Some of Malik's Students

(This is taken from the section on Imam Malik in The Four Imams by Muhammad Abu Zahrah,
soon to be published by Dar al-Taqwa)

Maliki fiqh was transmitted in two ways. One was by the books which Malik wrote and which are related from him and the soundness and strongest of those is the Muwatta' as we have made clear. The second was through his students. They transmitted his fiqh, and many books were transmitted from them.

No other Imam is known to have had such a large number of students as Malik. They were very numerous indeed and came from all over the world. He had students from Khorasan, Iraq, and Syria, although most of them were from Madina, Egypt, or North Africa.

The reason for that is that he resided in the Hijaz and particularly in Madina al-Munawwara. He only left it to perform Hajj and he is not known ever to have left the land of the Hijaz at all. Madina was the home of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. People from all over the world went there after making Hajj to the House of Allah. Malik lived to be well over eighty and taught for about sixty years of his life. This was another factor in the number of his students.

The importance of the role of Malik's students can be gauged from the fact that the Muwatta' reports only a small number of the topics which he taught and on which he gave fatwa. However, his students used to record his fatwas. Indeed, he sometimes forbade them to go too far in writing them down. It would be impossible to deal fully and comprehensively with all his students, so we will just mention a few of the more important ones in brief.

'Abdullah ibn Wahb

'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn al-Qasim

Ashhab ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz al-'Amiri

Asad ibn al-Furat

'Abdullah ibn Wahb

This man was a Berber allied to Quraysh. He stayed with Malik for about twenty years, and disseminated his fiqh in Egypt. He studied not only with Malik but also with many of the companions of az-Zuhri. He also took from more than 400 shaykhs of hadith in Egypt, the Hijaz and Iraq, including Sufyan ath-Thawri, Ibn 'Uyayna, Ibn Jurayj, 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn Ziyad al-Ifriqi, Sa'id ibn Abi Ayyub, and others. Many related from him. Asbagh, one of the students of the companions of Malik, said "Ibn Wahb was the companion of Malik with the most knowledge of the Sunna and traditions although he related from men who were weak."

Ibn Wahb himself recognised that some of his hadiths were weak. He said, "If it had not been that Allah rescued me through Malik and al-Layth, I would have been lost." He was asked, "How is that?" He replied, "I knew many hadiths, and that confused me. I used to present them to Malik and al-Layth and they would say, 'Take this and leave that.'"

Malik esteemed and loved him. He did not spare any of his companions criticism except for Ibn Wahb. He used to call him "the faqih" when he wrote to him. Ibn Wahb was one of those who spread Malik's school in Egypt and the Maghrib. People travelled to him to learn Malik's fiqh both during Malik's lifetime and after his death. He left many excellent books, including what he heard from Malik which took up about 30 volumes. He died in 197 AH at the age of 72.

'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn al-Qasim

This scholar was one of the companions of Malik who had a tremendous influence in recording his school since he was the source for Sahnun in his record of the teaching of Malik. In the school of Malik he has the same position as Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani has in the school of Abu Hanifa. There is a complete correspondence between the two men. Both of them transmitted the school and made free use of ijtihad. Ibn al-Qasim had opinions which differed from those of his shaykh, Malik, so that it was said that he was dominated by opinion. Ibn 'Abdu'l-Barr said of him, "He was a faqih dominated by opinion. He was a righteous, poor, steadfast man."

He met Malik after Ibn Wahb and kept his company for a long time – about twenty years. He learned his fiqh. He also met al-Layth, 'Abdu'l-'Aziz ibn al-Majishun and Muslim ibn Khalid al-Zanji. Many people related from him and consulted him about Malik's fatwas. Ibn Wahb used to say, "If you want this business – meaning the fiqh of Malik – you must have Ibn al-Qasim. He is unique in it." His transmission of the Muwatta' is the soundest and Sahnun learned the contents of the Mudawwana, the most comprehensive collection of Maliki fiqh, from him. Thus he can be considered as the main transmitter of Maliki fiqh, for the Mudawwana is its chief source.

He was a generous and abstemious man. He did not accept the stipends of any ruler and he said, "There is no good in the proximity of rulers." He frequented them at first, but then he kept away from them. He died in 191 at the age of 63.

