From the History of the Mālikīs – 2 How the Mālikī School of Law Spread

From the History of the Mālikīs 

2 How the Mālikī School of Law Spread

Part One: The Initial Spread of the Mālikī Jurisprudence 

As we previously said, Imam Mālik was in Madinah. The significance of Madinah is that it is the city in which the Diin was first established, and Imam Mālik never left the city. He received his knowledge by direct transmission from hundreds of scholars, who themselves had received an unbroken and direct line of transmission from the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم‮.‬. In addition, the people of Madinah practiced the ʿamal, which was a prophetic behavior that was part of their the normal daily life.

As a result, Imam Mālik recognized that what was normal daily life in Madinah was also the most correct way of life for the entire the Ummah. He therefore placed upon himself the duty of recording and codifying this Madani way life, so that it would be a model for the entire Ummah.

To Imam Malik, the ʿamal ahlu-l-Madinah was an accurate representation of what had been passed down from the Sunnah of the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم; passed down from father to son by way of the first three outstanding generations whom the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم held in high esteem. As Rabīʿah said  “A thousand from a thousand”, that is to say, thousands of great-grandfathers passed the ʿamal to  thousands of sons, who in turned passed it on to a thousand of grandsons, up until the time of Imam Mālik.

In Madinah, during the time of the Imam Mālik, a man could be called upon to report about or demonstrate behavior that had come directly to them from the time when The Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم and the first three generations were alive in the city. This was the main thing that attracted so many of Imam Mālik’s student to come and study with him. It was Imam Mālik’s proximity to the source of the Sunnah that these students found most attractive.

No other city had such proximity to the Sunnah. After all, wasn’t Madinah the city to which The Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم emigrated and established the Sunnah? Wasn’t it where he returned to live out the rest of his life after the conquest of Mecca and in turn was also buried there? No other city in the Ummah had such proximity to the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad صلّى الله عليه وسلّم as did Madinah al Munawwarah.

The students of Imam Mālik came from Egypt, North Africa, Spain, and Iraq.  Because of the the high regard throughout the Ummah for Imam Mālik’s scholarship, he drew  large numbers of students from these places, who in turn became highly respected scholars in those regions from which they came.

Imam Mālik’s book al Muwaṭṭa became a standard read, and as a result, it was widely circulated throughout the Ummah. His students, many of whom who became “little Mālik’s” were prolific writers. They also produced many volumes about Mālikī law. The most famous among these texts of law was the Mudawwanah of ʿAbdus Salaam at-Tanūkhī, more famously known as Ṣahnūn. He was the student of the student of Imam Mālik, Ibn al Qāṣim.

Among the more famous students who sat under the direct tutelage of Imam Mālik, and who aided in the broad spread of Mālikī jurisprudence was the Egyptians: ʿAbdullah ibn Wahb and ʿAbdur Rahmān ibn al-Qāṣim al-ʿUtqī, the Tunisians: Al Bahlul ibn Rashīd, ʿAbdullah Ibn Farrukh, Asad Ibn Al Furat who wrote the first Mudawwanah, and the Andulusian: Yaḥyā ibn Yaḥyā al Layth. These were the scholar’s who themselves produced scholars that spread the Mālikī school far and wide.

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