A brief introduction to the meaning of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), its principles, and The Leading Fiqh Scholars such as Abu Hanifah, Malik, Al-Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. It includes all the practical rules that every Muslim, man or woman, should know, citing their bases in the Qur’an and the Sunnah in an easy and simple way.

Imam Malik ibn Anas

Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik (93–179 AH/712–794 CE) was born in Madinah in the same year the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companion Anas ibn Malik died. He spent all his life there, and was very devout, intelligent and courageous. He would not hesitate to express his views, fearing nothing, which led to him being severely punished and flogged in later life, due to his verdict that divorce under duress is invalid. The torture he was subjected to resulted in dislocation of his arm and caused him to suffer from incontinence until he died.

  Malik was brought up in Madinah, where the Sunnah flourished, as the city was the place where a large number of the children and grandchildren of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions still lived. Indeed, some of his 900 teachers were drawn from among them, but the main figures who influenced him greatly were 'Abdullah ibn Hurmuz, his first teacher from whom Malik learnt to say, ‘I don’t know’ whenever he was unclear about a question, Nafi', the disciple of 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, Muhammad ibn Shihab al-Zuhri and Rabi'ah ibn 'Abd al-Rahman, known by his nickname Rabi'ah al-Ra’y. When Malik relates a hadith quoting Nafi', this is considered the best chain of transmission, as it means Malik, Nafi', and 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar were quoting the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is called ‘the golden chain of transmission’. Al-Zuhri was the first scholar to collate the  Hadith, as he was instructed to do by the Caliph, 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz. When Rabi'ah died, Malik said: ‘The sweetness of Fiqh has gone.’[1]

  Imam Malik attained a very distinguished position as a scholar of Fiqh and  Hadith, and was recognized as a leading authority in both. He was one of the first scholars to produce an anthology of Hadith, which he included in his authoritative work, Al-Muwatta’. In Fiqh he always cared for people’s interests. 

Speaking of him, Imam al-Shafi'i said: ‘When scholars are mentioned, Malik comes at the top. I am indebted to no one more than I am indebted to Malik.’ Imam Ahmad said: ‘Malik is among the leading scholars. He is an imam in both  Hadith and Fiqh. Who is to compare with Malik in his following of our predecessors and combining his learning with sound reason and fine manners?’[2]

Methodology of the Maliki school

Imam Malik did not write down the methodology he followed in arriving at rulings. However, the methodology is mentioned in the relevant books authored by scholars of his school, as they studied the detailed questions he looked into. The sources the Maliki school relies upon are the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the unanimity of the people of Madinah, analogy, statements by the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions, interests without rulings, customs of Muslims, prevention of what leads to prohibitions, istishab, and subtle analogy.[3]


  1. M. Abu Zahrah, Malik, p. 63.
  2.  Ibid, p. 88.
  3.  A. al-Baji, Ihkam al-Fusul fi Ahkam al-Usul, pp. 480–1.