Imam Malik Bin Anas, born in the year 93 AH (after Hijra) in the city of Madina. Imam Malik was the founder of the second school of Islamic legal thought, the Maliki school of thought and was the second of the four great Imams of Islam.
Imam Malik was of Yemeni origin. He was described as being very tall and imposing in stature. He had very fair hair. He also had a huge beard and big blue eyes. Imam Malik studied under very acclaimed scholars and teachers, one of them being Imam Abu Hanifa. This explains the many years of peace and mutual respect that existed between the Maliki school and the Hanafi school.
The Imam began studying at the very young age of ten. He was dedicated to learning about Hadiths that he would often wait outside in the hot sun to ask his teacher a question about a Hadith he learned about during class. He also loved Medina and the prophet so much that he refused to ride a camel in the city because he considered it to be disrespectful to lift his body off the ground while the prophet was in the ground.
At the age of 21, he became a Mujtahid. Meaning that he has reached a status where he can look at raw Quran and raw Hadith and give a ruling on a specific issue. One of his most memorable achievements was his role in the gathering of thousands of Hadiths to make the golden chain. These Hadiths are some of the most authentic Hadiths that exist today. His students put these Hadiths in a book called ‘Al Muwatta’.
Although some people thought that Imam Malik got along pretty well with the state officials of Medina, however, this is far from the truth. The Imam endured a trial at the hand of the caliph at the time ‘Abu Ja’far al-Mansur’. This started when a politically motivated question was asked to Imam Malik. The question was if a man was forced to divorce his wife and he divorced her, would the divorce count?
The Imams response was ‘The divorce of the coerced does not take effect’. Due to its political application to the coerced pledged (bay’a) to the caliph then in effect, the Imam was forbidden to say this. A spy then came and asked the Imam the same question to test him and the Imam responded the same.
The governor of Medina (the cousin of the caliph at the time) seized Imam Malik and lashed him until his arms were dislocated and passed out. Imam Malik persisted even after being shaved and put on the back of a camel and kept on saying ‘The divorce of the coerced is null and void!’. When the news reached Ja’far, he released Imam Malik.
Imam Malik was highly respected amongst the scholars. Even the first Imam Abu Hanifa would recommend scholars of Medina to Imam Malik saying: ‘If there is any excellence in them it lies in the fair-haired, blue-eyed youth.’ He remained respected until his death at the age of 90 in the year 179 AH (after Hijra).
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