From the History of the Mālikīs 1 – The Significance of Madinah and the Muwaṭṭa in Relations to It

From the History of the Mālikīs

1 – The Significance of Madinah and the Muwaṭṭa in Relations to It

During the time of the rise of doctrines and sects such as the Khawaarij, Muʿtazalī and the Shiʿī which challenged the true beliefs of the Muslims, Imām Mālik faced these challenges by presenting theʿAmal of Madinah as the true representation of the Sunnah and as the most correct counterbalance to these  doctrines and sects.

Madinah gained significance and importance in the history of Islam, because it was the city where the Prophet Muhammad صلّى الله علىه وسلّم sought safe haven when he had to flee for his life from Makkah. It also became an abode of safety for those who follow him there from Makkah. It also became the city where the Dīn was established by The Prophet صلّى الله علىه وسلّم, and the place to look towards for the best example of its practice.

After the death of the Prophet صلّى الله علىه وسلّم, Madinah became increasingly more important in this regard. During the era of Imām Mālik, many great scholars lived in Madinah, and it was the city where the fiqh of Islam was still in its purest form, like that which was found during the time of the first three generations.

Imām Mālik saw the ʿAmal of Madinah as the foremost behavior for the Muslim ummah. This can be seen in his words of advice and warning to Yahyā ibn Yahyā al Laythī:

“…To it the Hijrah was made and in it the Qur’an was revealed, the lawful was declared lawful and the unlawful was declared unlawful while the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم was in their midst and they were in the presence of revelation to the Messenger Of Allah  صلى الله عليه وسلم and the act of revelation itself.  He صلى الله عليه وسلم gave them commands and they obeyed him.  He صلى الله عليه وسلم established the Sunnah for them and they followed him until Allah brought his life to an end and chose for him the reward of His Presence.  The Prays of Allah be upon him and His Peace, His Mercy and His Blessings.

Then after him صلى الله عليه وسلم, those people from his ummah who obeyed him, rose up and assume authority by means of that which had been sent down to them.  Whatever they knew, they acted by.  Whatever they didn’t have knowledge of, they asked questions concerning it. Then they adopted that which they found to be the strongest position. As a result of their ijtihaad and their direct knowledge of the matter through experience, memory or proximity.  If there were those who held a different opinion or people expressed other opinions which were stronger or more worthy to be followed, they would set their own opinions aside, and follow and practice the others’ opinion.  Then the Tabiʿuun came after them following that same path.  They followed that Sunnah.

Therefore, if a matter in Madinah is clearly practiced, I am not of the opinion that anyone has the right to go contrary to it because of the legacy which they (the people of Madinah) possess.  They (The other people) are  not allowed to assume this or presume this.  If the people of the (other) cities begin saying, ‘This is the ʿAmal which is in our city and this is what was done in it by those who passed from among us; they wouldn’t have certainty about that nor would that be permissible for them to claim.  Therefore, be careful…”

This is why Imām Mālik found it necessary it to codify this behavior in the Muwatta. Imām Mālik compiled his famous Muwaṭṭa to record the actions and behavior of these three outstanding generations, so that the rest of the Ummah might benefit from the pristine example of the inhabitants of this city so that it be preserved those living in a time when might become lost or corrupted.

The Muwaṭṭa is the earliest written source book of correct Salafī behavior.  The ‘Amal found in the Muwatta is based on the fundamental principles laid down by the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, as well as authoritative pronouncements of the Khulafāh Rashīdūn and other companions charged with that responsibility, legal opinions and juristic statements of the fuquhaa, verdicts passed down by the Qaadis, and decisions of the past people of authority from the city of Madinah and those who were its current scholars during the time of Imām Mālik.

The khalifs like ʿUmar ibn Abdul Azīz, Harūn ar-Rashīd and Jaʿfar al-Manṣūr relied on Imām Mālik for guidance and fatawā because they knew that Imām Mālik, the city of Madinah and its inhabitants as previously mentioned had not become corrupted.

Ibn Taymiyyah again says:

فأما الأعصار الثلاثة المفضلة فلم‏  يكن فيها بالمدينة النبوية بدعة ظاهرة البتة،‏  ولا خرج منها بدعة في‏  أصول الدين البتة،‏  كما خرج من سائر الأمصار

“As for the three preeminent eras (the eras of the Prophet صلى اللّه عليه وسلّم and his Ṣaḥaabah, the Tabiʿuun and the Tabiʿu Tabiʿiin), there was no clear bidʿah (innovation) in the Prophetic City of Madinah during those eras at all nor did any innovation in usuulu-d-diin (the fundamental principles of religion) emerge from it like what emerge from the rest of the cities.”

Imām Mālik’s al-Muwaṭṭa was recognized as a text that had the genuine Sunnah preserved  on its pages. It is also the first book of fiqh written in Islam. It is said that the Khalif al-Mansūr wanted to used the Muwaṭṭa to unify the legal system of the ʿAbbāsid empired, however Imām Mālik said that he didn’t believe that idea would be accepted by the people or the fuquhaa’ of Iraq. It is also said that upon hearing that from Imām Mālik, ʿAbu Jaʿfar said if they didn’t submit then “their heads will be chopped off and their backs will be lashed by the whip”.

Imām Mālik knew all  to well that a man convince against his will was a man not convinced at all, and so he continuously resisted the idea of his book al Muwaṭṭa being forced down the people’s throats, and wisely so, because the Muwaṭṭa became famous and was used without enforcement. This is one of the proofs of its greatness in itself.

It was not spread by the whip or the sword, but rather by the dedicated students of Imām Mālik who spread it to every area the Muslim ummah, both in the east and the west.

Two versions of the Muwaṭṭa have been transmitted by two of his most famous students, Yahyā ibn Yahyā al Laythī from al-Andalus and Muhammad ash-Shaybānī, and also a student of Abū Hanīfah.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 23:00  Leave a Comment  
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