Wednesday, 21 February 2007

The Four Madhabs - The Maaliki School of Jurisprudence


The Founder: Imam Maalik (717-801 CE).

The founding scholar of this madhab, Maalik ibn Anas ibn Aamir RA, was born in Madinah in the year 717 CE. His grandfather, Aamir RA, was among the major Sahabah of Madinah. Maalik RA studied Hadith under Az-Zuhri RA who was the greatest Hadith scholar of his time, as well as under the great Hadith narrator, Naafi RA, the freed slave of the Sahabi - Abdullah ibn Umar RA. Imam Maalik RA's only journeys outside of Madinah were for Hajj, and thus he largely limited himself to the knowledge available in Madinah. He was severely beaten in the year 764 CE by the order of the Amir of Madinah, because he made a legal ruling that forced divorce was invalid. This ruling opposed the Abbasid rulers practice of adding in the oath of allegiance given to them by the masses - the clause that whoever broke the oath was automatically divorced. Imam Maalik RA was tied and beaten mercilessly until his arms became severely damaged to such a degree that he became unable to clasp them on his chest in Solat and thus he began the practice of performing Solat with his hands at his sides according to some reports. Imam Maalik RA continued to teach Hadith in Madinah over a period of forty years and he managed to compile a book containing the Ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and the Athars (statements) of the Sahabah RA and their successors which he named "Al-Muwatta" (the Beaten Path). He began his compilation of Ahadith at the request of the Abbasid Caliph, Abu Ja'far al-Mansur, (754-775 CE) who wanted a comprehensive code of law based on the Prophet SAW's Sunnah which could be applied uniformly throughout his realm. But, on its completion, Imam Maalik RA refused to have it forced on the people pointing out that the Sahabah RA had scattered throughout the Islamic empire and had taken with them other parts of the Sunnah which also had to be considered in any laws imposed throughout the state. The Caliph Harun Ar-Rashid RA (768-809 CE) also made the same request of the Imam, but he was also turned down. Imam Maalik RA died in the city of his birth in the year 801 CE at the venerable age of 83.


Imam Maalik RA's method of teaching was based on the narration of Ahadith and the discussion of their meanings in the context of problems of that day. He would either narrate to his students Ahadith of Rasulullah SAW and Athars of the Sahaabah on various topics of Islamic Law then discuss their implications; or he would inquire about problems which had arisen in the areas from whence his students came, then narrate appropriate Ahadith or Athars which could be used to solve them. After Imam Malik RA completed 'Al-Muwatta', he used to narrate it to his students as the sum total of his Madhab, but would add or subtract from it slightly, whenever new reliable evidences reached him. He used to strictly avoid speculation and hypothetical Fiqh and thus his school and its followers were referred to as the Ahlul Hadith (The People Of Hadith).


Imam Maalik RA deduced Islamic Law from the following sources which are listed hereunder in the order of their importance:

1. The Holy Qur'an: Like all the other Imams, Imam Maalik RA considered the Most Noble Qur'an to be the primary source of Islamic Law and utilised it without laying any preconditions for its application.

2. The Sunnah: The Sunnah was used by Imam Malik RA as the second most important source of Islamic Law, but, like Imam Abu Hanifah RA - he put some restrictions on its use. If a Hadith were contradicted by the customary practice of the Madinites (the people of Madinah), he rejected it. Contrary to the method used by the Hanafi Madhab, he did not, however, insist that a Hadith be Mashur (well-known) before it could be applied. Instead he used any Hadith that was narrated to him as long as none of the narrators were known liars or extremely weak memorisers.

3. 'Amal (Practices) of the Madinites: Imam Maalik RA reasoned that since many of the Madinites were direct descendants of the Sahabah RA and Madinah was where Nabi Muhammad SAW spent the last ten years of his (SAW) life, practices common to all Madinites must have been allowed, if not encouraged by the Prophet SAW himself. Thus Imam Maalik RA regarded common Madinite practices as a form of highly authentic Sunnah narrated in deeds rather than words.

