Life of Imam Malik (R), the great scholar of Islam, is an exemplary lesson for everyone. His views were deeply influenced by his teachers Sa’d bnu Sa’d(R) and Imam Az-Zuhuree(R), who were great companions of Prophet (Peace be upon him). Imam gained knowledge from more than nine hundred scholars. His hailed from a very poor family and had to find out means for his education even by selling rafter of his house.
He was a scholar who gained everyone’s respect and was well known for his prodigious knowledge and precise analysis. Extremely wary about giving fatwas (Religious rulings), at times, he took days and months to come up with answers. Everyday, a big crowd gathered at his house to meet Imam. No one talked in his assembly. People would come one by one and ask fatwas. Answer will be a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Hearing this, people would go back and no one asked him to present with the proof for his opinions.
Anecdotes from the life of Imam
Abdullah-al-Umari was an Islamic scholar of Imam Malik’s time. He was known for his piety and devotions to worship. He spent most of his time in ibadah (prayers). Knowing that Imam Malik spent comparatively lesser time on prayers, Abdullah-al-Umari advised him to offer more acts of worship. Imam Malik’s reply to Abdullah-al-Umari was like this.
“Allah has divided the acts of deeds among people as He divided their means of life or wealth among them. Some are given talents in knowledge and how to spread it while others are given talents in jihad, fasting and so on. So what I am given is not less than what you (Abdullah-al-Umari) have been given and I hope that both of us are on the right track and do the things that please Allah”.
Qutayba said: Imam Malik used to come for his Hadith classes adorned in fresh cloths, applying perfumes and suruma, wearing turban and smoking oud. This is how he particularly got ready for any lecture on hadith. He would perform ablution and comb his beard as well. And those profound lectures will be adorned with piety, humbleness and tranquility. Once he explained that the due respect that he treasured to the words of Prophet(PBUH) is the motive behind this. He never used to quote Hadith on his way to something or hastily.
The caliph Harun al-Rashid asked some questions to Imam. Imam gave suitable answers for them. Khalifa became happy and said;
“You are, by Allah! The wisest of people and the most knowledgeable of people.”
Malik replied: “No, by Allah! O Leader of the Believers.”
He said: “Yes! But you keep it hidden. By Allah! If I live, I shall put your sayings in writing like the mushafs are put down in writing, and I shall disseminate them to the ends of the world.” But Imam Malik refused the proposal.
Once a person came to Madinah from Morocco, traveling a long way. His intention was to meet Imam Malik and seek answer for some of his questions. These questions were imposed by the people of Morocco to Imam Malik, renowned scholar of the time.
He asked forty eight questions to Imam Malik, to thirty-two of which he replied: ‘I do not know.’”
That man told Imam; “I have come a long way seeking answers for these questions for my people. What can I tell them about these upon my return?”
“Tell them Imam Malik does not know.”
“Abu Mus`ab reported that Malik said: “I did not give fatwas before seventy scholars first witnessed to my competence to do it.”
He wore a ring inscribed with the Quran verse ‘Allah is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs”.
He told; “Since I am a human being, I am fallible. For this reason, you should think about my opinion! If it is in accordance with the Qura’n and sunnah, you may follow it. If not, you should set it aside”.