Ashhab ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz al-'Amiri

Ashhab studied with al-Layth, Yahya ibn Ayyub, and Ibn Lahi'a. He kept Malik's company and learned his fiqh, and was one of those who transmitted his fiqh. He had a collection called the Mudawwana of Ashhab or the Books of Ashhab. He was a contemporary of Ibn al-Qasim, but was younger than him. Sahnun was the student of both of them and was asked which of them knew more fiqh. He replied, "They were like two horses neck and neck. Sometimes this one was successful and that one unsuccessful, and sometimes it was the reverse."

Ibn al-Qasim and Ashhab once disagreed about what Malik had said about a particular matter and each of them swore to refute what the other said. They asked Ibn Wahb, who was an older companion than they were; and he told them that Malik had made both statements. Ash-Shafi'i met Ashhab and said, "I have not seen anyone with more fiqh than Ashhab. He achieved supremacy in fiqh in Egypt."

Ashhab compiled a book called al-Mudawwana, which was not the Mudawwana of Sahnun. Qadi 'Iyad said of it, "It is a large majestic book containing much knowledge." Ibn Harith said, "When the Asadiyya [the basis for the Mudawwana of Sahnun] was completed, Ashhab took it and edited it, having objected to some of it. He produced a noble book. When Ibn al-Qasim heard that, he commented that he had found a complete book and then built on it. Ashhab said to him, 'You scooped from one spring and I from many springs.' So Ibn al-Qasim answered him, 'Your springs are turbid but my spring is clear.'"

Sahnun was a student of both Ashhab and Ibn al-Qasim and so he took from both of them. Ashhab left other books as well. He was born in 140 AH and died in 204, a few days after ash-Shafi'i.

Asad ibn al-Furat

Asad's origins lay in Khorasan although he was born at Harran. Then his father moved with him to Tunis, although some say that he was born in Tunis. He memorised the Qur'an and then studied fiqh. He travelled to the east and heard the Muwatta' and other teachings from Malik. He then went to Iraq and met Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani.

Asad then combined the fiqh of Iraq and the fiqh of Madina. He had studied with both Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and Malik. The student of Malik who took the most from him later was Ibn al-Qasim.

According to the Madarik: "When Asad came to Egypt, he went to Ibn Wahb and said, 'These are the books of Abu Hanifa,' and he asked him to answer them according to the school of Malik. Ibn Wahb was too scrupulous and refused. Asad he went to Ibn al-Qasim, who answered the questions he asked from what he remembered of Malik's actual words. When he was unsure, Ibn al-Qasim said, 'I imagine,' 'I suppose' and 'I think'. On one occasion he said, 'I heard him speak on such-and-such a question and your question is similar to it.' On other occasions, he spoke according to his own ijtihad based on what Malik had said. He collected those answers into books which were called al-Asadiyya."

The Asadiyya was the basis for the Mudawwana of Sahnun. Asad was appointed qadi of Qayrawan. He died in 212 in the siege of Syracuse while he was the commander and qadi of the army. He was born in 145.

The Major Works of the Maliki School

Ibn Khaldun reports about the books of the Maliki school: "'Abdu'l-Malik ibn Habib travelled from Andalusia and took from Ibn al-Qasim. He then disseminated what he learned and so the school of Malik spread in Andalusia. He wrote a book on it called al-Wadiha. Next one of his students, al-'Utbi, wrote al-'Utbiyya. Asad ibn Furat travelled from North Africa and wrote first from the people of Abu Hanifa and before moving to the school of Malik. Ibn al-Qasim brought his book to Qayrawan and called it al-Asadiyya. Sahnun read it to Asad and then travelled east and met Ibn al-Qasim. He took from him and reviewed with him the questions of the Asadiyya, much of which he retracted. Then Sahnun wrote out its questions, put them in order, and produced al-Mudawwana. People then abandoned the Asadiyya and adopted Sahnun's book. The people of Qayrawan relied on this Mudawwana and the people of Andalusia on al-Wadiha and al-'Utbiyya. Then Ibn Abi Zayd summarised al-Mudawwana and al-Mukhtalita in a book called al-Mukhtasar. A synopsis of it, entitled at-Tahdhib, was also made by one of the fuqaha' of Qayrawan, Abu Sa'id al-Baradhi'i. The shaykhs of North Africa came to rely on it and adopted it, abandoning other books. Similarly, the people of Andalusia relied on al-'Utbiyya and left al-Wadiha and the other books."

Return to Home Page