بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Lineage of Imam Malik, His Family, His Birth and Autobiography
His full name is Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn Abi ‘Amir al-Asbahi and he was related to Dhu Asbah, a sub-tribe of Himyar, one of the Qahtani tribes who held sway over an immense kingdom during the period of the Jahiliyya. Their kingdow was known as the Tatabi’a (pl. of Tubba’). Tubba’ is mentioned in two places in the Noble Qur’an.
His father’s grandfather, Abu ‘Amir, is considered by some to have been one of the Companions and it is mentioned that he want on all the raids with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, except Badr. However, Ibn Hajar mentioned in the Isaba from adh-Dhahabi that he did not find anyone who mentioned him as being one of the Companions, although he was certainly alive in the time of the Prophet. As for Malik ibn Abi ‘Amir, the grandfather of the Imam, he was one of the great ‘ulama’ of the Tabi’un. He was one of those who assisted in the writing out of the noble Mus-haf at the time of the Amir al-Mu’minin, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, may Allah be pleased with him.
He had four children: Anas, the father of the Imam, Abu Suhayl whose name was Nafi’, ar-Rabi’, and Uways the grandfather of Isma’il ibn Abi Uways and his brother, ‘Abd al-Hamid. These two (Isma’il and ‘Abd al-Hamid) were among the students of Malik and among the transmitters of the Sahih. The four brothers (i.e. Anas, Malik’s father, and his brothers) transmitted from their father, Malik ibn Abi ‘Amir, and others, in turn, transmitted from them. The most famous of them in knowledge and transmission was Abu Suhayl. Imam Malik related from him as did the compilers of the Sahih collections. Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others transmitted a lot from Malik b. Abi ‘Amir and from his son, Abu Suhayl.
From this it is evident that the Imam was a branch from a good tree whose men were famous for transmitting and serving knowledge. Part of the excellence of this family lies in the fact that it gave birth to Imam Malik. It is said that this took place in 90 A.H. although there are other opinions. He died when he was 87 according to the soundest report although it is also said that he was 90. He, may Allah have mercy on him, was tall and slightly corpulent. He was bald, with a large head and well-shaped eyes, a fine nose and a full beard. Mus’ab az-Zubayri said, “Malik was one of the most handsome people in his face and the sweetest of them in eye, the purest of them in whiteness and the most perfect of them in height and the most excellent in body.” Another said, “Malik was of medium height.” The first is better known.
His Quest for Knowledge
At the time when Malik grew up, and during the time immediately preceding him, Madina al-Munawarra was flourishing with the great ‘ulama’ who were the direct inheritors of the knowledge of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. They included “the seven fuqaha’” of Madina (or the ten) and their companions who took from them. Malik himself was always eager for knowledge and devoted himself to the assemblies of eminent men of knowledge. He drank and drank again from the sweet, quenching springs of knowledge.
He was instructed in the learning and recitation of the Noble Qur’an from Imam Nafi’ ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abi Nu’aym, the Imam of the reciters of Madina and one of the “seven reciters”. Abu ‘Amr ad-Dani who included the biography of Imam Malik in his book Tabaqat al-Qurra’ considered him to be one of the reciters. He mentioned that Imam al-Awza’I related the Qur’an from Malik, he being concerned with the meaning of its commentary. In the Muwatta’, you will find some of his commentaries on certain ayats.
He occupied himself with those who knew hadith, both in transmission and knowledge and was a master in fiqh, knowing how to derive judgments and join statements together and how to weigh one proof against another. Part of his good fortune was that two of his shaykhs, Muhammad b. Shihab az-Zuhri and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Amr ibn Hazm al-Ansari, were instrumental in the beginning of the process of recording the hadith.
Imam Malik met an extraordinary number of men of knowledge who related from the Companions or from the great Tabi’un. He did not attend the circle of everyone who sat teaching in the mosque of the Prophet or leaned against one of its pillars relating hadith to the people from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, but used to take only from those men that he saw had taqwa, scrupulousness, good memory, knowledge and understanding, and who clearly knew that they would be accountable for what they said on the Day of Rising. Shu’ba ibn al-Hajjaj, who was one of the great scholars of hadith, said that Malik was most discriminating, saying about him that: “He did not write down from everyone.”
Knowing, as we do, that Imam Malik came from a family of learning and grew up in Madina al-Munawarra which was the capital of knowledge at that time, especially the knowledge of hadith, and also knowing the strength of Malik’s predisposition for retention, understanding and taqwa and his perseverance and steadfastness in the face of all the obstacles he met in the path of knowledge, it is hardly surprising to discover that he graduated at a very young age. Reliable transmitters relate that he sat to give fatwa when he was seventeen years old. This was not from the impetuosity of youth or because of love of appearance but only after seventy Imams had testified that he was worthy to give fatwa and teach. Such people would only testify when it was absolutely correct to do so. Indeed, the testimony of any two of them would have been sufficient.