These are the fundamental principles of Imam Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, which the scholars of his school have derived from the corpus of the secondary rulings transmitted from him. It is by means of them that his rulings were derived and upon them that they are based.
The first thing to be noticed about these principles is their flexibility. He did not make the unqualified text of the Book or the Sunna unequivocal. He opened the door to making its general texts specific and to qualifying what is unqualified. Just as he opened the door of specification, he showed there to be flexibility in the texts which facilitated the means of deriving judgements from them. A faqih should not be inflexible where the text is concerned, nor should he be excessively flexible.
The principles are all interconnected, one amplifying another, and so any unfamiliar meanings are winnowed out in favour of a meaning derived from an immediate principle. From that there emerges a mature fiqh that is strong, straightforward, familiar and known one which people readily accept.
The second thing to be noticed after the flexibility of these principles is their orientation towards achieving the greatest benefit in the most direct manner. Analogy is made a way of achieving this. Istihsan is employed to achieve it by preferring a ruling derived by it if analogy is less apt to achieve the desired benefit. Consideration of public interest is made into a principle in order to achieve it by the easiest way. Malik also employed the method of facilitating or blocking the means which is also considered to be one of the fundamental principles used in deriving rulings. Then, finally, he considered custom, which is another means of removing distress, averting hardship, achieving benefit, and fulfilling people's needs.
Malik saw that the basic aim of the Divine Lawgiver in His Shari'a was to realise the greatest benefit for the maximum number of people and so he made all his fiqh which was not based on an unequivocal text centre on this principle. He supports it by facilitating and blocking the means and other ways which lead to it, in order to achieve it by the quickest and easiest manner.
Thirdly, the principles which Malik used in deriving judgements are interconnected with and complementary to one another. All are derived from the same source and follow the same guidance: namely, the definitive text, its spirit and meaning and the ways in which the Prophet and the Companions applied it. Hence his fiqh is aimed at the same goal: the welfare of people in this world and the Next and following path of the Prophet and Companions without any innovation.
We find that Malik relies on the cases and fatwas of the Companions in recognising the objective of the Shari'a and then recognises the judgements of those of the following generation with deep knowledge of the texts and goals of the Shari'a and of its immediate and long-term consequences. In so doing, Malik opened the same methodology for his students who came after him and their students. They understood fiqh as he did and followed his way. So Maliki fiqh spread far and wide.
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