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The Objectivity of the Maliki Scholars

Author : Dr. Mufti Sa`eid Farhan

Date Added : 14-02-2024

The Objectivity of the Maliki Scholars


The four jurisprudential schools are the fortress of the nation and the protective barrier of its religion. Undoubtedly, they are the beacon that illuminates the correct path of worship for people, keeping them away from any act of extremism or exaggeration in religion.


The esteemed status and widespread acceptance of these four jurisprudential schools did not emerge out of thin air, nor were they merely a product of custom or tradition as some claim. Rather, their clear scholarly methodology and solid foundational principles were the main factors behind their spread among people, in addition to their objectivity and fairness.


Among these schools is the Maliki school of thought, which Allah has destined to spread in the Muslim community, especially in the countries of the Arab Maghreb. Undoubtedly, the Maliki School has its own unique advantages, just like the other three schools. These advantages have led many scholars from various schools to praise the Maliki School. Imam al-Ghazali, one of the leading figures of the Shafi'i School, mentioned in his book 'Revival of the Religious Sciences' (Vol.1/P. 129): 'I wish that his [i.e., Imam Shafi'i's] school of thought would be like that of Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, in the matter of water, where even a small amount does not become impure except through a noticeable change. Given the pressing need for water, the requirement of two qullahs [a unit of measurement] for impurity is a source of unnecessary hardship, and those who have experienced and reflected on it would understand that.' He concluded his statement.


One of the excellent characteristics and virtues that the Maliki school of thought is known for is its scientific methodology and objectivity among all its scholars. You do not find them engaging in disputes, arguments, or similar behaviors that have become characteristic of many contemporary and ancient jurisprudential sects.


 This methodology is manifested in several points, including:


Firstly: Their mention of subsidiary rulings from other schools of thought, especially the Shafi'i school.

 Obviously, this is among the highest levels of objectivity and rejection of partisanship: mentioning the opinions of other schools of thought, not just for reference but for advocating their adoption and following. Definitely, this is a high degree of fairness. An example of this is what Imam al-Sawi mentioned in his commentary on "al-Sharh al-Saghir, Vol. 1/P. 3" regarding the ruling on saying 'Bismillah' at the beginning of Surah al-Tawbah. He said: 'It is prohibited at the beginning of al-Tawbah according to Ibn Hajar, and al-Ramli said it is disliked. As for saying it in the middle, it is disliked according to the former and recommended according to the latter. Imam al-Hatab said: 'I have not seen anything to the contrary from the scholars of our school in this regard.'


Moreover, the Maliki scholars go even further by issuing fatwas and acting upon the opinion of others, even if it contradicts their own school of thought, especially if that opinion is stronger and more reliable. They justify this by stating that the opinion of others, if stronger, holds precedence over the weak or less-established opinion within their own school. What greater intellectual refinement is there than prioritizing the stronger opinion regardless of its origin? The norm, as observed in many schools of thought, is not to issue fatwas based on weaker opinions. This transcendent objectivity is lacking in many who engage in jurisprudence, where their aim often revolves around excluding others.


Imam Ad-Dasuqi stated in his commentary on the Sharh al-Kabir by Sheikh Ad-Dardir [Vol.1/P.20]: "Fatwas are only based on the well-known or predominant opinion within the school of thought. As for the divergent or less-established opinions, they are not to be relied upon for issuing fatwas. It is impermissible to issue fatwas or rulings based on them, and it is not permissible to act upon them in personal matters. Rather, the opinion of others takes precedence, as their opinion holds greater strength within their own school of thought. This is the stance of the scholars.


And among that is also the preference given by some scholars of the Maliki school to the opinions of other schools over the opinion of their own school. An example of this is what Imam Ad-Dawi stated in his commentary on "Kifayat al-Talib al-Rabbani [Vol.1/P.444]": "According to the Shafi'is, on a day of doubt, it is permissible to announce the sighting of the crescent moon based on the testimony of those whose testimony is not accepted. People may have seen the crescent, even if Ibn 'Abd al-Salam did not confirm it. This is the most correct opinion according to me [i.e., the opinion of the Shafi'is], as we are instructed to complete the thirty-day count in cases of cloud cover. There is no doubt in this regard.


Secondly: Their acceptance of those who differ from them in subsidiary matters, such as considering the prayer valid behind an Imam who does not fulfill all the conditions and pillars according to their school. Imam Ad-Dardiir stated in his explanation of Mukhtasar Khalil [Vol. 1/P.333]: "It is permissible to follow an Imam who follows a different school in matters of doubt, such as the Shafi'i or Hanafi, even if he performs acts contrary to the conditions for the validity of the prayer, such as wiping only part of the head or touching the male private parts, because what is a condition for the validity of the prayer is dependent on the Imam's school. However, what is a condition for the validity of the following prayer (i.e., the follower's prayer) is based on the school of the follower."


In this detailed explanation, there is a commitment from the Maliki follower to all schools and the correction of the prayer with them. This demonstrates not only the rejection of fanaticism but also the unity among Muslims and the alleviation of difficulty for the follower.


Thirdly: The openness of the Maliki school to other schools of thought and imitation of them, if it brings about more good, as Imam Al-Qarafi said in his book "Adh-Dhakhira" [Vol.13/P.247]: "Like the difference among scholars regarding the legitimacy of reciting Al-Fatiha in funeral prayer, where Malik says: It is not recommended, while Ash-Shafi'i says: It is recommended and obligatory, so one should recite it out of caution. Similarly, with regards to saying 'Bismillah', Malik said: It is disliked in prayer, while Ash-Shafi'i and Abu Hanifa said: It is obligatory, so caution is to recite it and follow this method."


Fourthly: The consideration of the Maliki School for the opinions of other schools of thought, adopting them, and even acting upon them to resolve differences, provided that the evidence supporting those opinions is considered valid. Examples of this abound within the Maliki school, including:


In addition, the Maliki School does not permit performing Hajj on behalf of the deceased. However, out of consideration for the consensus (ijma) and the evidence from narrations (ahadith) regarding this ruling, they have allowed it under one condition: if the deceased had specifically instructed it in their will, albeit with disapproval. They have also allowed it in the case of voluntary Hajj.


Another example is the issue of slaughtering locusts according to the Maliki School, which is a matter where the Maliki School diverges from the majority. While the majority permits consuming locusts, even if they die naturally, based on a narration supporting this view, the Maliki School requires locusts to be slaughtered before consumption. They consider dead locusts as among the prohibited types of dead animals. Although there is a narration supporting their view attributed to the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), the reliability of this narration is subject to scrutiny. Additionally, in consideration of the majority opinion, which allows leniency in the slaughtering of locusts, stating that any act causing the death of the locust would suffice, they do not insist on complete form of slaughter.


Besides these examples, there are many other noble traits and virtues that characterize the followers of the Maliki School, which they learned from their Imam and teacher, Imam Malik, may Allah be pleased with him. He was indeed the best role model in following the truth. It is narrated about him, may Allah have mercy on him, that he entered the mosque after the Asr prayer and sat without performing the greeting of the mosque (tahiyyat al-masjid). A young boy said to him, "Get up, O Sheikh, and perform two units of prayer." Imam Malik stood up and performed the two units of prayer. When asked about this, he said, "I feared that his statement might be true regarding the verse: 'And when it is said to them, "Bow [in prayer]," they do not bow.'" (al-Mursalat, 48). This exemplifies Imam Malik's humility, piety, and adherence to the teachings of the Quran.



















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