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Maliki School of Law


One of the four approaches (called schools) to Sunni Muslim law.

The Maliki school of law was named after the traditionalist and lawyer Malik ibn Anas (died 795) of Medina (in today's Saudi Arabia). Malik's active career fell at a time when the prophetic sunna (record of the utterances and deeds of the Prophet) had not yet become a material source of the law on equal footing with the Qurʾan and when hadith (prophetic traditions) were still relatively limited in number. In his legal reasoning, therefore, Malik made little reference to prophetic traditions and more often resorted to the amal (normative practice) of Medina in justification of his doctrines. As expressed in his Muwatta, in which he recorded the customary Medinese doctrine, Malik's reliance on traditions as well as his technical legal thought lagged behind those of the Iraqis.

Once the transition from the geographical to the personal schools took place, Malik became the eponym of the former Hijazi or Medinan school. This may be explained by the fact that Malik's writings represented the average doctrine of that geographical area, coupled perhaps with the high esteem in which he was held as a scholar.

Like the namesake of the Hanafi school of law, but unlike the founder of the Shafiʿi school of law, Malik did not provide his school with a developed body of legal doctrine. It was left for his successors, chiefly in the ninth and tenth centuries, to articulate a legal system particular to the school. Among the most important positive law works of the school are: al-Mudawwana al-Kubra by Sahnun (died 854); alRisala by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (died 996); alTahdhib, an authoritative synopsis of al-Mudawwana, by Abu Saʿid al-Baradhi'i (died probably after 1039); al-Bayan, a commentary by Ibn Rushd (died 1126) on al-Utbiyya of al-Utbi (died 869); Bidaya alMujtahid wa Nihaya al-Muqtasid by Ibn Rushd al-Hafid (died 1189); al-Mukhtasar by Sidi Khalil (died 1365); al-Mi'yar al-Mughrib wa al-Jami al-Mu'rib by al-Wansharisi (died 1508), one of the most important fatwa collections in the school. Further, in writing on legal theory (usul al-fiqh), the Malikis were not as prolific as their Hanafi and Shafiʿi counterparts. Three of their most distinguished legal theoreticians are: Ibn Khalaf al-Baji (died 1081), the author of Ihkam al-Fusul ; al-Qarafi (died 1285), whose main work on the subject is Sharh Tanqih al-Fusul, a commentary on the work of the Shafiʿi jurist and theologian Fakhr al-Din al-Razi; and Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi (died 1388), who elaborated in his Muwafaqat one of the most innovative legal theories that is highly regarded by modern legal reformers.

Since early medieval Islam, Malikism succeeded in spreading mainly in the Maghrib (North Africa) and Muslim Spain, being now the dominant doctrine in all Muslim African countries. In Egypt, it has traditionally shared influence with Shafiʿism. Maliki presence may also be found today in Bahrain and Kuwait.

see also fatwa; hanafi school of law; hanbali school of law; shafiʿi school of law.

wael b. hallaq

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