4. Ijmaa of the Sahabah RA: Imam Maalik RA like Imam Abu Hanifah RA considered the Ijmaa of the Sahabah, as well as that of later scholars, as the next most important source of Islamic Law.

5. Individual Opinions of the Sahabah RA: Imam Maalik RA gave full weight to the opinions of the Sahabah RA, whether they were conflicting or in agreement, and included them in his book of Hadith, "Al-Muwatta". However, the consensus of the Sahabah RA was given precedence over individual opinions of the Sahaabah. Where there was no consensus, their individual opinions were given precedence over his own opinion.

6. Qiyas: Imam Maalik RA used to apply his own deductive reasoning on matters not covered by the previously mentioned sources. However, he was very cautious about doing so because of the subjectivity of such forms of reasoning.

7. Customs of the Madinites: Imam Maalik RA also gave some weight to isolated practices found among a few people of Madinah so long as they were not in contradiction to known Ahadith. He reasoned that such customs, though occuring only in isolated instances, must also have been handed down from earlier generations and sanctioned by the Sahabah RA or even the Prophet Muhammad SAW himself.

8. Istislah (Welfare): The principle of Istihsan developed by Imam Abu Hanifah RA was also applied by Imam Maalik RA and his students except that they called it by the name Istislah which simply means seeking that which is more suitable. It deals with things which are for human welfare but have not been specifically considered by the Shari'ah. An example of Istislah is found in Caliph Ali RA's ruling that a whole group of people who took part in a murder were guilty even though only one of the group had actually committed the act of murder. The legal texts of the Shari'ah covered only the actual murderer. Another example is the right and permissibility of a Muslim leader to collect taxes from the rich other than Zakat, if the interest of the state demands it, whereas in Shari'ah only Zakat has been specified. Imam Maalik RA also applied the principle of Istislah to deduce laws more in keeping with needs which arose from current situations than those deduced by Qiyas.

9. Urf (Custom): Like Imam Abu Hanifah RA, Imam Maalik RA considered the various customs and social habits of people throughout the Muslim world as possible sources of secondary laws as long as they did not contradict either the letter or the spirit of the Shari'ah. According to custom in Syria, for example, the word Daabbhah means a horse, whereas its general meaning in Arabic is a four legged animal. Hence, a contract made in Syria requiring payment in the form of a Daabbhah would legally mean a horse whereas elsewhere in the Arab world it would have to be more clearly defined as a horse.


The most notable of Imam Maalik RA's students who did not later form their own Madhabs were:

(a) Abu Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Al-Qaasim (745-813 CE) - Al-Qaasim RA was born in Egypt but travelled to Madinah where he studied under his teacher and mentor for a period of more than twenty years. He wrote an extensive book on the Fiqh of the Madhab, eclipsing even 'Al-Muwatta' of Imam Maalik RA himself and called it 'Al-Mudawwanah'.

(b) Abu Abdillaah ibn Wahb (742-818 CE) - Ibn Wahb RA also travelled from Egypt to Madinah in order to study under Imam Maalik RA. He distinguished himself in the deduction of laws to such a degree that Imam Maalik RA gave him the title of 'Al-Mufti', which means the official expounder of Islamic Law. Ibn Wahb RA was offered an appointment as judge of Egypt, but turned it down in order to maintain his integrity as an independent scholar. Imam Maalik RA also had other famous students from other Madhabs. Some of them later developed their own school of jurisprudence based on what they learnt from Imam Maalik RA - for example, Muhammad Ash-Shaybaani RA who was among the foremost students of Imam Abu Hanifah RA. There were others who developed their own Madhabs by combining Imam Maalik RA's teachings with that of others, for example Muhammad ibn Idris Ash-Shafi'i who studied for many years under Imam Malik RA as well as under Imam Abu Hanifah RA's student - Muhammad Ash-Shaybaani RA.


Today, the adherents of the Maaliki are mostly found in Upper Egypt, the Arabian gulf states (e.g. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain), the Arab states of North Africa (e.g. Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), in the country of Sudan, and in West Africa (e.g. Mali, Nigeria and Chad).

No comments: