that we have been talking about, did not go east to Nishapur, it did not go north to Iraq. It went west. Islam went to Africa. This is the historical fact that was obliterated by the power-structure which followed.
In North Africa, ‘Abdullah ibn Ghanim, the Qadi, first generation. ‘Ali ibn Ziyad at-Tunisi al-‘Absi, first generation.
Remember all these people are people Qadi ‘Iyad gave very special preference to because of their noble qualities. People known, historically important and miskin, and among the great teachers of this primal Islam.
Al-Bahlul ibn Rashid, first generation; Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah ibn Farrukh al-Farisi, first generation; ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn al-Qasim al-‘Utaqi, first generation; Abu Sa‘id Sahnun ibn Sa‘id ibn Habib at-Tanukhi, first generation; Muhammad ibn Sahnun, second generation; Ahmad ibn Mu‘attib ibn Abi’l-Azhar, third generation.
Remember, all this knowledge of Islam is what came to Andalusia. Remember also that before the Murabitun were:
Ziyad ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, first generation. ‘Abdu’l-Malik ibn Habib, first generation. Yahya ibn Ma‘mar ibn ‘Imran ibn Munir ibn ‘Ubayd, first generation. Muhammad ibn Bashir al-Qadi, second generation. Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, third generation. And from al-Laythi comes the most famous riwaya of al-Muwatta, which is the one everyone follows by preference. Muhammad ibn Waddah ibn Bazi‘, third generation.
So this is the picture of this primal Islam which we see going from Madinah and spreading in all directions, because the teachers from Malik went to the north, they went into Iran. Iran was Maliki, and when I say Maliki I mean following Imam Malik. Please recognise this distinction. And this teaching essentially went to Africa, went to Egypt, and from Egypt it moved, most importantly, to Qayrawan. And Qayrawan became the citadel of this knowledge. It moved to Morocco and of course, it later went with Ibn Tashfin into Andalusia again. From its first experience it was revitalised and made dynamic again with the coming of the Murabitun. But by this time something else had happened. And that something else, insha’llah, we will look at next. How this became submerged and something else took its place.
In none of this must anyone say that I am rejecting the hadith. What is at issue here is not the confirmation of the hadith or rejection of the hadith. In all of this we are exploring these matters as people of Ahl as-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a, that we basically accept the Schools, we all accept the hadith literature because we accept the position that the Muslims are in today. What we are now doing is looking at methodology in order, first of all, to find that path which will give us the most pure and correct following of the Book of Allah and the sunna of Rasulullah, salla’llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. No one can say that that in itself is anything but good.
Secondly and most importantly, by doing that, we are looking for that trigger mechanism that will turn Islam into natural Islamic activism as opposed to the passive lip service that is now paid to very vital concepts so that they are never embodied in the political sphere and are never embodied in the teaching process and are never embodied in the creation of a just society which is what Islam was created for. In all of this we have to remember that these developments brought with them benefits and also, as is the way with things in growth, brought with them difficulties. Islam has always cyclically gone back to its sources to rejuvenate itself and revitalise itself to revive the deen, so that the role of reviving the deen is imposed on the Muslim when he finds his deen in need of revival. And the only way is to go back. So all we are doing is that thing which will strengthen our deen. It is not to call anyone kafir or non-Muslim, but to find what will save them from the kufr that will follow if we do not take on Islam to the limits of our understanding, let alone of our capacity.
So next let us look at the later methodology that overthrew this and redefined it and changed its character and changed its identity until it was almost invisible, so that now it is considered criminal or something making division among the Muslims. And the result of this very clinical examination will in fact produce the most volatile and dynamic end result, it will produce conclusions which are of a nature politically nothing other than the means to the re-creation of political Islam.