Muwatta Imam Malik
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The Muwaṭṭaʾ (Arabic: الموطأ) is the first written collection of hadith comprising the subjects of Muslim law, compiled and edited by the Imam, Malik ibn Anas.1 Malik's best-known work, Al-Muwatta was the first legal work to incorporate and join hadith and fiqh together. The work was received with wide praise.
It is considered to be from the earliest extant collections of hadith that form the basis of Islamic jurisprudence alongside the Qur'an.2 Nonetheless, is not merely a collection of hadith; many of the legal precepts it contains are based not on hadith at all. The book covers rituals, rites, customs, traditions, norms and laws of the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
It is reported that Imam Malik selected only about 1% of authentic Ahadith for inclusion into the Muwatta, from the corpus of 100,000 narrations available to him. Thus, the book has been compiled with great diligence and meticulousness.3
Due to increase in juristic differences, the Caliph of the time, Abū Ja‘far Mansūr, requested Imam Malik to produce a standard book that could be promulgated as law in the country. The Imam refused this in 148 AH, but when the Caliph again came to the Hijaz in 163 AH, he was more forceful and said:
“O Abū ‘Abd Allāh, take up the reign of the discipline of fiqh in your hands. Compile your understanding of every issue in different chapters for a systematic book free from the extremism of ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar, concessions and accommodations of ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Abbās and unique views of ‘Abd Allāh b. Mas‘ūd. Your work should exemplify the following principle of the Prophet: “The best issues are those which are balanced.” It should be a compendium of the agreed upon views of the Companions and the elder imāms on the religious and legal issues. Once you have compiled such a work then we would be able to unite the Muslims in following the single fiqh worked by you. We would then promulgate it in the entire Muslim state. We would order that no body acts contrary to it.” 4
Historical reports attest that another ‘Abbāsī caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd too expressed similar wishes before Imām Mālik who remained unmoved. He, however, compiled Muwattā, keeping before himself the target of removing the juristic differences between the scholars.
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Malik composed the 'Muwatta' over a period of forty years to represent the "well-trodden path" of the people of Medina. Its name also means that it is the book that is "many times agreed upon"- about whose contents the people of Medina were unanimously agreed. Its high standing is such that people of every school of fiqh and all of the imams of hadith scholarship agree upon its authenticity.
Over one thousand disciples of Malik have transmitted this work from him. This has resulted in differences in the text in various instances. There are thirty known versions of the work of which the most famous is the one transmitted by Yahya al-Laithi.
Amin Ahsan Islahi has listed several distinguishing characteristics of the Muwatta:3
- Its briefness (in size) yet comprehensiveness (in coverage)
- Malik did not accept any marfū‘ hadīth (ascribed to the Prophet) if it was not verbatim transmission of the words of the Muslim prophet Muhammad (he even gave consideration to letters, prepositions and particles like wāw, tā, bā etc. in them)
- No acceptance of Hadith from any innovator - this is a stricter standard than many other muhaddithun
- Highly literary form of the classical Arabic. This helps readers develop the ability to understand the language of the prophetic traditions.
- Al Tamhid by Yusuf ibn abd al-Barr is organized according to the narrators which Malik narrates from, and includes extensive biographical information about each narrator in the chain.
- al-Istidhkar, also by Ibn Abd al-Barr is more of a legal exegesis on the hadith contained in the book than a critical hadith study, as was the case with the former. It is said that the Istidhkar was written after the Tamhid, as Ibn Abd al Barr himself alludes to in the introduction. However, through close examination it is apparent that the author made revisions to both after their completion due to the cross referencing found in both.
- The explanation of Al-Suyuti, who although a follower of the Shafi`i school, wrote a small commentary to the Al-Muwatta.
- Al-Musaffa Sharh al-Muwatta, Shah Wali Allah Dahlawi (al-Musaffa Sharh al-Muwatta in Persian). Shah Waliullah attached great importance to the Muwatta and penned another commentary in Urdu too.
- Al-Muntaqâ sharh al-Muwatta of Abu al-Walid al-Baji, the Andalusian Mâlikî Qâdî, (Abû al-Walîd Sulaymân ibn Khalaf al-Bâjî, al-Muntaqâ sharh Muwatta’ Mâlik, edited by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Qâdir Ahmad ‘Atâ, Beirut: Dâr al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1420/1999) Sharh al-Muwatta' has two versions: al-Istifa' and its abridgment al-Muntaqa.6
- Awjāz-ul-Masālik ilá Muwattā' Imām Mālik is a Deobandi commentary written by Muhammad Zakariya al-Kandahlawi. He began the work in 1927 in Medina while only 29 years old.
- Sharh Muwatta al-Malik by Muhammad al-Zurqani. It is considered to be based on three other commentaries of the Muwatta; the Tamhid and the Istidhkar of Yusuf ibn Abd al Barr, as well as the Al-Muntaqa of Abu al-Walid al-Baji.
- Al-Imla' fi Sharh al-Muwatta in 1,000 folios, by Ibn Hazm.7
- Sharh Minhaaj by Subki.8
- Sharh Muwatta by Ali al-Qari
- al-Kattani, Muhammad ibn Ja`far (2007). Muhammad al-Muntasir al-Kattani, ed. al-Risalah al-Mustatrafah (in Arabic) (seventh ed.). Beirut: Dar al-Bashair al-Islamiyyah. pp. 9, 41.
- "The Hadith for Beginners", Dr. Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi, 1961 (2006 reprint), Goodword Books
- Mabadi Tadabbur-i-Hadith, Amin Ahsan Islahi
- Ibrāhīm b. ‘Alī b. Muhammad b. Farhūn al-Ya‘murī al-Mālikī, al-Dībāj al-Madhhab fī Ma‘rifah A‘yān ‘Ulamā’ al-Madhhab, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-Nashr, Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996), 25.
- Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd limā fī al-muwattā min al-ma‘ānī wa al-asānīd, vol. 1 (Morocco: Dār al-Nashr, 1387 AH), 76.
- "Abu al-Walid al-Baji". Sunnah.org. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Ibn Hazm". Sunnah.org. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Al-Albani Unveiled". Masud.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
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