Malik, Ibn Anas (C. 708–795)

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MALIK, IBN ANAS (C. 708–795)

Malik Ibn Anas, who was born between 708 and 716 c.e., was the most famous jurist from Medina by the time of his death in 795. Malik composed one of the first books of Islamic law, the Muwatta˒.

Malik studied with several experts on Islamic tradition (hadith), some of whose parents knew the Prophet. He was renowned for his knowledge of hadith, but his teachings were unique for his championing of the practice (sunna) of the inhabitants of Medina. Malik attracted students from all over the Islamic world, and the Muwatta˒ was taught in all medieval centers of learning, especially Egypt, Baghdad, North Africa, and Spain.

Under the caliph al-Mansur in 762 and 763 Malik was punished for his support of Muhammad b. ˓Abdallah, an ˓Alid pretender to the throne. But later in life the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid tried to make the Muwatta˒ the basis for a unified code of law. The sources agree, however, that these political intrigues were aberrations, and that Malik lived a simple life devoted to teaching, surrounded by a close group of devotees who collected his opinions on every conceivable subject.

The Muwatta˒ has survived in several versions and includes hadith from the Prophet and his Companions as well as legal opinions of Malik and other famous scholars from Medina. It is organized in chapters and covers all aspects of ritual and social life. It is still part of the required curriculum of many Islamic universities today, especially in North and West Africa where the Maliki school (one of the four madhhabs of Sunni law) predominates. Several other books, some recently uncovered, contain extensive collections of Malik's opinions not found in the Muwatta˒.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Law ; Madhhab .


Goldziher, Ignaz. Muslim Studies. Edited by S. M. Stern and translated by S. M. Stern and C. R. Barber. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1972.

Schacht, Joseph. "Malik b. Anas." In Encyclopaedia of Islam. New ed. Edited by H. A. R. Gibb, et al. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1962.

Jonathan E. Brockopp